Effexor: The Hot Flashes Made Me Do It

My Secret Addiction to Effexor and How I Made It Through.

Effexor for Hot Flashes

{Art by Andrea de Santis}

My name is Caitlin Marcoux. I am a breast cancer survivor, and for the last 4 years, I have also been a drug addict. An SNRI called Effexor has been my captor.

Did that get your attention? Great.

Because if you’re considering taking an SNRI, I want you to have some of the information I didn’t, before you make this really important decision. I’m not a doctor, and I’m not about to offer any medical advice. I am here to share my story with Effexor though, because I wish I had read it before jumping on the SNRI bandwagon myself.

First a little background.

Effexor Withdrawal Symptoms, Hot Flashes

The particular type of breast cancer I was diagnosed with in March of 2013, was estrogen driven. I was 36 years old, still feeling quite fertile, and not even close to the onset of menopause. As those of you who followed this blog know, I went through chemotherapy and surgery and then more chemotherapy. Fantasies of having another baby faded into the distance, and I turned all my attention on regaining my health.

I don’t want to go back into all the cancer stuff here, so let’s jump forward to October 16th, 2015, when I found myself back in the OR for a full hysterectomy and oophorectomy. The hysterectomy was because of cancerous cells on my cervix, the simultaneous oophorectomy (removal of the ovaries) was done to mitigate the risk of my breast cancer’s return.

With the removal of all my female parts now including both breasts, both ovaries, uterus and my cervix, I awoke from that operation in full blow, surgically-induced menopause. My time as a reproductively viable woman was over.

It was, in the beginning, emotionally overwhelming. On top of the grief I was consumed with, the physical symptoms of menopause were immediately challenging. The weight gain was frustrating (15 pounds!), the hot flashes were unbearable. Sleep was illusive. I was weepy, moody, and compulsively checking my chin to see if yet another f-ing hair had spouted.

Let me just get this off my chest, and then I’ll get back to the point of this blog: Of all the symptoms of menopause, for me, the hot flashes were and remain, the worst. If you feel this way, please know YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

I don’t really understand the complex physiology that causes hot flashes, suffice to say, sisters, the struggle is REAL.

“There’s no mistaking it: the sudden, intense, hot feeling on your face and upper body, perhaps preceded or accompanied by a rapid heartbeat and sweating, nausea, dizziness, anxiety, headache, weakness, or a feeling of suffocation. Some women experience an “aura,” an uneasy feeling just before the hot flash that lets them know what’s coming. The flash is followed by a flush, leaving you reddened and perspiring. You can have a soaker or merely a moist upper lip. A chill can lead off the episode or be the finale.

Every woman’s experience is a little bit different. However, the faster you transition from regular periods to no periods, the more significant your hot flashes may be. Some premenopausal women who have their ovaries removed can experience severe hot flashes due to surgical menopause. Chemotherapy-induced medical menopause can cause hot flashes, as can hormonal therapies such as tamoxifen. Overall, the severity of hot flashes can vary from mild to moderate to severe.” ~BreastCancer.org

Effexor for Hot Flashes, Withdrawal Symptoms, Menopause So, what’s the treatment, you may be thinking. Well, lots of women can mitigate the symptoms associated with this transition with HRT, hormone replacement therapy. Unfortunately, because of the estrogen sensitivity of my breast cancer, the bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, available to many women, was not an option for me, and it may not be for you either.

Enter Venlafaxine.

Venlafaxine, aka Effexor, is an SNRI used to treat depression, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder. It is also used “off label” to treat vasomotor symptoms, doctor speak for “hot flashes”, in women who are not candidates for HRT. When I asked my team what else could be done to help me my sanity, a daily dose of Effexor was the answer. I was so thrilled at the prospect of reducing the time I spent swimming in night sweats, I excitedly agreed to start the drug right away.

While to date, there are no known problems associated with long term use of venlafaxine, no one told me how addictive this stuff is. No one sat me down and invited me to take a calm risk to benefit assessment of the situation before I signed up. No one told me that if and when I wanted to come off Effexor, I might feel suicidal. No one said that I could expect sever withdrawal symptoms including nausea and diarrhea and a deluge of uncontrollable tears. No one said, “hey you might want to check out all these patient blogs and YouTube channels teeming with scary anecdotes about Effexor-related  “brain shivers”, “zaps,” and “brain flips.” You may want to think twice before you feel like your mind has been doused with “bottled lightening” ‘ Nope, no one said anything about that stuff. 

