In 2012, I was living in Miami and working as a litigation attorney. My life was consumed by work and I only saw my baby daughter for an average of 2 hours a day. I lived in a state of constant stress and started to experience severe head and neck pain. I thought my pain was due to improper exercise and bad sleeping positions, but a trip to the doctor turned out to be life-changing.
My world collapsed at the precise moment I was told I had a tumor in my cervical spine. Before I knew it, I was undergoing tests and preparations for open spine surgery. The surgeons had no idea if they were going to need to remove an important artery from my neck or reconstruct my cervical spine. I was being prepared for any outcome, including death. As could’ve been expected, there were complications during my long surgery. Upon waking up, I quickly realized that I lost the ability to raise my left arm and I had difficulty using my left eye. I would later learn that I had Horner’s syndrome (droopy eyelid) as a result of nerve damage during my surgery. When I questioned the doctors as to why this happened, my surgeon told me that they almost lost me during the procedure and that he was happy that I still had brain function which was his biggest concern. Making matters worse, they were unable to remove the tumor or even get a decent sample for a conclusive biopsy. When all was said and done, the surgery left me with excruciating pain, partially paralyzed, and with problems in my left eye which caused me constant migraines. I remember contemplating from my hospital bed that there must be a better way. I thought that if I was able to recover and live a healthy life again that I wanted to help others in my situation.
A month later, the board of oncology recommended another open-spine surgery to obtain a proper biopsy and prescribe me the appropriate chemotherapy/radiation regiment. However, my surgeon advised that if I were to survive another surgery, I would be left completely paralyzed on my left side. Shocked and scared, I asked, “Where do we go from here?” He responded, “Can you live with the pain?” I responded “yes”.
What my surgeon said next was the best advice he could have ever given me. He said, “Then forget you have a tumor and go live your life!” He explained that we could keep an eye on it with periodic MRIs and if it continued to grow, we could explore more treatment options. Shocked, I said, “but what about chemo”? He explained, if we were to proceed with chemo, its secondary effects would likely kill me in a few years. I was young and healthy in all other aspects. There was no reason to rush into chemo if I could live with the pain.
The days that followed were a haze, full of pain medication and physical therapy. During this time, my mother heard about Moringa, an incredible plant known for reducing tumors and helping cancer patients. I began taking large quantities of Moringa daily with the hope it would have an effect.
Three months later, at my follow-up MRI examination, my doctor informed me that my tumor appeared smaller but had no real explanation as to why.
He encouraged me to continue doing whatever it was I was doing and to come back in another 3 months. I remember the excitement I felt with this news. My intuition told me that I was on the right path. Additionally, as a part of my healing process, I acknowledged that I needed a change of environment. I made the decision to move my family to Costa Rica, a land known for its laid-back lifestyle.
Shortly after the big move to Costa Rica, Ayahuasca made its way into my life. I had never heard of this plant medicine before but, I was curious and intrigued. I felt a great shift after my first ceremony. I was able to stop consuming pain medication. My migraines ceased and I started regaining movement in my left arm. In time, I would have full mobility in my left arm and the ability to open my left eye completely again!
This sacred medicine invited me to become more aware of what I was putting into my body. Before I knew it, I was juicing, eating a plant-based diet, taking natural supplements and periodically detoxing my body. I now feel healthier than ever and I have a burning desire to share these life-saving therapies with others.
Ayahuasca also helped me heal not only physically but on a deeply emotional, subconscious level. My eyes were opened to a new reality and I was able to acknowledge the deep-seated guilt, stress, and trauma I suffered surviving the attacks in New York City on September 11, 2001. I was able to really see myself for the first time and recognize learned habits that did not serve me. I often say my cancer was my first Ayahuasca experience because it was one of the most defining moments of awakening in my life. I attribute my recovery and health not only to my drastic lifestyle changes but also to the peace, happiness, and love I found in myself with the help of Ayahuasca. This is an experience that truly can not be defined by words.
There is nothing more beautiful than to be a part of each person's journey as they remember and awaken to their inner self. With every retreat we all grow together and we all learn from each other. I have learned through my life experiences to let go of the roles I traditionally played. I learned to let go of the traditional role I played as a partner, daughter, mother and to live a more authentic version of my true self.
My two young children are likely my greatest teachers but also witnessing the transformation of Carlos over the last 13 years has also been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. We continue to care deeply for each other even though we have let go of our roles as partners. For without each other, we would not be on the path we now find ourselves. It has been a beautiful journey and we welcome those who feel the call of Mother Ayahuasca to visit our little oasis and be a part of the magic we all create together during our retreats.