Yoga can be incredibly intimidating when you’re new. As a beginner, I wore dark layered clothing because I felt self-conscious wishing I was thinner. Wanting to go unnoticed, I feared that everyone would see my stiff body. Within weeks, I bought my own gear. Using it correctly seemed easy, until my underwear flew out of my hot yoga towel. I quickly learned the importance of using fabric softener with these clingy items. So I initially separated myself from the room thinking I wasn’t as good as everyone else. What I soon realized is that it’s not easy to catch on right away. Yoga is more of a practice focused on personal intentions, rather than a class to conquer. No one was looking at me; they were all looking within themselves.
I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in the Fall of 2013. The news was shocking and sobering, especially considering I knew very few people who thrived with it. Scared beyond comprehension, filled with sleepless nights and worries dancing through my head, I thought I knew what that diagnosis meant. At the same time, publicity ramped up for Disney’s “Frozen,” but I didn’t pay attention. The movie opened Thanksgiving weekend and after the holidays, the world knew it was not only a box office hit, but the key to a young girl’s heart. I didn’t realize, it would be to mine, as well.
As the world was singing “Do you Want to Build a Snowman, ” I was anxiously awaiting my first set of scans after being diagnosed. My mind was filled with wildly ranging thoughts:
Was this the calm before the storm? Would the results show tremendous growth and I would only have a few months or years left?
If so, would my child really know me? Should we tell him or not?
Will my new treatments debilitate me? Will I feel like myself? Will I be myself?
I used to be that person who started her diet or training “tomorrow.” But in recent years, the power of Nike’s famous slogan, “Just Do It” has resonated. An over-thinker to the core, I learned to stop analyzing and just put one foot in front of the other toward a small healthy goal. I remember days with only few hours of sleep, rushing to drop the baby at daycare then off to hours worth of boardroom meetings. My mind was so active with the stress of getting through the day, I always thought I was too busy to take care of myself.
No matter who you are, where you live or what your background is, this time of year tends to be chaotic for everyone. The days are jam packed with work meetings in an effort to get it all in before the holidays; social calendars are filled, often double booked on weekends for both kids and adults; and the shopping trips often create heightened traffic and chaos in our local communities. It’s hard to be zen because everyone is moving in different directions. So many Americans cite the holidays as the most stressful time of year. So, how can we really make this easier on ourselves? Last year, I showcased some of my favorite tips for de-stressing over the holiday season. This year, I want to keep it simple – just smile.
As a recovering work-obsessed multi-tasker, I spent most days analyzing work and life situations while also writing emails, listening to conference calls in the car driving, or reading industry information during exercise sessions. The idea of “doing it all” energized me. But truthfully, I was always exhausted and stressed. I took yoga a few times to “de-stress,” but found limiting my thoughts to be impossible. In addition, I felt foolish because I thought everyone around me was “better at stretching.” So I gave up before I really even began. Despite my lackluster first experiences with it, I ran to yoga after my second breast cancer diagnosis and haven’t turned back since.
We all have the power of choice. As hard as it might be at times, we can choose to wake up in the morning and be in a good mood. Despite bad weather, a burnt breakfast or any other seemingly annoying thing, we can choose to not let it bring down our day.
I thought I knew how to choose joy. After all, I did it in the hardest moments of my life. Throughout my first and second diagnosis with breast cancer, I smiled and handled myself with grace. I found a way to focus on fun despite the hardship. And I learned it from a wonder woman of positive spirit, Mary Ann. On one of my toughest days, just hours after being diagnosed as a 31-year old breast cancer patient, Mary Ann came to me. A kind-hearted and super-souled woman, she guided me through those first six months, helping me understand the intense physical and emotional toll of cancer. She assured me that even as a newlywed cancer patient, I could be happy. I listened. And I was.