Anna has already grabbed a booth for us at the diner
near my house by the time I arrive. It’s been more than a week
since my disastrous evening with the girls, and I’ve been under a cloud
“Thanks for meeting me—especially on such short notice,”
I say to my sister, leaning over the Formica table to peck her
cheek before sitting across from her on the red vinyl banquette.
She beams as usual in her sequined white blouse, festive heart
earrings, and, of course, the ever-present twinkle in her eyes.
“No problem. You sounded like you needed a pick-me-up. I
consider that my specialty.”
I look around the diner. It’s one of those modern places that
strives to look old-fashioned; meanwhile truly authentic places are
closing down all over town, victims of rising rents and changing
palates. I picked this spot because I’ve always adored the vintage
1950s Coke signs adorning the walls, though when I spy them
now, they strike me as grimy.
Anna leans forward, eyeing me intently. “What’s up?”
I swivel my attention back to her. “I wish I knew,” I reply
glumly. “It’s nothing I can put my finger on. I mean, I’m bummed
Brad hardly calls me, but I know he’s busy. Work’s fine. My friends
are okay, even if we didn’t have the greatest night out last time.
There’s Mom, of course, but nothing new there: just her desire to
knock me down at every turn.”
“You know she doesn’t mean—,” Anna softy defends her.
“You know she does mean it,” I interrupt firmly. “Not with
you. Only me. But Mom hasn’t done anything worse than usual.
Nobody has. They haven’t changed; it’s me who has. Stuff that
used to be fun grates me like nails on a chalkboard. I can’t seem
to gin up a passion about anything.”
Anna looks at me for a full minute without responding. This
habit of hers, taking her sweet time to reply, always drove me
crazy. But now I appreciate that she wants to clarify her thoughts
rather than spout the first, maybe off-the-mark idea that springs
to her mind.
“You’re having a spiritual crisis,” she replies at last. She says
this with the certainty of a doctor who, reading the X-rays, has
diagnosed a broken bone.
“Well, when you’re a minister, I suppose everything looks like
a spiritual crisis,” I say lightly. “Like when you’re a hammer . . . .”
The waitress comes by to pour me coffee and Anna, tea, and
we pause our discussion while she fills our cups. Anna turns to
fully face the woman. She looks about twenty-five, with rosy
cheeks and dark hair pulled into a wispy ponytail with fringed
bangs. Anna asks the woman how she likes her job, if she has any
kids, whom she prefers in the upcoming special election. This
desire to speak to everyone as if they were her BFF is another trait
of Anna’s that I never understood. I mean, Anna doesn’t ever eat
here, so it’s not like she’s going to see the woman again. But this
Queenie, if the perky hi, i’m Queenie name tag pinned next to her
very open neckline is to be believed, grows more animated with
every exchange. After a few minutes of this, she pumps Anna’s
hand with unbridled joy, flashes a hundred-watt smile on both of
us, and practically skips away. Anna watches her flit behind the
counter for another minute before resuming our conversation.
“I know you think I’m single-minded, Lorna. But the reason I
can recognize the symptoms of spiritual drifting is because I had
it, too. In my early twenties. I just stopped feeling like my life had
meaning. It’s what set me on my ministerial path.”
“I will not become an interfaith minister!” I jokingly protest, screwing
up my nose like I’ve just eaten something awful for added effect.
“I’m not saying you should,” Anna laughs. “But it sounds
like you’re disconnected. I think you’d benefit by developing . . .”
She pauses, reaching for the right words, and for some reason I
feel incredibly patient. “Well, I think it would help you to develop
at least a passing acquaintance with the amazing energy of the
universe that’s inside you—that’s inside everyone.”
“Have you been listening to that Serena Robbins radio host?”
I demand, smiling.
“Oh! You’ve finally heard her,” she shrieks. “I love that woman!
So what did you think?”
“Dunno. At first she seemed so airy-fairy. But I’ve listened a
few times now, and I have to admit she does always make me feel
better. Like she’s tapping into something meaningful and deep.”
