How Mindfulness Helped Me Through Cancer
Mindfulness, yoga and meditation can be a huge help during trying times.
BY Tamera Anderson-Hanna, LMHC, CAP, CRC, RYT
PUBLISHED April 04, 2016
Editor’s Note: This piece was submitted by a contributing writer and does not represent the views of CURE Media Group.
In December 2015, I reflected upon my year after having several surgeries. I was cancer-free and, thinking back, I realized what some of the gifts my experience brought me.
I was going for my yearly mammogram in the middle of 2014 when I received news that I needed to have a repeat mammogram and an MRI of my right breast. I was 44, in good health and was not aware of any breast cancer symptoms. Much to my surprise, I was diagnosed in January of 2015. I was flooded with fear and worried about my role as a mother of two children. I was told I needed chemotherapy, radiation and a lumpectomy.
The cancer was mid-center in the right breast behind the areola and nipple. I knew what this could mean: scarring, potential burning and other potential damage. I researched other options and, with the support of my oncologist and a plastic surgeon, I opted for a double nipple and areola-sparing mastectomy. I was not given a guarantee that the surgery would be successful, and despite facing other risks, I opted for this choice and took the chance.
In the meantime, I just began the process of becoming a registered yoga teacher. When I look back, I gravitated toward what I needed in my life at the time. The meditation, my focusing on mindfulness, and supportive nature of the training helped me to heal. I knew coping with cancer and becoming a teacher at the same time would be a challenge, but it brought comfort. My teachers and fellow students were nothing but supportive. Previously, I always turned to yoga and some form of meditation and mindfulness to cope, but after being diagnosed, I needed it more than ever. It helped me heal both physically and emotionally. I also became involved with the Cancer Support Community of Greater Miami and their support groups.
After surgery, I received good news. My lymph nodes were clear of cancer and I did not need chemotherapy or radiation, as they removed one lymph node and all the tissue containing the cancer. I finished reconstructive surgeries and teacher training successfully.
I believe that focusing on my ability to heal through breath and the supportive path of yoga did nothing but help. Some may not look at having cancer as a gift, but I can't help but feel fortunate to have learned from my experience. I appreciate things more, and I don't react to fear the same way. I am optimistic for men and women who may be making a difficult choice because of a cancer diagnosis. But I also want to share with them that there are options for coping and healing. During most of 2015, there were times when I could barely care for myself physically, but I could come back to my breath and the ability to focus on the moment. It helped tremendously. I had to modify my typical yoga and exercise routine while healing, but found that any type of movement, positive thinking and meditation was healing. Mindfulness mattered.
I now wish to offer others hope and am giving back. In February of 2016, I gave a workshop on living an inspired life and envisioning your future, along with a healing yoga session for the Cancer Support Community of Greater Miami. I will be leading yoga for the annual Relay for Life at the Miami-Dade Speedway in April 2016. Back in August 2015, I presented for the annual Florida Conference on Substance Abuse and Mental Health on the topic of yoga as a treatment modality for health and wellness, in which I was graciously brought in to speak and teach yoga.
I think one of my gifts is to now share how others can empower themselves. I guest teach when I travel, and enjoy offering pop-up yoga classes and workshops as time permits.