In Her Words: Mikiala Spadaro
We are thrilled to share the incredibly brave and inspiring healing journey of Mikiala Spadaro whose perspective and wisdom gives us the chills (in a great way). A mother, wife, holistic health enthusiast and yoga teacher, she was diagnosed at 41 with the fastest proliferating and most aggressive form of breast cancer, HERS2+, finding a tumor the size of a small kiwi. Following her intuition and advice from a combination of western medicine and integrative doctors, Mikiala approached cancer with an open heart, and the knowledge and skills she had been unconsciously gathering throughout her entire life.
"The tumor was part of my body, and like everything, it needed attention and love. I could choose fear or love. I chose to give love to the cancer. I surrendered to it. I called it my greatest teacher. I respected her. She and I were one. I thanked her as I felt her melt away. Cancer, like a shadow, presented the opportunity to connect with parts of myself, which I realized had been disconnected for many generations," she explained.
With ample research and from a centered place, she set down a multifaceted treatment path, which used a combination of standard allopathic chemotherapy along with a handful of alternative choices and modalities, such as a ketogenic diet, water fasting, IV therapy, breathwork, meditation and more. Rather than treating just the symptoms of the dis-ease, she wanted to cure her whole self, keeping her immune system strong and protected from her body’s reactions to the chemo treatments. To read more about Mikiala's awakening experience with cancer, learn more about her detailed treatment plan, and hear what she would tell her younger self or other women who have been recently diagnosed (and so much more), see Mikiala's In Her Words here.
Name: Mikiala Spadaro
Location: New Mexico
Current Health Status: Cancer Free! NED as of 8/28/19
Tell us about yourself.
I crack myself up multiple times a day....and shed tears almost as often. Most of all, I practice breathing. I have always felt an awareness of the inner connection, the continuous expansion, and path of discovery I, and we, are on. I love being a creator and I find art to be one of the most fun ways to align. Teaching yoga has been a great gift of devotion and union. I am grateful for my own yoga practice as it invites an embodiment of source energy, as well as a means to find comfort in physical form. I especially love coaching and supporting others in finding and following their inner truth. I am grateful to be married to a magnificent partner, friend, lover and father. Being a mother has been in my heart forever. We were graced by the birth of our son, now 5, who continues to fill our hearts with the love we all are at our core. I feel blessed.
When were you diagnosed with breast cancer?
In August of 2018, I had a manual breast exam with the results being normal. I also checked my own breasts regularly, mostly playing with them. That November my aunt died from breast cancer – and as if a relay baton was handed over on her way out, in December, I found a kiwi-sized lump. I was officially diagnosed in January 2019 at the age of 41.
What were your first thoughts when you were diagnosed?
Honestly, even before hearing the diagnosis, one of my very first thoughts was a sense of how receiving cancer was something bigger than just me. It gave me comfort to feel how I would be better equipped to support others in many aspects. I could feel the new perspective unfolding. Then, on the day they took the biopsy, I floated up out of my body and almost fainted. The mammographer caught me and I burst into tears. I could visually see the 3D reality pixelating, which lasted many days. It was like I was waking up from a dream. When I met with the surgeon and oncologist, they had me super scared with statements like, “not seeing my son turn five.” Even though I went in centered, by the time I got home I fell to the floor balling, thinking “I am going to die.” This was the beginning of my journey to facing death, and recognizing what a gift it was and continues to be.
How did your friends and family take the news?
My husband stayed strong and said we will get through this together. My mom helped me follow the 'bread crumbs' to figure out what healing path was best for me. I am sure she was as scared as was I, but deep down she believed I would survive and so did I. My friends all held space for my healing. I'm not sure what they felt behind the scenes. I think they saw me as strong and willful with great purpose to live. Tears were shed and there was so much generosity of love.
Describe your treatment and how you arrived at that course of action.
