Meet Diane Dike. She’s an effervescent, enthusiastic, middle-aged blonde with a smile that lights up a room and a face that radiates a joy that bubbles up from somewhere deep inside. And who carries around in a Snugli an Italian greyhound named Gracie that she adopted from a local animal hospital.
Gracie goes with Diane everywhere—restaurants, schools, even on stage when she is speaking. Gracie is Diane’s service dog.
Confined to a wheelchair most of the time, in pain all of the time, Diane needs Gracie not only to retrieve things for her, but also to keep her warm. Diane suffers from a rare, incurable blood disease called cryoglobulinemia, that causes her blood to turn to a deadly jello-like consistency, especially when she’s exposed to cold, such as air conditioning and drafts.
The first line of treatment is to stay warm. She wears mitten to open the refrigerator and dons full mountain ski gear to go shopping. Gracie’s body heat helps Diane to stay warm, preventing her blood from congealing.
When she was first diagnosed, Diane found ways to continue her active, athletic lifestyle—skiing, hiking, swimming, even hang gliding. But as the disease progressed, a wheelchair became necessary. Standing or dangling her legs while sitting causes painful flare-ups, so keeping her legs and feet propped up in the wheelchair prevents the blood from pooling in her feet.
If this debilitating, progressive disease isn’t enough, she’s also been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, autoimmune disease, TMJ, chronic fatigue syndrome, endometriosis, bipolar/manic depression, vasculitis, and colitis associated with her blood disorder. But in spite of all this, she’s as radiant as an angel.
But she’ll be the first to tell you she wasn’t always this way. After her diagnosis, she went into a downward spiral, which included divorce and homelessness, and abandoned the faith she professed as a teen. She wound up on a suicide watch in a psychiatric hospital.
One day, as she prepared to move back home with her parents, she entered the empty kitchen of her apartment. In Diane’s own words, “I felt so sad as I looked in my kitchen cabinets and thought, that is exactly how I feel, empty. Then, as if God himself gently reached His hand to my chin and lifted my face skyward, a song came on the radio that pierced my heart and brought me to my knees. The kitchen was all aglow and He was with me.”
Diane rededicated her life to God.
“My test became my testimony,” she says. “My mess became my message.”
She moved from her parents’ home in Florida to Colorado, where she met her husband, Paul—her “knight in shining armor” she calls him. And she finally completed the coursework for her doctorate. Yes, I said doctorate. By the grace of God.
But God had more grace in mind for Diane.
One night while sick in bed, she prayed, “Lord, is there a little puppy dog out there that needs me as much as I need her?”
Two days later a friend from the local animal hospital called her. An Italian greyhound with two broken front legs and a broken tail needed a home.
“I want her,” the friend said, “but the Lord keeps telling me she is for you.”
The rest, as they say, is history. (For more of Diane’s story, visit her online at www.dianedike.org, where you can order her book, God Made Only One of Me, which chronicles her journey from pain to hope.)
Diane Dike is a living example of what God can do. It doesn’t matter how broken you are. Or how far from God you’ve strayed. He’s just waiting for your permission. As Diane says, “God loves you, He likes you, and He made only one of you!”
I met Diane, Gracie, and Paul at a writers and speakers conference last weekend. When I came home, I told my husband, “I’m never going to complain again.”
OK, I probably will. But when I do, I’ll remember Diane’s radiant face and the joy that bubbles from a spirit that knows the transforming power of God.
Dear God, may those whose lives and spirits are broken either by circumstances beyond their control or by their own doing, find healing and purpose in You. Amen.
Special-Tea: 2 Corinthians 12:7–10