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Miracles Happen…

July 31, 2012
By Guest Blogger
|33Comments|


It is crazy how time changes the way you look at things. There was a time when I could not have imagined being where I am today. A time so dark and scary that it literally took my breath away, crippling me with fear in a way only one’s threatened life could!

By the time I was 9, I had seen a lot. Truth is, most of the memories I have of my childhood are of the inside of Schneider’s Children’s Hospital. It is there where I sat among countless children who were suffering from life-threatening forms of cancer and other harrowing diseases. Images that I believe will be etched in my mind forever.

Gaucher’s disease, a rare genetic blood disorder compromising the major organs of my body, was what brought me to that hospital often. Thankfully, I was afforded the opportunity to leave while many precious children were left fighting for their lives.

My folks were told of all of the disturbing possibilities early on – that this disease had the potential of robbing me of my full life expectancy and that there was no known cure.Needless to say, they were pretty devastated. As far as I was concerned, I remained kind of clueless at the tender age of 9.

At 17, I was the sickest I had been. Most of my junior year of high school was spent in and out of the hospital. One of the treatments involved the removal of my 15-pound spleen (written up in the medical journals as one of the biggest spleens doctors had ever seen). Lying in that hospital bed the night before my surgery, looking down at my arms completely covered in broken blood vessels (a result of a dangerously low platelet count), I felt terrified and remember wondering whether I was going to die.

That night, as it turns out, was the most defining moment of my entire life. It has been the catalyst for everything else I’ve done. It has become the driving force behind fighting my fears and my disease itself. It is what helped me to understand that our mindset is our strongest tool to fight anything! In re-framing my belief system my whole world began to make sense. I was not like other kids; I had never felt like I belonged or that anyone could truly understand what I was going through. However, flipping the switch on my attitude changed all that. In fact, it has helped me to understand and to truly embrace that my disease is my gift in this lifetime!

I know this might sound odd to some, but I thank God for my disease. It has been what grounds me in life. It is what taught me, at an age where most kids were out partying,living in an illusion of immortality as most teenagers do, that life is precious! Because of my disease, I know that at any time life can be taken from me and that embracing each day as a blessing is the only way to live!

I soon adopted the slogan”carpe diem” (seize the day) and it became my motto for everything else I did! I enrolled in college and pushed through my fatigue because I could see no other option, and then a miracle happened.

In 1991, the FDA approved a genetic research project for the treatment of Gaucher’s disease. I soon was part of the study because I met the criteria of being in critical need and was blessed to be one of the first 40 people in the U.S. to receive this new infusion therapy. It is a treatment that actually replenishes my body with the enzyme that it’s missing to break down the Gaucher cells that build up in my liver and bones.

A real-life, true miracle unfolded before my eyes and literally saved my life. Over time, it began to reverse many of the symptoms and eventually brought me to a place of stablehealth. While working to accept the reality that I would have to adapt to a life where every other week for the rest of my life I would have to go for IV therapy, I was also in total gratitude for this gift given to me!

I’d be lying if I said that every day I showed up for treatment I was beaming with joy. Truth be told, dealing with a chronic illness and being imprisoned to”have” to show up for treatment in order to have that full life often brought out anger, depression and frustration. Getting a permanent”port” in my chest at 21 years old where they could easily access my veins to make life easier was often suggested but always refused by me. I just did not want to be reminded of this reality once I left the hospital!

This is when I really began to believe in the power of thought and positive energy. I started to believe that if I just showed up, did what I had to do and then left the hospital without feeding the awfulness and the fear of having this disease, then I would feel as if I was truly living.

I was a year into graduate school when I had another bout of illness not related to the Gaucher’s.This landed me in the hospital with temporary loss of the use of my legs. Despite my discharge from the hospital, I still felt awful and continued to experience freaky “attacks” of weakness and an overwhelmingly toxic feeling in my body.

It was scary again having to face some “unknown” weird illness. After another round of doctors and several MRIs to back it up, I was officially diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. MS on top of the Gaucher’s disease? This here folks was when I kind of lost it!

