In 2004 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I searched for a story of hope, a symbol of triumph over cancer. You became that symbol of a champion as a cancer survivor who not only beat cancer, but rose again as a champion in sports and life. My friends donned your yellow bracelets in support to remind me that I, too, could beat cancer and rise again. Whether you wanted to or not, you became the positive role model I so desperately needed to wage the war of my life.
When rumors swirled about doping, I defended you. I would remind people that a stage 4 cancer survivor would not take drugs known to cause cancer. I debated fiercely with my friends that someone guilty of such allegations could not possibly pass hundreds of tests and have the audacity to sue or threaten people who claimed he played dirty.
Many are upset that you lied to your sport. I'm upset that you lied to me. The example you tried to project told me that your body was an incredible machine that could beat cancer and you were stronger for the fight. It was all a lie. You weren't stronger or healthier. You didn't triumph by determination and strength. You took the coward's path. You cheated.
You broke my heart, or so I thought. As I took your picture down from my wall I realized there is something for which I can thank you. You made me realize that I didn't need an example of what appeared to be super-human strength. The real truth is that within me, and others facing cancer, is champion enough - a champion who faced the raw truth of cancer and is truly stronger for having done so.
Two-time Cancer Survivor
Each year, on this day, it has been hard not to look back and think about the day as it unfolded six years ago. Each broad-ranging emotion, each action, each word as it was said to me, the look on each person’s face as I told them of my diagnosis. At times those memories sting with the poignancy of the moment as though it happened seconds ago. This year, only one year out of treatment from the recurrence, I find myself facing the day differently.
As 2009 came to a close, I dedicated 2010 to a new start. I needed to put the cancer in its appropriate place in my life – in the past. So I set off on a journey. I had physical side effects that were lingering from treatment and side effects from the hormone-suppressing medication I would be taking for five years. I was trying to heal, physically, emotionally, and spiritually and it led me on a wonderful path of mind body wellness and healing. I began to explore Reiki, yoga, meditation, Ayurveda, and it was all so much to absorb and understand what I needed in my life and how to incorporate as lasting changes. I spent a weekend at the Chopra Center to pull the pieces together and instead it changed my perceptions again.
I learned that meditation isn’t a nice thing to do from time to time, but is the foundation for mind body wellness. I learned that before I could ever begin to heal my body, I had to heal my heart. I had to let go of the pain and the feelings of failure as result of my diagnosis both times. I learned that instead of defensively closing my heart to protect it, I needed to open it to accept love and healing. And the rest would flow, with work, commitment to wellness, and the grace of God it would flow. And it has…
After two months of primordial sound meditation, I am already seeing improvements in feeling a bit more centered, a reduction to my slightly high heart rate, and general well being. I try to always choose colorful, healthy, fresh meals in Ayurvedic tradition. I rededicated myself to a fitness program that seems to be effective so far. My lymphedema issues have stabilized a bit for now. All positive. All moving forward. All blessings for body, mind, and spirit.
Looking back, I am reminded of the beautiful words of Hafiz:
The earth has disappeared beneath my feet,
Illusion fled from all my ecstasy.
Now like a radiant sky creature
God keeps opening.
God keeps opening
Inside of Me.
In the beginning of this cancer journey, I refused to believe that I was so shallow that lowly cancer would change me. I was determined to disassociate myself with the people claiming that cancer changed their lives in positive ways. Cancer wasn't the catalyst for positive change. Cancer removed my illusions about life and in doing so allowed me to be more aware of the delicate nature of life. It has allowed me to recognize the abundant joys of life on a very different level than ever before. The adundant joys, however, came from somewhere far, far, far from ugly, destructive cancer.
The memories of this anniversary may always be bitter sweet, but I have a most grateful heart today. What more could I ask?
...While I looked around; For my possibilities....
I disappear for months and start back with a quote from the Bangles? Well, let me tell you, there are no hazy shades of winter here. Nothing is hazy at all. It's been full speed ahead.
So many times I have started to write and as I write I get this odd feeling that I am either sounding a) whiny about the little things when really I should be grateful to be alive or b) a little full of myself regarding the things I find important as a survivor. Meh, all bloggers are a little whiny and arrogant, no? On with life as a survivor….
This year is going by at lightening speed. Seriously. Where did the first four months go? I started the year teaching three classes in addition to my regular job. I’m not sure exactly what I was thinking with this schedule, but you can do anything for ten weeks, right? But I also fit time in for a new passion: boxing. I have been working out a boxing gym. Love it! When I am in the ring, I feel incredibly strong. I literally have my Rocky moment! And then my trainer gets in the ring and I feel like a breathless, weak, wimp. But what a great work out!
The best part of being a survivor, is that the debates with the insurance company keep popping up (you feel the sarcasm, right?). Nothing like needing a service and having to wait six months to get it. I have been having lymphedema issues in my arm and back. I have been trying yoga lymph drainage massage while waiting for the physical therapy to be approved. I flew across country last week and wore my sleeve, but that didn’t stop my back from swelling (looks lack back fat on one side…sexy, no?). Hopefully the physical therapy will kick in next week. My oncologist also mentioned that recent studies are showing a 30% reduction in swelling with acupuncture. I am hoping that as soon as this study is published and the fields are identified I can start some acupuncture too.
I am paying attention to all of my New Year’s resolutions and this is a record for me. Honesty to be starting the fifth month of the year and still have those resolutions in sight is a personal best. In fact, this weekend is THE weekend I have been waiting for all year. I will be enjoying yoga, meditation, and natural healing with, wait for it…I’m about to name drop….here it is…Deepak Chopra. Not only Deepak, but Erin
, my long time bloggy friend and sweet wonderful healer, is joining me. We finally get to hang out in person. How cool is that?
So much change, so much good, so much living in 2010.
Welcome 2010. This year so far promises to bring new dventures, new hope, new beginnings, and new energy. I am filled with more hope than ever before about the future.
My goal is to become physically and mentally stronger which will not only help in my ongoing quest to fight cancer, but it will enhance my overall health and happiness. 2009 was a tough and wacky year that brought me great personal strength and sent me down a new path that involves natural healing. I find myself at the dawn of 2010 feeling inspired to forge ahead on this path.
I started on this journey when I was frustrated how I felt physically after chemo and radiation last year. I arm was aching, I lost range of motion in my shoulder, and lymphadema (the swelling in my arm)was rearing its ugly head (or should I say ugly big fat arm). My physical therapist explained that the main lymphatic vessel is between the lungs and the diaphragm and when we practice deep, breathing (into the diaphragm) we exercise the main lymphatic vessel (from memory here; she talked to me about this while bending my arm in a pretzel). She mentioned that there is some research that supports these deep breathing exercises to help with lymphadema. If nothing else it also helped with relaxation (when you can't sleep because you aren't comfortable because your arm and shoulder hurt).
And about the time I was in physical therapy, a friend
offered to send me healing energy (Reiki). I trusted her (still do!) and decided that it couldn't hurt me. I experienced something in the first session that was amazing. The combination of that and physical therapy really helped me with my shoulder and arm issues.
About this time, one of my medications (hormone therapy) was causing this itchy, ugly, scabby rash on my hands (pretty and so sexy). My doctor suggested a topical steroid, but since the natural approach was really working for me, my cousin suggested I visit a natural healer and have him do some "vial" work on me. I wasn't sure what that was, but once again, it couldn't hurt. Within two weeks after seeing him my hands cleared up (except for some scars, but I'm workiing on that!).
The natural healilng engine was really picking up speed for me. Time spent each day doing deep breathing evolved into meditation (a twofer! so efficient). My natural curiosity led me to research meditation which led me to Deepak Chopra
and Primordial Sound Meditation
. And that led me to yoga
And now it is 2010 and I feel great. I am full of energy and hope and a desire to be healthy. I haven't made any resolutions, but I have made promises to myself. If I can make myself healthy, happy, and whole, it will not only bring me peace, but bring peace to those around me. Understanding and embracing the whole mind body connection is the key for me this year. With that in mind, I have promised myself the following:
1. Meditate daily.
2. Practice yoga.
3. Focus on a natural diet (Ayurveda).
4. Physical exercise daily.
5. Learn and practice Reiki.
Welcome 2010! So glad you are here.
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