Be Present In Every Moment — A cancer diagnosis often creates an internal tornado of mental and emotional energy. Thoughts and memories of friends who have gone through cancer; images seen in the media of people going through treatments; and/or perhaps stories we create in our minds of family members living without us if we die. We are creative beings who have a wonderful capacity to imagine the future and remember the past. What helped me was to remember that “Change is Constant So Dance Within the Moment.”
Cancer is a horrible and terrifying disease. Yet millions of people have beaten the odds and beat cancer. Authority Magazine started a new series called “I Survived Cancer and Here Is How I Did It”. In this interview series, we are talking to cancer survivors to share their stories, in order to offer hope and provide strength to people who are being impacted by cancer today. As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Amy Camie.
Amy Camie, CCM is a professional and therapeutic harpist, certified clinical musician, speaker, recording artist, composer, author, and co-initiator of the ORIGIN Methodology of Self-Discovery. She loves empowering and inspiring audiences through her programs on the healing power of music, vibrational resonance, conscious self-care, and the Life Lessons learned during her two journeys with breast cancer. As a pioneer in the field of harp therapy, Amy has co-authored several studies exploring how her solo harp music increases brainwave function, supports the immune system and reduces pain, distress and anxiety levels.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! We really appreciate the courage it takes to publicly share your story. Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your background and your childhood backstory?
I was adopted at one month of age, grew up in Godfrey, Illinois with two loving parents who were both music teachers, and am the oldest of three siblings. Classical piano, harp and dance lessons began in elementary school and continued through high school.
My interests in music and psychology blossomed at Indiana University, where I studied harp with world renowned teachers and graduated with a degree in Telecommunications.
Upon returning home in 1987, a family friend was going through hospice care. I was inspired to record a solo harp cassette tape to help her relax. This was my first introduction to music and healing.
As I continued sharing music in traditional ways throughout the community — private events, weddings, funerals, and orchestras — I unexpectedly met, and eventually married John Camie, the man who would expand my perspective about everything — personal beliefs, spirituality, consciousness, healing, and how it is all connected. Hence, my journey of self-discovery began.
In 1997, I recorded a CD for my father to help him relax and heal after prostate cancer surgery. These two initial experiences with cancer and music shaped the next 20 years of my life as I intuitively followed the sparks of inspiration that ignited my curiosity and led to the development of several pilot research studies exploring the healing effects of my original solo harp music on cancer patients.
This time of creative inspiration and innovation paralleled my intense journey of self-exploration as I was discovering hidden aspects about myself, many related to my subconscious fears associated with being adopted.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite quote is, “Loving Life…all of it.”
I often describe this quote by using the harp as a metaphor — with all of the strings representing the different fears, joys, dreams, beliefs, feelings, everything we have ever experienced (plus, the epigenetic vibrational imprints of our ancestors we carry within our DNA). We have low scary experiences and we have high joyful experiences, all of which create the fullness of who we are.
When I was diagnosed, I saw it as another opportunity to go deeper within myself. As a treasure hunter, I am continually on a quest to awaken, acknowledge and compassionately embrace as many of my strings as possible, knowing it is a quest that will continue until my very last breath. “Loving Life…all of it” is another way of saying, “Loving ME…and all of my life experiences.”
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about surviving cancer. Do you feel comfortable sharing with us the story surrounding how you found out that you had cancer?
When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2010, it felt like a terrible cosmic joke. Part of me was embarrassed and felt like a hypocrite because for years I had played healing harp music in chemotherapy infusion units and spoken to cancer support groups about Vibrational Awareness and The Healing Power of Music. As I turned the mirror, I could see the beauty in what was unfolding. Below is part of the first email sent to friends and family:
Ironically, even though the ‘unknown’ factor is a bit scary, there is a deep sense of peace surrounding all of this. I know that a large part of my purpose for being on the planet is to create and share my music with people going through the cancer journey and I also know in my heart that part of me needs to personally experience this journey in order to be able to say “been there, done that.” There is so much beauty surrounding this process already and I’m very clear that one of my main lessons during all of this is to learn how to receive love for myself. So, from my perspective, this is a sacred journey back to myself so that I can more fully share my love with the world.
My initial journey took 9 months to complete and included a lumpectomy, removal of 11 lymph nodes, 6 rounds of chemotherapy and 33 radiation treatments. It was definitely a rebirth — a time to nurture and love myself through conscious self-care choices.
