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

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

A beautiful departure

Team Tasha Vinyasa B&W group photo

Tasha was so excited. Her famous smile would light up every time I’d mention the event. You know the smile I’m talking about. The one that would force anyone in her general vicinity to smile back, even if they didn’t know what they were smiling about. Tasha’s energy was like that. She had generous bounds of contagious happiness.

From the moment we began working together I felt like we were sisters. It was an immediate bond. One that is forged in the initiation fires of cancer, but one that could also have developed without cancer’s help. I immediately felt like I could tell her anything. She had an curious mind and a hunger for experience and knowledge. She ate up anything I shared with her about my own experience with illness, and voraciously took in whatever yogic philosophy I brought to light.

Some times we saw each other several times a week. We’d practice basic yoga poses at the studio, or focus on restorative yoga and body work. Sometimes we went for coffee instead. Once I brought her to my house and I passed on all my medicinal tools for mitigating the side-effects of chemotherapy and she wouldn’t stop talking about how much she liked the 50s motif in my kitchen. It’s strange like that with cancer: in one breath we find ourselves talking about how to survive, in the next we’re talking about interior design. We trying to find balance in a world thrown up-sid-down by treatments and tests, protocols and procedures.

Tasha did a fantastic job at keeping one eye on the cancer ball, and one eye on the rest of her life. And instead of wallowing in the unfairness of the hand she’d been dealt, Tasha was fully present in the moment, and willing to engage with anyone asking for her attention.

When I first mentioned the idea of a class in her honor she looked as if I had invited her to the Oscars. I told her about the positive energy we could create as a collective whole and whereas a less open minded or mature young person might roll their eyes, she nodded enthusiastically. I knew right away she was picking up what I was laying down. She got it.

Back in December we thought there was a good chance Tasha might still be well enough to attend the event, but as we rolled into January we realized that was not longer the case. Technology came to the rescue though, and she and I got almost equally excited when we realized she’d be able to watch the class from the comfort of her own bed via Skype.

At various points in our relationship, I shared with Tasha small pieces of yoga’s ritualistic heritage. I taught her a few sanskrit words, told her a little bit about mantra (the repetition of a word or phrase with a focused intention) and shared with her a few ideas about dharma and karma. I gave her one of the malas (prayer beads) that had been gifted to me when I was sick, and she wore them at the hospital. These were little things, little tools, but I could tell they interested her.  So when I told her that for Team Tasha Vinyasa, my intention was to get everyone in attendance to chant mantra in her honor she was stoked.

My partner, Burr; always the creative production force behind my classes, created a giant, 80-foot aqua mala as a back drop for the event – and I shared with Tasha, photos of it’s creation. “Tell him I LOVE it” she said, when she saw a photo of Burr’s crew drilling holes in the oversized Christmas balls.

Team Tasha Vinyasa

The day of the event, Tasha was in and out of consciousness. She had gone to sleep on Thursday night, and slept through most of Friday morning. She woke up at some point in the middle of the day, for about 15 precious minutes, and her mother was able to show her a photo I had posted of Mary Michetti and I cutting hundreds of aqua ribbons. Again, she perked up and talked about how excited she was to watch the night unfold later on her laptop. Shortly after, Tasha said she need a nap, so that she could be up with us later.

And what an event it was. I have never been prouder of our community. 120 people poured into the Studio Theater at the Dreamland that night, many of whom had never done yoga before in their lives. I had promised after all, that it wouldn’t be hard.

Men and women, young, and old, humans with spiritual beliefs as different as the color of their hair. It was an incredible representation of our island. Clearly, people from all different pockets of our community had been touched by Tasha’s story and wanted to be a part of sending her love.

Team Tasha Vinyasa

I can’t say that I kept my promise. At some point during the practice it occurred to me that life is so beautiful, but really, really challenging. So… I turned up the heat a little. I couldn’t help myself. I thought of how gracefully Tasha had navigated pneumothorax, chemotherapy, plural taps, and port implants. I thought about what a miracle it was that we were all there, with fully functional bodies with the ability to do challenging things. I remembered how hard it was for me personally when cancer kept me from my own physical identity… and I remembered a conversation I had with Tasha back in November.

She had expressed her frustrations to me then, at watching her muscles atrophy. Remembering all too well what that felt like, all I could do was empathize. I didn’t tell her how strong she still was, or try to deny what was blatantly obvious to both of us. But I did promise her that I would bust my ass physically so that she wouldn’t have to. A brilliant smile, of course, flashed across her face.

