grief

Caitlin with cancer

I took a yoga class this morning and cried. I cried every time we came into a forward fold. I cried every time we opened our hips.I cried during cat & cow, child’s pose and even downward facing dog.

I cried for the last 8 months of treatments my family has endured. I cried for every needle stick, every blood test, every biopsy, injection and surgical procedure. I cried for every night spent writhing in pain on the couch, and every morning kneeling over the toilet. I cried for every time I was too tired to play with my son, or walk to the beach.

I cried  for the natural breasts I now miss; the ones I was born with, the ones I used to nurse my son.

I cried for the physical strength I once had, the endurance I’ve lost, and the muscle tissue that has atrophied.

I cried because plank is hard, chaturanga is impossible and cobra is painful. I cried because laying on my stomach pushes my implants into my chest and makes it hard for me to breathe. I cried because I’m not sure I like anything about these new appendages.

I cried because I’ve lost sensation in the skin across my chest. I cried because I cannot feel my nipples, and when my lover touches them I do not know.

I cried for all the days I have not recognized myself. I cried for the impermanence, the letting go and saying good-bye.

I cried for the medically-induced early menopause. I cried because I will never have another baby. I cried because last night I had my first true hot flash.

I cried because amputating a part of my body has been a big deal, though I have played it down.

I cried because for 8 months I’ve rarely let myself.

I cried because it was long overdue.

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I am starting over with a new body. This body is softer and wiser. It has some big scars and a few little ones, and each one tells a powerful story. This body moves differently, expresses itself differently and even sits in silence differently. But as vulnerable as it may be, this body loves bigger, connects stronger, and is home to a depth of gratitude and appreciation I would never have found on my own in the time before cancer.

“When we become sick, we often take the illness personally and feel that our happiness is conditional upon getting ride of it. We forget that illness- along with aging and death- is a hallmark of our human existence, and we get angry at our bodies for “letting us down”. When we realize that illness is inescapable, realize that stress around illness increases our suffering, and that being sick is not a shortcoming – only than can we be at ease with, and even empowered by, illness.” ~ Jean Smith

May all we learn to hold ourselves sweetly, no matter where we are. May our commitment to practice compassion begin with compassion for our Selves. May we continue to show up, rise up and hold space for our own intrinsic value in sickness and in health.

The Mindfulness of Cancer

Photo: Larisa Forman

{Photo: Larisa Forman}

This is it: the last 6 days of me, Caitlin, as I (and you) know her.

The last six days of me with the two breasts God gave me, the ones I proudly used to nourished my son Griffin, the ones I  struggled to like as a teenager, and the ones I came to love as an adult. By next Wednesday, the 24th of July, they will be no more.

Truly, everything is temporary, especially our bodies. This entire adventure with cancer has been one big lesson in giving up attachments and identity and learning to practice mindfulness: learning to be as present in the challenging moments of my life as I am in the blissful.

In a class I taught at the Yoga Room, just this morning, I read the following passage:

Mindfulness is not about an absence of emotion or a way to steam the natural flow of illness, aging, loss and separation. This flow may be inevitable, but our response to it is not. As a person who lives with cancer and the uncertainty of another reoccurrence, I need to be mindful. This “bad” thing (cancer) is also “good”, because it forces me to remember that my time is limited. Knowing this is a gift that forces me to notice what brings joy and harmony and wheat does not. this is mindfulness: learning from what we do and acknowledging the patterns of thought and action that have been established so we can decide whether thy continue to sere us well. ~Elana Rosenbaum, Being Well Even When You’re Sick

As I’ve watched my hair fall out, my eyebrows thin and loosen, my skin redden and tighten and my moon cycles dry up, I have been forced  to learn impermanence on a deeper level I may not have otherwise appreciated in my 30’s.  Finding the silver linings has not always been easy. In fact, cancer has challenged me in ways no other life experience has, but for that I am now grateful.

As I prepare to say good-bye to my beloved breasts, I know I am meant to learn even more about myself through this process. Despite the anxiety I am feeling about the medical procedure (the vulnerability evoked by needles, tubes, paper gowns, and face masks), I am starting to feel the empowerment of knowing my cancer will soon be gone.

