Stephanie Thompson-Buttice was a go-getter, driven, fiercely independent woman. Then she was diagnosed with Lyme disease, and her life was drastically reworked. Read how she’s had to re-prioritize her day-to-day life, and why she believes we all need to give ourselves some grace.
4word: When were you diagnosed with Lyme disease?
Stephanie: I was diagnosed with Late Stage Lyme disease in the beginning of January 2015. I had been struggling with serious health issues for 10 years and had doctors throw out diagnoses of MS, Chronic Fatigue, Fibromyalgia and a heart condition. I eventually came across a doctor that thought my symptoms looked like Lyme disease and decided to perform a blood test.
4word: Was it a relief to get the diagnosis?
Stephanie: Yes and no. I can honestly say I was truly shocked when my blood test came back positive because none of the doctors I had been seeing all those years mentioned the possibility of Lyme. Then when I began to research Late Stage Lyme disease and realized how challenging treatment could be, I was a bit overwhelmed and frightened. I had no idea how I was going to be a wife, mother, and business owner while trying to heal from this long and difficult illness.
4word: When you found out that your son also has Lyme, what was that like?
Stephanie: Finding out Noah was positive with Lyme disease was difficult on many levels. No mother wants their child to be ill and suffer. Compounding this was knowing that I had passed the disease to him in the womb. I feared for what he would suffer because I had suffered so much. Telling him was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I missed so much of his childhood sick in bed. I did not want him to be scared or think his experience would be the same. On the other hand, our shared experience has created a special bond between us because we can empathize and take care of each other.
4word: Given your battle with Lyme disease, how do you juggle your time and energy between work and home? Do you have to make a lot of compromises?
Stephanie: Having this disease has taught me many things about life and about myself. I was always a type-A personality, driven, impatient, and wanting to get things done, and I was always moving! I believed this way of living life had served me very well until Lyme came along. I no longer had the energy to clean house, work, or do activities with my family. I only had so much energy in a day and if I spent it on one thing, I had to give something else up. If I had a difficult week at work, I would have to spend the weekend in bed to recover. If I took a walk in the morning, I couldn’t do anything else physical for the rest of the day.
Because I was always so independent, I had a hard time asking for help. I had always been the caretaker for my family, including for my grandparents that lived with my husband and I for 10 years. I continually struggled with balancing my health and trying not to overcommit myself. I am learning to say no to more things and put better priorities in place. While I still struggle to find the right balance, I’m realizing time is something precious that I can never get back. My disease has made me much more thoughtful about how I spend my time, because I know it is limited.
4word: How has your faith helped you?
Stephanie: I can honestly say that I could not imagine living my life without my faith in God. Struggling with this disease has been one of the most humbling experiences of my life. I could not imagine the weight of feeling like I was going through this alone. It has not always been easy, and I had a period of time I was angry with God and grieving the loss of my healthy self. But now I depend on Him moment by moment. I know He only allows things in my life – including suffering – for my good and the good of others.
I am no longer independent, but rather I am dependent on my Savior in every way. I am not so concerned about what this life looks like for me though I want to live it well. So many things that mattered so much before are no longer important to me. For example, keeping my house immaculate, or worrying about my image and what people think about me. Trying to prove myself and not give myself a pass when I make a mistake. I have realized unless someone has experienced Lyme and what my body feels like, they are likely not going to understand and that’s ok. What has become more and more important is how can I let His light shine through my life. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:10, “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
4word: What advice would you give to those struggling to find balance in their life, whether because of an illness or other obstacle?
Stephanie: I would say, “Give yourself a break!” As women, we are so hard on ourselves and often expect to accomplish the impossible. Give yourself grace. All we can do is what we can do; nothing more, nothing less. When we start looking at obstacles as opportunities to learn to love and grow deeper in our faith, the mountains no longer seem impossible. Christ is for us and with us and walking us through everything. There is nothing we cannot do when we surrender ourselves to Him. No obstacle is too big that He cannot carry us through. I continue to learn this over and over. Seek His will and what is important to Him for you, and you may find it is different than what you thought.
Lastly, don’t worry so much about what others think. We often feel judged and judge others and truly have no idea what each other is going through. Forgive and extend grace whenever possible. It is healing for the soul.
Is there an area in your life where you could give yourself more grace? Whether you battle a long-term illness like Stephanie, or you’re just an over-committer, it’s time to step back and see the time for grace. Ask God to make His presence known as He walks you through this life.
Stephanie grew up in Eastern Washington and completed her undergraduate degree at Washington State University. She later completed her MBA while working full-time at a privatized corrections company BI Incorporated and after 8 years, transitioned to financial services. After eleven years at Living Water Financial Services, six of which she owned her own practice, Stephanie and her business partner decided to join a wonderful firm – Human Investing, located in Lake Oswego. The move has allowed her to have better support and balance in her life, especially in light of her health challenges.
Stephanie is “all about people” and is dedicated to her family, friends, co-workers and clients. Stephanie decided to enter the financial services industry after seeing her grandparents lose all their retirement as a result of poor advice from a financial advisor. Stephanie’s grandparents lived with her and her husband for 10 years and she still helps care take her grandmother. This experience created a passion to walk alongside people through one of the most difficult areas in their lives – the stewardship of their finances. Stephanie has an especially soft heart for those who are the most vulnerable, working hard to plan, protect, and defend them and their family’s financial futures.
Stephanie is an obsessive reader and researcher, she loves to hike, fish and just spend time in nature. Stephanie lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband Michael, son Noah and their German Shepherd, Dutch. She loves being a resource for others struggling through the difficult and sometimes muddy waters of Lyme Disease.