So in that vein, I invited students that night, to hold poses longer, to go deeper, to do it for Tasha – who so badly wanted to, but could not. To feel that solar burn in your thighs, what a privilege, I said. Some people laughed. Some people groaned. But you know what? They all held it together. The 60 year olds and the 5 years olds, and every one in between. They put in an effort, perhaps like never before, because they wanted to do it for Tasha.

Team Tasha Vinyasa

That night I witnessed our island come together for Tasha in a way I’ve never seen before. The studio was packed from wall to wall with bodies focused solely on one purposed: to open their hearts to Tasha. Collectively these diverse individuals created one huge mass of love.  Tasha’s family gathered closely around her, inside her newly finished aqua bedroom sanctuary, and watched the entire event from start to end. Tasha’s mother Tina, sister Allyssa, brother Timmy, step-dad Brendan, aunt Lisa, cousin Heather and best friends from California Sydney and Micha, snuggled around Tasha like a blanket. And Burr, with laptop in hand, ran from one corner of the studio to the other, doing his best to capture the depth of the magic being created for them to see.

Team Tasha Vinyasa

Team Tasha Vinyasa

Even though she never opened her eyes again, I am positive Tasha heard every prayer this community offered and felt every ounce of love we generated. When my phone rang 4 hours later, I knew instantly that Tasha had left her body, and I felt as sure as I’ve ever felt anything that we helped her transition and guided her to the light.

Team Tasha Vinyasa

Tasha often thanked me for being a part of her life. But honestly, it is I who should be thanking Tasha. She has taught me so much about my own capacity to love and in a time when the world seems bitter and cruel, she has reinforced my belief in mankind’s ability to love one another.

Team Tasha Vinyasa

 

I fell in love with Tasha the way mothers fall in love with their babies the first moment their skin makes contact. Instantaneously. I think she had that affect on a lot of people.

And right now, in this very moment, Tasha is teaching every one of us the power of community, for even in death, her spirit has united an entire island.

#teamtasha

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Below are a few more photographs from Team Tasha Vinyasa Electric Flow, taken by my friend and very talented photographer, Katie Kaizer. In her words, Katie says “I am so thankful to be part of this community and to photograph such a moving and emotional evening. I am in awe of the energy that forms throughout the night and holds everyone together offering comfort and understanding. The entire room was radiating peace and love as we all sent prayers to Natasha and her family.”

Team Tasha Vinyasa

Team Tasha Vinyasa

Team Tasha Vinyasa

Team Tasha Vinyasa

Team Tasha Vinyasa

Team Tasha Vinyasa

Team Tasha Vinyasa

TeamTasha_035_KatieKaizerPhotography

Team Tasha Vinyasa

Team Tasha Vinyasa

Team Tasha Vinyasa

Team Tasha Vinyasa

Team Tasha Vinyasa

Team Tasha Vinyasa

Team Tasha Vinyasa

Many thanks to Floyd Kellogg and Pete Ahern for donating their time. We love this town.

get off my chest

It’s been a rough couple of weeks. I’ve lost four friends to cancer within just the last 10 days.

Although we had three different types of breast cancer, Nora, Malaya and I were all diagnosed around the same time. I didn’t know them in my Life Before Cancer, but we found each other on FaceBook and through my blog, and they became some of the most important people in my personal battle.

Nora and I became friends in July of 2013. She reached out to me just before my mastectomy, and from that point on became a frequent visitor to my FB page. We dedicated our yoga practices to one another, sent each other care packages, and offered up support at the most critical times. Nora often reposted my cancer articles and in this way pointed a lot of other survivors in my direction. Nora and I had very similar treatment paths… and supported one another through out chemo, surgery and recovery. We both had cancers that were Her2Nu positive, and had to have infusion upon infusion of Herceptin: a drug that for most people does not present side effects, but for some reason caused us both significant discomfort. We comforted each other through social media and emails, and bonded over the similarities of our suffering and the lessons we were uncovering within.

See every challenge as an opportunity for personal growth.

May we see every challenge as an opportunity for personal growth.

In addition to similar chemotherapy regiments, Nora too had a mastectomy – and was to my knowledge considered NED (no evidence of disease) when they removed her tumor. But that is where our stories diverge. Nora had radiation. I did not. Then at some point this year, Nora’s cancer came back, and metastasized. Mine has not. I don’t know how, or why, nor can I come up with any scientific explanation as to why I remain and she is gone. It is sad. It is haunting. And it hurts.

However, knowing Nora, I’m sure she was just as graceful in dying as she was in living, and found meaning, faith and peace in the process of letting go. Nora was a kind and beautiful woman. A mother, a grandmother, and a fellow yogini,  Nora was always positive – no matter what. The graphic above was the last profile picture she chose to put up on her FaceBook page. It really says it all.

