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Margie Levine goes far beyond lemonade

on her path to wellness

By Susie Davidson

Advocate Correspondent


When life hands you lemons, you can kvetch and moan, or you can be like Margie Levine. But not only does she make the proverbial lemonade, she has dedicated her life to the highest form of tzedakah, helping others to overcome personal challenge and achieve self-sufficiency.


Thirteen years ago, at age 43, four different specialists gave Margie only months to live. She had malignant pleural mesothelioma, an asbestos-related lung cancer. Refusing to accept this sentence, she embraced every course of traditional or alternative treatment she could find, as she resolved to beat the ominous odds.


The teacher and social worker got ready to learn and heal.  She underwent three surgeries, four chemo sessions and twenty five radiation treatments. Part of her lung was removed, her chest wall was rebuilt and 100 metal clips were placed around her heart.


"The days pass, and from my window,” she wrote from the hospital, “I watch the fullness of the yellow maple tree slowly losing its brilliance. The leaves float downward. The sun warms my being. I feel a sudden exuberance ..a tingling inside. I begin to plan my life recuperated. And I want to be able to live again."


"As I lay in my hospital bed trembling in the wake of the surgeon’s pronouncement, I remember reaching for a Hershey kiss on my night-stand from the growing stack of chocolate boxes," she recalls. "For a moment I felt free but then the realization hit, I was 43 and dying, I needed to go home, I needed to get my affairs in order."


But instead of giving up, she delved into visualization, meditation, stress reduction, healthy eating, acupuncture and affirmations.


She wrote and underlined in hot pink: "I WILL LIVE A LONG LIFE...I WILL BEAT ALL ODDS."


Margie developed her integrative regimen in order to stay alive. She instructed and visualized her body and individual cells releasing the damaging cancer cells, and affirmed her physical, mental and spiritual health. "Repeated reinforcement will help program the brain to think differently," she says.


Today, she is cancer-free, the longest living survivor of this disease.


“For nine years,” she says, “I didn't tell anyone about my illness, except some very close friends and family. Then one day in 1998, I received a call from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute asking me to speak at the society dinner and tell my story of recovery." She was hesitant, but a quote from Joseph Campbell, “We must be willing to get rid of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us,” convinced her to do it.


Reaction was so strong, she sat with friends and wrote down her 41 steps into a manual called “Embracing Challenge”. Today her book, “Surviving Cancer: One Woman’s Story and Her Inspiring Program for Anyone Facing a Cancer Diagnosis” (Broadway Books 2001), chronicles her journey to wellness in its 41 chapters, which encompass all aspects of living with disease.


She lives with her husband Ralph Levine in their Chestnut Hill and West Dennis homes and is a health education teacher, social worker, and therapist specializing in integrative medicine, which combines alternative and traditional practices.


Margie presents seminars on the mind/body connection, produces a free, monthly email newsletter and runs the Boston Institute of Noetic Science Group, which was founded by Apollo 14 Astronaut Edgar Mitchell on his trip home from the moon. The international network, with three hundred chapters, conducts research and education with the aim of creating a more equitable, compassionate, and sustainable world in order to facilitate human potential.


"The mind-body connection is so powerful,” she says. “There is something magical about your own voice directing your own cells. Each cell in our body participates in what is going on with the whole. Tune in to those individual cells and you make changes.


“I really believe I was kept alive for a reason - to do healing work, to help people learn to empower themselves, to help people heal themselves."