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Crossing the finish line: My journey to wellness

Spirit, Inspiring Stories

Barely able to stand while cheering on my Adventist Health co-workers at the 2010 California International Marathon, I turned to my friend and said, “Someday I’ll cross that finish line.” After battling a mystery illness for many years—which on my worst days left me wheelchair bound—I knew it would take a miracle.

Five years earlier, my lifestyle was one of constant outdoor adventures; I was 22, a senior at Pacific Union College, and on top of the world. However, my life came to a halt one summer night when I went to bed with what I thought was a bad flu. After severe full body hives, multiple ER visits, weeks of splitting headaches and weakness that left me unable to stand, I awoke to a world where my body no longer functioned and where everything that defined me was forever turned upside down. For the next 10 years, the mystery disease progressed and I became so sick and weak that my legs buckled under me and I spent many days lying in bed.

Despite my determination to find a cure, my disease progressed, landing me at an out-of-state clinic where I went through nine months of unsuccessful treatments. I was heartbroken and could feel my grip on hope slowly slipping away. It was then that God impressed me to stop focusing on my illness and give my time to those less fortunate than myself. I signed up for a mission trip to Guatemala where I met Julia, a woman with severe Parkinson’s disease who lived her life crippled in a wheelchair. Her home was a shack with a dirt floor and she had no money for food or for the medication she needed. When I returned home I couldn’t get her out of my mind or my heart. Together with several friends we raised more than $7,000 to improve the quality of her life.

During this time, a co-worker said, “Janae, the Lord wants you well and I’m going to take hold of Him and pray until He heals you.” I agreed to her proposition: 30 days of prayer. Every day she faithfully called me or pulled me aside into a conference room where we poured our hearts out to God. A few weeks later, God impressed me to return to Guatemala with the $7,000 and build a home for Julia. Looking out for my best interest, my parents, friends, husband and co-workers all advised me not to go alone when I could barely walk and was often in a wheelchair. But God told me to go, so I went.

During the trip, a fellow mission worker suggested I watch the documentary “Under Our Skin,” telling me he thought my mystery disease was actually Lyme disease. When I returned home, my mom referenced the same documentary that some of her friends had just recommended. Goosebumps covered my body as I realized this could be the miracle we’d been praying for. I made an appointment at a clinic where doctors soon discovered Lyme spirochetes in my blood. “How are you sitting upright?” one doctor asked me. “The people I’ve seen with bloodwork like this are bedridden!” I told him it was only by the grace of God.

For the next two months I underwent excruciating treatments lasting up to 12 hours a day. During one treatment, my heart rate became dangerously low and I blacked out until a medic revived me and sent me to the ICU. That night as I watched the sunset, tears streamed down my face because I knew God had spared my life.

Janae Rowe on top of a mountain

My recovery was painfully slow, and a major personal loss set my healing back a couple of years, but by spring of 2015 I was able to participate in an Adventist Health Wellness Challenge where I attended the gym three days a week. Though I began with a slow walk while holding onto the sides of the treadmill, it was just three months later that I set a personal record—running the mile in 6:30.

Energized by this victory and excited to fulfill my dream, I organized a California International Marathon relay team. As I ran I recalled the many years of illness and my days in a wheelchair. I thought about the miracle of healing and the hope I have in my heart. I remembered my friends from treatment–many who fight daily for their lives—and I thought about what they would give to have this miracle of health. So I ran harder; I ran to give them hope. On Dec. 6, 2015, together with my fantastic co-workers and friends, I experienced another miracle and crossed the CIM finish line.

Adventist Health began participating in the CIM in 2007 and employees use the experience to create healthy habits, form relationships and bond as a team. In 2015, participants came from Roseville as well as many facilities, representing Sonora Regional Medical Center, Ukiah Valley Medical Center, Feather River Hospital, Lodi Health, Adventist Medical Center - Hanford and St. Helena Hospital Napa Valley. 

Janae Rowe has worked at the Roseville, California offices of Adventist Health since 2005, throughout her illness, diagnosis and treatment.