A cure

It all began with a phone conversation last October when one of my oldest and closest friends seemingly had gone off her rocker. She had warily told my wife and her best friend of a crazy new pathway to healing. The tale was incredible.

She had met Kristine Jacobson, an apitherapist in Grand Rapids , Michigan , who had begun treating her damaged and arthritic knees by actually stinging her with honey bees. Real bees. Live bees. Those little creatures we’d learned to fear since childhood! My only thought was, what a bizarre remedy. I was convinced that she had finally slipped over the edge, even though she swore she was getting relief in her first weeks of treatment.

My wife, Ardy, however, was enthusiastically and passionately pursuing anything she could find on the Internet that would persuade me to take a leap of faith and risk my not-so-comfortable comfort zone to find a cure for me.

“A cure for me.” What a concept. I had long before given up fantasies of “cure” and chased down every pain-relieving pill, infomercial gimmick, or magic wand I could find – with little or no relief from the chronic and debilitating pain that I had been experiencing for 25 years. After an injury at work in 1979 and subsequent surgery, there had been little respite from the pain. Ultimately, in 1985 I was given the diagnosis of ankylosing spondylitis, with a poor prognosis and a dim future.

Over the years, things I had taken for granted were stripped from me. I couldn’t walk more than 20 feet at a time, I couldn’t sleep in my bed with my wife, I couldn’t sleep, period. I couldn’t bend over to pick up a coin from the floor, I couldn’t stand up straight, I couldn’t pick up my grandsons once they were big enough to toddle.. I couldn’t even put on my own socks and shoes. Life had become a mere existence. The strongest of pain relievers never took the pain away – but they did manage to turn me into a zombie while dulling the pain and my senses as well. At the time of “The Call” I had been wondering if life was truly worth continuing.

In November 2003 Ardy flew from our home in Las Vegas to Grand Rapids to help celebrate her mother’s 80 th birthday. I stayed at home because traveling on a plane, let alone walking through an airport, was more than I could withstand. During that visit she was able to see our friend Cherie’s results first-hand, and to get acquainted with Kristine. That visit sent Ardy’s level of enthusiasm out of the ball park. Kristine showed her how to gently snatch the bees from the jar and guided her as she placed the stings on Cherie’s back and knees and later watched as she removed the stingers. Upon Ardy’s return, any resistance I might have had earlier was expunged with one lift of her eyebrow.

Immediately we began “healing from the hive” (thank you for the term, Rita Elkins) by taking honey, propolis, royal jelly, and bee pollen. I began reading everything we could find on the Web, even searching for negatives, yet finding only positives and inspiration. Dared I even hope that I could find relief in these little creatures I had been taught to fear? I tucked a thought behind my ear, in the back of my mind, to apologize later to Cherie for my previous accusations of dementia.

Kristine had introduced us, through email, to her cousin and mentor, Reyah Carlson in Ventura , California . Under Reyah’s guidance, we began preparing for my treatment. My first hurdle was to convince my doctor of my chance for recovery, or at least relief of my pain, by engaging in this unconventional treatment. The second hurdle was to get him to change some of my medication and to give me a prescription for an EpiPen. Providentially, I had a doctor who was receptive to this idea and excited about the prospect. He replaced medications that would hinder the positive effects of the bee stings and looked forward to tracking my progress.

By early spring, enthusiasm had engulfed me as well. Reyah had been emphatically firm in her belief that I could be liberated from my pain, and I was chomping at the bit to get going. Finally, on April 3 we made the trip from Las Vegas to Ventura , where we met Reyah for the first time. She was an excellent and knowledgeable teacher. She gave me my first stings and taught Ardy the techniques and time table to treat me at home. That day I was certain that my life was changing forever.

I got determined, took the bull by the horns, and changed my life style. I began eating better and moving more. By the end of the first week my spirits had lifted to an all-time high. I was teasing Cherie about her coming birthday, which I had formerly done but had stopped several years earlier because fun for me had long since ceased to exist.

My first cognitive awareness that I was improving came when I bent over and picked up a coin from the floor. I don’t know why I felt I could do it. But I did! By the end of the second week, I was able to walk throughout our Wal-Mart superstore for nearly two hours without once sitting down. I had been confined to a handicap cart for what had seemed like an eternity and was now miraculously walking pain-free within two weeks of beginning bee venom therapy. At four weeks I was able to put on my own socks and tie my own shoes. But infinitely better than that, I discarded my night-time confinement to a recliner and began sleeping again with my amazing and beautiful wife. What a reward! At five weeks I was able to take a road trip to Zion National Park and the Grand Canyon – an event I had only once dreamed of.

At three months I was able to fly back to Michigan – yes, get on a plane! Once there I was able to take a three-day road trip with my wife up to the Mackinac Bridge and once again walk back in to see Tahquamenon Falls that I loved but never thought I’d have hopes of ever seeing again. But probably the best treat of all was that Reyah was visiting her cousin, Kristine, that very week in Grand Rapids , and Ardy and I were able to see them together and thank them for giving me back my life. You can be sure there were lots of hugs, lots of laughs, and of course, lots of stings!

Now, after four months of bee venom therapy, under Reyah’s encouragement, I have begun physical therapy on my back and neck, something that six months ago I couldn’t even have considered. Pain would have kept me from even lying on my back, let alone receiving any manipulation. Reyah is unwavering in her belief that I will stand straight again, but if true, that will just be the frosting on the cake. I look forward to each new day knowing that I can do things that I haven’t been able to do in years – or maybe ever. I thank God for those wonderful little bees and for my friends, old and new, who led me to this new-found life.

- Jack Ballard
January 07, 2009