Angel, Nora Boczar

Angel, Nora Boczar

 

Malaya and I too became friends through FaceBook. When we connected, she was already Stage IV. Having only Stage II myself, I initially felt self-conscious talking with her about my prognosis and treatment plan. While I was a candidate for certain proven-to-be-effective drugs, Malaya’s illness had already entered into uncharted territory. While I had a flow chart with scheduled infusions, varying dosages of chemo proven to work on different aspects of my disease, a surgical date and and discharge date, Malaya was being juggled from hospital to hospital, clinical trial to clinical trial, and for her, there was no end in sight.

All that being said, Malaya’s compassion knew no bounds. She and I would speak for hours on the phone about all kinds of things only sisters in the trenches could understand… When I couldn’t relate to my non-diseased friends, Malaya would make time to chat about the challenges of being a young woman with a life-threatening illness. She told me to get over my comparisons, and reminded me that pain is pain. I eventually conceded that she was right and I learned to have compassion for my own scary ordeal. Even though Malaya would talk about the shitty, cruelty of cancer for as long as I wanted, she never seemed to feel bad for herself.  She continued to live her life to the fullest. A former Roller Derby Girl, Malaya bravely moved forward. She married a childhood sweetheart, and started a fiery blog called Hip Checking Cancer, and to me she was a superhuman example of how to carry ones self in difficult times. (to illustrate, she was diagnosed during Hurricane Sandy, in a hospital that was quickly going under water, even then she seemed to captain the ship). To me she navigated her illness with the perfect balance of truthfulness, tenacity and grace. In August she wrote “I’m sick of this daily battle. I’m sick of being a warrior. I want a cure. I want a future. I want to live. I want a damn glass of sangria. ” She’s raw, pissy, honest, and yet she’s still funny. How many of us can relate.

Malaya Kelly aka Salmour Doll

Bad Ass: Malaya Kelly aka Salmour Doll

Malaya’s 7th treatment plan began to fail in August. I didn’t know, because I hadn’t checked in with her in quite some time. Focused mostly on myself; moving my family, starting my new business and being a mom, I was also a shitty friend. So like Nora’s, Malaya’s passing on October 18th hit me like a direct blow to the heart. I wish I had checked in. I wish I had had the chance to speak with her on the phone one more time. I wish I could have said good-bye.

Three days ago, on October 25th, I woke up to more heartbreaking news. A woman I recently met on the  Young Women’s Survival Coalition‘s Tour de Pink charity bike ride named Kara Guzzetti had passed away the night before.

Kara and her charismatic boyfriend Chris were two of the first people I met on the 200+ mile YSCTDP. I remember being extremely impressed by the way she brave showed off her bald head, and overwhelmed by how fiercely up front she was about her Stage IV terminal diagnosis. Despite a body that had been through hell, she got up every morning and rode as many miles of the grueling trip as she could. Kara had big smiles and endless amounts of good cheer. She inspired everyone around her. It was just a little more than a month after that amazing ride that she passed. Though I barely knew her, I will forever be inspired by Kara.

Kara Guzzetti, riding at the 2014 Tour de Pink, and an inspiration to all

Kara Guzzetti, riding at the 2014 Tour de Pink, and an inspiration to all.

I couldn’t help but think of all three of these inspiring ladies, when yesterday I attended my 2nd funeral in 2 weeks. As I sat listening to other members of our close and loving Nantucket community eulogize our friend Scotty, I felt like all these spirits were there together. I felt like perhaps they were all at peace, all pain-free, each of them the better off in a way for having faced cancer and having lived so fully in their dying to have inspired so many.

Scotty passed away after a 2+ year long battle with kapok’s sarcoma of the pancreas. She was my personal trainer for a time, but someone who shared the space where I have worked for the last 6 years of my life. There were many other ways in which Scotty touched my life, but most profoundly she helped guide me into a place of deep gratitude for my illness (which is a tall fucking order), and for everything yet still flourishing in my life. I didn’t know I had breast cancer at the time of Scotty’s diagnosis, but I had it. When three months after the Yogathon we put together for Scotty at the Yoga Room, I got my own potentially terminal diagnosis, it was Scotty whom I immediately wanted to see.

Scotty and I started going to the cancer support group offered by Palliative & Support Care of Nantucket, and I looked forward to seeing her there. She was always so eloquent, not only about the things she felt grateful for but about that things that were causing her pain. I think it was her truthfulness that drew me in the most. That and the resolve she had about facing death straight on. It was as clear as day -you could see it in her eyes. Being around her made me feel braver.

A few times I ran into Scotty at the Green, just randomly. And all we’d do was hug. We didn’t even need to talk. Some times she’d start crying first, some times I would. It’s like that with cancer patients – words need not be spoken.

