Hello, everyone. I hope you are having a wonderful summer. As always, I want to thank you for the prayers and continued support. My Aunt Carla recently sent me such an inspiring card and also asked for an update, so here it is…thanks, Carla!
But I have to warn you now, this is a long one and might be worthy of printing out and reading later.
I am currently living in downtown Portsmouth, NH, a quintessential and charming seaside New England town. This is the first time I have been living on my own since my hospitalization. In only seven months so much has happened…
A little over six months ago when I arrived at St. Mary's in Waterbury, CT , neither the doctors nor I knew whether I would live through the night, and even if I did, what quality of life would I have afterwards. At 83 pounds, my heart had shrunk 35%, my brain and other organs followed suit. As a source of nutrition, my own body began eating my organs and nerve tissue as a last resort means of survival.
I could hardly swallow. I had lost the ability to move in bed, go the bathroom and even hold my head up. The nurses had to physically move me and feed me water with a straw. I was in excruciating pain constantly. My bones ached, my muscles screamed. The doctors weren't sure what was going on for me or what the outcome of this condition would be. This was a one in a million case and there was no reference for this type of severe malnutrition due to parasitic infection. It was a scary and frightening time for everyone…the doctors, my family, the nurses and of course myself.
I was the most vulnerable and helpless I'd ever been or could have imagined.
"How did it come to this??" I remember saying to myself. It was at this time that some profound realizations and events occurred. As I sat helpless with doctors discussing my fate, I became utterly aware that my worst fear had come true. Immediately I was somewhat enlightened as I realized that I was not going to die. It could not get any worse than this, I decided! It was at that point that I chose to put all my faith and trust in God, not just 99% but a whole 100%!
This may sound strange but last December in Florida I actually had a conversation with Our Creator. I was asked if I wanted to stay in this world or not. It was such a simple question and the response could have gone either way. I was told it was not going to be easy at first but over time my life would be joyous, peaceful and rewarding. Obviously you know my decision. My spirit really wanted to cross to the other side, yet the love from family and friends was so powerful I had to stay.
Since my physical body was so depleted and my nervous system so damaged, the doctors' projections for my future were crushing. For example, they said I may never be able to go the bathroom normally again. I refused to allow discouraging news like that to affect me, so I prayed instead. My constant prayers and yours fueled an even greater yearning to fully improve.
Nothing was impossible, I thought. If my worst fear had come true, then all my dreams and aspirations and even miracles were also possible…that was my new belief.
I now knew exactly what I wanted -- a complete restoration and recovery to a condition better than I ever had been in before. I wanted a miracle. I asked for one…and it was answered.
A real angel showed up in the form of a very special nurse who prayed with me. The next morning was the happiest day of my life…I could stand on my own two feet again. I cried with tears of joy for 10 minutes as my father stood beside me speechless. I knew then that anything was possible with the power of prayer and positive thought.
At this time, I began to feel a love in my life I had never felt before. Yes, my family loved me as a kid and yes, I had loving relationships with women, but this was so different. It was so genuinely pure, and truly divine. Or maybe I just finally allowed myself to be loved, as I had no other choice but to let others help me.
I came to see myself as a loving Spirit and therefore let go of my attachment to my body. This was huge shift for me in my healing. I fed myself "spiritual food" and my flesh began to follow. (thanks, Greg Pouls) It was amazing. I could feel the supportive prayers of my family and friends immediately energize me sometimes. That is why I am so thankful for all your prayers.
Prayer is a way of sending love. Love shines through the darkest of situations.
My sister recently sent me the bestselling book "90 Minutes in Heaven", by Don Piper. It's an account of how a man was dead for an hour and half and then brought back to life by prayer. His words are "the biggest miracle, people prayed and God answered their prayers."
And when I speak of prayer, I refer to any positive directed intention. It does not have to be associated with the concept of religion. It can be just a simple thought, an image of me smiling and happy, or a more formal asking of help from our Creator. Prayer can also be meditation, just picturing the body healing or surrounded by pure white light is a wonderful act of love. So prayer is again simply sending love. It's that feeling of love that came through as I began to allow myself to be loved. I felt your prayers…thank you!
