What’s All This about a New Vitamin? Part Two.

The next part of my telling of this story takes us through some dark times. We left Part One with Dad saying that he had the “dragon [of aging] in a corner.”

A year or two later, a sudden illness struck Dad, seemingly out of nowhere. He had just turned 50 years old. I remember speaking with Mom on the phone as she told me what had happened. Dad had been out raking gravel in the driveway. Suddenly he lost all strength in his hands and he could not rake anymore.

2005
Dad working in the lab, during the early phases of his illness. 2005.

At first Dad and Mom shrugged this off. They thought the problem would resolve itself.  Unfortunately, it didn’t. The weakness seemed to come and go over the subsequent days.  It spread into Dad’s upper arms. It would get worse; it would get better. They chased various theories including what they thought may be a potassium deficiency. Over time, it became apparent that nothing they could do was solving Dad’s problem. In fact, it was getting progressively worse. When they realized they were dealing with something fairly serious, they consulted their family doctor. He tried various diagnoses, but nothing helped and Dad was steadily getting worse.  The weakness spread to his legs.  He began having to watch his steps, literally, or he would fall while walking.  They tried an endocrinologist.  He was unable to help.

2006
Dad, Christmas 2006, during his time of serious illness, still undiagnosed.

Meanwhile, Mom, who typically is an optimistic person, was getting quite scared. Dad had gotten to the point that he could not feed himself. He could not walk very well; he would fall without warning because his legs would give out. She had been researching online to find information about what Dad might have. She read about things like ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease, which results in eventual death). No wonder she was afraid. Dad was a relatively young man and they still had several children at home. I sensed Mom’s fear that Dad wasn’t going to make it. I shared that fear.

Eventually, after many months—and after Mom (often in tears of desperation) pursuing by phone every medical option she could think of—they were able to see a neurologist. I waited late into the evening for the phone to ring. Finally, Mom was able to call. I could hear the relief in her voice. She said, “The neurologist has an impression of what Dad has. It is called CIDP–Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy. The good news is that it is not fatal. The bad news is, there is no cure. But they say that the symptoms can be somewhat controlled.” CIDP is an auto-immune disease. The immune system becomes confused and attacks the person’s own body.

We were all relieved to at least have a diagnosis about what was going on with Dad’s health. We continued to pray fervently and regularly for God to heal him. We asked our church family to pray. We prayed for years and years.

All these health problems, of course, slowed down Dad’s work and research on the aging quest. How strange, that as he was seeking to solve the mystery of aging, he had gotten a disease that made him seem like a frail old man. He carried on with his work as he was able. He had my younger sisters help him in the lab—he couldn’t lift a beaker, but they could.  He pressed forward and kept a joyful spirit.

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Summer 2007 during a visit to IL. Left to right- Rebekah (my sister), Dad, Caleb (my brother), Joshua, Ethan, Tim (my brother). Dad was taking prednisone treatments at this time.

The first step in his treatments was for him to take some very high doses of prednisone (a commonly prescribed, high-strength drug). The hope was that this would cause his CIDP to go into permanent remission and he would be able to live a normal life without further treatment.  We all rejoiced when the symptoms let up and Dad could walk unassisted once again! But, sadly, the CIDP returned a few months later. Prednisone treatments were resumed.  We knew that, according to modern medicine’s knowledge of this disease, the hope of remission fades with time.  Eventually Dad developed an intolerance to prednisone.  He began to go to the hospital every few weeks for extremely expensive IV-Ig treatments. After doing that for a number of years, Dad transitioned to a home infusion treatment that Mom was able to administer every few days. It involved needles and took quite a few hours to do each time. All this was necessary in order for Dad to live any kind of normal life.  Without these treatments, he would have been confined to a wheelchair, unable even to feed himself.

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A visit from Dad and Mom, in between his hospital treatments, November 2008. Left to right–Dad, Rebekah (my sister), Rachel (my sister), Steve, Mom, Tim (my brother), Ethan, Joshua, Caleb (my brother), Katelyn.

They learned to cope with this disease and Dad was able to function fairly normally while undergoing these constant treatments. The frightening phase had passed, thank the Lord, and it became “normal” life for them to manage this disease.

