The joy was shortlived.
For one thing, I'm not a businesswoman by temperament. A friend of my husband told him that while I seemed interested in the history of perfume, I didn't seem the least interested in selling anything. I had arranged my hours to give me time to dance – so I thought - but there were myriad détails to attend to which wore me down.
November I fell ill with a sore throat/flu like virus which, according to the Neurologist’s notes triggered “a mild relapse”. I was living what would be a long standing pattern, the sore throat, sneezes, running nose runs its course only to leave me dragging along for weeks thereafter. I now recognize this as the MS syndrome reactivated - body/muscle tension leading to blood reflux into brain/spinal cord, poor blood circulation which leads in turn to low oxygen in the central nervous system and a re-activated Epstein Barr Virus (the Mononucleosis inheritance). I now think once reactivated, the latent EBV virus in itself damages the brain tissues, the blood reflux/inflammation lesions no longer in play. And this latter stage may characterizes the progressive form of the disease. I’m thinking through my own body experience. Once the latent EBV phase kicks in, I gradually weaken and lose ground and at the beginning in 1980 all I could do was wait it out, having no knowledge of homeopathy or any other therapy which could have nipped the virus in the bud. (I’m getting ahead of myself. While the Neurologist identified a minor MS relapse in November 1980, the right arm symptoms of the previous spring had disappeared and my walking was normal.)
In some ways this setback was the beginning of the end. Of all the retail products I could have sold, perfume was the worst for my health because of the TOXICITY. Early on I became aware that I was being poisoned by the perfume vapours. My husband suggested I leave the door open, but then the diesel bus fumes invaded the shop to poison me as well and during the winter it was cold. There was no easy solution other than to quit. My head seemed perpetually "foggy", the only time I felt well was after a week's absence from the shop. So I would say that had I been able to work in a non toxic environment, I might have been able to put off the MS alot longer. It took only 6 weeks of working 5 days a week in a mildly “toxic” environment for my health to falter, and it never improved as long as I worked in the boutique.
TOXICITY might seem an excessively dramatic word for the magical world of perfume. (I favoured perfumes bottled in France. I purchased the luxury brands from wholesale importers, but we specialized in fragrant floral “waters” such as lavendars or citrus based which we imported directly from small southern French producers – the Provence. Needless to see, our own imports were the most profitable for us. After we closed the boutique I would continue for awhile as wholesaler of our own fragrances.)
TOXICITY had been building up over my lifetime. For starters I was born and lived my first 3 years downwind from the Hanford Nuclear Facility. It was only in the 1980’s that the US government admitted eastern Washington had been contaminated by radioactive pollution. (Recently a rash of serious birth defects have been reported in the area surrounding Hanford. Radioactivity just doesn’t disappear.) Prescription drugs for strep throats, more toxicity in surgeries - tonsillectomy, appendectomy, hysterectomy. Mercury in Amalgam fillings. I took birth control pills in the early days (1967-1969) only to stop when I thought my head was going to explode. However by far the most serious poisoning, DES Diethylstilbestrol, was prescribed periodically in 1973-77 to treat endometriosis. This drug really sickened me. A true poison, it is infamous now for causing genital deformities in children and even grandchildren of women who took it during pregnancy. I had an old fashioned gynecologist, it’s amazing to me that he prescribed it. Fortunately my HMO gynecologist took me off of it, saying I could develop breast cancer as a result. (Ironically, it may be the eventual detoxification and optimized nutrition of my MS treatment which has saved me from breast cancer.) More toxicity came through antiobiotics prescribed periodically beginning 1967 to treat cystitis (another female disease). And even though my diet was nutritious according to most criteria, given my intolerance to glutens and lactose and various other items, toxicity had been building up since birth. So by November 1980 the perfume appears to have pushed me over the edge.
Just as I had begun to get into dancing shape Sept-Oct 1980, the viral illness set me back. And this dynamic would continue for months. I just couldn't get my head above water. The Christmas rush totally exhausted me so that I didn't really recover my strength until the following October. Then in February 1981 disaster struck. I had enjoyed a successful en pointe class the previous evening, I hoped to perform even better when a piroutte sent me crashing brutally to the floor, badly injuring my back. Even though I had wanted to think I had entirely recovered from the mysterious nerve "attack" of the previous year, I was forced to admit that my balance was "off". I literally crawled off the floor. I waited a few days before visiting a Chiropractor. He took the X rays, said I had scoliosis, my spine was twisted and he ordered 3 visits a week for an indefinite period. He didn't use a collapsible table, he "cracked" my neck, and then, one leg over the other, "cracked" my back, it was a bam bam thank you Ma'am type affair. I don't know if he even considered freeing blood and cerebrospinal fluid flow through the central nervous system (spinal cord/brain.). It would take a good 30 years for me to become aware of the importance of treating the upper cervicals and Orthogonal Atlas. I don't know what he did really. But I gradually recovered.
