Follow up on Fibromyalgia journey that was published on The Journalist

Early January, I return to work after the December vacation. There’s a colleague of mine whom I’ve been speaking with about how tired I am of visiting pastors and prophets to seek healing. He has been venting to me as well. So I was shocked when I got to work and he was walking better than he was when I left for home in December. Now he is using one crutch. I quickly go to his office in a quest to learn of this miracle. He tells me he has gone to a church on the 31st of December and that is where he got assisted. I get information about this church and some colleagues who also attend the church speak highly of it.

I don’t waste any time. On a Saturday, I got to the church to register for prayer. When I get there, I am asked for a diagnosis letter from my doctor. I quickly remember that I have a number of letters in the office at work. I make copies of about five letters, just so the prayer does not miss me. On my way back, I find that the queue has gone longer and I have to wait to be consulted. A friendly lady asks what I need prayer for and soon tells me that I am healed and need to believe it. I write my case down on their form and she tells me that there’s a section I need to sign, giving them consent to show my story on TV. I’m a bit sceptical at this moment, but my desperate self quickly shuns that thought away. I am then ushered into a big room – that looks like traditional churches – and I see a placard with FIBROMYALGIA written on it. At the bottom is my name, age and city. A lady comes and explains to me that they will conduct video interviews and I will have to tell them more about my sickness.

I then wait my turn as there are about three ladies before me. At that moment, my body is in aches and I need to eat and take medication. I had been there for a few hours by then and my body wasn’t kind to me. The lady then gives me the placard, tells me to sit on a chair as they will interview me.

I tell them “My name is Ntando Mbatha, I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in 2010 but have been living with the pain since May 2009 – that’s as far as I can remember. I have been to doctors, prophets, traditional healers and the like, but have not found a cure. Doctors have told me that there is no cure for this syndrome. I have not lost hope as being here should be proof enough that I still believe in healing”

I was then asked what I think will happen from here on and exactly what I expect to happen. I was exhausted at this moment and needed to get it over and done with. I then mentioned machines I have been using to massage my back. As soon as I was done, I was told that I will not be in line for prayer unless I bring that machine. I told them it was not prescribed by the doctor, but the camera crew insisted that they would like to take a video of it. I tried to explain to them that I live far and cannot drive back there in time. So as I walked back to the car, I told myself that I will not be coming back. I didn’t understand why I needed to bring that machine and why couldn’t I bring it with in the morning, rather. An angel must have whispered to them because the lady who had been interviewing me came running and told me to bring it the next day.

We had to be at the church at 6:30am. Bright and early we were there. We were ushered to a section at the church where we would sit and about 15 minutes later were sent to the front and sat where our placards were placed. I observed the empty chair of a lady with cervix cancer and HIV. I wondered to myself whether there will be anyone checking up on her; perhaps she didn’t make it because she is sick. There were a lot of people, about 16 of us. The church proceeded, we sang, there was a sermon. During time for prayer, one lady came to me and told me that I need to be serious and pray because I don’t seem to be in the spirit. I was so confused and it suddenly dawned on me how I have been judged for so long and told that I am not healed because I do not believe. I was expected to lift up my hands and pray loudly, perhaps in tongues too. Tears, I couldn’t control, created a flood down my face. I then sat down and started crying. I was so hurt and then started asking God why I had to be in so much pain and why I had to go through such lengths to seek healing. I wondered if being there would even help me – although I still think this wasn’t a moment of doubt. I then thought about everything I had done thus far and just cried even more.

We were then called to the front and had to carry our placards as the cameras rolled. I was number two on the line. We sat in front of the congregation with our placards raised for everyone to see. The gentleman before me and I had to share our story one more time, in front of the congregation. I did as I was told – because I really don’t mind speaking out about fibromyalgia. After about an hour, the pastor came to us. He started praying for the gentleman next to me and laid his hands on him. At this moment, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was shaking, extremely scared. The pastor tried to read the placard but he wasn’t sure how to pronounce the word. He then placed his hand on my forehead, then pushed me on my chest and hit me hard on my stomach. After that, he told me to stand up and as I was staggering up, my lithe body was pushed to the ground. Luckily my dress was below my knees, not that it mattered to me at this moment. He then told me to stand up, as I was standing, he pushed me to the floor again. I started crying at this moment, then he asked me what is wrong with me. I pushed the microphone away because I was in no state to speak. The lady with the microphone forced it on me and I had to answer. Told him – in my crying voice – that I had back pain. Before I could finish, he pushed me to the floor again and told me I was healed and can walk away. As I was walking, one lady said I should utter “Thank you Jesus, I am healed”. I was crying so much that I couldn’t see the way properly. I was then told to go sit at the back, someone would come speak with me. The first question I was asked was how I felt and whether I was still in pain. I was honest with the lady and told her that I was, but I also felt like a load was lifted off my shoulders. It seemed like that wasn’t enough for them.

About 45 minutes later, the lady who had been interviewing me the previous day asked me to step outside so she could coach me for an interview in front of the church again. I told her I was still in pain and she said she would then interview me after the church, I should not leave early. At this moment, I do as I am told because I start to think that my healing lies in how much I obey. At this time, it was around 13:00. I waited until the church was finished at around 14:30. I then had to demonstrate certain poses that I could not do before I was prayed for. I explained to the lady that I do yoga almost every day, so I am very flexible. As soon as the cameras started rolling, I was asked to demonstrate what I couldn’t do before I was prayed for. I then complied and told them what they wanted to hear. I left there still hoping that I will be healed. I figured that I still felt pain because I don’t remember what it’s like to be without pain, so my body was perhaps adjusting to it.

I planned to visit the church again the next Sunday but was away for two weeks after that.

A part of me felt like desperate people are preyed on sometimes. I occasionally do not know what to do with myself. I will have that ounce of hope, which is soon shattered by things that never happen. For some reason, I still think I will get better. The pain has not left my body and it has now gone worse because it is so cold. A few weeks ago I did yoga and the next day I could not even walk properly as all the muscles in my body ached. I stopped for a few days and resumed again. There is a journey I will be embarking on again – furtively – let us hope this works.

I still maintain, the worst thing you can say to someone with a chronic sickness is that they aren’t healed because they do not believe.