We are very honored and proud to once again host Lisa Brisse as an instructor on Spinning® Digital! Lisa has been on quite a journey since you last spotted her wide smile on the big screen. And while it hasn’t been the easiest journey by any stretch of the imagination, Lisa’s attitude, perseverance, and innate healing ability to move through cancer with grace, dignity, and chutzpah will astound you. Before you run to Spinning® Digital to ride with Lisa again, read on to get caught up on this phase of Lisa’s “life ride.”
It’s July 13th and I’m driving to the Spinning® studio at Mad Dogg Headquarters to teach and film my first Spinning® Digital class in over a year. Everything feels SURREAL.
Lisa’s video driving to the studio:
Ten short months ago, I lay in a hospital bed with a ten-inch abdominal incision and various tubes and IVs passing in and out of my body. Yikes. Nothing like an ovarian cancer diagnosis to instigate the greatest healing gift of my life. I was diagnosed in August, 2019, and a lot has happened since then. I’m honored to have the opportunity to catch you up on some of the details of my journey as well as to share what has propelled me forward with the ongoing healing process.
|Let’s be honest and call a spade a spade. The body is a miracle and resilient beyond belief.|
The truth is if I were looking for a prime opportunity to put this single belief into practice -- as a lifelong athlete, established exercise physiologist, and soul on a perpetual spiritual quest -- I certainly have that chance. Cancer will do that.
So, what does it mean to heal? Pure and simple: to bring oneself back into alignment with wholeness. In other words, to reclaim our light and power that somehow got lost and/or left behind along the way.
It doesn’t matter how strong we appear on the outside; the truth lies in what we deal with on the inside. And even though we can’t “see” inside to know the fullness of what’s going on in there, the physical body (on the outside) gives us clues. The physical body is our greatest messenger in that it communicates to our mind what our soul needs us to know. Our degree of health and well-being -- as well as any imbalance and dis-ease -- is reflected through our body. In essence, my cancer experience has been a real-life Humpty Dumpty story of putting Lisa Brisse back together again.
But to get back to where this story begins, I was on my way to Mad Dogg to film my first ride in a year — a class I felt inspired to call Get Up & Glow. It serves as a motto for all of my healing journey, but most significantly, the last ten months since my second major surgery as well as six subsequent rounds of chemo, which ended in March 2021.
So how do you “get up and glow” on the emotional roller coaster that is cancer? You don’t just get over cancer like a cold. It’s a marathon process to re-balance the entire inner terrain that allowed cancer to insert itself in the first place. I’ve explored various modalities to bring about that healing, but I have a few of the key ones that I’d love to share with you.
The Power of Belief and Visualization
I can clearly recall that powerful phone call from my dear friend, a fellow Spinning® instructor, while I lay in that bed at Saint John’s Hospital last October.
“Lisa, get some headphones and put on one of your favorite Spinning® playlists. Lay there and imagine that you’re teaching. See it. Feel it. Your cells have memory. You have to let them know that this is not the end…remind them what you intend to do again one day. Let the music move you.”
Best words ever. As a firm believer and teacher of the power of our thoughts, beliefs and visions are to create reality, I got right to it. So there I lay -- headphones on, eyes closed, groovin’ in my bed, literally speaking out loud as though I was back in the saddle teaching. My cells were feelin’ it, and I couldn’t help but smile. The pain seemed to go away temporarily.
The nearby nurses were amused by my unconventional and upbeat “coping mechanisms.” But truly, it only started with dancing in bed… I also began walking the hallways with my IV in tow. More inspired, I also mixed in some bodyweight strengthening exercises. Sit-to-stands, calf raises and wall push-ups…I was going to let my body know…I am choosing life and there is much more life to live, cancer or not!
Movement Equals Life.Life is constantly moving and we must too if we wish to be along for the ride. So every single moment of my day revolves around some form of movement. That, along with plenty of sleep and rest, proper nutrition and daily meditation, has been a must for me.
