The allergist looked grave when he walked into the room. I kicked my legs over the patient bed, like a metronome, beating to the tune of my dread. He clicked open his pen, opened my folder and handed me a chart.
“Here are your results,” the doctor said, matter-of-factly. I had done extensive skin testing, the oldest and most reliable form of allergy diagnosis. My results showed row after row of 4’s. Not a single digit less.
“Four,” I said hopefully. “Is that good?” “It’s the highest,” the doctor responded in a flat voice that made his meaning clear.
“You mean the worst.” He nodded. “You’re highly allergic to each test.”
My stomach sank, as I read down the list: grasses, pollens, molds, pet dander, many foods.“So basically, I’m allergic to everything around me.” And it’s killing me.
“You’ll need to come in every week for shots.” Having dispensed the bad news, he put away his pen and turned to leave. “Every week! For how long?” I hated needles!
He paused at the door to look at me. “The rest of your life, I expect. That’s a small price for being able to breathe.”
Over the previous year, I had suffered four lung infections, one each season, which limited my activities for weeks, and required not only antibiotics, but also doses of steroids to reduce the inflammation. I often had to rely on an albuterol inhaler.
“But I don’t understand,” I quickly added, refusing to let him go. “I never had asthma or any allergic reactions as a kid. Why now?”
He shrugged. He dealt with symptoms, not causes. “Stress can crash your immune system,” he said, and then he was gone.
The door closed behind him with a final thud. Every week for the rest of my life.
I left the office in a daze, heading back to my home, which I now thought of as a stress incubator. I had two young children, and I was in the middle—I hoped there would an end some day—of very emotional marital troubles. The minute I stepped through the kitchen door, I felt a cold knot tighten around my chest.
Was it any coincidence that when I started Jungian therapy and was told to write down my dreams, I saw myself sitting in a wheelchair under the deep sea, unable to reach a locked elevator, with only a thin hose that reached to the top and allowed me to breath?
I needed help. But I refused to live week to week, waiting for my next shot. Something had to change, and fast. I was my children’s primary caretaker and they needed me to be strong. I wanted to be well again.
My father was a radiologist, and I was raised on the miracle of antibiotics and western medicine. I had no idea where else to turn for help. Luckily, soon after my prognosis, a dear friend recommended I see a Chinese doctor, an acupuncturist.
“Needles, no thanks,” I said.
But when my next bout of respiratory illness struck, I took her advice. I found myself sitting across the desk from a kind, young man, younger than I, who claimed 17 generations of ancestry in his field. But what most impressed me was his unusual diagnosis.
He held my wrist on a small, embroidered pillow, while he felt my pulse. I waited until he had released me to ask, “What’s wrong with me?”
“You’re suffering from a broken heart,” he replied.
There had never been a truer word spoken about my health, I realized. From that moment on, I let down my guard and ended up lying on a bed, peppered with thin, wire needles, which didn’t hurt at all. I fell into the deepest sleep I had had in a very long time.
I then began a regime of herbs that involved brewing a dark tea from roots and leaves. It smelled terrible and tasted worse. But gradually, with regular treatments, my health improved. Within three or four months, I was able to discard the inhaler, and a year later, I had only suffered one more lung infection. And while not much else had changed in my life, the herbs and acupuncture had bolstered my immune system, enabling me to better resist the stress.
This experience opened my eyes to the healing power of the natural world. Anxious to learn more, I enrolled in a herbology course at Yo San University in Santa Monica. To my utter amazement, I began to understand the connectivity between nature and man. How well nature had designed a natural pharmacopeia for her favorite creature!
Before the advent of antibiotics, pharmacists had relied on natural remedies, and their stores held shelves of dried herbs. But antibiotics produce faster results and more money for drug companies. Now, I believe there is a need for such drugs, but while Western Medicine has the edge on treating a patient’s symptoms, it fails to offer a holistic approach that includes prevention.
As I fell in love with the providence of Mother Earth, I also became very alarmed at the harsh treatment she was receiving. Did you know that the world’s rainforest are disappearing at the rate of 6000 acres every hour, or one and a half per second? In addition to threatening indigenous cultures and our air supply, imagine what unknown cures will be lost forever!
What could I do? I organized my son’s kindergarten class to sell pencils and buy several acres from The Nature Conservancy’s Adopt An Acre program. I also adopted several acres for my kids and I. But this was a drop in the proverbial rain bucket, and the dire statistics of global warming kept mounting.
Really, the best I had to offer was my pen. And so I conceived the idea for Save The Pearls, a post-apocalyptic series of young adult books that I hoped would not only entertain, but also enlighten people to the not-so-far-fetched dangers of laying waste to our habitat.
In Revealing Eden, the titular character, Eden Newman, faces death if she does not find a mate before her 18th birthday. But her white skin has branded her a Pearl, the lowest class, given to a high death rate from the Heat because Caucasians have little melanin in their skin. She has no hope of survival, until her father launches a top-secret experiment to adapt humans with animal traits. In Adapting Eden, Save The Pearls Part Two, which was released on Earth Day, April 22, 2013, Eden finds herself at the center of an epic battle between love and war. I’m currently writing Freeing Eden, in which the fate of the world hangs on Eden’s ability to unite all races and bring about a new way of living in harmony with the natural world.
An optimistic tale? Certainly, it’s a dramatic one. And yet, without a doubt, our survival is intertwined with Earth’s future. I hope that Eden’s journey may inspire others to fall in love with nature and be moved to protect it.
Throughout the series, I have sprinkled poems by the transcendent poetess Emily Dickinson. Perhaps, Dickinson’s poem describes my heartache and hope better than even three novels:
Eden is that old-fashioned House
We dwell in every day.
Without suspecting our abode
Until we drive away.
How fair, on looking back, the Day
We sauntered from the door,
Unconscious our returning
Discover it no more.
Bless Earth, and happy reading,