I met Phillip Scott just after I finished treatment for breast cancer, through a weekly sacred circle, a Sacred Hoops class that he taught at my oncologist’s office.
I knew nothing about spiritual healing at the time and nothing about Native traditions. My case had involved three separate tumors, with extensive vascular and lymphatic invasion. After a full year of chemotherapy, radiation and surgeries, my doctors had done all that western medicine could offer with no guarantee that it would help.
In attending Phillip’s class, I was focused on physical healing – the only marker of health I understood. Without fully understanding the purpose, I followed Phillip’s instructions and made an altar and began, awkwardly, to pray. In the first two class meetings we went on shamanic journeys and met spirit guides, and this was a foreign concept for me. I had an individual meeting with Phillip and during it he performed a soul retrieval. I liked the concept that I was regaining a part of myself, but I still wondered if anything had actually happened.
Then, three days after the soul retrieval I woke in the middle of the night. Information about my life – issues I had struggled with; forks in the road that I had taken – I suddenly saw with clarity. Over the next few weeks, magical things happened, as if I was being shown glimpses of another world. I fell so deeply and passionately in love with every living thing, I didn’t think about cancer.
Instead, I took a workshop Phillip gave on fearlessness. In the months that followed, I let go of a lifetime terror of snakes; I also bungee jumped off a bridge. During this time many patients I had met in treatment were struggling with post-treatment depression, insomnia, low blood counts, and frequent colds and flu, while I felt increasingly more balanced. I encouraged my friends to come to ceremony, but they were not always open to it.
That winter Phillip’s wife died suddenly. This was a time of real sadness and a time when I learned about prayer. I stopped thinking about myself and about words and just talked as if God were sitting next to me and I was asking how to make sense of the world. Many people I loved died that year. I was beginning to learn about nature for the first time even though I was forty-one years old – I began to see the cycles of life in a tree or an early spring butterfly.
Still a bit underweight and frail, I would crawl into the purification lodges Phillip led and listen to the songs and prayers in the dark. My physicians were uncertain as to whether I should be in such heat, but I found my strength there. In one of the first lodges I attended I silently questioned whether “there are really any spirits around.” A few seconds later they appeared in vivid form. I never discounted the lodge again.
Ten months after I had finished chemotherapy and radiation, Phillip put me on Vision Quest for four days in Chico, California. By then I had become one of his students in the Indigenous Lifeways Program, and I was attending workshops and ceremony regularly. Despite the possibility of recurrence and the deaths of fellow patients I had loved and known, I felt an inner peace. During this time I had started a business; I was involved with family and friends. My oncologist asked me to teach a class for other patients about re-inventing oneself after cancer, and since then I have given several different classes for other cancer organizations.
When I first met Phillip – in the first Sacred Hoops class I attended – he instructed us to sing every day, dance every day, pray every day, and meditate every day. I continue to do this. I have now been in remission for over five years. Someday I will die, but I will go having learned to listen to the rain and the wind and the bird, and the silence. I am grateful that my oncologist helped me find a spiritual doctor in Phillip Scott, and grateful that Phillip continues to help me find a connection to the Mystery that is greater than mere survival. This is my story.