Having gone through cancer treatments for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma two times before the age of 40, there has been much to make sense out of, particularly since my second experience with cancer began when I was without health insurance. Needless to say, life became grossly out of balance very quickly. Within three months of the diagnosis of my recurrence with NHL, I became poor and disabled in order to get help from state and federal assistance programs; I incurred significant medical bills before I started receiving any assistance; and I stopped working and started chemotherapy and lost much of my physical and emotional self to the process. As most of our language and way of making sense reinforces, I became entangled in a war I could not escape. If I wanted to live, I had to fight.
When I emerged from treatment about eight months after the diagnosis there was much to regain in the way of balance in my life, although I did not yet understand that. I discovered that the world of surviving cancer is as fraught with metaphorical war making as the active battles I had to endure in treatment. While I attended a conference on cancer survivorship and several Lance Armstrong Foundation events, I still felt resistant to becoming too involved with the "Livestrong Army" and accepting congratulations for beating cancer. Although I was mad at the lost time, money, physicality, as well as other setbacks, and I wanted to see changes in policy with regards to cancer survivorship, I no longer wanted war to be my major metaphorical sense making strategy. Instead, I turned to a practice of incorporating balance back into my life.
It started by going to a Bikram yoga class almost everyday for two weeks while visiting a friend in Denver, CO that fall after treatment and it continued that winter when I decided I would put in over 100 days on my skis. While I continued practicing yoga at home, skiing brought a dynamic aspect to the practice of balance. I had to stay in balance while moving sometimes at great speed under difficult conditions. After the ski season ended I began traipsing around the forest and getting in tune with the balance of nature. With each new season I seek out ways to enhance my balance practice by riding my bike, or learning about the ocean for example.
Throughout this past summer and now as fall rains down on us fast and furiously up here in the northern temperate rainforest, I go to yoga class regularly, usually two or three times a week. Since Bikram is not taught here, I now study Ashtanga. Each class brings me a deeper sense of balance, strength and freedom from the chaos that war leaves in its path. I find new connections with my core and breath that I look forward to exploring when I once again click into my skis this winter. I also believe that my balance practices inform my thinking as to how we should proceed as cancer survivors. If we are inspire and move towards real change in how we deal with cancer then moving while in balance seems so much more sustainable than trying to sustain another 35 years of warring with ourselves, our government and the medical community.
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