My Most Sacred Post (Part II): The Dream

{A quick note to you who are near to my heart, but will find these words a surprise – who in kind sincerity over the months inquired about my health, and all I could offer in response was the simple truth that I was well- please forgive me for the fact that you’re reading this story on a screen, not hearing it face to face (which is the way I’d rather tell it)  It has only been just this moment that courage has come to wrap the truth in a body of words. What you’re going to read is a story I’ve never spoken in its entirety…not even to myself.}

—— Part II: The Dream ——

I think even Frodo Baggins would concede that treating an incurable disease with fruit and vegetables sounds about as reasonable as smuggling a magic ring into the fires of Mount Doom. “One does not simply walk into Mordor”, and one does not simply hold a carrot up to a life-altering illness, say, “Boo!”, and expect that it will run.

And yet, that is exactly what we did.

I had Ankylosing Spondylitis- an incurable autoimmune disorder that weaves its fingers cruelly through the body, tightening its grip over years as it fuses the spine, wrings the joints with pain, afflicts the eyes, and causes a whole host of unpleasant effects.

By the time we knew its name, it had been my bedfellow for 10 years.

Faced with a menu of unsavory options for conventional treatment, I chose to pursue the Gerson Therapy- a rigorous holistic method that has been used since the 1930s to treat cancer and other degenerative diseases. It involves one to three years of 12 hour a day labor to prepare juices and other therapy components. It has a wonderful track record, but no guarantees.

What sets this therapy apart, though, is that it offers, if successful, not just pain management or a halt to the disease’s progress, but a cure. Against all odds…a cure for the incurable.

Despite the fact that the Gerson Institute had little experience treating patients with my disease, I felt a strange assurance that our journey would meet with success. The same sentiment was repeated in the voices of friends and neighbors. “I just have a feeling this is going to work for you”… each time the words fell to the ground, I picked them up quick, like gold or manna, and tucked them in my belt for safe-keeping. Darker hours would need the food of confirmation.

The gifts given went far beyond words. A Gerson patient consumes between 15-20 pounds of organic produce per day. The expense can be daunting, so generous friends and family (especially those of the family of faith) gave to the point of pain and sacrifice. Our first four months of Gerson expenses were paid by sheer gift. (It’s hard for me not to interject an emphatic “Hallelujah!” here)

We launched the ship with streamers flying.

Early results were astounding. I experienced periods of incredible relief, confirmed by the remarkable news that the markers of inflammation in my body (normal levels are 0-3.0, mine was a harrowing 13.4 before I began therapy) had plummeted to a low normal of 1.6….in the span of only 6 weeks.

But the joy wasn’t seamless. Interspersed among the peaks of relief were the frightening “healing reactions” that Gerson warns about. I panicked, thinking that the therapy was not working and so I deviated.

Returning to the therapy after 2 weeks of failed experiments, I set my hand to the plow and chose to continue regardless of the switchbacks and dips in the course. Those first months had been a swing between two poles: brilliant blue sky of relief, set against dark depths of pain.

Steadier progress arrived with the next four months- about 80% painlessness, coupled with the blessed surprise that when I turned to buckle my seatbelt one day, my pelvis no longer hurt. When I went for walks, the old familiar sting was absent almost entirely.

I had gone from being unable to roll over in bed, or to sit for more than an hour, to being a relatively functional human being. 

But progress is rarely linear, and the next quad of months crashed through the door with all the grace of a drunken sailor,  dragging behind it the most frightening and painful host of healing reactions I was ever to have. It seemed that the sunlit lands had ceded their ground to nights spent on the floor in desperation. Would consistent painless days ever return? Or would I have to square myself to this new and terrible norm? I cut corners and slid backward. Periods of relief were few in those days.

As the one year mark drew near, Doubt set its hooks deep and pulled hard, and I began to look at other options “just in case”.

But God remembered me in my affliction, and that same One who sent Gabriel on an errand to shatter  the intertestamental silence, broke my fear in the form of a dream.

I’m a vivd dreamer, and at points throughout my life God has used them to speak to me in very powerful ways. This one stood apart as holy.

In my dream, Shayne and I were just finishing the first half of a marathon for which we had not trained. Somehow, we had run the entire first half effortlessly, without even the slightest need to slacken our pace and walk. (this is how you know it’s really a dream!)

Arriving at the midpoint, we were invited to rest for the night and attend the extravagant and jubilant parties that celebrated the middle of the journey. Even in the dream, I was still bound by the moors of Gerson, which meant that I couldn’t eat the food, and I had to do the most unpleasant parts of the therapy in public places. But even in this, my joy was undimmed. The air was alive with celebration, and we were carried along on a current of excitement and camaraderie.

As we prepared to set off on the second half of the journey the next morning, I laced up my shoes and was surprised to find that my feet weren’t the least bit uncomfortable. My shoes felt light, barely worn, beautiful. Everything was tinted with a golden light of beauty.

As we took our first steps into the second half, we realized with elation that we were in the last four miles of the race (dream time is strange, isn’t it?!) We kept repeating it to each other in wonder and eager anticipation, “We’re in the last four miles!”. There was no weariness, no fear, no uncertainty. The outcome was assured. We would finish, and to finish was to achieve victory.

Even in the moment when an adversary appeared in the path and threatened to halt our progress, our joy was unconquerable. We simply waited with absolute confidence that the obstacle would be cleared because we knew that our end was certain. “Four more miles.  The outcome is assured.”

All along the road was scenery of glorious delight. It was clear that the journey was not simply utilitarian, but was structured for our joy. One stretch of “the course” even found us carried along on a ship, past scenes of rarest beauty (imagine the Nile with hippos and rushes). We were awed to our core, full of enjoyment and grateful wonder.

And best of all, we walked the last four miles, because it was clear that we were intended to do so; to savor and restfully embrace the miles as a profound gift. We were walking the completing steps of what had been a journey, not unto death but unto Life.


{ps…Thanks (truly) for letting me tell you a story. It means so very much to me that you care. We’ll set off for the high places and the explanation of the dream tomorrow….if you missed yesterday’s preface, here it is! Thanks again for coming with me.}