With my mother’s permission, I want to share with you all the curveball life just threw my family. A few weeks ago, my healthy 71-going-on-55 year old mother started feeling palpitations in her chest, a fast heart rate, and some shortness of breath. She thought something might be wrong with her so far always healthy heart, so she went to Urgent Care, where they found a healthy heart but severe anemia of the macrocytic (big blood cells) variety. We thought she might have a B12 or folate deficiency and hoped the treatment would be as simple as a vitamin supplement. But the next day, the doctor called me. Her blood smear was just reviewed by the pathologist, and it didn’t look good. It looked like leukemia, but the only way to know for sure would be to endure the painful gold standard test—a bone marrow biopsy.

Two weeks ago, I held my mother in my arms while she listened to a guided meditation I had recorded and cried and trembled through the brutal procedure. It’s hard to watch someone you love suffer. I know that I can’t take away the pain of it, but by being there, I can take away the loneliness.

The next day, Mom was transfused and felt much better with a full tank of blood. We had to wait two long weeks to find out the official diagnosis. We just got the news. Mom has CMML (Chronic Myelomonocytic Leukemia), a rare and difficult to treat blood cancer. They have given her three options.

  1. Go to UCSF or Cleveland Clinic and endure a risky, lengthy, in patient hospitalization for aggressive ablative chemotherapy followed by stem call transplant. This is the only known conventional Western medical option with the possibility of cure (though of course, we know from the medical literature that some people are cured of “incurable” conditions, so we take this data both seriously and lightly).
  2. Get chemotherapy injections daily for seven days out of every month for the rest of her life. This is not a curative option, but a palliative treatment that may diminish her need for blood transfusions but will have the side effects that ride shotgun with poisoning the body with chemotherapy.
  3. Decline Western medical treatment and apply supportive, palliative measures to keep Mom comfortable.

Of course, Mom is my mother and knows that there is a fourth option, which is applying the 6 Steps to Healing Yourself  from Mind Over Medicine, writing her own whole health prescription that may include Western medical options, energy healing, a raw vegan diet, going deeper into her spirituality, visiting John of God, surrounding herself with a loving tribe, engaging in creative projects like the healing blanket we’re now making as an art project, and checking off things on her bucket list, like going on a hot air balloon ride and going on safari in Africa and calling in the cheetahs. We know that just because someone might opt out of aggressive Western medical options doesn’t mean that you have to roll over and give up. Even when Western medicine is out of options, spontaneous remission or an extended high quality of life are always possible. We believe in miracles, but we’re not attached to them. Mom isn’t afraid to die, but we’d love to keep her around for many more years . . .


Magic Stories Amidst Chaos

I am already seeing the blessings in this unexpected journey. Mom and I have been experiencing countless magic stories every day during this journey. It’s not that we’re not scared, grieving, angry, disappointed, and overwhelmed. It’s that magic and Divine love are riding shotgun with all those turbulent emotions. I’ll give you one example.

The morning Mom was supposed to get her bone marrow biopsy results, we arrived right on time. At 8:30 a.m., we were all prepared to receive the news. We enter the cancer center, and they told us Mom made a mistake. Her appointment wasn’t actually until 11:30 a.m. She had somehow gotten the time zone wrong in her calendar. How would we wait three hours, when we were already breathless with anticipation? I had an idea. It was a sunny, beautiful day after a month of torrential rain, so I suggested we take the ferry across the Bay, past Angel Island and Alcatraz, and in front of the Golden Gate Bridge to San Francisco to kill time and stay distracted.

We ate at Cowgirl Creamery and laughed and took photos of the rainbow in the mist coming off the back of the ferry. On the way back, someone yells, “Man overboard!” and someone throws a life preserver into the water. The ferry spins around, circling back to the life preserver, but there’s nobody inside of it. Everyone fills the deck, looking out over the water for signs of someone who needs help. But the water is still. The deckhand fishes the empty life preserver out of the bay and we wait. I feel sad. Someone might have just died. I pray for their soul’s journey and offer comforting thoughts to the family.