I literally lost my ability to contain my anxiety and depression. I started having full-blown anxiety attacks and what are referred to as “body memories” of the trauma I went through as a kid surrounding my illness. “WHY me” I’d be screaming in my head at 3 a.m. not able to sleep out of sheer panic!

Wasn’t the Gaucher’s enough?Wait a minute, I thought I already learned my soul lesson! You know, the one where I saw my disease as a gift. Was there something I was missing, God?

It turns out there was … a lot! I frantically began to research and stumbled upon facts that helped me make the connection between aspartame and MS-”like” symptoms. That nutritional discovery began my quest for a more mindful approach to the foods and drinks I was consuming and a heightened awareness of how I actually felt when consuming such products. Much to my surprise, I felt a whole lot better when I got off of unnatural sweeteners, diet soda, red meat and a host of other toxic foods! With this new awareness, I began to “get” the body-mind-spirit connection. I threw myself into understanding the depth of it all. It became the meaning of my life.

As I attempted to accept the reality that I would always have to rely on Western medicine for my treatment and monitoring of my diseases, I began to yearn for a place that could help to bridge my two worlds. I needed a connection between my world of IV needles, MRIs, CAT scans, white coats and cold hospital walls and my world of peaceful, warm, sacred spaces; mindful eating; positive thought; and the deeper meaning of it all!

I began to dream of creating such a place; I wanted to gather like-minded spirits that shared a similar vision based on the principles of a soulful life. This would be a place where I could help to heal others in a way that I had been healed.

Much to my joyful realization, this place began to manifest in a way I believe was divinely guided. Other practitioners began to knock on our doors asking to join us,each saying that the energy of the place is what drew them in. Despite my dark and scary past, I began to believe that anything was possible!

Today I am proud to say that my dream of opening a holistic counseling and wellness center has come true and that everything that I have been through starting at the age of 9 has led me here to this place; a place of miracles … a place where I believe this to be true:

“Courageous is the soul who adventures into time and space to learn of their divinity.” I believe that everyone of us has a piece of God, the divine or the universe (whatever you want to call it) implanted within us, and in this lifetime, we are meant to discover this divine part, to nurture it and master it so that we can offer that unique divinity back to the world in the form of helping others find peace on their own journey.

I can think of nothing more rewarding. Can you?

Alissa Schwartz, LCSW, CHP, is a licensed clinical psychotherapist and a certified hypnotherapist.  Alissa is a dynamic and empathic professional dedicated to the empowerment of the human spirit. Alissa believes in the POWER of positive thought and a strengths-based approach to life based on her own extremely challenging life circumstances. Ms. Schwartz is the co-owner of THE CENTER FOR SOULFUL LIVING, a holistic counseling & wellness center on Long Island, New York.



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33 responses to Miracles Happen…
  1. Rewarding? You might find it rewarding to advocate for dolphins in captivity. Nothing soulful about that.

  2. Ani said on July 31, 2012

    Wow, Alissa, what an inspiring post,thank you so much for sharing. At the moment the auto-immune condition that I have been diagnosed with (lupus) is controlled with diet, supplements, exercise and my own heart. At times exhaustion envelopes me, but I have many tools in my toolkit to help. If I get to a point when I need to investigate Western medicine then I will do so with love. Your holistic counselling and wellness centre sounds amazing. I have just begun my holistic wellness business – supporting women whilst they explore their emotional eating patterns, it was a dream of mine for a long while and now, slowly, slowly it is building. Thanks for your post – it was inspirational and encourages me to continue even when things feel tough. Loving regards, Ani (England, UK)

  3. Ann said on July 31, 2012

    Wow Deborah…You read that entire story and that’s what you come up with to focus on and say? Nothing soulful about THAT.

  4. Ann, the difference is I do not purport to be soulful. I recommend everyone, including the author of this blog watch the documentary The Cove. Dolphins are being tortured so that people can get a facebook photo op? We’re supposed to turn a blind eye to that and focus on the fact that the author “gets” the body-mind-spirit connection?

