In reflecting upon the past eight years of her life, Michelle Dobson, 35, sees that everything took place for a reason, ranging from the loss of her unborn child to the start of her volunteer work at Rachel House in Blue Springs and the tragic, sudden death of her older brother to her diagnosis with multiple sclerosis.
Everything in life happens for a reason.
Michelle Dobson doesn’t just take this saying at face value. Through her Christianity and her relationship with God, she’s placed her entire belief system in that one sentence.
“I don’t mean that like a cliché, like people just say, because that’s what people say when bad things happen or whatever,” she says. “I mean that. I believe that every step I take, God uses it for part of his plan. And that’s how I live my life, knowing that I’m a vessel used by him.”
In reflecting upon the past eight years of her life, Dobson, 35, sees that everything took place for a reason, ranging from the loss of her unborn child to the start of her volunteer work at Rachel House in Blue Springs and the tragic, sudden death of her older brother to her diagnosis with multiple sclerosis.
“It’s probably a good thing that we don’t know what we’re going to go through all at once,” Dobson, a Lee’s Summit resident and Eastern Jackson County native, said. “We would be overwhelmed with that, but when you take it one day at a time, it’s amazing.”
In 2004, Michelle and Mitch Dobson were the parents of a young boy, Marshall. Michelle was pregnant with her second child when she started experiencing health complications.
That December, she suffered a miscarriage. The same day she lost her unborn child, Dobson was sifting through her mail when she came upon a letter.
It thanked her for her interest in Rachel House Pregnancy Resource Centers, which offers unplanned teenage pregnancy options, including counseling, medical care and factual information about abortion procedures and risks. The letter informed Dobson, a stay-at-home mother, that the organization could use additional volunteers.
Two months earlier, she had filled out a form at the Billy Graham Crusade, expressing interest in learning more about Rachel House. But Dobson soon forgot about signing up, and life went on.
Until the day of her miscarriage.
“At that moment, I knew that I needed to be a part of that ministry,” Dobson says. “I had lost a baby that I didn’t want to lose – I had no choice, and it devastated me.
“Feeling the loss I felt, I had no doubt that God wanted to use me to help young ladies make an educated decision about their crisis pregnancy.”
A month later, Dobson started volunteering at the Blue Springs location, where she has given two hours each week for nearly seven years.
“I didn’t really know how my story in that situation could help,” she says, “but I just knew that it was something in the community that I could get involved in – that was kind of the one thing that was missing in my life at the time.”
It also gave Dobson, an active member of First Bible Baptist Church in Blue Springs, another outlet to share her relationship with God, as Rachel House is a faith-based organization. She provides counseling for women who range from young teens through age 30 and older.
“We care about them physically and spiritually,” Dobson says, “and we encourage them to go to church and to get that support and also just share the Gospel with them.”
The best part of her volunteerism, Dobson says, is when young women change their views about their pregnancy.
“Whether it’s the fact that they came in wanting an abortion and then they leave, deciding to keep the baby, or whether it’s the fact that they came in not being satisfied spiritually ... and then leaving stronger, making that commitment to deepen their relationship with God,” she says. “Those are the best times.”
But even for Dobson, who accepted God into her life at age 6, the strength of that relationship was tested with the unexpected death of her brother, Matt.
It was a tough year for Dobson.
She’d had another child not long after her miscarriage. Marshall, now 10, had a younger brother: Manning, now 6. That much was good.
But in May of 2007, Dobson’s oldest brother decided to end his life.
“The loss of my brother forever rocked my world. Death became a reality to me – it was like, ‘Why did this happen?’” Dobson says, adding that she sank into a bit of depression. “For the first time in my life, I questioned my faith. I wasn’t sure why the whole thing happened, but I knew that everything would be OK – in my life – eventually.”
Three months later, as Dobson was preparing for a mission trip to Nicaragua, her fingers went numb. The sensation also took over her feet and her left arm. She chalked most of the symptoms up to the stress related to her brother’s death.
Before the trip, Dobson visited an osteopathic physician for an adjustment. She left the office that day worse off than when she entered, the entire left side of her torso numbed.
Dobson was actually in the middle of an MS attack, though she wouldn’t be fully diagnosed for another two years. A visit to a neurologist and an MRI showed lesions on her cervical spine, but she was diagnosed with transverse myelitis, a neurological disorder that includes a loss of spinal cord function.
Two years later, though, a second MS attack set in, and on Sept. 30, 2009, Dobson was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease for which there is no known cure.
“I did have a feeling of ‘this is for real,’” she says. “It was kind of a deep, internal feeling where the tears were welling up, but I don’t know that I ever really cried about it.”
She started daily injection treatments, but really, Dobson says, her life hasn’t changed that much.
“God is the same God that he’s always been,” she says. “It didn’t throw him for a loop that I got MS. He knew I was going to get MS. He didn’t give it to me, but he allowed it to happen.”
Dobson holds onto scripture readings that say when she is weak, God’s strength will carry through her. Through Facebook, Dobson has connected with other MS patients whom she has never met face-to-face.
She’s even helped save a life. One woman with MS confided in Dobson that she was considering suicide because of her disease. Dobson shared the story of her brother’s death and how its aftermath painfully affected her family.
“We have a good relationship right now,” Dobson says of the woman, who is still alive.
God has not left Dobson hanging, she says. Her husband of almost 16 years works for a health care organization that provides a walk aid primarily for people with MS. She also has a friend who was working for the manufacturer of the drug that Dobson takes.
“I don’t think those things are coincidence,” Dobson says. “I believe they were in place so that I knew that God was at work, and I just have to trust him. He has never failed me up to this point, and I have no reason to believe that he will now.”