Then the ferry turns around and keeps going. I think, “That’s it? We just give up, just like that?” But I am relieved too. I didn’t want to miss our appointment.

Then someone calls out overhead, “This was only a drill.”

A drill? They put us through all that for a “Man Overboard” drill? What?

I notice that this is something unusual, especially given the nature of what is happening in our lives. I’ve learned to get curious about unusual things. Often there are messages buried inside something that might seem like a coincidence.

I turn to Mom. “Why this? Why now? I’ve been on this ferry 100 times and this has never happened. If God is speaking to you through this, what is the message for you?”

Mom says, “God is throwing me a life preserver. Maybe this whole thing is only a drill. . . Either way, I am loved and supported. There is a life preserver for me.”

Maybe life is just a drill. Maybe some invisible force of love just wants us to know that everything is going to be okay—no matter what the results are.

When we arrived back at the doctor’s office, the whole thing felt like a dream as we retraced the steps we had taken just three hours earlier. I could just hear
the movie producers of our lives yelling, “Take two on the scene of ‘Trish and Lissa go to the doctor’s office to get the news.” Only the first time, before hours of wind-blown ferry time, we had better hair. . .

Everything’ll Be Alright

As we waited in the exam room for the doctor, I pulled out my phone and asked Pandora to pick us a song. I call it Pandora roulette, and it’s sort of like picking an oracle card. Pandora chose Joshua Radin’s “Everything’ll Be Alright.” We felt comforted.

We were really hoping that, like the Man Overboard thing, this was all a false alarm. But that isn’t the case. This shizz is real, and we are now in the midst of this unexpected curveball. Yet, what if everything’ll be alright, even if I lose my mother? What if there is no way everything isn’t going to somehow be alright? That doesn’t mean we’re not crying or resisting the news. It’s a paradox. Cancer fucking sucks, especially when there are no good treatment options. But somehow, even so, everything’ll be alright. Somehow both feel true at the same time.

We are getting so much reassurance since this news arrived just a few days ago. Magic is all around us. Mom is starting a Magic Journal Scrapbook to document all of the magic we’re both experiencing every day. It’s almost as if it God is saying, “I know this is scary and hard, and I know facing this kind of uncertainty can feel brutal. But you are not in this alone.” We can do hard things with great love.

Right after we got the diagnosis, Mom and I went to Haight Street to shop at vintage stores for outfits for the 80s themed prom we were attending together with my new boyfriend Richard. (After years of being single and mostly celibate, I have a new boyfriend! Richard=Awesome. It’s amazing how grief and joy can sit side by side in the journey of life.) Richard said he was happy to take out two beautiful Rankin women who were decked in dresses we bought at vintage stores. (Think taffeta, shoulder pads, big hair, Depeche Mode, corsages, and polka dot stockings.) Mom and I had a blast trying on crazy outfits and photographing each other in fitting rooms. We found perfectly awful dresses and laughed our butts off painting each other’s nails and getting ready for prom the next night.

So . . . we are on this journey now. The future is uncertain, but everything is going to be okay. I know you all support me and my family when we are going through unexpected life challenges, and I am so very very grateful for your love and care and tenderness. Thank you for being my tribe, and thank you for all the love I can feel from you already.

Blessings as we all navigate the curveballs of life,

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  1. Karen Lantela

    Lissa….Thank you so much for sharing this story and letting us know the amazing way you are handling this curveball. Please keep us updated on this journey…what a wonderful Mother/daughter relationship you have! Wondering if it was always this way. It touches my heart cause my daughter and I do not have this closeness…nor do my Mom and I. I hope, whatever happens….for all good things for your Mom….and also for you…You really lifted my spirits and you will both be in my thoughts. Karen