By this time next week, I will be finished with a day of pre-opertative labs and doctor’s appointments and getting ready for my surgery the following morning. When I think about this there is a small amount of anxiety that remains in my belly, but practicing Mindfulness meditations, both on my own and while teaching others, has helped me move out of the darkness of the past few weeks into a more profound appreciation of the moment.

Watching my breath, taking in my surrounding, listening, tasting, smelling, breathing, feeling – this is the practice.

The ultimate goal of this practice is heightened awareness to feel more alive and be free of suffering. It is a practice that cultivates compassion and wisdom. Mindfulness is an adventure. The present moment is a precious moment. 

We have come to the end of our first intermission… and it is nearly time for Act Two to begin.

These are the last 6 days of swimming in the ocean and being able to fully submerge myself in a tub or a pool. These are the last few days of being able to use my arms around the house: to make meals, fold laundry, shave my own legs, put away dishes or make beds. These are the last few days I will wrestle with my son or hold my partner. How delicious it is to have these six days! I feel oddly hyper aware of my arms and connected to all the amazing thing they can do.

I feel a great tenderness to my breasts and gratitude for all the joy they have brought me and others.

For sure there have been some dark moments for me over the past few months: a couple of significant panic attacks, some depression, some grief, some resentment and some anger. But I’m learning to sit with the discomfort. I’ve allowed it to rage and to subside, to wax and to wane, to take me down and let me go, and in doing so, have practiced being as much with the “bad” as with the “good”.

With patience and acceptance, the mind does begin to quiet, but not if we try to push it away or repress it. If we try to control it, it will, like a rebellious child refuse to calm. 

I’m ready.

Now I feel strong again and ready for what’s next to come. There is nothing to be afraid of.

Strength

{Photo: Larisa Forman}

The surgery that will “save my life”, as my breast surgeon described it, will commence some time shortly after 5:30am. Though anything is possible, I have been told to assume the operation will take about 8 hours. When I wake I will be with my partner, my girlfriend Elisa and  my parents (who will be returning from a 2 week stay in Maine). I hope to wake up with two new and fully reconstructed breasts and the best part of all, without ANY CANCER.

Yes, that’s right, no cancer, or in medical terms NED aka No Evidence of Disease.

You might remember from my earlier posts, that Act Three of our drama includes 4 more rounds of the chemotherapy drug fondly nicknamed “The Red Devil”, but if all goes well in Act Two, my cancer should be all but eradicated. These 4 infusions of Adriamycin/Cytoxin are considered an insurance policy that all the “invasive” cancer cells that may have been missed surgically will be wiped out. This process will start just two weeks after my surgery – some time around August 21st…but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

So please, if you are inclined  I would be honored if you would think of me on July 24th – any time between 5:30am and 12:30pm. If those of you who practice yoga could include me in your dedications, I would be forever grateful. And certainly, if my dear friends  in the Boston area feel like popping by to say hello when I’m in recovery – I would love to see you. I’ll be at Mass General Hospital.

Right now I am enjoying my life. All of it. For the next 6 days I want to live to the fullest: I want to teach, swim, meditate, practice, snuggle with my little boy, and love up my man all as much as possible.

As Henry David Thoreau said “You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.” 

If you are in Nantucket this Sunday, I hope you will join us for my Boob Voyage Party. The details are in the attached poster. If I don’t see you there, I’ll see you on the mat, at The Green, or in my dreams.

Namaste,

Caitlin

Boob Voyage Soiree

Boob Voyage Soiree: Sunday July 21st, 2013

Cancer and Equanimity

Can you see the forest through the trees? by Caitlin Marcoux

Originally Published on RebelleSociety.com
July 10th, 2013 

{Photo: Robert Sturman / Burr Tupper}

{Photo: Robert Sturman / Burr Tupper}

You know the saying about not being able to see the forest through the trees?

It’s most often used in a negative context: If you can’t see the forest for the trees, the implication is that you can’t see your whole situation clearly because you’re looking too closely at the details.

But it seems to me that there are times when it is entirely appropriate, necessary even, to focus on the details of one’s circumstances. It can be the very details of a difficult situation that see us through, and help us to put one foot in front of the other. The loss of a parent or child, a life threatening illness, a natural disaster, an unanticipated personal tragedy; these are times that the trees can be the very thing that keep us from getting lost in the forest.

