The Perfect Storm

I wanted this to be one of those cases where you walk into the doctor’s office after doing “the work” (meaning all your nutritional and holistic protocols) and she says, “Wow, I don’t know what you’re doing to heal but whatever it is, keep up the good work. Your blood work looks amazing!”

It wasn’t.

I’m still living this perfect storm so bear with me. I don’t have any tips for you about how to bridge the gap between modern medicine and holistic health care. I don’t have the words you need to say to your doctor to get him/her to see you, I mean REALLY see you. I don’t have the “perfect” protocol for an autoimmune flareup or a depleted immune system. I don’t even have the story (as in, I’ve got it all worked out now and this is how I healed). Holistic practitioners LOVE to share those stories.

This is a different story. It’s a story about money and relationship. Boundaries and truth telling and stress. A little dab of vanity. And how sometimes it takes a very long time to get to the root of a chronic problem and really know “what’s going on in there.” It’s a story about being willing to live in the mystery while using every resource and wisdom available to you—even a Facebook thread. Oh how I love those Facebook threads.

And more often than not, it’s about having the courage to stand up for yourself and seek assistance from your doctor, your lover, your friends … and anyone else who will listen.

It’s about asking … and receiving.

Would you believe me if I told you this narrative began with a Leaping Leopard?


I have suffered with chronic sinus issues for as long as I can remember and I have tried every diet protocol known to man to resolve them. I even enjoyed a raw food vegan diet for a few years until I craved a bowl of steamy soup so badly I’d visit the soup bar in Whole Foods and lift the lids just to bask in the aroma. That’s what I remember most about the raw foods diet … the absence of aroma, which for me, was so much more … it was the absence of Grandma’s kitchen. I didn’t know it then but I was deeply missing meals rooted in tradition and in my family history.

Eventually, I decided to just live with the discomfort. There are worse things in life than a chronic sinus condition. Then, in 2013 I garnered the courage to have one of those pin prick tests thinking if it’s not the food it must be an environmental issue. Plus, I like data. Over forty needles in my back. Ouch. Turns out I was highly allergic to several grasses, dust mites, and cockroaches (??????). Thankfully I didn’t have to worry about cockroaches but clearly it was time to pull out the thirteen-year-old carpets in my home and replace them with hardwood flooring. Good bye dust mites. Hello BIG investment.

Unfortunately the chronic sinus condition persisted because, well, how do you remove all the grasses? You don’t. This past spring my discomfort escalated and all kinds of strange and unnerving symptoms showed up. I’ll spare you the details. I avoided having this conversation with my husband because the investment in new floors was a big one and we both hoped that effort would remedy the situation. Basically, I suffered in silence.

I turned to my SoulCollage® deck for guidance. Leaping Leopard had a very strong message for me. Leopard is an extraordinarily powerful animal totem and much like Artemis the archetypal hunter, Leopard carries the energy of a warrior god or goddess. When I created this card, I couldn’t imagine why Leopard chose to hang out among all those books until the day I engaged her in a reading and realized she was calling on me to awaken the hunter within. Her message?


And so it began, the hunt. I started assembling my team: primary care physicians, ENT specialist, allergist, and … Google University. When I decide to pursue something I am unstoppable. And that was certainly the case until a throbbing pain showed up in my mouth and cheekbone one day preventing me from chewing. I assumed it was another sinus infection but I decided to check in with my dentist. A similar incident following air travel a year prior had turned out to be a sinus-related toothache. This time the dentist detected a crack in the (same) tooth and sent me to an endodontist for a root canal.

Root canals are very hard on the immune system. I know that. There is a 50/50 chance that they won’t be successful at all and the tooth will have to be extracted eventually. I opted for the risk. Here’s where vanity comes into play: I didn’t want a gaping hole in my mouth nor did I want an implant. Ugh. Turns out there was much infection that needed to be scraped away and treated. A week later, after a two-part root canal procedure, I was scheduled to have a crown attached to what was left of my tooth. My dentist took one look and said, “No can do.” The tooth had cracked some more. He sent me next door to schedule a tooth extraction with the oral surgeon who confirmed that, in addition to the crack, there was still some infection there. Goodbye tooth. Don’t even ask how much I paid for the root canal.

