Love Waves

Love. What can you do when you’re on the brink, but you’re scared to fall?

Love in Waves, Caitlin Marcoux, Blog, In Love Again, Nantucket, yoga

Love is so powerful, we can get lost in it like a shoreless ocean. It’s something everyone wants and so many of us watch slip through our fingers.

Were I to die young, at least I can say, on my deathbed, that I have loved so much. People with the most tremendous spirit, I have loved. Big and small. Male and female. Introverted and extroverted. Tall and Short. Round and long. Young and old. I have loved under dire circumstances, and loved during times of clam and peace. But for as many times that I’ve LOVED, I’ve also managed to consistenly fuck it up.

Love, Mastectomy, Surgery, Breast Cancer, Caitlin Marcoux, MGH, To love, what a privilege!

Do we recognize how luck we are to know this feeling even once in a lifetime? To just once experience a close approximation of this bliss? Let alone multiple times…

I think part of the problem, part of the reason love escapes us so often, lies in our attachments to how and what it should look like. More importantly, how long it will last.

We think if the object of our affection is the one, they will stay by our side forever; through sickness and in health, for richer or poorer. Till death do us part.

So we strangle hold love with our sweaty, hot hands.

When love evaporates from the heat of our grasp, we blame others, circumstances, and the Universe. Worse yet, we blame ourselves for the myriad of things we did wrong.

Do we consider, ever, that the love we lost wasn’t meant to stick around?

Why is our default to question whether we were worthy of love in the first place.

What if love didn’t look a certain way. What if lovers flowed unfettered, in and out of our lives, like waves of wisdom, passing onto us the lessons we need to learn in the moments we are living them. And instead of blaming ourselves and others for the waves recession from our shores, we graciously thank them for their generosity and let them go with the outgoing tide?

What if we see ourselves benefitting from each love’s imparting lore. And then when we’ve absorbed these teachings, swim back out to sea to wait patiently for the next wave.

“If you have the ability to love, love yourself first.”
~Charles Bukowski

What if our focus was on loving ourselves instead of incessantly seeking love from others?

Perhaps in our entitlement hides the biggest mistake: that somehow we can get away without knowing and loving who we are first, and simply draft feelings of love and self-worth off of others.

What if we are only entitled to love only after we know what it means to love ourselves.

Love Yourself, Heal the Hurt, Caitlin Marcoux, Yoga TeacherDo you love yourself?

Like so many, I didn’t have this kind of relationship for the longest time. I was scared to look at my wounds and forgive myself for past failures.

The last past 16 months though, I’ve taken a crash course in self-acceptance, and find myself learning to appreciate who I am. I’ve quit making excuses for who I’m not.

After two heaping fistfuls of heartbreak, I feel humble, healthy and ready to practice what I preach.

It is not love that should be depicted as blind, but self-love. ~Voltaire

 

In the spaces between recent relationships,  I’ve found the motivation and inspiration to begin a deep dialogue with my heart.  At 40, I feel wise and schooled as only one can be, after living a life full of stories and experience both positive and negative.The conversation is rich.

Although it is scary, I am ready to swim back out. After all the mistakes, the hard learned lessons, the time wasted blaming myself and others, I feel in love with my heart, my soul, my and spirit. I feel buoyant. I will not sink this time.

Resolutions.

{These are mine. As an exercise, take out your journal. Write your own. Design and commit, to the way you want to love, the way you will swim out to the line-up.}

The next time I fall in love, I will not forget how important, no, how imperative it is, to stay true to myself. To stand in my own authenticity, regardless of how it is received. I will release my grip on the outcome, on how I think the dance is suppose to unfold.  I will stay focused on bringing my best, highest self to the present moment.  I will give myself the gift of self-awareness. I will enjoy without expectation, the process. I will lovingly relax. I will nurture the space necessary to absorb the lessons being illuminated. I will be patient and kind to myself and to my partner. I will stay receptive and open. I will remain connected to grace.

Nantucket, Love, Yoga, Blog, Falling in Love

You are the one you have been waiting for.

Friends; waste no time! Don’t wait until half your luscious life is over to see your own heart as your greatest teacher. If  you allow self-love to be your personal swim coach, the next time you dive into the ocean of external love, she will remind you to take long, deep steady breaths in, and slow, smooth, steady breaths out. She will remind you that though relationships come and go, you can always surf your own breath.

Do not drowned but rather drink responsibly love’s sweet nectar, and should you feel your judgment becomes impaired, swim to shore and reconnect to Self  for as long as it takes to recover your ground. If it’s authentic love, your lover will wait.

Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.~Rumi

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{Some days are easier than others. On the days that are hard, guided meditations and affirmation can help. Listen to Sarah Blondin. Her podcast, Live Awake, is one of my regular tools.}

Breathe. Flow. Connect. 

Prenatal Workshop with Caitlin & Evie

Saturday May 6th, 2017 from 3-4:30pm at the Nantucket Yoga Room

This prenatal yoga workshop will be taught by Evie O’Connor, with hands-on therapeutic massage by Caitlin Marcoux. Both teachers are certified Prenatal Yoga Instructors and Caitlin additionally is a Licensed Prenatal Massage Therapist. The class will synchronize mellow movement, restorative postures, guided meditation and massage to create a a sacred space for deep relaxation and connection. Space will be limited to 8 pregnant goddesses to ensure a deeply nurturing experience.

 There is no yoga experience required to attend this workshop.

Prenatal Yoga Workshop with Caitlin & Evie

Curios but not 100% committed? Nervous about exercising while pregnant? New to yoga?