I cried everyday in the hospital and I still cry quite often. But it's those tears of joy that truly awaken and enliven my spirit. And there are tears of thankfulness as I am so grateful for each improvement in my physical body, the special people that show up in my life, and most importantly, for the continued answering of our prayers. I constantly thanked god for healing me and even thanked god for improvements that had not even happened yet, and then they would happen. Even in the midst of pain, trauma, and severe frustration I tried to remain focused on creating a body that I wanted. I thought about running and skiing. I even asked my family to bring me magazines of bodybuilders so I could focus on creating that myself!
Since January my full-time job has been to restore my health, whether from antibiotics, nutritious food, acupuncture, physical therapy or laughter. Although there have been several ups and downs, overall the direction is positive. The ex-wall street guy in me likes to say I am like Google stock; it moves up and down but the trend is UP!
Since many of you ask about my physical condition, I will try to describe what is going on for me right now…but first a brief history to give reference.
The first few months out of the hospital were physically and emotionally challenging every day. I was in constant pain and had to take morphine just to get a few hours of sleep. Yet this was an improvement from the hospital. The hospital felt like a casino with the constant flux of checkups, blood draws, and doc visits; the list goes on and on. I probably averaged 2 hours a night for the 40 days I was there. So getting 3-4 hours a night afterwards was a huge improvement. Seven months later, I am almost back to sleeping normally. Amen!
I also had severe neuropathy in my legs and it was scary as I was not sure if the pain would ever go away and if my nerves would regenerate. My bladder also seemed to have some nerve damage and urination was very difficult and sometimes I had to catheterize myself…so Not Fun...I would rather get a root canal! But I am happy to report that both symptoms are about 95% resolved!
In the hospital I was 83 pounds, now I am 139! When I left the hospital in late January, my legs weighed about 10 pounds more than normal as I had severe edema. I looked like Fred Flintstone. It took months for that to come down to normal. It was not until April that I could actually get down on the floor and get back up again. I am recovering my spatial movements and flexibility every day!
Since my body had also recovered over 50 pounds (almost a 65% gain!) from my low, I really went through so many random symptoms and just strange stuff. From hair loss to weird pains, you name it…everything! But I reframed those as good old growing pains and my faith carried me through. I am also down from consuming an aggressive diet of 5,000 – 8000 calories a day to a more modest and regular 2000-3000 calories. And my weight is holding! It's very scary to eat 8 huge meals a day and sometimes lose weight…that was terror for me. Now I know the parasites are gone as they are not eating me alive anymore and food sometimes is a distant thought. I used to obsess about every meal and now I know it was the parasites screaming, "feed me!"
I am still working on rehabbing my rotator cuff muscle in my right shoulder, which was torn on New Year's Eve. Just trying to get out of a chair created such an incredible injury as I was in a very weakened state. When that happened, I could not even brush my teeth as I was instantly incredibly weak. My left arm now feels like Popeye compared to my dominant right. I may never play tennis again, but I know I will fulfill the dream of sailing around the world someday. That I am focused on.
I no longer need to be in a room that is at least 80 degrees. The nurses in the hospital would call my room "the sauna" as it was kept so high. I was literally freezing most of the time. Now I feel warm again and my temperature is starting to stabilize.
Even as of a few months ago, I could not even eat anything unless it was warm or hot food. Anything cold would shut my digestion down and I would be in pain. Now I am relishing ice cream like a kid again.
I know take nothing for granted and thank God for everything that works in my body.
From walking to simply going to the bathroom….I am so very thankful.
And for the record, this is what I was officially diagnosed with: my body was so beaten down that I literally was a magnet for any parasite, bug, thug, fungus, heavy metal, you name it. I had amoeba hystolictica, blastocystis hominis, trichinosis, toxoplasmosis, roundworms, tapeworms, nematodes, and Lyme disease. The diagnoses list from the hospital has about 14 items, of which half I can't even recognize. But liver and kidney failure are the easy ones.
I had a huge setback two months ago when I contracted a salmonella infection. This is the intense strain that has made recent news which I believe I got after eating raw jalapenos on some pizza with my friend Kelly. My immune system was weak because a week before I had some sort of food poisoning. Of course it was a triple whammy as I was still recovering! It was a super tough time and I was really scared.
Since then, I have been dealing with a chronic low-grade fever which makes me feel like I am running on one cylinder, yet recently that has been non-existent!
Coupled with that, I still am slightly anemic and am stagnating in my efforts to gain weight. The good news is that as I am feeling better I have canceled and dismissed such procedures as having my gallbladder removed (I like my gallbladder), having a cystoscopy (so not fun), and getting a bone marrow biopsy. Right now I intend to be as far away from doctors offices as possible. For me, that's working!
