A testimonial for #HealingAwarenessWeek 2021: We’ve mentioned previously in our members' magazine SNU Today that the power of our stories reveal the reasons why Spiritualism is a force for positive change in our lives. We’re pleased to share this story from Salford, and as we move forward into the future, sharing inspirational stories such as this will help to promote healing to discover its potential for themselves. 

What is spiritual healing? I've asked myself this question countless times over the last year and the only answer I can really surmise, based solely on my own experience, is that it is not nothing. It's something.

I'm a new member of Salford Centre for Spiritualism. I first came to this church in the early summer of 2019 to attend a demonstration of mediumship in the hopes of receiving a message from my mum who had passed.  Although I've seen mediums in the past, up until that point I'd never heard of a religion that embraced those same beliefs. My relationship with any structured religion was pretty much non-existent.

Even though I didn't receive the message I wanted, I did return. Not only in search of a connection I thought I'd lost, but because I'd discovered the church offered a spiritual healing service. This was something I'd never heard of but knew I had to try. Shortly before I attended my first church service I'd begun researching and experimenting with alternative therapies, oils and herbs in an attempt to improve my health and a recent uncertain prognosis.

In the summer of 2017 I became very unwell. I was taken to hospital and scans discovered an intracranial space occupying lesion. For a while I had been aware I may have cancer. Just months earlier I had a lesion removed from my skin which was discovered to be early stage melanoma and likely to be a secondary spread. Despite attempts to find the source none could be found. Surgery was considered a success at removing all the corrupt cells they could find; I was cleared. I went on to spend seven weeks on an acute ward at Salford Royal undergoing daily many painful tests and procedures. Amongst the tests were MRI scans which discovered yet another lesion. Thankfully they were both benign, however the results did indicate I had a central nervous system disease, somehow linked to a problem within my immune system.

My lumbar puncture test results were anomalous in that they found unexplainable white cells at high levels within my cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) and the pressure to regulate the flow around my brain was high. Normal CSF pressure is usually seen within the range of 8 to 15, my first reading was taken at over 40. The list of complications seemed to keep growing, many of which continually baffled the doctors, including dangerously high vitamin D levels with no known cause, not to mention a whole host of complications within the structure of my physiology. The doctors decided to treat the increased pressure first, so they diagnosed me with a condition known as intracranial hypertension. Sadly this condition is rare and currently has no known cure or dedicated drug treatment.

I was not only afraid of the uncertainty around my health but I was in a great deal of pain. My nerves were being activated and fired throughout my entire body caused by the increased inflammation within my skull. I could barely hear as the fluid was leaking into my ear canal and I was losing my vision, not to mention all my senses of taste, smell, and touch. My perception of reality had completely changed and I wasn't sure how or if I wanted to continue.

I then began treatment in an attempt to decrease the pressure. A series of lumbar punctures to remove excess fluid followed, and I was prescribed a cocktail of medications, some of which had side effects worse than the condition itself. My heart suffered significant enough damage to warrant heart surgery in the not so distance future. I lost hair, gained weight, the nausea was intolerable and I went on to spend most of my days confined to my bed. This continued for over year, with regular lumbar punctures and medication changes.

My situation was probably the worst it could have been and my doctors insisted this would be my life going forward and they had me attend medical counselling to help me accept the uncertainty of my future. I'd lost so much during that time. Not just my health but my ability to drive, my job, time with my children, friends, family and then I lost my mum in very traumatic circumstances. To say it felt like the weight of the world was on my shoulders would have been an understatement.

Then I sat for my first healing session. I didn't expect to be cured, in fact, I wasn't really expecting much of anything. I'd tried meditation previously but with no great results. But honestly, in those few moments it felt like all my problems just paused. I had a feeling I often struggle to explain. I could liken it to the feeling you'd get from sitting in a pretty garden in summer with the occasional light rain shower, rainbows, butterflies, a gentle breeze that has a sweet smell of flowers and listening to the faint sound of birdsong. It was a calm, relaxing sense of being home. A comfort I'd not felt for some years, so I returned every week. I'd found 15 minutes of pain free time to be priceless.

Weeks turned into months and I found myself with a better ability to function again. My hearing and vision improved, the inflammation was decreasing. I was able to stop the medication, except for a handful of painkillers. I still needed to be monitored with scans but they all began showing improvements. One of my doctors told me to "keep doing what you are doing as its working!" Who I am to disagree with a medical professional? From then on healing on a Tuesday became known to me as my weekly non-invasive lumbar puncture.

Then March 2020 happened and the whole of the United Kingdom was put on lockdown. I no longer had access to the grace I had felt at church and from the healing mediums. As the months passed I tried to connect myself to the energy I felt every week in church, but I struggled and my condition began to deteriorate. My pain levels increased and my ability to function every day lessened. My senses again became unbalanced as did whatever control I had gained over my symptoms. It was at this point I realised the longer term benefit of the healing I'd received every week. Unfortunately my pressure was once again increasing and I needed either access to the healing energy I'd found or an invasive lumbar puncture. It had been a year since my last. As much as I despise the procedure I knew it was required, as access to church was limited due to the ongoing coronavirus restrictions.

