If a cancer diagnosis has changed your life like it has mine, then you have been immediately thrown into the world of doctors, treatments, surgeries, fears, and overwhelming opinions from friends and family about your decision on treatment.
The reality is that no one really knows what you are truly going through but you, no matter how close those people are to you. You must learn how to trust. Calming your fears at diagnosis may be your biggest struggle because overcoming the mental part of cancer is often more challenging than the physical part.
Women especially struggle after a diagnosis because they often are the ones taking care of everyone else, leaving their needs last most days. A cancer diagnosis forces them to surrender to being taken care of by friends, family and their medical team.
When I first got my diagnosis, it was my toughest challenge. I believed that if I allowed people to take care of me that somehow I was weak, and if I was weak, then I would surrender to the cancer when in fact it was just the opposite. Early on I had to find ways to cope with fears such as death, whether I could have more children or not, early onset menopause from chemo, a mastectomy vs. lumpectomy, how I would look with no hair, if I would have side effects, if treatment would be painful, my new body image… Would I see my daughter grow up? What if I did all of this and the cancer recurs? The list goes on and on.
So I did the only thing I knew how to do to calm everything in me. I grabbed my yoga mat and went to class to breathe. My teacher didn’t care if I did the pose right; she only cared that I was there breathing and surrendering.
Everyone knows yoga is good for them. I hear people say all the time, “I need to try your class” or “Shay, I know yoga would be good for me.” But for someone who has cancer, yoga is not only good for them, but also very healing. Yoga is not only a great relaxation technique, but biologically proven to be great for the lymphatic drainage system, cardiac health, and bone building. These are not things that most people associate yoga with right away, but it is a hidden secret. When our blood and lymphatic system is flowing properly, we strengthen our immune system and are able to release excess waste and harmful toxins. Doing yoga and movement naturally assists the body to do this.
The most common benefit of yoga is relaxation, which is not to be underestimated. When you learn to breathe, the parasympathetic nervous system is activated and the relaxation response occurs both physically and emotionally. You can then surrender, allowing others to help you; to trust the journey and acknowledge “what is” and let go of the rest.
A common belief in yoga is that while using breath, we learn to surrender – a perfect gift for someone going through so much all at once.