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Mio’s Story: A Journey with Psilocybin-Assisted Therapy for End-of-Life Anxiety

September 21, 2022

Mio Yokoi is a cheery, optimistic and charming 47-year-old woman. She is also, unsuspectingly, at the end of her life. In September of 2020, Mio was diagnosed with Stage Four Pancreatic Cancer with a minimal likelihood of survival. “All of a sudden, that finish line seems a lot closer, and it’s really difficult to be able to internally organize all of that and find some kind of peace. It was really impacting my quality of life.”

Death and dying, while inevitable to the human experience, are very frightening and anxiety-inducing to most of us. So, when you are told  you don’t have much time left, feelings of depression and anxiety can take over. 

“When you find out that you have pancreatic cancer, there isn’t anything in that where you go, ‘Oh, I’m feeling hopeful,’” she told The Daily Beast with a laugh. “So I didn’t really want to hear about other people’s experiences because it’s often either not particularly hopeful or helpful. So, for a long time, I was just really shut off. But I also needed to focus on myself and my own mental health.” Mio tells Daily Beast.

After the news of her diagnosis, Mio determined she needed “a new operating system” for life. While going through her treatment at Princess Margaret Cancer Center in Toronto, the facility started their steps towards a psilocybin program for end-of-life treatment. But the timeline for this particular clinical movement was moving slowly at PMCC, and Mio’s hourglass continued to pour. Enter Field Trip Health & Wellness, where Mio was able to quickly receive psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy for end-of-life anxiety through Canada’s Special Access Program.

Mio’s first experience with Field Trip was on August 10, 2022 with ketamine exploration, our primary modality of medicine. “Yokoi described ketamine therapy as ‘gentle, dissociative but not in an uncomfortable way, warm, like a hug, a dreamy sort of experience, very beneficial overall,’” tells Mugglehead Magazine.

Nine days later, she embarked on her first psilocybin journey. Mio was the very first Canadian patient to be treated with psilocybin-assisted therapy for end-of-life anxiety.

“With the psilocybin, it was much deeper and grander… there were a lot of lessons that came out of it,” she told Healing Maps of the experience.

Of the many insights that came from her psilocybin journey, Mio had a realization about the relationship to her Earth vessel – her body.

“My physical self is a necessary partner in life, but somehow I’ve always kind of been unsure, and not quite trusting of what my body is doing, especially now with the diagnosis that I have,” she said. “It didn’t necessarily provide me with answers, but it certainly gave me this gift, like, ‘hey, you’re not looking at this.’” (from Healing Maps)

She also realized that her fear of dying was not dying itself, but the thought of leaving her husband. 

“That was one of the things that I cried really hard about,” Mio told Daily Beast. “It wasn’t even so much that I was going to not be around. It was like, ‘I didn’t do enough for us. I didn’t do enough for you, my husband. The anxiety really spurred me on to try to get a psychedelic-assisted experience because I don’t want to feel like this failure in life for whatever time I have left.”

Dr. Michael Verbora, Field Trip Health & Wellness’ Medical Director, helped arrange and oversee all of Mio’s treatments. In addition to Dr. Verbora’s medical education, he also completed a program in psychedelic psychotherapy at the California Institute of Integral studies and took MDMA training from the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS).

“These kinds of treatments will revolutionize mental health and the way we approach pain and suffering in general. By alleviating suffering through these molecules and therapy I think we can build a more empathetic world with greater concern for one another and the environment,” he tells Mugglehead Magazine.

With more and more research of psilocybin and psilocybin-producing fungi, Field Trip foresees the ability to work with these healing molecules more frequently in the future. However, the ability to treat patients with serious or life-threatening conditions is available to us now, and stories from individuals like Mio serve as an urgent reminder that end-of-life anxiety is a natural part of the human experience. 

Canadians interested in applying to the SAP for treatment of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder as well as disorders affecting the central nervous systems through Field Trip are encouraged to contact the company by email at [email protected] to begin the application process.

While Field Trip intends to make applications on behalf of certain Canadians to access psilocybin and MDMA-assisted therapies through the SAP, no assurances can be made that Health Canada will approve any such applications or that such treatments will be provided.