The truth is simple when it comes to breast cancer – it's dreadful.
I’ve taught yoga to survivors who kicked cancer to the curb, watched incredibly strong women endure treatment while still keeping a sparkle in their eye, and felt my heart drop as I learned of a dear friend’s diagnosis. This disease is a beast. Joy is not synonymous with breast cancer, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be found during the process. I’ve compiled a short list of tips to help anyone enduring breast cancer to stay calm and find the silver lining. Take a deep breath, read on, and use these tips anytime you need a shot of calming inspiration.
1. Aim True
I always teach my students to “aim true and stay true.” This means setting a daily intention for how you want to be, interact, react and get out there boldly to share your talents. The trick is this – anyone can set intention. The hard part is keeping it. Once your aim is true you need to stay true, and if you’re dealing with breast cancer that’s no cake walk. It’s crucial to create a sacred space where your intention can not only live but thrive. This can live in a journal you keep full positive affirmations, messages of love and support you write on your mirror, supportive notes placed in strategic places or even an alter or collage where you can collect images, letters and objects that bring you emotional peace and support. Beyond this, write down or say out loud something or someone you’re grateful for on a daily basis. You have the power to manifest good even in your most challenging moments.
This is without a doubt one of the most beneficial practices you can nurture during this difficult time. A daily meditation practice will help silence all of the fears, insecurities and distractions to bring you back to the heart of the moment and what truly matters – you living fully. Caitlin Marcoux, a dear student of mine and breast cancer patient, reminded me that cancer doesn’t just effect the patient – its stressors effect the entire extended family. A meditation practice will not only help to calm you down, but it will alleviate the stress of your entire tribe.
Try a simple five minute meditation like this: Inhale and think, “I am not my body.” Exhale and think, “I am not this disease.” Repeat this in a comfortable seat with your eyes closed and palms up resting on your knees.
3. Practice Yoga
Breast cancer treatment will put a damper on your desire or ability to be physically active, but that’s where a yin yoga practice comes in. Yin yoga (a restorative style) is a forgiving and supportive style of physical activity to keep you connected to your body. It’s also a beautiful reminder that your body – while it may seem at times – is not the enemy. I taught breast cancer survivor Melissa Etheridge yoga, and we used gentle chest openers and strengtheners to bring her back into her power. I advise searching for specific yoga for cancer classes in your area. Sharing this practice with fellow women will only amplify the power of the experience.
4. Make Plans
The initial prognosis can open up a huge jar of fear and unanswered questions. The future is suddenly uncertain and full of undesirable events and hurdles to jump over. The unfortunate truth is that breast cancer is brutal and unkind, but you don’t have to let it rule you or your future. Lindsay Avner, founder of Bright Pink, a breast an ovarian health organization, recommends planning positive things to look forward to. She recommends putting dates in your calendar (whether it be a lunch date with a good friend or a spa day) to serve as a reminder of all the good still alive in your life. Focus on the positive and remember that there are still so many great things ahead of you.
5. Buddy System
A roller coaster ride isn’t nearly as enjoyable without someone there to hold your hand or scream their heads off with you. Don’t be afraid to reach out to the closet members of your tribe to help you with your difficult moments. Avner recommends having a confidant sit in on all of your doctors’ appointments and helping you with the time-consuming healthcare and insurance tasks. Don’t try to take on the world by yourself – allow and invite support in. Let your loved ones be your rock when you get hit with heavy news. They’ll bring you back to reality and away from the edge of panic. Cancer’s got nothing on the bond of a loved one.