Living Without A Known Cure
By Jetsun Darma Ho Lynn
Jetsun Darma Ho Lynn, a teacher, Feng Shui consultant, writer, and spiritual practitioner, is a 1968 University of Iowa graduate with a master’s degree in family development. After she moved to the Bay Area in 1984, she served as the director of the Chinese American International School in San Francisco. Previously, she was the executive director of the Iowa City Foreign Relations Council. She founded the non-profit Yuan Yuan Educational Foundation (YYEF) in 1996. Since then, she has volunteered her time, effort, and knowledge to serve and support YYEF’s long term goal of betterment of mankind. The following article first appeared in Yun Lin Temple News, vol. 1, no. 11, 1989 and is newly edited and updated in 2012.
Sitting in Lily Fong’s car comfortably on our way to San Francisco, I was totally relaxed, eyes staring at the highway stretch ahead. Many cars were driving swiftly by us in a myriad of colors and shapes. Somehow, the scenery reminded me of life, of my life, on a similar never-ending path here and now.
Just as I fell deeply into my own thoughts, Lily asked, “What made you a devoted Tantric Buddhist and a Feng Shui worker?” Before I could answer, she continued, “I always wondered why you sacrificed a career as an administrator in education for a career that earns you no name, no glory, no social status, and no money. All you really get is misunderstanding, criticism, and skepticism!”
She is not the only one to ask this question. In fact, many people who love and care about me have asked this same question over and over. I smiled, appreciating the love she revealed in her voice. Then I answered her question by reopening a page of my life.
It happened over 3 decades ago. My two actively growing sons, Calvin and Ervin, were 8 and 3 years old and had settled nicely in a elementary school and pre-school, respectively. This was the time for me to pursue my dream career, I thought, a career as an owner and director of a day-care center for infants and toddlers in Iowa City,Iowa. I was excitedly and busily executing every move in my plan.
For example, to meet the licensing and fire code requirements, I opened a hole in my basement wall, making way for a new exit door. Educational equipment, books, and toys were being selected; cribs, bassinets and sleeping cots were being collected. Teachers were being interviewed. I thought I was in total control of the path I had designed for myself. Then, on a December evening in 1979, without a trace of warning, my world came toppling down and collapsed around me……..
I was washing dishes that night and suddenly my body felt numb and weak; my head started turning. Then I felt dizzy, and started to shiver as a cold sweat covered my body. I could not stand still. Leaving the undone dirty dishes alone, I turned to my husband Michael, and said, “I probably came down with some kind of a flu, I am going to lay down and rest now.” Michael nodded his head, immersed in reading the newspaper, perhaps thinking that all I needed was just a good rest like in the past. He did not even say a word.
I slept terribly, tossing uncomfortably in bed and dreaming horrible dreams. Michael asked how I felt before leaving for his early morning job as the news editor of the Iowa City Press Citizen. I replied, “Lousy! Now I have a stomachache!” I thought I had a bad case of the stomach flu.
I struggled to bring myself up to the bathroom located only five feet away. I felt as if I was standing in a cloud – my head heavy, stomach turning. I rushed into the room to throw up. Blood, some already clotted, poured out of my mouth. Seeing my own blood, I became frightened.
Fully aware by now that it was not a simple case of stomach flu, still experiencing pain, I sat myself down on the toilet and blood came pouring out under me. I fainted.
When I came to, I was half on the floor, miraculously resting my head on my right arm, protected against possible head injury from the sharp, knife blade-like edges of the metal shower tracks. I did not want to wake up my young sons Calvin nor Ervin, knowing that they would be so scared to see me covered with bloodstains. I struggled to get to the kitchen phone, crawling and fainting on the way. That eight feet trip along the hallway seemed an eternity. An ambulance arrived and I was taken to the local hospital emergency room.
Doctors diagnosed the bleeding as the outcome of a Duodenal Ulcer. But, the final blow was that I had the disease “I.T.P.” – Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Pulpura.
I was gently told, “I.T.P.” is an auto-immune disease of platelets. The cause is unknown, and the cure is unknown.” Sensing my despondent mood, Dr. Craig Champion, a distinguished internist, comforted me. “We can try to treat you with Prednisone (a form of cortisone) to put the symptoms into remission.” I consented.
Dr. Champion monitored my condition closely, increasing my Prednisone intake from 10 mg. a day to 40 mg. a day. In the meantime, I had learned that:
1. Normal individuals have a platelet count of between 180,000 and 200,000.
2. I could have involuntary internal bleeding (as in the case of my Duodenal Ulcer) if my platelet count dropped to below 30,000.
3. My bone marrow could produce a normal platelet count, but, for some unknown reason, my body was treating my healthy platelets as invaders. Therefore, my immune system was actively destroying my platelets as fast as they were produced.
4. Similar to cancer, I. T. P. has no set length of remission time, and there are chances of relapse. There is also NO CURE.
At 40 mg a day of Prednisone intake, my body was besieged with all sorts of expected side effects. For instance, my body was bloated with water retention, and I was aching all over, particularly in my joints. My adrenal glands were overworking, so I was high, and thus, could not sleep or rest well. To help me sleep, I was given sleeping pills. My appetite was uncontrollably good, and I tended to overeat. Also, I had to take medicine to prevent a recurring ulcer, because Prednisone was know to induce ulcers.