My treatment plan was multifaceted. I treated and continue to treat my whole self, rather than just the symptoms of the dis-ease. If my body was not in ease, even after eating organic, exercising regularly, taking supplements, being madly in love and following the career of my heart, then it was time to look outside the box. First step was to get centered. Breathing, meditation and emotional release became part of my treatment from the very first day. I realized if I was coming strictly from a place of fear, I could potentially block myself from something which could be beneficial; specifically, the allopathic cancer treatments which I previously proclaimed I would never use. Since I have leaned to the alternative side when it comes to treating dis-ease, I had to do quite a lot of research to figure out how I wanted to proceed. The oncologist wanted me to start the standard allopathic chemotherapy treatment immediately, but I insisted on taking two weeks to sort out my decision. I also felt I needed to choose for myself or I’d be giving away my power. I believe we can eat the healthiest food and still make ourselves sick if we feel guilty while eating it. In the same regard, we know from the placebo effect whatever we believe is the results we will get. I needed to believe western medicine could help in my healing or it wouldn’t offer the greatest results possible. I researched, watched alternative documentaries, looked into many alternative treatment clinics, talked to integrative oncologists and even had an intuitive medical medium reading. I was getting hits on particular treatments, like 'ketogenic diet' and 'water fasting,' even before diagnosis. The integrative doctors confirmed the plan I had come up with after all my research and soul searching. Having the fastest proliferating, aggressive HERS2+ tumor, size 3T, created an opportunity for me to open my heart to all treatments available. I found a mixture of supportive alternative treatments to support my body while I hit the tumor with the allopathic treatments of chemo (18 treatments over 20 weeks). I was so clear I had chosen the best treatment plan for myself, I was even excited to go get the chemo. What?! True story! And after two chemotherapy treatments, the oncologist said at this point in treatment he would be happy if it hadn't grown or spread. Well, it actually shrunk by 70%!
One month after finishing the chemotherapy, I had a bi-lateral mastectomy with results of no evidence of disease.
During treatments I ate tons of greens, clean protein and healthy fats (olive, coconut, avocado, some nuts) to keep myself in a ketogenic energy state. By burning fat for fuel, I kept my glucose low, which helped starve the cancer. While burning fat, it was easier to drop in and out of 80 hours of water fasting each week around the chemotherapy treatments. Research showed me water fasting 48 hours before chemotherapy and at least another 24 hours following treatment, could possibly add to the effectiveness of the chemotherapy and lesson side effects. I had barely any side effects, none worth noting, other than the typical hair loss. I could have avoided losing my hair by wearing a cold cap the day of chemotherapy, but I could barely handle wearing the ice gloves and socks as it was. For the most part (I had easier days than others), I appreciated the ease of my hairless head. I had always wondered what it would be like to have a “shaved” head but hadn’t dared. Wigs were fun.
Three times a week, I also received high-level vitamin c infusions, along with a phosphatidylcholine IV infusion once a week, and colonics weekly. I continue mistletoe subcutaneous injections for immune boosting every other day. To support my body’s reactions to the chemo treatments, I consulted with a naturopathic oncologist who checked my blood monthly to monitor my daily supplements. I continue to have my blood monitored every couple months and adjust my supplements to support my wellness.
Were you able to work through treatment?
I did cut back on teaching yoga, mainly due to the time needed for IV treatments, fasting and the chemo. I was able to continue teaching restorative yoga, one time a week, through the treatments up until surgery. I had been teaching the same class for seven years prior, so the group and I had a special bond. The centering calmness and my supportive yoga family created a healing energy for our well-attended Sunday class.
Where and how did you find the best care?
I believe each person has their own path of healing and allowing wellness. There is no one-size fits all. Western medicine will often brush the integrative techniques and lifestyles to the side, but then they do not have a 100% success rate and often have many side effects. And vice versa, I found many alternative groups pointing fingers at western medicine with derogatory comments. However, alternative treatments have also both succeeded and failed. The observer effect plays a role and I am grateful to have experienced the power of the two sides of healthcare working together to fit my unique needs. The doctors all really cared for me and they offered the best care they knew. I had some good recommendations, including the naturopathic oncologist who was the perfect fit for integrating the alternative with the allopathic treatments. I have great love and appreciation for every one of the doctors and nurses who have cared for me.
Did you receive any additional support or alternative therapies? If so, what kind, and were they beneficial?
