Ever since I was little, I felt everything. I could feel the energy of the animals, the plants, the trees, as well as the energy and feelings of everyone around me. Basically, the world itself. It wasn’t until I was a teenager, however, that I became tuned into what being an empath and/or intuitive actually meant, and it opened my heart and mind even more. I wanted to understand the deeper meaning of our life on this planet, as well as to learn as much as I could about our soul’s purpose for being here. My life’s quest became about learning and living the true spiritual nature of who we are on every level of being. What I know for sure is that I have always had a deep and profound caring for humanity, animals and this planet, and I wanted to serve... to make the world a better place. I also know that everything in our life is here for us...to grow, to expand, to heal and to love. Even when it takes us to the darkest night of our soul. . .
Fast-forward to May 30th, 2019…There I was, inspired while immersed in the World Spinning® & Sports Conference (WSSC) in Miami. I was there courtesy of Mad Dogg Athletics as one of their Spinning® Digital instructors—dreaming of presenting at next year’s conference. I had all of these ideas for creative rides that I could do, as well as talks that I could present… I was excited!
Sidenote: Only a few days later I was on a plane with five of my clients on our way to the Andes and Machu Picchu in Peru. It was another one of those things I was blessed to do—take people to an incredible and mystical part of the world for an unforgettable, life-changing journey of the heart, mind, body and spirit. As always, the trip didn’t disappoint. This was what my business, State of the Heart Fitness, was all about—helping people to connect to their hearts in every way, physically, emotionally and spiritually, especially while connecting with Mother Earth. I’ve always been so grateful to have a career that combines my love for people, health, fitness, nature, spirituality and travel into one.
On top of our 15,000+ pass en route to Machu Picchu
Little did I know what was about to cross my path when on August 8th, 2019, my life changed forever when my doctor told me I had cancer…
Fade to black…for a brief moment that felt like eternity, everything went silent.
As though I had been hit by a train and was coming back into consciousness, I slowly gathered myself after getting that mind-numbing call. I could barely move. I was in complete shock. I did everything I could to find the strength to phone my parents and beloved friends while being overcome with a guttural scream I had never known, “I am not going to die! I still have too much to do and live for! You need to know this! I AM NOT GOING TO DIE!”
No words can adequately describe the feeling of that moment. Writing about it brings back the intensity and fear of that horrendous reality. To say my life changed drastically in ways I could’ve never imagined is an understatement. All of a sudden—in stark contrast to my 50 years of being the “healthiest person anyone knew”—my life was no longer about Spinning® and playlists. Instead it was about everything oncology…CT and PET scans, blood draws, procedures that drained fluid from my abdomen, as well as an immediate and complete hysterectomy at UCLA Medical Center on August 22nd.
|OMG. How did I go from the top of a 15,000+ mountain pass in Peru—literally feeling on top of the world just two months prior—to laying in a hospital bed wondering what happened? How did I get here? It was beyond painful in every way.|
With Mom and Dad at UCLA Medical Center
Throughout my entire twenty-five year career as an Exercise Physiologist, Wellness Heart Coach and Spinning® Instructor, I preached about how the body is a miracle and innately programmed to heal no matter what.
I also taught about how any physical ailment or illness is simply the body’s way of sharing that somewhere along the road we got out of alignment with our heart and soul. Knowing this, I had to quickly remind myself that if I was experiencing some form of “dis-ease”—in my case, ovarian cancer—my body was crying out for immediate attention about where I had gone astray.
But wow, did I really believe that now or was it just lip service? It seemed that life was giving me a really HUGE opportunity to sort out what I really believed…amidst the fear. Let’s face it, when you think of cancer, you think death. No warm fuzzies, so you better tune in and get yourself together if you want to live. Cancer doesn’t mess around.
So, despite the frantic pace with which my life was spinning (but not in the way I wanted to be Spinning®)—going from one appointment to another everyday—I still managed to experience moments of peace and inner calm, which seemed surreal in the midst of what I was going through.
Yet, as a believer that nothing happens without a reason, and that ultimately we give every life experience the meaning with which we live, I remembered the teachings from Louise Hay, author of the book (and a bible of mine for many years) called You Can Heal Your Life. As one who cured herself from cancer in the ‘70s, she became a revolutionary teacher regarding the intimate connection between physical ailments, illness and disease to their corresponding emotional root cause. Essentially, if there is any suppressed or stuck energy, it will manifest in the physical body in one way or another. Apparently mine manifested as cancer. It felt so harsh.