A few weeks after my fall, I was shocked to see my name missing from the Company’s rehearsal schedule for the next season. Not shocked that I would be unable to perform, simply shocked that the director lacked the courage and decency to discuss the matter with me. It was quite clear to me that my glory days were over. I immediately decided to leave the Company classes. And over the next few months I knew real joy on the dance floor. Freed from the pressure to compete, to perform, I exulted in the power I still enjoyed in my young, lithe body. February 1981 I hired Christine, a French student at UC Berkeley , to work part-time in the boutique, thus freeing me several days a week, above all to dance. Dancers touch one another in appreciation, in comraderie. I particularly enjoyed the classes of Alonzo King who had just arrived in San Francisco, the morning sun streaming onto oak floors of the Mission Street studio, the piano, the dancers. A bright memory of a brief moment of real happiness. But clouds were forming on the horizon in Spring 1981. It was then I began to know insomnia for the first time. This foreshadowed a troubled metabolism even though on March 25 the Neurologist notes that the right arm anomalies had disappeared and, though probable Multiple Sclerosis, it was residual. He put me on a 6 month check-up regimen.
In May my husband and I traveled to France for five or six weeks on a buying “business” trip. (This was the real reason my husband wanted to import French products.) Freed from the perfume, my health vastly improved. Upon our return, Christine left for a six week visit with her parents in France. Since I had left her in charge of the boutique during our absence, I didn’t object to her absence. Upon her return to the Bay Area with her parents, I offered to continue working for her until they had left. This was generous of me, but not a good idea, I was losing ground, there was the work and above all the “toxic” environment.
September 1981 the Gynecologist noted a resurgence of endometriosis pain symptoms in the pelvis. I refused birth control pills given my past experience and was leery of Danazol. Already one can see my overall condition was faltering.
All summer I took evening dance classes. If there is one thing I don’t miss about San Francisco it’s the perpetual cold, damp wind blowing off the Pacific Ocean. Summers are the worst. As the valley heats up in the interior, frigid foggy air is drawn in over the San Francisco Bay. I can attest to the truth of Mark Twain’s aphorism “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco”. August 1981, after closing the boutique, I would take a dance class and afterwards walk out of the studio hot and sweaty only to be blasted by that frigid damp air. Odd symptoms began to develop in my legs. First the quadricep thigh muscle of one leg cramped up, and then the other. That didn’t make sense, I couldn’t recall any movement which could have led to that, and in any case both legs should have exhibited the same symptom simultaneously. Then I began to get corrected for “sickling” my foot, which is to say curving the pointed foot inward like a sickle. I couldn’t understand why I was being corrected, that wasn’t usually a problem for me and I was doing the best I could. Other anomalies cropped up in dance class. My body no longer moved symmetrically, a simple jump into second position, the feet apart, felt unbalanced, one side stronger than the other. The dance master began to look at me strangely.
Now here is an interesting phenomenon of future significance. To hold the pointe outward correctly in Ballet technique, strength is required in the 4th and 5th toes, which HAPPEN to be the endpoints of the Gall Bladder (outside 4th) and Bladder (outside 5th) meridians in Chinese Acupuncture. And it is precisely these 2 meridians which begin on the head -Gall Bladder (outer corner of the eye) and Bladder (inner corner of the eye) , both running down the back of the neck to finish on the feet and both just HAPPEN to be critical to open fluid circulation (blood and cerebrospinal fluid) from the head. They just HAPPEN to be critical to overcoming the blood reflux characteristic of my MS condition, and the Bladder points in particular free what I believe to be a Renal CCSVI condition. (See Tens Self Help Acupressure Blog). Another physical detail peculiar to myself, my 4th and 5th toes did not fully develop. The 5th toe is tucked under the foot harmlessly, but the 4th is painful when the flesh pulls away from the nail. Just when I stopped performing I was considering having the nail removed, cramming that toe in the pointe shoes was torture.
Chinese Medical theory developed over thousands of years of observation. So what was observed is that the 4th and 5th toes have something to do with the brain, and the corresponding meridians are used to treat head/brain (and eye) problems. Do my slightly “deformed” 4th and 5th toes imply an ongoing weakness or “imbalance” in the meridians so closely linked to MS acupuncture treatment I wonder if the ongoing “trauma” to my Gall Bladder meridian end point (outside 4th toe of left foot) is actually undermining my health?