Yet even with all of this self-care, I still had to face a necessary though scary “beast” – chemo. Admittedly not a huge fan of pharmaceuticals of any kind (I hardly took Tylenol in my 50 years prior to cancer), accepting the reality of chemotherapy was tough for me.
My perspective did shift after a sage sentiment from my therapist though. “Is it possible to move to a place of neutrality about chemo instead of having so much resistance about it?” I understood what she meant -- the thoughts we bring into any situation are SO important. To manifest the best possible outcome, I had to bless the crap out of chemo to allow it to help me. It also helped to remember the power of Divine Alchemy, and I prayed for chemo to move, shift, and morph into divine healing. As I said earlier, the process is onging.
Village Assistance Kindles the Fire
Along with my own self-care, I’ve been blessed by an amazing group of family and friends. They zoomed with me every night before chemo to pray and meditate for the best possible outcome! Coming from someone who has prided herself in being fiercely independent, you can imagine how humbling opening myself to the assistance of others—physically, emotionally, spiritually and financially--has been.
Even Mad Dogg Athletics stepped in to provide me with a bike! I can’t tell you what that meant to me and to all the cells in my body that craved a ride! Having that bike in my home, so I could pedal at any moment, that was a key part of my healing process.
At one point, I remember feeling quite fatigued with a power output of 70 watts -- a far cry from the 250-300 watts I clocked at the same rate of perceived exertion during my teaching days. As a physiologist, I found this interesting but not discouraging. Given what my body was going through—depleted and all -- I was actually quite proud of what I could do. And, thanks to the power meter on the bike, I could also feel my strength and power output increase as time went on. That bike brought me so much joy through what has been one of the “darkest nights of my soul.”
Food for Thought
As an exercise physiologist for almost 30 years, I’ve always talked about how the true investment in our future is not financial, rather it’s in our health. However, I will admit that when I received my cancer diagnosis, I felt like a fraud. I couldn’t help but think, “Well, that theory didn’t work. You got cancer.” It was tough.
I honestly didn’t know what to believe anymore -- it felt like my whole message to others (and myself) suddenly became obsolete. That was until recently when someone said to me, “Wow. Look at how your body has responded and healed with all it’s gone through. Obviously, it's because of the investment you made in your health your entire life including through cancer. You are an inspiration.”
All of a sudden, I thought of things differently. Now I believe life happens. We can’t always predict what crosses our path, but investing in our health does pay off. In my case, I’ve actually been humbled and in total awe of how readily my body has wanted to recover and heal itself.
Here are some the most important elements I have learned through my experiences so far that I believe apply to all of us – no matter the challenge or strife
1. Be Active and Move: Movement truly does equal life.
2. Attitude and Gratitude: Proper mindset can transform and heal even the darkest of circumstances.
3. One Present Moment at a Time: As the old Chinese proverb says, “A journey of 1000 miles starts with one single step.” It’s true. Stay present and just put one foot in front of the other.
4. Visualize and Believe: Our cells hear everything we think. Stay focused on what you desire. Do everything you can to imagine it and feel it in your body every day.
5. Eat Well, Sleep Lots and Meditate: Nourish your body, heart, mind and soul. We need to support our healthy cells as much as possible!
6. It Takes a Village: Lean into others; we are not an island. We need help. It’s not weakness, rather it takes our greatest strength to allow ourselves to be helped. The truth is, we all want to help each other, and when we do, we heal together!
7. Get Up and Glow! We all fall…many times. So what. Life may knock us down but not to take us out. So dig a little deeper to learn, grow and glow! Shine your unique light into the world!
8. Find Your Peace No Matter What the Circumstances. Waiting for just the right circumstances to be happy or be at peace wastes a lot of precious life. There is Only Today. No matter what our age, health or fitness level, we never know when it is our time. So live, love and laugh NOW.
As I always say at the end of my classes, “When we heal our heart, we heal our world.” I look forward to sharing our ride together! See you in Spinning® class!