I tried a few free yoga classes here and there. At that time, yoga seemed like a luxury or a cool experience. I started taking yoga more seriously after being diagnosed with breast cancer. My journey with yoga happened in an unexpected way. The hospital where I received chemotherapy treatments had recently started a holistic program. The program incorporated therapy dogs, massage therapists, yoga, and meditation instructors. I had a history of having anxiety attacks prior to my chemotherapy treatments. As soon our car pulled into the hospital parking garage, my anxiety levels would shoot through the roof! One day, the yoga instructor stopped by my little “chemo cubby” and offered a guided meditation session. My treatment had just started. I wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon so I thought sure, why not? After the meditation session, I opened my eyes and immediately noticed how relaxed I felt. To my surprise my body felt lighter and my anxiety was completely gone! I couldn’t believe focused thoughts and controlled breathing eliminated the uneasiness I’d felt just moments earlier. I realized that yoga and meditation gave me something I could control in a world that was full of unknowns. After completing 16 rounds of chemo and multiple surgeries, I received good news. The oncologist determined that I had a complete pathologic response to all my treatments. This meant I was finally cancer free! God had answered my prayers and healed me! I also knew yoga played a key role on my journey to recovery. As a friend once said yoga became my “chemo gift.” These are gifts I received during treatment that I may not have experienced otherwise. It was at that point I decided that I wanted to become educated enough to share my love of faith and yoga with others. In 2019, I officially became a Certified Yoga Instructor! My kids and I have “mommy and me” yoga sessions at home. I am also a yoga instructor at a local studio in my city and I’m truly enjoying it!
I’ve been asked many questions about yoga. I always say if you can breathe you can do yoga! Modifications for the poses are always available. You can also use blocks or straps to help you extend your stretch. Yoga literally means to “yoke.” It’s the unification of mind and body. It is not a religious practice. Yoga is an energy practice and a spiritual practice. The postures of yoga are just one aspect. The purpose of yoga transcends beyond the physical poses. As you train your body to become more disciplined you also train the mind. I’ve experienced firsthand the physical and emotional repercussions a cancer diagnosis can cause. For me, yoga was an escape from the chaotic repetition of treatments, doctors’ appointments, scans, and surgeries. Yoga can help restore mindfulness and balance back into your life! Have you ever considered trying yoga? I’ll help make the decision easy for you! Let’s take a look at the many physical, emotional, and health benefits that yoga provides.
BENEFITS OF YOGA
1.) Increases metabolism and energy levels
2.) Stimulates balance
3.) Encourages flexibility
4.) Increases strength and stamina
5.) Tones muscles
6.) Eases anxiety
7.) Used to treat depression
8.) Relieves back pain
9.) Helps with arthritis pain by lubricating the joints
10.) Aids in digestion
11.) Lowers high blood pressure
12.) Improves asthma
13.) Supports healthy sleeping habits
14.) Cultivates awareness
15.) Promotes increased self esteem
We live in a fast paced world that thrives off instant gratification. Yoga allows us to pause and live in the present moment. The practice of Yoga fosters patience. It encourages us to peel back the layers and see ourselves as we truly are. In return, we become the best possible version of ourselves. The inward journey of discovery leads us to our true purpose in life. Just like holding the more challenging poses, yoga teaches us that nothing in life will lasts forever. You can breathe and get through it. When we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change. So take a deep breath and draw your focus inward. Yoga doesn’t require much. Just hold on to your faith, grab your mat, and you’re ready!
I’ll leave you with a few of my favorite quotes:
“Yoga is not about touching your toes, it’s about what you learn on the way down.” ~ Jigar Gor
“The yoga pose is not the goal, becoming flexible or standing on your hands is not the goal. The goal is to create space where you were once stuck. To unveil layers of protection you’ve built around your heart. To appreciate your body and become aware of the mind and the noise it creates. To make peace with who you are. The goal is to love… well, you!” ~ Rachel Brathen
I hope my experience inspires you to deepen your practice or give yoga a try. Much love and light always!
Until next time, Ciao Bella!!!
