After facing rejection, family troubles and a serious illness that almost cost her everything, former Eternal star Kelle Bryan is still praising God. Joy Tibbs caught up with her.
Having shot to fame with girl band Eternal, Kelle Bryan’s life was turned upside down when she was diagnosed with lupus, a chronic autoimmune disease. The condition, which can be brought on by stress, struck at a particularly difficult time in Kelle’s life.
She had been sacked from the band, her parents had split up and she was in an ‘unhealthy’ relationship herself. She describes what came next as a ‘complete meltdown’.
“In 1998, the girls sent me a fax saying I was no longer a member of the band,” she recalls. “I lost my job and I lost my house because I started to get quite aggressive lupus symptoms. I ended up not being able to move and got ulcers in my mouth, in my hair and down my body, and arthritic symptoms to the point where I couldn’t actually move.
Despite having been brought up with strict Christian principles and attending church every week, Kelle didn’t have a personal relationship with God. She was subsequently put off Christianity by the sisters who had founded Eternal – Easther and Vernie Bennett – who, despite having strong Christian beliefs themselves, hadn’t been particularly warm towards Kelle or fellow band member and close friend, Louise Nurden.
[swpm_protected for="2-3-4" do_not_show_protected_msg="1"] Rules and Regulations [/swpm_protected]
“It just felt like a whole load of rules and regulations that didn’t make any sense,” she says.
“It wasn’t that I had anything against God, I just didn’t understand it. The girls, who were very much into their faith at that point – their mum was pastor of a church – didn’t really help because they weren’t very friendly, for want of a better word.
“I didn’t really feel that it was something for me or that I’d be accepted. It was all about virginity and celibacy, and I was like, ‘Well that’s out the window, I’ll never come up to those standards.’ So I just didn’t ever consider it.”
However, during the early days of her lupus journey, Kelle felt she had no choice but to make a silent appeal to her maker.
“One day when I was hospital, I had got into quite an awkward position; lupus sufferers can’t move their own bodies. My face was in the pillow, so I thought I was going to suffo-cate. I was trying to breathe and I was trying my best to move my body, but I couldn’t.
“My mum was in a little pull-up bed in the ward with me, but I couldn’t get to her, so I thought, ‘I’m going to suffocate and die.’ So I just sort of said to God, ‘If you are real’ – be-cause I’d heard so much about him but never really experienced him for myself – ‘could you help me please?’
“Lots of people have these big memories of fire crackers, seeing the Holy Spirit, or fire all over their body, or outer body experiences. It wasn’t anything like that for me. It was a real-ly simple, small voice that said, ‘You’re going to be OK.’ From that day onwards, I knew the Father was with me.
“I went to a local church with my friend after I got out of hospital. I just marched myself right up the aisle and gave my life there and then. That was it, really; I’ve never looked back. I’ve been enjoying the journey and getting to know him.”[/swpm_protected]
[swpm_protected for="2-3-4" do_not_show_protected_msg="1"] Highs and Lows [/swpm_protected]
God helped Kelle rebuild her life, and she soon realised he had always had his hand on her life.
“It’s like the potter’s wheel,” she explains, “breaking it all down and then starting again with the clay. Everything in my life was breaking down. How did I get through it? You just keep putting one foot in front of the other. It’s little steps, until you look back and go, ‘Oh, actually I’ve done a metre. Well done!’
“And sometimes that was literal, because I wasn’t able to walk. When you’re bedridden and you can’t move, your muscles deteriorate really rapidly. So even standing after being in bed for six or eight weeks is really hard work. When you have to rebuild, you appreciate things differently.”
Kelle married husband Jay in 2010 and, despite having previously been told they wouldn’t be able to have children, her mind turned to motherhood. After ten years of remission and be-ing told she didn’t have ‘sticky blood’, a lupus symptom that causes the blood to clot and results in miscarriage, the couple were told it was then or never.