“Trees are poems the earth writes upon the sky, We fell them down and turn them into paper, 
That we may record our emptiness.” ~ Kahlil Gibran

With the onset of cancer, the details are the trees that we cling to in the beginning, and we take what support we can from them: What is the diagnosis? What stage is the cancer? What grade is the tumor? Has it metastasized?

As we learn more about our illness, we climb up these trees and look out over the forest. We might begin asking ourselves: Do we like our team of doctors? What are our treatments options? Are we at the right hospital to do what needs to be done? What is our prognosis, 5-year survival rate, and overall life expectancy with such an illness? Each tree could be seen as one of this important question.

Maybe the forest represents the culmination of information gathered by these questions; data that informs the way we navigate through such a challenging circumstance.

Like big huggable solitary trees, the ritualistic details of chemotherapy can become oddly comforting. Week after week we see the same people at the infusion ward.

Every time we report for a treatment, we are weighed and our vitals are checked. Our ports are washed, disinfected and accessed for blood. We wait for our labs to return and our white blood cells, neutrophils, platelets and hemoglobin levels are accounted for. IV bags with our drugs arrive from the pharmacy and we get hooked up. We get comfortable. We put our headphones on, open up a good book, or chat quietly with a neighbor. A friendly nurse might offer a warm blanket.

There’s a consistent ritual. It is one of the few predictable routines in a world of unknowns, the details of which become a strange comfort. And for a moment or two, cancer doesn’t seem so bad. Through ritual, we’ve managed to normalize it.

Chemopause.

summer

{Photo: Nicole Harnishfeger for the Inquirer and Mirror. Nobadeer Beach, Nantucket}

 

Twice recently, I’ve run into a local resident of Nantucket in some public setting; coffee shop, yoga studio, and have been asked the very common Seasonal Resort Town Question: “How’s your summer going?”

This is a question that is used between year-round locals to segue into a discussion that typically includes commiserating about 12 hour work days, encroaching deadlines, Fourth of July traffic, the lines at the Stop n’ Shop, and a level of exhaustion we don’t navigate the other 9 months out of the year.

Other times it’s a question that’s asked with the polite assumption that you will be involved in one of the many festivals we host on Nantucket in June, July and August: the Wine, Film, Dance, Yoga, Comedy, Book, and Garden Festivals, or in hopes of sparking up a conversation that includes beach plans and recent BBQs.

Either way, the question has caught me off-guard each time. I’ve had to pause, and remember that yes, it is in fact summer on Nantucket; something we year-rounders live for and dread all at the same time — and I’ve barely noticed.

Cancer may have put a pause on my life, but for the average person around me, it is in full swing.

My friends in the trades and restaurant & hospitality industries are working long hours. Summer residents are over-crowding the grocery stores and making large-scale picnics on the beach the priority of their week. There are evening dinner parties to go to, fundraisers to attend, and glasses of rose to sip.

Thousands and thousands of people flock to Nantucket to celebrate summer, many of them spending as many dollars when they get here. Those of us who aren’t rushing to spend money this summer are rushing to earn it; making hay while the proverbial and not so proverbial sun shines.

Summer is in full regalia, yet for me it’s made little difference.

I have been so focused on the details of my cancer treatment that I haven’t seen the seasons changing right in front of my face. For four months now my days have been scheduled around getting to and from my weekly infusions, coping with side effects of treatment and caring for my little family as best I can.

So far, one of the only ways summer has been any different than any other season is the marked absence of my partner, who is a general contractor. The beginning of May thrugh the beginning of July is by far the busiest time of the year for him, so if it weren’t for the late nights and plaster dust, I’d have even less awareness of this particular time of year.

This is exactly the kind of bigger picture awareness, which becomes obscured by getting hung up on the smaller details, and I think it’s what the old saying “You can’t see the forest through the trees” was intended to illuminate.

It is a huge challenge, finding equanimity. It can feel next to impossible some days; moving back and forth between the ritual details of what’s happening in the context of one’s illness and the appreciation of everything else that’s going on around us.

We have a lot on our plates, but even cancer patients need to work on cultivating balance. If we can find equanimity in the face of this huge challenge, we can remain present in the flow of our lives;  for ourselves and for our loved ones. In this way cancer is our teacher, and she has put us on an accelerated quest for internal equilibrium. 

At the end of the day those of us in treatment are more than our diagnoses and blood draws, or the lost days of summer and the missed cocktail parties. We are people who once watched the seasons pass with clarity, and we will be those people again.

