Chrystal’s Story: My 2nd Lump (Part 3)

Chrystal's Story header image

This is part of an on-going series, for all posts in this series see the tag Chrystal’s Story.


A note from Chrystal: I was born a fourth-generation Christian Scientist, and finally left the religion when I was in my 40s. In this blog series, I will do my best to share with you my 40+ year journey. I have done my best to make the journey sequential, but it’s also themed to a large extent, and sometimes it has been necessary to take things out of sequence to share a theme. 


My Second Lump (Part 3)

It took me a full year to get over the guilt of wanting to go to doctors. I felt like I had completely failed as a person. I felt like I had completely failed as a mom. I had always been taught that “Christian Science is the BEST care.” Hadn’t it (supposedly) kept me from dying from Pneumonia when I was an infant? And here I was about to embark on going to “the second best care.” What kind of mom would want the second best of anything for her kids? This was truly hard for me.

I had a broken heart.

Eventually, I found a dermatologist. The lipoma had grown to the point that it was now putting my arm to sleep for sometimes 45 minutes at a time. Sometimes I couldn’t move my neck at all. And I couldn’t lift up my arm. I asked to be put under, since the previous procedure (when the lump was much smaller) had hurt so badly. Once again, I was so scared, thinking “I might never wake up from this, and then because of vanity, my kids won’t have a mom.” As they were putting me to sleep, I thanked the hospital staff for taking care of me. I dreamed when I was put under. I remember dreaming that I was with a small group of Native Americans, and we were in the mouth of a cave. And they were working on their projects and crafts, and I was just watching them. It was such a lovely dream, and I enjoyed it. The next thing I knew, a nurse was asking me to breathe deeply, so I did, and then I coughed. The whole procedure was done. I breathed deeply a few more times, then I coughed some more.

Because I have keloids (heavy scarring tissue) on my back (from severe sun burns sustained because “I don’t believe in sun block”), the scar from my lipoma surgery is huge. It has probably been 5 years since I had the surgery now, and the scar continues to grow and I feel it literally tearing my skin. I consider this scar to be my scar from leaving Christian Science. It is literally the mark, to me, of leaving this belief system behind me. The literal scar that Christian Science left on my skin. (Oh! But didn’t Christian Science teach me that skin isn’t real?)

Just last week, I asked my husband to please oil the scar again (it’s in a place where I cannot reach all of it, and I still cannot properly move my shoulder thanks to bad cartilage damage there), and then bandage it so the oil wouldn’t mar my shirt. If I had taken care of this years ago, the scar wouldn’t be nearly as big. In January, 2016, I showed it to a friend who also left Christian Science, and after she gasped, she said, “I didn’t realize how big it would be.” Yeah. It’s not a small growth that was on there. It had grown for years before I got it taken care of. It did not come back this time, because I had specifically asked the doctor to check to see if there was more than 1, and to please be thorough, since I didn’t want to have to do this again. He was thorough and I am grateful. I keep learning about doctors, and I went to a doctor in August, 2016, to have him look at my shoulder, because I can still barely move my arm. He diagnosed me with a frozen shoulder and some other big words. I started physical therapy to rehabilitate my shoulder in September, 2016. It will be wonderful if I can gain full use of my arm again, and I am already making so much progress even though it’s only been a month! It’s been years since I was able to wear my seatbelt properly, raise my arm over shoulder height, put on my shirt without doing an awkward movement… There are so many basic things I haven’t been able to do. These movements are starting to come back now, thanks to someone working with my material body. Someone who did take anatomy in school and then more classes to learn how to really help people with their bones and muscles. It’s amazing how much progress that can be made when someone understands how to manipulate matter!

Maybe I can start playing violin again soon! It used to bring me so much happiness to play violin. I hope to find that again.

Chrystal’s Story: My Second Lump (Part 2)

Chrystal's Story header image

This is part of an on-going series, for all posts in this series see the tag Chrystal’s Story.


A note from Chrystal: I was born a fourth-generation Christian Scientist, and finally left the religion when I was in my 40s. In this blog series, I will do my best to share with you my 40+ year journey. I have done my best to make the journey sequential, but it’s also themed to a large extent, and sometimes it has been necessary to take things out of sequence to share a theme. 