At this point, we are going to change gears in this story a little bit. I am going to share some things of a fairly personal nature, things that happened in my life that are a bit difficult for me to re-visit. However, this does have bearing on this story. Hang with me for this next part.

About three years after Dad’s diagnosis, I began to struggle with some health problems myself. I had no idea what was wrong with me. I thought I was losing my mind. I had been through a string of miscarriages, especially a traumatic one in 2010 that took me a long time to recover from emotionally. Before, during, and after that time, I had been experiencing some very strange and very real mental/physical/emotional symptoms, with greater and greater frequency.

I could not sleep at night. I was having such heavy menstrual bleeding that I was afraid to go places. My tailbone ached and throbbed all night, every night. I was depressed. Life seemed hopeless, even though I had five beautiful children to care for. My emotions fluctuated wildly. I had such shortness of breath that at times I felt utterly panicked. Muscles in very weird spots in my body would cramp up out of nowhere. I was having scary, recurrent thoughts about whether life was even worth the living. I could not cope at all. This was not just a few days of difficulties. This was month after month, turning into years. Problems that would have been manageable under a normal frame of mind caused me to fall into despair.

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Katelyn and me, 2011. My sweet little ones were such a comfort to me during those difficult years.

Now, I was the one who was scared. Was all of this still from the miscarriages, even two years later? What was wrong with me? I tried to talk with Steve about what I was dealing with. I was a mess. I could hardly talk about it. He offered me spiritual counsel and I know he was very concerned.

I sent my mom an email asking for prayer. I told her, “Steve and I both know this is not the person I have been for the past 13 years of our marriage.”

I saw one doctor in December of 2011 who ran some tests, including checking my thyroid level, and said that everything looked normal; he said most likely I was dealing with postpartum depression following the delivery of my fifth child in July of 2011.

2011
Katelyn, Ethan, Sammy, Joshua, Toby ~ Christmas 2011.

I did not improve. One day I became so panicked that I called Steve at work. I said, “You’ve just got to come home please. Something is wrong with me.” The kids and I went back and forth to work with him for a week. I was afraid to be alone. Even now, think backing on those difficult days, tears well up in my eyes. It was tough.

Finally, in June of 2012, I became so desperate I thought, “I will just go see my midwife at the OB office. Even if I have to go on medication for depression, that is what I will do. I can’t go on like this.”

I did see my midwife, Debbie. I dissolved into tears. I told her my symptoms. She said, “I wonder…. are you getting enough calcium? And— what about your vitamin D??? We really need to test your vitamin D level. You don’t want to go on an antidepressant, do you?” No, I certainly didn’t. She sent me for bloodwork.

I began to read about vitamin D deficiency, something that had never even entered my mind as a possible problem I was experiencing. I was amazed. So many of the symptoms were lining up. Sure enough, the next day, Debbie called me to say that my bloodwork showed my vitamin D level to be terribly low; way below the low end of the normal range. She prescribed some high doses of D to bring my level back up. I was so relieved! Maybe I hadn’t been losing my mind after all!

I started on the high doses of D, along with some calcium supplements. (Low vitamin D affects a person’s ability to absorb calcium properly.) A few mornings later, I woke up and came downstairs into the kitchen. In utter amazement, I told Steve, “I slept so well, all night! I haven’t slept like that in SO long. I just cannot believe this.”  Within just a few days of starting the high doses of D, I honestly felt like a new person. My old self seemed to be back. I could cope with life again. I felt happy. I continued sleeping deeply. The muscle pains went away. The heavy bleeding subsided. The depression lifted.

Needless to say, I have supplemented vitamin D ever since. Something so difficult to endure had been solved so easily, without drugs or any other treatment. A simple vitamin was all I needed! How I praise the Lord for Debbie’s immediate insight into the true nature of the problems I had been experiencing. God had answered prayer in a major way.

Although there are numerous lessons that can be learned from my experience with low vitamin D, I share it here for this one reason: I found out, first hand, that a vitamin deficiency can do terrible things to you. What I had been through was absolutely no joke. If I had ever doubted the possibility that aging could actually be caused by lack of a vitamin (Vitamin X), now I knew that it was certainly possible. A vitamin deficiency can do very weird things to you in every area— mental/physical/emotional. Doesn’t that remind you of the symptoms of “old age”?