  2. Maureen Russell

    God’s blessings on you and your mom. I have a very “young” mom too. She’s 86, going on 56… 🙂 Meaning she had me when she was …3? NOT! I’m 53! Mom has endured 3 bouts of breast cancer. First at 64, then 66 (those were lumpectomies) and finally at 85 (she had a mastectomy last winter). We are great friends and support to each other so much so that we built an apartment onto our house, so mom could have her own place but have us close by. I marvel at her faith, strength and courage every day. Your story struck a chord in my soul very deeply. Please know that I’m praying for you and your mom. This can indeed be a very special time where your mom directs the treatment and you will create more special memories. I believe the core of our strength is endless hope and the belief that miracles can and DO happen. Love, peace and Divine comfort to you and your mom, Maureen Russell 🙂

  3. Jessica

    Love to you Lissa. Your relationship with your Mother sounds so enriching. I am sure she is so glad to have you by her side. May you be supported and held.

  4. Kristen Burge

    Oh Lissa — my heart goes out to you and your mom through this extremely challenging, yet magical journey. Thank you *so* much, as always, for sharing with us and know that your tribe always has your back and is sending a continual stream of hugs, love, and blessings your way. Much love to you, your mom, and family <3 <3 <3

  5. Alma

    Miracles definitely exist! My 67 year old father was diagnosed with AML this past October and underwent intense chemotherapy for 11 days which resulted in cardiac arrest and kidney failure. He survived and after two months of being on dialysis his kidneys recovered. My father was bedridden for so long that he had to learn to walk again. Today, he is doing so much better. He was in remission for a short time and the cancer came back. I believe that everything happens for a reason and I believe my father will be okay. He didn’t survive for nothing….,he survived for a reason and only God knows why. We are grateful for his miraculous recovery. Thank you Lissa for taking us with you on your journey. Much love, many blessing and miraculous healing are being sent to you!!

  6. Susan E. Schwartz

    lissa …you and your mom are clearly made of magic stuff. while the rest of us (or at least I) slog thru the everyday, you find magic in the most challenging of times. here’s to your mom’s miraculous, magical discovery/recovery…and to you, lissa…for showing us all how to live…truly truly live. thank you.

  7. Kristi Helvig

    Thank you for sharing this. I have had a very similar few weeks as my dad was just unexpectedly diagnosed, also with a blood cancer (multiple myeloma). There is no known cure for it in Western medicine, though stem cell transplants can be used to prolong life if he qualifies. I’m flying there to him to take him to an expert in this type of cancer, and am looking at this unanticipated week with him as a gift. We’ve also been speaking every single day which we haven’t done since right before my mom died. I try to always find the gifts within pain, and I love how you are celebrating each day with your mom. Enjoy it all–and 80’s music is the best, so it’s sure to be a fantastic prom with your mom and new boyfriend! 🙂

  8. Terri Goulding

    Hello Lissa, thank you so much for sharing this very difficult news. I am 52 and lost my mom to cancer 6 years ago when she was 64. The relationship you describe with your mom sounds so similar to the one that I was so blessed to have with my mom. I’m so sorry that you have to go through this, but she is so lucky to have you. I know that you will be strong for her and as I did with my mom, embrace every moment together. Sending much love to you, your mom and your family. Take care.

  9. Joyce Cowan

    Dear Lissa
    Thank you for your honest sharing of your own “curveball”. I’m so sorry to hear about your mother’s illness. Blessings to you both as you work through her healing. You have such a lovely relationship.
    I also want to say how much I have been blessed by your work since finding your books, blog and ted talks last year when I was sick. You gave me a lot of hope when conventional medicine couldn’t give me any answers and you really helped me get better. Thank you so much for the work you do and the way you care so much. Joyce Cowan NZ

  10. Astrid

    Dear Lissa, love and light to you and your.mom♥♥♥! And so happy to read about Richard!

  11. Sue Zapf

    Whether a diamond is given to you in a beautifully wrapped package or a poorly wrapped tattered package, the gift is still a diamond. Treasure the gift, treasure your mom, and treasure your making of memories. Peace and love . . .