All my determination to endure the agony brought on by Prednisone intake was crushed when I discovered that my platelet count continued to drop and was now down to 10,000. The time was mid March, 1980.
Then came more tests, and more waiting. Spring tiptoed in, and snow began to melt. Dirt mixed with melting snow; the world looked depressingly ugly around me. I was like a feather that could be blown away with the slightest breeze.
Dr. Champion came back with the last known medical treatment for my condition. He suggested the surgical removal of my spleen. He assured me with a big grin on his face that “There is a 75% success rate with the operation. Surely you will be a winner!” With a burning desire to get well, I agreed to have the operation. Immediately after the surgery, I thought I smelled the aroma of springtime. I thought I had again smelled life. It was the beginning of April.
In May, my platelet count dipped again to a dangerously low count of 30,000. Then, the final blow.
I was home alone waiting for Dr. Champion to call about my latest test results. The phone rang and from the other end came Dr. Champion’s words, “Lynn, I’m sorry, but it looks like the spleenectomy has failed. There are only two ways to resolve your problem now. One, I can put you back on Prednisone, but you already know the possible side effects, and you’ll have to depend on the medicine the rest of your life. Normally, a low dose would do, but I cannot guarantee that. The other alternative is to have no treatment at all. Either choice will be a decision to place your life in the hands of the man upstairs. You think about it and let me know your decision.”
I chose the second option Dr. Champion proposed.
Sadness and anger were mixed with tears. I felt so helpless. I was fighting an invisible enemy and losing the battle. I felt like this I.T.P. had trapped me! (later I began to think of I.T.P. as an acronym for the phrase I Trap People!) By leaving my life in the hands of the Man Upstairs, I thought at least my children would remember their mom’s real looks, and not the bloated “moon face” look which was a side affect of Prednisone. The time now was mid-May.
Friends and relatives were grieving for me. The air around me was suffocating! I lost faith in God, in myself. Then came Professor Lin Yun. He came to liven up my life and compassionately, he led me through the darkest tunnel to see the light at the other end.
I am forever grateful to my dear friends, Professor and Mrs. Kuo Sung Liu. Prof. Liu, an internationally acclaimed artist, and Prof. Lin were colleagues while teaching at Hong Kong University, Yale in China. At the Liu’s urging and invitation, Prof. Lin Yun flew toIowa Cityfrom the West Coast.
I still vividly remember out first meeting. Prof. Lin was thinner than he became years later, wearing his Chinese-style long robe; he looked more like a scholar than a Chinese gypsy. The latter is a much maligned occupation, belittled by many highly-educated Chinese professionals.
After he gave a brief introduction to Chinese philosophies, beliefs, backgrounds, and related teachings based on Chinese folkloric culture and customs, he stressed in particular the concept of Ch’i – the vital life force, the true self that resides within each of us. He warmly came to my house, ignoring my background as a baptized Christian and began to give me advice. Some were related to Feng Shui adjustments, others to Ch’i adjustments and holistic healing measures.
I felt myself naturally drawn to him by his warmth, charisma, humor, and his wisdom. I felt a surge of new hope growing inside of me. He brought light to a path along which, for a long time, I had seen only darkness and dismay. With all my heart, I employed every transcendental cure that he prescribed for me to help me get well.
Michael removed all the technical obstacles as I faithfully implemented all of Prof. Lin’s suggestions. I was grateful to have Michael’s undying loving support.
I was more thrilled and grateful a month later, when a follow-up test showed that my platelet count stayed unchanged at 30,000. The following month after, the count went up to 68,000, then, 80,000, and then continued on an upswing, no longer dipping downward. My last check up in May of 1984, before moving to California, was a high 220,000. My doctor declared my recovery from ill health a delayed reaction to spleenectomy, but I knew better! It had taken the form of a severe blow to my health, a life threatening experience, to awaken me to reconnect with my Dharma past. It took a great teacher like H. H. Grandmaster Professor Lin Yun to guide me to the door of my spiritual path. He held the door open for me to enter, explore and grow. And it has taken many more years since 1980 to learn about, and cherish, my own existence under his guarding wings. His passing in year 2010 was a great loss to many, but his teaching stays alive. In my heart, he is a giant, a true master of his innovativeFengShuiSchool. H.H. Grandmaster Prof. Lin Yun remains my first and only root Feng Shui guru. Forever grateful, I cherish my experience having walked a journey alongside him. I will always remember all his profound teachings.
No longer do I fear death. No longer am I eager to dictate my day, my week, or my year. Now, I imagine myself like a lotus flower, standing still, breathlessly calm, while a current flows around me. I sense the water brushing against my skin, but I ignore if the water is dirty or clean, flowing fast or slow. I stand steadfast, wanting to embrace and learn from the moment.
Like the lotus flower, humbly standing, silently smiling, with a purpose so secret that only Buddha knows. I hope to live every minute and accomplish all I need to accomplish in this lifetime. I bow to all my spiritual masters who have taken me under their protective wings, guided me under their watchful eyes, loved me compassionately, and instructed me wisely.
Living without a known cure is no longer an invisible, threatening intruder. In my eyes, it has become a heavenly blessing in disguise.