Part Three coming soon, in which we will return to the main story, and find out what happens next in Dad’s quest to solve the aging mystery.♥ 

2011b
Dad (Grandpa) and my little Toby, 2011.

 

 

What’s All This about a New Vitamin? Part One.

We interrupt the regular content of Treasuring Home to bring you a few special editions.

Many of you have probably seen me posting on social media about the “new” vitamin. I’m sure you may have wondered, “Why is she promoting this?”or “What is this?” or “Is Jennifer Hall selling some kind of a product?” Or, maybe you haven’t wondered. Maybe you’ve just seen my posts about the vitamin and thought, “That’s weird,” and moved on up the newsfeed.

Either way, I suppose it’s time that a little more explanation is in order.

First, no, I am not selling a product. Second, please know that I am probably among the least likely people in your newsfeed to be trying to promote something to you. I have always been uncomfortable doing that kind of thing, and I still am. But, in this very unusual case, it seems like the only right thing to do.

So, here goes a little explanation. I am so excited and privileged to be among the very first to tell this remarkable story.

The “new” vitamin was discovered by my father, Dr. Gerald Aardsma. I put “new” in quotation marks, because it’s not actually a new vitamin at all. It is a very ancient vitamin, lost from the human diet after Noah’s Flood. This vitamin is precisely why, for example, Noah lived to be 950 years old, and today hardly anyone makes it to 100 years old.

I have known Dad a long time. Forty-two years to be exact; I entered the world as Mom and Dad’s firstborn child, on a snowy November morning in Guelph, Ontario, Canada.

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Me (one year old) with Dad and Mom, in Guelph, Ontario.

Ever since I was a little girl, I remember Dad asking intriguing questions and solving difficult problems. He is a scientist, after all. I remember riding the subway in Toronto to visit the lab at the university where Dad was a grad student. I remember hearing words like “apparatus” and phrases like “accelerator mass spectrometry” as a child. I remember the day Dad got his doctorate degree in Nuclear Physics with a specialty in radiocarbon dating, from the University of Toronto, when I was seven years old.

Dad's PhD grad
Mom, Dad, me – June 11, 1984 – Dad’s graduation with his Ph.D. in Nuclear Physics from the University of Toronto.

Dad was a loving father, a godly Christian, and always super great at solving problems. Whether it be a high level math problem, a physics problem, an engine problem, a plumbing problem, or a furnace problem, just to name a few, Dad would work on it, and he would eventually solve it. I called him once from college, when I was trying to do a sewing project, and the sewing machine wasn’t working right. I couldn’t work on the project because the machine was messed up. I was dating Steve at the time and I remember him seeming a little skeptical that I was going to call my dad to see if he could help me fix the sewing machine over the phone. Sure enough, he did. It was actually a simple fix, as I recall. Dad nailed it within about 15 minutes on the phone.

I remember having pet gerbils (similar to a hamster) when I was a little girl. There were two in particular that I named “Charlie Brown” and “Gremlin.” This was during the time when Dad was a grad student at the U of T. I was pretty shocked, years later, when I found out that they really weren’t “pets” at all! To me they were pets, but to Dad they were research subjects! He was attempting to raise them with a certain diet, in accordance with his early thoughts and studies about aging.

One advantage to having a scientist for a father is that he would sometimes do “science experiments” at our birthday parties when we were kids. I mean, how cool is that?

I remember visiting a nursing home on Sunday afternoons with my father. Even then, I realized that Dad’s wheels were turning. While ministering to these elderly folks, singing hymns and sharing God’s Word, Dad was studying and observing the disease of aging. Even then Dad was grappling mentally with the question: “If the Bible is accurate in recording people living to almost 1,000 years old, what in the world happened? What changed? Why are we dying so YOUNG today?”

Another thing I should tell you about Dad is that he is a truth seeker; a truth lover. He has never seemed to hesitate at breaking with the status quo in order to stand for truth, or pursue the truth.