Read more about Caitlin’s experience using yoga to create a powerful, orgasmic birth experience. Her, now 7-year old son Griffin, was born at home on a yoga mat, with no interventions necessary. To this day, Caitlin credits yoga and pranayama (breathing techniques) with her unassisted delivery.

*** REGISTER HERE AND CLICK ON THE WORKSHOPS TAB ***

 

Nantucket Prenatal Yoga

 

Goodbye Scarcity, Hello Gratitude

Sorry, l had to learn this one the hard way, and you probably will too. No one will ever give you enough validation. At the end of the day, it’s up to you.

Caitlin Marcoux, writer

Because we live in a society that pressures us to have unlimited wants, while most of us have limited resources, many of us have a difficult time believing in our own intrinsic value.

The anxiety of scarcity permeates all aspects of our lives. We worry about our body image, our fiscal net, our standing within our community, our self-esteem as parents, our confidence as lovers, whether or not we are fashionable, driving the right car, enrolling our children in enough extracurricular activities, or taking the same exotic vacations our friends post about on social media.

Caitlin Marcoux, wirterCommercialism and comparison have caused a catastrophic level of insecurity within our culture, feeding a never ending cycling of fitness trends and fad diets, to say nothing of jealousy, self-judgment and resentment.

This prevailing sense of insufficiency causes us to question whether or not we are, in general, enough, and many of us end up feeling that we are, at least much of the time, not. However, if we choose to turn our attention away from what we are lacking to what we have, the suffering of scarcity lessens.

Society at large has seduced us into thinking life needs to be grandiose, lived out on a large scale, Twitter and Instagram. Even my 7 year old will tell me, with apparent admiration, that his favorite YouTuber, has 1,856,518 subscribers. (Parents go ahead and Google him, his name is Denis Daily).

Cultivating abundance starts with gratitude

ScarcityThe truth is there is so much beauty and joy in our small, ordinary lives. So many things to be grateful for. So many tiny victories, every day, to celebrate. On days like today, when I wake up feeling a little blue, lonely and anxious about the things I don’t have, I try to practice feeling grateful for the things I DO have.

Instead of dwelling on the fact that I don’t have a life partner, own my own home, or have a retirement fund, I got myself to the gym. I threw on the plates and started lifting. I wasn’t sure about my form, so I kept the weights light. I decided to be gentle and meet myself where I was.

As I worked my way through a number of different exercises, my negative thoughts abated.

It’s actually a bit crazy to think that just 2 years ago, I was still recovering from major abdominal surgery, {fully hysterectomy and oophorectomy} and three years ago I could barely lift my own arms (bilateral mastectomy}, so lifting anything at al, is actually something I am quite grateful to be able to do.

My ego, which often kicks up a ruckus of self-doubt, and pushes me to do things I’m not quite ready for, stayed remarkably quit! Turns out, Brene Brown, an author and research professor, whom I have been reading a lot of over the past year or so, is onto something: by focusing on gratitude the tides of scarcity culture can be abated.

I lovingly pushed my body through my workout saying this mantra over and over:

“It is enough”

 “I am enough.”

In the end, it was an awesome workout. I left the gym feeling satisfied and effulgent, light and happy.

Does this sound familiar?

If you’re like me; someone who {fill in the blank reason} has turned to external validation to bank-up personal validity, you may have to use this mantra over and over again.

Caitlin Marcoux, Yoga teacher, writer

A few of you might remember a piece I wrote for elephant journal on this topic some time ago, circa 2012. The photo above is probably the last picture of my chest before my tryst with breast cancer. I recently re-read it,  Unworthy, that is. Hard to believe I wrote it five years ago. Long before I stumbled onto Brene Brown’s TED Talk on vulnerability, or read Rising Strong, one of my favorite books  E V E R. You would think I’d have embodied the central message by now – what with the permanent marker I used to write all over my own chest.

But.. apparently I’m still trying to take my own advice.

It’s okay. I’m not going to beat myself up about it. I mean I could, that would go against the central idea of self-acceptance. And that old yogic adage of “it’s a practice”…. well it’s true. These things  don’t happen over night. A practice is called a practice for a reason.

Anyway, I’m beginning to realize that the measurement of a “successful” life is not the one afforded us by relationship, career, or financial status. The successful life is the gracious life. I have faith. Let’s support one another. Together I think we can do it. We can make ourselves be seen. We can accept what we are, accept ourselves for the miracle that we are, and we can evolve our sense of self into something so beautiful and so loving that gratitude is our default.

Don’t be suckered into wasting your time on what you don’t have.

Honor what you have and the abundance will follow.

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Single with Silver Linings

Trite by true, counting your blessings and searching for silver linings may be the answer to your prayers.

Silver Linings, Caitlin Marcoux, Robert Sturman

What focuses your attention?

Top ten lists are extremely popular these days. From Vanity Fair to Vogue, from Forbes to Fortune. The “5 most powerful what-have-yous” and “ten ways-it-can-be-done-better” are everywhere. Editors of these tag lines and sound bites are dialed into something that has become culturally pandemic: our short attention span. But in a wold full of mobile apps and split screens, sometimes getting our attention with a list, is better than not getting our attention at all.

So on days when I feel like my own attention is fragmented, I start my practice, whether it’s meditation or yoga, or my morning routine, by making a gratitude list of several silver linings.

When the clock is running out on a class I am teaching, with little time left for planting seeds, I often ask my yoga students to think of the Top Five Things They’re Most Grateful For. This easy practice is successful for many in need of refocusing when feeling overwhelmed.

Not only do lists help us take stock of what feels right and good, they shine a light on what’s really going on in the present, that which we hope to cultivate in the future and what we can let go of. Lists can be created in a brilliant flash of obviousness, or they may take several weeks, months or years to curate, becoming something of a daily devotion.