Perhaps it is up to us to share what we’ve begun to learn; that with or without illness, we can all try to find meaning in everything, both big and small.

I for one need to recommit to seeing not just the trees but also the entire forest.

Can you?

{Photo: Robert Sturman / Caitlin, Burr and Griffin: Nantucket}

{Photo: Robert Sturman / Caitlin, Burr and Griffin: Nantucket}

 

*****

 

{Open your eyes.}

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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A great day to have cancer

Nantucket, MA.
April 8th, 2013
The campaign continues…
 

Dearest Friends,

So much love to all of you whom have continued to offer your support. I am continually humbled by the generosity of you all; near and far. I can honestly attest that only other time I have felt this level of deep primordial human connection and love was the day my son Griffin was born. It has been and continues to be  AWEsome.

Since my diagnosis on March 15th, I have had all kinds of tests and procedures, and am now comfortably navigating my treatment plan. To those of you who have sweetly offered up alternatives to the traditional Western medical approach, please know that your suggestions are appreciated, but that my family and I are fully committed to our current path. Please respect that our decision to seek treatment at Mass General Hospital is final (I say this with the utmost love and respect).

I have this amazing portal into my heart now, and I fully intend to use it.

portocath

Although it may surprise some of  you that I have embraced chemotherapy, I have complete faith that it is the right choice for me at this time. With the support of the Caitlin Marcoux Charitable Fund and donated services, I am thrilled to be able to  supplement my infusions with weekly Acupuncture  with Tammy Belanger,  bodywork with Casey Boukus and regular chiropractic care at Nantucket Family Chiropractic, with Dr. Mindy Levin. I have also begun practicing yoga with Sheri Perelman.

Most of you know I am an avid juicer already, and Jenny Bence has begun force feeding me a steady diet of wheat grass (read here to hear all about the benefits of this power-packed little plant). I am also pursuing colonic therapy, jin shin jyutsu, and Reiki.

So as you can see I am keeping myself tuned up and as in balance as I can be under the circumstances.

It is also my goal to begin each day with a big glass of alkalizing lemon water, 15 minutes of meditation,  a gratitude practice of some kind (journaling, thank-you note writing, and intention setting) and 20-60 minutes of gentle yoga. So far I’ve successfully done this the past three days in a row and hope to hold myself accountable for each remaining day of my treatment.

As I said in my Rebelle Society post last week, no man is an island, and neither am I. I don’t think so highly of myself that I cannot accept help. For me individual counseling has been an ongoing part of my emotional and spiritual wellbeing. Now that I have cancer, I think it’s even more important. I’m also a big fan of couples’ therapy. So if I could write that piece again, I would add #11: Get a Therapist.

(incidentally, there will be a follow up to that Rebelle piece that will probably included several more tips, so if you have one you’d like to share please feel free to comment on this blog below).

In any event, the chemotherapy is going well. I already feel like my tumor shrinking, and I have less pain in my right breast. There have been side-effect of course, but so far I feel lucky that I’ve been able to work a little and there, and it has had less of an impact than I had anticipated.

I preemptively cut off all my hair at Darya’s Salon last Monday night, so don’t be too shocked when you see me all punked out and Billie Idol-like. I want to send out a HUGE shout-out to Darya Afshari for being an amazing source of support and sexy inspiration, and to my Cancer Ninjas:  Julie, Heather, Alison, Ariel, Emily, Megan, Patti, Tracy, Elisa, Kristen, Melissa and Siobhain for being there with me every cut of the way.

Haircutting Angles

 

I have good days and bad. I’m exhausted from the day I get my infusion (Day One) through day 3 or 4. On a good day, like today, I feel almost normal. On a bad day I have headaches, bone pain, joint pain, anxiety and lots and lots of bloody noses… but this I can take in stride, and it feels like little to sacrifice for the chance of living a long and beautiful life.

 

Until the next update…

Love & Light,

Caitlin

 

So, you have breast cancer.

Dear Friends, Students & Clients,

I have Breast Cancer…

On Tuesday, March 12th I went in for a routine mammography. Even though it’s not recommended to start getting annual mammograms until you reach 40, I’ve been getting them since May 2011, when I found a suspicious lump in my right breast. This particular exam was a follow-up to the last one, which was done 12 months earlier.  After having a mamo every 6 months (following the watch and wait protocol) it was decided that the mass was nothing to be worried about (you have cystic breasts with fibrous tissue I previously was told), so I was floored when it was suggested on the spot that we do a needle biopsy.

