Living with grade IV breast cancer

I’m 41 years old and living with grade IV breast cancer.

At the age of 34, right after I learned I had cancer and just before my first cycle of chemotherapy, was when yoga entered my life through the Serenity program provided by the Quebec Breast Cancer Foundation.

I will always remember my first session. I was lying on my yoga mat in distress, wondering what was going to happen to me and not knowing what to do about this disease eating my body from the inside. Having lost all sense of direction, my life exploded into pieces and my thoughts swirled in every direction at a crazy pace. I was in such a profound state of shock that I was forgetting to breathe. What I remember from these first yoga sessions has nothing to do with the exercises: I would breathe and cry, breathe and cry. It seemed to me that the only thing I could still control in my life was my breath. I was simultaneously right and wrong. It was true that I could control and concentrate on my breath. With this I could find an anchoring point, a place for my out-of-control thoughts to land. But I was wrong because, in reality, breath is NOT ONLY breath. It is prana, our most precious source of life force. It regulates the central nervous system & induces relaxation, meditation and is the bridge between the body and soul. But that, I would discover later. And I have come to realize since, that yoga helps not only in every day life, but simply to live.

CSI_chantalA little more than 6 years after my first yoga session with Dr. Bali and the Serenity program, and following the return of the cancer, yoga took a leading role in my life. I finally gave myself the privilege of practicing yoga almost every day. At a time when the stars were misaligned, just before the active return of chemotherapy, I felt a powerful need to get closer to Dr. Bali & his teachings. I think it is the most beautiful thing I have done for myself. I thank heaven for giving me the opportunity to see what I needed. Because, like Dr. Bali says, “truth is everywhere in every moment ready to reveal itself to those who want to see it.”

Having no expectation, making no judgement. Doing nothing but being and breathing. Letting go of the idea of accomplishment, achievement, and going beyond your limits. Simply being instead of trying to be something different than what we are. This is what Dr. Bali talks about during his sessions. Simply letting ourselves be is liberating and at the same time extremely difficult. This is so destabilizing that I cried the first time. For the first time in my life, I was really accepting whatever was presenting itself to me, whatever I was feeling.

One ounce of practice is worth four tons of theory. Yoga prepares the body for mediation, but in the beginning the calmness and concentration required for meditation elude us. The practice of asanas (postures) and pranayama (breath) are ideal portals as they introduce us to meditation in movement that slows down the rhythm of thoughts through relaxation. This is what my “four tons of practice” brought me.

As my practice evolves, I notice that I have developed an inner presence that I did not have before. Yoga helps me to distance myself from my own emotions, from the events and circumstances of life, I can better “observe” myself and disassociate myself from the emotions, fears, and reactions that I have. The greater my level of consciousness heightens, the more I can get beyond shyness, impediments, doubt and fear. I am more calm, poised, centered, relaxed and less inclined to be scattered, quick tempered, in a bad mood, or paralyzed by fear.

A yoga session calms me and at the same time it energizes me. I feel strong and solid like an immense tree; ready to absorb the energy and sunlight like the leaves of a tree with its roots anchored deeply into the earth. I feel connected, energized, centered and anchored. ALIVE!!!

I have an external viewpoint on my life and my reactions. I see my interactions with others from another angle. I can’t yet define it completely, but it seems like everything that surrounds me is more transparent and real than before. I’m more in touch with that timeless part of myself deep inside, while the daily situation is less important.

I now have the profound conviction that the universe is on my side, that it is working for me and that nothing can hurt me. I advance with that calm confidence that every one of my thoughts is seeking its own realization and that my energy will go where my attention goes. I honour and accept the present moment as it is. I go beyond my thoughts: no longer just my body or my thoughts but…SO-HUM. This is what I strive for.

— Chantal