Doctor Neha: Hi, I am so excited because my friend Anita Moorjani is here with us today. We’d love to have a conversation and share with you a bit of our journey and some of the biggest lessons we’ve learned. Anita, welcome.
Anita: Thank you.
Doctor Neha: How about if you just start with a little bit about your journey?
Anita: Sure. February 2, 2006, should have been my last day of life. If the doctors were right, I would’ve died on that day. I had end-stage cancer, lymphoma for 4 years that had spread throughout my body. It started out with just one little lump on my neck. Over 4 years, it metastasized and spread from all around my neck, from the base of my skull all the way down under my arms, my breasts, all the way down to my abdomen. Some of the tumors were the size of lemons. My body had stopped absorbing nutrition, so I weighed about 85 pounds. My lungs were filled with fluid. I was breathing with the aid of an oxygen tank. My muscles had completely deteriorated, so I couldn’t walk. I was in a wheelchair. I had these open skin lesions where toxins were coming out of my body.
On that day, February 2, though, I went into a coma. The doctors told my husband that these were my final hours and that I wouldn’t be coming out of the coma because my organs had shut down. There I was hanging by a thread between life and death, but I was actually aware of something much greater. I was in this state of clarity where I became aware of my purpose and why I had the cancer and so on. In that state of clarity, I felt as though I had a choice as to whether to come back to my body or not. At first, I didn’t want to come back because my body was sick and dying. I had no reason to come back because for the first time I was in the most beautiful, amazing state where all the pain was gone and I felt so light and free.
Doctor Neha: Did you feel free of your body in that place?
Anita: I was free of my body, and I was free of all the pain and the suffering and the struggling. I thought, Why would I come back? My family was suffering taking care of me. I was suffering and in pain.
Doctor Neha: You didn’t want to be a burden?
Anita: I just wanted to stay in that state of bliss. In the next moment, it felt as though I understood why I had the cancer and I understood that now that I knew this truth and the truth of who I really am, if I went back to my body, I would heal rapidly. Sure enough, I came out of the coma and within four days, the tumors shrunk by about 60 to 70 percent, and I was moved out of the intensive care unit and into a regular room. The doctors were taking tests, and they did not know what to make of me. They could not believe it because the tumors continued to shrink. I was telling them they don’t need to run any more tests, they don’t need to give me the drugs anymore. And I was telling my family I was going to be fine.
Three weeks after I came out of the coma, three doctors came into the room looking really serious in their white coats. My mother, my brother, and my husband were there. One of them said, “We have some disturbing news.” Everybody, of course, looked really worried.
Doctor Neha: Alarmed.
Anita: Yes, alarmed. We said, “What is it?” The doctor said, “We’ve done all the tests; we’ve done the biopsies; we’ve done the lymph nodes; we’ve done the bone marrow biopsy—we can’t find the cancer.”
They were so bewildered they didn’t even know what to write in my medical records, so we said, “Why is that a problem … Isn’t that good news?”
Doctor Neha: It’s a miracle.
Anita: That’s what you and I would say, but the doctor actually responded, “No, because if we can’t find the cancer, we don’t know what drugs to give her. It’s not possible for cancer to disappear like that. It’s there somewhere; we just have to find it.”
Doctor Neha: Unbelievable! Part of me is on the same page with you—miracles happen every day, and I’ve witnessed them. Then I’m feeling for this physician because the way I was trained in medical school, we try to make sense of everything, and we have to be able to give an answer. We have to be able to name something and put a drug to it, or go into surgery or be able to take it out, right? There’s a powerlessness that comes with not being able to make sense of something.
Anita: I completely get that because I actually empathized with him. I have to say they were doing their best. They were very caring, and they so wanted to help me, so this is not about them as people, but it’s about the training, yes.
Doctor Neha: It’s about the training. That whole story is a wow! And since then, have you just steadily improved?
