And that is precisely what happened to me ten years ago when I was diagnosed with cancer of the colon. Since I felt great, I had doubts about the accuracy of the diagnosis, and requested to see the biopsy along with a pathologist. Sure enough, with the aid of a microscope, I saw with my own eyes the little cells, all bunched up like globs of red mud. How did that happen? I wondered.
All went well until September 1996, when a routine physical exam revealed that my CEA count – an indicator of carcinogenic activity – was up. Another blood test shortly thereafter showed the CEA count going up rapidly. Further exams were conducted, during which two suspicious looking dark shadows were seen on the right lobe of my liver. A biopsy was soon performed on the tissue taken from the shadowed area. The verdict from the pathologist: the Big C.
While waiting for the results, I went to the
I turned first to Dr. Andrew Weil, who recommended the following: 1) have the tumor surgically removed, if possible; 2) start taking micro-doses of maitake mushroom extract; 3) read Michael Lerner’s book, Choices in Healing.
The surgeon (aptly named Dr. Payne) removed the right half of my liver on November 26, 1996. During the following five days I was attached to several catheters, one of which shot morphine directly into my spine. It was not until my discharge from the hospital that I realized how badly my body had been assaulted, not just by the surgeon’s knife, but by a mixture of drugs that are part of the arsenal of invasive surgery. The thought of further assault by chemotherapy was frightening.
In early April I heard of a group doing ayahuasca on the
After some preliminary church rituals, we lined up to take our first cup of the brew just after sundown. A second dose was given about two and a half hours later. Within twenty minutes I began to feel what seemed like a faintly familiar rippling effect coursing throughout my body. As I looked around the room, I noticed that others were doing the same, while shifting in their chairs and trying to sing the church versions of icaros in Portuguese. At this point, I began to wonder if I had made the right decision.
As others have reported, I saw plants, serpents, birds and jaguar-like animals soaring, swirling, twisting and racing at almost lightning speed throughout my entire system, as though they were exploring a new habitat. At first, they didn’t pay any attention to me, even though I tried to stop them long enough to have a closer look. Before long, however, one of them would race up to me, pause momentarily, then rush off as though it had urgent business somewhere else. Then another would come up in my face, and do the same thing. There was no time for any communication between myself and the things that I was seeing. It was as though they wanted to take a complete inventory of who I was and what was going on inside me before they were ready to talk.
The group of sixty gathered again the following evening for a second “works,” which I entered with much less trepidation, hoping for another bit of insight from the plant. That proved to be a false hope, probably because the plant had nothing more to tell me. Nevertheless, during the second trip I again felt the presence of the plant racing throughout my body, peeking and poking into every nook and cranny in search of something to work on, to straighten out, to put back in order, to polish. There was a definite presence, with similar shapes, colors and sounds. But, unlike the first time, there was no message that I could discern. The plant was just busy doing its work.
By good fortune, I met a person who had studied ayahuasca in
About one month after that memorable night, I revisited Pupukea Highlands for another session, this time with a different mix of six people. I was prepared for a repeat experience, another exciting exploration and reassurance from the plant. But, that was not to be.
Approximately two weeks after that session, I went for my scheduled visit with the oncologist. He greeted me warmly, and told me the results of my blood test the week before, which showed that my CEA count – the cancer activity indicator was not just normal. It was below normal! When he asked me what I had been doing to bring that about, I asked him if he had ever heard of ayahuasca. His reply was what one would expect from a physician trained in western allopathic medicine. I got as far as explaining that it is a medicinal plant used for centuries in the Amazon by shamans and healers, at which point he raised his eyebrows, shrugged his shoulders, and was no doubt thinking to himself, “Where did this nut come from anyway?” He ended the office visit with the pronouncement, “You’re one of the lucky few.”