I have journals full of lists. Lists on my phone. Lists on my computer. I send list to others on postcards and in letters. There are lists on my refrigerator. Lists on my son’s bedroom chalkboard, and lists on Post-Its, dangling precariously on the dashboard of my truck. Some of these lists are passionate but pragmatic bullet points, some more soothing sonnets, inked out with sensual sophistication in sacred space.

Time takes time…

About a year ago, my partner of six years and I decided to part ways. At least, that’s the simplest way to put it. It’s a waste of time to describe all the gray areas we navigated between late November and his eventual move at the end of June, suffice to say that the path he ultimately chose, to move to L.A. was not the straightest. Some where along the way, I lost my focus and my ability to write.

she said ‘my life hurts.’ i held her hands. and replied ‘sometimes. this is what it means to be alive.

– nayyirah waheed

Bereft and stewing in my own shortcomings, it was challenging enough simply to survive. The transition from domestic partner to single mother was excruciating. My energy drained, my ability to prioritize my attention was virtually nonexistent. I could do only what was right in front of me, and my gratitude lists were replaced with lists of basic, mundane things to remember.

dog.

floss.

therapy.

homework.

toilet paper.

Time and space; the only patch kit that could mend my broken heart, eventually did their job.  Weeks turned into months, and somehow a year passed on the wings of our daily doings. There are now 3,000 miles between myself and my best friend, and with that milage has come the big scope perspective I needed to see clearly, not us, as I thought I would, but myself.

What are your silver linings?Listen to your Heart. Single with Silver Linings. Caitlin Marcoux

With this distance, my lists have, once again, become poetic expressions of purpose and presence. I now wake early before my six year old, to sit and journal, and in the spaciousness of the 5am dark, I see my soul. I allow my gaze to dive down the back of my throat, into the cave of my heart. My inner ears deepen, and my soul calls out that which it needs to be fed. I find myself intent on listening, absorbed in dialogue with my highest self.

When a friend recently shared with me, a book of poetry, I found new affirmation in this practice. “Salt” by Nayyirah Waheed is probably the most beautiful compilation of simple yet thought provoking poems I have perhaps ever read. Inside the compendium are a beautiful collage of moments, prayers, tiny devotions on spacious white pages. And yes, some of the more avant guard entries are lists; simple in presentation, complex in thoughtfulness.

This one for example:

  1. rub honey into the night’s back.
  2. make sure the mood is fed.
  3. bathe the ocean.
  4. warm sing the trees.

-tend

What a meditation! What a practice. What beautiful silver slivers of presence. A poetic list which celebrates the delicate and important art of tending to one’s own heart. These thoughts, these intentions, these simple prayers, these are the silver linings of being single.

Whereas perviously I lacked the incentive and focus to head the importance of my soul’s longings, now in this space, pregnant with stillness, I have become witness to her expansiveness.

Where are you going?

My soul, like your soul, is on a journey. We each have a path, some with more detours than others, which will take us home. My home, like your home, is not somewhere out there waiting to be created, waiting to be designed by architects and contractors. It already exists, waiting patiently for our return, just beneath our scaffolding, inside our very own hearts.

We can walk together, for a time, but eventually every pilgrim walks alone.

the hurt by nayyurah waheed

 

Take a moment to write down your silver linings.

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Blogs from my Cancer Diaries:

How to Talk to Someone with Cancer

Making the Breast Decision

ChemoAsana

10 Practical Tips for Cancer

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Let’s be Friends. Connect with me on FaceBook and Instagram

10 Practical Tips for the First 10 Days of Cancer

Inside Tips and Tricks from a Cancer Jedi

Originally published on Rebelle Society
April 3rd, 2013
If you’re reading this you probably have cancer. Or perhaps you have a friend or loved one who’s been recently diagnosed. Maybe you have a colleague who’s fighting the fight. Just look at this scary map, chances are either you or someone in your life has been affected by this undiscriminating disease.

10 Tips for the First 10 Days of Cancer by Caitlin Marcoux

If you’re like me, you’ve lost some people to the big C and now you’re getting familiar on a first hand basis.

The early days of a new relationship with cancer are tough. You’re just getting to know each other, and the circumstances around your courtship happen at breakneck speed. The following list is by no means definitive; just a few things I’ve picked up along my newbie way.

Bring a friend: 10 Tips for the First 10 Days of Cancer1. Bring A Friend.

The unveiling of a new cancer diagnosis and the subsequent myriad of information that cascades over your unprepared brain is overwhelming. Like being submerged beneath a waterfall, it can be difficult to tune into any input other that the deafening sound of water rushing over your ears.

A good friend will help you shake the water out of your head, and come back to reality. They can also take got down important information, run interference when you need an emotional time-out, hold your hand or rub your back and be in charge of those all-too-easy to loose hospital garage parking tickets. 

When I traveled to the Avon Breast Cancer Center for my most recent “routine” mammogram follow-up, I didn’t really think that cancer patient was going to be added to my resume. After all, I’m a 36-year old, green juice drinking, vegetarian yoga teacher. I thought women under-40 who exercise religiously, don’t drink, smoke or eat meat, and use only bio-friendly household cleaners aren’t supposed to get breast cancer, right?

So I told my boyfriend to stay at home and brought my friend Megan with me. I thought I’d be told, just as I had the last three times in a row, to get another mammogram in 6 months and we’d be on our way to Newbury Street for an afternoon of shopping and be home in time for dinner. Man, was I wrong…

Thank God Megan was there, because when the NP came in and said “So, you have cancer.” I had to focus all my attention on my childhood friend’s familiar face to keep from disassociating my way into a panic attack. Of course it would have been just as reassuring to have my partner with me, but I have to admit there was something really empowering about having my dearest girlfriend with me. We’ve been best friends since we were five years old.

