Photo by Tapio Haaja on Unsplash

In the spring of 2014, shortly before I first became injured, my father’s hand began to shake. It shook like a leaf and this seemed to have developed out of nowhere. When I gently asked him about it, he replied that it was just a habit he’d gotten into. But I knew better. I could clearly see that it was not a nervous finger tapping; it was an involuntary tremble.

A couple months later when he got his Parkinson’s diagnosis, I felt optimistic that my own father, with all of his healthy eating and state of the art supplements, would be able to keep the symptoms at bay for the final two or three decades of his life (he was about 70 at the time). He had always been incredibly robust, the picture of good health and minimally aging, and had never experienced any of the digestive complications my life had been plagued by.

He’d spent many decades as an artist in the sculpting and bronze plating industry. I was intensely proud of his work, at times obsessed with the beauty of it. But many heavy chemicals are used in the processes of plating large scale pieces, and his sweat always smelled of metals. He’d never had a health problem in his life and the new reality of his diagnosis was too horrible to be true. But Parkinson’s kind of made sense for him.

Meanwhile, my dear perpetually lonely brother fell in love with a young woman who proved to be enormously difficult. In fact she was beyond difficult. She had a mental/emotional condition that made her outright impossible…and dangerous. Out of love and compassion he made the decision to take her into his home and attempt to help her. This phase of his life represented the end of all normalcy, and he was repeatedly put in peril during her episodes. We wanted him to have love and companionship, but all of us were deeply concerned and devastated by this situation.

During the first couple agonizing years of my disability, Dad’s symptoms escalated alarmingly. It was real and it was happening. I couldn’t believe it. I lay awake at night with my mind buzzing through its insomniac frenzy, unable to roll over in bed due to my intense physical pain, while trying desperately to reckon with the reality of my father. I knew it was mutually dreadful for us to have to watch each other deteriorate.

My brother, my father, and I all entered our hard times in early 2014…within weeks of each other.

On top of all this, my mom was now 5 years into her disability — caused by a fall that damaged some nerves, giving her a severe hobble and very poor balance. She also had been totally robust her entire life. Some of her siblings have health issues in common with mine, but she didn’t inherit any of them. She was literally cartwheeling across her lawn until the age of 60. She is still highly active but heartbreakingly unable to hike, as she used to do in the Smoky Mountains and other forests around her Knoxville, TN home.

On many occasions, in the wee hours of the night, I got to thinking…what exactly is this curse that’s targeted the four of us one by one? As the days and months went on, I watched my father continually lose his abilities, my brother sink further into the mire of living in a terrifying misery, and myself perpetually wonder when my body would begin to heal.

3 ½ years later as I was not only beginning to improve, but aggressively seeking answers, I thought to myself…how uplifting would it be, how much would it mean for my parents to see me rise up and out of this weird circumstance that has crippled me and shut me down so early in life? As they continue to seek their own answers, can I inspire healing all around by at least breaking away from my part in this heavy family karma? And can I further inspire my brother to break out of the chains of his relationship? What would that do to benefit the healing of Mom’s injury? How would it affect Dad’s ability to still find happiness, as he struggles against his increasing symptoms?

I knew I had to take action, whatever action necessary, to pull myself out of the quicksand…for the sake of all of our sanity.

This is the ongoing story of my experience with a crippling autoimmune disease, Ankylosing Spondylitis, that I’m putting in remission with diet and stem cells!