On Friday, March 15th, 2013, I went up to Mass General Hospital with my dear friend Megan. Things unfolded in both slow motion and fast forward from there on out. The pathology from my needle biopsy arrived just 9 minutes before we walked into the exam room, confirming my Cancer, and when I was told “So, you have breast cancer” for a hot dizzy moment, I thought it was the end of the world. Bone Scan

I was in shock. I was freaked out. I was scared sh*&less.

But 10 days later I feel very differently. As weird as it may sound, I am confident this is the beginning of a bright new chapter of my life. I’m no hero, and I’m not going to say something inauthentic like “I feel blessed” that I have Cancer, or “It’s a gift”, but I do feel like it’s an amazing opportunity for growth. As my teacher, Elena Brower, says, we choose our parents, we choose our life lessons, “We pick them perfectly”. So following this, somewhat Buddhist train of thought, I must embrace the fact that I have chosen Cancer too. This is the new reality for me, one I have chosen so that I may learn from it, so that I may teach from a place of deeper wisdom.

That’s the new plan. The total and compete acceptance of Cancer as my new Guru.

You will be hearing a lot from me, over the next 14 months. I plan to blog. I plan to write. To document. To teach. To inspire. To bring awareness to Breast Cancer in the under 40 population. To make sure my Strong Girls know that self-breast exams are mandatory. That we are our own best health advocates… that no matter who tells you your self-detected “likely benign” LUMP is not worth further investigation, should your intuition tell you otherwise it is. I plan to stay around for a long, long time. To love my family and friends, to nurture my partner and to parent my son.

Flight Like A GirlWhen I first found out I was sick, I preemptively took a leave of absence from teaching and massage therapy. But now that my treatment plan has changed quite a bit, I am hoping to teach as many of my regularly scheduled classes as possible. I am lucky that my chemotherapy treatment will not be scheduled on days I would normally be at the studio, and I will have several days after chemo during which I can recover without missing classes. So for those of you who would like to know as to whether or not I’ll be at The Yoga Room on any given Monday or Tuesday evening, or Sunday morning, please just consult TYR’s online schedule. I am forever grateful to my TYR colleagues for accommodating me and my last-minute needs.

Teaching has always given me strength. Walking away from it completely, would feel like a surrender, and I am very much a fighter.

Some logistical stuff:

Many people have asked me how they can best support us through these challenging circumstances. For those of you who would like to contribute financially my friends Jason Bridges and Emily Molden have set up the Caitlin Marcoux Charitable Fund at Rally.org. This is also where I will post medical updates from here on out, instead of on FaceBook, as it is a more appropriate platform.

And for those of you who would like to contribute domestically, my friend Kristen Lewis has set up a SignUp Genius campaign, where you can sign up to deliver a meal, volunteer to help with my son’s childcare (pick-ups or drop-offs to school, or playdates*) or help out around our home. *Please note: Griffin will really need some small friends to run around with on Thursdays and Fridays after school, even if it’s just for an hour. This is probably the best way anyone can help us.

I know that I can’t do this alone. And I am so very, very grateful to both my local community and my global yoga community for all the ongoing support. I can’t think of a better place than Nantucket to have Cancer, and I couldn’t be in a better place both spiritually and mentally to survive it.

I am a lucky, lucky girl.

A few special Thank-Yous to the following people who have helped me through this initial phase of my cancer treatment (many more thank-yous to come):Health Alter

Thank you to Shannah Green and Elisa Allen for facilitating an amazing and much needed retreat at Kripalu this weekend. To Alison Alpert for coming with me to my first needle biopsy. To Megan Soverino for being there now and always,  but especially for being there to hold my hand when I got the news at MGH on March 15th. To my parents Joanne and Steve, and my sisters Ariel and Grey. To my ex-husband Paul Budzynski, for being a rock at a time of need, for accepting me once again despite my mistakes and with all my faults, and for taking such good care of our son Griffin. To my friends Jason Bridges, Emily Molden and Kristen Lewis for setting up, in record time, all kinds of online support. To Amber Hinds, my web-designer. To Jenny Bence, owner of The Green, for making me drink way more wheatgrass than I ever would on my own. To Darya Afshari of Dayra’s Salon, for helping me feel pretty (sister, you will be shaving my head soon). To Elena Brower for being an ongoing source of wisdom and support and bad-ass coach. To my friends Kate Greer and Richmond Dickson for giving us a warm bed to sleep in and nurturing food to eat on Wednesday night, March 20th. To my beautiful yoginis in crime Caroline Pope Peavy and Juliet Loranger, for coming up on Thursday night, March 21st, to hold me after a long day of bone scans and blood tests. To Rebelle Society for giving me a place to write (the words are on their way). To my son Griffin, who inspires me to be the very best mama I can be. And of course to my partner, Burr Tupper, who is always, always, always there for me.

