When I was finally diagnosed with MS in 1991 (the first attack happened in 1987), there were no effective treatments for the disease and my doctors basically told me it was just a matter of time until I would either end up blind or in a wheelchair (or both). I was 23 years old at the time, and working in my first corporate job out of college. I had just been transferred to Newport Beach from Manhattan, and had no family or friends in the area. The only person with MS I knew at the time was, in fact, nearly blind and wheelchair bound with the added bonus of having no bladder control. And of course there was no internet then, either -- so forget the online MS support groups.
At the time, my only symptom was blindness in my right eye. But I could still read, so two days after my diagnosis I stopped by a local bookstore. To this day, I don't really know why I chose to pick up Michael Crichton's autobiography, Travels, that day. I was not in the habit of reading biographies back then, and I also had no idea who he was. I guess it must have been the title -- travel has always been a great passion of mine.
"Coincidence is God's way of remaining anonymous."
-- Albert Einstein
The book was not what I expected. You may know Dr. Chrichton primarily as a medical/science fiction writer. Among many other best selling books he wrote including the Andromeda Strain and Sphere, he also created the movie Jurassic Park and the television series ER.
But Travels was written primarily about his pre-fame life; it chronicled not only his physical travels, but also some psychic and paranormal experiences. I learned in the book that prior to becoming a famous writer, Michael had been a Harvard educated doctor. He wrote about how during his medical residency he observed patients with critical illness and made a habit of asking them what had happened emotionally in their lives just prior to their diagnoses. In every case, he wrote, the patients were able to describe a stressful situation they believed contributed to their illnesses or traumas.
Then Michael experienced a neurological episode of his own.
The diagnosis was MS.
It was a turning point for him because the diagnosis motivated him to pursue his passion for writing and leave his prestigious Harvard medical residency behind -- a very irrational move on the surface, but one which eventually led to his phenomenal success.
In my opinion, it is also what kept him healthy.
Michael died in late 2008. I have never been the type to contact celebrities, but I always meant to at least try to contact him to thank him for writing so candidly about MS in his book. His words were the only words of hope I had at the time. He gave me the gift of seeing a different outcome than the picture everyone else was painting. He gave me the gift of optimism.
I believe he also gave me years and years of health, and the courage to pursue my own dreams.
Some now debate whether Michael really had MS. And it's also true that he died of cancer in his mid-60's. Neither of these are relevant to me though. What matters is that his courageous response to a scary situation was to follow his passion -- despite his prognosis with MS, and what everyone else advised him to do. How many of us would act the same? How many of us even have the courage to follow our dreams without the crisis of a health scare?
So I guess all I really want to say here is a belated thank you. Since I cannot thank Michael directly, I hope that the Universe will direct at least one person the words he or she needs to hear when faced with a scary prognosis or life transition. Perhaps this will even happen through this blog. Who knows?
Stranger things have happened.
Have you experienced synchronicity in your life? Have you heard the exact words you needed to hear from complete strangers at just the right time? Or have you met people who almost magically provided exactly what you were looking for? I would love to hear your stories ...