Cancer will try to break you down, but there’s no way it can’t break a sisterhood bond. We shared champagne and a hotel room that night, and my new diagnosis didn’t seem so insurmountable.

After that experience, I brought a friend to every treatment.

 

2. Don’t let anyone tell you not to look at your phone.

Smart phones are one of the greatest inventions of the digital age. These compact devices pack a powerful punch and become invaluable tools in your cancer toolbelt. Forget your Garmin? Just use the navigation system on your phone, and you call up directions to anywhere you need to go.

Use the search options to find hotels near your hospital, connect you to coffee shops, dry cleaners, laundry mats and places to eat, and with the new integration between Google Maps and Yelp you can immediately review any near-by establishment and find out if it’s really worth investigation.

Many of use already use our phones to find our way around, take photos, and listen to music, but have you ever actually used the audio recorder function? This function can be a newbie cancer survivor’s best friend. Just remember, full disclosure is an ethical imperative. Ask your Oncologist if it’s okay to record your next appointment, and stop worrying about on-the-spot note taking!

 

3. Travel smart and be prepared.

Travel smart: 10 Tips for the First 10 Days of Cancer

The right cancer gear is key: a great bag, a small cooler and a piece of rolling luggage are the perfect combo for your diagnostic visits or trips to chemotherapy.

If you have breast cancer like I do, say good-bye to your old school messenger bag. I’ve been carrying my mine around the country since graduate school, but if I wear it now it either presses on the tumor in my right breast, or drags across my newly implanted portocath on the left. There’s no winning. So it’s staying at home from now on.

Even if you don’t have breast cancer, messenger bags are best left for co-eds. Now that you have cancer (of any kind), consider yourself in the Doctoral Program of Life, and upgrade yourself to something a little more befitting of the Professor in Residence that you are. A combo of small brief case/attache bag or tote and a carry-on size roller bag are perfect for your infusion visits. I use the Patagonia Lightweight Travel Tote and the Patagonia MLC Wheelie.

In the first couple of weeks of your new diagnosis, you’ll want to be prepared for the random surprise over-night stay.

Your new wheelie should be packed with an emergency change of clothes, a couple of pairs of underwear (they take up so little space you might as well), extra socks, pajamas, and toiletries.

If you´re not traveling that far from your home to your hospital and getting all the way home is not an issue, it’s still a good idea to bring a toothbrush and toothpaste. My first couple of diagnostic visits to MGH (Massachusetts General Hospital) were 8+ hour long events. Freshening up my mouth would have felt great!

During chemo visits, bring a small cooler bag, like the PVC, phthalate and led-free bag by So Young Mother. Find freedom from down-beaten hospital food and pack your own uplifting lunch and snacks.

If you’re too tired or rushed to pack your own, call your favorite to-go spot and order a picnic lunch ahead of time. Every time I trek from Nantucket (my home) to Boston now I stop at The Green and pick up a green juice and organic picnic lunch. This way I can bring a favorite part of Nantucket with me, and feel good about my nutrition all at the same time.

 

4. Do drugs. Lots of them.

Build you team: 10 Tips for the First 10 Days of Cancer

Okay, so I’m not really suggesting you smoking a blunt. Certainly not one with tobacco. Duh. But I am encouraging you to call your Primary Care Physician for some pharmaceutical assistance, right away. Before you even need it.

I know that might be a controversial statement, especially in certain circles—but this is not the time to be a martyr, hero, or suffer through any unnecessary discomfort. You have cancer. It sucks enough already.

So there’s no point in being caught off guard, whether it’s because of a headache or an anxiety attack or an unexpected procedure. It’s better to be prepared. Take this from someone who’s been living an exemplary clean life these past few years, and rarely reaches for something stronger than an Advil.

Taking an Ativan before a full day of diagnostic procedures (bone scans, CTs with contrast, and MRIs) goes a long way towards making an unpleasant experience tolerable. It certainly helped me immensely during my first 10 days of cancer and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

Just a couple of days ago I arrived at MGH for my first chemo infusion, only to be surprised by a last minute lymph node biopsy. This is not a procedure performed under general anesthetic, or even that trippy “twilight” sleep they talk about.

If I had been just as prepared ahead of time as I had been the week before, I would have not only taken an Ativan for the anxiety (which I forgot in my aforementioned uncomfortable messenger bag) but I would have also taken some ibuprofen for the torment I was about to endure. I don’t care who tells you it’s a cake walk, a needle deep in your armpit is not pleasant.

A little prophylactic pharmaceutical comfort will go a long way towards easing your discomfort and building your metal fortitude.

 

5. Build Your Team.

Build you team: 10 Tips for the First 10 Days of Cancer by Caitlin Marcoux

If you’re under the impression that you can do this alone, give it up. No man or woman should be an island, especially when it comes to cancer.

You need a solid team.These teammates are the family and friends who are going to be fighting with you, on the front lines. Choose them wisely, and appoint them well.

Having an inner circle of cancer ninjas will give you strength. Appoint a Secretary, Treasurer, PR Manager, Insurance Guru, Domestic Goddess and Hand Holder. Your PR manager can help you send out a cancer newsletter to the people in your community you care about but don’t have enough time or energy to reach out to personally. Websites like CaringBridge.org  allow you to do the same thing while also becoming networking opportunities that protect your privacy more than traditional networking sites like Facebook.

