Caregiver Touched by Cancer, Now Offering Accessible Self-Care
I was crushed when I was diagnosed with cancer. I had always been active and healthy … what had I done wrong? My husband was home recovering from a serious burn injury, and we were walking through our neglected garden when I felt a lump in my right breast as I was gesturing to myself while telling him a story. One test led to another, and I soon I learned that it was malignant.
As you can imagine—and maybe even understand for yourself–our second year of marriage was a challenging one. Our days were filled with medical appointments, and we always seemed to be the youngest people in the waiting room. After my mastectomy and chemotherapy, I took up physical therapy in the form of a gentle movement class led by a breast cancer survivor herself. Those graceful and inspirational classes eventually led me to yoga. I dabbled in the practice for years after that, and then finally started attending classes on a regular basis. I enjoyed not just the physical part of the practice, but the break it gave my mind and the boost it brought to my self-confidence.
As difficult as my own health struggles were, it wasn’t until my husband faced some sudden, severe and frightening heart issues that my practice was elevated to another level. That’s when I found true comfort on my mat–along with a peace that seemed unattainable anywhere else. I started down the teacher training path about five years later.
Since then I’ve helped care for my mother, who recently passed with late-stage dementia in another state. For the last few years I spent countless hours behind the wheel of my Jeep, subsisting on Kind bars and takeaway lattes as I traveled back and forth every few days to visit her and support my dad, hardly noticing anything else going on outside my narrow routine. After too many attempts to find the energy to squeeze in a yoga class along my route, I knew there had to be a better way to find the strength and solace I desperately needed.
I began incorporating bite-sized practices into my days from all the modalities I’ve studied over the years—the balance and flow of yoga, the power of breathwork, the focus and stillness of meditation, the supportive aromas of essential oils, and more. I sprinkled in moments to appreciate the natural world above and around me, including the animals on our Southern Vermont homestead (especially our pet cows). Connecting with the cycles of the heavens and the rhythms of the Earth helped me find my soul again, and renewed my compassion for my loved ones.
I’m still traveling back and forth to another state to support my dad, so I know from experience what it’s like to be a caregiver during these times. I also know that the practices I use make a marked difference in my daily life—for me as well as those I care for.
If you are spending time caring for others, when are you making time to nurture yourself? I now offer yoga practices specifically for caregivers with hectic schedules, I call them self-care mini retreats—five days of practices designed to ground and nourish caregivers all done remotely.
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