Anita: Yes, so within 5 weeks, I was released from the hospital cancer-free. The doctor, by his own admission, said, “I have no idea what to even write on your medical records.” Other oncologists have verified my records. This happened to me in a hospital in Hong Kong, and an oncologist from the U.S., who heard my story, even flew down to Hong Kong to study my records. So since March 9, 2006, I’ve been cancer-free.
Doctor Neha: From February 2 to March 9?
Anita: Five weeks.
Doctor Neha: Unbelievable. There’s one short story that I want to tell you that is nowhere on your level, but it’s the thinking process in medicine, which is what I’m drawing upon. I burned out in 2004. I was working, working, working. I was so worried about not being a team player that I would take on these 36-hour shifts. If no other staff was available, I would do it. I burned out and ended up seeing a psychiatrist who said to me, “Oh, my goodness. We’ve got to help you start taking responsibility for your own self-care and not be so worried about what everybody thinks of you that you just work yourself through your own body.
“You’re burned out. We’re going to give you time off work, and here’s your prescription for Prozac.” I knew all the side effects of what some of these drugs do. I believe in drugs for the right dose for the right person for the right ailment. I don’t just generically believe in them, so I filled the prescription, took it home, and I put it in my drawer. I thought to myself, I don’t know what’s going on here, but I don’t think it’s a Prozac deficiency. In the meantime, he’s working with me every week, teaching me about clear boundaries and wanting to help everybody. That’s why I’m a healer, a doctor, because I want to help everybody.
When I saw him the fifth week, he says, “Wow, Doctor Neha, that Prozac is really working well.”
I said, “Well, doc, I didn’t take the Prozac. I knew the side effects. I filled the prescription, but I thought I’d wait to see how our work together was going and then if I needed it, I would take it. But I haven’t taken any.” He got this horrified look on his face. I thought he’d be happy.
He said, “Well, if you’re not on medications, I can’t bill as a psychiatrist for seeing you. You’ll have to find someone else to help you.” That’s how ingrained the medical training and thinking can be. But as a patient, I thought, Wait, isn’t this amazing news?
Anita: That’s exactly how I felt. I felt they should be happy for me.
Doctor Neha: There are a lot of different physicians and philosophies, so I’m sure through that period, you had many.
Anita: I’ve had many. One of the things that has touched me is when physicians tell me they’ve read my book and they recommend it to their patients. It moves me to see people doing the work like what you’re doing, as well. I love it because it just helps to change people’s perspectives about medical conditions.
Doctor Neha: Even the thought that your book gives them so much hope, right? You’re a living miracle. Healing someone on a physical level is one thing, but there are so many levels on which we have to heal. Your example is almost of spiritually healing. Would you call it that?
Anita: I would because I felt that it was my spiritual self, or my inner self, that healed when I was in the coma state. My body is just a reflection of my inner state.
Doctor Neha: I believe that somewhere, we fall off track in our spiritual world, our connection to something bigger than ourselves. When that happens, we have all sorts of emotions and thoughts that start coming that are off track as well, and we start feeling worse. My patients would show up in the emergency department or in the hospital with an ailment in their physical body thinking that it was the first sign that they had gotten that something was off track.
Would you be open to me asking you the five questions called the Awareness Prescription that I used to ask each of my patients? Once I had medically stabilized them, the night before I discharged them, I would ask them five questions. I wonder what your answers would be to those questions.
Anita: I would love to hear your five questions. I’m intrigued.
Doctor Neha: Okay. The first question is why this?Why cancer that started in your neck and moved all over your body versus your left arm, right, or something else happening? Why was it that?
Anita: My intuition tells me that it had to do with communication, so that’s why the neck area, lymph nodes …
Doctor Neha: Oh, lymph nodes, too, connecting all over your body …
Anita: This is not something I thought about before, but this is what’s coming as I’m listening to your question. It started from the neck because it was to do with communication. I wasn’t communicating my truth. I was afraid of communicating my truth. I always suppressed it, so I never spoke up, never spoke out, and the fact that it spread all over the body, my whole sense of being. It was connected to my self-worth, my self-value, because your lymphatic system basically runs throughout your whole body, cleansing your body.