Of course, the very most important person on your team is going to be your Secretary of Defense & Homeland Security; your primary healthcare advocate. This person is typically a spouse, partner or family member. They should be willing and able to take charge of your “situation” at a moment’s notice.

They possess a no-holds-barred imperative to speak up for you and your well-being. This person will not apologize for getting the job done by any means necessary. They should be able to give amazing hugs, find organic fruit in a hospital and make you laugh when an IV is being stuck into your arm.

Internet savvy friends can be charge of organizing food donations or childcare support online. One of my friends used SignUpGenius.com to schedule meals for me and my family and my other friends used Rally.com to start and handle financial donations. Your web advocates can drive traffic to your fundraising website via Facebook and Twitter, or help you set up a widget for your own site, or your employers site.

 

6. Get organized.

You will be inundated with pamphlets, brochures, prescription printouts, discharge papers, authorization forms, and information packets. Designing a way to organize all your cancer materials can be empowering and will streamline your mission: getting healthy fast.

Print up a list of important phone numbers, emergency contacts, volunteer babysitters, and even plant waters should you be unexpectedly away from home for more than a couple of days. Make a calendar with all your doctor’s appointments, tests, infusions and follow-ups. Color code things, use stickers, be creative. Chances are you’re going to carry this thing around with you for a while, so you might as well make it nice to look at.

Many hospitals have all kinds of resources for cancer patients but it’s not always easy to find them. The posters and flyers hanging on your oncologist’s cork board will have a way of blurring over while he’s discussing the best way to attack your invasive tumor. Information reaches critical mass, and you might find yourself blowing off other wellsprings of guidance.

An Oncology Social Worker can help you navigate your way around your assistance options. My hospital, Mass General, offers financial counseling, fertility counseling, the PACT (aka Parenting At a Challenging Time) program, Palliative Care, support groups, a Networking for Patients and Families program, Chaplaincy, and classes in Chemotherapy, Acupuncture, Yoga, Music, Nutrition, Art, and Caring for Yourself.

Additionally your social worker can give you information about discounted hotels and travel assistance. My social worker hooked me up with PALS, Patient AirLift Services, a volunteer organization which arranges free air transportation for individuals in need of medical diagnosis or other “compassionate needs.” Last week, PALS coordinated with Cape Air, who generously flew me from Nantucket to Boston for Chemotherapy.

 

7. Clarify your intentions.

Decide how personal you want to be about your illness before you start posting it on Facebook. If you’re in a relationship, discussing this with your partner beforehand is a good idea too. Be on the same page, it will spare you drama and frustration.

If you decide to go public with your diagnosis and story, Facebook can miraculously put you in touch with other people who share your challenges.

Just this week I’ve met three other women who have survived breast cancer, and without so much as talking to them on the phone, I now feel like we share a deep common bond. When my chemo side effects kick up the cancer sisterhood is only a PM away.

But try to avoid the pitfalls of wasting too much precious time on pointless threads or status update voyeurism. It will zap you, tax you, and may even create jealousy or resentment. You need your energy now more than ever, don’t fall down a social media rabbit hole. 

8. Practice Yoga.

Grace & Fire: Using Yoga and Mindfulness to Navigate Cancer

Some combination of meditation and asana, or just meditation or just asana will serve you well in your fight. If you approach your practice the same dedication you use for brushing your teeth, you can make your practice a vital part of your treatment and healing plan. Focusing on your breath will help you stay calm under stormy circumstances.

Sitting tall in meditation or getting grounded through your legs in standing poses will help you slow down and stay focused on the present moment. Twisting will help you detoxify. Opening your heart through backbends will help you use your illness to cultivate deeper compassion for yourself and others.

Not feeling well enough to get to class? If you have an iPad, tablet or laptop, get yourself to a virtual studio. There are some amazing teachers out there who offer their classes online. In fact, since the original publication of this article on RebellSociety.com in 2013, I have created just such an online class for you. The meditations and Yoga for Chemo practice on Grace & Fire: Using Yoga and Mindfulness to Navigate Cancer can be done in a chemo chair, with earphones on, and no one else will be the wiser. I am thrilled to be able to add this content, available with a small donation, to the offerings on CaitlinMarcoux.net

 

9. Create a sacred space.

10 Tips for the First 10 Days of Cancer by Caitlin Marcoux

Chemo rooms are nothing special. Creating a sacred space for yourself can soften the sterility of the hospital experience and can be as simple as bringing a few special personal items from home or as involved as setting up a mobile alter.

For my first infusion I brought a small statue of Ganesha (the Hindu god and Destroyer of Fear/Remover of Obstacles), a rose quartz heart (a gift from my teacher), a beautiful aromatherapy eye pillow, my journal, my Lotus Wei Quiet Mind Energy mist and a few cards from friends I had saved to open for strength on that day. The intentional placement of each item helped me to feel in control of my surroundings and participatory in the healing that was about to take place.

My bedroom altar is a much more involved version with many symbolic pieces I’ve collected both BC (Before Cancer) and AC (After Cancer) and it gives me positive energy, courage and joy.

For a beautiful audio meditation on making things sacred. Listen to Sarah Blondin of the Live Awake Project here.

 

10. Stay stylish.

10 Tips for the First 10 Days of Cancer by Caitlin Marcoux

This can be a tall order, but I’ve learned the hard way, that putting a little effort into your appearance can go miles towards helping you feel more confident and self-assured. During the diagnosis phase of cancer you may simply not have the chance to freshen up. But as you embark on treatment you have an opportunity to uplift yourself every time you get dressed.