  5. This is a great post about cape diem and making it through – but not just making it through, incorporating that life lesson into what you do everyday. It’s a dream of mine to do the same with my business, after having raised a son as a single mother and navigated breast cancer, I’m set on starting a business to help support women as they grow toward their dreams. Life can be so didactic, and thank goodness for those great moments when we’re able to look around and say, “yes, I’m so very thankful”

  6. This is an amazing, inspiring story in so many ways & not just for people with those illnesses, but for so many of us. Thank you, Alissa for sharing it. :) Love the name of your center too.

  7. I am absolutely inspired by this article! You are a strong woman and have selflessly taught others through your career choice and soulful lifestyle. Thank you for all that you do. Keep up the great work, Alissa!

  8. In regards to Deborah’s comment, she is absolutely correct about dolphins in captivity, and the more people that find out about it, the better. This is a wonderful and inspiring article, written by someone who is on the same journey as the rest of us, but who I am assuming must not know yet about captive dolphins or the massacre in Japan that happens yearly to get them. Now, the author can find out – and hopefully a few curious readers – thank you Deborah – and yet another layer of learning and good can come of this personal story…for all of us.

  9. What an incredible and courageous story Alissa! Thank you for sharing it with us! Deborah, this is NOT the place to share your views on dolphins.

  10. Thank you for sharing your personal journey, Alyssa. Congratulations on making it to a place of living so vibrantly and with such courage, grace and true purpose. You are a true inspiration!

  11. Alissa I thank you for sharing the difficult journey of your childhood and your wisdom that comes from such experiences. As the mother of child, now 20, who endured endless medical procedures and surgeries throughout childhood, often hovering near death, I understand the heartache and terror. But I also understand how “different” your life perspective is, including the knowing of the natural order of our existence and the truth that we mostly ignore: that we will all die, some sooner, some later. Somewhere within that truth, we find our lives and our way and helping others becomes most natural. I am so sorry that you have shared your deeply personal story and others have found this to be an appropriate forum for their “feel good, do good” ways to pass their time. I work with horses, many that have been rescued from slaughter auctions or estrogen farms. Many animals (and humans) suffer unspeakable abuse, neglect and torment. And this is not the place to discuss that reality. Alissa, a guiding quote from Rumi, “the wound is the place where the light enters…” Live well in your light.

  12. You are an inspiration. Thank you.

  13. Wow. This is an amazing story. It’s almost my life story. I’ m so glad that you found the “secret to life”. Your sickness made you realize what is the most important gift in life, which many people take for granted. I’ll pray for you to have the power to touch and educate as many people as possible. Be thankful, do everything with love, and think positive and everything will align itself as you imagine it. You are blessed to know the “secret to life”.

  14. A very big thank you for giving us inspiration. This story must be read by those people who are losing hope with their life, that something is still up for them.

  15. Thank you Alissa for sharing your story. I’m grateful that you too were able to discover “the secret of life”. My story is similar to yours and I know, that I am so grateful for my sickness because it opened my eyes. I thank God everyday for everything that surrounds me, and do everything with the love and think tons of positive thoughts. With that, I know I can move mountains. I’m sending many positive thoughts your way. Dream Big. They DO become true.

  16. Renay, thank you so much for recognizing my intentions and explaining them so eloquently. Erena, I believe any website or blog promoting animal cruelty is the EXACT place to educate and enlighten people. I firmly believe people wouldn not participate in the practice of swimming with dolphins if they were aware of the enormous cruelty inflicted on these dolphins. I believe Alissa is probably an animal lover and I refuse to believe she would knowingly promote animal cruelty. I agree with Renay. I hope Alissa will educate herself and in turn share the knowledge with the world via her inspirational blogs. Miracles happen.

  17. Alissa, this story is so inspiring and amazing! thank you so much for having the courage to share a part of your life that is so personal, just to try and help people. You are a true beautiful being!