My Second Lump (Part 2)

The following is a flashback to when I was nearing the end of my branch church membership, with a problem that had spanned more than a decade of my life:

The growing lipoma on my back was now causing so much pain to my neck, that I couldn’t straighten my head for a few days at times. And, of course, being in Christian Science, I couldn’t take Advil to even relieve the pain. I remember walking around with tears in my eyes over the amount of pain I was in, and hiding in my house. I was raised to hide in my house when I was in pain. How can a community reach out to help you, when you’re hiding in your house? I remember a Mormon woman who lived in my neighborhood, and for some reason socially, she stopped by my house and we had a little visit, and I couldn’t straighten my head up that day. She so lovingly said to me, “that looks really painful.” I assured her I was fine, that it had happened before, and I would be fine soon. I was NOT fine! I couldn’t straighten my head, I had tears in my eyes, and if I tried to move my head in any way, I would cry out in incredible pain! I remember the love in her eyes. She was genuinely concerned for my well-being, and she was only a neighbor; I know now that if I ever needed someone to help me, and I called her, I know she would be there for me, even though I wouldn’t consider us “friends.” She was my neighbor and she has genuine love in her heart for humanity.

After a decade of praying with various practitioners (including my Teacher) about the lump, I remember feeling discouraged. I was so discouraged. I would rally myself and pray again. Because Christian Scientists are supposed to “yield not to discouragement.”

Individuals are consistent who, watching and praying, can “run, and not be weary; . . .walk, and not faint,” who gain good rapidly and hold their position, or attain slowly and yield not to discouragement. God requires perfection, but not until the battle between Spirit and flesh is fought and the victory won. – “Science and Health,” p. 254

Christian Scientists are taught that “discouragement makes the problem worse, and makes it harder to heal.” So I prayed. I payed practitioners to pray. I payed my Teacher to pray.  

I would see the 2 ladies at my second branch church who had the growths on them that were more pronounced, and I didn’t want to end up like that. Mine, at least, I could hide by wearing a patterned shirt. They couldn’t hide theirs any longer, no matter how they tried. I felt so sorry for them, to not be able to hide their problem any longer. And then I would chastise myself for thinking such things. I wanted to hug them and say, “I have a lump too, but I can hide mine,” but for someone to speak up & say, “I see your problem and I want to support you and share love with you” is verboten in the Christian Science culture. Speaking up about it makes it “more real.” Because by not speaking, it’s “not real.”

Our voice is given so much power in Christian Science. Apparently, just talking can do many things – it can make lumps grow, it can cause fevers, poison ivy, infectious diseases. It can ruin vacations, it can rain fire and brimstone on a bad church member. I am positive they believe words can kill, so they won’t speak unless it is cheerful, superficial, happy nonsense. I am wondering if I believe it is this sort of thing that drives people completely insane. (Denying our very existence, to our core. How can it keep us sane and normal if we deny 100% of our humanity?)

At some point, probably a year after my wonderful success with the “Church Alive” experience, I decided it was time to get this lump removed from my shoulder, by a medical doctor. It had gone on long enough. My arm would go to sleep for 45 minutes at a time, and I couldn’t wake it up. And that didn’t feel good to me. (It scares me a lot now that I am out of Christian Science and someone pointed out that this was pushing on a nerve, and it’s a good thing I didn’t have to lose my whole arm!) I voluntarily pulled my name out of “The Christian Science Journal.” (This means I was no longer a Journal Listed Christian Science Practitioner. I wasn’t kicked out or anything; I chose to do this for my own reasons. I left on good terms and was told I could come back within 6 months if I wanted, if it was longer than that, I would have to apply from scratch again.)

Then, began the guilt. Oh, the guilt. And I had no one to talk to about it. I had to suffer with my guilt at having “failed.” I had failed to heal it. I had failed to have enough faith. I had failed to pray enough. I had failed all the Practitioners that had prayed for me over the last 5+ years.

I know all the words to victim blame myself, and I made liberal use of all of them. Then, of course, I probably entered the depression that had probably started but been bulldozed over by “Knowing the Truth” and “Getting on with things I had to do anyway.” So I dealt with depression and guilt with the only way I knew how: by denying them. For months. I think it took me about 8 months to get over the guilt, and I finally started trying to find a doctor. (At this point, I was now a Sunday School teacher at the Unity Church.)

Now, someone who grew up going to doctors, might know where to start when looking for a doctor. But this was all brand new to me. I didn’t know how to find a doctor. (The doctor who removed my first lump, wasn’t covered by our new insurance.) I didn’t know what kind of doctor I wanted. It took me many months to find one. And of course, you can’t just walk in and say, “remove this please.” They had to send me to another doctor for a sonogram to look at it. Then results had to be done up. Then I had to have a consultation. Then I had to go to the operation. I was put under for the procedure (that was my choice – because the pain of the much smaller lump had been unbearable to me, and I couldn’t go through that again). I think this was in 2011. Then I had so many follow up appointments. The lump was far bigger than I had anticipated, and than he had anticipated. I have keloids in my back with basically means, “aggressive scar tissue,” and this scar on my back continues to grow and cause me pain years later. I consider this scar to be my “scar of leaving Christian Science.” Maybe someday I will wear it proudly. At this point, I still hide it under clothing. (I know of people getting tattoos to symbolize leaving the Christian Science church. I didn’t have to get a tattoo. I have my very real scar on my material body.)

