On January 1st 2010, I was on top of the world; my dream career of teaching yoga and writing full-time was taking off. I was in a happy and healthy relationship. Life was beautiful. Cancer changed everything overnight. Over the course of that year, I had two surgeries, lost my hair to six rounds of aggressive chemotherapy, and endured 7 weeks of radiation.
The time is now to live your life. You’d think I wouldn’t need a reminder, especially not one in the form of cancer. After all, in 6th grade I’d won a contest for writing the best essay entitled “The Time is Now”. Seriously. The dubious reward for this honor was reading the essay over the morning announcements to the ENTIRE school. Not my best day in the lunchroom.
Before cancer, I lived my life in the here and now. I already knew first-hand that your loved ones can be snatched from you too soon. I’ve lost 3 brothers, 2 to AIDS, and my sister is a 9-year breast cancer survivor. I know loss. I know grief. So, I never hesitated to take risks, to make changes, to shift gears, switch careers, you name it. I’ve always squeezed all that I could out of every day.
And, then, I got cancer.
I’m not going to lie. Treatment sucked. Being forced to slow down and alter my busy schedule drove me crazy. I am a DOER and I felt stagnant. Often, when I was recuperating after a particularly debilitating round of chemotherapy, I felt like the world was passing me by. I felt stuck in neutral: not moving forward, unable to look back. Some days, I felt like the only person on earth.
I embraced the yogic wisdom that I taught daily to my students and did my best to live in the present through my cancer journey. Teaching and practicing yoga kept me sane.
“Being able to lose myself in the joy of stepping onto the mat or guiding my students through practice was a blessed escape from my own story, which at times was very dark.”So, I scheduled positive experiences to balance out the dark. To live my yoga off the mat, if you will. While going through chemo myself, I earned my certification to teach yoga for cancer recovery. For the last 3 rounds of chemo, my boyfriend and I took some great trips together. I didn’t want to postpone travel and pleasure; I wanted to live in the moment, despite the baldness and pain.
Often, you hear survivors describing cancer as a gift. This description doesn’t really resonate with me: I would have been just fine without unwrapping this surprise, thank you very much. Nonetheless, cancer did bestow upon me an incredible lesson: I learned how to accept love and support.
I’ve always been independent, always taken care of myself, and always prided myself on keeping it together. Well, I got to the point where I couldn’t keep it together, where I couldn’t take care of myself, and something profound happened. When I let go of control, a huge groundswell of support, love, and generosity enveloped me. Not just my wonderful boyfriend, not just my family and close circle of friends. No, acquaintances, strangers, blog followers, you name it. People’s incredible kindness and caring humbled me. Letting go of control gave me the biggest gift: learning to truly receive.
Living in the present moment, regardless of circumstances. Accepting that I can’t do everything myself. Receiving love and support without feeling like I owe anyone in return. Lessons from cancer and lessons from yoga. For me, the two are now forever entertwined. We only have one life this time around: live it without restraint.
Written by Claire Petretti-Marti RYT-500 Yoga teacherwww.oceansoulyoga.comPlease check out Claire’s memoir, Come Ride with Me Along the Big C on Amazon or pick one up at the River!