    Hi Deborah
    as much I also believe in non cruelty to animals, this clearly was not the forum to advocate your views. The iNTENT behind this picture is clearly joy and love, I am sure when Alissa took this picture, her intent was NOT to diminish the fact that animals in this country are abused…we can say that about any animals we see pictures, as even being seen in taking a picture with a horse, they also are being abused in racehorses across the country as well as some dogs and cats, birds….you must look at the ‘iNTENT” and clearly Alissa had no intention in this article or the picture to hurt or advocate any sort of abuse. I do admire your energy to bring awareness to this matter but I do believe it could have been done in a discrete manner, instead taking the focus off what Alissa was trying to write in her article, again clearly her “intent’ was not malicious. We are women and we should be trying to support our sisters!!!!!

  18. Alissa!! This is an amazing story. Thank you so very much. I think you are an amazing person who radiates positive energy! You are such an inspiration.

    You have helped me so very much! You are, and will always be, a huge blessing to me.

    XOXO Karen

  19. jc said on August 1, 2012

    Alissa, I am very grateful and amazed at your journey and I love that you swim with dolphins.It shows your in touch with all our fellow denizens and have courage and compassion.Thank you.

  20. why read the blog if you are going to pick things apart?

  21. I passed this story along to my niece who is a cancer surivor from a very young age. Love the phrase sieze the day.

  22. Please take one minute to watch this video. And please, if you feel this is not the correct forum, pass it along and post it wherever you think it will do the most good.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=30Nm5uv292g

    Alissa, I hope you will reconsider the message you’re giving by having that picture attached to this blog. .

  23. THANK YOU ALL FOR THE SUPPORT & ENCOURAGEMENT….I’m OVERWHELMED by the KINDNESS & COMPASSION & DEEPLY GRATEFUL! Christina, thank you for sharing your vulnerability with us & for extending an extra layer of compassion for the struggles I’ve been through….and lastly, THANK YOU for reminding me of that quote, It is one of my favorites!!! ;) I am repeating it as my mantra tonight to ward off being “wounded” by one single persons incredible insensitivity…..I see this as a test to continue to trust myself enough to LIVE IN MY LIGHT & MY TRUTH despite any judgement…..It took every oz. of me to allow myself to be as vulnerable as I & because the VERY first blog was such a negative one…..It propels me forward into LIVING THIS TRUTH ON PURPOSE & OUT LOUD……I PRAY now more than ever to spread the energy of PEACE, OF LOVE & OF COURAGE TO “SPEAK THE TRUTH EVEN IF YOUR VOICE SHAKES!”

    Deborah, I have refrained from commenting until now, as I find this to be THE MOST DISRESPECTFUL THING any one human being can do after I’ve bared my soul as I have….I choose NOT to engage in your clear AGENDA & really insist that you STOP posting YOUR AGENDA on this blog……take this elsewhere PLEASE!!!!! and FYI those precious dolphins are part of a family in the florida keys & are loved & honored by a amazing group of EXPERIENCED DOLPHINS LOVERS who treat them as their own children!!! PLEASE STOP THIS NOW……THIS IS HARASSEMENT!!!!!!!

  24. THANK YOU ALL FOR THE SUPPORT & ENCOURAGEMENT….I’m OVERWHELMED by the KINDNESS & COMPASSION & DEEPLY GRATEFUL! Christina, thank you for sharing your vulnerability with us & for extending an extra layer of compassion for the struggles I’ve been through….and lastly, THANK YOU for reminding me of that quote, It is one of my favorites!!! ;) I am repeating it as my mantra tonight to ward off being “wounded” by one single persons incredible insensitivity…..I see this as a test to continue to trust myself enough to LIVE IN MY LIGHT & MY TRUTH despite any judgement…..It took every oz. of me to allow myself to be as vulnerable as I & because the VERY first blog was such a negative one…..It propels me forward into LIVING THIS TRUTH ON PURPOSE & OUT LOUD……I PRAY now more than ever to spread the energy of PEACE, OF LOVE & OF COURAGE TO “SPEAK THE TRUTH EVEN IF YOUR VOICE SHAKES!”

