In January of 2017, just days before my 48th birthday, I was diagnosed with estrogen-positive breast cancer. What started as a routine mammogram that I had been doing yearly for eight years prior turned into a whirlwind of immediate ultrasounds, biopsies, and MRIs and scans. It all went so quickly, then came the tidal wave of emotions flooding my days and nights. Being diagnosed with cancer is overwhelming, to say the least, with various doctor’s appointments, scan poking, prodding, procedures, and so many unknowns of what was in store for me and how I would endure it. How was I to handle being a mom, wife, business owner, teacher, and mentor? How was I going to stay calm through the stress and anxiety of it all?
As if navigating the cancer world isn’t complicated enough, finding a new normal in your in-between time of constant research and decision making can add to the stress. There are so many resources out there and so many opinions and suggestions. I just knew I had to take a moment at a time and do what felt right to me. As a Master Pilates instructor and Pink Ribbon certified for years, I experienced many clients who had gone or were going through this. No one could have ever explained what you actually feel when it happens to you. We are the owners of our health and bodies, and it’s up to us to find out and feel good about what works for us. I have found through my experiences that I had to have an open mind, stay positive, and give myself grace throughout the healing process.
I struggled through many anxieties before, during, and after. It was hard to accept the lack of mobility, exhaustion, pain, and body image. I even struggled to ask for help or prioritize myself. I knew I had to learn new rituals to help find some relief. Even gentle yoga was a humbling and somewhat heartbreaking experience. The first time I tried it, my whole thoracic cavity went into a complete spasm. Just taking the first deep breath lying unpropped for the first time. I spent many days lying there thinking of my days picking up babies and toddlers and being a professional ballet dancer and advanced Pilates mover or taking yoga with freedom and ease, and now just breathing and lying down flat would be my challenge. I have had two c-sections, three herniated discs, stress fractures, and knee surgery in my career as a mommy and professional ballerina. But somehow, I never felt so physically and mentally wounded, I suppose not knowing the uncertainties of the outcome or recovery timeline played a significant role in this. It is no doubt a vulnerable area of the body, and it hit my emotions hard.
My lifesavers were the unprecedented support of others. You really find out who is behind you during these times, and the gentle gestures, notes of encouragement, and physical help of my friends and family will never be forgotten. Acupuncture, therapy, oils, homeopathic supplements, journaling, and faith were essential in my healing process and helped me immensely. I still practice all of this today.
I can’t pretend that it brings up a lot of fear every time I have a check-up. I have recently spent the last 19 months in and out of appointments due to a new area of concern. As of Aug 2021, I am clear of any grey areas and free to move forward for now from this experience with newfound strength, peace, and purpose. My message, please do your self-exams. Don’t skip your yearly visits and spread the word on early detection. Practice advocating for yourself, listen to your body, and trust your mind. Hug someone you love and tell them, “You can do this!” We don’t often know what one is going through in their lives. A simple word or two of encouragement can go a long way.
“You will face many defeats in life but never let yourself be defeated “~ Maya Angelou.