I have not been shy about talking about my breast cancer recovery because it was, as for most women, a life changing event. I want to focus on how my long-term yoga practice helped me begin my recovery, as early as two weeks after my first surgery.
Despite my very limited range of motion, I was determined to get back into my yoga practice as soon as I could after my first surgery. Movement has always been a life saver to me. Even though I was under the influence of powerful pain medicine, I began teaching two weeks after my mastectomy. I had told my students initially that I would probably not be able to do much and I counted on them to demonstrate what they had learned from me during the past years without my having to demonstrate, and they were more than willing to go along with my plan.
Teaching yoga wasn’t just for my students, it was for me. I needed to feel that my body was much more than the surgery that had temporary maimed me. I needed to feel that there were still parts of my body that could move, be strong and that I could still use my breath to go deeper and beyond my temporary limitations. I was determined to get back on track as soon as possible, and I did.
My mastectomy was on my right side and, at first, I couldn’t even put my right hand on the floor. I could only do a ‘one-handed’ downward facing dog. My whole right side seemed to have shrunk because the fascia pulled towards the scar so I couldn’t extend my arm passed the shoulder level in all side poses.
Little by little, in a couple of weeks, my range of motion increased and I began being able to put my right hand on the floor without putting weight on it. Eventually my full arm came into extension with more weight bearing.
I felt very fortunate to be working with Jay Kain, an incredible local physical therapist with a PhD in myofascial integration because I kept getting feedback from him on my progress. Jay knew better than to try to discourage me from pushing the envelope. He knew that I would do it anyway so he helped me gauge, through my feelings and intuition, what felt right and what didn’t. He assured me that all was well and that the pain I experienced was not damaging to anything. He told me to continue to trust my instincts, which I had done all along.
I had already started that process of trusting my intuition after meeting with the oncologist who was adamant about my need to follow cancer ‘protocol’ with chemotherapy and radiation, despite the very clear “no” I heard inside myself the first time I met him. The day after meeting with him, a friend of mine who was battling bone marrow cancer in Belgium, told me about the book entitled “Radical Remission” by Kelly A. Turner. Turner researched and reported stories of people all over the world who had recovered, in some cases from very advanced forms of cancer, by following their intuition. What they had in common is that, by listening to their intuition, they found their way back to health following a set of nine principles that she identified. No need to say that I ‘devoured’ that book, which came with a perfect timing.
I was determined to follow my own course of action based on my intuition, and that course of action didn’t involve chemotherapy and radiation. It involved a daily dose of yoga, meditation, prayer, walks in nature, journaling, mind body psychotherapy, energy healing, Chinese medicine and physical therapy. I felt truly fortunate to be surrounded by top notch alternative medicine practitioners.
Initially, the doctor refused to run a specific genetic test that would determine the likelihood of reoccurrence of the type of cancer with my genetic background. After asking again, he decided to run the test without telling me. To my surprise, three weeks later, he called me to announce that he felt confident, based on the test results, that I had a very low percentage of this reoccurring. Consequently I would not need to follow the usual protocol of chemotherapy or radiation. The first words out of my mouth were, “next time doctor, it would be helpful if you listened to your patient and their intuition”. I was relieved that I would no longer need to argue my point. I had been having arguments with him for 5 months prior to that phone call. I was also convinced more than ever that my intuition would help me find my way back to health.
My twenty five year yoga practice had taught me to trust my body and, more importantly, the little voice inside me that would tell me to follow my path and do what was best for me.
I have since made the decision to continue following that same little voice inside of me to determine my course of action in my personal life and my business.
I now believe that the voice of our intuition speaks to us at all times. It is not loud or demanding. It speaks to us through our heart. It is calm, loving, affirming and doesn’t create separation. It holds that we all, as human beings, are interconnected, and that we all do our best with what we have, and no one holds the truth for us except our higher self.
Have you ever experienced that inner knowing? Have you been faced with ‘defining moments’ where you had no one to turn to except yourself and decided to trust your inner guidance? Have you ever been at a crossroad, where despite all external facts telling you not to make a move, you knew that it was time to make a drastic change? If the answer is ‘yes’ to any of these questions, you already have experienced what it is like to tune into your inner knowing.
Drop me a line and let me know.
Until then, may you be happy, free of suffering, filled with joy and equanimity!