On my first trip to Boston for chemo, I was possessed by the Easter Bunny. For some reason I thought it was a good idea to put on a pair of bright pink terry cloth Juice Couture track pants, a white cotton t-shirt, a pink om scarf and my Uggs.  As I was running out the door I traded in my full-length black down coat for my lighter jacket—which incidentally was bright green! I was so caught up in getting to the airport on time for my flight I didn’t even brush my hair. Not a good look.

Even though no one else at the hospital gave me a second glance, I felt disheveled and awkward. I vowed to myself that in the future I would dress elegantly and project outwardly the inner strength and confidence I was hoping to harvest inwardly.

Dress the way you would for an important date with destiny. Whether it’s your favorite pair of skinny jeans and some cowboy boots or a beautiful dress and smart blazer, wear something that makes you feel rich.

Even if you can’t be bothered to put on make-up you can always bring a small stick of mascara with you. And remember, If you pack your roller bag wisely, you can bring a cozier, more hospital bed friendly pair of sweatpants or jammies, should you need to change.

So far cancer is a wild ride with one hell of a learning curve. May we all stay open and receptive to the lessons is has to teach us.

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Setting Intentions for Love

What would it look like? Love. In the future. If there was a key word search, what words would you plug in? What adjectives would you choose?

Ernest Hemmingway, A Seed. Intention. Manifestation

 

The next time I fall in love let it be with these seeds in the soil…

Open // Receptive // Potent // Mindful // Respectful // Warm // Deep // Evocative // Confident // Musical // Silent // Hard // Soft // Artistic // Nuanced // Revealing // Raw // Vulnerable // Strong // Assertive // Dynamic //  Imperfect // Humble // Vibrant // Creative // Challenging // Inspiring // Brave // Yielding //Fluid // Truthful // Passionate // Fierce // Grateful // Familial // Ambitious // Tender // Strong // Contentious // Mutually Empowering // Intellectually Stimulating // Flexible

Om Namah Shivaya

Over Here: Hysterectomy, Oophorectomy and Menopause

Caitlin Marcoux, Hysterectomy. Surgical Menopause. Yoga

Me in pre-op room, preparing for  my Hysterectomy. Mass General Hosptial, October 16th, 2016.

Well hello Menopause! Here I am.

I’m 39 years old. And I’ll never had to worry about getting pregnant again.

I don’t have to worry about unexpected spotting, a period catching me off guard and ruining my clothes, or getting in the way of sex. Unless I get lost, I’ll never have to walk down the feminine hygiene isle in the grocery store, feeling slightly embarrassed of my purchases. Nope, not any more.

These I suppose are the silver linings of cervical cancer and surgical menopause.

On October 16th, 2015 I went to Boston for the hundredth, thousandth, or millionth time in 3 years, for yet another surgery, and surrendered my entire reproductive system. Out came my cervix, my uterus, my fallopian tubes and my ovaries. As I’ve told my son ever time he asks for a brother or sister, Mommy has no more baby making parts and she is now in full blown menopause.

The surgery was fairly easy – amazing what can be done laparoscopically now with robotic arms, and left me only with 4 small scars on my abdomen and a tremendous amount of bloating. The hardest part was coming off the anesthesia, which as soon as I woke up, caused constant vomiting. Even after I was discharged from the hospital the next day, I threw up every single time I tried to eat for about 2 weeks. Eventually I the drugs moved out of my system, and after a couple weeks of Hell, I started to feel “normal” again.

Except for the fact that a huge part of my body was missing. 6 weeks of rest had been prescribed by my medial oncology team, including strict instructions not to ride my bike, or practice vigerous yoga, go up-side-down or do anything that would engage my core. Let me ask you this; what activity doesn’t engage your core?

So there I was from October 16th thru the end of November, not being able to navigate this huge change in my body without the tools I had used to get through breast cancer. Those of you who have followed my cancer diary might remember that even when I was getting chemo, I still managed to find a way to practice. It was, and still is, one the most important tools in my tool box. Anyway, I was stuck in my house (not allowed to drive) and feeling very alone, and very sad, and very angry. All this anger I had managed to push out of my mind so as to deal with chemo, and mastectomy and survival, came bubbling to the surface. The hysterectomy triggered all kinds of PTSD left over from breast cancer and I found myself in a very, very dark place. Between the vomiting, two trips to my local ER to get IV fluids, and hours and hours spent alone feeling toxically depressed, I actually began to have suicidal thoughts. Too ashamed to call my friends – who had all been through my battle with breast cancer with me, I wallowed in isolation.

In our sleep, pain, which cannot forget,

falls drop by drop upon the heart,

until, in our own despair, against our will

comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.

~Asechulus

Laproscopic incision sites, 1 day post-op.

Tidal waves of grief washed over me as the realization that no matter what relationship I was in, I would never again be able to host another spirit inside my womb.

Despite the fact that my then partner had never wanted to have a child with me, part of me had secretly held out the hope that one day it might happen. Now that chance is nil. Looking back at on the situation now, I’ve realized that I have been angry at him, for quite some time, for allowing me to miss what was my small window of fertility. Obviously the onus is ultimately on me, since I chose to get involved with someone who’s mind had already been made up. At this point the resentment is no longer relevant as neither is the relationship.

At some point, in November, I think, I was in the bathroom, looking to replace toilet tissue on the wall. I dug around under the sink to find some, when I was hit hard by the sight of a full box of tampons. Hot tears exploded from my eyes. My body began to shake. Uncontrollable sobs jerked their way up my throat and out into empty house, ringing only in my own sensitive ear drums. The realization that I would never again need these supplies devastated me all at once. The box is still there. I haven’t been able to get ride of it.

