Gratitude. We all understand the concept, but every so often, I hear a story about the power of this tool that truly blows me away.
When Valerie was first diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer, she described it as being emotionally jarring. Chances are it would be for any of us, but for Valerie, the shock was especially strong. Here she was, an active middle-aged woman, healthy by anyone’s standards.
“How could this happen to me?” She wondered.
As you’ll find out throughout this story, the next several months took Valerie from being bedridden and unable to walk, to literally climbing a mountain.
And it all centered around gratitude as a profound tool for healing.
With Val’s help, I will recount her whole story here. But first, I want to share a few things that I, personally, am grateful for.
First, I am grateful that I get to work with incredibly strong, brave, and kind women every day. That I get to not only have a role in their healing, but simply know and learn from them.
I’m grateful for you, my readers, for being open, receptive, and so thoughtful in your comments and responses to the information and stories that I share. I’m incredibly grateful, of course, for my family, my friends, my own health, and the life that I lead.
Finally, I am so grateful for Val for having the grace and generosity to share her powerful story with all of us today.
This story is about the kind of gratitude that we can learn to practice and carry with us well beyond the Thanksgiving holiday, and that we can use to guide, change, and heal our lives and ourselves.
Let’s jump in.
For the first two months after her shocking diagnosis, Valerie stayed in bed or on the couch. She couldn’t sit up, because it was too uncomfortable.
Val describes those days as being long and challenging. Especially because she’d always been such an active person, it was so difficult to be forced to just lie there with her thoughts.
Val went through surgery, and started radiation. Even through all of the pain and uncertainty, Val says of this time:
“I was filled with fear, but at the same time had a knowingness that I was going to be okay.”
Her family never left her side. They were at every appointment with her, at home with her, holding her hand, bathing her, and caring for her deeply, for which Val felt a deep and profound gratitude. Her friends formed a prayer group, and several community churches added her to their prayer list.
It was also around this time that Val became more deeply aware of the work of the writer, scientist, and healer, Dr. Joe Dispenza. She had been following him to some extent for a few years, and knew his work was powerful. But now, with her condition, Val’s family encouraged her to practice his meditations daily, and make them a pillar in her healing journey.
Dr. Joe Dispenza’s approach to mindset
Dr. Joe Dispenza is an author, scientist, and healer, whose work centers around “demystifying the mystical”, and showing people how they can use their own minds to change their lives. His bestselling book, You Are The Placebo, uses research in neuroscience, psychology, physics, hypnosis, and beyond to break down how we can all harness the placebo effect to heal ourselves.
In addition to his writings, Dr. Joe records meditations and runs events designed to help people push past their personal limits and create their own new consciousness by changing the way they think.
A major component of Dr. Joe’s work centers around the healing power of gratitude, and this is a key pillar of his meditations and teachings.
How Meditation & Gratitude Worked For Valerie
One of the first things Val noticed was how the meditations actually helped to alleviate her pain.
This may be surprising to some, but several studies have demonstrated that mindfulness and meditation practices can significantly improve chronic pain.
For Val, though, it wasn’t just pain relief. Through meditations that incorporated gratitude as a mindset, Val was encouraged to envision her future self – a future that some in her position would maybe never have dreamed of.
Throughout this time, Valerie was still bedbound, unable to walk.
But although there were days when she couldn’t even find the energy to meditate, she was committed to the work. She understood that she had the power, through her own mind, to take the lead in her healing.
She knew that she had to start seeing herself as healthy, active, and living her most fulfilling life.
Dr. Dispenza’s book, You Are the Placebo, as well as his meditations, were helping. And then, Val’s daughter surprised her by registering Val for one of Dr. Joe’s in-person healing retreats.
One day, leading up to the retreat, Valerie’s husband brought her home a pair of crutches. She started finding her way out of bed, with hope and enthusiasm. And there was no stopping her now. With her crutches, Val began walking around inside, then outside, eventually getting into a routine of daily meditation and walking laps around the house.
Val’s mindset shifts were already working. And then she got to the retreat.
Some of the people Val met at the event had already been to these retreats and experienced their power.
“By the end of this event, you won’t be needing your crutches,” a few people said to her.