And so it was, that after 3 years of taking Effexor every night, my body, unbeknownst to me, had become totally hooked on a drug that would be nearly impossible to get off of. Yes, at a high does, it treated my hot flashes with only LIMITED success, but at what cost? It was hard to tell.

Every once in a while I would forget to take a dose, or worse, I’d forget to take it two or three days in a row. The first time I made this mistake, I got some sense of how addicted I had become, and wow did it scare me.

Tears about nothing, followed by vertigo, followed by the intermittently feeling like I was sticking my finger in a light socket, headaches, and a pervading sense malaise, were just a few of the things I felt, only 6 hours after a missed dose.

At first these seemingly inexplicable sensations would be mystifying. WTF was going on? Then the little voice inside my head would reply: “you forgot your pill, dummy” and I’d take my dose. Relief would wash over me within a few hours, and all the crazies would dissipate.

Once I forgot to refill my script, missed a day, and when I did remember the refill, the pharmacy was closed. I was so desperate to get my hands on any amount of Effexor, I posted about it on our local Nantucket Consignments FaceBook page to see if anyone had some I could take until the prescription could be re-filled. I was promptly kicked off the page!

When the pharmacy opened the next day I was there 5 minutes before they unlocked the door, fidgeting like a crack addict. I watched and waited as they filled the script, and downed the first of the missed doses, hands shaking, right there in the store.  Self-conscious about my behavior, I sobbed the whole way home. I was a stranger in my own body.

These withdrawal symptoms were only premonitions of worse things to come…

Then I fortified resolve.

The day I decided to terminate my relationship with the SNRI, I emailed my oncologist. I had cut Ativan cold turkey, a drug I was using for anxiety and insomnia at the hight of my cancer treatment, but I knew slaying this demon would require some support. (Man, was that an understatement).

My oncologist put me on the following schedule {I’m sharing it just in case it’s of help to anyone out there on the world wide web – but please, please, please, consult with a medical professional before attempting this on your own}

  • From 150mg of Effexor XR/day, I switched to 3 pills of 37.5mg (or 112.5mg) for 1 week
  • Then 2 pills (or 75mg) a day for a week
  • Then 1 pill of 37.5mg a day for 2 weeks
  • Then I’d be done. 

The process was to take one month, and by it’s end, I’d be free! The day I tapered to 112.5mg, I was over the moon excited. The thought of finally being free of all drugs and getting back to myself the way I was in my pre-cancer life was thrilling.

I made it without consequence through the first three weeks of the taper. The switch to 37.5mg was tough, with brain zaps here and there, and general moodiness, but the drop from 37.5 to zero was nothing short of brutal. In fact, the second day without any Effexor, I thought I was loosing my mind. It was the weekend, and both my PCP and my oncologist were off duty, so I called the MGH Cancer hotline to speak to a doctor, any doctor.

Attempting to explain what was happening to my body and in my head, to an oncologist I had never met, felt like talking under water. The words were coming out of my mouth, but I could tell they were landing on deft ears. He just kept telling me there was no efficacy in the 37.5mg does and that it didn’t make any sense that I would feel like “jumping off a cliff” by dropping from such a small dose to nothing.

I desperately wanted to reach through the phone and choke him.

Instead, I took a deep breath, thought of all the shitty things I had already survived, and attempted to calmly ask him to extend the 37.5mg script for another 2 months. He seems confused and kept asking me if I was having any other neurological symptoms (did he think the cancer was back and in my brain?) but ultimately he called it in: 2 more months of Effexor at 37.5mg a day. It was back in my system later that night.

Clearly, this drug had a strangle on me.

That’s when I found Wendy Will’s blog I Did it: How to Stop Taking Effexor. It turns out that Wendy too had been prescribed Effexor for chemotherapy induced hot flashes, and she too had trouble getting off the drug. Finally I felt REAL. I didn’t feel alone and crazy any more. I felt seen, heard and VALIDATED! And best yet, Wendy introduced me to the Effexor-Prozac Bridge:

So what’s Prozac have to do with it? Prozac is an extremely long “half-life.” It takes Prozac 7-9 days to leave the blood stream (as compared to Effexor XR at 15 hours). Withdrawal symptoms are considered unusual when taking Prozac. When you are able to get to the lowest dose possible on Effexor XR is when you are suppose to replace – or bridge – it with Prozac. It’s up to you and your doctor when you decide to wean from the Prozac but apparently it’s supposed to be head and tails easier to do than Effexor XR.

