It was an honor to be part of the group of eBella's featured women in the community!
In October of 2017, eBella Magazine asked to write my story about dealing with cancer, yoga and how those things shaped the work I do today. eBella features women that are inspiring and empowering. My story was published in the December 2017 issue. I have added it below along with a bit about the non-profit foundation that I started, Survive & Thrive.
Experiencing everything, even cancer, offers release. Yoga provides a pathway.
Being diagnosed with Stage II Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2006 continues to be a experience of personal evolution. Now, with several years behind me, my yoga practice helps me to understand more clearly the lessons that were planted back then.
I remember the exact moment when my life began to change. I was newly married, waitressing, uninsured and for all I knew I was healthy. A distance runner since I was a teenager, and at that point a casual yoga practitioner. One afternoon, while I was working I felt a golfball size lymph node in my neck. My heart sank.
After a few weeks I went to the E.R. From there, grace carried me, because I was funneled into a county system for working uninsured people and I was able to get the care and the treatments I needed to save my life.
After a biopsy was performed, I went back a week later for the results. I remember being slightly annoyed that I had to go back because I still believed I was fine. When the surgeon walked in he did not hesitate to tell me it was cancer and the immediate plans involved chemotherapy and radiation. In spite of my terror, I was told that Hodgkins Lymphoma could be cured with a specific protocol. I was scared; I was stunned.
Experiencing a traumatic event could make us present. It is also difficult to see beyond the desire to ease suffering, whether it be physical or emotional. Suddenly my life became about getting through treatments, doctor visits, changing relationships, confronting mortality. My life became putting one foot in front of the other trying to survive. What I am saying is that everything else got pushed aside; previous goals, desires, issues that I had been working through were no longer priorities All of my energy was directed to surviving the storm I was experiencing.
The thing is, once my doctor visits were over and everyone assumed business as usual....all that stuff that was pushed away was still there, possibly with greater force. This is where my yoga practice became the pathway to healing.
Yoga invites us to take a conscious breath, a breath that reminds us how we are alive. Our breath is what connects us to life and that is powerful. Yoga is based on the breath. Each moment our mind can lead us to freedom and health or makes us sick. Taming the fluctuations of the mind is challenging , especially as a cancer survivor. Working through issues of worthiness, fear, anger, grief, and more is overwhelming. Yoga invites us to step into the unknown and embrace each moment presented. Some moments are pure joy and other complete agony and everything in between. This is the human experience.
After I completed treatment protocol and final P.E.T scan to see if it worked, my oncologist did not hesitate to tell me that my scan was clear and he added I should “ go and enjoy my life.” Woah! Just like that? Enjoy my life? All of that had to mean something: Was I really going to just press play and things would be the same? Well, not quite. It turned out to be a complete reboot. My physical body was alive, but my mind/body was a mess.
Post cancer was awkward ground to navigate, because I had a perception of myself pre cancer. When I stepped back into my life, I face planted. Faced with loss of strength, lung capacity, confidence change
in appearance and basically feeling like an alien, What was l? At age 30 I knew I had a second chance, but at the time I was just trying to survive my own mental jungle.
The first few years post cancer were very unnerving for me... I was afraid that cancer never really went away. I was pressured financially too, and my only option for health insurance benefits was to work for a corporation. After a while, however, I became unhappy with my job. It felt toxic and it wasn’t worth staying just for health care coverage, since I knew high stress levels would eventually make me sick all over again. When I went out for my first run after being cured, I returned home after 15 minutes with bloody knees and completely out of breath. This is when the internal healing began. I also realized that my marriage was not right for me. Post cancer went from an interruption to what was going to be a life overhaul.
When life calls us to take a deeper look, as scary as it can be, we must listen.Otherwise, the call will keep getting louder. To make this meaningful, we need to take the lessons of yoga OFF the mat and into our lives. Then, we navigate our lives with more mindfulness: we start to collaborate on how our lives unfold.
I used to wonder if after cancer my life would ever be the same again. Now I can say thank goodness it is not! My yoga practice was and continues to be what helps me let go and keep moving forward. A yoga practice is my greatest form of health insurance and most importantly reminds that grace is always present.
~ Wendy Campbell
P.S. That run that knocked me down? It inspired me. I ran my first marathon six month later and four total that year!
Survive & Thrive was established to serve as a supportive transitioning agent for those living with, through and beyond cancer. My vision comes from my journey of living with and healing from cancer. As dedicated yoga instructor with specialized training in yoga for cancer, I believe that yoga is a tool of empowerment that can lead us toward greater health and vitality. Yoga affects all aspects of life during all stages of healing. Survive & Thrive offers yoga instruction and mindfulness techniques based on cancer-sensitivity programming. Services include; cancer specific yoga classes and workshops, individualized wellness curriculums, retreats, community wellness events and speaking engagements. We are a nonprofit organization, our programs are funded by donations and grants. These funds make our work possible. Donate here!