By Emma Vallelunga
After her first consultation with CNY Fertility more than a year ago, Meghan Thomas walked to the parking lot, crying. She wasn’t ready for another surgery — not after what happened the last time.
But despite the loss of her father, mysteries of her body and traumas of a botched surgery that resulted in years of distrust, she sees herself more as a guiding light than just a survivor. And no matter what happened to her in the past, her next path in life is motherhood.
Thomas is a self-employed, certified yoga instructor and fertility coach with Fertile Spirit, a fertility support clinic in partnership with CNY Fertility. While she’s currently undergoing her own fertility treatments with the clinic, she’s also re-launching the Intuitive Fertility Community, her own online support group, this month after re-assessing the group’s needs from its original launch in January.
When Thomas was five years old, her father died of a heart attack. From then on, she realized life promised no guarantees for how long you’re here for. She realized that fact again when her lung collapsed at 16. Her medical history, which included pain in her lungs and back shoulder during her menstrual cycle, wasn’t properly considered by her doctors at the time. A collapsed lung would usually be associated with patients who were tall, thin, athletic and male. Nevertheless, that was her first surgery and her first step into the medical world.
Shortly after she graduated from the University of Buffalo in 2005, Thomas was rushed to the emergency room. She said doctors misdiagnosed her with Crohn’s Disease, and through the misdiagnosis, Thomas was operated on. She said they told her they removed 1 foot of her small intestine in the surgery, and they confirmed that she did not have Crohn’s Disease. Her intuition told her that already, but she was 22, and they were the doctors, who said the surgery was “exploratory.”
“I never met anyone with it, and I never heard about it,” she said. “I remembered telling the surgeon that I don’t think I have Crohn’s Disease, but in that moment, I handed my power over to the doctor.”
Something was wrong with her body from the beginning. Thomas spent the next year in and out of the hospital, malnourished and too sick to keep food in her stomach.
“I was literally wasting away,” she said. “I didn’t know what was going on.”
Ten months later, her other lung collapsed, which required another surgery. Ten days passed, and she flew to Minnesota to receive treatment at the Mayo Clinic. There, she said they discovered that what was taken from her digestive tract was much more than what she told. She was missing closer to 4.5 feet of her small intestine, her ileocecal valve, five lymph nodes and her appendix. The Mayo Clinic doctors gave her multiple medications to keep her nourished until she was healthy enough to go home.
“When I came back from there, I felt like I had been given a second chance at life,” she said
That was one of the reasons she started her own wedding photography business soon after that. She focused on helping clients capture that special moment in their lives, empathizing with them more after realizing, again, that life was too short when she had nearly lost her own.
In 2013, Thomas’ photography business spiked, but by the end of the biggest wedding season of her career, she was miserable.
“My equation was, money equaled success, which equaled happiness,” she said. “But all of a sudden, I had made all this money, and I wasn’t happy.”
Her answer spoke to her in a dream. She was told to “contact Bonita,” someone she did know but hadn’t seen in years. She couldn’t remember a last name, but Thomas knew the woman lived in Skaneateles, and so she reached out.
Bonita Shear, 76, is a spiritual healer who teaches yoga and performs healing treatments with essential oils. When Thomas was sick after her stomach surgery, Shear was called by Thomas’ minister to make a couple hospital calls. She learned about Thomas’ surgery, her lungs collapsing, and her father’s passing and saw that Thomas’ spiritual energy – her Chi – was “beyond awful.”
When the two reconnected eight years later, and Thomas told Shear about her dream, Shear knew it was a sign.
“She came up my stairs, and I said, ‘We’re going to work together on every level,’” Shear said. “After a year, she took the reins very quickly.”
Shear introduced Thomas to Kundalini yoga, taught her healthier eating habits and connected her to other healers in the area. Doing yoga and changing her diet helped Thomas wane off every medication she was on except one.
“It was from that moment that everything changed,” Thomas said. “I became much more conscious of what my body and my intuition was telling me, and once I had the knowledge for myself and as I continued to learn, I just wanted to share it with everyone I could.”
Shear watched how Thomas made yoga and healthy eating work for her, listened to her body and became certified as an instructor. She strived to learn everything.
“That’s the quality of a really exceptional teacher,” Shear said.
With her body stronger, Thomas wanted to begin her fertility journey, but after initially deciding not to have children with her husband of 11 years, and now being in her late-30s, she needed some medical help. But this journey wasn’t about survival anymore — it was about the desire to be a mom.
“I don’t have to do all these things to my body to survive,” Thomas said. “The greatest hurdles that I’ve had to overcome is to ask doctors for help, learn how to trust my own body and stay in power that entire time.”
While working with the clinic, Thomas also learned her lung complications were a rare symptom of endometriosis, which further explained the strange menstrual symptoms she had since she was a teenager.
“Now I understand it, but truly, if you asked me that a year ago, I would’ve never known,” Thomas said.
When the clinic recommended she have another surgery to not only confirm her diagnosis and remove some endometriosis but also remove any scar tissue from her small bowel resection, Thomas still held a deep distrust for doctors. She began fertility treatments with the clinic for the next two years, electing not to have the surgery right away. But one day, another sign appeared.
Thomas met another woman at a hair salon who not only had endometriosis in her lungs and was also going to CNY Fertility like her but was also pregnant. It was enough to convince Thomas to book the surgery for April and commit to it, even when it was postponed until August because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Facing her biggest fear alone, as she tried to fight the anesthesia on the operating table, her doctor placed his hand on hers and told her everything was going to be OK. In that moment, she told him she trusted him, and it was the truth. Thomas said whether the surgery helps her conceive didn’t matter in the end.
“It was about learning to trust again, learning to surrender and having faith,” she said. “Just because this terrible thing happened to me doesn’t mean it will happen to me again.”
Instead of focusing on how far she’s come, Thomas would rather spend her energy helping those who can’t persevere through life’s challenges. To Shear, Thomas is more than a survivor.
“Meghan has elevated herself to know that these were her spiritual challenges,” Shear said. “If you don’t embrace the lesson, you suffer more, and that’s what Meghan has learned to do. She’s a spiritual warrior.”