    Deborah, I have refrained from commenting until now, as I find this to be THE MOST DISRESPECTFUL THING any one human being can do after I’ve bared my soul as I have….I choose NOT to engage in your clear AGENDA & really insist that you STOP posting YOUR AGENDA on this blog……take this elsewhere PLEASE!!!!! and FYI those precious dolphins are part of a family in the florida keys & are loved & honored by a amazing group of EXPERIENCED DOLPHINS LOVERS who treat them as their own children!!! PLEASE I’M ASKING YOU TO STOP THIS NOW……THIS IS HARASSEMENT!!!!!!!

  25. For me to comment on any kind of forum is out of my comfort zone, but in the name of speaking my truth even if it makes my voice shake…

    Alissa, your story is fantastic and I commend you for your fight, survival, and your desire to help others. Would a meat eating McDonald’s loving non-exercising un-nutritionally-educated person feel the same way, or would they think you have an “agenda” by writing this article? Isn’t the purpose of this article to share what you have learned and show what an opened mind, passion and belief can accomplish? I think you’ve shown this well, in regards to health and healing. The photo with the dolphin however, is a trigger photo, for anyone who is aware of the atrocities that happen to bring dolphins into captivity (minus very rare cases where they are being rehabilitated from unfortunate natural occurrences), and who also used to think that us swimming with them is a representation of living in harmony with nature. For anyone who knows about the dolphinarium industry, a photo like that brings to mind the opposite of what your article is trying to deliver, the same as if you were to feature a photo of you with a factory farm pig or cow. For people to jump all over Deborah for pointing this out is ludicrous in the sense that this website and community claims to be more openminded and willing to learn and stretch ourselves. Perhaps Deborah could have stated her concern in a more diplomatic way, but the fact remains that there is a topic that has been raised here, by the photo at the beginning (had this photo not been there, the topic would not be a part of the discussion). This deserves more than a label of “harassment”, and perhaps taking just a moment to open our minds a little further – yes, I believe multitasking is possible and we are capable of dealing with more than one topic/concept at one time – can only benefit us. Sustainable and healthy eating is in the same realm as respecting the planet and learning more about where we live and how our choices affect it. I for one believe that when we close our minds to further learning and write off the loud and obnoxious people as freaks, we’re just the same as those who used to label the environmentalists as no good “tree-huggers” and healthy eaters as unreasonable “health-nuts”. I’d like to think we have greater capacity than that. Alissa, again – your story is wonderful. Your choice of photo, though it might represent something different to you and those close to you, reveals that there is more to learn. For each of us.

  26. WOW ALISSA….You are an EXTRAORDINARY WOMAN…..you live your life to the fullest and you MAKE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE!!!! I feel honored and humbled to have read your life story as I can imagine the courage it took to put your story out for all the world to see!!!

  27. Hi Alissa, thank you for your honest soul bearing blog. Some people just don’t know what is polite and appropriate and the right time to do/ say things.Please don’t let this dishearten you sharing your story as reading what you have struggled with gives renewed hope to myself, and I’m sure others like me with out own health Issues. Power, good wishes and love are sent your way.

  28. How very sad the way this inspiring story has degenerated into a bitch fest regarding animals in captivity (Since when are the Florida Keys captivity?)… We too in Australia have wild dolphins in a number of areas that come into shore from the sea and swim with and interact with humans on a daily basis – and it is a beautiful and joyful experience. Who wouldn’t want it???? So glad you had that joy :)

  29. Alissa, thank you so much for sharing your story. You’ve totally realigned my compass to what is important, and inspired me beyond words!!!

  30. Alissa, thank you so much for sharing your story. You’ve totally realigned my compass to what is important, and inspired me beyond words!!!

