Local yoga teacher and former Incline Village yoga studio owner Angelina Calafiore, CMT, CYT, was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer in August 2012. Since, she has undergone major back surgery for a metastasis on her T6 vertebra, resulting in having her vertebra removed and her spine fused. A day after her back surgery, she underwent Cyber Knife surgery — and then came the intense radiation and chemo treatments.
At one point, the original 2.5 centimeter tumor in her upper right lung grew to 9 centimeters. As of her latest PET scan, the tumor has shrunk to 5 centimeters. Now, she has chosen not to undergo any more chemo/radiation treatments due to their devastating side effects. Angelina says she wants to follow a more holistic approach now that she is out of immediate danger from the tumor that was removed from her spine.
“If surgery was not done to remove the tumor on my spine, according to my neurosurgeon, I would be in a wheelchair now because it was pressing against my aorta and severing my spinal cord,” she said. “Now because the tumor in my lung is shrinking, I think taking this path at this time will lead to a complete recovery.
“We hear testimonies every day from those who have beaten the odds, and I intend to be one of them.”
Her healing journey has led her to the Optimum Health Institute in San Diego. In their holistic healing program, participants cleanse and nourish the body with diet, fasting and exercise; quiet and focus the mind with journaling and meditation; and renew and awaken the spirit with study, prayer and celebration.
Calafiore has heard many testimonies from graduates of the OHI program who have recovered from lung, prostate and breast cancer — many of whom were stage IV cancer patients.
In January of this year, Angelina had to close her yoga studio in the Village Center.
“It was heartbreaking to let go of the studio, but there was no way I could continue to keep it going while I was undergoing chemo therapy and especially when my life was in jeopardy,” she said. “I kept it open as long as I could but when things started looking dim, I decided to close it.”
Her cancer journey has been a path fraught with major ups and downs.
“Unless you have had cancer and survived or know someone that was fighting cancer and lost, you can never know just how devastating this disease can be,” Calafiore said. “I have lost a lot but I have gained so much as a result of this healing opportunity and have remained strong in spirit and positive in my mind.”
You may be wondering — how does a yoga teacher get a diagnosis like this? Calafiore says she has never been a smoker and has lived a healthy lifestyle. She believes that she contracted the cancer in Hawaii when she was visiting Mt. Kilauea. Since her visit there in 2006, she has heard that the incidence of lung cancer has increased on the island.
As a result of her decades-long yoga practice, her oxygen absorption rate has been between 100 percent and 94 percent, which is still better than the average person. Her doctors have said she continues to amaze them with this fact and because she has outlived their prognosis of 2-4 month’s life expectancy. Angelina’s strong spirit and calm attitude toward this difficult and challenging diagnosis has been inspiring to many.
“I have to credit my healing arts friends at Incline Chiropractic as I have been using the infrared sauna and foot detox program there, as well as massages from Carolyn Witt at the Lotus of the Lake Medical Center and undergoing acupuncture sessions with Barbara Ricotta in Kings Beach and Polarity Therapy with Joaquin Fioresi in Placerville,” she said. “Without these modalities as well as my new raw foods diet that includes juicing every day and my personal yoga/meditation practice, I don’t think I would be doing as well as I am now. The body naturally wants to be in balance and will heal itself, if we give it the chance.”
On Sunday, May 19, a fundraising Kirtan event will take place in South Lake Tahoe at the Camp Richardson Boat House at 1900 Jameson Beach Road (just next to the Beacon Restaurant). There will be Kundalini Yoga from 5-6:30 p.m. and Kirtan from 7-9 p.m. For more information about this event go to www.tahoerising.com.
If you would like to make a donation, go to https://www.giveforward.com/fundraiser/0jb2/angelinashealingjourney.