After he finished his doctorate degree, Dad interviewed for some lucrative positions, including one involving the Star Wars program initiated by President Reagan.  Our phone would ring extremely early in the morning when Dad got calls from a group in Australia that was thinking about hiring him.  But his heart wasn’t in these possibilities.  He wanted to use his training to further God’s kingdom.  I remember Dad seeking God’s will and getting advice from his father. Finally, he made the decision to go work as a professor in the Astro/Geophysics department of a small Christian graduate school in San Diego, CA.standing

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Dad working at the graduate school during our eight years in CA.

We moved to San Diego from Canada, lived there for eight years, and then moved to IL so Dad could pursue his quest full time. (A few months after moving to IL, I left home and headed to college.)

Dad’s quest was to solve the mystery of aging. Many other brilliant minds in the world have worked on this problem, and are still working on it today. Dad, however, was coming at it from a unique perspective. He believed the Bible. He trusted it as God’s Word. That being said, he wasn’t particularly tied to anyone’s paradigm or particular interpretation of it. He was willing to break with tradition if that meant understanding the Bible properly. He was willing to ask the hard questions. Like I said, he was after the truth.

The Bible is an excellent place to start when attempting to discover the cause of aging, because of the long life spans recorded in the book of Genesis. Those life spans dropped off significantly after Noah’s Flood. Likely no secular scientist is going to start from that point, since the Bible is commonly held to be myth among academia today. Modern scientists start with the assumption that aging, as we know it today, is the normal experience of mankind. Dad started with the assumption that it is not normal at all according to the early chapters of Genesis. He also started with a set of data points unlike any other in the known history of the world, with the key knowledge that the data points began dropping off after Noah’s Flood.

So, Dad’s first stop on the way to solving the aging mystery was to understand some hard questions about the Bible. He basically had to “work his way back” if you will. You can read these three books, to understand how he worked his way back until he was able to tackle the aging mystery head-on.

A New Approach to the Chronology of Biblical History from Abraham to Samuel

The Exodus Happened 2450 B.C.

The Flood Happened 3520 B.C.

Throughout the writing of these books (solving some serious chronology problems between the Bible and secular data), Dad continued to work on understanding aging. When he eventually arrived at the conclusion that aging is actually a vitamin deficiency, he named the unknown vitamin “Vitamin X.”

Dr.-Aardsma-lab
Dad working in his lab, 2004.

After the writing of Dad’s first book, Steve and I got married. Life was very busy for us as we began raising our family. We were always interested to hear about Dad’s work during our rare visits to IL. We would usually visit the lab where Grandpa (Dad) was raising mice and fruit flies (test subjects for any Vitamin X candidates). When I say “lab” I am not talking about a high-dollar laboratory in a university setting. Try to picture a lab in a mobile home on a one-acre homestead. Picture research going on under a tightwad budget, while Dad and Mom raised their family in the home next door. Dad didn’t have any funding from anywhere. He was on his own. Their income came from a few folks willing to invest in his work, and the cottage-type businesses that the family was able to start up over the years.

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Selling garden produce was one way Dad and Mom supported the family.

Although the laboratory was in a humble setting, the science being conducted was top-notch. Dad would always be the first to falsify any theory that he worked on, if it could be falsified. He published his findings in his newsletter “The Biblical Chronologist” for over ten years. Much, if not all, of that information is now available on his website.

The pursuit of the aging mystery turned into many long, hard years for Dad and Mom. Only they (and God) will ever know all the sacrifices they made to follow God’s calling on their lives.

Steve and I both remember one conversation that we had, around 2005, when I expressed to Steve some fears I had regarding the possible future discovery of Vitamin X. He replied, “Oh honey, who knows if it will ever actually be discovered…” I gazed at him in all seriousness, and I said, “Just you wait…. Dad will find it. You will see.” Just the confidence of a little girl in her Daddy, I guess. (Except by that point I was a big girl.) I did have confidence; based on knowing that he methodically worked his way toward the solution on any problem, he operated in integrity, and he sacrificed for truth.

I expressed that same confidence to Dad during one of our visits to his lab/office a few years later, as we were discussing some of the recent developments that had happened in his quest. He looked back at me, shrugged a little, and said, “All I can say right now is, I’ve got the dragon in a corner. We shall see.'”

(Click here for Part Two.)

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Grandpa (Dad) with my daughter Katelyn, 2007. Always a man of the soil, Dad has grown a garden as long as I can remember.