There was HOPE! And below the hope, there were hundreds of comments from other people who had been through similar trials and tribulations. Not only did I have company, I had a whole brotherhood and sisterhood of companions out there who shared my struggles and had had some success with this method.

Did you know that in 2007 there were 17.2 million people taking this “black label” drug! I wonder how much money Pfizer would loose if everyone stopped taking it tomorrow?

Anyway, that’s what I decided to do. I decided to try again, and this time with the bridge.

I set up an appointment with a local psychiatric RN, and together we planned out my Effexor-Prozac bridge. She had me immediately replace the 37.5mg of Effexor with 20mg of Prozac. I took 20mg of Prozac for one week and then tapered down to 10mg for a week. Lucky for me, I got to do this last little psychiatric dance while at Kripalu for 5 days with my Prana Vinyasa kula against the backdrop of the beautiful Berkshire mountains.

As of Monday night, I am on nothing, no Effexor, no Prozac, nada. So far (knock on wood) I haven’t had any brain zaps, no vertigo, no need to pull the truck over for fear I’m going to cause an accident. Of course, it’s only been 2 days. The real test will come with the Prozac’s half-life (which lasts up to 9 days) is dead.

It’s been quite the experience; feeling powerless in the clutches of a pharmaceutical. Feeling at times beaten down and hopeless. Sobbing myself to sleep. Hiding my symptoms, in shame, from friends and family. But today, today I feel full to the brim with hope and almost giddy excitement to be both cancer-free and 100% drug-free for the first time in four years.

I have a spring in my step, and it has nothing to do with an artificial overabundance of Serotonin, and everything to do with perseverance.

Please do not misunderstand me, I am very grateful for the many advances in modern psychopharmacology. And certainly, there are thousands of people who derive great benefit from psychoactive drugs, and need them to function normally day to day. This is not a knock on anyone for taking prescription medication.  My hope, in sharing this information with the breast cancer community is to highlight the possible side-effects of SNRI dependance and withdrawal. And to reassure my Sisters in the Change, that you are not alone.


With great respect for your decision making process,


Effexor for Hot Flashes, Withdrawal Symptoms, Caitlin Marcoux

Have a hot-flash abatement tip?

Leave it in the comment section below! I’d love to hear from you. 


{the beginning}

Author’s Note: This blog is an illustration of my own personal experience with an SNRI prescribe to treat symptoms of menopause, not clinical depression. Please do not use this personal account in place of professional medical advice. I am not and do not claim to be, a medical professional. If you are looking to taper or come off of an SSRI or SNRI, please consult your doctor. 

If you are feeling suicidal, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at (800) 273-8255.

2nd Annual Yoga for PASCON

Please join us, the evening of October 25th, for the 2nd annual Yoga for Palliative & Supportive Care of Nantucket

Community, Tribe, Yoga, PASCON, NIR

I read recently that loneliness, or feeling like an outsider, will increase your chance of an early death by 45%. When compared to more obvious lifestyle risks, like obesity (30% chance it will lead to an early death) and abusive alcohol consumption (20% chance) this is a BIG DEAL. I mean, it’s SHOCKING. Right? In her new book Braving the Wilderness, Brene Brown writes:

“A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick.”

Brown goes to say “Research shows that playing cards once a week or meeting friends every Wednesday night at Starbucks adds as many years to our lives as taking beta blockers or quitting a pack-a-day smoking habit.”

Wow. Now that is reason to pause, take a deep breath, and re-evaluate how we spend our time.

The good news is, we can mitigate the risks associated with loneliness with a simple solution: more CONNECTION.

We can come together during rites of passage like weddings and funerals, celebrate human creativity at art openings, concerts and theatrical performances, and solidify a sense of community by attending local events like non-profit fundraisers, or church services, or volunteering at the local soup kitchen.

For me, the sense of connection and belonging that comes from a ritual practice – like a yoga class, healing circle or group meditation, is once of the most powerful ways of solidifying a sense of tribe. It’s one of the reasons that, when traveling, I always visit the local yoga shala; to get a sense of the local community.

On that note, Nantucket Island Resorts. and I are offering an evening of yoga + meditation with the intention of celebrating the healing power of tribe. The experience will be open to students of ALL LEVELS, and dedicated to support for and memory of Nantucket’s local cancer warriors. 100% of funds raised during class will be donated to PASCON, with matching donations from NIR.

Interested in joining us? Here are the details….