A recent MRI showed a one-centimeter mass in my prostate. This led to an ultrasound that showed hard, calcium mass. My urologist insisted that I have a prostate biopsy on the spot and I complied. This was a rough procedure and I will spare you the details. Thankfully, the results came back negative for cancer! Yet I have some sort of infection in the gland and a chronic prostatitis that needs to be dealt with. I am already on top of it with an arsenal of remedies and treatments.
Where do I stand now? So much better than those hospital days!
I rode a bike for the first time a few weeks ago and it was amazing.
My body is really getting stronger, more muscular, and even my leg hair has come back.
I am able to eat anything, just no more sushi for me at the moment!
For the first time in four years I have a normal testosterone level. That's a huge, "Hallelujah!"
What's working for me? Being in the moment with my environment, whether that means hanging out on the park bench for an hour with a total stranger or playing guitar with street musicians. But really it's being in a constant state of right thinking and staying connected to spirit that is critical.
I want to thank everyone for understanding and being patient with me in my responses. I have frankly been awful with communication. I am avoiding my cell phone like jalapeños these days. My computer is second to that, hence e-mails are not really happening. The truth is that these electro- magnetic devices really seem to weaken me and I am convinced that this stuff is just not good for us. But hey, I spent the last ten years on my cell phone or computer for 6-10 hours a day and now I have just flipped the switch. My personal theory is that EMF radiation impairs the body's natural ability to heal itself. If you're healthy and use that stuff in moderation, I think that's fine…it's like not eating too much chocolate.
Since I believe prayer is the best medicine in the world as it has truly fed and nourished me, I want to ask for your continued prayers on helping me overcome some of these current issues. I am convinced your positive intentions will help me breakout of this current stagnation. As Doc Palermo calls it "I need a prayer boost." I am asking to be restored to the perfection from which I emanated, specifically for my shoulder and neck to be renewed, my blood count to be improved, my prostate to be healed and my overall body to be revitalized. God intends for us to be healthy, strong, happy, loving, abundant and expansive. I now allow and expect those things in my life.
My Physical Short Term Goals:
Run a mile by the end of September, run two by October and run "the Turkey Trot'
(a 5K road race on Thanksgiving Day),
Do 5 pushups by October,
Gain 2 pounds a week,
Smile, laugh, and pray everyday,
Eat more chocolate.
I will try and post one more time again and then I intend on summarizing everything at www.bless.com. Have a great summer everyone and thanks again for all you support and love! God Bless and expect miracles!
I also would like to ask for a few prayers for my cousin, Shani Higgins, who has posted comments on this care page site. She is in a critical situation with her colitis and is receiving IV treatment at a hospital in San Francisco. Her colon may be removed if that drug does not work. I am sending a prayer for her spirit to connect with the healing power of her body to strengthen and comfort her as she overcomes this current struggle and rises to perfection.
And one more thing…and then you can go… if other people need prayers for themselves or family members, please send them to me and I would be happy to pray for them. This would be an honor to me and something I enjoy. Prayer makes us stronger, unites us and creates a sense of oneness that touches our souls.
May 2008 Update
I am so thankful to be writing to all of you at this moment. No doubt, this life-changing experience is the hardest but also the most rewarding thing I have ever had to do.
What I am learning and gaining out of this is truly a blessing. I have been waiting to say that the toughest days are behind me, but there are still bumps in the road. Most importantly, I look at life now from a completely different perspective, as this is my spiritual journey.
I truly believe that the abundance of love, kindness and compassion that flowed to me from all of your prayers is the reason I am still alive. My journey has brought me back to the wholeness of life and reconnected me with the truth, intimacy and love of the spirit that surrounds us all.I have SOO much to talk about, write and communicate, it is overwhelming.
So far, I have only spoken with a small percentage of you. I am excited and can¹t wait to connect and personally thank each one of you. I am now making small steps to reach out, communicate and give back when I can. My response may be slow, as using cell phones and computers makes me feel bad physically. I therefore gravitate towards what strengthens me, and this mainly includes being fully present with the people around me and being connected to my environment.
