Coming back to Philadelphia, I knew there were a few things, other than glam shoes, I wanted to bring home from my London life. Yoga was one of them. I had a long relationship with yoga throughout the years. When I lived in New York, many moons ago, I started doing yoga every Sunday morning at my local gym. When I wanted to go deeper into the practice, I found a very special place that was Jivamukti Yoga. They had a very popular downtown center and a tiny uptown space on 66th and Lex. Downtown was a hive of activity, while uptown was a tiny haven for quiet and peace.
When I moved to London, it was really hard to find a place that compared. I stopped practicing until, miracle of miracles, Jiva opened a wonderful space in London (jivamuktiyogalondon.co.uk). Manizeh Rimer, Durga Devi, Cat Alip-Douglas, Emma Henry made it a home away from home and I was there constantly. I will never forgot their kindness and generosity when I was diagnosed with NHL. I was between the diagnosis and treatment stage, or, what I call, the “what the hell are we supposed to do with her” stage. Before I knew it was “watch and wait,” I wanted to make sure I was as fit as I could be before any treatment. The Jiva ladies donated their time to work with me one-on-one for three months. It made all the difference spiritually and physically.
In recent years, I had stopped doing yoga so much as my back was bothering me and had switched to Pilates (tenpilates.com). As much as love Ten Pilates, it never filled the spiritual void that yoga left.
Going into this adventure, I knew it was time to bring back the yoga, start meditating and doing anything else that might help the soul get calm as much as the body was getting battered. Jivamukti is given in Philadelphia but when Julie, the nurse, said to take it easy, I got scared of going gangbusters. There went my hope of not only coming out of this summer cancer-free but also with great biceps. One thing at a time.
The sister of one of my best friends specializes in Yoga for Cancer Patients in Minneapolis (Lura Shopteau, firstname.lastname@example.org). She recommended someone at University of Pennsylvania Hospital, where I was having my treatment, Fern Nibauer-Cohen (Fern.Nibauer-Cohen@uphs.upenn.edu). I explained my situation to her and she immediately went into action. She explained everything that the UPenn Integrative Medicine program had to offer. We met and talked through all my options. I WAS SO LUCKY! Fern is a dynamo of enthusiasm and kindness and warmth. She was ready and raring to go, having set up a yoga studio in one of the rooms in the hospital. We have met twice and our sessions are just as important to me as the chemo.
She also put me in touch with the Mindful Meditation unit, an Acupuncturist for my allergic reaction, and the Reiki people. I didn’t even know what Reiki was, but she said DON’T MISS IT!
Most importantly she complimented me on my shoes – this relationship will definitely last a long time!
These types of complementary medicine – as long as my oncologist approves – are equal in importance as my other treatments. Most hospitals in major cities now have Integrative or Wellness centers. Don’t be afraid to ask. There are also places like The Haven in London which provide services free to those suffering from cancer. Do your research. It can really help you!
It matters not if you can’t touch your toes or wrap your legs around your head, yoga is for everyone. Both the spiritual benefits as well as the physical cannot be emphasized enough. Nowadays, there are centers everywhere. All you need is google to find them. If you are going through chemo, make sure you take care of yourself and tell the instructor beforehand.
2. MINDFUL MEDITATION
Sick or not, if you haven’t read Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Rabat-Zinn, then rush out and get it now. It is amazingly helpful, especially if you live a really stressful life. I am too cynical to be a hippie, not into detoxing and have never done a juice fast, but this really works to calm your mind and keep you in the present. Even if you meditate five minutes a day, it is beneficial!
Had no idea what this was and now I cannot get enough. At UPenn, during chemo, Reiki is offered by volunteers. It is not to be missed. Hands on calming therapy that eases your mind and body. Divine
4. ASKING FOR HELP
All of these services are on offer at UPenn Hospital BUT if I had not asked, I probably would not have known. It is really important to know what your hospital offers as it could be really helpful for you during this difficult time.
5. OTHER ALTERNATIVE STUFF
A lot of people have advised me to take supplements, fast before chemo, eliminate foods completely from my diet. I so appreciate everyone’s input but what my doctor says, goes! I wanted to continue my Craniosacral Therapy. I had been a massage freak back in the old days, but people suffering from blood cancers can’t get massages. Elizabeth Reumont, not only a brilliant yoga instructor and dear friend, but also the best therapist ever, worked wonders on my stiff achy suffering bod many times (restorativebodywork.co.uk or freeliz.com). The doctor said wait until after chemo, so I shall.
Chemo is NOT easy…why not do something to help your mind and soul which in turn will help your body. Try one or all of the above!