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Have you been touched by cancer?

Has cancer touched your life? If so, you know it to be an unwelcome visitor that hijacks health, disrupts life, and demands attention. Moreover, once you’ve received a diagnosis, it’s urgent to figure out what to do, whom to trust, and how to navigate the medical system. Not only have you been surprised by this stranger but now you need to accommodate your life to minimize this stranger’s intrusion into all corners of your life.

The good news is modern medicine has more knowledge and technology for combating the disease. The bad news is that this mortal combat can be aggressive and indiscriminate killing of good cells and bad. We’re all different and the pharmacological interventions vary a lot with much greater sophistication tailored to the personality of your cancer. I recall my mother’s oncologist using similar words in suggesting treatment that would balance Mom’s quality of life with holding the cancer at bay. At this point Mom had lived fairly well on and off with breast cancer for about 13 years.

The language around cancer can be confusing. What verb tense do you use? Does your friend have cancer or, after treatment, did she have cancer? Being cancer free doesn’t ensure the cancer will not return which is why regular monitoring continues. When training to teach mindful yoga for cancer at Duke, I listened to one woman who had experienced a mastectomy, question the emphasis on words like survival, battle, and the like. “I didn’t relate to those fighting terms feeling very unsure in my body and what I had been through.” My mother did not self- identify as a cancer survivor yet some women find comfort and strength doing so.

Beginning Sept. 6, 1918, I will facilitate a new class series at Villager Yoga. Mindful yoga for individuals healing from cancer invites a different perspective. Instead of fighting the waves of stress, fatigue, and fearful thoughts, consider riding the waves of the breath, the mind, and the body’s sensations to come into a friendlier relationship with the self. This eight-week series will employ the tools of the ancient yogic tradition and contemporary neuroscience to boost self -understanding and well being.

Who’s eligible for this program? If you’ve been cleared by your oncologist for gentle yoga, this program is for you. If you are cancer free but continue to feel anxiety every time you have a mammogram, consider coming. If you are a caregiver or companion to someone on this cancer journey, you are welcome. We’ll explore living skillfully with cancer using the breath, our attention to the present moment, and moving with awareness.


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