I wish that was the end of my story of leaving Christian Science. That would wrap it all up, neat and tidy. But, of course, a 44 year story and it doesn’t just end there. And it’s now 2016 as I type this.

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6 Weeks to a Quaker (the first go-round)

I grew up as a church goer, and when I don’t attend, it feels like I have a “void” in my life. So I tried a local Quaker church. It was about 10 miles away, but traffic made it take about 40 minutes to get there on a Sunday morning. I took my oldest son with me to the Meetings, and I enjoyed them immensely. Here were people who cared about the environment. One person was a beekeeper and I loved that! Several were gardeners, and some were activists or worked as volunteers either in Peace Corps or in Africa, setting up a school to teach children. I loved everything about this church. I made my homemade applesauce for potluck, and I was instantly accepted as one of these people.

After about 4 weeks of attending, I called up my family and told them, “I am a Quaker now!” I think my own family thinks I am changeable and whack-a-doo, so they took it in stride. I also called a gal from my Association who completely and lovingly supported me (she left our Association the following year & converted to Judaism), and I called our Teacher who asked me, “what’s appealing about the Quaker church?” I told her I liked sitting in the Silence, and how that brought me peace and calm for several days after in my life. After that, she told our Association (an Association is an annual meeting of the students taught by the Teacher, and guests the Teacher welcomes too) to try to meditate for 20 minutes every day.

My 6th Sunday in a row attending at The Quaker Meeting was potluck Sunday. I asked the lady next to me what it took to join the church. She told me, “well, you’re assigned some people to make sure you are spiritually growing.” I hadn’t yet felt like I was leaving Christian Science; I was just leaving the branch church, and I still wanted my own Bible and my copy of Science and Health. Her comment made me so uncomfortable, I couldn’t return to the church. I blamed the traffic. It was so far away, even though it really wasn’t; traffic just made it feel so much more far away. I started visiting other kinds of churches.

Chrystal’s Story: What’s Next?

Chrystal's Story header image

This is part of an on-going series, for all posts in this series see the tag Chrystal’s Story.


A note from Chrystal: I was born a fourth-generation Christian Scientist, and finally left the religion when I was in my 40s. In this blog series, I will do my best to share with you my 40+ year journey. I have done my best to make the journey sequential, but it’s also themed to a large extent, and sometimes it has been necessary to take things out of sequence to share a theme. 


My Second Lump. (Part 1)

After that first cyst was removed in high school, over the years I had many cysts develop in various places on my body, and melt. I got used to them. I always prayed and they always went away. I always thought they were “healed.”

Somewhere before I became a church member (early 2000s?), I started having shoulder issues. I went to a massage therapist weekly trying to get the pained muscle to loosen up. I am not sure massage worked. (I felt like such a rebel, since massage is also not allowed in Christian Science.) I started having shoulder cartilage issues. I chalked it up to being a lifetime violin player. I tried physical exercise and massage therapy and nothing worked. At some point, a lump appeared, and while I am forgetting all the specific history, I remember finally going to a dermatologist.

He said it was fatty tissue probably, and I paid him to remove it. He used only novocaine, and the procedure hurt like he was tearing my skin, though he assured me he wasn’t. It hurt so badly. The next day, the lump was back. The lump was back the next day. In my Christian Science thinking, this meant that I had clearly not healed my thought about it, thus, painful surgery was for naught. I have since deduced that there must have been 2 lumps, and the 2nd one was never removed and simply moved over to the space that was now vacant after surgery. It took me years to become ok getting it removed again. In the meantime, it grew and grew and wreaked havoc all over my whole shoulder, neck and arm area (see: My Second Lump – Part 2). And I prayed and prayed in Christian Science to no avail.

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Church Hopping

Starting in maybe 2009, I started church bouncing to other denominations. I tried a Quaker church near that 3rd branch church and went there for 6 weeks. It was just too far.

I went to a Unitarian Universalist Church, and the anti-Christian sentiment there was too strong for me. I never complained about it, but I heard other Christians complaining about it. I asked them if I could have a Christian Science Thanksgiving service there on Thanksgiving, and the ministers said, “it’s just not our mission.” And I felt shoved out. I thought it was a church that was supposed to accept all beliefs, but it wasn’t my experience when I was there. They accepted Ex Jews, Ex Catholics and Buddhists as far as I could tell, and I wasn’t any of those categories. I tried Unity next, and had a falling out that I repaired recently (3 years later) with the woman who leads the children’s education. So, Unity (an offshoot of Christian Science – you can google it https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emma_Curtis_Hopkins , https://smile.amazon.com/Emma-Curtis-Hopkins-Forgotten-Religion/dp/0815629338?ie=UTF8&*Version*=1&*entries*=0 ) didn’t work for me either. At Unity, I learned that Christian Science is part of the “New Thought Movement,” though I know that Christian Scientists would absolutely disagree about being placed into any category like that. (Christian Scientists say they hate categories.)

