October is breast cancer awareness month, and we’re now accepting nominations for our 2012 Cowgirls vs. Cancer scholarship program. Cowgirls vs. Cancer is healing with horses and yoga for breast cancer survivors, and next year will be its third. Also this month, I’ll be sharing stories from our four 2011 recipients, about their Cowgirl Yoga experience with us this summer. To kick things off, here’s Su’s story. Yeehaw & Namaste.
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in June 2010, everyone told me that there was always a silver lining and it would help me appreciate life, blah blah blah. But I couldn’t seem to find that silver lining as the doctors told me bad news every day, with every test, every scan. You have triple negative breast cancer, the type that is most hard to kill and that re-occurs the most… you have stage III-C, just a tiny step away from metastatic cancer…grade 3, the most aggressive form…when my mom started crying sitting next to me as the bright red kool-aid colored chemo moved into my body, and the nurses told me to hold still because if it accidentally leaked out of the IV and onto my skin, it would burn it so bad I would need a skin graph…as my hair fell out in unimaginable clumps leaving me looking like a baby chicken and sobbing in my friend’s arms…and my dad called crying, asking me if I was suffering too much and I reassured him over and over that I was just fine, it wasn’t too bad…I thought: what lessons could I be learning? Where is this silver f’in lining they keep talking about?
Then in the most humbling way, I started to feel supported. And loved. In a way that I had never been before. In an ACTIVE way, I felt actively, tangibly loved. My friends became like family. And my family? They became my friends. People gave to me. In flowers, and gift cards, and deliveries of apples (the only thing I craved), but mostly, in time and beautiful words and kindness. And as my friends came over almost every night with ice cream and whatever I could eat, and they tried on my wigs with me, and cried with me, and watched me while I slept…I started to feel the beginning of hope, and the transformation of my life.
When I found out I had won a scholarship for the Cowgirl Yoga retreat in Montana, I couldn’t believe it. I never win anything! It’s something I never would have been able to afford to attend. And when I stepped foot into the studio for our first yoga session, with the light gently coming in through the windows, and the amazing sky as picturesque as can be, and Margaret handed me my pink yoga mat (for me to keep!!), I felt gratitude wash over me.
Whispering in my horse Bridger’s ear about the bigness in my heart, and watching the laugh lines around wrangler Janice’s eyes as she hooked her fingers into her jeans and tipped her cowboy hat back…laughing and giggling like children with the beautiful women in my group…learning to trust in my body again as I pushed and pulled and nurtured it…and going head to head with Ron in hula hooping as Mike the dog lazily watched from the porch…I felt joy. I borrowed from the strength of Bridger’s long muscles and confident strides, until I could claim them as my own. I gathered the laughs and pure fun and used them to feed my soul. And the light that just plain happened from the genuine kindness and love of what they do helped clear the way for me, to see that silver f’in lining in the clouds.
Pictured above: Su with Bridger, by Larry Stanley