Back to 1981. After another medical visit September 25 for a urinary tract infection I took a sulfa drug. September/October 1981 the endometriosis (gynecological cramping) pains increased in intensity while spreading to new areas in the abdomen and on the bladder. The cramping triggered MS symptoms illustrated by my mysterious dance class deficiencies. I had previously advertised my boutique in the SF Ballet Program guide and was thinking of having a photo taken of myself “en pointe” with a bottle of perfume, to title it “Pas de Parfum” to run in the Christmas issue. Well, that may sound silly now, but my boutique was considered “chic” and I still looked good. But then early October I took a pointe class and my knees nearly buckled, and my feet wouldn’t work together. I thought I wasn’t strong enough that day for pointe shoes, so I changed into soft shoes. No improvement, my legs still weren’t working well. I slinked off the dance floor like a wounded animal to head home. I remember walking north on foggy, windswept Van Ness Avenue morose and defeated. I was under pressure to put in Christmas orders. (Pressure, stress, there they are, the evil words.) Several days later I made the earliest appointment available with the Neurologist which was for December 3, about 6 weeks later.
After inquiring about my symptoms, the Neurologist examined me. While the Right hand continued to trouble me slightly while typing, it was now the LEFT LEG which presented the prominent deficiency. Today I find this significant, because had I not healed the left leg during 1984-85 I would have real difficulty walking today given the handicap in the RIGHT LEG acquired since 1993.
It was during this interview that the Neurologist first told me he thought I had MS. He said they (Dr Pallis and the other HMO Neurologist) had hoped my first crisis in 1980 would be the only one –which could happen – but now it looked like I was having another flareup. He described the possible disease course, collapsing into his navel dramatically on mention of the wheelchair. I remarked to myself this was an act he was putting on. He mentioned Prednisone (a cortisone) as possible treatment. I asked if that was a cure. When he said no, it treated the inflammatory symptoms, I replied that I didn’t want to take it. The interview finished I climbed down from the table and shook his hand, thanking him for taking the time to talk to me. He looked surprised at my calm. I WAS grateful that for once he was civil. Why didn’t I go into a panic attack? Well, I might have if I had gone blind or been unable to walk. I wasn’t that bad off and felt, perhaps, that I had handled my first big crisis pretty well. (I did, with the Shiatsu massage as it turns out.) I have the "elder" American daughter psychology that if I have a problem I just need to take charge and find a way to fix it. However, early December, my mind was on the coming Christmas rush at the boutique. I would get around to the MS in January.
That December I did one very smart thing. I asked my Chinese Chiropractor if he could refer me to a Doctor of Chinese Medicine. I was thinking herbs, not Acupuncture (which I knew nothing about.) He referred me to Dr. Cheong on Mason St. I put off making an appointment until January. The following year would introduce me to Chinese Medicine, a most felicitous opening.
After the Neurologist gave me the MS verdict in December 1981 I had the following dream. I had been running down a track when I was forced off to the side, I couldn’t keep up. After watching the roaring crowd race by, my body sank deep into the warm moist earth, curling up into a hard round tulip bulb. I would wait hidden until spring.
And spring did come. After a year of detoxification and optimal nutrition and energy healing therapies I dreamed of a vast field of flowering red tulips thrusting up from vibrant green leaves. This came March 1985 when I had recovered full use of my legs. It was a dream of life and renewal.
After years of backsliding on my nutrition another Spring opened in August 2010 when I learned that MS is in fact a blood circulation disorder. Think fluids circulating freely, blood, cerebrospinal fluid, lymphatic fluids, life. Flowing waters have long symbolized life in literature and that is exactly how I believe one should understand MS healing, as opening the flow of blocked, stagnant, restricted fluids which bathe the central nervous system.
And to finish up this chapter I will relate a mysterious healing incident which occurred in the autumn of 1980.
During an evening dance class the instructor asked me to check up on another dancer who, injured, had left the floor. I found the visiting New York dancer crawling in agony on her back. I kneeled beside her and, ignoring her cries not to touch her, closed my eyes and began ever so lightly to graze her thigh. I visualized a tropical island, the blue sky, the sea, dolphins, the palms. Of a sudden a sharp electric current passed between us. She said, “It’s O.K., you can stop, I’m better now.” I opened my eyes to find her staring at me in shock. Then she just stood up, said she was fine, and walked off to the dressing rooms. I saw her again a week later at a dance performance, she hovered next to me, wanting to give recognition that I had helped her but not knowing how or what to say. I never saw her again. She obviously had a longstanding condition of acute, debilitating back pain “attacks”. Was she permanently healed by my intervention, or did she continue to suffer relapses?
What actually happened? Apparently an exchanged static electrical charge had jolted her out of her agony. I’ve never tried to develop this “healing power”, whatever that might be. But in many ways healing is a mystery. I believe people should take confidence in their own capacity for life, for living, and not hand themselves over lightly to a machine. One should stop, relax, reflect, inform oneself, follow the inner voice.
*I Ching: The Book of Change" translated and edited by John Blofeld, 1965. E.P. Dutton and Company, New York.
Tags: Multiple Sclerosis, MS, Diagnosis, Healing, Orthogonal Atlas, acupuncture, toxicity, I Ching, DES Stilbestrol, breast cancer