Two years later, I was diagnosed again in the same breast after finding a small lump on the surface. It was interesting to acknowledge the unexpected feeling of relief — the feeling of, “Oh, now I don’t have to wait for it to come back again because it just did.”
I remember hanging up the phone after receiving the news and realizing I wasn’t afraid — like when you fall off a bicycle for the first time and then get back on again with a new-found confidence that did not exist before the fall.
I ran down the hall and announced to our boys, “OK, boys, I know this sounds crazy but I really don’t feel any fear around this. I know my body is talking to me, trying to get my attention. I’m listening and know that it’s all part of this bigger transformation that’s happening. The cancer is so small; it is more like a ‘residue’ asking to leave my body quickly through surgery. Everything is going to be okay. We just need to walk through this, one step at a time. I love you both sooo much!!”
Although the specific treatments were different, the perception of this being an opportunity to learn more about myself was the underlying thread that kept everything flowing and connected. That journey included a right mastectomy, full hysterectomy, and tamoxifen for almost eight years.
What was the scariest part of that event? What did you think was the worst thing that could happen to you?
The most frightening part of being diagnosed was seeing the initial fear in the eyes of our two sons (middle school and high school) and in my husband. We are a very close family and knowing my husband’s mother died of breast cancer when he was our oldest son’s age added another level of conscious concern, as he was reliving his greatest fears of losing me as well. Fortunately, I was able to hand-pick my medical team so my fear of dying was minimal, although it did lurk in the shadows.
How did you react in the short term?
After the initial shock of, “Wow, this is really happening” sunk in, I honestly felt like a compassionate warrior goddess on a mission to transform my life. The awareness of this being a sacred journey to remember how to love myself helped keep me grounded and present within the moment.
Our family immediately agreed that we would be open and honest about all treatment options, test results, and feelings that surfaced. We also decided to communicate with relatives and friends through email updates which created a sense of connection and community while giving us space and privacy.
Of course, waves of emotion would rise from the depths and wash over me as repressed fears and anxieties found their way to the surface. Thankfully, these energetic tsunamis of truthful tears would gently subside shortly after finding their expression.
After the dust settled, what coping mechanisms did you use? What did you do to cope physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually?
The first thing I did to cope was listen to my CD, The Magic Mirror -Inspired Reflection at least once a day. This was the music shown to support brainwave and immune system function in our previous pilot studies with patients going through chemotherapy. Inspired by ancient healing chants my husband shared with me, this music was also an expression of our love that gently wrapped me in a vibrational blanket of peace, comfort, and calm.
Physically, I supported my body with acupuncture, Chinese herbs/teas, and extra melatonin at night. A dear friend was studying macrobiotics so she helped me learn what foods would best support my body and how to cook them in ways that retained their nutrients.
Mentally, I tried to stay focused on what choices most lovingly supported me in every moment. Becoming conscious of what my body was trying to communicate with me through its subtle signals helped keep my attention inward. The email updates to family and friends helped me stay focused on each step and how I was perceiving them. Writing out my feelings and finding the gifts in what was happening within and around me was very beneficial to my mental wellbeing.
Emotionally, I was learning to be honest with the feelings surfacing. As someone who found safety by trying to control the outside happenings around me, surrendering to the moment triggered feelings of vulnerability. Everything became a ‘new normal’ and the only constant was change. Learning to live within the moment, being honest with what most lovingly supported me, and trusting that if I made those choices everyone around me would also benefit, helped strengthen my emotional wellbeing.
Spiritually, I was aware my entire journey was a spiritual experience. For decades prior to my diagnosis, reflecting on the messages and patterns within the ORIGIN Methodology of Self-Discovery was a daily practice. This system continued to offer comfort and clarity as I moved through each experience. Listening to The Magic Mirror music helped me surrender into my internal sacred space for deep relaxation and healing. My practice of transcendental meditation also reminded me of the eternal oneness from which we all emerge and eventually return.
Is there a particular person you are grateful towards who helped you learn to cope and heal? Can you share a story about that?
There are two specific people whose presence helped me learn to cope and heal. The first was my husband, John, whose constant, loving, compassionate care helped me stay connected to the love that was expanding within me. When waves of emotion would surface, he never tried to fix things or redirect my focus. He knew the path to healing was to honestly feel my feelings, no matter how uncomfortable. This short journal entry offers a beautiful example:
All weekend I could feel a resistance in me…like an energetic wall that wasn’t allowing me to travel further into myself. Yesterday (Saturday) I could feel myself keeping busy and distracted with ‘doing’ so I wouldn’t have to settle into Being. Finally, I stopped and listened to “The Magic Mirror.” The love flowing through that music got inside and underneath my wall…then the tears of honesty started flowing again and the words, “I really don’t want to go through chemotherapy” kept repeating over and over again. The hidden, concealed fear was coming up and out so I let the tears flow as the music continued. John came in the room halfway through and just held my hand, without trying to ‘fix’ anything — he was just there with me. By the end of the CD, the energy had released and I felt lighter and more honest with myself.
