In December 2004, at the age of 58 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. The tumor was found as the result of an ultrasound. I had no symptoms and was proud of my healthy lifestyle. I was a runner and a yoga practitioner and exercised five or six days a week without fail. In fact, the year before my diagnosis I trained for and completed the Burlington marathon and frequently ran shorter races and half marathons.
In the process of preparing me for breast cancer surgery, a chest x-ray, which should have been routine, showed a questionable spot which my surgeon told me could be nothing, metastatic breast cancer or a separate lung cancer. I followed up the x-ray with a pet scan and biopsy and found out, on New Year's eve 2004 that I had lung cancer.
In early February 2005 I underwent a lumpectomy for the breast cancer and one week later I was back in the hospital for another surgery in which my surgeon removed the two upper lobes of my right lung. The result of the surgeries was that I was cancer free but needed to follow up with high-dose chemo and radiation, which meant that I was in treatment most of 2005, finishing up in September. The treatment was hard, no denying but I did everything in my power to help myself through it, including utilizing alternative therapies such as herbal treatments, acupuncture and hypnotherapy along with the expert care I received from so many excellent health care providers. I loved to run but found that I no longer could as a result of the lung surgery but what I did find, to my joy, was that I could still practice some yoga and reap the mental and physical benefits of a modified practice as I gradually grew stronger and healthier.
Today, 12 years later, I am a certified yoga teacher, trained to work with cancer patients as they experience their treatments and personal recovery, working one-on-one and in group settings. Nothing gives me more joy than knowing that I am helping others through difficult times and carrying a message of hope and strength. We can survive, we do. And we go on to live full and meaningful lives and perhaps, as a result of our experiences, we are stronger and happier and more grateful for the chance to just be alive and contributing than we might otherwise have been.