My Story: Part Eight: More Good News
I continued to stick with the daily meditations, 1 sometimes 2 hours a day without fail. It became part of my daily routine, and has been ever since.
The Joe Dispenza Meditation Retreat
In July 2019, I headed to the seven-day Joe Dispenza meditation retreat in Portland, Oregon. Along with 800 others, I meditated for six sometimes seven hours a day. I met amazing people and heard amazing healing stories from others there at the retreat. The energy and overall energy of the people and the space was amazing.
It was there that I realized powerful things can happen when you’re surrounded by 800 people who are also in a high-vibratory state. I had also felt this years before in my yoga practice, that every time I stepped into my yoga studio with others who also had the intention to heal and open their hearts, I’d feel the effects of my practice much more profoundly than if I had simply done yoga at home by myself.
The most exciting part of the Joe Dispenza meditation retreats are the coherence healings which take place in the final three days. I was chosen on day one to be a healee, meaning I would be lying on the floor, surrounded by 8 others (healers) trained to send me healing energy.
So many people had told me that miraculous things happen during the coherence healings. I was expecting something extraordinary to happen. As the healings began, I heard others crying, shaking, and making various noises that sounded like something powerful and involuntary was happening for them.
But I didn’t feel a thing. I walked away somewhat disappointed. “Nothing really happened to me,” I told my team leader. “You don’t know that!” he replied. But I dismissed him and let my disappointment go, focusing on enjoying the rest of the retreat.
The following two days I participated as a healer and I felt my heart really open in those healings. Overall, I truly enjoyed the seven-day meditation retreat. However, so many people had these profound experiences or healings where they saw visions, felt energy move through their bodies or had come out of a meditation no longer in pain.
I had none of these experiences. I had great meditations where I felt calm, connected and centered. But I wanted the fireworks. I thought if I had a powerful, profound experience it would mean I healed. Regardless, I tried not to get wrapped up in the disappointment of not having a mystical experience.
Instead, I kept directing my focus toward the gratitude I felt for having won a scholarship to go, for being able to have this incredible experience. I hoped that with a little more progress and getting back to work full-time starting in August, I could save up and come to another one.
In the weeks that followed the retreat, I noticed little improvements. My awkward limp had completely disappeared, which was nice so that I didn’t have to constantly answer the question, “What happened to your leg?” “Why the limp?” Sometimes I’d just say “cancer” and wobble away, hoping they would shut up. But I usually just replied “nerve damage” which was true; radiation had caused temporary paralysis in the nerves in my left foot.
I know I didn’t look like a cancer patient. I had a full head of hair and a smile. Those that didn’t know me would ever know what I had gone through. So I know people who asked me this mostly thought that I probably just had a recent injury snowboarding or running.
When my general oncologist was out of town, I had a checkup appointment with a substitute doctor, a young Indian guy, who bursted into the room and looked at me completely taken aback. I thought that he must have walked into the wrong room, but then he said, “Crystal?” I confirmed that I was indeed Crystal. “Wow, you look way better than your medical record.” I couldn’t stop laughing.
I was also able to drive longer distances without pain. I even traveled to El Salvador to visit Mutsu for a couple weeks. I was still reducing my medications, slowly titrating off of the morphine and the Gabapentin. I was starting to feel more clear-headed.
The Cancer Weight
I wanted to start surfing again, but found myself scared to try. All my boards were shortboards. I was pretty sure I’d need a long board. All my muscles had atrophied from not walking or moving much for so long, so I knew it would take me longer to get up. Part of me was afraid to face the havoc that cancer had wreaked on my body. Surfing would make it blatantly obvious.
I also would need a bigger wetsuit. I had gained 25 pounds of fat, mostly from being on steroids for eight months. Steroids made me feel like I was constantly hungry and never satisfied. My sugar-addiction came out in full force (which is the exact opposite of what you want when you have cancer). All that in the midst of mom’s delicious home-cooking, a fridge overflowing with dangerous leftovers, and Dad’s well-stocked chocolate mini-fridge made me wonder why I hadn’t gained more weight; I think I ate more than Michael Phelps.
I had managed to get off the steroids in May a few months ago, but I still found myself eating much more than I should. The food environment of my parents house caused me to be in a perpetual state of food guilt. I wanted to eat vegan and drink green juices, but that just wasn’t going to happen when the endless supply of cheesecake, cookies and chocolate were constantly screaming my name.
Moving Out: Back on My Own
So in August of 2019, after living with my parents for ten months, I moved out. Mostly I was desperate to get away from all the indulgence and have more control of my diet. But I also had just gone back to working full-time by then and no longer needed to rely on them to feed me, take me to my appointments, make sure I didn’t die from an overdose.
I will always profoundly appreciate my parents for their support during this time. I seriously have no idea how I would have gotten through that time without them. I was also unable to get any disability from the government even though I couldn’t work, which makes me not only angry, but dumbfounded on how other debilitated cancer patients who may not have family support would get by.
Anyway, I started going back to the gym, lifting weights, trying to drop the cancer weight and gain back some muscle strength so I could surf again. I was fluffy. No longer able to run, I’ll never forget getting on the stair-master for the first time in over a year and being so winded that I could only do two minutes. I realized I had a long way to go.
After a few weeks, I decided it was time to try surfing. Summer was in full swing in San Diego. I bought myself a new wetsuit that would fit and a longboard. It had been over a year since I had last surfed and my body had been to hell and back, so I didn’t know what to expect. Still, it was demoralizing. My “pop-up” was that of an 80-year-old woman getting up in a five-step process. But it did feel good to get in the water, to actually catch and ride a wave after so long. So I kept going, focusing on the gratitude I felt for being able to surf.
I constantly had to check my negative thoughts of comparing my new-self to my former-self by looking back at how far I had come, reminding myself that only a few months ago I was unable to walk or sit. And here I was surfing. I had nowhere to go but up.
September finally rolled around, and I was due for my next MRI, but this time I was full of anxiety and fear: Is it bigger? Growing again? For some reason I was having increased amounts of pain. I wasn’t sure if it was perhaps because I was too quickly going off of my pain meds. Or because I had just come back from a friend’s wedding in Philadelphia where I had indulged in alcohol and sugar the whole weekend?
I wasn’t sure, but I let all these negative thoughts run through my mind. Because of the pain I was experiencing, I basically was convinced that the tumor was growing and that my MRI would show that. I was still meditating, though I couldn’t shake the anxiety. But when I got the results, I was shocked.
The tumor had shrunk significantly yet again.
Now, it was the size of a small lemon. The pain was probably due to going off my pain meds too fast, although it could have also been inflammation from alcohol/diet. I don’t know. But I was thrilled.
I really felt like the Joe Dispenza meditation retreat had something to do with the MRI results. It probably would have shrunk some anyway due to the radiation alone, but I think there was something profound about those coherence healings and the healing energy I was surrounded with.
I also cannot discount the love and prayers that had been sent my way over the past year. The love and support that my family and friends showered me with during this time was no doubt a part of my healing.
Off All Medications
By October 2019, I was off of every single one of my pain medications and completely pain free. My wish had come true. And I will say that I 100% believe that meditation helped me get off these pain meds. Whenever I started meditating, the pain would disappear.
Since then, I’ve seen multiple studies demonstrating that meditation and other mindfulness practices help reduce doses of pain medications, including narcotics. Something I heard Dr. Joe Dispenza say that always stuck with me is “I’m no longer wired for pain.”
Continue to My Story: Part 9