Interestingly enough, the first time I walked in the door, someone pointed out someone else who had found Unity as an Ex-Christian Scientist. I introduced myself to him and he said, “Well, you know, Mary Baker Eddy’s writings are all plagiarized from Phineas Quimby.” I was horrified! My dad had written a paper at university with research by Robert Peel all about how she did not plagiarize (this paper can be found in the Mary Baker Eddy Library archives: http://www.marybakereddylibrary.org/about/contact/research-questions/). After my dad’s death, I have learned the truth: yes, she did. Absolutely. (And I went through heartbreak that my dad had been completely fooled by Robert Peel all those years ago.) The whole “divinely authorized” thing is completely bogus. Sorry to break it to any CS folks reading this, but there are documented resources. Quimby’s own writings for side-by-side comparison can be found cheaply on Amazon. https://smile.amazon.com/Quimby-Manuscripts-Phineas-Parkhurst-ebook/dp/B00O0AFXOY?ie=UTF8&keywords=phineas%20quimby&qid=1464963913&ref_=sr_1_2&sr=8-2

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Time for me to take this “going to doctors thing” a bit more seriously…

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Earache Story (Part 2)

A few years after leaving branch church membership, I wasn’t feeling well. I may have had the flu or bronchitis brought on by allergies that got worse every year (though I never knew they were allergies; I just knew it was what I called in my head “seasonal issues”); they were starting to come twice a year now instead of once a year, and were getting prolonged for weeks. My son who had the ear issues from years before (remember the painful ear that never drained the next day?), also wasn’t feeling well. He did not want to go to the doctor with me, but I felt it was the right idea. So I made him go with me. We were both so scared. But we went anyway. The doctor diagnosed both of us with bronchitis, and gave us a prescription for antibiotics. Then she looked at my son and said, “does anything else hurt?” He said, “my ear hurts sometimes.” She pulled out the thing they use to look in ears, and saw something in there that didn’t belong. She showed me. She tried to get it out, but it made him scream in pain.

She said, “we need to get that out of there.” She said it was resting on his ear drum, so every time they barely touched it, it hurt him terribly. So she said, “we need to put him under so we can get it out of there.” Oh my gosh, I was so scared. I mean: really scared.

I thought they were basically telling me, “we are going to kill your son, when would you like to make the appointment for?” It took a whole lot of faith to be ok with this appointment, and to trust that he would wake up after having been “put under.”

I cannot emphasize enough how scared I was about it. I made the appointment for like 2 days later and did my best not to live with a high heart rate and panic mode the whole time. I took him to the hospital, having followed instructions about food and such. They told him the sleeping gas would “smell like smelly shoes.” And he laughed. When they put the mask on his face, he shoved it away so hard and started yelling at them and yelling for me. I went into panic mode to save my son, and they had to usher me out of the room. I was a complete wreck. About 11 minutes later, they came to get me, and told me it had all been done in under 2 minutes, and he was waking up now. I was so relieved! He was fine!! They showed me what had been in his ear: it had been a very small pirate coin from a toy pirate set (https://www.amazon.com/PLAYMOBIL%C2%AE-5135-PLAYMOBIL-Pirates-Ship/dp/B004P5O8MM ). My husband (who is a magician), joked, “he is the first person to actually take a coin out of his ear!” We still have that coin in a surgical container around here somewhere.

Around that point, I also started going to a dermatologist for skin issues I have always had. I have keloids on my shoulders. I have some moles on my back that are pretty big, thanks to “not believing in sun block.”  I also have acne, and have had acne since 4th grade. I was never allowed to use benzoyl peroxide. That was completely forbidden. The amount of teasing “why don’t you take care of that, it’s so easy!” And my stubborn sense that “no, if I do that, it won’t be healed! I have to heal it!” Is such a bunch of silliness. Why let a child be tortured for decades when a solution is so easy? Now that I am over 40 years old, almost 45, I have discovered Noxema and benzoyl peroxide. Wow. What a miracle cure! (And I keep forgetting to use it! #NoThankYouChristianScience)

I had prayed and prayed about the lipoma on my back. It had come back immediately after that first surgery, and it was not being healed in Christian Science. This was such a big struggle for me. I fervently felt like “God must want me to have this, so it’s not being healed, so it is here so that I can grow spiritually and heal it.” And at some point, after having worked with so many practitioners and also my Teacher on this issue for years, I finally decided to walk away from branch church membership and walk towards “going to doctors.”