It has been a little while indeed since I shared something here. Maybe the amount of snow we have had lately in Southeastern Virginia has something to do with it 😉 Fortunately, Spring should be around the corner soon.
One of the things I have tried to explain and share several times through this blog before is the power of the mind over the body. It can be positive but it can also be very negative. In my personal struggle to overcome my daily fear of a relapse, I have witnessed amazing things on my own body. I think it first started last year, at the end of my second chemo. As I was anxiously waiting for the results of my scan (thus the results of chemo), I could feel pain in my chest, exactly where cancer came back a few months before. And the more I felt it, the more I thought about it, and so on. When I received the good news that the chemo worked and that I was on remission, the pain disappeared for a while. Then I went on to the next steps of my treatment (radiation followed by high dose chemo and finally stem cells transplant) and for the most part, I was fine. Then I was finally discharged from the transplant program and told to resume my life. This is when the pain came back.
At that time, and based on my experience from a few months earlier, I was convinced that the pain was the results of stress and anxieties. And I was determined to find a solution not to let negative thoughts take over my mind and body. I am not going to lie: it is much easier said than done. Six months after my last treatment, the stress is still here, and realistically, I think it is going to stick around for a bit. Now, the challenge is to work on moving the anxieties on the back burner and to learn how to live with them, so they have the least impact. Again, easier said than done.
In this new journey, I have explored and tried a few things so far. Some of these things got my lovely wife pretty dubious, and some days, I could just see in her eyes that she was just like “what in the world is he going to come up with today?”. You should have seen her face when I told her I wanted to try hypnosis (and I did try it though), it was priceless. But you know what, despite all her doubts, she always supported me (and still does), and when she expresses her doubts, she always does it in the most gentle way. Boy I love her so much!
One thing that I have tried soon after the end of my treatment, and that I have been practicing ever since is Chair Yoga. I had read before quite a few articles or books praising the health benefits of Yoga. But I wanted to start with something gentle, not a sweaty and fancy class. I found out that there are classes especially designed for cancer survivors (like yoga4cancer), but because of locations/times/class fees, I decided to stick with the YMCA. Then I found a class for Chair Yoga. From what I first understood, it is a class where traditional poses are adjusted to a chair (instead of laying down on a mat), so people who can’t do the traditional Yoga – for any reason – can still benefit from this activity.
So I went. And guess what? After the first session, my pain went away for at least 24 hours. I know, it didn’t take the pain totally away, but it took it away for one day! That was a huge improvement for me. Enough to keep going. So I have been to my Chair Yoga classes every week for the last six months.
Chair Yoga is very gentle, so it is a perfect transition for cancer survivors or for anybody who is recovering from all sorts of injuries. The class I go to is taught by Lexi, and she focuses a lot on breathing, which I think is the key. By the end of the class, you are relaxed although you exercised quite significantly sometimes (I speak as a cancer survivor still on the road to recovery, so my “significantly” might be slightly different than yours). And in our modern world where we are constantly stimulated, this class is like a healthy and positive bubble that helps me re-generate my inner self.
Again, this is not a miracle solution, but it is part of the solution, and it is definitely a much better choice than anti-depressants (at least it is for me ;-). For the Hampton Roads locals, if you are interested, Lexi teaches Chair Yoga (and other Yoga classes) at the Indian River YMCA.
As always, please keep my friends and fellow survivors who are still battling in your prayers: Sego, Sam and Shericka.
See you for the next story.