Wednesday, January 19, 2011

What Cancer (and Yoga) have Taught Me.

This post was hard to write. And I've been putting it off for awhile.  It's been on my brain since August of 2010 when I reached my one year anniversary of my cancer diagnosis.  But when I sat down to write it then, the words did not come together at all, so I shelved it.  Over the last several months I've been stashing little bits and pieces of "what I've learned" in my notes.  When it did finally come together I liked it and I really liked how it made me to feel getting it down on paper, or in this day and age, down on laptop.

 I offered it to some yoginis whose writings I respect and was overjoyed when Chris Courtney from Elephant Journal offered me the opportunity to share. Love the EJ and am still pinching myself.

Either way....thanks for reading!

What Cancer taught me:

I'll start off with the lightest lesson:

  Hair is Optional: Insert tongue in cheek.  Loosing hair through chemo was rough....not going to lie.  The initial idea of loosing something that defines your femininity was worse then the hair falling out itself. It was even rougher on my kids who weren't at all used to seeing their very active mother look ill. In fact, when I told them I had cancer they cried but when our 13 year old asked me if I would lose my hair and the answer was yes, the room turned into complete chaos.  It never occurred to my husband or I that the visual of a bald mother was much more devastating then the difficult to even comprehend word, cancer.  After it completely fell out (about 3 treatments into the process) it became much more acceptable.  Friends and family sent me the greatest hats and dare I say that I rocked them.  As it began to grow back last spring, I decided to match my new hair with my cancer ass kicking attitude and dyed it platinum.  Never (in a million years) would have done that pre-cancer but again this was the new Amy.

It's OK to say No

Oprah tells us it's OK and even writes on how to do it with etiquette.  But I was the mom that needed to wear the "stop me before I volunteer again" button on her jacket.  Not that I loved baking four dozen perfectly frosted cupcakes for the schools big event tomorrow but I was way too concerned with being the supermom, admittedly sometimes for appearances sake.  The irony of overextending myself during the day and then not having time or energy to engage with my kids (without being crabby) was not lost on me.  Internally I knew it was crazy, but nonetheless would get sucked up again the following week.
The year I was sick was a  free pass from volunteering.  I rested during the day and then would take special delight in small simple activities with them when they came home from school.  It was a hard lesson learned and I will still volunteer occasionally but I don't have any guilt when I say no.  I honestly believe my kids are a little better of because of it.

At 41, I still Need My Mom
I'm pretty sure that my recovery process was expedited by having both my mom and my mother-in-law take over many of the responsibilities of raising my four kids while I was sick. They cooked, drove, cleaned, and helped with homework.  Most importantly they buffered the emotional hit that my kids dealt with during pretty influential years of their lives.  It was unbelievable to me that at 64, my mother could still be up at 6 am driving them to school and helping me throughout the day and then be actively helping them with homework sometimes til 10:00 at night while I was sick. I'm sure it was very painful for her but she never complained.

Be Present

Yoga taught me this but cancer shoved it down my throat.  I didn't practice mindful presence when I was going through treatment because I was very focused on moving through the  process and looking forward to the road ahead.  But now, more than ever,  I allow myself to appreciate the present moment.  Yoga teaches us that all that really exists is this moment we are in.  So I enjoy it more and relish time with friends and family.  Pre-cancer I was cocky about my health.  I was an organic-eating, non-smoking, yoga teacher for God sakes.  A 40 year routine mammogram turned my life upside down in the matter of five hours and although I will always gravitate towards the healthy lifestyle that I promote and love, I will never be cocky about it again.

Do What you Love; Love what you Do

Sorry for the cliche but this was Cancer's greatest lesson.  I adore yoga and working with students but as a risk adverse individual was afraid to turn my passion into my own business.  Now, every day I am not only doing what I love the most but sharing it with friends both new and old.  My favorite quote is by Go Daddy's CEO Bob Parsons, ""You come up with something you think will work, then you put everything you have into it." That motivation, along with support and gentle nudging by my peeps led me to develop the Madeline Island Yoga Retreats concept. 

I'm not much of a television watcher but recently began the first season of The Big C.  The main character's cancer diagnosis leads her to re-evaluate her life and make the very most of what's left of it.  So many of her actions, although sometimes selfish, made sense to me. I swear I had many of the same thoughts she expresses on the show.  It is surreal. The show has just been renewed for a second season.

So there it is.....always feels good to write something down. I went to a yoga training in Minneapolis with yoga teacher Rod Stryker last Sunday and was most touched by his comment on dealing with change. He said,  "Anybody can accept good change, it is the individuals who walk through bad change with grace that inspire me the most."  I'm going to remember that one for a long time. BTW,   I blogged throughout my cancer journey on Big Sky Yoga Retreats site (special note: also an excellent yoga retreat destination). 

1 comment:

  1. It is so great to read someone's journey, especially once they are on the other side of treatment. Gives someone like me, who is need deep in the "cure" a hopeful outlook. I appreciate your positivity and also feel that it has brought me further than anything else I am doing.
    Please stop by my blog and become a friend if you have a chance!

    Until then I will be praying for your continued health!


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