Ahymsin Newsletter: Yoga is Samadhi

Because I Still Can

by Roxanne Currie

The sun spills its warm happy cheer onto my meditation seat.  "Don't think about it" 

I think. 

I straighten my spine and exhale from my diaphragm, the bottom of the exhalation breaks into waves of gentle contractions that strokes my heart from within and empties my lungs more completely.  

"Get it out" I think.  I do alternate nostril breathing until my breathing is smooth again.  I stand up, unfolding in the sunlight, forehead last to protect this old lady’s creaking neck.

Flat on my chest with palms below my shoulders, I felt a needle in my left breast during hatha.  Later, when I took off my bra I found tiny pinpoints of blood in my bra.  That's not supposed to be there, I scratch my head. 

I am mystified.  Did I put something in my bra? Yes, cell phone, car keys, thirty-seven cents, but nothing that should have hurt me.

The surgeon said it was like a little warty frond with a point that punctured the duct and leaked some tiny pinpoints of blood.  He said it was nothing to worry about and he surgically removed it.

There is no breast cancer in my family, of sisters, mother's twin sister's girls -  implants yes, no cancer.

I'm a yogi.  I don't drink alcohol or caffeine.  I quit smoking cigarettes when I was about fifty, about fifteen years ago.  I haven't eaten meat since the meat boycott of 1972.

I had a follow up visit, then forgot about the dagger-frond for a couple of years, when I felt the needle again. At her office my doctor says "Hmmm, no mammogram last year?”

"There's no history of breast cancer in my family, none.  Not one.  I don't do self exams because I never find anything." I say. “Except for this tiny dagger in my breast", I think.

I give in; I have the mammogram and it feels like the tech parked her car on 2 cold steel plates that hold a vice grip on my chest.  "Don't breathe" she says, as if I could.

I have an ultra sound that leaves my chest full of cold goo, and that hurts too.  Then a doctor who has a bad head cold comes in and sticks a real needle into my breast, and I jump, just a bit.  "You see that bubble of Lydocaine?  It's not dispersing." He's talking to the nurses; each one holds one of my hands.  

This isn't good I think.

The doctor has a mask he's now wearing a little too cavalierly for me; it’s slipping off his face, and he uses his hand to hold it in front of his mouth "Now that wasn't so bad was it?" he says.

I wait a few moments, thinking do I say no and make him feel better, but what comes out is a breathless “Are. you. kidding me?" 

“We need your okay to implant this tiny titanium chip so we can see it in the ultrasound.”  

“Sure. Okay,” I say. It’s so tiny even magnified I can barely see it.

Then another ultrasound leaves me feeling used and nasty with more cold wet goo.

I wait.  Can it be I'm just so distracted it's affecting my thinking processes or has it traveled to my brain?  I can’t remember things in the weeks leading up to this event.  It’s Seasonal Affective Disorder season so I up the dose of anti depressant to “winter” level, and I sleep better, but it doesn’t really help the holes in my memory like it usually did in the past.

I go into work early on Friday morning so as to get some work done before the store opens. At work I can't remember the combination to the safe at first.  It's like I'm wrapped up in cotton; everything is slow and thick as I dress for work on the day the nurse said they might call.  Something's weird here; I break my own rule and listen to my iPod with earbuds on my way to work even though I feel they may harm my hearing.  I stop and get a spinach and feta scone from the place I usually skip due to the cost and the calories, but I think everything is out of order.

My phone rings and a voice says "This is the nurse, Diane,  remember from the Hope Chest Breast Health Center. Are you someplace where we can talk?"

"Sure" I say "go ahead."  I’m alone in Fine Jewelry at Macy’s two hours before the store opens.

"You have an invasive carcinoma.  You have breast cancer."  I write it down.  She says I can call her any time to talk about this.

My boss and supervisors gather around and ask how they can help.  I can’t afford to go for long without working.  I say I'll be back in again on Monday.

As I walk home I feel like I am in a cloud.  I think vaguely ‘I can do whatever I want.  I can shoot heroin if I want to.’ I feel I am no longer of any consequence, like I am vapor.  I don't really want to shoot heroin.

A man steps in front of me, and the heavy door to the Wells Fargo building hits me in the chest before I can catch it.  Asshole, I think, I should tell him; he’d feel really bad he let the door slam on a little old woman’s chest during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  But it wouldn’t make me feel any better. 

I make some phone calls to my daughter, whom I can’t find; my son in law, who makes me laugh; my sweetheart, who shows up immediately; my friend comes too and gives me a pink quartz heart that fits into the palm of my hand, then into my bra.  My roommate has a hug for me.

