meeting my shaman

My Shaman...

The next part of my cancer journey literally involved a journey.  Well, a few types of journeys, actually.  

So when my dear friend, someone I literally grew up with, found out that I had cancer, he reached out to me immediately to tell me about a friend of his.  This friend, Sam, just happened to be a Shaman.  

Not only was Sam a Shaman, but he also just happened to be a Shaman that was intimately involved in the curing of his brother’s cancer.  Now, when his brother first got sick, he decided pretty much straight away that he was not going to use any western medicine like radiation or chemo.  And when Sam heard this, he said, in a nutshell, “Well, if you’re not going to use western medicine, how about we try sacred medicine.”  

His brother agreed and by using these types of medicine, they healed his cancer.  At his 3-month follow up after receiving his diagnosis, his oncologist said, “I don’t know what you’re doing, but keep doing it.”  His tumor has shrunk significantly, with using natural medicine only.  No chemo.  No radiation.  No surgery.  Eventual full remission.  Natural.  Medicine.  ONLY.  

Now, what is “natural medicine” you might ask?  So long before our super smart doctors of today came to be, there were these people called shaman.  Or witchdoctors.  Or healers.  Or a bunch of other names, some respectful and some not so much.  And they used the amazing powers of plants and herbs found in nature to provide healing.  

I’m guessing that some of you may think that a Shaman is some half-naked person in the jungle with a big bone through his nose while he dances around a fire waving all sorts of crazy things, doing all sorts of crazy chants.  And while there may be Shaman out there that fit that description, mine most certainly did not.  Sam is a normal guy, with a normal job, with a normal family, in a normal house.  From the outside, he looks well, normal.  But on the inside, Sam is something so very special and so very magical.

The two medicines that Sam used both with his brother and with me were psilocybin (aka “magic mushrooms”) and Ayahuasca.   And what is this “Ayahuasca”, you ask?  It is translated to be “vine of the soul.”  According to Medical News Today (, it is often taken as a “brew” made from the leaves of the Psychotria viridis plant and the stalks of the Banisteriopsis caapi vine and has been used in regions of the Amazon for over a thousand years. Both of these have hallucinogenic properties. “The leaves of the P. viridis plant contain N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT), which is a strong psychedelic compound and the B. caapi vine contains MAO inhibitors (MAOIs) called beta-carbolines. MAOIs stop the body from breaking down DMT, which allows the psychedelic effects to materialize.”

Some people think that using natural medicines is just about getting high.  Well, that is not at ALL what this was about.  In fact, Sam and I are both full active members of a sanctioned Native American church (that requests anonymity) and follow all of their guidelines for using natural medicines as healing sacraments in the sacred ceremonies we held.  This wasn’t about a couple of people “partying”.  This was serious ceremonial work that we were doing in an attempt to understand and eliminate my cancer.

So the first medicine we used was psilocybin.  Now, due to logistics and timing, we had agreed that I would travel from RI to San Diego, CA over the Independence Day weekend.  And if you know anything about San Diego at this time of year, it might just be that they have a jet show.  And jets have to practice before the show.  And they just so happened to be practicing the first night that we took the mushrooms.  

I remember sitting on the patio, looking up at the sky, and feeling as though the fabric of reality was literally being shredded by “modern man” as the jets zoomed by.  It was so very painful to hear, and it felt like it went on and on and on, like the sky was just being ripped open over and over and over again.  And then it started to feel like I was being ripped open over and over and over.  I was sobbing.  And I was traveling.  My attention and energy was moving to the darkest parts of my subconscious, the place where I hurt the most, the place that had settled in my rectum and had morphed from emotional pain into this black, toxic tumor that meant to end me.  I knew that if I didn’t let my reality rip open and if I didn’t go into that dark and scary place, the toxicity would take over my body and would win.  And my children would be left motherless.  And that was just not an option.

So, I went into the darkest place of my mind and found that what was lurking there were things that were old and unexpected.  I was overwhelmed with pain and loss and grief that I thought I had worked through, that I thought I had appropriately dealt with and taken care of.  Yet, there it was.  Staring me in the face, laughing at me and making sure that I understood if I chose to ignore it any longer, I would simply not survive.

