I was diagnosed with Primary Biliary Cirrhosis, a rare liver disease, in 1987 and was told that I probably had 10 years to live and there was nothing the doctors could do for my condition. I was 39 at the time. We were devastated to hear this news and felt compelled to learn everything we could to understand this puzzling disease.
Fortunately for us, I had already established some skills to offset the effects of this doomed “sentence”. I had become a certified Yoga teacher in 1976 and was trained to teach physical postures, breathing exercises and a wide range of relaxation techniques including meditation. My primary objective then was to teach a Yoga class at the Men’s Penitentiary at Westchester Correctional Institution which I did for a year. It was challenging but I learned that there are many forms of incarceration, both mental and physical and that learning how to keep the mind under control can ameliorate so many conditions.
After that experience, I taught Yoga classes for over 30 years in various settings including Carmel High School (in upstate N.Y.) in the Adult Education Program, at the local library (children’s yoga), and at National Vegetarian conferences throughout the USA. As my PBC progressed, I sought out many alternative methods of healing including dietary choices (I was already a vegetarian for many years), various nutritional supplements, acupuncture and massage. I traveled extensively while studying advanced yoga instruction during several workshops in Bali, New Zealand, Mexico and in several European countries. I never let my liver issues thwart my adventurous spirit or invade my mind. I would live life fully even with some limitations.
In 2006, my Doctor said that I was, at 59, within one year of death and after 18 years of maintaining my health, a liver transplant was urgently necessary for me to continue to live. I had been on the transplant list for more than nine years but never was I sick enough to be made a priority. Now my health was rapidly failing, my tummy and legs swollen, my skin was dark brown and my eyes were bright yellow. Luckily within just a few weeks, a match was found! I received the gift of life from an unknown angelic donor that summer (a woman who died suddenly from a stroke and whose family was enlightened enough to offer her organs) and I was “reborn” with a “previously enjoyed” liver.
I am now retired from teaching high school English (my career) and devote myself to maintaining my health, so that I can be of service to give back the blessings I have been given. I firmly believe that my healing was due to positive thinking, intelligent dietary choices and the practice of various relaxation techniques. I also must acknowledge the wonderful support system of my incredible caretaker husband and devoted son.
I urge those who have serious health concerns not only to align themselves with excellent medical staff but also to seek capable teachers and programs like yoga and related relaxation methods. This alignment can help to bring them peace and joy and put their issues into the proper perspective. This will allow true lasting healing to take effect. Our birthright is health and the paths are many to that one goal. Peace can be yours with courage and applied fortitude! May you be as blessed as I am.
*Carole Baral is a new contributor to Pawling Public Radio with her column “The Joy of Soy” scheduled for an October debut. Listen to Carol’s interview with Susan Stone on pawlingpublicradio.org/listen live, as she discusses the benefits of a vegan diet.
Listen to Susan’s Interview with Carole Baral: