This is a blog post I wrote for my yoga studio… thought I would also share here…
Breath in. Be fully present with this breath. Breath out. Your breath exists in this moment. Each breath grounds you to this time and place…
When I was diagnosed with stage 4, metastatic breast cancer each breath was a struggle. I was suffocated by the future.
Stage 4 breast cancer or metastatic breast cancer (MBC) is when breast cancer cells move beyond the breast – often to the bones, lung, liver or brain. When people die of breast cancer they die from stage 4, MBC. The life expectancy for a MBC patient is 2-3 years. There are treatment options, but no cure.
I was first diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer in 2007. In 2014 it returned in my bones, making me a metastatic breast cancer patient. I was terrified. My kids were 5 and 8. I was 37. How could this be happening? I was consumed by terrifying questions about our future. How would my disease progress? How long do I have? How can I cause so much pain for my family?
I couldn’t face the day because I lived in fear of what was coming.
Yoga helped me release these fears and focus on the day before me.
502 Power Yoga became a place of peace and power. When I come to my mat – I let everything else fall away. I focus on my breath and I focus on the strength I have today. My body is responding to treatments and the cancer hasn’t grown in three years. Three years! I am what some call an “exceptional responder.” This small miracle is something I treasure deeply. Recognizing this can all change quite quickly.
I have learned to take the principals from my practice and live them out in my daily life. Living a life of intention, I embrace this time of health. Instead of being consumed with fear of a perceived future of sickness, I focus on what is certain right before me each day. My breath reminds me I am living. I live a rich, full life. The other day I even “flipped my dog into full wheel.” (yogis get how exciting that is!) Perhaps the only piece of goodness that comes from the pain of this diagnosis is this perspective of how fragile and beautiful life is.
I breathe in each moment. Letting go of that which I can’t control.
Each Sunday there is a donation based karma class at 502 Power Yoga from 5:30-6:30pm. Money raised supports local community organizations. In January the Karma class supports Hope Scarves. I founded Hope Scarves in 2012 as a way to turn this scary experience into something positive to help others. We collect scarves and stories from cancer survivors and pass them on to others in treatment. We have sent over 6,000 scarves to every state and 13 countries. The scarves and stories connect us and help us find common ground. After my metastatic diagnosis we started a research fund to help accelerate the discovery of treatment options for people like me facing this terminal diagnosis.
I look forward to seeing you on a Sunday afternoon to support Hope Scarves – thanks to those who have already been a part of the class.
I am grateful to have found a place that helps me live the healthiest, most hopeful, intentional life I can. I hope others who face similar struggles will give yoga a try. Perhaps it can also help you cope with the overwhelming fear of a metastatic diagnosis or other challenges of life.