Doctor Neha: And defending you, your immune system. So there’s this way you’ were not speaking your truth, not showing up as who you are. Your communication started breaking down right there, your ability to defend yourself.
Okay, so question number 2. Why now? Why on February 2, 2006, not two years before that, not two weeks later? Why did it happen to you in that moment?
Anita: Wow, that’s a good question.
Doctor Neha: What was the wake-up call you needed in that moment?
Anita: At that point, I let go of fighting. I completely let go of fighting my cancer, fighting to stay alive. It just seemed too painful. I remember that’s the last thing that happened before I went into the coma. I felt death can’t be worse than this, and I let go.
Doctor Neha: Surrender?
Doctor Neha:: In surrender, you found everything.
Anita: I found a gift, yes. I found everything.
Doctor Neha: You found life; you found love; you found your health.
Anita: In surrender, I found life.
Doctor Neha: I just got the chills. Third question, what signals might you have missed along the way?
Anita: Oh, I think there were quite a few.
Doctor Neha: You can just name a few of them.
Anita: I was having a lot of allergies to foods, a lot of problems with the mucous membrane and sinus problems and things like that.
Doctor Neha: When you start having lots of food sensitivities, your body is reacting against you. You develop something called leaky gut and your gut is not a strong barrier anymore. It’s a loose barrier and food starts seeping through there, and your immune system starts reacting against you, essentially.
Anita: Yes, that was already happening. I started researching the food I was eating and then I became obsessive. I became fearful of everything I was eating.
Doctor Neha: You went into a high level of control.
Anita: High level of control of everything I was putting into my body, so even before I got cancer, I was vegan, but instead of getting stronger, I was actually getting weaker.
Doctor Neha: Wow, okay. Question number 4, what else in your life needed to be healed?
Anita: That’s a powerful one. My love for myself and my self-worth. That was the biggest lesson for me. I realized that I had, in fact, never loved myself. I’d always believed that it was selfish to love myself. I’d always put myself last, treated myself like a doormat, always put others first. For the first time, the cancer gave me permission to take care of myself. In that state, in the coma, I realized I didn’t need the cancer to take care of myself.
Doctor Neha: Oh, I just got the chills again. Now, you’re not hiding behind others or taking care of others. You’re standing center stage; you’re owning and sharing your story. It’s almost like you’ve taken on your personal power.
Anita: Yes, that’s what it feels like to me. It felt like the cancer was like my own immune system, my own body, and my own energy turning against me.
Doctor Neha: The last and final question—If you could speak from the heart, what would you say?
Anita: First of all, I would say to myself that I will never let myself down again. I will never treat myself like a doormat. To everybody else, to our listeners, to our viewers, I would say love yourself like your life depends on it because it does.
Doctor Neha: I love that. Wow. Your book is a game changer for not only individuals who need hope and want to heal on a different level, but also I love how it’s impacting the medical profession. I love your tenderness, your honesty, and your realness. It’s just so beautiful.
Anita: If doctors were like you and asked the questions like you do, I think illnesses would be reduced drastically. I really do. Those were great questions.
Doctor Neha: The Awareness Prescription—it can even be used when you face a dilemma in your life, so you can ask:
What signals have I missed?
What else in my life needs to be healed?
And if I spoke from the heart, what would I say?
You can use it even when you’re not physically ill.
Anita: That’s true.
Doctor Neha: You are such an inspiration. Your book is a path home. I love that you’re speaking more, taking that center stage, owning your power and your place in the world, and sharing your gifts with other people.
Send me your questions—drop me a tweet at #AskDoctorNeha or write your question and comments down below.
To the beauty of second chances,