For whole being wellness, I continue to appreciate emotional release through breathwork. Honoring how I am feeling was and is integral. Daily meditation, even sometimes two or three times a day when things were more intense, such as after diagnosis, following surgery or on more challenging days, continues to be most necessary for coherent connection. I now see an acupuncturist who is assisting in emotional, physical and hormonal balance. Bio-field tuning has been recently introduced. There are so many powerful modalities, and I continue to say yes to inspiration. Healing goes way beyond the treatments which addressed the tumor; I still find layers of myself healing.
What or who have been your biggest supports? Who makes up your cancer tribe?
Life-long friends, new friends, yoga friends and friends of friends all showered me with generosity and care. I feel very loved. Our cancer tribe really is the whole world at this point. Most everyone has been touched by someone who experienced cancer. I felt so much compassion, more than I have ever allowed myself to feel, even from strangers. Those who traveled the cancer journey in the past were the greatest supporters. I have now had the honor of supporting a few women in their early stages of diagnosis, witnessing the power of them finding their alignment, which also feeds the circle of our tribe. My family and besties have felt like a love blanket.
What has been one of the most challenging aspects of the experience for you?
Trusting, letting go and receiving, none of which would be possible without breathing. It is a daily practice and continues to be. The pain of the surgeries and the changes in my body have also been big challenges.
What is one thing you wish you knew before you were diagnosed?
The sayings 'God doesn’t give you more than you can handle (with an open heart)' and 'when the student is ready the teacher appears,' now makes sense to me. Throughout my life, without even realizing it, I had been gathering skills necessary to approach cancer with an open heart. And when I had questions, needed help or confirmation, the Universe provided. If I would have listened, I would have told my younger self to relax, receive, surrender and breath for heaven's sake! But it took the wake up call of cancer to propel me into an even deeper dedication to connection and for this I am grateful.
Is there a particular mantra or inspiration that helps you?
My mirror is covered (Sharpie pens wash off glass!) with inspiring mantras supporting being open to all outcomes (the highest good for all), to (let go and let god) and to remind me that our body self-heals without resistance.
"F*** cancer" is a popular saying. However, the things we resist, persist. There is a fight against cancer and yet we have more cancer than ever. What if we listened instead? What if, in order to heal, we must let go of resistance in our body, feelings, thoughts and even the distrust we have around cancer? The tumor was part of my body, and like everything, it needed attention and love. I could choose fear or love. I chose to give love to the cancer. I surrendered to it. I called it my greatest teacher. I respected her. She and I were one. I thanked her as I felt her melt away. Cancer, like a shadow, presented the opportunity to connect with parts of myself, which I realized had been disconnected for many generations.
If you could offer a woman, who has been newly diagnosed, some words of wisdom for her journey, what would you tell her?
Everyone is on a unique path. Clarity comes from alignment with our inner-guide and even the scariest challenges can be greeted with openness. Cancer is an invitation to receive, to align with our truest self. Become your own advocate (doctors are great consultants), self-care like never before and listen to your feelings. There are no regrets when it comes from connection. Remember we do not call a cold “My Cold”, as we understand it is just passing through. Why personally claim cancer? 'The cancer,' 'the tumor' or even more empowering, 'the teacher' is what I respectfully call it. Cancer does, after all, bring many eye openers.
For hope, inspiration and mind opening, pick up a copy of “Radical Remission.”
What are you most proud of in your cancer journey?
I have woken up to subconscious programming which needed updating and I continue to shed what no longer works for me. Heart coherence is no longer a theory; my heart feels activated. I am trusting. Everything does seem to continuously work out, even when it doesn’t always feel like it will. I am committed to following my joy. And no more waiting to relax. I am practicing relaxing now. The stream leads to a river which leads to the ocean. A daily moment-to-moment practice of letting go and allowing the flow, emotions being a key indication when I am following my joy or putting my true self on hold.
How has breast cancer affected your outlook on life? On illness?
Although to others I appeared to be the picture of health, I had the practice of confusing my sensitivity with weakness. Then, upon diagnosis, I did a 180 and began to focus on the wellness I am. It’s still a practice, more important than ever now post healing, as cancer and hypochondria aren’t the kindest pair. I am catching myself when I go into fight, flight or freeze a habitual practice passed through the generations and established, personally, early in childhood. I am finding ways to melt back into being.
How have you changed?
It feels like I continue to become more of who I truly am and less of who I am not.