Today marks 3 years since I got the call confirming what I already knew… And what we all now know.
What I didn’t know at that time was- What would happen to the baby growing inside of me? What would my husband and 1 year old do if something happened to me? How would I choose to handle the news? And I definitely did not comprehend how dramatically my life and outlook on life would change.
That call obviously shook my world and the world of my family and friends. And I often wonder if baby Wyatt could feel it too. But after speaking with my team of doctors, my first concern was addressed. The baby in my belly would be perfect… and he is. Sometimes a perfect pain in the keister but still perfect.
And thankfully I am still here to witness the great father John is to our little humans. And I get to see Harlon growing up to be an amazing child. AND it turns out, I handled the diagnosis and what followed pretty OK. Of course, I had and continue to have my shit days. And my complete shit days. And my “I’m never leaving my bed because life isn’t fair” shit days. But I try to keep a positive outlook as often as possible (while giving myself permission to throw the occasional pity party). And I remind myself that I get to choose if I walk around miserable and mean or if I want to choose to look at the positives and radiate joy.
This way of thinking is not for everyone, I get that. And I have never tried to push my views on life onto anyone else. I mean, we all get to walk our own paths. But I remember reading a quote by another survivor right after I was diagnosed which said “Breast cancer can change you, but the change can be beautiful”. I have tried to wholeheartedly embody that idea by looking for the beauty even when it seems to be pure shit surrounding me.
I know I don’t post very often about my story anymore. But it’s not because I am “all better” or “over it”, but it’s because I am busy living this life I’ve been blessed with, spending my time with the people I love and who spark pure joy in my heart. This disease has taught me what is important and what is not, where I want to focus my energy and where I can let go. I am busy with my family, teaching yoga, supporting others who’ve been diagnosed, working on projects… all with the goal to leave the world better and more joyous than I found it and to be the light for others when the darkness tries to consume them.
Truthfully, anxiety still haunts me, as it always has. And I’m not sure if I’ll ever get past the feeling of ‘running out of time’. But life continues to be put into perspective and it’s nice to know we are all in this together…
So cheers to many, MANY, M A N Y more years to come!
I met Mary Baker – CFO & Co-founder of Be Well Yoga for Cancer Recovery- earlier this Spring when I attended Be Well’s yoga teacher training. I felt an immediate connection with the program and the founders. I am honored to be a Be Well graduate and am so grateful to have Mary and Heidi in my life. They are supportive, caring, compassionate, smart, dedicated… I could go on! Here is Mary and Be Well’s story!
Tell us your story. What is your program all about and how did you find yourself involved?
Be Well came to life on a road trip home from a 10 day long training that my friend and now business partner, Heidi Borsch, and I attended together back in 2014. Heidi and I both lost parents to cancer and sought out training to learn how to use yoga and mindfulness practices with the cancer population. One year later, Be Well became an official 501(c)3 nonprofit and has been serving the cancer community for over 6 years. Be Well offers 12 weekly Yoga for Cancer Recovery classes that are specifically tailored to the unique needs of cancer patients. Currently we serve the North County San Diego and Riverside County areas, with a brand new class coming in September to the OC!! (Led by two amazing Be Well Graduates – Jessica Beese Filloon and Jenny Jensen!)
Three years ago, Be Well formed its 55-hour Teacher Training Program to help get more Yoga for Cancer trained teachers into the community. Since inception, we have trained just under 50 individuals ranging from cancer survivors to medical doctors, all with a passion to serve the cancer community.
What populations / areas do you serve?
Our primary population is those who are living with a cancer diagnosis. We deal with all cancers, with breast cancer being our highest percentage of students. We also welcome caregivers, friends and family members to attend class with their survivor. We know firsthand the direct impact both cancer and yoga can have on everyone, and we love to see the positive effect our Be Well program has on everyone who comes to class!
What are the main obstacles that stand between you and your mission, and what ways do you find to overcome them?
The biggest obstacle we face on an on-going basis is funding (which is the case with any nonprofit). Finding creative ways to get money to keep our program running and growing is always at the top of our agenda. Secondly, an obstacle we face is continuing to get word out to the world about our program so our classes and training sessions can grow as well!
