Mariah Fenton Gladis

Mariah Fenton Gladis: Tales of a Wounded Healer

San Diego Living Legacy Award

As a Gestalt therapist, I have been working with Exact Moments of Healing all my professional career. I've experienced them for myself, and I've helped create them for thousands of people around the world who have been my private clients, workshop participants or trainees at the Pennsylvania Gestalt Center. But I must admit that a certain condition in my life has heightened my empathy and healing insight beyond my role as a therapist. Let me explain.

I'm a long-time survivor of ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease), a disease that erodes the central nervous system. As a result, my speech is slurred, I walk slowly, and need assistance getting in and out of chairs. When I was diagnosed in 1981, my doctor told me that I had a 10 percent chance of surviving more than six months to two years — which is the normal life expectancy of a person diagnosed with ALS.

This was a terrible shock to me — me, the athlete who jogged every day, who watched my diet and took my vitamins. My husband Ron and I were not yet married. In fact, we had just gotten engaged. In the wake of the diagnosis, I told him that he didn't have to go through with it. I wasn't the woman he thought he was marrying and, quite frankly, I didn't know what was going to happen.

Instead of heading for the hills, which he could have done quite justifiably, he planted himself in front of me, affirmed his love, and assured me that he wasn't one to walk away from a commitment. Then he simply said, “Do you feel like you're dying?” I told him not even remotely. He answered, “Well, don't plan on it. Don't plan on being ill.” We married, had two beautiful sons and here I am nearly two decades later still battling and winning so far. My doctors call me a medical miracle.

I'm not going to be cavalier about ALS; it's a tough script for anyone. Ironically, though, I've come to regard it as a grace. After my diagnosis, I embarked on an intense healing quest that continues today and includes a strict nutritional regimen supported by various natural and alternative healing modalities that work in tandem with the drug therapy. This literal fight for my life has pushed me to the very depths of my mind, body and spirit. I've journeyed to places within myself where I may never have gone had it not been for deadline pressure.

Through my personal healing odyssey, I've accessed a wealth of intuitive wisdom, love and compassion that not only has made me a better person, but also has deeply sensitized me to the healing needs of others. As I tell my clients, I may have physical limitations, but I am totally present with you in this room. From this enhanced awareness, I witness and embrace the inherent power of Exact Moments of Healing.


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