Around this time my test results started coming in. A CT Scan confirmed an infection in the sinus cavity above the cracked tooth. My blood work and ‘Visual Contrast Sensitivity Test’ showed indications of mold toxicity and also an autoimmune flareup. Good old Hashimoto had been relatively quiet and in remission for almost a decade; not any more. At least I was getting somewhere. Next step on my warrior goddess path was to convince my husband that we needed an environmental engineer to come in and evaluate our living space. (Eyes roll. Not mine, his.) Here’s where money comes into the picture. Money conversations can be challenging in a marriage, yes? I suspect I’m not alone here.

Our crawl space is covered in Aspergillus and Penicillium. I don’t know how long I’ve been breathing in this toxic chemical soup but I suspect it’s been at least eight years, as that’s how long I’ve been working from home. The environmental engineer tells us he’s seeing a lot of this in our neighborhood; it was a VERY wet spring.

Undetected infection in both the root of my tooth and also the adjacent sinus cavity + the trauma of the root canal procedure + tooth extraction + compromised immune system due to undetected infection in the body + autoimmune condition flareup + stress (can we say election season?) = THE PERFECT STORM.

Here’s what I’ve learned thus far:

1. RabbitAir makes the very best air purifier. While we are waiting to get the mold extracted from our home (two more weeks and counting) I am literally carrying this contraption from room to room so that I can breathe.

2. You cannot rebuild your immune system with ongoing infection in your body.

3. Sometimes you have to go beyond the providers your insurance company covers and pay out of pocket for more holistic approaches to healing.

4. Doctors are VERY busy people. You have to repeat yourself a lot and ask many questions. You also have to commit to becoming a participant in your care rather than a “good patient.” That doesn’t mean you can’t be kind, it just means YOU are in charge of the team. And your body.

5. If you suspect you are having an adverse reaction to a prescribed medication and your doctor diminishes your intuition, YOU are still in charge and you can very kindly but firmly say, “I’d like to remove this medication for a while and approach my healing in a more natural and holistic way to see if my body responds. How do you feel about that?”

6. The very best “medicine” you can self-administer involves nourishing your body with WHOLEsome food (and loving self care practices). Sometimes you have to give up the foods you love most (can we say chocolate?) until your body has a chance to restore and replenish. Therapeutic diets are temporary; embrace them. My mantra is: I love myself deeply. I feed myself well.

7. Smoothies are a wonderful way to get a whole lot of veggies into your diet. Ten servings of veggies per day may sound like a stretch but remember, you’re a warrior goddess now.

8. Google University can be your best friend. It can also drive you to distraction.


If you take nothing else from this post, take this: you’re worth it. When you feel as though your health is at risk, don’t wait in silence afraid to ask for what you need or to spend the money. Be that warrior goddess for SELF.


Okay dear friends, I’ll be sure to share more of this story as it unfolds. Be well. I hope to see a few of you in my online SoulCollage® PLAYshop on Sunday!


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30 Responses to The Perfect Storm

  1. Penny September 10, 2016 at 1:55 am #

    Oh my goodness Sue Ann. What a tough time you have had, and are having. Your tenacity has paid off, you now know where the environmental triggers are. Yes I understand about ‘those’ money conversations. Very hard, even in a loving marriage (I actually think we are both married to the same types of men, from various comments you have made. Love them to bits but frequently feel puzzled that we married them when they are SO different from us..) Hopefully you are well on the way to resolution, at least in your home. Thank you for sharing this very personal story x

    • Sue Ann Gleason
      Sue Ann Gleason September 11, 2016 at 6:26 am #

      I’m seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, Penny, thank you and yes we’re proof that polar opposites attract. My husband is, in many ways, my teacher. xxoo

    • rebecca@altaredspaces September 14, 2016 at 8:05 am #

      Penny and Sue Ann, money IS tough. Because it is about more than money, yes? It’s about all that we value and leave unsaid. It’s about deep vulnerabilities. I, too, am married to an opposite of sorts. And money has been a place where I have struggled AND learned. Learned what I value most. Connection, intimacy, growth.

