I’ve still got more Morocco musings on the way…but first, a Cowgirls vs. Cancer intro. I hear it’s still winter in Montana, which means more snowpack and the likelihood of a gorgeous summer ahead; it’s getting me in the mood for our upcoming Cowgirl Yoga season. I’m thrilled to introduce Kelly, one of our Cowgirls vs. Cancer scholarship recipients for this summer (three more to come over the next few weeks!). I hope you will be as inspired as I am by the grace and strength of these cowgirl yoginis. Yeehaw & Namaste.
I had the invitation list written out. I was humming the songs we would dance to. I was calling it my “Celebration of Life” party. It didn’t happen.
In the midst of planning my party, and five years almost to the day of my first diagnosis, I discovered a lump on the site of my mastectomy. It’s funny; you think you always find these things in the midst of your scheduled, monthly breast check while intensely searching. But while lying on the couch watching tv, my hand randomly brushed my chest wall and I felt it. Complete panic rushed through me in a hot, nauseous wave. It can’t be cancer. My first diagnosis was actually a non-invasive pre-cancer called ductal carcinoma in-situ. But there was so much of it, they recommended mastectomy. So it’s all gone, right? This has to be scar tissue or fatty tissue or something else. IT CANNOT BE CANCER. But it was.
There are no words to describe how betrayed I felt by my own body…again. How I berated myself. What did I do, what didn’t I do, to get this a second time? Didn’t I eat well, didn’t I pray enough, didn’t I exercise enough? Did I allow myself to become stressed over too many things that didn’t even matter? What was I supposed to learn from cancer the first time that I didn’t get, so that now I have it a second time??
The first time there was no chemo or radiation. This time, and at the doctor’s suggestion, I ordered everything on the menu: surgery, chemo, radiation, tamoxifen. And I changed my mind.
Change your thoughts, change your life. If I was going to guide my life and my health in the right direction, rather than ricocheting and reacting to events, things were going to have to change.
I had great success in increasing my energy levels and my overall health with acupuncture and herbs, but had let life and limited income keep me away. I renewed my enthusiasm, found a great acupuncturist and bolstered my immune system. I signed up for a meditation class. I wanted to start listening to my body again.
I was surrounded by friends and family who fed me, prayed for me, who organized many weekends to finish renovating our bedroom so that I could be comfortable (a HUGE task), kept me laughing and loved, and one friend signed me up for yoga class. I loved it.
I had attended yoga classes on and off for years, but had not remained dedicated. As soon as I recovered from surgery, she took me to a restorative class. As we held our positions for seemingly endless periods of time, bolstered by pillows and blankets, the instructor guided us through meditation. I can’t remember the words, I only remember the feeling of peace and calm that came over me. As if my body had been craving this. When the instructor began talking about feeling the floor underneath our bodies, how we could trust it to support us and how we should think of people around us in the same way – I thought of my family, friends, total strangers who had supported me and held me up. There was no fear of falling for me, into despair or self-pity or fear. I felt safe and full: full of life, full of love, in and around me. I left that yoga class with a deep sense of calm and expectations of good things to come.
One of those good things came to fruition when my best friend Becky nominated me for the Cowgirls vs. Cancer scholarship. How surprised and blessed I am to have received this gift! I have loved horses from near an far my whole life. As a young teen with my own horse, I remember the smell and warmth of my horse and how it comforted me, how riding made me happy. In my adult years, I have taken every opportunity to be with horses that I can…and I’m looking forward to my upcoming experience of healing with both horses and yoga at Cowgirl Yoga this summer. Namaste.