Everything is Connected

I have instinctively known that everything is connected for as long as I can remember. This sense of knowing was informed by hours spent in nature playing in the woods and creeks of my home, threads of ancestry and family history discussions with my mother and endless curiosity about how things work. When my mother was diagnosed with lymphoma when I was in high school I often wondered what could have caused her cancer. I have always been searching for answers. Pattern recognition, systems and connections were also an early part of my business career as an auditor.   

After starting The BioCollective in 2015, my ability to see connections at both the micro and macro level accelerated exponentially. I zoomed in to the tiny details about microbes and out to form the large scale maps of the microbiome in health and disease. I could easily see the signs of trouble in our environment: pollution, mono-culture, reductionist thinking directly connecting to the same issues on a different scale in our bodies.  

December 2016, I traveled to London to speak at one of the earliest microbiome conferences. I struck up a conversation with my driver on the way from the airport to my hotel. After hearing my passion to find a cure for Parkinson’s he told me that his father has Parkinson’s and that he also shared my wish. As we were turning the corner to my hotel he said, “You know Parkinson’s UK Foundation is right around the corner. You should go over there and talk to them.” So I did, making another connection.

I had never been to London before. I wanted to see the city but I was alone and a little bit uneasy. After spending the day at the conference my mind was abuzz at all of the connections I could see in the data that researchers were presenting from many different health and disease states. I was energized to risk the adventure of the city. I booked a reservation at a tiny restaurant and bar not far from Trafalgar Square. The owner came in just as I was ordering, introduced himself around the room and opened a “special” bottle of wine to share with me and two others seated at the bar. The evening was magical and charged with energy. After dinner I stopped to watch a street performer named Henry Facey.  He was singing Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. I stood for a long while listening as the crowd moved along without stopping for long. I struck up a conversation with a homeless man who was Facey’s established protector. The two shared the corner in symbiosis, looking out for each other. He shared that he was at peace on the streets and couldn’t imagine it any other way now. He was free. It was a new perspective for me. I took him to a grocery nearby and bought him some fruits and milk and started my walk back to the hotel. Using my iPhone's GPS I started my walk back through the dark streets of London. It was losing battery fast and getting concerned that I might get lost. I turned a corner to a very dark street and looked ahead. There was only one light on the street and it was a marquee over the front of a building straight ahead at a fork in the road. I lifted my phone and snapped this picture.

Yes, it sure is, I thought!  

Attending SXSW in Austin a few months later, I was speaking on a panel called “Trust Your Gut - Can Biomes Change Science Forever?” Microbiome science was one of the hottest trends that year.  

Connections crossed my path again.  

On the first night as I was walking down the street I was stopped by a person asking for a donations. I gave him $5 and he gave me a book entitled “Self-Realization.” Later that evening with my friend Merredith, I said “let’s see what this book as to say” and I opened the book to a random page in the middle. I found a discussion between two gentlemen about something they called krimi. It turns out krimi is the Sanskrit term for invisible bacteria and other organisms that can cause diseases. The microbiome all those many years ago - shaping health and disease!

I called an Uber for my ride to the airport at the close of the trip. My driver had worked in the apartment business for many years and so had I before founding The BioCollective. He had a unique approach to identifying opportunities that involved keen observation of the trash bins at apartment complexes to determine if the property was in financial trouble. I was amazed by this brilliant insight. We connected instantly. He asked me about my life. After he heard my story of wanting to cure Parkinson’s he mentioned a story he had read, just that morning, about the potential for a cancer drug called a janus kinase inhibitor to potentially help in Parkinson’s. I gave him my card and he emailed me the story later in the day. This chance interaction led to a path of investigation we are continuing to pursue.

Throughout this journey to finding a cure, I continue to be amazed by the connections that are made through people outside the field of science that I meet throughout my days. You just never know where the answers will be found. I have found that being totally open to the possibilities of every encounter I have, and grateful for every connection I make, speeds my path to discoveries.  

Everything IS connected.

- Martha

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