It’s ironic, since most of my life I felt either ashamed of, inconvenienced by, or anxious about my period, and now I miss it. Looking back on the chronology of all these events, I wish I had made some time to acknowledge my last and final period. A few of my girlfriends and I had a small beautiful ceremony a few days before my surgery, in which we acknowledged the upcoming shift, but I was not present with myself the last time I actually menstruated. Like so many things we have until they are gone, I took it for granted.

Healing after hysterectomy. Caitlin Marcoux, Cancer Jedi, Yoga TeacherI was 10 and in middle school, the first time I got my period. Now, math has never been my strong suit, but I’m pretty sure that means that I’ve been in this flow for 29 years. Which means that the relationship I’ve had with my cycle is the longest one I’ve had. That means I’ve spent more time being a fertile women than not. I’ve always connected my sense of power and creativity with my fertility, and it comes as no surprise that the energetic area, or chakra, of the body that corresponds to the reproductive system, is Svadhisthana, the second chakra of our subtle body. Svadhistahana correlates to ones creative sexual fire and relates to our experience of creativity, sexuality, and the cultivation of prosperity and growth. This is a part of my body that saw some trauma in my early childhood. It is also a part of me that I have worked diligently to bring in to balance.

My hysterectomy has redefined my sense of self all over again.

It’s been a process, over these past few months, trying to figure out what that means. I’ve had to let the anger and grief move through me, both with guides and on my own. And I’ve turned to my teacher Shiva Rea, who’s rhythmic approach to vinyasa yoga honors the energetic systems of the body and celebrates the chakras in a non-liner or non-literal way. With her support, I’ve been able to accept these changes, and see that my womanhood is not only physical, but meta-physical and spiritual and so much more than a circuitry of tissue, blood and organs.

Women, we are not some combination of parts: of breasts and womb, but so much, much more. And my thoughts to anyone out there reading this, getting ready to set out on a journey such as mine, is to ACKNOWLEDGE how hard, and sad, and significant a loss it is. Don’t let anyone tell you that hysterectomy and Surgical Menopause is no big deal, because it really, truly is. To truly be with that experience while you’re in it. To feel it, not numb it. So that then you can move through it, and reclaim your innate femininity when the time is right.  Just like ever veteran is still a warrior even if he returns from war without an arm or a leg, every hysterectomy and breast cancer survivor can be a creative and powerful goddess.

Learn the alchemy

true human beings know,

The moment you accept

what troubles you’ve been given,

the door will open.

~Rumi

The loss of fertility is one thing, menopause before your time, is quite another.

It is a major, life changing event not to be played down. Sadly our culture doesn’t talk about menopause nearly as much as it should, but it is just a big of a hormonal and emotional change as puberty. Now I’m not suggesting that we allow women who are going to menopause to behave badly, but I am suggesting that we extend them a nurturing hand, be sensitive to their changing needs, and to acknowledge them. It has been my experience that when people are in flux such as this, or struggling with a private challenge, all the really want is to be seen. To be seen, listened to and maybe to be held. That was all I wanted.

Moving forward, I have found my fertility again in my yoga practice, in my work, and in the eyes of the little girls who take my Strong Girls Yoga classes with me on Sundays. I see my feminine prowess reflected back to me in their faces, and my fertility in their bodies every time the learn a new pose that makes them feel empowered. Then there is Griffin, by beautiful six-year old, for whom I feel so very very grateful. Tending to his needs and the development of his spirit is the ultimate expression of my femininity, the very epitome of motherhood.

The practice of gratitude is always fruitful. It may sound cliche but my girlfriend and co-teacher, Ieva and I have been making daily gratitude lists. It’s a beautiful and grounding way to being and end ones day. Life will continue to have its ups and downs, but we can grow that which we put our focus on – so write a list. What do you want to cultivate? Maybe it’s a deeper sense of femininity, maybe it’s abundance, or love. Whatever it is, look at the many ways, even if they’re small, that these things are already circulating around you. Be grateful.

Lastly, if you’re really missing your ovaries and uterus, you can order this panties… 😉

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Back on the Table

The Operating Room; and right in the middle, the table.

October 16th, 2015. Today is the day: I’m on my way to MGH to jump back on the table. This time for a full hysterectomy and oophorectomy.

Last weekend I rode 200 mile on my bike, knowing this operation was on the other side, and that rest and recovery would be about the extent of my physical activities for the next few weeks. The Tour de Pink was just as amazing, if not more so this year than last year. Despite my crash 42 miles into day one, I got back up on the bike and completed and full century (100 miles) the next day, and 55 miles the following day. My motivation was to take in each and ever moment, breathe as deeply as possible, and raise as hard and fast as I could.

This cycling swan song was akin to an advanced vinyasa practice and this upcoming surgery and recovery a long, long savasana.Uterus Art

I’m nervous.

The last time I was on the OR table I had both my breasts removed. I remember like it was yesterday, the cold hospital corridors, the revealingly, thin hospital Johnny, and the big clear plastic bags you’re asked to dump your personal belongings into. In the pre-op, you transition from person to patient and then patient to procedure. A nurse eventually comes into your holding area and starts an IV.

Eventually you’re moved from a wheelchair (even though your perfectly capable of walking) to a gurney, which immediately makes you want to simultaneously fall asleep and run away. Good byes to loved ones are said and then off you go. An anesthesiologist will introduce herself and start you on a sedative. You begin to feel disconnected from your body, your eyes start to float in their sockets, and it becomes increasingly difficult to hear the voices of the OR staff coaxing you to slide from the gurney over to the table.

The OR becomes a theater, and the doctors and nurses actors in a play.

