Healing Waters Journal
poetry & storytelling at it's best
So What is HWP?
Toni Donelow Stewart 1961-2004
Stacia Horvath Burton
IN MEMORY OF
TONI DONELOW STEWART
By Shirl A. Steward
It was just a blink of an eye. One day we were laughing and talking. The next, the silence was deafening. My best friend in the whole world was simply GONE.
I thought it had to have been a prank. How could this beautiful vibrant young woman of 42 be dead? Her sister assured me that it was no prank. Toni Donelow Stewart was dead. One night she had chest pains and she asked her young son to call the hospital. But, before the ambulance got there, her eyes closed for the last time and she faded away into a deadly coma. She was dead when the ambulance arrived.
How could I survive another day without her sweet voice on the other end of the phone?, I thought. And, who would now care for her two young children, Bryan and Jeremy? Such a terrible tragedy, it is.
It seems like I had known Toni forever. Yet, it had only been a few years It seemed like forever because we talked almost every day. It's seems like we had to make up for a lifetime of not knowing each other. Well, we're kind of like long lost sisters that finally found each other again if that makes any sense at all.
I'll have to say one thing before anything else, though, that is . . . she was extremely modest about her talents. I was her best friends and I didn't even know until early last year she had been commissioned in 1991 to do a placemat design for all the McDonald's fast food chain stores. Wow, I thought that was cool and impressive.
She wasn't one of those flashy artists or socialites from downtown Manhattan who've got their head up their butts because they're so stuck on themselves. She was just an ordinary down home girl from the lakeside shores of Michigan. And, she was extremely talented.
How did we meet? It was pretty cool actually. I accidentally discovered her website one day and was instantly impressed with her artwork. I was looking for an artist at the time so I wrote her to ask if she's be interested in doing some illustrations for my children's books. She said she'd be delighted but had a lot of work to finish for a book series she was doing. A number of years later, she was still working on all that other stuff but it didn't matter. It gave us a chance to get acquainted. We were to each other the support we each had always needed but never had. We soon became best friends and were talking daily..
Despite her obvious talents, she had her share of growing pains. Like all creative types she wanted to make it financially doing what she did best, art! But, with lack of commissions coming steadily through the door, it becomes difficult. She had two young school-age boys and, as with all mothers, they were always her first concern. Also, she's been battling Lupus most of her life and, when we met, she had serious sinus infections from a surgical wound that had never properly healed. This cause her great distress.
I have Lupus also. Toni and I both had the same connective tissue disorder variety of Lupus. I've been lucky with very few flair-ups but, then again, I don't have two school age children to send my stress level rocketing off up to the roof. Stress is the main component of Lupus flair-ups. Even considering all this, Toni's war against the disease has been gallant. She maintained her cool somehow and always had smile or joke to share with everyone despite it all. She wondered how she did it. I don't. I remember how much she complained. It was a lot. I know. I heard it all. But, deep inside her, it gave her a special strength . .. all this made her fight harder, and harder . . . and harder. Toni was a survivor . . . I saw her work evolve. It just kept getting better and better.
She took whatever work she could get. Along the way, though, she accumulated quite a portfolio of art and stories for children. It's all really good stuff too. Unfortunately, it's not easy to get discovered and make it big in the art or writing worlds. There is a problem in being overly modest about your own talents too. It probably means you don't go out and fight for your rights as you should or for that place in the spotlight that really belongs to you. Plus, both artists and writers are very much into just doing their art and don't want the hassle of trying to do marketing as well. Though Toni had been surprising successful in getting commissions.
In 1991 she did artwork for a four book series authored by David Mittelstadt who was also an owner of a small Christian press called New Canaan Publications. A fifth book in the series The Duck and the Bug in the Mud was both illustrated and written by Toni. Unfortunately for Toni, through lack of funds or doubly hard times with Mr. Mittelstadt's publishing house, none of these books ever went to press or to mass distribution although they do appear on Amazon. Of course, the way things were set up on Amazon, Toni's books pretty much went unnoticed.
Willing to try again, Toni accepted another commission with him to do the first two books of The Adventures of Cheze and Kwackers series for author Bobby Goldsboro, the once very popular Christian singer. These books DID go to press but not to mass distribution. As a result they didn't receive any noticeable publicity or recognition either. Goldsboro failed to show up at the first book signing because his wife was very ill. That might have not been that big a deal but, unfortunately, it seemed to set a trend that resulted in very few sales. You will find them listed on her Book n' Stuff page here and on Amazon but NOWHERE else. As far as I know, Mr. Mittelstadt never returned the original artwork to Toni. This means perhaps there is still a chance that this artwork can be utilized for marketing these two books that did make it to the presses!!
So, on to the good news side . . .You and your children can still experience Toni's amazing artwork by joining in the fun of the Cheze and Kwackers adventure series!! These are two really delightful books I encourage all of you to check out. Cheze is a mouse and Kwackers is a duck. They are two very entertaining characters that relate four bible tales. It is a must read-to for those of you who'd like a new twist on the traditional bible stories to read to your children. You CAN purchase these through HWP. We were working on a possible licensing deal for marketing these guys as stuffed animals and on greeting cards etc. I don't know if that part is possible still. I would suggest that anyone interested in that possibility write New Canaan Publishing and tell them of your interest! If enough people show interest . . . maybe, you'll be able to buy the lovable Cheze along with the books your children will grow to love!
ARE THEY MEDICATING OR DEBILITATING?
