Luckily, they were able to squeeze me in on the infusion schedule in the early afternoon, which also gave me time I wouldn't normally have in the morning to make it to a yoga class. Nothing like a little getting centered (or heavy stretching, as Chris calls it) before poison--ahem, chemo. THIS is what I do with my days, you guys.
And side note, I have a scan next Monday. As much as I'm trying not to be anxious, I'm still a little on edge this week. Pre-chemo steroids don't help. (They don't call it 'roid rage for nothin'.) But I didn't realize how on edge I was until yoga on Monday.
At the beginning of class, my teacher started talking about how yoga is a spiritual practice as much as a physical one, how we come to our mats to create space for good as we release what's no longer serving us--physically, emotionally, or spiritually. None of this is particularly new or earth-shattering, but then he began talking specifics. How feelings of fear or guilt or anger or jealousy can take root wherever there is an absence of love. "So," he said, "the way to drive those emotions out is to breathe in love." Easy for you to say, I thought. You don't have a PET scan next week.
I was irritated with the idea and found myself actually getting angry. What was I supposed to do? I thought. Send some love to my scarred, radiated chest that won't move the way I want it to? Feel love toward my never-ending appointments, scans, and follow-up visits? Love cancer? As I began to move through the postures, though, to stretch and strengthen my body, to marvel in what it could do, I realized my instructor was on to something. As I began to sweat, as my muscles burned in warrior pose, as the familiar calm began to seep in, I realized how frayed my nerves were and how much these scans still hijack me--yes, physically, emotionally, and spiritually--in the days leading up to them.
As much as the stubborn side of me didn't want to admit it, it does help to be more loving with myself. And wasn't that what I'd resolved to do this year, anyway?
I don't have quite as much flexibility in my right pectoral muscles as I do on my left side since I had four lymph nodes removed and five weeks of radiation. But slowly, muscle fiber by muscle fiber, the scar tissue is breaking up and poses I'd figured were out of reach for me are becoming available again. The pain is lessening (although there is still significant discomfort, but I have learned to tell the difference between the two) and my range of motion is improving.
It doesn't take away the fear or anxiety completely, but coming to terms with my body, appreciating it for its strength and--yes, sometimes even grace--helps me accept the scan next week, helps me find peace with where I am today, helps me forgive all that my body and I have been through the last two and a half years.
As we relaxed in shavasana at the end of class, my teacher reminded us to let go of fear, and I realized maybe it's not so easy for him, either. I don't know what struggles he's up against. We all have our burdens to bear. I don't know what anyone else is bringing to their mat. I only know that every time I come to mine I let go of a little more of what holds me back.
Yoga can't help me control what my scan will say next week. And I don't know if my chest muscles will ever open up enough for me to get into king pigeon pose.