I go to my meditation seat, straighten my spine and exhale.  And as I exhale, I relax my face into a smile.  “Relax, relax,” I hear my Guruji speaking within my memory.

The sunlight again pours itself onto my meditation seat.  I uncurl in it. I sit.  I exhale from my diaphragm and I smile, just because I still can.  As my granddaughter Hazel once said “It’s more fun than crying.”

Update (Written 11 November 2015)

Everybody wants to tell me about their cancer and what they did.  I’m interested, really, but feel each person is different and needs their own treatment plan with their medical team. 

Touched by a quote about illness and health from a Jon Kabat Zinn’s point of view “As long as you’re still breathing there’s more right with you than wrong.  Let’s focus on the breath and leave the rest to the Medical Team.” I am determined this is the only advice I’ll need.

And so I breathe, smoothly and deeply, allowing my diaphragm to stroke my heart and empty my lungs completely and send some endorphins like love notes to my own brain, sobbing now and then.  I feel close to tears all the time. I try not to freak out.  I have a calm exterior, but inner turbulence, worry and fears.

I tell friends, family and work associates and am touched by every single one’s heartfelt prayers. The breath gets ragged, and tears come and go.  I’m not good at being on the receiving end of kindness. 

Now I have to let people be nice to me for a weekend and a few days leading up to the surgery.  The Meditation Center women are all generous, caring, thoughtful, the heart of the community, Phyllis, Jean and Georgeann, are the breath of the Tradition. 

Co-worker, Hubert, made pink cancer-awareness ribbons for our co-workers at Macy’s for support of my surgery and healing.

At least once an hour in the days leading up to the surgery I visualize, I imagine the tumor separating itself from the part that is me.  I see the strings of fiber that connect the tumor unraveling and the tumor encapsulating itself, getting ready for Dr. Dana to cut and slip it out of my chest like the foreign thing that it is, the dagger I’ve grown in my breast.

My best friend insists on sleeping on the floor so his presence wouldn’t bother my sleep.  He says he’s not going anywhere.  Tears slide down my cheeks.  

I’ve heard that cancer heals the people around the patient and I want everyone to have the opportunity for healing.  My dear sisters, my daughter and granddaughter Hazel and I have dinner together for my birthday for the first time.  Healing of all kinds occur spontaneously.  

Hazel comes to my place for a sleepover and she’s excited to tell me she has new eyeglasses.  “Grandma, I tried on every pair of glasses in the whole store.” she said. I laugh; they are exactly like mine. 

We meditate together. 

“Hey, Grandma, guess what?  I’m a writer!”  Hazel said when she was doing her homework. 

“That is awesome!  Are you ready to read it to me?” I ask, and I am captivated by her story of time travel and an ominous, threatening creature.  Four pages of text handwritten in pencil, and in English!

“My friend is illustrating it” Hazel says, and she shows me drawings of the main characters.  

I am so excited.

The next day my sweetheart and I go to see Dr Dana for the final summary and pathology report.  

“We don’t use the word ‘cured’ when we’re talking about cancer, but it’s gone,” Dr Dana said.  “The margins were clear, the lymph nodes are clear, your cancer is gone”.

The margins were clear, just as I pictured them, encapsulated, but I felt the real healing tool here was prayer.  I literally felt prayers washing over me from all over the world. 

We talk about radiation and hormone therapy.  I will consult with an Oncologist and Radiologist, and I’ll meditate.  Because I am so very grateful I still can.

Editor’s Note:

Roxanne Currie is a writer, grandmother, practitioner of Raja Yoga. She maintained her yoga practice since she was introduced to Swami Rama and his teachings in 1968. She received mantra initiation from Swami Veda Bharati, formerly Dr. Usharbudh Arya, to the Himalayan Tradition in 1972, and became certified to teach in 2008.  She teaches yoga in the Minneapolis, Minnesota, area.

We invite you to visit her website: www.goodmedicineyoga.com

Roxanne has a Good Medicine Yoga DVD entitled “Stretch Breathe Relax.” Please see http://www.goodmedicineyoga.com/htmlsite/products.html     It is also available at the online bookstore of The Meditation Center, which ships nationally and internationally, and is under the title “Good Medicine Yoga DVD.”

She has written a series of articles for the AHYMSIN Newsletter called The Hazel Diaries, I – IX. Here is a link to the ninth of these articles http://www.ahymsin.org/docs2/News/1506Jun/11.html  Links to the other articles can be found at the end.



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