Me; 2 1/2 months into chemotherapy. Scotty bravely forging ahead without treatment.

Me; 2 1/2 months into chemotherapy. Scotty bravely forging ahead without treatment early 2013.

It’s a very strange thing: to have outlived a large part of my cancer community. But it stands to reason, that when you surround yourself with people who have long-term and terminal illnesses, death on a larger than normal scale is to be expected. Yet as sad as cancer can make and has made me feel (especially this week), the prevailing feeling I take away from all these experiences is one of great, great privilege. In my almost 38 years on this planet, it has been cancer that has brought the most inspiring people into my life. To have known so many, many inspiring people in such a short amount of time is an honor.

Nora was right, “every experience, no matter how how bad it seems hold within it a blessing of some kind.” All we have to do is find it.

#nevergiveup

It Takes an Island

Part of this letter was originally published on  September 19th, 2013
in the Inquieror & Mirror Newspaper on Nantucket

Fight Back with Love

 

For six months now, we have collectively fought my cancer with the support of the entire island, several fundraising events, home delivered good meals, childcare assistance and a whole lot of love.

Like a child who wakes on Christmas morning to a sea of sparkling wrapping paper, and the magic impression of Santa’s recent visit, I’ve had to pinch myself many times over the past 6 months to make sure I’m not dreaming. From the moment I was diagnosed with cancer on March 15th, to this very day, and I’m sure into the months to come, I have felt blanketed in Nantucket’s support. Despite the challenges my family and I have faced this year, my partner and I agree that we are two of the luckiest people in the world, cancer and all, for surely the love we have received has far outweighed the suffering we have endured.

During the first 3 months of my chemotherapy this spring my body crashed hard. Fatigued and in pain, I was often too exhausted to cook for my family. A meal train for us  was set up online, and within a few days it was full. 2-3 nights a week from March through May members of this incredible community took care of us. Friends, coworkers, yoga students and people we didn’t even know put together thoughtful, often beautifully arranged, healthy meals that made us feel nurtured and supported.

 To all of you, our deepest gratitude.

As my treatment journey continued and my health became more fragile, it was clear I would not be able to work. I closed my massage therapy practice for the time being and worried about loosing my teaching place at The Yoga Room. Much to my relief my employer and friend, Shannah Green, reassured me that she would keep my name on the schedule no matter what. My co-workers: Paul Bruno, Clay Twombly, Susan Browne, Bettina Broer and Patricia Dolloff, all took turns covering my regularly scheduled classes. They never questioned me if I said I was up to the challenge of teaching and were always there for me, even at the last minute, if I was too sick to show up.

When it was time for my double mastectomy in July, I was forced to rest for 6 weeks. During this time ever one of the teachers who taught my classes asked to put their earnings on my paycheck. Shannah began teaching a weekly seva class, gifting all of the proceeds directly to my family and I.

To Shannah and my co-workers at The Yoga Room, my deepest, deepest thanks. 

It goes without saying that the foundation of my support at the darkest of times has come from my immediate family and my closest friends, but I would like to publicly acknowledge the bravery of my parents, Joanne and Steve Marcoux, the strength and compassion of my partner, Burr Tupper, and the pinch-hitting help of my ex-husband, Paul Budzynski. Without their support, I would have been lost at sea. Instead I been buoyed up by their love and confident that my little boy has been getting all that he needs to thrive when I am absent.

To my little boy, who perhaps will one day read this, thank you. Thank you for understanding about Mommy’s booboos, shaved head, low energy and “broken boobies” (though I’m still dying to figure out where you came up with or heard that one!). Thank you for offering to “buzz your hair” to show your solidarity. I’m sorI’m I’ve too too attached to your golden locks to let you do it. Thank you for keeping your sense of humor on the days we’ve had to wear face masks, and for making silly games out of the millions of times we had to wash our hands.

And thank you for all the hundreds if not thousands of warm little boy hugs your been giving me your whole life, but especially this year. Some times I feel it’s been a diet of your love alone that has pushed me through to the end of my hardest days.

 

Caitlin Marcoux, Cancer Survivor, Breast Cancer Ninja, The Cancer Diaries

Griffin and I “playing” with our masks when my wbc counts are low

It has taken many anchors to keep my ship grounded these past six months, and most recently a few strong captains to take the helm. On Sunday, September 15th, a team of incredible women including Shannah Green, Julie Hilberg-Hunt, Megan Soverino, Vanessa Raab Moore and Patti Cattafe put together a stunning silent auction event at the Cisco Brewery. Spearheaded by my dearest of friends, Elisa Allen, these ladies created the most beautiful and touching event I have ever been at the center of. Together they collected auction items from some of the most talented artists, skilled artisans and tradespeople, hardworking merchants, industry folk, restauranteurs and craftspeople on Nantucket. I cannot say how deeply touched I am by their efforts.

