The phone rang. It was my mother calling long distance from Sun City. In the spring of 1996 my mother was in the early stages of dementia. While I enjoyed talking with her – being her friend, counselor, and helping her cope — I doubted there was anything truly meaningful left to say between us. I was wrong.
“The doctor says I have… hold it, I have it written down…” I was a patient listener. “Celiac sprue. He says it’s highly genetic. He says you could have it too.”
“I doubt it,” I said in automatic opposition. “Why would he say I might have it?”
“He said you are thin like me. He said you are the only one who is thin like me. He said you probably have it.”
I didn’t want to argue without knowing what it was. “I’ve never heard of it. What is it?”
“I have to go on a special diet, I can’t eat…” she again paused. “Gluten, wheat, I can’t eat them. Jimmy, I don’t know if I can do that!”
She started reading the list of forbidden foods. My immediate thought was: if that happened to me, I could never follow that diet. I’d probably die.
My mother was diagnosed almost by accident. Her red blood cell count had plummeted and she was getting increasingly weak. Her blood test for celiac sprue had been negative. The doctor was becoming desperate to find out what was wrong. He began suspecting cancer in the small intestines and did a biopsy, discovering the damaged villi and inflammation characteristic of celiac sprue. Going on the diet literally saved her life.
At that time there was no information to be found on the Web about this disease (within a month, information sites began appearing). My own doctor had never heard of it. But I realized how fatigued I’d grown, and how symptoms that I’d ignored fit the disease. Within a month, I myself was diagnosed and needed to begin the strict diet. If my mother hadn’t warned me, I never would have had it checked out. I consider having learned about the disease and diet as one of my mother’s gifts to me. If she had died prior to her own diagnosis, I would have continued in decline without knowing why, as doctors did not routinely test for celiac sprue. I was 42 at the time. Ignorantly, I thought if I followed the diet for a month, my intestines would heal and I could go back to gluten. I really liked bread! But each time I tried to reintroduce even the smallest amounts of gluten I would have undesirable symptoms. Resigned to the diet, I became a necessary convert. My physical symptoms stabilized for two years – just basic chronic pain. Very manageable.
Today, the gluten-free diet is no secret. And gluten intolerance wasn’t the only area where I appeared to be an early adopter. Many of the independent adaptations I integrated to cope with fibromyalgia became standard adjustments and therapies. I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (hypothyroidism) at a time when there was a controversy on what criteria were valid to justify diagnosis. There were many doctors who wouldn’t treat the condition with an elevated TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) if T4 (considered the main thyroid hormone) tested normal. I had, by pure luck, stumbled onto a doctor who turned out to be an endocrinologist. It was also pure luck that he treated elevated TSH. Because I had a nodule, he was able to prove Hashimoto’s with a biopsy. This type of clinical data was useful in widening the standards for treatment.
Luck is another way of saying led by spirits. Sometimes we are pushed to make discovery in the world after making the inner journeys and connecting with support.
My shamanic spirit helpers explained that I was participating in expanding the public knowledge with my struggles and adaptations – helping to light a path for those that would come after me. When we are trailblazing, I believe we are adding to the field of human knowledge through morphogenic resonance, furthering the education of humanity through a shared unseen field. Trailblazing involves both material and non-material pathways. In other words: consciousness. Everyone who is working to live consciously, to become more aware of the whole Self, is participating in trailblazing the human condition.
Trailblazing seems to be one of the job descriptions of the wounded healer. In order to have the strength to perform my life, following back surgery, I’ve needed to make adaptation or discovery about every two to four years. I’ve relied on helping spirits to assist me though the process — the Tao of discovery. Many of my diagnosis have turned out to be a mystery to science. Personal experience with the limits of mainstream modern medicine has motivated exploration.
I haven’t had the luxury of receiving a final cure. Instead, I engaged in a partnership with Spirit. I became more empathic.
As a wounded healer, I was forced to confront the layers of human suffering. In return, this made me a more effective counselor and program director. I understood the complexities of the health system and was an effective advocate. When peer professionals or employees under my direction wanted to label a client as a malingerer, I would remind them that even hypochondriacs get sick. As it turned out, with perseverance, we were able to uncover a physical cause for each assumed malingerer. Sometimes these were difficult diagnosis without effective treatment (like some of my diagnoses). But the staff were more kindly disposed because of their gained insight and subsequent compassion.
Sometimes trailblazing opens one to the wonders of the hidden Universe, and sometimes trailblazing seems like hard work. When we consciously engage difficulty and persevere beyond accepted norms, we are broadening our human capacity and engaging threads that will connect with expanding potential. However that happens externally, there is a latent spark of guidance in the streams, pathways, and open vastness of the non-material underflow.
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