  2. Juli September 10, 2016 at 6:57 am #

    Sue Ann, thank you for sharing this! What a mysterious storm you are encountering! And don’t we all at some time or another! I so appreciate your generosity in sharing this story- we can all learn some much from it! Xoxo Juli

    • Sue Ann Gleason
      Sue Ann Gleason September 11, 2016 at 6:27 am #

      Thank you for reading and responding, Juli! Health for me has become an interesting landscape, indeed. xxoo

  3. Carina September 10, 2016 at 8:25 am #

    If it is possible I think I love you even more for sharing this. While reading your text I can hear your voice, the lovely tone, the humour and all the pain and endurance beneath it all. You sharing this perfect storm in such a beautiful way is hundred times more inspiring and educating than all those five steps people seem to love coming up with, or pointed fingers. The leaping leopard with the books, could it be more perfect! First I giggled but then I feel more in awe of your tenacity. I guess we resist what we need and I know the soul collage is what speaks to me but for now it has to be another time.

    You know that if I ever will com to the US another time I will come and knock on your door if only to give you a hug.

    Carina, xoxo

    p.s. Eek do not get me started about money conversations with you partner… My husband claims that I am the 49,89 type while he is 50 type…. We hardly agree on anything when it comes to handling money issues….

    • Sue Ann Gleason
      Sue Ann Gleason September 11, 2016 at 6:32 am #

      Ohhhhh, Carina, your words mean the world to me. I abhor those 5-step prescriptive posts that we see all over the interweb. Our bodies are far too exquisite and complex for a one-size-fits-all approach. And, symptoms often overlap so getting to the root of distress is very tricky. Thank you for reading and responding. I look forward to seeing you in a future SoulCollage® gathering, I know you would love the practice. So much.

  4. Rhonda September 10, 2016 at 8:45 am #

    Love this, love your curious mind that keeps seeking data in search of answers. Can’t wait for soul collage to begin…….

    • Sue Ann Gleason
      Sue Ann Gleason September 11, 2016 at 6:33 am #

      So excited to see you on the SoulCollage® roster, Rhonda!!! Thanks for reading my posts and taking the time to respond. That means the world to me. xxoo

  5. Cami September 10, 2016 at 10:50 am #

    Perfect storm indeed! I love the warrior goddess in you and your curious mind, you are always an inspiration when it comes to radical self care! We are all rooting you on. I’m praying the mold removal brings fresh air and sinus relief. Thank you for sharing your story, brave one, it’s helping all of us. xoxo

    • Sue Ann Gleason
      Sue Ann Gleason September 11, 2016 at 6:34 am #

      Thank you, Cami. I’m seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, for sure. Onward! xxoo

  6. Suzie Kline September 10, 2016 at 11:04 am #

    Even though we’ve been talking about this for a while, Sue Ann, looking at your medical journey recently via your blog post brings an awareness and intensity and stirs great compassion and love for you. I admire your tenacity, your willingness, and your courage and dealing with current challenge. Looking forward to following your journey with you to the other side!

    • Sue Ann Gleason
      Sue Ann Gleason September 11, 2016 at 6:36 am #

      I’m looking forward to that journey to the other side, too, Suzie and just think … we’ll have all the more recipes to explore as a result!

  7. Mindy Sanjana September 10, 2016 at 12:01 pm #

    What an un-fun saga. I’m so sorry you are going through this. Giving up chocolate? Yikes! That’s heavy-duty. Hope you will be coming out the other sid of the tunnel SOON.

    • Sue Ann Gleason
      Sue Ann Gleason September 11, 2016 at 6:38 am #

      I just ordered an amazing carob powder from Australia! Thank you for your kind words, Mindy. xxoo

  8. Michelle September 10, 2016 at 1:04 pm #

    Sending you much love and many healing wishes, dear Sue Ann.

    • Sue Ann Gleason
      Sue Ann Gleason September 11, 2016 at 6:39 am #

      Thank you, Michelle, and congratulations on your new job!!!!!!!! They are so lucky to have you. I’m still grinning over here. xxoo

  9. Shirley September 10, 2016 at 10:46 pm #

    hearing you. admiring your courage to continue walking, even through the disappointments, and difficult conversations. you are choosing your health and taking a stand for it… with docs, within your home, and letting your intuition guide you. walking tenderly beside you in love.

    • Sue Ann Gleason
      Sue Ann Gleason September 11, 2016 at 6:41 am #

      I feel your presence, Shirley, thank you. And, it was so wonderful to have you in my SoulCollage® Deep Dive. I feel as though we’ve been walking side-by-side for some time now. xxoo

  10. Laura September 11, 2016 at 3:53 pm #

    Good for you, Sue Ann! It can seem nearly impossible to self-advocate in a doctor’s office when the I’m-in-a-hurry undercurrent seems to pulse like a third presence in the room.