The second person whose presence helped me learn to cope and heal was a dear spiritual teacher, friend and mentor, Yogini. Twenty-five years ago, she asked me a question that rocked me to my core, “Who are you?” At the time, I had no idea. Through the years, I have discovered the truth, then at times, I forget. I will never forget when she called and said, “I need to see you.” It was after one of the email updates. Below are journal updates describing this story:
During my bout with nausea, I became more aware of my growing dependence on email responses from my Journal Updates. I had started checking messages several times a day and felt an increasing need for the outward connection with others for strength and support. Although I loved the caring support of others, what I was feeling was the dependency on that outside source rather than tapping into my inner connection to Source. This dependency began to feel like strings of attachment growing like thickened vines.
This was another turning point in my journey — from the outside-in. When I was feeling so sick and nauseous, I completely forgot the power of love and healing within myself, until a close friend and spiritual mentor, Yogini, came over to help me remember Who I AM. Her gentle guidance helped me quiet my mind, and descend back into myself; to the deepest core essence of my Being, my I AM Divine Consciousness within.
Unbridled freedom and joy ignited with this inner connection and filled every cell of my body with radiant and luminous light. We laughed with the blowing winds as we danced with the leaves. In that sublime moment, I knew that it was through this divine inner connection and awareness of my love and light that my body would truly heal.
In my own cancer struggle, I sometimes used the idea of embodiment to help me cope. Let’s take a minute to look at cancer from an embodiment perspective. If your cancer had a message for you, what do you think it would want or say?
I always felt my body was trying to get my attention. I had been under so much stress for so long and was subconsciously focused on surviving, paying bills, and taking care of others. Yes, on the outside I was recording healing music and creating beautiful events with my husband but on the inside, I was confused and afraid. There was a disconnect that needed to find authentic alignment. My internal connections were separated — my mind had cut off my feelings and my body was screaming, “SLOW DOWN and LISTEN!” The chaos within my cells needed loving attention to transform into harmony. Much like a mother calms her screaming children, I was calming and soothing my repressed fears, anxiety, and memories that had manifested in the form of cancer.
I also remember a very special massage therapy session before my first surgery where I envisioned the lump in my right breast. All of a sudden it turned around to look at me with wide open eyes. I felt they were the eyes of my birth father, whom I did not know, reminding me, “Remember … remember love … remember You Are Love.” Then the eyes turned and whooshed away.
What did you learn about yourself from this very difficult experience? How has cancer shaped your worldview? What has it taught you that you might never have considered before? Can you please explain with a story or example?
Cancer offered many layers of learning I would have otherwise never considered. For example, when I played harp in chemotherapy infusion units prior to my diagnosis, I would think to myself, “How can they just sit there and let that poison be pumped into their body?” Then, I was faced with the same decision. My judgements and assumptions about chemotherapy shined a light on other judgements I held about myself and others.
Another profound awareness revolved around the story I had created about being adopted and given away, which subconsciously manifested in my lack of trust in other people and myself. The paradox being, I wanted to please everyone so they would love me and not leave me, yet I was not able to receive that love because of the walls of protection I had created. Through my experiences with cancer, I realized somewhere in my past I twisted the meanings of the words:
1. Vulnerable — without adequate protection
2. Open –not closed or locked, allowing access to the inside.
As I explored the stories I had created to protect myself from feeling vulnerable, there was a confidence, inner strength, and self-love growing within me. I began to see, feel, know, and trust that it was safe to be open and receive love from others because I was loving and trusting myself more.
One of the last Life Lessons I learned through my journeys with cancer is that I AM not my experiences…I AM so much more! Cancer was an experience, as was my adoption, marriage, birth of our sons, miscarriage, college years, beauty pageants, and every other experience in my life. The essence of Who I AM is Divine — the experiences I have are simply experiences — opportunities to learn about myself and how I move through this human existence. Remembering, I AM Love is like a breath — sometimes I remember and sometimes I forget. It is in those times of forgetting that I discover more about my subconscious stories, fears, and anxieties. Then, I remember again and feel that inner connection of truth, oneness, and Divine Love that transcends any form of separation my mind could create.