For some, it may seem incredible that a mindset-focused event could have this kind of impact on a person’s physical health. But Val understood how deeply intertwined our minds and bodies truly are. These words of encouragement increased her confidence, and she began to feel that it was a real possibility: she could be walking again after this week.
On the first day, she used a wheelchair. The distance between her hotel room and the event was long, and at this point, one of her feet was twice the size of the other.
On the second day, she used her crutches. With those crutches, she began to walk back and forth between the hotel and the event three times daily, in addition to daily walking meditations. This added up to almost 3 miles a day.
Every day, Valerie and the other attendees learned, meditated, and healed together. In Val’s own words:
“It opened me up to see the life I had been living, “surviving” for years. The information he shared was profound for me! Every meditation, every session, with Dr. Joe had me feeling stronger even though my body was letting me know loudly that it didn’t want to change. I pushed through anyway. I could feel energy moving through my body and clearing out old patterns and ways of thinking and being.”
On the final day of the event, Valerie walked out completely on her own, holding her crutches up in the air.
Where Valerie is now
So, what happened next? After the retreat, Val continued to use one crutch for a while as she continued to improve her strength– both mental and physical. She was able to reduce the dose of her pain medication, and walk around her neighborhood regularly and comfortably with her single crutch.
Within a month, she was walking wherever she wanted to, with no crutches. And a little over a month after the event, she was– incredibly– literally climbing a mountain.
I’ll leave it to Val to expand on how she’s feeling these days:
“My mindset has completely changed- thankfully! I fell back in love with myself and with life. I now enjoy everything! Getting out of bed on my own, cooking meals, cleaning the house, getting in and out of the shower; these simple tasks mean everything to me now. I meditate 1-3 times a day. There is nothing that will stop me from doing this. It’s so important to me and I see how it’s changed me completely. I’m more at peace with myself and my life. I’m out of survival mode. I strive every day to be present as much as possible because it keeps me out of thought and allows me to soak in this beautiful life! I’m excited about my future because I’m creating it every day!
My healing journey has been empowered by two strong pillars; Dr. Joe Dispenza and an incredible support system. Without either, I don’t know what my days would look like. I encourage anyone reading this to look up Dr. Joe and weave his lessons into your healing journey as you see fit. I would also encourage you to share your struggles with those you love, as a strong support system is irreplaceable when you’re on a difficult path. People are looking for a reason to reach out and help. Don’t be afraid to give them that excuse that opens the door for their love and support.
As Dr. Joe says, “Live like your prayers have already been answered.” And that’s exactly what I do!”
How to change your life with gratitude
Valerie’s story is clearly remarkable– but the truth is, gratitude and mindset have the power to change anyone’s life. Here are a few ways you can introduce or deepen your own gratitude practice in order to heal and thrive.
- Keep a gratitude journal. Listing what you’re thankful for doesn’t have to be limited to Thanksgiving! Keeping a gratitude journal– whether it’s online or on paper– is a great way to get into the habit of feeling and experiencing more thankfulness.
- Find a meditation practice that works for you. There are several apps and resources available online that can help you learn and/or practice meditation, including the Insight Timer and Headspace. Dr. Joe Dispenza’s meditations are available here.
- Send thank you notes and love letters. Showing and telling the people you care about that you’re grateful for them can help to deepen both your own feelings of gratitude and your personal connections.
- Visualize the way you want to feel and live. A huge part of what helped Val was imagining that she was the healthy, active, vibrant person she knew herself to be– even when she was unable to walk– until she really believed it, and it really happened. Make it a practice to close your eyes and visualize how you want to feel as though you are currently feeling that way. You may also find it helpful to write down how you want to feel, and/or create a vision board that you can refer back to.
From bedridden to mountain climbing
I hope this story helps you understand that you can heal from and overcome just about anything, with the power of your own mind.
While all of our stories look a little bit different, many can achieve their own version of the transformation from bedridden to mountain climbing, with mindset and gratitude, and continuous emotional work. I’m grateful to witness the power of these tools every day.
I really did not expect to see the changes in Val, but am so grateful to be reminded this is possible.