Little did I know, yoga would play a huge role in my life and recovery from breast cancer.
“I shall pass this way but once; any good therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show — let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”
This is a favorite quote of mine by S. Grellet. This was a quote I found a real connection with in 2014 shortly before I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Prior to being diagnosed, I felt something was off in my life. I had news of the passing of long family friends and I had spent the better part of several months going in for first routine testing and then follow up testing to include ultrasounds of my right breast, a repeat ultrasound, MRI and then finally a biopsy. I sought balance for my emotional, spiritual, and physical wellbeing by returning to a strong yoga practice. The studio I attended was managed by well-trained teachers and, by December of 2014, with the support and coaxing of a college friend, I had finally committed to myself becoming a yoga teacher with the studio I was attending and the goal or pursing an outside business in wellness and partnering up to lead yoga retreats for something fun and what would appeal to my more adventurous side- Costa Rica, Bali — I was in!
Little did I know, yoga would play a huge role in my life and recovery from breast cancer. I had a biopsy in December of 2014 and although it seemed to be taking a longer than usual for the results, I didn’t really think the results would come back confirming a diagnosis, but shortly after the new year, I was contacted and the results were positive. I heard the words, “You have cancer.” I spoke to my loving teachers Terri and Claire to share the news and request to remain part of the group. It was quite a challenge becoming a yoga teacher being unable to feel the poses in your own body, but I had incredible support and frankly, it was exactly what I needed to heal. I learned to connect with my breath when unable to do much of anything else at times to include initially feeding, bathing, and dressing independently.
Yoga and meditation helped me manage pain, fear, loss, grief and helped me to regain a sense of self-esteem, love and acceptance of my body as I healed. It allowed me to regain strength and flexibility which I unfortunately sometimes see others struggle with following a diagnosis, surgeries and treatments. Almost every pose I participated in had to initially be modified in a regular class, but it challenged me and, yes, poses can and do need to be modified to fit the needs of the student. In my case, I was my own first student. While in an open class, I would do whatever I could to move and connect with breath even if this was vastly different from how the poses took shape in the bodies of individuals who were in class with me who were or appeared to be more able bodied than myself. I did of course have initial fears I could rupture the implants or expanders which were placed in my body, but I spoke to my doctors and I was given support and encouragement to continue with my training and practice as I would slowly rebuild my body and they believed support my process of healing. I was often very tired and day became night and night became day at times, but going to class and attempting to read and study between appointments and procedures gave me something to strive for academically, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Yoga is not a religion, but if open, it can help you connect at a deeper level with yourself as a foundation to any other relationship you may have and it helped me appreciate my ability and need to heal. Yoga is for anyone and everyone as long as you find open teachers and locations which are accommodating and accessible. Fortunately, my teachers and the location was supportive and accessible.
I went on to train later in the year in other styles of yoga other than Vinyasa to add diversity to my portfolio. My first year of my new business and while coping with cancer, I somehow managed to present on the topic of yoga as a treatment modality for health and wellness for a very large conference in Florida and taught yoga two mornings of the conference for individuals in attendance of the conference. The yoga and my presentation were well-received and I have proudly moved forward taking small steps with my business and wellness services. I have been teaching general classes to the public and I have done some corporate work, but some of my most rewarding work has come from leading classes for pediatric cancer patients and their family along with leading donation based classes for major cancer related organizations. My experience of being able to give young survivors a yoga mat and teach them to find or support a yoga practice has been very rewarding, and I won’t forget the look in one mother’s eyes who tearfully stated, “I had no idea my daughter could practice with me.” I explained that particular yoga poses are of benefit and provided a class based on evidence based poses for pediatric oncology patients which are meant to support delicate bones and fatigue or dizziness during healing.
In April of this year I completed training under a scholarship provided by Lululemon and I am now certified in Yoga 4 Cancer (Y4C) which was founded by Tari Prinster who is herself a breast cancer survivor. The yoga I have learned for cancer survivors is very accommodating to survivors and family are welcome to attend classes taught under Y4C. There are a lot of props used during a single class, but it is all meant to keep people safe and to provide accommodations as needed and which can be very important when healing from cancer or experiencing the side effects of treatments which I mentioned can include fatigue, dizziness, any other complications.
While I am not certain what the future will bring in terms of my business I can say I have met the goal of my quote and hopefully left some good along the way for myself and others, but I hope it goes further to encourage more individuals to practice yoga and meditation as part of the healing process during a cancer diagnosis. I am not surprised to also see and be aware of research which is tremendously supportive of meditation and yoga for all types of medical conditions to include cancer as it supports physical and emotional wellness and specifically can aid in detoxing the body of waste; bringing fresh oxygenated blood back to the body and bones; aid in relieving and coping with pain; and assist in rebuilding flexibility and strength as well as helping to manage weight gain. For myself yoga has become a way of life and I most certainly can’t complain about all the healthy benefits I found when I was recovering from cancer.