Return of Hope

“The robbed that smiles, steals something from the thief.” – William Shakespeare

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Photo by Elijah O’Donell on Unsplash

A date loomed on the calendar: my final set of imaging tests to confirm I was in remission. Negative test results meant that I was in remission for 5 years – essentially considered cured of cancer. The only follow up required was a yearly mammogram ordered by my doctor. In a few weeks, I would be free of the cancer centre and able to move on with my life.

This was one of the slender threads to which I clung as we worked to reduce the pain thresholds. And, by God, they were receding, largely because of the yoga therapy. It was a manual touch therapy, a little similar to the physiotherapy I’d experienced. Except that the adjustments were much gentler, and much smaller, than what my physiotherapist did. Mike was testing for resistance from my body, getting a sense of the pull created by the innervation into my muscles. But the work was so slight, the movements so small, I wasn’t really sure if anything had happened. Each adjustment was met with a question: does this hurt? It did not, strangely.

In essence, Mike was retraining my nervous system, by gently untangling the strains and compressions placed on my neural pathways. It was the embodiment of Dr. Moseley’s prescription: “Rethink pain. Get a plan to re-engage. Get a good coach. Start your journey now. Recover.” Once I added the yoga therapy (YT) to the exercise prescription, my nervous system began to unclench. It was the last tool in the toolbox: yoga, physiotherapy, massage therapy, CBD oil and now YT – each played a role in slowing down the frantic signals to my brain. When I began YT, pain ebbed away with each passing week, as my hands and wrists recovered. Thankfully, the final piece slipped into place.

By the time my last mammogram appointment arrived, I was feeling “dang skippy.” I awoke that morning, feeling the thrum of life in my body: energy pulsed through my limbs, as I drew long, luxurious breaths. One thought sat forefront in my mind: I was alive. I’d made it. The cancer was long gone, and while the vessel it left behind was scarred and beleaguered – I was still here. My life lay before me, and on this day, it seemed less barren and hopeless.

It was the last set of tests as a cancer patient. As I sat in the waiting room in the draft hospital gown, I could only smile at all those indignities thrust upon cancer patients: cold fingers of total strangers pawing and examining. The metallic taste of medications dispensed before certain imaging tests. Pinching discomfort from cold testing equipment. The harried pace of the oncologists as they rushed in and out of rooms with patients. And all that blood work, needle pokes, bandages, bruising in my arms – done.

I smiled my way through the mammogram, despite the cold embrace of the machine. When I left, I waved a cheery goodbye to the receptionist, and fairly floated to my car.  After five long years, I was more than ready to close the book on the Cancer Centre and seize upon the freedom of survival.

Within 48 hours, however, I would be confronted with a shocking development. But at this point, I was blissfully unaware of the storm clouds gathering on the horizon, feeling enveloped instead by a deep gratitude for all the blessings that had spilled into my life as a result of the yoga studio, and the doors it had opened for healing.

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