Yoga After Breast Cancer

Written by: Sarah Schoolden

Cancer. We all have heard about it or witnessed a life being affected or lost due to it. But what happens when you’re no longer the caregiver of someone who is or was affected. What happens when you’re diagnosed as the patient? Do you change your rolls and become weakened out of fear, or does it fuel you to never give up despite the scarce diagnosis? I was twenty-two years old when I was diagnosed precancerous to breast cancer. At the age of seven I lost my mother to her battle of breast cancer. Little did I know that one year prior to the age that my mother was diagnosed I would be diagnosed with a predisposition of the same disease that took my mothers life away. Four months after my diagnosis I received my first out of three surgeries. I cried everyday for two weeks straight leading up to the morning of my mastectomy. However, despite the uncertainty and fear that was presented in front of me, something life changing truly altered all the negativity that once struck me. I always enjoyed expressing my creativity; cooking, painting, drawing, writing, they all sparked my attention for as long as I could remember. But while being in recovery for three months between three surgeries you tend to get bored and become optimistic to find new hobbies. In between my second and third surgery I grew a desire to learn yoga and meditation. My surgeons and physical therapist advised that I try yoga to help with my mobility, strength and flexibility in my upper body. At first, I was entirely opposed to the practice. I was terrible at it. I couldn’t hold myself in any of the asanas – I had very minimal mobility and strength and my balance was way off. I accepted that this possibly was not for me. In due time I attempted again, I gave myself more time to heal hoping it’d bring me down a better path – as it did. During my recovery stages I utilized the advantages of being a self- healer. When I was diagnosed, I was given two options: A total bilateral mastectomy or five years of tamoxifen – which is an oral chemo pill. I knew that I was NOT going to accept foreign chemicals in my body if they’re not highly needed. Post-op I was given an array of narcotic drugs which I refused to take. I healed myself merely with herbs, oils, vitamins, natural foods (Ayurveda), meditation, sleep, crystal energy healing and yoga. Now, being a student of Integrative Medicine, I find how miraculous it was to heal the way I did and be gifted to encourage many around me to do the same and heal themselves with what they too believe in. Holism changed my life for the better. It has delivered the ability of happiness I never knew I could reach. My stress and anxiety have diminished immensely. My body and mind have never felt more pure, open and accepting to everything around me. Yoga is the most magical expression my body can speak – with every movement, every breath, every hold of a posture in any asana, I feel euphoric. A feeling I never experienced before. Yoga truly benefits every aspect of your wellbeing. In the past year of studying yoga and immersing myself entirely in the culture I decided that oncological nursing was no longer my calling. ​I felt that I should be practicing what I preach and how can I be a part of a society that prescribes only western medication and interventions to our patients and neglects the science and medicine that has been around for many more generations prior: eastern/ holistic medicine. Yoga after cancer has not been the easiest to physically perform and mentally accept, but once I did, I knew that accepting this practice in my life was the best decision I could have ever made. Now, here we are, almost three years after my journey of breast cancer and I am not only a teacher of this practice that I heavily believe in, but a believer that any path in holistic medicine can heal our whole being more positively then any harsh medication that is offered nowadays. Appreciate any journey in life. The scariest ones lead you down the most rewarding path. ​