'Why not me?' asks hypnotist Shawn Paulsen after terminal diagnosis

Friday , February 17, 2017 - 5:00 AM1 comment

JANAE FRANCIS, Standard-Examiner Staff

OGDEN — When Shawn Paulsen suddenly lost 90 percent of his sight and discovered he had a rare, terminal illness, he asked himself a question.

“Why not me?”

Now, the Clinton resident is working to inspire others to respond positively to challenges.

Why Not Me?: Choosing to be Positive in the Face of Adversity” is the title of Paulsen’s memoir of fear, trust and illness, a book he released last weekend.

“When life doesn’t go as planned … Make new plans!” he wrote in his book, published by Author Academy.

Paulsen, 48, wrote the book after discovering he had a rare and progressive genetic energy failure disorder related to MELAS, mitochondrial encephalomyopathy, lactic acidosis and stroke-like episodes. 

Besides losing his eyesight, his symptoms include brain fog and memory lapses, losing 50 percent of his hearing, stroke-like symptoms, limited breathing capacity, an enlarged heart and painful muscles.  

Eventually, Paulsen said, he may lose his ability to care for himself. 

A well-known comic hypnotist, Paulsen released the book during two performances at Wiseguys comedy club in Ogden.

The shows were similar to thousands he performed before losing lost his sight — he convinced those under hypnosis he was jumping off a 100-story building instead of jumping off stage. He also convinced them he could walk on the air and that he could put his arm through a wall.

Following his act, he explained from the stage that the orange wristbands club participants were wearing and the orange tape on the floor, stage and chairs for hypnosis volunteers aided him in seeing.

“People do not realize that I am blind,” he announced. “If I am doing that, then my mission is accomplished.”

He outlined another mission he’s hoping to accomplish through his book, explaining how a terminal illness and blindness could be “the greatest thing that has ever happened.”

On stage, he said, he was born again.

“I was born the first time in light, the second time in darkness,” he said. “I was given a second chance.”

His second chance came with a decision to live life to the fullest, he said. 

“There’s only so much in life we can control, both good and bad,” Paulsen said in an interview. “When those things happen, we have to just move forward.”

In his book, he outlined two choices in adversity: Stop living or start planning.

When he learned he was dying, Paulsen started planning to live to make a difference for others while he still can. He’s now traveling as a public speaker.

A hypnotist for 10 years and a comic and cop before that, Paulsen is hoping to spread his message of overcoming adversity as widely as he can.

His friends say he’s accomplishing his goal.

“Learning of Shawn’s rare condition made me cry, but his unbelievable courage in the face of such a daunting challenge is inspiring beyond words,” wrote comedian Dobie Maxwell in the foreword to Paulsen’s book. “He walks tall and proud, but remains approachable and humble.”

“We all have issues and problems in life and no matter what they are, we can continue,” he said.

In his book, Paulsen said he continues past the day he lost his sight, May 26, 2014, by doing much more than turning a page. “A new author has taken over my life,” he wrote.

“Life is like a poker game, you can play what you are dealt or you can fold,” he wrote.  “I am not powerless. I can live my life to the best of my ability.”

His advice is to live in the moment and not pass up opportunities.

Paulsen demonstrates his willingness to take his own advice.

Even the mere writing of his book was a struggle for Paulsen because of his blindness. While the words flowed — as many as 10,000 a day — Paulsen said he experienced some hangups because of a voice-to-text program he used.

 “Jesus eats pizza with the Eagles” is one of his favorite misinterpretations that came out of the program.

He tells the story of that sentence with a laugh, demonstrating his effort to keep smiling, laughing and doing the things he loves. 

Paulsen’s book is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble for $14.99 in paperback.

He is not scheduled for hypnotism performances in the near future since he will be promoting his book. The next scheduled performance will be April 8 and 9 at Wisguys comedy club in Ogden.

Paulsen will be featured in some book-signing events, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb 25, at Wisebird Bookery 4850 Harrison Blvd, Suite 1, in Ogden and from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. that day at The Hidden Sage, 1661 N. Main St. Sunset; as well as from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. April 29 at Barnes & Noble, 1780 N. Woodland Park Drive in Layton,

You may reach reporter JaNae Francis at jfrancis@standard.net or 801-625-4228. Follow her on Twitter at @JaNaeFrancisSE or like her on Facebook at facebook.com/SEJaNaeFrancis. 


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