My doctors booked my procedure once I'd been tested for Covid-19 (negative thankfully) but I was unable to have someone accompany me. I can't express enough how much this terrified me, of all the tests I've had over the years this one was by far the worst and previously I'd always had someone I knew with me. The night before my admission I contacted the Minister at my church to ask for some extra prayers or healing to be sent my way, if only to alleviate some of my stress. I found she had already emailed some hours before to tell me she was sending thoughts and prayers. She had also requested my name be placed on a worldwide healing list and reminded me I wouldn't be alone, which genuinely made me smile and much to my surprise, I managed to sleep that night.

Once I arrived at the hospital I was taken to the ward, where I was met by a nurse who performed all my pre-procedure checks. This is where things get a little strange! The nurse left but immediately returned with another nurse, and for a split second I thought I knew her. I even stood to greet her knowingly, like when someone in the street waves at you and you wave back to almost instantly realise they aren't waving at you. She then asked me if I knew her, and I had to explain the awkwardness of my initial response.

We laughed awkwardly, but then she said to me "This might sound weird but I think I dreamt of you last night, and I really can't shake the feeling that I know you." I'm not going to share with you the details of her dream as it is very personal. What I will say is it was profoundly accurate. How could she know so much about me from a dream? Neither of us could find a connection where we may have met previously to this encounter, but we both agreed it was like we'd known each other for years. The fear of being totally alone had disappeared. This nurse’s presence was a comfort, like having a good friend or sister by my side. Then the time came for me to be taken to what they dubbed the cold room for the procedure, and yes the room was actually cold - really cold! It was fitted with vents that blew continuous flow of cold air into the room.

I was positioned on the bed within a fluoroscopy machine and the staff put on their protective equipment and we began. The process is slow as care needs to be taken to access the spinal dura without causing any damage. Once the device used to measure CSF pressure was in place we had to wait for the pressure to level off to give a reading. We reached 33 and the doctor wanted to record the measurement but I asked him to wait a little longer. I needed the pressure to be lower and I knew I could do it if I could recreate the feelings I had when at church.

I closed my eyes, slowed my breath and began thinking of church and all my experiences with healing. I soon began to feel very relaxed, so much so I could have easily fallen asleep. I've yet to meet anyone who's undergone this procedure that would be relaxed enough to feel sleepy without the use of a sedative. I began to feel warm like I was laid on a beach, yet I was still in the cold room with a huge needle in my back. I've no idea how long I was laid there with my unknown friend before I realised I wasn't the only one who felt the temperature change. The doctor even requested the vent above the bed be checked as he was feeling too warm.

Then much to the doctor’s surprise and intrigue the pressure reading began to drop, with every breath I took we dropped a point until finally it stopped at 22. The lowest reading I've had to date!  The doctor recorded the measurement and preceded to close whilst the nursing staff around me were trying to figure where the heat was coming from as the vent was working at full capacity. I found myself inappropriately giggling at the sight of the nurses moving in and around the bed feeling the very obvious temperate changes.

Immediately after the procedure was finished I surprisingly felt well, almost like I'd had ten hours uninterrupted sleep. After my previous experiences in this situation the results were always the opposite. I thanked my doctor for the easiest lumbar puncture I've ever had, but then he thanked me! He continued to say, "I'm a man of science. I see facts, black and white, but what I witnessed today was unexplainable, and I see there is some basis in the whole mindfulness meditation thing, I'll never forget it." Neither will I.

I went from being in a vulnerable, scary and painful situation surrounded by strangers who I had very little trust in, to the feelings of being surrounded by family and friends on a beach in the sunshine, not to mention the physical activity felt and witnessed by others. How all this happened I can't explain, especially the nurse and her dream. What I do know is that my whole healing experience so far has taught me to trust. Trust in that there is an intelligent energy within our universe that wants us to live our best lives possible, and will assist in whatever way it can. This experience has given me all the evidence I need to prove this to myself and although I don't fully understand what happened, I do know something did and I'm keen to go with its flow, learn more and continue to heal. I'm also really grateful to everyone I've met through church. They've all helped me in more ways than most of them probably even realise. From simple conversations in the tea room, sharing space in healing and even making new friends. All highlighting to me how healing energy comes to us in many forms, whether we see or feel it in the moment or not, it’s always there, proving (to me at least) that we are never really truly alone.

Healing Awareness Week is supported by the Healing Forum, a collaborative group of organisations dedicated to wellness for all through a network of healing practitioners trained to the highest standards, and following a robust code of conduct. Organisations include the SNU, the British Alliance of Healing Associations, UK Healers and the Confederation of Healing Organisations. You can visit the official site at https://www.healingawarenessweek.org/