How have you used your experience to bring goodness to the world?
From the beginning of my cancer experience I knew I wanted to help as many people as possible by sharing my journey. My entire journal is available on my website for anyone to read. Under the menu option, “My Journey With Cancer,” there are videos, cancer care package ideas, and articles.
The Magic Mirror — Inspired Reflections music was and continues to be an integral part of my healing process and is currently available worldwide where ever people enjoy music. To help create even more awareness of this music and its benefit to patients, I co-authored a medically approved clinical trial that will be implemented at Siteman Cancer Center in St. Louis, Missouri once funded.
My book, Loving Life…all of it — A Walk with Cancer, Compassion and Consciousness includes ideas about resonance, 13 Life Lessons, meditation prompts, and an overview of how I used the ORIGIN Methodology of Self-Discovery to stay focused throughout my journey.
Years before my diagnosis, I was sharing presentations and workshops with medical care providers called, Vibrational Awareness and The Healing Power of Music. A large part of these programs involved demonstrating the concepts of resonance, sympathetic vibration, forced resonance and entrainment. During my cancer experiences, I realized how this understanding of resonance helped me make loving choices for myself; I actually used the term conscious self-care in my journals to describe the moment-by-moment awareness of choice. Those original presentations have now transformed into Conscious Self-Care presentations, Keynotes, and on-line courses to help those struggling with caring for themselves, especially as they care for others. I have also gone through the process of getting these programs approved for CEUs and contact hours for nurses, social workers, therapists, massage therapists, and therapeutic musicians.
I love to bring healing music, life lessons and conscious self-care ideas together in on-line classes for those living with and beyond cancer. A Walk with Cancer, Healing Music and Conscious Self-Care can be a single gathering or a series of classes.
Finally, I am a contributor to several on-line websites where I intertwine insights and lessons learned during both cancer experiences with my continually expanding perceptions of conscious self-care, personal self-discovery, and unique self-expression.
What are a few of the biggest misconceptions and myths out there about fighting cancer that you would like to dispel?
When I was presenting Vibrational Awareness to cancer support groups, years before I was diagnosed, I felt a disconnect within the language often used in cancer communities — specifically, with the word fight. When we hear the word fight, it immediately activates the need to protect against an enemy. When I was diagnosed, I realized I had been fighting myself long enough. I was tired of being my own worst enemy. It was time to start loving myself and living life from a place of love. That shift in perception was huge.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experiences and knowledge, what advice would you give to others who have recently been diagnosed with cancer? What are your “5 Things You Need To Beat Cancer? Please share a story or example for each.
1. Be Present In Every Moment — A cancer diagnosis often creates an internal tornado of mental and emotional energy. Thoughts and memories of friends who have gone through cancer; images seen in the media of people going through treatments; and/or perhaps stories we create in our minds of family members living without us if we die. We are creative beings who have a wonderful capacity to imagine the future and remember the past. What helped me was to remember that “Change is Constant So Dance Within the Moment.”
My Story: Shortly after I was diagnosed, a CAT scan for our youngest son was scheduled for sinus problems. The results indicated a growth on his skull that required immediate attention. Now it became a dance of schedules between the two of us for appointments with the neurologist, neurosurgeon, breast surgeon, MRIs, and surgery dates.
As if all this activity weren’t enough, I had purchased a previously owned car days before my diagnosis. On December 23, one hour before the dealership closed, the brakes on the car went out and we had to make arrangements for a tow and rental before everyone left for the Christmas holiday. John and I were sitting in his car waiting for the tow truck when we burst out laughing. This was the moment when we realized that no matter what was happening on the outside; no matter how crazy things seemed to be; regardless of how much we wanted or felt we needed to control; we couldn’t. It was not about controlling the outside; it was about learning how to dance within each moment from the inside.
2. Slow Down and Listen — There is always a lot of activity happening after a diagnosis and it is easy to get caught up in the swirl of tests, results, treatment plan options, rearranging schedules, and everything else that unexpectedly becomes our new normal. Slowing down helps the dust settle. Slowing down helps us listen to the soft whispers of our body, heart, soul, and highest self.
My Story: Prior to my diagnosis, I really didn’t take time to listen to my body, or love myself in the way I loved others. As a mother, wife, daughter, friend, colleague, and all the other roles I played, I always put everyone else before me. In the beginning my diagnosis was an “excuse” to begin reversing that pattern of putting others first. The excuse quickly transformed into conscious loving choices of self-care as I remembered that one of my main lessons during this journey was to learn how to receive love for myself. It started by my willingness to simply slow down and listen inside.