You watch with distanced interest as the story unfolds and the air you breath sweetly thickens into darkness. There are a few final moments of awareness; someone puts an oxogen mask over your mouth and nose, a warm blanket over your chest and arms. You feel vulnerable, but cared for. You realize all of a sudden that YOU are the lead actor in the play, and unless it is Shakespeare, you will survive the final act.

Be In Love with Your Life

Every second counts.

Even these nervous seconds, minutes and hours leading up to this surgery. This challenge has brought some amazing people into my life, and brought me closer to others I never would have been friends with other wise. For that I am forever grateful. I have one Hell of a gynecological oncologist and the facility at MGH is the best in the world. It’s amazing to be in such good care.

Check-in is at 12 noon. Surgery is scheduled for 2pm. If all goes according to plan everything should be wrapped up by 4pm. I have to stay in the hospital overnight, and my mother and sister will be next door. We get to go home tomorrow. Quickly in, quickly out. And my mantra, as recommended by a dear friend and supporter will be “back on the bike”, “back on the bike”, “back on the bike.”

Many thanks for all the support, from all of you. And a big, grateful shout out to my friend Larisa Foreman and the Sue de Vries Cancer Foundation, for their kind donation – which will defray our travel costs to and from MGH this weekend.

Love,

Cait

Insomnia and Perseverance

Team Tasha Vinyasa

I wake up now, multiple times a night, usually soaked in sweat. Sometimes I wake at 1am, or 2am and go back to sleep, but typically I can’t. Or I don’t for hours and then I do; passing out just 30 to 45 minutes before my 5am alarm rings. I’m not complaining so much as stating the facts. I used to toss and turn, and roll around in bed, but now I know better. Now I get up and try to be productive. I try to think POSITIVE thoughts, and put them to good use. It doesn’t always work, but like yoga, it’s a practice.  This morning, I knew laying in bed any longer would do the opposite. The itchy, restless, burning sensations in my bones, the hyper-sensitiving and anxiety was impossible to quell.

I got up. It was the only option.positive thinking

I shifted to my side, and picked up my phone, mostly to see how many hour of sleep I had manage to collect,  when I noticed a steady stream of email notifications. “Congratulations” they said, “you have received another donation”…. In a rush of excitement I jumped out of bed and into my office.

I reached my $7,500 fundraising goal yesterday evening around 9pm, which in itself was hugely exciting, but over night – more donations came pouring in. $5, $25, $50, $100, and then – $1,000…

Amazing.

YSC Tour de Pink Fundraising progress

When I read the emails and checked the status of my fundraising page, tears welled up in my eyes. It’s been a tough week for me, personally, with the date of my hysterectomy and oophorectomy looming on the horizon, and I am just exhausted from the culmination of a SUP Yoga season fraught with equipment and scheduling issues, and parenting challenges, so it doesn’t take much to make me weepy these days. These tears, however, were tears of joy.
It makes me feel indescribably good to help others. To know that these donations for the Young Survivors Coalition, will help other young women, like myself, battling through the process of breast cancer treatment, makes me feel useful and connected to my cancer community, and gives me a deeper sense of purpose. The overnight donations have pushed me onto the fundraiser leaderboard, and much closer to the next fundraising goal of $10,000 then I ever thought I would get. I’m on such a roll now, I can’t help but set the bar even higher.

So I’m bumping my goal all the way up to $10k.

The purpose is two-fold: the money raised continues to be the primary objective, the campaign, however, is a personal project, and a much needed distraction. In three weeks, I am returning to MGH for more cancer-related surgery. I am anxious and scared. Because I am a rape and child abuse survivor, thinking about the bodily location of the surgery and the fact that I will be unconscious, on an O.R. table, with a team of strangers moving organs out my body through my vagina, makes my heart race.

I’m not sure, unless you have been victimized in the same way as I was, that it’s possible to understand the PTSD that is triggered by these thoughts of helplessness and exposure. I don’t know that you fear being sedated and strapped down to a table as much as I have, unless you too have been pinned down in the middle of the night, and had your legs spread apart.

#nevergiveup

rape, cancer, it doesn’t matter – we never give up.

I have tried to describe the psychological stressors, to my partner and friends that make this surgery so much scarier than my double mastectomy, but I’m not sure they relate, or understand. Some times it feels like I have been talking and writing about my personal struggles for so long now, that the significance of this particular chapter of my trauma, or the gravity of this operation, has diminished. Sometimes I get the feeling like their empathy has simply worn out. And you know what, I can’t really blame them. It’s been a long, painful narrative. I only hope it has also given others, who have gone through similar struggles, promise and encouragement t0 keep on keeping on. Because that’s what we do. We fall down, and we get back up.

So… back to fundraising it is.

Dear readers, if my cancer diaries have touched you, if you have been following my journey – the one that started in March 2013 – if I have inspired you in any way, please consider making a donation of any amount to my upcoming 200+ mile charity bike ride for young women with breast cancer. I need you. They need us. It is all one and the same.

Thank you for taking the time to hold some space for us cancer warriors and thank you for holding space for me.

~Caitlin

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 {My Cancer Story: The Beginning}

(Making the Breast Decision)

(Life After the Knife)

{How to Talk to Someone with Cancer)

(Let’s be Friends)

Warrior Won

N Magazine Feature

I am so grateful to N Magazine for this generous feature in the May 2015 edition. I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to honor my fellow cancer warrior, Natasha Grosshans, in this very public, very special way. A big thank you to Katie Kaizer for all her beautiful photographs, and her always happy and very luminescent spirit.

Warrior Won, N Magazine, May 2015

Warrior Won, N Magazine, May 2015

Warrior Won, N Magazine, May 2015

Warrior Won, N Magazine, May 2015

Warrior Won, N Magazine, May 2015

Warrior Won, N Magazine, May 2015