Confessions of a Jealous Girl

Originally published on elephantjournal.com
January 27th, 2013
 

©2009-2013 ~7Roses1BrokenHeart

I have always loved the word pathogenesis. It’s got that sexy Latin sound, so well used in academia, and an open-ended, story-to-tell kind of mystique.

The word refers to the mechanism by which a dis-ease is caused; in yogic terms we might call it the “path” a condition took to manifest. It’s a strong word with gritty possibilities. Saunders Comprehensive Veterinary Dictionary, third edition, defines it as:

“The development of morbid conditions or of disease. Includes the study of the relationship between the cause and the lesions, and that between the lesion and the clinical signs.”

I like to use the word quite liberally.

So when I came up against my least favorite feeling—jealousy—again recently, I decided the best way I could move through it, and the eruption of ugliness that came along for the ride, was to understand its pathogenesis better, both in emotional and biological terms.

We were at dinner, in a New York City restaurant, somewhere in the LES, celebrating a friend’s 40th birthday…

(Now, the caveat to sharing this story is the reality that I live on a tiny island and there’s a good chance the people involved in this story will remember exactly what I’m about to describe. It’s entirely possible that I am throwing myself under the bus. But I’m ready now to hold myself accountable and tell the nasty, stinky, ugly truth of it all.)

So, back to New York, and back to dinner.

When we walked through the door to the restaurant, I was feeling pretty good about myself; I had been practicing a lot of yoga, going regularly to therapy, digging into my work with the Handel Group and taking some pretty big steps in my relationship with my partner. I had just taught a workshop in Providence the night before, and I was excited to be in NYC for the weekend with my boyfriend. I was feeling on top of my game, happy and grateful.

The chef’s table at Sauce was crowded with wine glasses, bubbly, gifts and friends, most of whom had traveled quite a distance to be there to celebrate my partner’s BFF. I was just as game as anyone to revel with her, if perhaps less integral to the group’s many years of friendship: a newcomer to the fold, if you will.

In any event, there was much celebrating and many toasts. I was genuinely impressed by the outpouring of love this woman inspired in her friends, and was beginning to let my guard down when something absolutely awful happened.

My partner got up to speak.

Within a few moments my palms were sweating, my heart was in my throat and I could feel a persistent shaking in my legs. I won’t attempt to reiterate the contents of his speech; suffice it to say that it was one of, if not the most beautiful spontaneous speeches I’ve ever heard anyone give in another person’s honor. One might argue that my partner is naturally gifted at this kind of thing, and that this speech was no different than any other he might give in a similar circumstance to someone of similar value.

Unfortunately, though, there is no one else in his life whom I perceive to be of similar value, except maybe me.

Though I could have gracefully absorbed the sweetly nostalgic references to their romantic history, boxing their consummated courtship comfortably into a rear partition of my brain reserved for all-things-past, the sincerity and depth of my partner’s love for the birthday girl as it existed in that moment ignited a flame of jealousy that unexpectedly overwhelmed me. No sooner had he said, “You are one of the most beautiful women I have ever been lucky enough to know” (or something very similar) than I was thrown into a painful experience of myself as unequal and under-deserving.

“Jealousy injures us with the dagger of self-doubt.”

~ Terri Guillemets

Photo: sea turtle

Questions ensued: Why was his toast making my heart race? Why was I feeling so insecure? WTF kind of yogi was I anyway? And why weren’t the tenets of my practice supporting me in my sincere desire to be happy for this woman and the friendship she has shared with my partner for almost 20 years?

The answer: I was in the midst of an acute attack of what biologists refer to as emotional jealousy, and it was fucking ugly.

