was an active young woman with two college degrees and an exciting
career. But in 1991, just as she was to preparing to purchase a
new home for herself and her beloved horse, she became ill and unable
to work. . .
Overwhelmed with emotions surrounding her diagnosis of multiple
sclerosis, Sherri began keeping a journal, focusing on all of the
confusing misunderstandings people had about her illness. She transformed
this into a pamphlet to pass onto caring friends who wanted to know
more. Six years later, after she married Wayne, he suggested jumping
onto the world wide web to share her writings with others. "When
he offered to put the three pamphlets I had written onto a website
on the internet, I said, 'What? Who would read it?' I knew the internet
was huge and thought this idea was kind of silly. Yet once I thought
about it I figured he might actually be onto something. If he did
this, when I met someone, all I would have to do is to hand them
a card with the website address and say, 'Here. This will explain
everything.' That would be such a relief! So we put up the web site."
Today, the web site gets over 125,000 hits per month and Wayne and
Sherri feel blessed to minister to others, even if it means through
their suffering. I sat down with Wayne and Sherri to find out more
about their experience, their ministry, and even their marriage.
what was your life like before the onset of your disability and
what is it like now?
I was a busy,
active workaholic! During college, I worked, was a cheerleader and
was very active in musical theatre. After college, I was offered
a position with the government and they were going to pay for my
Master's Degree. Everything seemed like it was really coming together.
Then I suddenly became very ill and unable to work. I lost my career
dreams, my house and my horse. Now it is all that I can do to get
through daily activities like showering, therapies, cooking, or
going to the doctor. Every day I feel like I have a horrible case
of the flu, complete with deep body aches from head to toe, weakness,
dizziness, nausea, headaches, memory loss and difficulty thinking.
Before, I used to work even when I had pneumonia, but this is much
different. This is debilitating, beyond mind over matter. Now every
movement, every thought, and every breath takes energy as if I am
trying to climb a mountain with people trying to pull me back down.
hk: Why did
you feel compelled to specifically have reference to invisible disabilities?
At the onset
of my disability, I had severe pain in my spine, legs and head.
I felt as if I had a horrific case of the flu and could barely sit
up or even breathe. It took everything out of me just to talk or
think. When I became paralyzed from the ribs down, I was admitted
to the hospital for a week while they ran tests and they diagnosed
the MS. I figured I would rest up for a couple of weeks and then
go back to work.
of physical therapy and steroid treatment, I began to regain most
of the use of my legs, though it remained difficult to stand or
walk. Nonetheless, the wheelchair and crutches were not what had
been keeping me from returning to work; it was the unbearable fatigue,
weakness, pain, dizziness, nausea, memory loss and cognitive impairments
that kept me down.
I wanted to
go back to work more than anyone else wanted me to. Still, as I
began to walk again, those around me began to question why I was
not back to work. I had gone from receiving compassion for what
I had lost, to being accused of malingering. Supportive and understanding
friends quickly became suspicious and frustrated with me, because
they could no longer "see" the obstacle that was causing
my limitations This continued lack of belief in my word, despite
what others could see, was a blow that brought devastation far worse
than the illness itself.
What do you consider an invisible disability?
When we started
our website, we grappled with a name that would properly describe
a condition that is debilitating, yet not obvious. We came up with
the term "invisible disabilities." This does not necessarily
exclude those with an evident impairment or those utilizing an assistive
device. For example, in my case, I used a wheelchair but was restricted
by my inner symptoms, not the challenge of the chair itself. One
living with an invisible disability has symptoms that are debilitating
such as: extreme fatigue, pain, weakness, dizziness, cognitive dysfunction
hk: How has
your ministry grown over the years?
When we first
put up the website, we just posted writings from my journal. It
didn't take long for the news to spread and we started getting e-mails
from people telling us we had "put into words" exactly
how they were feeling, but could not express. Visitors expressed
that it was important that their friends and family read the material,
so we put the three essays in a booklet format for more value and
This year, Wayne
became the founder of Invisible Disabilities Advocate [and Where
is God?] and obtained non-profit status. He has a passion for people
who are hurting not only by the hand of their illness or injury,
but by the lack of understanding of those surrounding them. He is
eager to transition into these organizations as his full-time career.
lack of vision, God had a much bigger plan for this ministry than
we ever could have imagined! We are amazed every day at what has
tell me about "Where is God?"
another hurdle to overcome when meeting someone with a chronic illness.
People were coming up to Sherri to tell her that she must be "lacking
faith" or else God would have healed her. Or, that she must
be hiding some "secret sin" that she needed to confess.
Yes. These were
the worst kinds of accusations anyone could express, because my
faith was all I had left. God was my every source of strength to
go on and I knew without a doubt that He could heal me; I did all
I could not to stand in the way. On the other hand, I also knew
that God was God and not me. I prayed as we are instructed to pray
in 1 John 5:14-by asking for His will. I believe that God knows
best, even when He says, "no," and that's the highest
form of faith-trusting He knows what He is doing, even when we have
lost so much. The Bible instructs us to believe in what we cannot
see. God is my soul source of purpose, even though I've lost so
much. Telling me that I lack faith is like jabbing a fiery hot dagger
right into my heart.
Sherri and Wayne's Website