Again, throughout my career, I had always taught my clients and students about the miracle of the body…that it is our friend, our messenger and the stage with which we shine our unique light into the world. I also taught that the body is simply a reflection of what is really going on inside our mental, emotional and spiritual levels; as well as the fact that every cell within the body is divinely programmed for health and balance. So if there is some form of “dis-ease,” —whether it be back pain, high blood pressure or cancer—somewhere we’ve abandoned ourselves.
|Well, life was sure giving me an opportunity to dig deep and truly walk the talk—not to mention, put those beliefs and concepts into practice. Did I really believe that? In the midst of it all, it was easy to be consumed with fear, but the truth is, through cancer, life had given me the chance—and the gift—to live my truth on every level.|
So, in my effort to make sense of how cancer found its way to me, I was fascinated to learn the emotional connection Louise stated in her book when it came to cancer. The key words that stood out to me, in particular, were “profound grief.” Whew. Yes. That hit deeply for me because the previous two years were full of lots of loss and grief.
On May 29, 2017, I experienced the biggest and most heart-wrenching loss of my life when Little Miss, my beloved horse and soul companion since I was 13 crossed over the Rainbow Bridge. She was 36, and I was so blessed to spend 35 magical years with her. She was my absolute best friend, my anchor and strength, and my safe place in this crazy world. But most of all, she was my greatest teacher about myself and life. I often said she was a Zen Master who came in the form of a horse to teach me, and I was her attentive and blessed disciple. So on that fateful day, when I was there with several other loved ones to witness Little Miss take her last breath, my world instantly changed – much like the grieving I experienced when I heard the doctor say, “You have cancer.” I wasn’t the same. My grounding in this physical world was gone.
Little Miss & Me on her 30th birthday, Santa Barbara Photo credit: Stacey Whittle
That next year and the year following, I experienced more subsequent losses, including the death of a dear long-time client of mine as well as losing a best friend to a geographic move across the country. Then there was the death of Little Miss’s companion, a horse named Josh, as well as the unexpected closing of the Fitness Center at the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel where I had my business (and community) for 17 years.
It was rough, to say the least. All the same, I continued to go through motions as I always had. “Lisa” that strong, buoyant, happy-go-lucky Spinning® Instructor I always was. In truth, I was far from it.
Instead, inside beneath what appeared on the surface, I felt horribly lost, disoriented and displaced. In fact, after my trip to Peru, I distinctly remember feeling like I didn’t know where I was going anymore. Yes, I had goals like presenting the next year at WSSC, but there was a HUGE gaping hole in my heart--a well of grief that seemed to have no bottom. In the meantime, I wondered…Where was I going? What did I want to do? What was my purpose anymore? Did I even have one? It was the first time in my 50 years where I didn’t really know…I couldn’t see a bigger picture, and it scared me.
While this journey may be difficult at times to stomach, it is also full of tremendous light....
I remember laying there miserable in the hospital during treatment when I got a hugely important phone call from one of my dear friends, Riley, also a fellow Spinning® instructor. I'll never forget her much needed words in that moment. She said, "Lisa, get yourself some headphones, find one of your favorite Spinning® playlists, and visualize yourself teaching. It's time to get things moving in your body so close your eyes and let that music move you. Imagine you're on that bike movin' and groovin' inspiring your peeps like you've always done and will do again!" Wow! It was amazing how quickly the vibration of joy hit the cells in my body. As I've always said, our cells hear everything we think; they take cues from where we put our mind. As soon as that music came on and speaking out loud as though I was teaching, my whole body began to hum; cell memory at its finest! I was amused by the nurses' reactions when they'd walk into my room and see me in my hospital bed with a smile on my face "dancing" in the very limited way I could. Probably not something they see very often, if ever. But, guess what? It worked!
To continue reading Lisa’s journey – which is marked by healing, miracles and an against-all-odds victory – as well as learn some of the meaningful insights and wisdom she has gleaned along the way, visit Lisa's blog.
Finally, if you are eager to know how Lisa fares today...well, she is truly on her way!
As you'll read in her blog:
I am happy to say that at the time of this writing, I recently finished my last round of chemo (my 6th of 6) as of March 11th. My cancer tumor marker number is back to normal and I’m feeling strong, healthy, vibrant and joyful once again. I’m back to training and coaching some clients as well teaching some of my online classes on Zoom twice a week. I’m even subbing some online Spinning® classes thanks to Mad Dogg Athletics who donated a bike to me back in November to literally help get me back in the saddle! Oh my! What a gift! It has brought me so much joy and has been hugely instrumental in my healing! Thank you, Mad Dogg! I'm keeping my eye on the prize visualizing being back in the studio for Spinning® Digital as soon as my body says, "yes."
Thank you, Lisa, for sharing your touching story with our Spinning® community.