  12. Lisa Langrehr

    Thank you for sharing your journey Lissa. Sending love…

  13. fiotheo

    Thank you, Lissa, for sharing this very tender and vulnerable journey you are on. My heart goes out to your mother and to you and your family. So often illness is hushed up like there is some kind of shame. But I have found when a person opens up about their brokenheartedness, and fears and struggles and hopes in the midst of illness that they give everyone else the opportunity to show up wholeheartedly. I am sending you and your mother my deep prayers. And I am sending you a thank you for giving me a glimpse of how I can show up for my own daughter who needs to hear from me right now: “we can do hard things with great love.” Blessings and love…

  14. Lisa Viscardi

    Lissa you totally rock. You and your mom are very blessed to have one another. Sending love and healing…

  15. sonniell

    Sounds like The Almighty is giving you a “Heads Up” in life right now…remember the phrase:…”I know God won’t give me more than I can handle; I just wish He didn’t trust me so much”……I lost my Mom in 2013 and my only sister (and best friend) in 2015….my Father passed many years ago….I have one brother left in my immediate family that has decided not to speak to me any longer as his attitude is if he doesn’t see or talk to me, it won’t hurt so much when one of us finally says farewell to this lovely Earth! There is so much wrong with this attitude and very heartbreaking. As much the emotional turmoil you’re going through right now….know that both of your Angels are with you…..enjoy your Mom’s presence for as long as you can…please hug her daily…leave no regrets…just be there for each other and love……..

  16. Fredrik Grönqvist

    Thanks! Qi gong healing and love!

  17. Joan Hopkins

    Blessings and prayers for you and your Mom.

  18. Lala

    Absolutely beautiful. I can see many “take two’s”…”only a drill” in this amazing story. Love my daily inner pilot emails and you.

  19. victor last

    May your God go with you both wherever the path ahead takes you

  20. Diane

    Lissa, I want you to know I am surrounding you and your mom with love and healing light, energy, power. Blessings, Diane

  21. MMitch

    Lissa, What a wonderful Love Story. You are blessed with so many beautiful memories at such a wickedly hard time in life. Many prayers to you and your family.

  22. Andryea Natkin

    Lissa, I appreciate your sharing this very personal and profound news with all of us. I admire your willingness to be vulnerable in such an open way. I also love hearing how, despite the curveball, neither of you or your mom have dropped to your knees to wallow in self pity. Rather, I am fortified your determination to rise to the occasion. How beautiful that the two of you have each other for strength, support, encouragment and heart. Certainly, this is a powerful relationship with potential to attract more than miracles. Love to you both.

  23. onesparrowsflight

    Such a heart rending path to navigate. Bless you and your Mom as you call in the Magic of each moment. Keeping the vision of perfection with you. Much love to you and to all who tread through difficulties that ultimately teach us Faith, Hope and Love. xoxo

  24. Brittany

    Hi Lisa, I read ur book the fear cure and really enjoyed it and respect all that you are saying and doing to promote a healthier world. I am just a beginner on my spiritual journey and u r an inspiration. I am so sorry about ur mother and all that u and ur family r going thru. I’ve been following u for awhile now and something has been eating at me so I just wanted to throw my 2 cents in..I do believe mental state as well as nutrition are key factors in curing oneself of disease..if u feel compelled I would love to share a couple people with you. Chris Kresser and my favorite herbalist Susun Weed. Chris goes over the lack of true b12 and DHA in a vegan diet and susun clarifies when raw vs cooking is more beneficial. I hope u can understand I’m not wanting to challenge ur world view, having studied nutrition for years it pains me to hear of someone with cancer attempting to overcome it on a raw vegan diet. Just wishing the best health and speedy recovery for ur mum.

    Thank you for all you do!

  25. Ellen M. Gregg

    Blessings for your mother and for you, and for your entire family, Lissa. Peace.