AN OPEN LETTER
“You Have Been Assigned This Mountain To Show Others It Can be Moved”
This INCREDIBLE letter was presented to me by my Step Mom, Dr. Tracey Butler Ross, right before my mastectomy last year. I recently read the letter again. It touched me so much that I felt lead to share it with you all because it remains relatable for any one facing a giant! Consider this, could what you’re facing be an opportunity to stand tall in ways you never thought possible?
“I’m praying for you this day and the days to come. Praying for your physical body, your strength (of mind and character), your courage in adversity and pain, your ability to endure and be empowered during the storms and trials in your life. You are the epitome of grace and elegance even when under fire.
We all applaud your steadfastness in doing what needs to be done, your bravery as you stand ready to fight, and your true grit as you dig down to the very fiber of your being as you face this “Goliath” in your midst. Your ever knowing spirit that knows that you DO NOT walk alone.
I’ve watched you smile through many tests and tribulations. I’ve watched you evolve and grow, live and learn, withstand and endure, take hit after hit… and yet you keep standing. You still have been a wife, a daughter, a mother, and a friend and you haven’t missed a beat.
But I never want you to forget that you ARE a women and this particular crossroad that you are now facing is especially tough. I cannot imagine what you are feeling, but I want you to know that I see you and your heart. Every shake and anxious quake, every tear that you’ve kept within, every sob that was never given a sound, every scream that was muffled by a smile and. Always being strong even when you didn’t know how to be in this situation.
God sees you and HE is there with you every step of the way!
I wish that I could take this cross from you, but sadly, it is not within my power. You have every right to feel angry, sad, depressed, overwhelmed, scared, or whatever other human emotion that may be going on or that has gone through your mind over the past few months, especially right now. Your life as you have known it is not the same, and understandably, you also are not the same. Though your physical body may change, your character has not. You are still the “warrior princess” that God spoke into life and existence almost 32 years ago. Sure, you like all of us, might have some battle scares, but I declare there will come a day that you will look at those very scares and feel a surge of victory and accomplishment that you made it through!
This is a defining moment in your life and you get to write what that definition and story shall say. Perhaps it will be…. Over comer, champion, role model, activist, only God knows, but it will constantly change and adapt to fit the need for the moment at hand. Keep looking up when your head may want to lower, keep striving forward when your body feels exhausted, keep standing when your legs may want to buckle; keep reaching for Him when you feel that you don’t know how to keep going on. He will see you through. As He said to Elijah in the wilderness, “Eat and rest for the journey ahead is great.”
The life that you dream of, lives in the changes that you are experiencing, and your ability and willingness to change with them, and not just for you, but for you husband and children also. Why this particular path was given to you, we shall never know, but I know that God IS able and He never changes! He will carry you and never let you fall. Continue to trust Him and allow Him to guide you. I promise you that there is something on the other side of this beyond challenging battle. You just keep taking it one day at a time. Embrace every moment and chronicle it clearly, for this is your destiny and testimony. No one can, nor will they, tell and live it like you! There is NO win or lose in this fight…. Only WIN or LEARN!
Go forth and glean from every moment ahead, for the day that you shall declare the works of the Lord is soon to come.
I am SO proud of you and will continue to be there every step of the way! My heart bursts with the love I have for you and as I promised you…. THE BEST IS YET TO COME!”
It’s almost been a year since I first received this letter and I hope it has blessed and encouraged you just as it has me! It represents my heart towards every breast cancer warrior! I am NOT thankful for cancer, but I am thankful for what cancer has taught me! Continue fighting because you are here for a reason!
Until next time….. Much Love and Light,
It’s been such a long time since I’ve been able to write an update on my life. I have not blogged for AWHILE but trust me it was not intentional. When returned to work in the fall of 2017 everything changed because I had to completely immerse myself back into the frame of mind of working 5 days a week. On top of that, I honestly felt compelled to take a break. Chemo and surgery are extremely taxing on the body. I just needed time for myself and with my family. I wrote a blog about finding your new normal on my website so check that out if you are feeling anxious or stressed about easing your way back into things after going through treatment.
