how to love a chair

Goddess pose

(photo: Larisa Forman)

16 months ago I invited you to join me on an adventure to CancerLand. Through my pieces on Rebelle Society and the more spontaneous posts here on my blog, I took you with me from the point of my initial diagnosis (terrifying), on a chemotherapy roller coaster ride (tenacious) and through my surgical recovery (triumphant). We’ve moved through the phases of my disease and healing process together as a tribe and I’ve tried not to pull any punches along the way. I’ve attempted to share my experience of cancer with you without embellishment, exaggeration or pretense. I’ve tried to be authentic: presenting my vulnerabilities when feeling weak, and my fortitude when feeling strong. Hopefully together we have demystified the big C at least a little, shed some light on chemotherapy, debunked mastectomy and embraced on the healing process.

I hope that through my writings, my FaceBook posts, and my Instagram pics, that you’ve seen just how resilient we humans are. Since I began attending the cancer support group at Palliative & Supportive Care of Nantucket, we have said good-bye to a number of extraordinary members. Each parting has been painful, scary and traumatic for those of us remaining. But my resolve, OUR resolve as a community to memorialize those who have departed by living the fullest lives we can live, and cherishing every single fucking moment, has grown with each grief-choked tear.

I can no better explain to you why some of us survive and others pass than you could reassure your 20-something year old daughter that after immense heartbreak, she will in time fall in love again. But here I am. And here we are. And I’m still writing. And you’re still reading. And we owe it to Jenny and Claudia, and my late husband Aaron, and everyone we’ve loved and lost to keep going.

We owe it to them to smile big, laugh lots, and love hard.

Now, as of July 16th, almost a year and a half after our disembarkation, I’ve finally  come home. I’m finished with treatment. The infusions are over. My time in the chemo chair is over. The trips to MGH are bi-annual and in just 9 days I will be able to say I am officially a year out from the removal of my tumor. 365 more days after that I will be 80% likely to side-step a reoccurrence.  Something will kill me eventually, but it won’t be cancer.

I’m sure I’ll write about my life as a cancer survivor in the months and years to come, but for today, I’d like to leave you with the following video. My heartfelt thanks to Lisa Frey for filming, and to all of you for watching.

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(10 Practical Tips for the First 10 Days of Cancer)

(Making the Breast Decision)

(Life After the Knife)

{How to Talk to Someone with Cancer)

(Let’s be Friends)

 

Life and Love with a Nantucket Native

As is often said, sometimes a picture truly is worth a thousand words, yet despite my best efforts, photos do not do justice how much I love my son. No amount of “I love yous”, hugs, kisses or 3 am diaper changes can convey how big my heart feels when I hold him in my arms. It is a big, gigantic, overwhelming, and sometimes terrifying love.

No childhood friendship or romantic love I’ve ever felt feels as effulgent, unconditional and fulfilling. Not the maternal bond I have with my mother or the paternal bond I share with my father feels as strong.  Not even the rush of love I felt for my sweet husband, Aaron, as I held his hands and looked into his fading eyes, is in the same realm as the way I felt when I birthed my first and only born. No other relationship challenges me, rewards me and forces me to grow, on a daily basis, in the ways my relationship with Griffin does.

In the video below, I’ve tried to capture  a year in his life, hoping to get across how consciously and mindfully loving my toddler is the most important practice in my life.

Deep, deep gratitude to the cosmic consciousness for gifting me this child.

A Boy’s Life

The Gift of Teaching Yoga; Family Style.

Memorial Day Family Yoga @ The Yoga Room. May 28th, 2012

I never wanted kids. I never wanted kids and I never wanted to teach Kid’s Yoga. In my teens I was horrified by the over-population of the world, the irresponsibility of “breeders” and the selfishness of adults who wanted to see mini versions of themselves. In my early 20s I found myself ritually annoyed by the stroller take over of my previously hip South Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn. And in my late 20s I was convinced that I might explain my situation as “childless by choice”.

Fast-forward 3 years later, and I now have a 2.5 year old little boy and not only am I’m teaching yoga for kids, but also yoga for teens, and yoga for families. Um…. how did that happen? I could tell you, but that might take a while, suffice to say I hit 32, and a whole bunch of everything changed.

For one thing, hormones I was perviously unaware of began raging through by body. I began fantasizing about the kind of family I might have. I started dreaming about doing yoga on the beach in Costa Rica with 2 or 3 naked bronze babies with long blonde dreadlocks crawling all over me. Then in 2005 my first husband Aaron died of cancer, after suffering through that loss for several toxic years, my need for human connection and comfort became a huge priority, and I wanted a baby, badly.

So here I am, seven years later, a mother and a yoga teacher, and loving every minute of it (okay, maybe not every minute – but a lot of the minutes). It’s been said a million times, but it’s true; being a mother is the single most difficult and simultaneously rewarding job there is. It’s hard to a have a real sense of this until you’re in it, but it’s the total truth.

Being a yoga teacher can be challenging for sure – but it isn’t nearly as challenging as being a mother. But I often feel very maternal towards my students, and watching their practices continue to grow is certainly rewarding. So having an opportunity to put the two together has been an amazing experience. I can’t say that I yearn to teach yoga to kids while parenting my own children every day – but yesterday it was truly, truly special.

On Memorial Day I taught my first ever Family Yoga Class at The Yoga Room here on Nantucket – and 6 brave mothers came with their children. Some of the mommies were beginner students, some intermediate and some advanced. Their children ranged in age from infancy to pre-adolescent. Some moms came with one child, some came with two. One was in a car seat, and yet another could already practice full tripod headstand (she’s only 5).  Even I had the chance to teach with my 7 year old former step-daughter  on the mat right next to me, and my ex-husband arrived at the end of class with our son Griffin. The last time I taught a class with Griffin he was nursing in a sling across my chest.

At first I thought the “class” felt more like loosely organized chaos (there was even a baby throw-up incident on a TYR mat – a first I’m sure), but then before I knew it, 55 minutes had passed and all 15 children and adults in the room were resting serenely in savasana. When class was over grown-ups and children alike looked happy, grounded and open, and my own heart blossomed in gratitude for the chance we all had to practice together.

A couple of hours later the lovely Jessica Douglass tagged me on Facebook in a bunch of photos she had taken of class, and my ex sent me a few photos he was able to capture with his iPhone.  I couldn’t help but get teary eyed and rather choked up. Here is a little look inside our class:

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Yoga and Parenting both help us mainline compassion straight to the heart. I feel very bless to be both a mother and a teacher. Many thanks to all of those of you who have encouraged me to teach the Dharma Kids, Strong Girls, and Family Yoga classes. I wouldn’t have done it if you hadn’t pushed me.