Fight Back with Love organizers Megan, Shannah and Julie (Elisa not pictured)

Fight Back with Love organizers Megan, Shannah and Julie (Elisa not pictured)

Thank you to the following people who donated their time and skills, contributed their wares or helped in any way to make this weekends fundraiser such a success:

The Rose & Crown

Sally Bates Electric

Joann Burnham & The Nantucket Yoga Festival

The Yoga Room

Paul Bruno & Roaming Dog Yoga

Bettina Broer & Yoga with a View

Jessica Jenkins & Downtown Yoga

Patricia Dolloff Yoga

Megan DuBois Yoga

Burton Balkind & KindFlow Productions

Cate Raphael

Clay Twombly & Cambia Means Change

Susan Fitzpatrick

Susan Warner

Katie Ashley Compassionate Cuisine Coaching

Theater Workshop of Nantucket

Sally Charpie

Petticoat Row Bakery

Organic Nail Salon

Cara DeHeart & Seaweaver

Charlotte Hess

The Bean

Arbonne Products

Nantucket Seafoods

East Coast Seafood

Force Five

Atlantic Landscaping

The Water Closet

The Tile Room

East End Gallery

Robert Sturman

Laurie Richards

Ron Lynch

Kit Noble

Cary Hazelgrove

Beauty By the Sea

Lynn Tucker Beauty Products & Services

Santjes Ooman Massage

Ugne & Brandon Jellison and Authentic Body Therapy

Casey Boukus

Bartlett’s Ocean View Farm 

Pauli & Uribe Architects

Mindy Levin & Nantucket Family Chiropractic

Gary Konher & Nantucket Surf School

Christine Lee Pilates

Amber Hinds& Au Coeur  Design

Emily Brooke Rubin Jewelry Design

Claudia Buttler & Ambrosia Chocolate & Spices

Susan Lister Lock Jewellery

Nell Van Vorst

Christine Sanford

Patina

Hepburn

Zero Main

R.J. Miller’s & Ann Fitzgerald

Sarah Hutton Jewlery

Darya’s Salon

Toscana Corporation

Florabundant

Amy Pallenberg Garden & Design

Nantucket Holistic Health

Sheri Perelman

Tracy Cullinane Personal Training

The Westmoor Club

Nantucket Cycling & Fitness 

Nantucket Health Club

Anita Bierings

Michael Rich

Robert McKee

Jessica Sosebee Gallery

Audrey Sterk Design

The Lovely

Elise Gura & Space

Nantucket Beach Chair Company

Pollacks

Sam Parsons

The Lion’s Paw

Peter England

Annye Camara & Annye’s Whole Foods

Best of the Beach

Megan Anderson

Bruce Bartlett

David Berry & The Nantucket Honeybee Co.

Bodega

Dr. Buck Weaver

Bookworks

Nantucket Looms

Indian Summer

The Haul Over

Cru

Company of the Cauldron

Straight Wharf Restaurant 

George Riehof

The UPS Store

Stephen Swift

Neil Brosnan

Kitty Kania

Denna Charnes

Caitlin Jelleme

Rachel Dowling

Louise Turner

Thank you to the following people who helped before, during and after the event: Sky Wallace, Victoria Paige Ewing, Bettina Broer, Paul Bruno, Cate Raphael, Brad Nolen, Antitank Stefanski, Burton Balkind, Mike Allen, Erin Elizabeth, Heather Williams and Dina Warren. 

Additionally, thank you to The Cisco Brewery, Jenny Bence of The Green and DJ Pete Ahern for making the day come together with spectacular style and tying it all together with the healing energy of phenomenal food, drink and great music.

To everyone who attended “Fight Back with Love” and to everyone who bid on the silent auction items, my most heartfelt thanks.

Fight Back with Love

Incredible but true, the list goes on.

I’d like to thank Steve Tornovish of Krav Maga Nantucket for holding a special Women’s Self Defense class in my honor this summer, and to all the attendees for their generous donations – I bow to you. My deepest thanks.

To Ieva Aldins, of Dharma Yoga Nanatucket who taught one of her monthly Seva (charity) yoga classes for us this summer, thank you. And to the following yoga sisters and brothers who held donation yoga classes across the country in my honor throughout the last 6 months: Amber Cook at Moksha Yoga in Chicago,  Larisa Foreman, Kate Greer and Nocile Burille at Krama Yoga in Cambridge, Alex Jarobe and Rachel Ann Gasner of the Yoga Pod, in Bolder, co. and my whole family or yoga teachers and fellow 500-YTT candidates at the Asheville Yoga Center in Asheville, NC. And to Jennifer Hrabota-Lesser for her Bujangasana t-shirt campaign, which also raised money for our charitable fund – thank you.

Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude. 

To talented, local photographer Laurie Richards and former Nantucket resident and brilliant artist Hannah Stone, both of whom auctioned off portraits in my honor earlier this spring, thank you.

To Clay Twombly who made for me the most beautiful mala, thank you.

To my friends in Chicago, for dedicating this year’ Annual Shawn Koch Memorial Poker Run to my fight, thank you.

I’d also like to thank the following businesses for supporting my family and I directly: Dharma Yoga Nantucket for allowing me to take free yoga classes during my treatment, Pi Pizza, Susan McGinnis and The Center Street Bistro for feeding us on more than one occasion, Darya Afshari for cutting my hair and eventually shaving it off, Monika Rudnicka for giving me the most amazing facials throughout my chemotherapy, Sheri Perelman for Reiki, Casey Boukus for massage therapy and Jenny Bence for treating me to acupuncture with Tammy Belanger this spring.

Looking back a little, I’d like to Thank you to everyone who came out to Cisco on July 23rd for our Boob Voyage Party. Organizing that event gave me something to focus on other that my approaching surgery. Burr and Griffin and I will be moving out of our Heller’s Way home this spring, and I cant think of a better way we could have celebrated our time there. Funny how it took having cancer for us to finally throw a proper house party. Thanks to Doug Cote and Floyd Kellogg for our semi-pravate Lance Mountain Dance Party, what a blast.

I would also like to thank local pilot Chris McLaughlin and Patient Airlift Services for all there assistance getting me back and forth from Nantucket to Boston, whenever they could make it possible.

In closing I’d like to thank every person who sent me a card, or mailed me a care package, left a note on my back door, a four leaf clovers or hand knitted socks in my mailbox, a CD in my car, flowers in my living room, taught a class in my honor, said a prayer for me, gave me a hug, picked my son up for a playdate, gave me a hug, was brave enough to ask me how I was, gave me a reassuring pat on the back and told me with certainty that I could win.

Today I can say that I am winning, and I’m winning because of you. This enchanted island truly is home to the kindest most compassionate people in the world. And while it may not seem lucky to have cancer, I consider myself so lucky to have had cancer here.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

(photo: Robert Krivicich}

(photo: Robert Krivicich}

Humbly Yours,

~Caitlin Marcoux

ChemoAsana: my pre-treatment yoga cancer rally.

The Cancer Diaries: June 26th, 2013

What the hell is a ChemoAsana? You might be asking… 

che•mo asa•na (noun) ˈä-sə-nə

: the use of yogic arts to uplift the body’s assimilation of chemical agents in the treatment or control of disease (as cancer)

First Known Use: circa 2013, Nantucket, MA.

 

As those of you who have been following me since I was diagnosed with breast cancer back in March already know, I’ve developed a little pre-chemotherapy routine that helps me to feel empowered. This ritual includes packing up my chemo bag the night before (statues of Ganesh and Nataraj, Bose earphones, iPad, eye pillow, thank you cards to be written, and my son’s blankie) getting to the hospital extra early the morning of my treatment for my blood draw, and then taking a 75 minute yoga at my studio. The ritual continues with a stop at The Green (smoothie, green juice, shot of wheatgrass) on my way to the Nantucket Cottage Hospital and ends with getting hooked up to IV fluids and doing my ChemoAsana.

As of today, I have completed 14 infusions of Taxol and Herceptin, and I have the 14 ChemoAsana photos to prove it. Now I get to kick back and let the chemicals work their cumulative mojo while focusing on building my blood back up and preparing my body for surgery.

To celebrate I thought it would be fun to revisit all the ChemoAsana photos my friends and I taken over the past 3 months. The first two are hardly asanas at all, but as the chemotherapy progresses the poses get more complex. Looking back on the past three months, it seems that the days I felt the most out of control I would harness whatever power I could muster from my yoga asana.

Now more than ever I believe in the power of yoga to heal. I have my very own, first hand empirical data forever charted in my medical history; proof that yoga boosts your white blood cells, platelets and my personal favorite; the ANC, absolute neutrophil count.

Call me crazy but I attribute my son Griffin’s 2 hour natural childbirth AND the way my body has held up over these last 14 infusions of highly toxic chemicals. “Om F-ing Om” sisters and brothers!

ChemoAsana

Below is a compilation of all the pre-Taxol ChemoAsana I’ve done since the end of March. Some of them much more ridiculous than others.