Donation yoga, Lunar Prana Vinyasa, PASCON, Nantucket Island ResortsHeld in the beautiful Ballroom at the White Elephant Village, this practice will include a Lunar Prana Vinyasa flow, seated or reclining meditation, as well as breath work & visualization to promote and restore a deep sense of well-being and community belonging.

Yogis with any amount exposure to the practice of yoga will be encouraged to set up towards the front of the class, so that novices can feel comfortable in the back, with their additional visual support. I will offer modifications for students with physical limitations and hands-on assists for those who enjoy them.

No reservations are necessary, just drop in. Please bring a yoga mat if you have one and I’ll bring as many extra as I can carry.



Ah, Hurricane Irma— so frustrating to have to cancel my trip to South Carolina, and to see my beloved sister, Ariel… yet, I am also completely aware of my own RIDICULOUSNESS.Of course, Yoga can wait. Yoga IS the practice of patience, of contemplative awareness…. Those of you in the path of Irma, please just take all necessary precautions and secure a safe place for you and your loved ones.I hope to re-schedule my visit to the Charleston area at the end of the month.

Be safe.

love, Caitlin

2017 September East Coast Tour

Finding your Fluid Grace in the Fall

Urban Flow Yoga Charleston Workshops with Caitlin Marcoux

Join Caitlin, a senior Prana Vinyasa® yoga teacher based in Nantucket, for a sacred sadhana devoted to cultivating fluid power and nourishing the warrior spirit.

All three of these classes will focus on invoking shakti, the divine feminine creative power and honoring the wounds left behind by personal trauma. Whether physical or emotional, environmental or spiritual, your wounds will be nurtured through mudra, mantra and movement alchemy. Caitlin will guide you through this practice with the wisdom inspired by her triumph over multiple cancers, and help you be an agent of change, vitality and hope.

1. Friday 9/8  Urban Flow Yoga, Charleston, SC.

  • Fluid Grace: a Prana Vinyasa Workshop. 5:30pm -7:30pm

2. Saturday 9/10 Studio 33, Kiawah Island, SC.

  • Fluid Power: a Prana Vinyasa drop-in class. 8:00am -9:15am

3. Tuesday 9/12  The Yoga Loft, Marblehead, MA.

  • Fluid Power: A Prana Vinyasa Take Over. 9:30-10:45am


Prana Vinyasa® is an energetic, creative, full-spectrum approach to embodying the flow of yoga cultivated by Shiva Rea and the Global Vinyasa Collective of Teachers. Students of all levels are empowered to experience prana – the universal source of breath, life-energy and conscious intelligence – as the navigating source of yoga practice and vital living. Practitioners learn classical and innovative approaches to vinyasa yoga and the state of flow drawn from Krishnamacharya’s teachings, Tantra, Ayurveda, Bhakti, Somatics and Shiva’s teaching experience from the last fifteen years.

Questions? Email caitlinmarcoux@gmail.com

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.

Nantucket Prenatal Yoga

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.




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.


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.





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.


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.


Blogs from my Cancer Diaries:

How to Talk to Someone with Cancer

Making the Breast Decision


10 Practical Tips for Cancer



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.


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

Yoga with a Harbor View

Get in the Flow with Prana Vinyasa; a rhythmic flow class to raise your vibration.

Enjoy the beautiful light that streams through the windows of the Harbor View Room and connect to members of the community in the heart of downtown Nantucket, at the Dreamland Theater.

Dreamland Yoga, Caitlin Marcoux, Saturday Special Yoga Classes, Harbor View Room, Nantucket, Nantucket Yoga I’m thrilled to be able to return to the Dreamland, on this once a month basis, and create some sacred space for you to
enjoy a full-spectrum practice. These 75-minute classes will be open to students of all levels, and will introduce the basic concepts of Prana Vinyasa, created by my teacher Shiva Rea. While structural alignment is always important, Prana Vinyasa puts it’s primary focus, on the pulsations of energy in within the body as a means of becoming more embodied; more present, more connected to the life force within us all that creates unity, community and tribe. Working within the idea that we are all part of a cosmic consciousness, how we move on the mat, becomes a metaphor for how we live in our lives. There is no higher achy of postures within Prana Vinyasa, and we honor both the lunar and solar tides as they express themselves within everyone at different times in our lives. Come explore. Bring your curiosity, and move into a place of self-realization and receptivity.

Tickets will be available for purchase online at the Nantucket Dreamland.