I adopted the name Sanctuary while I was in grammar school, St. James Catholic School in Falls Church, VA. I always had questions, which the nuns didn’t think I should ask and so I was sent to clean the convent on more than one occasion as punishment.
As a little girl I could always feel in my body a reflection of what was going on around me. Most people, including my doctor at the time, just thought I was overly sensitive, but early on I began to suspect that other people’s emotions as well as my own were directly affecting how I felt physically. It was still the 1980’s and there wasn’t much talk about a mind-body connection in those times. So I did the next best thing, which was pursuing a degree in Biology and Psychology from George Mason University.
Even before college, some of my fondest memories as a teenager were spending hours and sometimes days at the library. My favorite ones where the Edgar Cayce Metaphysical library in Virginia beach and the medical library at the National Institutes of Health. This is where I first learned about Esther Sternberg. Reading about her studies on the chemical reactions caused by our thoughts, which create a chain reaction affecting our bodies directly, thrilled me!
Back then, I was convinced that I would be the one to bridge the gap between scientific method and metaphysical theories in how our bodies react to our internal/thought environment. Some of the first books I read which put it all in perspective was Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers by Robert Sapolsky and Quantum Health by Deepak Chopra. This book came out long before he was a household name.
After getting my B.S. degree in Biology and Psychology from George Mason University I worked at NIH in the Neuro-endocrine Psychology Department. We were studying how depression affects osteoporosis in men. I was a research assistant at the time while I was also taking courses from the Foundation for Advanced Education in Science offered at the NIH, where my idol Esther Sternberg worked. This is when I got the opportunity to experience in real life what I was studying about.
I had a full time job as an ophthalmic technician, a part time job as a research assistant at NIH, while also taking graduate courses and experiencing a lot of stress. Several months prior, I had ended a turbulent relationship with a man who had been recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. He had been athletic, charismatic, ambitious and successful when we first met, but he was also very headstrong, harsh and we had more than our share of problems. After every fight I would get physically sick.
When he first developed symptoms, the numbness and tingling on his abdomen, the vision changes I somehow knew what it was. The dynamics of our relationship suddenly changed. While he was sick, he was very kind, sweet and apologetic and I would take care of him. Then when the illness went into remission, the temperamental head-strong side would emerge again and I would feel weak. After a few years of this I knew that I was not staying for the right reasons and I broke it off but felt horribly guilty about making that decision.
Six months later, I developed symptoms of multiple sclerosis and after a spinal tap, many MRI’s and electro-physiological tests, I was diagnosed and began a daily regimen of Betaferon injections. At first, this was just something I accepted and maybe expected as punishment for walking away.
Luckily, my parents didn’t accept this as easily and did everything they could to help me. This included taking me back to my home country in Bolivia to see a healer or witch doctor. That experience alone I could turn into a movie; waiting for days to see a third generation Shaman, with hundreds of other people who had made the pilgrimage from various other countries. When my turn finally came, I was flabbergasted to learn that this young lady spoke perfect English and had been educated in the United States.
We had a long talk, she told me that I wasn’t really sick, that this disease was not meant for me, but that I had been born with a gift that I was denying and afraid of. This gift she said was like a huge cloud of energy that followed me, but since I didn’t know how to work with it and was too afraid of it, it was disturbing my life force and manifesting as a disease. She recommended that I go to a place called The Edgar Cayce Center in Virginia Beach and study there! (I hadn’t told her that I had been going to their library for years already). She said I would learn from them what I needed to know to keep myself healthy. “Remember”, she told me, “whenever you turn your back on your gifts and to this energy, it will cause you dis-ease”. Then a healing was performed in the Quechua tradition and I was instructed to return to America, find the best neurologist I could afford and have them run every test possible to see if I still had Multiple Sclerosis. I did just that and was told that I was in remission, but that it would probably return sometime later and to expect debilitation in the future.
Maybe because I still had so much fear and doubt in gifts I could not see or touch or do statistics on, the next 2 years were very turbulent. I would experience many things that don’t have a logical explanation. I would have episodes were I could see and interact with a totally different experience than I was having at the time, concurrently. In one experience I would be at work, performing a preliminary exam on a patient in Washington D.C. when suddenly I found myself barefoot standing on the desert ground in the American southwest in the late 1800’s. Both experiences were just as tactile and real and I could be aware of both concurrently. When I returned to the Now I’m familiar with, the patient or other person I was with would comment that I spaced out or blacked out for a while.
This and some physical symptoms like frequent panic attacks, trouble breathing, migraines, transient loss of vision, and a sensation of falling or disappearing that reminded me of Star Trek when someone didn’t beam up properly, caused a whole new cascade of doctor visits and several more dire diagnosis. They diagnosed me with Lupus as well as Multiple Sclerosis and found a hole in my heart (a 3mm patent foramen ovale) through which they thought clots were causing me to have mini-strokes. In addition they recommended a psychiatrist see me in case I was hallucinating as a result of schizophrenia.
Two years of this and I finally caved. I had exhausted my visits to specialists and only ended up with more confusion and too many medications. One week, when my jaw had locked for 3 days and I had an acute migraine I decided to get massage. My therapist, Cheyenne tried something I had never heard of before, cranio-sacral therapy. I had no idea what this was at the time, all I could feel was his light touch on my head and suddenly it was like the space between my eyes opened up and a geyser of pressure came flying out, relieving my migraine and unlocking my jaw. This experience opened my eyes to other ways of healing. So after 2 years of doubting, I finally listened to the shaman’s advice. I quit my job, left the program I was studying, stopped volunteering, rented out my condo and moved to Virginia Beach to see if they could help me. I originally went just to get treatment for myself but I was told that it would be a lot less expensive to become a student of massage therapy instead, and I would still receive all the treatment I was looking for.
This is how and why I became a massage therapist. Those 2 years at Cayce/Reilly School of Massotherapy changed my life. It taught me that inward journey necessary to heal all aspects of my being. I learned how to appreciate my extra senses instead of fearing them. I changed my diet, my practices, my thoughts and best of all, I felt completely healthy. I got off all my medications, didn’t suffer any relapses and at that point in time I had no medical insurance. Due to my colorful medical history and the pre-existing conditions clause, after leaving my job and cobra expired, most insurances would not take me or if they did there was no way I could afford it.
That was in 2004. It is now 14 years later and I am happy to say that I am ready to share everything I have learned, in an effort to help educate others on how to empower themselves.