I guess my response was all the opening Anna needed. In any
event, that’s how I wind up in the foyer of her house, arms
teetering under the dozen spiritual books she’s insisting I read.
The names on the spines are either new to me—Thich Nhat
Hahn, Ernest Holmes, Gregg Braden—or people I had no idea
concerned themselves with spirit, like Ralph Waldo Emerson,
that essayist we were forced to read in high school.
“When you finish those, I’ve got plenty more,” Anna says,
giving me such a massive good-bye hug, I’m surprised the books
don’t tumble from my overwhelmed arms.
A few days later, I’m sprawled on my living room couch,
tearing through my ninth book. Until now, my spiritual repertoire
has pretty much been limited to the Bible (from childhood
religious classes; I haven’t cracked it since). But these very
different spiritual tracts—encouraging my personal union with
my highest essence, and offering various road maps to get there—
are opening me up to a different world. I’m starting to see that life
isn’t about what happens; it’s about how I decide to react to those
things. It’s up to me whether I choose to react by feeling angry,
sad, and aimless—or, as my higher self does, loving, appreciative,
and joyful. It’s my call whether to live from a place of connection
Although I can tell that putting these ideas into practice won’t
be easy, I feel a bit like the baby boom generation must have felt
when it got its first taste of the Beatles. There’s a whole world out
there I never knew existed. I am awed by these teachings. And I
am on my way.
# # # #
The following Thursday I leave my office
to accompany Janelle to her doctor’s appointment. She’s been
begging me to go with her for ages—not because she’s worried
that anything’s wrong, but because she’s been dying for me to
meet her practitioner. The first time she gushed, “You absolutely
must meet this doctor,” I was sure she was trying to set me up
with him. When I finally confessed this to her, she laughed. The
guy is gay. Turns out Janelle is just hot for the energy-healing
method this Dr. Fallyn swears by, and like all new converts, she’s
trying to reel me in. Twice I made up excuses why I couldn’t go.
This week I finally relented.
I’m not sure why I feel such resistance. After all, part of my
spiritual beliefs includes being open to all kinds of possibilities
about the universe. And I’m certainly clear that there’s a force
beyond that which we can see, hear, and feel. As Janelle keeps
saying, the idea that there’s invisible energy in the world is not
even that out there: we all believe in electricity. I know that the
body is made from the energy of the universe, so why couldn’t
it be harnessed to help you heal? But I grew up with my mom’s
very narrow approach to health, which I’m having trouble
shaking. Still, I know that my own family physician, an M.D.
with Harvard training and an overreliance on a prescription pad,
can’t possibly have a lock on healing.
The funny thing is Dr. Fallyn has his own Harvard training,
a Ph.D. in biochemistry, along with his naturopathic physician
degree. It’s just that he doesn’t seem to be using one bit of what
he learned at the Ivy League. On his Web site, which I scanned
last night, he claims he can treat most diseases with his machine.
The Web site featured a picture of the device; it looks like a crystal
ball. No matter your complaint, this doctor’s treatment seems to
be the same: several sessions in front of the machine as it “beams
out targeted energy waves at a frequency designed to fix what
ails you.” Naturally, these are waves a client can’t see. All I could
think as I scrolled through the site was, at $100 a pop, this guy’s
got a great business!
Janelle has seen Dr. Fallyn three times. A friend from the yoga
center told Janelle the machine cured her insomnia, and Janelle
was eager to see if it could do the same for the dust and mold
allergies that swell her eyelids. Although her symptoms haven’t
completely disappeared since she started, even my cynical brain
has to admit she seems vastly improved. I’m not entirely convinced
her recovery isn’t attributable to less contact with dust and mold,
positive thinking, or even those horse-pill megavitamins the girl
somehow swallows daily. Janelle is certain that Dr. Fallyn is the
sole reason for her turnaround, but I’m of the mind-set that it’s
equally plausible the man is a total quack.
Displaying her usual impeccable timing, Janelle swings her
Prius around the corner just as I step out from my office lobby.
“Hey, how was your day?” she asks as I climb in her car (we
decided to leave mine in my office parking lot, to be picked up
later), even though I gave her the complete rundown when we
chatted on the phone not one hour earlier.
