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Finding flow after the finish line

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Life before cancer was always a sprint, and in my pre-cancer days, running was my sanctuary. Not for the medals or the accolades but for the pure, unfiltered joy it brought. Over a dozen half marathons and one deeply cherished full marathon were fun achievements on my mission to chase a runner’s high constantly. For me, every mile was less a race and more a rhythmic meditation. I was, unabashedly, a cardio junkie.

However, life has its twists and turns, and my breast cancer diagnosis was the curveball I never saw coming. Being diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer forced me to reevaluate everything, especially how I approached my body’s needs. The diagnosis meant that I had to slow down, but it also presented an unexpected silver lining – the introduction to yoga.

Fear of recurrence is something that haunts most, if not all, cancer survivors. The mere thought of going through treatment again or facing the unknowns associated with recurrence can be paralyzing. For me, anxiety seemed to sneak into those silent moments, threatening to overshadow my joy of survivorship.

Yoga became my refuge. The synchronized breathing and fluid movements allowed me to focus on the present, silencing the ‘what ifs’ that anxiety brought. As I delved deeper into yoga, the mindfulness practices taught me to acknowledge my fears without allowing them to control me.

The aggressive treatments, while life-saving, took a toll on my body. My muscles ached, my joints were stiff, and the fatigue made my previous running routines seem impossible. Yoga offered a gentle way to regain strength, flexibility, and confidence in my body. With every pose and stretch, I felt more connected to myself and celebrated the little victories of recovery.

Evidence-based research consistently affirms the benefits of exercise for cancer survivors. According to the National Cancer Institute, regular exercise reduces fatigue, improves mood, and can even enhance overall survival rates for certain cancers. Furthermore, stress reduction techniques, like those found in yoga, have been linked to better immune function and improved overall health for cancer survivors.

While yoga brought peace and physical healing, joining a community of cancer survivors magnified my experience tenfold. Numerous studies highlight the vast benefits of community support on mental health during cancer treatment and survivorship. Research reviewed by the National Cancer Institute found that social support networks can significantly reduce anxiety and depression symptoms in cancer patients. The shared experiences, the mutual understanding, and the unwavering support became pillars of my recovery. Being surrounded by individuals who ‘get it’ is invaluable. Our struggles, fears, and triumphs tie us together in a bond that is unbreakable.

While I still cherish the memories of my marathon days, I’ve come to appreciate the slower, introspective pace of yoga. It’s been a transformative tool, teaching me to nourish both my soul and body in a wholly different manner post-diagnosis.

To all the survivors out there, I urge you to find your healing path. Be it yoga, another form of exercise, or simply finding your community – embrace what brings you peace and strength.

Remember, our life stories might have been punctuated by cancer, but our narratives are defined by resilience, recovery, and rejuvenation.

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