Program aside, tell us about yourselves. What makes you, YOU!
Heidi and I joke that we share a brain! We are very much a yin/yang pair in personality, temperament, and appearance – but our differences also make us a perfect match like the two hemispheres of one big brain! We are both passionate about what we do and both agree that teaching our Yoga for Cancer classes are the highlight of each and every week. Heidi is definitely the creative one – she loves painting, making jewelry, and other crafty activities. I am more of an active, fitness junkie and when I’m not teaching yoga you’ll find me out hiking or at the Crossfit gym getting my sweat on!
How has C directly impacted your own life?
For both of us, cancer took away a dear loved one. Heidi was a young mother when her own mom died of ovarian cancer and I lost both of my parents within a 6 month time frame in my early 40’s. This was a life changer for us and we both felt deeply that we needed to give back in some way, to do what we could now and moving forward to help others who are living with cancer and those who are caring for loved ones with the disease.
What are your go-to acts of self care?
There are definitely real side effects of our work with the cancer population. Over the past 6 years, we have lost more than 6 very special students and friends and each one is a challenge. We give ourselves time to feel and to grieve and we also acknowledge that the time we were able to spend with them was time that made a difference in the quality of their life. We also make sure that we do our self-care – meditation, yoga, exercise, time with loved ones – are all part of our daily routine to keep life in balance.
What have you learned about yourself and the C community since starting with your program?
Cancer, whether you have it personally, or you experience it through a loved one, changes everything. It completely alters your outlook on life. Every day is a precious gift. Each breath an unrepeatable moment in time. We both feel that we have been able to really tap into our compassionate, nurturing natures and share our gifts doing something we dearly love.
If you could share any piece of advice for someone who has been diagnosed, what would it be?
DO BE WELL YOGA!!!!!!
Do you have a favorite quote, mantra, phrase, or curse word?
Hmm that’s a tough one! We use quotes and mantras for all of our classes and over these many years I have found SO many good ones!!! I’ll share with you the very first quote I used at my very first yoga class and which I still feel is incredibly important for everyone to remember: “When you own your breath, no one can steal your peace” Teaching our students, especially our cancer students, to breathe well is one of the most important things we do in our classes. They can take that skill everywhere and into every situation. Time and time again they tell us how much learning to breathe properly has positively impacted their lives.
What are the latest happenings with your program right now?
Coming up next – our Fall training! We are still seeking a few more qualified individuals to join us on the journey of becoming a Be Well Certified Yoga for Cancer teacher!! www.bewelltherapy.net/teacher-training
Last week, when I got the call to schedule my oncology follow up, I was totally thrown off when they told me I would be seeing the Nurse Practitioner instead of my oncologist. I panicked… I stuttered… I asked if he was sure about three times. And finally left the conversation saying “Well, I guess this is a good sign… I’ve graduated… yeah?…”
The thing is, I just really love seeing my oncologist. She’s smart, confident, and knows how to talk me down when I start to totally lose my shit. Thankfully the NP was great too. She took the time to look over my chart before walking in and looked right at Wyatt, recognizing that he was the dude in my belly when I was diagnosed.
The overall appointment went well. The NP didn’t flinch when I told her I would not be getting reconstruction when asked. She was super cool with my kids being crazy people in the tiny exam room. She listened to my anxious word vomit when we discussed my consistently low white blood cell count…
Yeah, so that’s been a thing for the last several months. There is no answer as to why the counts are low. So I am being monitored for the next 4 months, getting blood tests every 4 weeks. If there is still no answer after all of these tests and follow ups, my future may hold a bone marrow biopsy which apparently hurts like hell. My oncologist did poke her head in during my appointment to say hi to the kids and I and did not seem too concerned but agrees to the nurse’s plan of monthly blood tests and followup.
Funny thing is I feel totally fine- other than not sleeping, which has been ongoing for nearly a year now. So I’m super interested to see what we find out.
As always, stay tuned for updates.
Until then, look below to see my kids on my ol’ stomping ground. No, not SDSU, not Tracy High. Good Old Kaiser. Those two are kinda a big deal….