    I hope that you’re nearing the end of this storm and that the clearing of mold in the house will pay large dividends!

    • Sue Ann Gleason
      Sue Ann Gleason September 12, 2016 at 6:51 am #

      “The I’m-in-a-hurry undercurrent.” Oh my, yes, what a perfect way to describe it. Thank you, Laura. xxoo

  11. Allison September 11, 2016 at 4:55 pm #

    I love that you are telling this story as it unfolds, when you’re still in the mess, rather than waiting for it to be tied up in a neat, all-I-had-to-do-was-eat-more-kale-and-learn-to-breathe-deeply happy ending. It is not comfortable to tell a story in progress. It is not expected. It is brave and befits the warrior!

    Even though your happy ending is still in pieces on the floor, yet to be assembled, I love the list of what you’ve learned so far. So helpful.

    I am rooting for you, dear Sue Ann.

    • Sue Ann Gleason
      Sue Ann Gleason September 12, 2016 at 6:56 am #

      Oh Alison, this just made me grin: “all-I-had-to-do-was-eat-more-kale-and-learn-to-breathe-deeply happy ending.” And no, it’s not comfortable at all telling this story in progress because I am the “closure queen.” I want to just close the chapter and say, Phew! I’m glad that’s over. But it’s not … and that, I’m afraid, is part of my lesson.

      I must say I am sooooooooo looking forward to getting away for a couple weeks, and out of this house. xxoo

  12. Angela September 13, 2016 at 4:18 am #

    WOW Sue Ann, I am so sorry that you are having to go through all this. And what a journey it’s turning out to be. I do have the upmost faith in your warrior goddessness though – I mean, who is more of a warrior goddess than you! Thank you for sharing this story as it unfolds, it allows us to send you oodles of healing love and light and Angels and energy and, insha’allah, be a distant, spiritual part of your healing. <3 <3 <3

    • Sue Ann Gleason September 13, 2016 at 2:37 pm #

      Feeling your oodles of healing love and light and Angels from across the sea, Angela. xxoo

  13. rebecca@altaredspaces September 14, 2016 at 8:20 am #

    wow. So much to be going through. So much vulnerability when you’re not feeling well. And when you haven’t felt well in a long time…even more vulnerable. Because, well, I don’t know about you, but I get so TIRED of not feeling well. And then I’m also less resourceful (read grumpy), and that means I am sometimes alienating the very people I most need. Sigh.

    I hear you digging deep to be compassionate, “Doctors are busy people.” 🙂

    It’s true. And, in my humble experience, they are focused on trying to keep you from NOT dying. The doctors I know feel that kind of pressure so keenly. Haunted, really. It’s a weird way to go through the world. Not dying….because…well, of course I want to not die, but I really want to live WELL!

    Being in charge of your own team feels, to me, like the smartest way to approach this. Because you’re still listening to the doctors with their worst case scenarios who are trying to protect you, and you are also listening with your deep intuitive ears to that part of you that says, “I live INSIDE this body.” “I can hear things and feel things you can’t.”

    I spoke this way to a doctor friend of mine once and told him to listen to his patients this way. His answer intrigued me, “If all my patients listened the way you do, that would be easy. But the VAST majority don’t have a clue about themselves. They are constantly looking to me to solve their problems.” I thought about that and the god-scenario that has to create inside his head. People handing over their power, then simultaneously, demanding that he “fix” them. It’s a catch 22 for him. No wonder, after a time, why he moves quickly. People talk at him to complain and demand.

    But you know who you are. You know what you feel. You are willing to captain this boat that is your health and you are willing to listen…to your body, to the research and to the environment around you. Trust that. Trust that tenaciously. Kindly, as you said, but with tenacity.

    You live inside your body. Listen. And keep drawing upon those wisdom cards. Then keep sharing because, I believe, that as you share, you are able to listen even more deeply to your own wisdom.

    I love you even more than chocolate. (!!!!!) I hope you feel that nurturance in this time of depravation. 🙂

    • Sue Ann Gleason
      Sue Ann Gleason September 15, 2016 at 1:36 pm #

      So much insight here, Rebecca, thank you. And yes, that’s where the power is really, drawing upon those wisdom cards and making your intuition a primary member of “the team”! xxoo

  14. Mary McConnell September 18, 2016 at 4:21 pm #

    I really enjoyed how you used your Soul collage cards to help you find your way, I hope you are feeling some relief by now xx


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