Words have meaning, power, color, and texture. Some words elevate and make us feel elated. Some words defeat us and some words, once spoken, can never be unheard and never leave us. Cancer is one of those words. Once spoken it fills us with uncomfortable emotions and hangs heavy in the air. It is an unwanted visitor whose gaze we would rather avoid altogether. Hearing the words, “you have cancer” is bad enough, but saying the words, “I have cancer” to family and friends, is harder still.
That’s because cancer sucks! Cancer makes us vulnerable. As humans, we are as vulnerable to life events and accidents as we are to disease. We are vulnerable to changing weather patterns, political shifts, and all manner of circumstances that are indeed, outside of ourselves (i.e.Covid). But nothing says vulnerability like cancer, as the whole of the cancer experience takes away whatever bit of control we believe we have. Sure, there are life lessons to be learned from cancer, but there are far more useful and courteous messengers than cancer. It just plain sucks!
Cancer demands we trust in something, someone, or some belief outside of ourselves. To trust in research, statistics, treatments, and unknown doctors from multiple disciplines who disappear from treatment rooms as quickly as car keys in the presence of teenagers. We throw ourselves at the mercy of a medical system, which, make no mistake, itself needs care while dealing with a developing mistrust of a body that has somehow allowed this unwanted guest into our physical home. Those in the circle of support also feel vulnerable. Vulnerable and helpless in the face of letting the person they love go into the medically unknown and the larger unknown of exactly what the diagnosis will mean today, tomorrow, and in the future.
It has been my experience that even when you feel your body has abandoned you, understanding and moving are powerful methods of healing. Understanding allows you to make informed choices, provokes thought about what you need and want through the process, and prepares you for the physical manifestation of treatment. Understanding the physical, emotional, and spiritual journey helps all of us better understand. As caregivers, and especially, as movement practitioners, understanding the whole of the experience empowers every interaction and helps provide the space, for all involved, to process feelings and emotions.
Movement is another empowerment tool. I have carefully chosen the word movement, as opposed to exercise, as movement is about, well, moving. I care not what it is called and what modality or form it takes. Whether it’s Yoga, Pilates, a gym, or simply a walk around your neighborhood, the movement has proven time and again a potent way to cope, to grow, and to facilitate healing, even through stressful situations. Movement helps you feel your body and feel its strength and its potential. It reminds you that even as your body hurts, or your mind is overwhelmed, or your spirit feels crushed, you have the ability to direct yourself toward health and wellbeing. You can physically empower yourself even in a time of extreme vulnerability, inclusive of a cancer diagnosis.
It was for these reasons I started a not-for-profit at my studio many years ago designed to work with women, and men, newly diagnosed with breast cancer and why I am currently dedicating my free creative time to training and teaching movement practitioners about the breast cancer experience. The sharing of information, recounting of stories from those who have been through the experience, and exploring movements designed to meet the moment, allow us to create spaces that are safe, open, and available to clients who find themselves suddenly physically and emotionally vulnerable.
Cancer sucks! This is a universal truth. While we, in our studios and facilities, can not be inside the medical treatment process, we can be part of the everyday and provide a place to be, to feel, to move, and to heal.
Check out Joy’s series of exercise videos – designed specifically to help strengthen the bodies and minds of those in pre-surgery preparation, post-surgery rehabilitation, and those continuing on with everyday life.
Breast Cancer Recovery Mat Workout Part 1: Introduction
Breast Cancer Recovery Mat Workout Part 2: Clavicle and Rib Cage
Breast Cancer Recovery Mat Workout Part 3: Shoulder, Chemotherapy, and Foot Release
Breast Cancer Recovery Mat Workout Part 4: Exercises on the Floor