For years, doctors have been completely perplexed by my symptoms, and this lack of explanation lingers still. There are many questions which I simply can't find answers to, and being unable to inform people is very difficult for me. It is energy-draining to try to respond to the questions, "how are you feeling?", or "how are you doing?", so I occasionally avoid that situation as I am trying to focus on the positives in my life and not on my symptoms. There is so much I want out of life that I remain tenacious in regaining my health; this literally has been a full-time job!
I need to make peace with the "not-knowing," and to let go of the struggle. Yet I still continue to pray for clarity and continued strength to get better. As there has been no clear diagnosis, symptomology opens up the fear of the unknown—-the hardest part for my mind to deal with. Regardless, I have so much faith and trust in God and the healing power of the human body that I know with certainty I will be in good health.
On another note, my family has been so amazing and there for me, I can¹t even begin to describe it in words. From the week before I went in the hospital to now, I have been with a member of my immediate family almost constantly. They were all with me at my bedside giving constant support, words of encouragement,and pouring healing chi my way. Together we have cried, joked, argued, forgave, prayed, hugged, you name it. Talk about therapy!
I am truly blessed to have my family. I want to take this opportunity to thank my father for literally saving my life more than once! (story to come). Thanks for loving me unconditionally, I love you Dad. And my mother, (the one who has been posting the great photos), you have nurtured me once again from a baby to a person I am happy to be. I could not imagine a better mom, I love you. My brother missed weeks of naturopathic school to be with me, and my sister flew in from Maui to give me hope. From all across the country, relatives from both sides of the family have reconnected in my support, revitalizing me with their loving energy. They even organized prayer vigils across the time zones; each time that happened, I felt invigorated, convinced of the amazing power of prayer.
I can't say it enough—-THANK YOU ALL, family and dear friends, so much for the prayers,encouraging words and positive intentions. I intend to post again soon, as I am determined to get stronger, healthier, and better every day. As my grandma Kelly would say, "Slowly but Surely."
April 2008 Update
(written by his Mom)
Just when Step felt he was emerging from the struggle to regain his health, he faced a bout with food poisoning, then started to feel extremely tired, periodically nauseous and having severe daily headaches. Lab tests revealed anemia, another urinary tract infection, and more parasites ( fluke and roundworm) and metals . The doctor in Boston with whom Step is working feels that his adrenals must be strengthened before his body can tolerate the powerful medicines that attack the parasites.
Needless to say, Step has become very discouraged with the continual setbacks despite his best efforts to eat well, and balance rest and exercise. The good news is that his weight gain has brought him into the 130lb. range and he looks so much better than several months ago.
Because of these recent issues, Step is still weak, thus requested help in updating his Carepage and wanted to ask his family and friends to support him once again with prayers . He knows the road to complete recovery is rocky and arduous, but sometimes reassurance that he can make it is needed. This is one of those times when the fear that "a normal life" will elude him is everpresent.
That said, we are all grateful that he has come as far as he has , and celebrate the life he shares with us every day, whether in person, by phone, or in spirit. The pink-oranges of the setting sun which spill out over the lake most nights, the sparkling drop of water on a canoe paddle, the splash of a beaver's tail, the wind swirling crackly winter leaves, or the early morning bird songs as he walks to the mailbox for the newspaper… little pleasures , but ones that restore the soul.
Thanks for being here for Step and caring for him in your thoughts.
December 27th 2007 Update
Step was admitted to St. Mary's Hospital in Connecticut a week before Christmas. He had been battling a parasitic infestation, which resulted in a severely compromised bodily state. He was in critical condition, weighing 87 pounds and unable to stand up or walk. His kidneys and liver had suffered tremendously and were deteriorating.
Step's goal was to be able to walk by Christmas day. After several days of TPN (Total Parental Nutrition) IV treatments, Step's weight increased by several pounds, and he was able to take a few steps by Christmas eve. His triumph was shadowed by other setbacks, including a urinary tract infection for which he was catheterized, and a salmonella infection in his blood. He received antibiotic treatment for both conditions.
Today (December 26th), Step managed to walk down the hall of the hospital today. Although this was a major accomplishment, Step had to also receive two blood transfusions to counteract a recently discovered red blood cell deficiency, possibly secondary to abnormal bone marrow function.
Step's steadfast spiritual strength has carried him throughout this incredible ordeal, and he continues to tackle this set of challenges with bravery, and emotional support from family and all of you; please keep him in your prayers. Stephen looks forward to talking with you when he recovers his strength and sends his love.