I had been trying to think of a way to summarize my feelings about a recent accomplishment I have been very happy to be part of. Beyond having a list of positive and energetic emotions, I would say it is about being more than a patient.
Cancer can have a real impact on our life. Beyond fear and uncertainty, it can strip us of our identity, as we might be unable to participate in the duties associated with our life roles. In my case, my journey and healing impacted my ability to be a wife, mother, co-worker and community member. The disease also had permanent impacts on my body.
Cancer procedures introduced me to fatigue and setbacks in healing, and I was unable to go to work. Since I was not medically cleared to drive, I couldn’t escort my children to and from their typical activities. I was grounded, as if I was a rebellious adolescent sent to sit in time-out.
Reading on my tablet or phone was a soothing activity, but due to my limited range of motion, I frequently dropped these devices, and at one point rendered my cell phone almost useless. Caring for myself was initially done by a nursing assistant as I was unable to extend my arms far enough from my body to wash, bathe and brush my hair. I somehow managed to begin brushing my teeth following my first surgery, but with much pain. Joy in the beginning came from some of the simplest accomplishments in life – the things we often celebrate with our children as they grow and become independent.
It was probably no wonder I excelled in my ability to practice meditation and any amount of yoga that would give me freedom to heal. I went to classes and mimicked any movement I could make in my body to gain back my range of motion. I loved doing the arms up the wall pose and connecting with my breath. Not to mention, yoga clothes are very comfortable for someone healing from cancer – not the tight spandex pants, but comfortable cotton blend pants, which were easily pulled on and paired with tops that were light and roomy.
Fortunately, my life is back to as normal as it can be following a diagnosis of breast cancer. New roles have emerged since the journey, including being a published author and contributing writer – something I am very proud of. I was invited this year to write a chapter on the medical benefits of yoga and meditation for healing during and after cancer for the book, “Experts in Pink.” It was powerful to see the finished product and the potential it has to help others in their journey of healing. It is an honor to be featured alongside physicians, dentists and other professionals in the field in a resource for breast cancer survivors.
While cancer can strip or challenge our life roles and identity, I hope we all remember we are more than a patient, more than a statistic, and that in journey, maybe we can learn something new about ourselves and grow into new roles in life. Thank you CURE for the tagline #morethanapatient.