In June 2013 1 was diagnosed with Grade 3 breast cancer.
Like many women and mothers, the only coping mechanism I felt I had for something so huge was to keep calm and carry on, in other words, to fall into complete denial.
Like previous times in my life, the trauma of this life event completely threw me out of touch with my body, I could not allow myself to feel the intense fear I was feeling, not for me but for my children.
I was somewhere out there, not even watching anymore.
It was not until the drive to the hospital three months later to have a double mastectomy that the screaming came.
Such overwhelming fear that I was losing my femininity. The boobies that appeared one day to a freckle-faced young girl in the form of two bee-stung lumps that I was so chuffed to bits with and turned my slim body into the symbol of a woman. The boobies that had soothed and nourished four beautiful babies and held them close.
Was I having my woman-ness taken? What of the dreams that I had not fulfilled? The grandchildren I wanted to see? The sunset in faraway places. My daughter’s prom?
My cancer journey of recovery was extremely heart wrenching, physically, mentally and emotionally.
I felt no one understood, that my words were just not enough to express to convey how I was feeling or what I needed. I felt a burden and a drag to my children and friends. I felt responsible for causing them such pain and tears again. I was their mother and meant to protect them from pain, not be the cause of it. I no longer felt at peace inside myself, these new boobies that were being expanded fortnightly were pulling and stretching and causing agony and distress. They were wearing me like a new pair of shoes wear us for a while, I did not know how to fit into them because the only feeling associated with them was fear and pain.
I felt a failure, after years of tantra and meditation and yoga I was not able to find my way back into my body, it just seemed a scary place to live. It seemed impossible to sink in or immerse into meditation for wherever I was, so followed the physical pain. There seemed to be no place to take space, to breath and rest and besides who was I now?
I wanted to come home to myself, to not be cancer, or the woman with fake boobies but to be Michelle, a mum, a friend, a lover, a teacher.
So I threw myself back into my old class of yoga. And it was impossible. My body was not the same, I was not the same. How could I expect my body to move and feel as it did before? Why was I being so unkind to myself, setting goals that were not based on who I was, but who I had been.
Feeling more and more isolated and misunderstood even by my own species.
I gave up.
And then one day after a dark winter, it came to me I could still live my dreams and passions, I just needed to alter them. I decided to complete my yoga training, not to offer what people “think” yoga is about, but to offer what was very much needed…
The core truth that yoga is for every BODY and simply invites us to be at ease within our own skin.
I set out determined, with a fire in my belly to share the wisdom learned. I wanted to give to other women that which I had felt was missing and had been hungry for during my cancer journey….
A safe space to breath out.
A neutral place to just rest.
To learn and trust the body and not view it as the enemy.
To embrace presence so that the fear of time watching could disperse.
To come home to the body and fill it once again from the inside out.
The nourishment of a compassionate woman and a fearless voice.
To speak and be heard without worrying about upsetting others.
To be held by our environment so we can open and listen to our own needs.
A held space to reclaim our femininity and identity.
A held space to witness fears, accept and let go.
I explored, tasted, loved and threw away many yoga approaches.
I was laughed at for trying, belittled in front of other women.
I tried following guidance and not listening to my body but forcing it into the empty shapes the teacher thought was best for me.
Until it happened …
A deeper listening to the needs and wisdom of my body and a courage to follow that listening.
During my cancer journey, I studied with teachers who “thought” they understood and amazing teachers who had not “been there” and yet held a space for me to explore and sink. They had the patience and love to let me discover for myself and support me in birthing that which my soul knew we women needed to recover and heal in our own unique process, combining a delicious movement made from the compassion of experience and the love of yoga and tantra..
Three years later after the diagnosis, a year of surgery and treatment and then an intense and honest study of myself, yoga and that which I feel is terribly missing to support women living with cancer…
A new baby has been born from my cancer journey.
An inspiration from my heart for others ~