BUT with all that said I wanted to take time to talk about my surgeries. I’ve also been asked on multiple occasions, “Why did you need to have two surgeries?” Hopefully, this blog will answer that question! Here’s what you need to know…..
My first surgery was a double mastectomy. A mastectomy is the removal of the breast tissue but the skin remains intact. There are different types of mastectomies and you may have a single or a double mastectomy. Here are some details about the surgery!
I HAD TO GO UNDER ANESTHESIA
When I arrived at the hospital I was placed in a pre-operative room. Some hospitals may allow you to have family members or loved ones with you. I had my parents, uncle, sister, and husband there. I’m so thankful for their presence. My husband was definitely my rock. Words cannot express how grateful I am for family! The surgeon marked me at this time and I was able to meet my anesthesiologist. My family and I were able to ask my doctors questions concerning the procedure. They made sure that I had not eaten since the night before. The doctors and anesthesiologist were very confident. My family and I said a prayer and thanked God for my victory. Then off to surgery I went!
The mastectomy was performed by my Breast Surgeon. I was told that it could take up to 3 hours. I chose to go forward with reconstructive surgery. This was performed by my plastic surgeon. This portion of surgery took an additional 1-2 hours. Along with the reconstruction I received expanders. Expanders were placed to help stretch the remaining skin in my chest area until I reached my desired size.
Immediately after surgery I was moved to recovery. I was monitored and then relocated to a hospital room. You may stay at the hospital anywhere from 1-3 days depending on the surgical outcome. Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask to stay longer if you need more time!
After you return home the recovery period is about 4-6 weeks. Restrictions, such as lifting, driving, and exercising, and working are put in place. Go at your own pace. Don’t put too much on yourself too fast!
Drains are inserted at the same time as the surgery. I had 4 drains (2 on each side). The drains consist of long tubes inserted into the area around your breast. They are there to help remove access blood and body fluids that may build up in the space where the tissue or tumor once were. The drains are held in place by stitches.
I had to empty the drains at least 3 times a day and keep a daily intake of the amount of fluid removed each time. Make sure to keep them clean, apply the proper ointments or antibiotics prescribed, and take your pain medication.
THE DRAINS ARE ANNOYING!!!! J Be patient. Yes they are frustrating but remember this is only temporary.
The drains were removed within a month or so, but once again this can depend on a person’s individual situation. It did hurt a little bit when they cut the stitches out to remove the drains but the actual removal of the tubes did not hurt.
Once they are removed I had small scars. I also had scars near the mastectomy sight. These scars took longer to heal since I did not have nipple sparing surgery.
It was very weird after the surgery because everything seemed very numb. This may take some getting used to.
Remember those expanders I spoke of earlier. They are basically like balloons. They were inserted to give me some shape when I first woke up from the mastectomy. Every couple of weeks or so, I had to return to the plastic surgeon’s office to have them filled with a silicone like solution. A needle was used to inject the solution into a port right above the expander. The “fills” typically did not take long and are measured in CC’s. They continued until I reached my desired size.
Once everything was clear, and I was happy with my size, I scheduled my second surgery. The second surgery occurred to have the expanders removed. The expanders were exchanged for actual silicone implants. There are many types of implants. They are just like the ones you would choose from if you were having cosmetic plastic surgery (except these are obviously for medical reason and no one would choose to go about it this way).
The second surgery was much easier than the first. The recovery time is still 1-2 weeks. Restrictions are still in place up to 6 weeks after the surgery but there are no drains (insert happy dance)!
Overall, I’d say the first surgery was very hard. It was difficult emotionally and I had a challenging recovery. My body is now changed forever! I’m thankful that I had a remarkable breast surgeon and plastic surgeon. They did an incredible job. To this day I am very happy with my results. Everything’s healing nicely and I’m glad this part is over!
Once again, I’m sorry this took so long to write but I hope this gives more depth and understanding through the process of a mastectomy. Feel free to share your stories below. You can also visit my YouTube Channel where I share tips on how to prepare for before and after a mastectomy!
As always, I love you guys keep fighting, and I’ll see you soon.