3. Be Gentle with Yourself and Others — A cancer diagnosis affects everyone around us — our spouse, children, parents, friends — everyone who loves us. Sometimes we forget about others because we are so focused on what is happening within us. It is often helpful to take a few moments to be gentle and sensitive to the feelings and fears happening within those who love us.
My Story: My husband’s mother died when he was the age of our oldest son when I was diagnosed. All of those painful memories rushed to the surface as his greatest fear of losing me was now a possibility. Thankfully, we took time to acknowledge what he was experiencing. This is why he could not go to the hospital with me or join me for many of my chemotherapy treatments. It was simply too painful for him. If I had not been sensitive to what he was going through, I could have easily been resentful or mad at him for not supporting me in the way I had envisioned. Honestly, it would not have been beneficial for him to be at the hospital because I would have sensed his fear and anxiety. Being compassionate with those walking our journey with us is advantageous for everyone. Thankfully, my mother was able to join me for my surgeries and treatments, which is exactly where she wanted to be.
4. Take One Step at a Time — When fear of the unknown pervades our space, our mind often rushes to all the potential possibilities. This can create even more fear and anxiety. The story below helped me remember that I am always supported even if my eyes cannot see it; and the journey happens one step at a time.
My story: When I was 7 years old my parents took me and my younger sister and brother to the theme park, Silver Dollar City. My most vivid memory is when we reached the end of the fun house and it was my turn to enter the last room. The door opened into nothingness; darkness filled the room. As my eyes adjusted, a galaxy of stars appeared; covering every possible crevice; the ceiling, the walls, the floor…wait…there was no floor…only an unending abyss of starlit darkness.
“How am I going to get across the room without a floor?” I asked myself as my heart pounded with anticipation and growing fear. I had never been so afraid in my life. “What if I step out and fall?” “Am I going to die?” “No, they wouldn’t let that happen in a fun house.” My mind was trying to figure out what my eyes were seeing. I could feel the presence of people behind me anxiously awaiting their turn. I had two choices; turn back or step out. I took a deep breath, hesitantly lifted my foot and slowly lowered it to what I desperately wanted to be a floor. To my surprise (and great relief!) my foot was greeted by some sort of squishy flooring that was invisible to my eyes. With each step I gained more confidence and was soon safely on the other side of the room. That first step, that single leap of faith into the starlit darkness, continues to inspire me today.
5. Find the Beauty — Every experience we have is simply an experience. We interpret that experience based upon our perceptions created from prior experiences and beliefs. What I have found is, within every experience there is an opportunity to learn more about ourselves if we are willing to see beyond and through what we initially believe is happening.
In one of my journal entries I wrote: Even though I am completely surrounded by countless prayers, love and light on every level, I actually experienced how easily it is to slip into hopelessness and despair. My body was going through multiple levels of experiences, but the only one I was ‘hooked’ into was the physical discomfort of the nausea…for which I took medication, which made me tired, so I went to bed without drinking or eating much, which led to slight dehydration, which amplified my headache, which increased the nausea, and the cycle just continued for a while. It made me keenly aware of how easily this spiral energy can take over, which could lead many people into depression and even more extreme behaviors just to lessen the pain and suffering. Wow, what a sensitive balance. The Power of Love to Heal took on a whole new dimension for me this weekend and I am eternally grateful for each and every one of you who are so lovingly supporting me during this journey. My hope is that everyone who is walking a difficult path in their life will also be able to open their hearts to receive the love that is truly abundantly and gently surrounding them.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be?
I truly believe “compassion grows from within as we lovingly embrace all aspects of ourselves.”
My movement would be to continue inspiring others to turn the mirror and ask the question, “What’s yet to be discovered?” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ps7zdE1uxdY
For when we are able to expand our perceptions and embrace the fullness of who we are with compassion, then we are able to see others through those eyes; creating empathy, peace, and harmony within and around us.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them. 🙂
I would love to have a private meal with Brené Brown because I feel her philosophy, research, and perspective on life beautifully aligns with my personal journey of self-discovery and experiences with compassion, empathy, vulnerability, and trust. It would be fun to have a conversation about how to articulate her research findings through the language of resonance.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
To find my music online, simply search, “Amy Camie” where ever you enjoy music.
www.TheHealingHarpist.com has direct links to my website, research, conscious self-care course, book, presentations, and all of my social media links.
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!