  31. Alissa, perhaps you should let Sharon know that the dolphins you swam with in the Florida Keys were and are in captivity. Well, if they are still alive. Captivity has a horrible effect on dolphin’s lives. For you to call the dolphin’s captors dolphin lovers is surprising. I’m sure they love the money they make from the dolphins. But you didn’t mean that. I think you said they were treated like their own children. Do these people keep their own children locked up and pimp them out for money? If they did, they would be in jail. I’m sorry if you find me disrespectful. This is an inspirational blog and the picture at the top goes against everything you purport to be for. Would you post a picture of yourself smoking a cigarette at the top of this blog? 25 years ago you might have. We learn better and we evolve. You are in the business of helping people on this journey and yet you choose to keep your eyes closed to how you’re harming and promoting the harming of the world around you. You question my agenda? Cui bono? Latin for Who Benefits. I stand to gain not a single dollar by advocating for dolphins. You and your “soulful center” meanwhile, are making profit under the guise that you will help your clients live their most soulful lives.

    On your website you offer Life Coaching and Holistic Health counseling. Holistic definition – Emphasizing the importance of the whole and the interdependence of its parts. Dolphins are very much a part of the whole picture. Certainly you can talk about your struggle without promoting their captivity.

    Renay, whoever you are, thank you for your amazing eloquence. Clearly my approach has put people off. I hope they can learn something from yours.

  32. Renay, thank you for expressing the issue at hand in much kinder more compassionate way…..I do see that there is room for healthy debate and appreciate the sentiment…..I believe that what felt like an EXTREME attack of my entire life story & vulnerability is what the readers as well as myself are responding to here…..This is a site that I believe started out to promote ENCOURAGEMENT, SUPPORT, HEALTH, WELLNESS & INSPIRATION TO OTHER HUMAN BEINGS SUFFERING WITH TERMINAL ILLNESS, LIFE THREATENING CONDITIONS as well as anyone else on their path to find peace & wellness, which is why I thought I’d feel safe enough to expose my vulnerability here in the first place….It was disheartening to me to have been met with such extreme hostility & accusation right out of the gate…..AND to have it continue just really baffles me?

    Just for the record I am a LOVER of the dolphins having swam with them off the coast of Bimini in the WILD as well in a natural lagoon in the keys…..I believe as many do that DOLPHINS are very much a part of the “whole” picture and are interconnected to us all…..by definition “interconnected” means to mutually connect & there are MANY AMAZING stories where the dolphins seek out human contact to rescue & save lives and to play & connect with us….It is a known fact that the dolphins offer extreme intelligence & intuitive healing powers to humanity…..below I have posted a you tube video address of a news clip where a NON PROFIT organization down in the Keys provides dolphin therapy to children with developmental disabilities, CRITICAL, CHRONIC and TERMINAL ILLNESS, another offers Craino-Sacral Therapy and YET another dolphin therapy center offers help to autistic children……again, I thank all of you for your support & encouragement…..wishing you ALL PEACE & LOVE on your journey!

    Island Dolphin Care CBS 2011 #1
    Island Dolphin Care is a not for profit organization dedicated to helping adults, children and families who are dealing with developmental and physical disabilities, emotional challenges and critical, chronic or terminal illness.http://www.islanddolphincare.org

    Dolphin Assisted CrainoSacral Therapy
    Integrative Intentions LLC

    In this wonderful 17.5 minute video you will experience the magic of Dolphin Assisted Therapy.
    Shot entirely on location in the Bahamas you will gain unique insights into the this truly amazing therapy.
    You will follow the progress and hear from real clients testifying to the benefits they received from their unscripted interaction with the dolphins and how it has changed their lives.
    You will gain a greater understanding the structure and format of the therapy programs and how they are designed to ensure that the integrity of this truly unique therapy benefits all concerned, the clients, the therapists and the dolphins.
    We invite you to sit back relax and enter into a world filled love, hope, tears, compassion and healing.?if you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us
    Contact Kat at seaspirit24@hotmail.com

  33. Alissa, your story is amazing. Some people are just so bitter that they can’t celebrate with you…. but most of us can. Thanks for the links you posted. Deborah, if you were really just wanting to raise awareness, but NOT be hurtful, your wording in your initial response would not have revealed so much hostility. There are so many positive things you could have said, but your two line comment was nothing but angry. I guarantee if Kris Carr saw that, she would be appalled as this site was developed to be a form of support and learning together… no one learns from aggression. Keep up all your good work Alissa!