The experience felt like a birthing process.  I felt like I was trapped inside a cocoon that I needed to break free from, that I needed to emerge from, that I needed to grow out of and in spite of.   

We started our journey at sunset and I ended up falling asleep on the floor inside the house around 2am or so.  I awoke a few hours later, all alone in the room illuminated with just a few candles.  I quietly tip-toed up to my room and went back to sleep.  I was exhausted.  I felt like I had just completed an emotional gauntlet.  I was tired.  I was spent.  I was clean.  And I felt ready to do more work.

We took the next day off from journey work so we both could replenish our energy from the night before.  But we were back at it the next night.  But this time felt different.  After the mushrooms started coming on, I felt like an empty vessel that was ready to receive whatever information the medicine had for me.  I felt as though I had purged everything that I had needed to.  It was then that my Shaman asked me if the cancer served me, to which I said no.  He then asked if I would like it to be gone.  I answered yes.  So he began working on my tumor. 

He started by asking me to take deep breaths from my crown and breath light through me and with intention direct it to my tumor.  Sam helped to facilitate the light to do its thing, to do its job, to literally light up the place in my body that was so dark (tumors are black, btw).  My job was to invite it in and allow it to do its job.

As I was laying on the stone deck and he laid his hands over me, I felt an agonizing pain that I had never before felt.  And I felt the cancer….leave my body.  I felt it pulled out of me by some unseen force.  And I knew it was gone.  And I knew I would survive.

Sam told me, long after our journey that, “It is really interesting, this whole “allowing” consciousness that you embodied [during our journey], and the entire story of what it took to embody this level of consciousness – because you must be able to allow the light to do its thing, and all you have to do is be amazed at the beauty.”

The next morning my Shaman’s partner shared that while we were working, she saw a plant in her garden flower for the first time in years.  YEARS.  Magic had happened the night before.  And I felt confident that this cancer was not going to kill me.  I felt confident that this cancer was meant to teach me.

My Shaman wanted to take me on one more journey using Ayahuasca.  His brother, the one that eradicated his cancer using the same natural medicines that we were using, went first so I could see what an Ayahuasca journey looked like.  He also participated because it seemed so very fitting given our circumstances.

When it was my turn to start my journey, and I took the Ayahuasca for the first time, nothing really happened.  This happened over and over.  I was getting frustrated.  And I was getting discouraged.  I wanted to be given a message.  I wanted to know what the Universe wanted me to do.  I remember starting to feel almost desperate.  

And then it happened.  The Ayahuasca Gods let me in.  My trip began with me walking down a hallway lined with what appeared to be inflatable tube people, you know like you see at Valvoline.  These happy, silly, dancing tube people tried to distract me from my path, as I was told by Sam that they would.  So I kept my eyes forward, and kept on walking.  Then suddenly I was hiding behind a rocky wall, peeking down into some sort of quarry.  It reminded me of that scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom where they look down over the side of the wall and see a bunch of enslaved children working and mining whatever treasure it was that they were trying to find.  Only in my vision, it wasn’t children doing the work. It was these tiny beings of fire, like the light of a candle.  And the treasure that they were mining looked like golden rivers of light.  I kept hearing over and over “mine the light, mine the light, mine the light.”  

As I finished the trip and came back to the room, I shared my experience with Sam.  He was amazed.  I was frustrated.  I wanted to find out HOW to mine the light.  So back in I went.  Only this time instead of seeing a quarry of light, I saw a well of light.  It was then that I realized that the Gods of the Ayahuasca had given me all of the information they were planning on giving me and that all of my other questions were something that would be revealed at a later time.

And then the next morning I flew back home to RI.  I felt different.  I felt empowered.  And I believed from the tip of my head to the bottom of my toes, with every inch of my soul, that cancer would not end my life any time soon.  It was with this knowledge that I was able to find the courage to embark on the painful journey that Western medicine was about to send me on.

In the words of Black Elk, “And while I stood there I saw more than I can tell and I understood more than I saw; for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit, and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being.”

So please mine your light.  Because you, yes YOU impact all that is around you.  

And please get your screenings.  

Thank you all.  Thank you Universe.  Thank you, yes YOU.