However, while they went on to have two healthy children, Kelle suffered a series of re-lapses: a minor bout with Regan and a much more serious one with Kayori-Rose.
“I lost about three days of my life,” says Kelle. “I don’t remember anything until I woke up in hospital. My mum said I was awake and functioning, but you could see that there was nothing behind my eyes. It had started a swelling on my brain, which caused psychological damage. There was loss of memory. I had slurred speech and loss of movement. That was a tough bout.”
A subsequent attack almost claimed Kelle’s life. Sparked by a kiss from Kayori, who had un-knowingly contracted meningococcal, the singer was in intensive care with pneumonia within 48 hours. She was put into an induced coma and treated with antibiotics.
“I had physiotherapy to learn to walk and speech therapy to learn to speak. I wasn’t able to read and write, so I had to learn a lot of that again. Here I am eight months later, and I’m well. I just have another bout of chemotherapy to go, but just as maintenance rather than crisis management.”[/swpm_protected]
[swpm_protected for="2-3-4" do_not_show_protected_msg="1"] Difficult Conversations [/swpm_protected]
While Kelle is fortunate to have survived, and is now feeling much better, she has found raising her children particularly challenging due to the illness.
“My son Regan witnessed one episode of me having a seizure,” she shares. “That kind of memory has never left his mind; he’s always remembered it very vividly. I think it’s made us closer, but I do have to be careful because they’re quite clingy and I think they panic as well.
“We have lots of conversations about death. They lost one of our close family members from cancer and I remember when she died, Regan’s connection with death was, ‘When are you going to die, Mummy? Is that going to happen to you?’ We’re a Christian house-hold, so we’re raising him with faith. He prays and has his own relationship with God, to the point where he’s like, ‘Mummy, can I baptised?’ And I’m like, ‘Let’s work on this for a bit. He’s five!’
“I have to be careful because I don’t want them to be under any pressure, but I’m also very honest and open with them. I say, ‘When Father’s ready for mummy, Father will take me. It won’t be lupus’ decision, it’ll be God’s. When God says mummy’s to go home, mummy’s to go home. You know that when mummy’s there, she’s going to be happy. There won’t be any lupus and mummy will be free, and she’ll just be waiting for you for when you come.’ That’s how I explain it to them.
“There have been several occasions where Regan will wake up and have a nightmare, and there were some bedwetting incidents when it first happened because I was in hospital for such a long time and he saw me taken away in an ambulance, and all of those kinds of visual things sit in his mind. We’ve dealt with each of those challenges the best we can and now he’s a very happy little boy.
“The school and nursery are really supportive because I’m not always allowed to touch them. They go way beyond what they actually need to be doing. You just find in situations like that, humanity can be kind.”[/swpm_protected]
[swpm_protected for="2-3-4" do_not_show_protected_msg="1"] Living Life To The Full [/swpm_protected]
It took a long time for Kelle’s voice to come back, but now that she is able to sing again, she does so as often as possible.
“It feels amazing. The children are like, ‘Mummy! You’re singing! Good singing, Mummy!’ which is really sweet.”
Kelle is now looking for television and film roles, and dreams of working with her favourite director, Clint Eastwood, one day. When she’s feeling fit and well, Kelle enjoys exercising.
“One of my rituals in the morning is get up and pray, and then run or go to the gym or go for a cycle or do some kind of Pilates or yoga,” she says.
“I’m a very active member of my church and I lead worship, which is really nice. I live in a nice rural area, so we put our wellies on and go out for walks. It’s just really simple things. My children love Friday nights because we get a takeaway and then watch movies on our sofa in front of the fireplace.”
Kelle Bryan features as a special guest on The Matt Bird Show about how you can build life-transforming relationships in family, business and community. Broadcast on TBN TV (Freeview Channel 65 or Sky Channel 582) or you can catch up on demand at www.relationologyinternational.com/speaking[/swpm_protected]
This article was taken from the May 2017 issue of iBelieve Magazine.