“Great, as you well know.”
“I’m so glad you agreed to come. I know you have doubts, but
I think he’s on to something big. Maybe he can help you with that
“I hope that’s not why you’ve brought me. My cough’s mostly
fine. Anyway, I’ve been hacking since the first grade. I think I’d
miss it if it disappeared.”
“Don’t worry. I brought you because I want you to see this.
Opening your mind’s a good thing. If you never wanna have your
cough treated, that’s okay by me.”
“Really, my cough strikes only every couple of weeks. It’s no big
deal. You should have heard me as a kid. I used to bark every hour!”
“Sounds awful. But I bet it’s something Dr. Fallyn can fix.”
“I’m sure he’d be happy to try—at a hundred dollars per. I
can’t believe you think his Frankenstein machine is worth that
kinda money. Think of the great clothes a gal could get for that!”
“Honestly, I’m surprised you’re so dubious, considering that
I’m Exhibit A. My allergies are so much better. And I know you
believe the same as I do: Everything in the world is energy. Solid
things merely move at slower speeds. So why wouldn’t changing
the energy in your body have a huge effect on your health?”
“You underestimate the extent to which I absorbed my
mother’s faith in FDA-approved pills and potions,” I chuckle.
“But I agreed to come. So clearly I’m a wee bit open-minded.”
A few minutes later, we pull into the doctor’s parking lot and
head inside. While Janelle signs in, I notice two model-gorgeous
women, one with cropped short blond hair, the other a brunette
whose mane is long and curly, in the waiting room. I head over to
an empty chair near them to get their perspective.
“Are you patients of Dr. Fallyn?” I jump in, surprising myself
with my assertiveness.
“Yes—,” the brunette starts to say.
But the other interrupts her. “Who wants to know?”
“I’m sorry if that was too personal,” I say sweetly. “Let me
start again. My name’s Lorna, and that’s my friend Janelle.” I
indicate the reception area, where Janelle is quietly chatting with
the nurse and filling out papers. “If you’re worried about privacy,
you don’t need to discuss your condition. Janelle’s here for an
appointment, and I’m curious—okay, I admit, skeptical—about
his treatment methods.”
“I’m sorry if I was rude,” the blond woman says, extending
her hand with a complete attitude reversal. “I’m Tabitha. This
is Ashanti. Yes, we’re patients. I thought you might be with the
“I don’t understand,” I say. Janelle finishes with her forms
and slips into the chair beside me.
“Well, Dr. Fallyn practices in a way that threatens traditional
physicians, so he comes under a lot of fire. Several doctors have
filed complaints to get his license taken away. I thought maybe you
were part of their investigation. My girlfriends Soli and Jacqueen,
who are patients, told me someone was snooping around the last
time they came here.”
“Soli and Jacqueen—the ones who know Mandy Adams?” I’m
sure they must be the same women I met in Mandy’s spirituality
group, not only because the names are unusual but also because
they seem likely to travel in these alternative medicine circles.
“Yes—and we know Mandy, too! What a small world,”
“God forbid you ruffle the feathers of some physicians,”
Ashanti continues, ignoring our game of people geography and
getting back to the topic at hand. “So many of them have tried
to run midwives, chiropractors, homeopaths, and, in this case,
naturopaths, off the map. They want to keep every healer from
doing anything creative.”
“I see we’re of like minds,” Janelle says, leaning forward to
introduce herself and officially join the conversation.
“Do you think this treatment really has helped you?” I ask
the women pointedly.
They look at each other and laugh.
“Oh, you could say that,” Ashanti says. “Tabitha’s one of Dr.
Fallyn’s big success stories.”
“My regular doctors practically left me for dead,” Tabitha says
dramatically, pausing for further effect before continuing. “Two
years ago, I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. The oncologist
told me outright I’d be lucky to last the summer. Nothing like
nipping all hope in the bud.”
“Naturally, we found a different oncologist right away,”
Ashanti says. “Someone who wasn’t ready to call the funeral home
yet. I’m Tabitha’s best friend––we’ve modeled together since high
school. I got online and started doing research.”