By Shirl A. Steward
As I mention above, my dear friend Toni Donelow Stewart, (1961-2004) had suffered from the same medical condition that I do, Connective Tissue Disorder, a potentially crippling form of Lupus. We had exactly the same severity of symptoms. The difference though, between our ailments was the way it was treated medically speaking. I took the alternative holistic and stress control route. I never took any 'establishment' medication. Toni, however, did . . .
As a teen, Toni had a great deal of stress and was treated with a drug called Prednisone. She took this medication throughout her teens and into her adulthood. She never stopped.
Yes, that adds up to about 25 years by my calculations. How could any doctor justify keeping a patient on steroids for so long? At the very most, the medication is only needed during a flair-up! It is NOT needed during times of remission. However, Prednisone is extremely addictive. Once on it, a patient must continue taking it. It does not allow for periods of remission. Also, it is an artificial steroid which completely inhibits the body's natural production of steroids. It can severely damage major body organs, cause pain and inhibit the body's natural ability to heal as well. Imagine taking the drug for 25 years?
Toni went through several operations for complications, NOT for Lupus, but for Prednisone! The last operation was on her hip . . . without it, she would have lost her ability to walk.
Toni died just months after the doctors starting cutting down her dosage to take her off the drug. I believe this is what killed her. I often questioned why the doctors kept her on this horrible drug for so long, a drug probably far more debilitating, and deadly than Lupus itself. Prednisone IS a steroid which prevents the body's natural ability to produce its own natural steroids. To withdraw someone from it after a period of 25 years is surely a death sentence from which they would never receive vindication. Toni never had even a fighting chance.
I know that her family will never choose to pursue this legally. Had Toni been my real sister, I would have done that pursuing. Although, it would have been a lost battle. The medical profession will never admit the dangers of this terrible drug and the dangers of the MANY others on the market, which by the way, are just as bad.
Another deadly product out there is Aspartame. With Lupus, I have a very sensitive system. I've noticed that just 10-15 minutes after consuming a diet coke containing Aspartame, or foods containing certain additives, I get severe, very painful cramping in the muscles around my joints. If the sweetener is Splenda, I get diarrhea. However, if I consume a beverage with Stevia, a natural sweetener safely used in Asia for thousands of years, I get no reaction. Activitists have been trying to get Aspartame off the market for years. The harmless alternative, Stevia, was banned from use as a sweetener. It was finally allowed on the shelves of health food stores but had to be labeled as a natural supplement and not as sweetener. I just saw it on a supermarket shelf last week (one brand only) so not sure what it's current status is. Splenda has gained popularity and a few manufacturers of diet products are slowly switching over from Aspartame, although it would seem, rather reluctantly. It may be just a marketing ploy to distract protestors. Splenda has probably gotten as much bad press as Aspartame and could prove just as harmful, say some.
Of course, both Stevia and Splenda are far more expensive than they should be. They are not that expensive to manufacture . . . well, for that matter, there are few drugs out there that cost more than a fraction of their huge price tags to produce. After all, doctors and the medical profession in general are not about keeping people healthy. If people are cured, then there are no patients to fill the hospitals and doctors offices and no one to buy expensive medications. Don't doubt it . . . it's big business . . . a money game that lines the pockets of those who have learned the basics of the game. The game? It's . . . always treat the symptoms and not the cause. That way the cause is always illusive and beyond cure.
I believe there isn't a disease out there that isn't 'curable' or at least, a candidate for being put into permanent remission. Lupus and all autoimmune diseases, I discovered, are caused by a particular form of an organism known as a microplasm. I've been told that if the right microplasm can be isolated and treated by a NATURAL antibiotic, it can be destroyed. This means that Lupus, as well as every other form of autoimmune disease is curable!
I am not a doctor nor do I pretend to be but it is my theory, from the research I have done, that these microplasms, when ACTIVATED BY STRESS or dietary imbalance, in turn cause an imbalance in the body's key building blocks, the Amino Acids. This IS exactly why Lysine works to reduce or even eliminate symptoms of Herpes (if the Lupus is taken early enough in the infection cycle). Stress somehow increases the amount of L-Arginine. Too much L-Arginine in the system causes the microplasms to turn on the body, and, in my case, the joint tissue. The joint tissue is then weakened and becomes highly susceptible to injury. I know this is the case since I spent many years in various types of braces for ankle, shoulder, hip, elbow, neck and wrist after such injuries were sustained.
The list of harmful medications is endless by the way and possible 'cures' are labeled as 'holistic' or 'newage' and pushed to the wayside. Back in 1995 I did an article for an environmental journal. It was on an herb known as Ibogaine that had proved itself as an extremely effective means of totally ending addictions. And, this was without any known side effects! Yes, you guessed it! Ibogaine was illegal in the USA. A person who wanted the treatment had to go to Europe. That meant it was only an alternative available to the wealthy. Not surprisingly, I only saw one other article at the time. And, yes again. It was buried on a back page of the NY Times.
My Lupus? Well, I went a much different path than most sufferers of the disease. I used stress control and herbal treatment. I over 55 and still alive. That has to say it all. I rarely have attacks anymore, as I call them, but when I do, my pain is both intense and severe. So, when active, my illness is in a very advanced state. I mention this to make a point. Lupus symptoms never lessen because the microplasms continue to increase in number with each new attack.
Still, fortunately, for the most part, my Lupus has been totally in remission for much of my life. It is in remission now. I learned at a very early age that I could control my 'condition' through control of stress. Since my 'control' of stress has been so effective, I have not looked into researching and finding that 'right' antibiotic which would end my symptoms forever. However, it is still very much on my mind. What I'd love most to do . . . is find a biologist researcher who believes, as I do, that microplasms are the solution and route to a cure.
Originally written December, 2004
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