Not only did I feel jealous, I was seething with self-contempt for feeling it.

Jealousy has been defined as “a complex of thoughts, feelings and actions which follow threats to self-esteem and/or threats to the existence or reality of the relationship, when those threats are generated by the perception of a real or potential attraction between one’s partner and a (perhaps imaginary) rival” (White & Mullen, 1989, p.24).

It’s a complicated mouthful.

After riffing on his shared past with his friend, and on her amazingness, for what felt to me like an eternity (probably three minutes), my partner sat down and put his hand on my thigh. I saw myself shrink away and flinch before it even happened. I backed my chair away from the table. He, of course, asked immediately what was wrong and I, of course, taking a big swig of wine, protested that nothingwas in fact wrong at all.

Lies.

Looking around the table, I could see that my partner’s display of affection for his former girlfriend was uncomfortable only for me. Only I was feeling threatened. Only my stomach was doing flips beneath my napkin. Only I was thinking of her as the ex-girlfriend. And I was the only one who was no longer at the table. I was far away—stuck in some deep dark place in my head.

Source: toppics.mooo.com via Aimee on Pinterest

 

Was I in the middle of experiencing an attraction between my partner and his ex? No. Was I in the middle of a situation that was threatening my sense of self-esteem? Absolutely, and for a few hot seconds I watched myself grapple with doubt and self-worth all over again. How disappointing it was for me, and probably for my man too.

“Jealousy would be far less torturous if we understood that love is a passion entirely unrelated to our merits.”

~ Paul Eldridge

According to an article by A.M. Pines and C.F. Bowes, published in Psychology Today (March, 1992), jealousy, one of the most common human emotions, is a biological defense mechanism that’s triggered when a person perceives a threat to his or her relationship. Additionally, their study showed that the majority of people who experience jealousy hate the way they act when they feel triggered.

It’s comforting to know I am in good company.

Yogi or not, everyone has suffered romantic jealousy at some point in their lives.

According to these guys, it’s part of our biological make-up.

While that may all be true, we shouldn’t need to read up on the biological imperatives of the female mammal to secure financial and emotional support through the employment of jealous power mechanisms in order to justify our unseemly behavior. We are an evolving group of mindfulness practitioners, yoga teachers and spiritual aspirants, damn it—and I’d be damned if I was going to ruin this woman’s 40th birthday party with my petty insecurities.

When the speeches were over, I excused myself from the table for a few moments and gathered myself in the ladies’ room. At first I tried to talk myself out of what I was feeling, but then I just surrendered to the feelings and allowed them to run their course through my body: not denying them, but not holding onto them either.

I returned to see my partner eyeing me with an uncomfortable mix of worry and despair. Silently, we put the moment on hold, knowing we’d revisit it later. A short while later, feeling relatively back in the game, I took his hand in mine.

This brings me back to the pathogenesis of jealousy.

Unlike envy, the roots of jealousy lie not in the wanting of something else, but rather in the fear of losing what we have or perceive we have.

My jealousies, the ones that keep biting me in the proverbial ass, are all rooted in the same backstory of betrayal, abuse, breaches of trust, the sudden death of a husband—and fearful projections of similar betrayals or losses into the future. They live in a place of deep insecurity and fear of abandonment, which I have been working to heal for some time.

“Whatever relationships you have attracted in your life at this moment are precisely the ones you need in your life at this moment. There is a hidden meaning behind all events, and this hidden meaning is serving your own evolution.”

~ Deepak Chopra

Healing.

I think the first half of the healing process comes when we study the relationship between the cause and the development of our jealousies, and acknowledge them as part of who we are rather than denying them. Understanding where our darker patterns come from can help us release them.

The second, and perhaps more important, half comes when we hold an intention to cultivate a stronger relationship with ourselves—when we cultivate self-love. This will help us to feel more whole, and less inclined to look for love and validation from our partnersAadil Palkhivala describes it this way:

“We must shatter the tabloid myth that another’s love is necessary for our survival. Only the love that comes from our deepest Self is essential. True love in a relationship is realized only when two people, each connected with his or her deepest Self, unite. Now we have a synergistic—not a draining—relationship. We love one another not because we need love, not because the other needs love, but because love overflows our cup and we must share. Then, rather than fall in love, we rise in love.”

Rise up.