“As you can imagine, I was in shock about the whole thing.
Kind of paralyzed,” Tabitha adds. I lean forward, eager to hear
“I found her a doctor who agreed to shrink the tumor with
radiation. He thought there was a chance that if it got smaller, it
could maybe be surgically removed, although he wasn’t making
any promises. Something about it being complex, and close to her
“I had eight weeks of radiation,” Tabitha jumps in again, and
my head flips from one woman to the other. “X-rays showed the
tumor getting smaller. But radiation is so freaky. They’re pointing
this machine right at your head! I was nervous about the harm
the radiation might be doing to the rest of me. I kept recalling
the joke about the doctor who says he knew the treatment helped
his patient because the autopsy showed the tumor had gotten
“Tabitha and I got to talking,” Ashanti says, and my gaze
swings again to her. “I mean, what is radiation if not energy? Why
couldn’t her tumor shrink with energy that wasn’t so toxic? Soli,
who’s my neighbor, told me about Dr. Fallyn. It sounded weird,
I admit, but Soli swore the treatments had shrunk her uterine
fibroids, like down to nothing.”
“Dr. Fallyn encouraged me to stay with the radiation, and
even do the surgery if my oncologist thought it was safe,” Tabitha
continues. “He wanted his treatment to be complementary. But
I decided to stop the radiation cold for a month to see what
happened. My oncologist was pissed, but I figured that was
his problem. I came here every day for four weeks. At first my
eyebrows were raised as high as yours are.” She points to mine,
and I realize they’re practically in my hairline, so astounded am I
by this information. “But I had to give it a try.” I try to consciously
relax my face, but my eyebrows quickly pop up again. “By the
second week, I could sense that something was working. Hard to
explain exactly what I was feeling. After a month, I went to my
oncologist for another X-ray. He stood there stunned. Couldn’t
find but a tiny trace of the tumor! I tried to tell him about Dr.
Fallyn, but he just laughed. Swore that the radiation he’d given
me before must have worked wonders.”
“No operation. Nothing. Tabitha’s been in perfect health for
a year and a half! Comes here now for weekly tune-ups. I come
myself when I’ve a cold or headache. My story isn’t so dramatic,
but I’m a satisfied customer, too.”
Janelle is smiling wider than a beauty pageant contestant. She
knows this tale will go far toward convincing me that Dr. Fallyn is
not selling the energy version of snake oil. Plus, there’s the added
bonus that they know the women we’ve recently met; it makes it
seem more like karma.
“That’s incredible,” I say, trying to put the wow I’m feeling
into words. “But are you sure his machine treatments are what
cured you? Maybe it was the radiation? Or . . . something else?”
“Truthfully, I do think the machine is only part of the story,”
Tabitha says. "Dr. Fallyn believed in my body’s ability to heal
itself. That’s not something I got from any of the dozens of other
doctors I saw during my care. When you think about how you
get over the flu or a cut in your skin, or how a woman grows
and births a baby . . . the body’s such a wondrous machine. Why
shouldn’t it have that same ability to dismantle runaway cells
clumped up in my brain? With Dr. Fallyn, I started having faith
that my immune system could cart that icky stuff away. I think the
energy treatments just sped up the process.”
“You guys should go on a talk show, or something! The world
needs to hear this,” Janelle says.
“I think that would only make more trouble for Dr. Fallyn,”
Ashanti sighs. “Jacqueen said it was an MS patient’s neurologist
who complained the loudest, even though the woman is
supposedly walking for the first time in years!”
“I hate to break up this little kaffeeklatsch,” a voice says, and
the four of us turn in unison to see a thin, middle-aged man in
black pants and a bright red shirt, his straight black hair down to
his shoulders, standing by the door.
“Dr. Fallyn! Hello!” Tabitha, Ashanti, and Janelle reply
“Hello to all of you! Janelle, whenever you’re ready, come on
in. And of course, your friend is welcome to join you.”
Copyright ©2011 by Meryl Davids Landau