1. Enter the Dragon

March 28th, 2013. Mass General Hospital
ChemoAsana: a first infusion. Breast Cancer Jedi, Caitlin Marcoux

Awaiting my first infusion: March 28th, 2013

 2. Maskasana

April 4th, 2013. Nantucket Cottage Hospital
ChemoAsana #2: April 4th, 2013

ChemoAsana #2: April 4th, 2013

 

3.Pincha Mayurasana

April 10th, 2013. Nantucket Cottage Hospital
ChemoAsana. Breast Cancer Jedi, Caitlin Marcoux

ChemoAsana #3: April 10th, 2013

 

 4. Eka Pada Rajakapotasana

April 17th, 2013. Mass General Hospital
ChemoAsana. Breast Cancer Jedi, Caitlin Marcoux

ChemoAsana #4: April 17th, 2013

 

5. Anjaneyasana

April 25th, 2013. Nantucket Cottage Hospital
ChemoAsana. Breast Cancer Jedi, Caitlin Marcoux

ChemoAsana #5: April 25th, 2013

 

 6. Natarajasana

May 2nd, 2013. Nantucket Cottage Hospital
ChemoAsana. Breast Cancer Jedi, Caitlin Marcoux

ChemoAsana #6: May 2nd, 2013

 

 7. Leg Behind the Head Pose

May 8th, 2013. Mass General Hospital
ChemoAsana. Breast Cancer Jedi, Caitlin Marcoux

ChemoAsana #7:May 8th, 2013

8. Hanumanasana

May 15th, 2013. Nantucket Cottage Hospital
ChemoAsana. Breast Cancer Jedi, Caitlin Marcoux

ChemoAsana #8: May 15th, 2013

 

9. Inverted Chemoasana

May 22nd, 2013. Nantucket Cottage Hospital
ChemoAsana: a first infusion. Breast Cancer Jedi, Caitlin Marcoux

ChemoAsana #9: May 22nd 2013

10. Adho Mukha Vrikshasana, straddle variation

May 29th, 2013. Mass General Hospital
ChemoAsana. Breast Cancer Jedi, Caitlin Marcoux

ChemoAsana #10: May 29th, 2013

 

11. Dragon Fly Pose

June 5th, 2013. Nantucket Cottage Hospital
 
ChemoAsana. Breast Cancer Jedi, Caitlin Marcoux

ChemoAsana #11: June 5th, 2013

12. Upavistha Konachemochairasana

June 12th, 2013. Nantucket Cottage Hospital
ChemoAsana. Breast Cancer Jedi, Caitlin Marcoux

ChemoAsana #12: June 12th, 2013

 

 

13. Flying Lover’s Padmasana (bonus #1)

June 20th, 2013. Nantucket Cottage Hospital
ChemoAsana. Breast Cancer Jedi, Caitlin Marcoux

ChemoAsana #13: June 20th, 2013

14. Group Loveasana (bonus infusion #2)

June 26th, 2013. Nantucket Cottage Hospital
ChemoAsana. Breast Cancer Jedi, Caitlin Marcoux

ChemoAsana #14: my final infusion of Taxol – a drug that made me absolutely sick as a dog.

 Sometimes pictures tell the best stories.

As I end my dialogue with Taxol and move phase two of my treatment (mastectomy and reconstruction) I do so feeling fully supported and cared for: nurtured by my practice and supported by my community. I have professed my love of yoga hundreds maybe thousands of times and I’ve said that I love Nantucket at least as many times. I’ve lived in NYC, Paris, Ireland, and Chicago, (and I’ve practiced yoga in everyone of those places) and yet I cannot imagine a better home than here.

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tough love. enough love.

Self-doubt hasn’t always been my worst enemy. There have been many times in my life when I have felt grounded and strong, confident and full. I’ve had “important” jobs and respectable earnings. I’ve had fulfilling friendships, and raging romantic relationships. I’ve had critical acclaim, and glowing reviews, approved graduate school applications, academic scholarships and positive survey feedback. And there have even been times in my life when I’ve had all of these things simultaneously. More importantly, I have had times in my life in which I have felt a deep sense of fulfillment from the inside out. I’ve liked where I was and who I was and I’ve loved what I was doing. I was enough. Maybe not enough for a star on Hollywood Boulevard, but enough for me. 

Sadly in the last couple of years, self-confidence has been in short supply… somewhere along the path that has been my recent adult life, I’ve lost my self-love mojo. Ironic for a yoga teacher who regularly posits in class that self-acceptance and compassion are the self are key components of living a mindful and healthy life. Believe me when I tell you there has been no lack of reflection on this twist.

