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Home > Consulting > Consulting Services-A Note From Sheila

A Note From Sheila 

        I began writing early.  From the time I could hold a crayon, I wrote and illustrated stories about puppies, kittens, my cousins, the neighbors--the things that populated my world.  When finished, I taped my stories together and made everyone read them.  Obnoxious, I'm sure, although no one ever told me so.  My parents "oohed" and "aahed" over my "books” then told me to go DO something, preferably outside. More than once, when no one knew I was listening, I heard myself described as "too solitary a child", and "a dreamer".

        My parents drilled the value of education into my brothers and me.  However, my sitting alone, scribbling on a pad, didn't seem productive to them. Because I preferred being lost for hours in my imagination to most other pursuits, I heard the admonition, "Go do something" for the majority of my growing up years.  So I did, and have been glad that I was encouraged to get out of myself and into the world.  I became a teacher, a police officer, and a special agent, occupations I've enjoyed, and which have been fodder for my pen--providing the places and characters that have inspired my fiction. 

        When injured on duty with ATF, my life took a turn for the worse.  Along with multiple hospitalizations and surgeries, I endured a growing feeling that something was very wrong with me.  Barely able to walk, plagued with debilitating, seemingly unrelated, symptoms, I found no relief.  My marriage deteriorated.  My husband and I eventually divorced.  As I sunk further into an unnamed illness, my hair fell out in handfuls, I gained up to 300 pounds, and was covered with weeping lesions.  In June of 1997, no longer able to care for myself, I moved in with my brother.

        By September, I had been diagnosed with arsenic poisoning. 
        Rather than being devastated, I was elated!  After years of consulting doctors who were mystified by my condition, I'd found one who knew what was wrong with me.

        He explained that the amount of arsenic in my body meant that its presence could be no accident.  It must have been administered in small doses over a long period of time, probably years.  Later, a forensics specialist said that my tests showed a higher "body burden" of arsenic than he'd found in exhumations of those who had died from it.  It was a miracle I was alive, but there was no guarantee I'd stay that way.  The treatment could kill me.

        This treatment would pull arsenic from fat cells, bones and other areas where my body had stored the heavy metal in its attempt to protect vital organs.  Forensics specialists believe that my body was trying to dilute the poison by spreading it over a larger area (ironically, the hated fat I'd gained was one reason I'd survived).  At this point, the arsenic would be re-circulated through my blood stream, re-poisoning me as it made its way to my kidneys to be expelled.  This treatment, should I survive, could take years.

        Still, I was encouraged.  I knew what was wrong, so there was a chance, however small, of some type of recovery.  What's that old saying: "The devil you know is better than the one you can't see"? I didn't mind this idea so much.

        The big question became: Who did this to me?  An attempted murder case is on file, but that's the rest of the story.  At this time, I was only concerned with survival.

        By the time I began treatment, I was so sick I prayed to either improve or be taken home.  The odds were with the latter.  No one needed to tell me that I was dying.  Life, whatever life is, was leaving me.  That indescribable force that animates our limbs and keeps us on this side of the veil was pouring out of me like water from some invisible spigot.  Knowing that my life is not my own nor is the time of my passing in my hands, I resigned myself to the inevitable outcome.  Then, something happened.

        Sick and immobile, I found myself with nothing to do for the first time in years.  I was back in the same, solitary place as that child who had so loved the telling of stories.  I felt her imagination stir within my spirit, her hand in mine, as the love of writing was returned to me.  I even felt the crayon in my fingers. Still do, from time to time.

        The stories that had rolled around in my head for years, the ones I always meant to write, clamored to be put to paper.  That was when I enrolled in an on-line writing class.  Suddenly, I had a reason to get up, if only for five minutes at a time, and sit at the computer.

        I can't recall the hour or day when I knew I would live, but I know that it was long before those around me had any idea.  I knew, however, because I had gained a renewed passion, a purpose, a reason to be alive.  I had to finish my book.

        I've tried to explain the power of writing and how I believe God used it to heal me, but it's difficult--as difficult as communicating how I knew that life was escaping from my body.  Perhaps it must be experienced to be fully understood. I can only say that this force encouraged me to fight, compelled me to live, and empowered me to believe that I could.

        Years later, I'm still having treatments-still closely monitored by my physicians.  Arsenic poisoning damages every cell in the body, making healing a slow process, so I have my ups and downs. Yet, as surely as I felt life pouring from me before, today, I feel a growing strength.  I am healing.

        I'm thankful for the many people who have aided, and still aid, in my recovery: my doctors, my parents, the brother who took me in, and good, steadfast family and  friends.

        However, the ultimate thanks belongs to God, the Great Physician, and to the mysterious power of writing. 

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