“I don’t think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains.”
~ Anne Frank
Sometimes it takes the worst times in life to make us stronger and force us to change.
Somehow when the world around us is falling apart and we’ve finally come to the end of the road, we have to make a choice to fight or flight.
The last eight months since my father’s stage four cancer diagnosis have taught me many things:
Painful lessons I didn’t want to learn and had no choice but to endure.
A reminder of life’s fleeting moments on this earth and how quickly life can change and turn your world upside down.
A realization of the importance of enjoying each and every day and trying to live in the moment instead of the past or future.
A reminder of what is most important in life and an incessant urge to hold on as tight as possible to what and who you love without letting go.
A loss of oneself and being; a dark and scary place filled with turbulent clouds. Yet there is a small, distant ray of hope.
I will never forget the dreadful call that broke my heart and brought me to my knees.
I had held out hope and positivity that the tumor inside my dad’s bladder wasn’t cancer. How could it possibly be? My father is one of the healthiest, fit 71-year-old men I know. He is my inspiration. My mountain climbing partner. My biggest cheerleader. My rock.
The earth shattering news of my father’s diagnosis was terrifying.
Not only did he have bladder cancer, it had somehow spread throughout his lymph nodes and it was an aggressive stage four. My previously healthy, super active father would not be going to Bolivia to climb the Andes with me in October. Instead, he would begin a grueling six months of intensive chemotherapy in hopes of killing the cancer that was invading his body with rapid speed.
The first week after his diagnosis was hell. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t smile. I couldn’t be me. All I wanted to do was curl up in a ball and cry. I found my life spiraling down into a dark and never-ending anxiety that was quickly filling me up with despair. I was beginning to become afraid.
You see, I have been down that dreadful dark road to depression before and it is a place that I never want to return. Thankfully the first time I was able to get help and pull myself out of the devastating postpartum depression and anxiety that was destroying my life after my son was born.
My body healed, my hormones returned, my sleep-deprivation faded and after three torturous months I was back to being me. That was nine years ago and I honestly try to forget.
This time however, none of the old tricks I’d learned from my past experience with postpartum depression had prepared me for the sheer terror, anguish, anxiety and pain of dealing with a loved one’s cancer. I was a complete wreck and it was obvious that I could not continue living my life in this frenzied state of anxiety and despair. I was falling apart and my family needed me. I was no longer me. I needed help.
This was when I found yoga.
Right when I was at the bottom of the barrel and moving toward hopelessness—although it may sound rather cliché—yoga saved me.
I will never forget my first class.
Distraught and looking for any escape from my painful emotions, I signed up for a restorative class that combined meditation and slow-flow yoga. As I laid down on my mat and closed my eyes, I realized how incredibly tense my body felt. Every single muscle and bone ached.
Slowly as I began taking deep breaths, my body and soul began to feel at ease and all the stress surrounding my life disappeared. I clung to the Earth and let her receive me. The connection between body, mind and soul had never been so profound.
As the class ended, I rested on my mat breathing peacefully for the first time in months. My eyes welled up with tears and I quietly sobbed. The power of emotions released and it felt so incredibly good. For once, I didn’t feel so overwhelmed and alone. For once, I knew I would be okay.
Over the last several months, I have become a regular yogi, going five to six times a week and trying out every class my studio offers. An inner peace has grown within me and made me realize that I would survive.
I would make it through my dad’s cancer no matter the outcome or how painful it would be.
The spirituality, love, peace and serenity of yoga has saved my bleeding soul and made me whole again. Without yoga, I honestly do not know where I would be
Today, I continue my practice after five steady months. I’ve learned a great deal about myself and how to live a healthier, happier life. Sadly, sometimes it takes a traumatic event to change our lives and make them better. The last six months have been layered with hardship. Yet I’ve also realized that I’m stronger than I think. It is amazing how powerful our minds can be and how easy it is to lose track of our own inner strength.
Thank you yoga, for reminding me.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photos: Author’s Own