Maybe it started with a string of unsuccessful career choices. Or loosing a husband to Cancer. Or living with an emotionally cut-off alcoholic.  I’m sure there was a lot of self-loathing going on when grief-stricken and bereft, I found myself snorting cocaine off the back of a toilet in a dive bar in Chicago, and unfortunately it didn’t stop even when the drug use did. Maybe it really began when I broke trust with myself, and rushed into a second marriage, still full of grief over the last one. I’m sure my self-doubt was doubled when in my relatively small community I went through a fairly publicly discussed divorce. But for whatever (many) reason(s), somewhere in the not so distant past I seemed to really loose my sense of self and began consistently looking for external validation. I started to feel unworthy of true happiness, love, and santosha (contentment).

Sure, there were moments in between now and then when I felt satiated, fulfilled and worthy of love. Bringing my son into this world, naturally and nearly unassisted, felt like nothing short of a miracle, and yet even that accomplishment’s glow wore off quickly. Completing my yoga teacher training felt satisfying – to a degree… but I had plenty of doubts about even that; was 200 hours really enough training to call myself a teacher? what did I have to share with my students anyway? who was I to be leading a class? etc.

Then in late 2010 I found myself unexpectedly falling hard in love again, and the hole in my heart felt temporarily full. Of course, it wasn’t long after the flush of fresh love began to calm, that fear and insecurity crept back into my heart, and I started to feel unworthy again. Not a few months into my new domestic bliss (summer 2011) did I begin to feel tripped up by doubt and insecurity. Fear around trust nearly broke everything apart, and though part of me would like to add “for good reason”, the rest of me knows that there wasn’t one. All of a sudden I didn’t feel pretty enough, or smart enough, successful enough or spiritually evolved enough. I began to think that I didn’t meditate enough, or hadn’t traveled enough. That I didn’t have enough accolades or degrees, or missions of seva and global activism in my resume. I began to think I wasn’t interesting, and felt like I had nothing to share. I stopped talking at dinner parties, and began resenting people for their own exciting stories, careers, adventures or vacations. I started to believe I didn’t have enough to offer my partner, my students, or my friends.

Well enough is enough.

So I’m making a proclamation right now, in broad internet daylight, that the buck stops here. The self-doubt and feelings of unworthiness stop NOW. The truth is, I am more than my past failed relationships, my divorce and my losses. I am more than my up-in-the-middle-of-the-night worry that I might not be the best mother to my toddler son. I am more than my measly 30-thousand dollar annual income. I am vulnerable and I am strong. I am a novice at some things, and an expert at others. I cry, but I laugh. Some nights I have nightmares, but many nights I have big beautiful dreams. I have fears but I have many more hopes. I have trauma in my past, but I have done more than just survive it. And YES, I have major issues with trust – but I’m WORKING on them.

I might not have a three figure salary, or a CV full of humanitarian service work in third world countries – but I do have an interesting list of skills and interests.

I am a great mom. I’m a really good massage therapist, and I’m working diligently at becoming a good yoga teacher. I have a strong commitment to a spiritual path, and I really believe in living as mindfully as possible. I love music of nearly all kinds, modern dance, photography and art. Prior to motherhood I was fairly politically active. I’m a good cook and I can talk about wine. I’ve lived in several major cities, including New York, Chicago and Paris, and I can paint you a pretty exciting picture of my travels through the Netherlands, Berlin, Belgium, and the Czech Republic. I once spent 6 months traveling through Ireland all by myself. I’ve been a house painter, fishmonger, prop stylist, studio manager, and choreographer. I’ve worked as a photo researcher and photo editor for major magazines including the New York Times Magazine, Fortune and Newsweek, and once upon a time (1999) my  modern dance company, headlined the Nantucket Arts Festival. I gave birth to my son 100% naturally, at home, on a yoga mat, in 2.5 hours with nearly zero assistance. I really like skinny dipping in the ocean. I once smoked pot with David Byrne. I was married to one of the most amazing martial artists I’ve ever known, who just happened to love working out and training with me. Consequentially I can deliver a pretty kick-ass muay thai knee strike. Every day I spend a considerable amount of time balancing on my hands, forearms or head, and I love being up-side-down. I used to play the piano with passion, and I still secretly love singing.

So as it turns out, I am more rich in beautiful experiences than tragic ones – and from here on out, I’m going to start identifying myself more with the former than with the later.

Here’s an amazingly powerful quote I read today; “those who have a strong sense of love and belonging BELIEVE they are WORTHY of love and belonging.”

Today I believe I am enough for my son. Today I believe I am enough for my partner. And today, I am enough for myself.

I am enough.

I am enough.

I am enough. 

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