  26. RexRay

    Thank you for sharing your story with us. We all need to hear “everything is going to be ok.” May you continue to be aware of the Magic. Sending you and your Mom love and prayers of healing!

  27. Valerie Lawe

    Similar story w/my beloved mother, very young 77. Prayers and good wishes for highest good for all…

  28. Genevieve Lussier

    Such an inspiring way to go through that kind of event Lissa ! Only something good can come out if it now!! All my good thoughts to you, your Mom and your family !

  29. Lissa_Rankin

    Thank you all so much for your love, support, and witnessing of our journey. I am reading Mom some of your comments and she is touched too.

    Infinite love,

  30. Ruthie Lewis

    I loved this, Lissa. I could really relate to it as my mother had a heart attack a while back. And a bit of serendipity. I just wrote an article for Elements For A Healthier Life magazine titled The Unexpected God-ride.

    I’ll email it to you in case you would like to read it. I am praying for you as you and your mother walk through this.

    Much love xoxoxoxo

  31. Truth is True

    GOD, I LOVE YOU!! And now your mommy too!

  32. Angela

    Keeping you both in my loving thoughts x

  33. Jacqueline Ann-Marie Poll Lewi

    I am sorry for the diagnosis you would not expect…or want….The words you speak are painting a picture in my mind and the LOVE you have for your Mom is evident….Laugh, Live and Cry together and in this love I know you will both find a way on this Journey …..many ( HEART HUGS)….

  34. Zsoka Scurtescu

    Much strength to you dear sister, I’m celebrating you both today. How blessed is your mom for having you walking this journey with her. May you find the miracle you need – whatever it will be. Much love.

  35. Robin

    I’m sorry your mom has to go through this. As you say, cancer sucks! As a survivor myself, I know this all too well. She sounds like a strong and gracious warrior. Sending my best wishes for a full recovery via medicine, alternative, or even a miracle.

  36. Lara Sargeant

    Thankyou to you and your mum for sharing this emotional story. I am sending you both loving thoughts and strength and healing xxx

  37. Zan

    I’m so sorry you, your Mom and family are going through this new challenge. Maybe we can organize a healing event, or a regular weekly healing session – where your tribe can collectively “meet” at a certain time and all send healing energy/prayers/good vibes/love to your Mom. Similar to Lynne McTaggert’s Intention Experiments, when a group of people send the healing together, it’s exponentially more powerful. Miracles occur regularly but at the very least, it’s a way for all of us to connect and intentionally help you in some way. Sort of like crowdfunding, but with love, prayers and healing energy instead of money.

  38. Dhanyata Giulietta Solanki

    Dear Lissa, it is very touching how you openly share your deepest thoughts and emotions with us. I am totally with you. It is beautiful to see just how many people around the world care and join in on this healing journey. You and your mother are most extraordinary souls. I am sending you all my love and heartfilled prayers from Germany.

  39. Dhanyata Giulietta Solanki

    Really good idea @disqus_YwIgeE6EUh:disqus. Please can we do that Lissa?

  40. Rosanne Sliuzas

    What a tough and beautiful journey, Lissa. Thank you and your mom for sharing this first part of it with us. It’s inspiring and hopeful.

  41. Jeanette Burke

    Healing Thoughts & Prayers for your mom. Dr. Thomas Campbell has wonder research on turning off cancer, by regulations of proteins via vegan diet. Best Wishes, Jeanette

  42. Jocelyn R.M. Picard

    Thank you Lissa, truly inspirational. Blessings and prayers to all of you.
    Recently lost a friend who was only 47 to cancer…but you know what….her heart was full and grateful to God above and she lived every moment with beauty even thru the dark days of chemo. Your article today just reminded me about the attitude of gratitude and living a full life with a happy heart and strengthening our soul with the curveball of life. God Bless you both.

  43. Wendy Johnston

    Yes, every little thing gonna be all right. Keep the faith. Enjoy and appreciate every minute. <3


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