If I accept that the path I’ve been on my whole life has brought me to my current partner, it is my responsibility to learn as much from him as from any of my other teachers or spiritual guides. Like Deepak says, the Universe has brought us together for a reason.

Photo: Kate Ter Haar

Our partners, like our family and friends, are mirrors, reflecting back to us the things we need most to examine. In my case, as perhaps in yours, I am still learning the art of self-loveAs yogis, we have made a commitment to working towards self-realization for the sake of liberation (moksha) from suffering (samsara). In the process of learning to love ourselves more deeply, we begin to struggle less to hold tightly to others. When we find our true Self, through self-study, meditation and asana, we can feel the bliss that has been living inside us all this time.

“If you love someone, set them free.”

~ Sting

My partner has been involved with some pretty amazing women—strong, creative and beautiful—and most of them are still in his life. It is a testament to the kind of person he is that, despite the break-ups, they are still his friends. He’s a great guy, and it just so happens that he gives big, beautiful speeches that leave his subjects feeling bathed in warm, loving light. I know firsthand how good it feels. How could I not want that feeling for everyone?

“If we are in a relationship with another without being in a relationship with our Self, the relationship with the other will be a dharmic distraction. However, if we avoid a relationship because it exposes our vulnerabilities and discloses our fears, we are avoiding that which can reveal to us how far from Self we are. Nothing can stunt our growth like a relationship, yet nothing can help us blossom more.”

~ Aadil Palkhivala

Let’s step back from the fear of losing what we already have, return to the table, raise a glass and enjoy the celebration. In doing so, we can celebrate each other and our Selves.

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caitlin marcouxCaitlin Marcoux is a yoga teacher, workshop producer, mother, dancer, massage therapist and writer. A former modern dancer, she fuses her passion for music and modern dance with yoga, keeping her flow creative, playful and fresh. Caitlin lives on the tiny Island of Nantucket, MA, year-round with her partner and 3 year-old satguru Griffin. She is an advocate of prenatal yoga, midwifery, elegant tattoos, rockin’ music, living mindfully and “eating like you give a damn.” She teaches a variety of regularly scheduled classes at The Yoga Room and has recently begun teaching workshops in the greater New England area. Caitlin blogs about her practice on and off the mat on her website, and you can find her on Facebook and on Twitter.

Live Strong. Feel Beautiful

Strong Girls Yoga for Tweens & Teens

Tuesdays @ The Yoga Room
3:00-4:00pm
$15 drop-in welcome. 
 

Today at SG Yoga I’ll be putting my old Yoga Journals to good use! Each student will get one magazine (picked for them based on their interests and personal goals) to look over and get inspired by. Next week I’ll ask them to share one pose from their YJ magazine that moved them and riff on why, then we’ll go around in a circle and break each pose down in stages. It’s a really fun assignment, and can help demystify the trickier looking poses y making them accessible at a beginner’s level. Not only is this fun, but it’s really empowering.

Yoga Journal Magazines

Then we’ll be incorporating last week’s home work assignment into our flow practice, and hold space for some of the self-esteem issues that may or may not come up in our post-flow discussion.

SG HW week oneI am so honored to be working with these amazing young women. If only I had started a yoga practice at their age!

Live Strong. Feel Beautiful!

For more information about the Strong Girls Yoga class, please click here

 

Fluid Grace: A Vinyasa Flow Master Class

Shri Studio

Pawtucket, RI

Friday, December 14th, 2012 5:30-7:30pm $25

Please join Caitlin at Shri, Pawtucket’s only urban revitalization yoga studio, for this vinyasa flow master class. Caitlin will be picking up where she left off at Shri last May, leading you through looping and folding vinyasas with precision alignment and thoughtful placement. Link you breath with your body and surrender deeper into your heart’s wisdom and connect with Grace.

Please register well in advance by registering online here.

97.7 ACK FM Interview with Sandy Walsh

Speaking up for Yoga on Nantucket

On August 15th, 2012, Caitlin stopped by the recording studio at 97.7 ACK FM, “Nantucket’s True Island Radio”, and was interviewed by Sandy Walsh, where she spoke about her career teaching yoga,  her role as The Yoga Room’s Workshop Producer and the most recent workshop she’s produced for TYR, Flight of the Yogi with Kathryn Budig. The 8 minute interview can be heard here: 97.7 ACK FM radio interview with Caitlin .

This is Sandy, very at home in Mission Control.