October is well known as Breast Cancer and Liver Cancer Awareness Month. February is National Cancer Prevention Month. We recognize the value of these campaigns during certain times of the year; at Refresh, we treat every day as a chance to take ownership of our health. It’s difficult to imagine, but many of our students are silently and bravely fighting their battles with cell invaders. These are your classmates on the mat next to you. A few have offered to share a little of their experiences, offer insight on how they use yoga to get through it all, and describe what people can say to help them in their fight. Read below to learn their story. 

Christina F. 

I was diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC) in December 2016. I was about a year and half overdue for my mammogram, and I’m BRCA 1 positive with a history of cancer in my family, so missing appointments was an issue. I knew my health was spiraling down the toilet. When I made the appointment, I had an awful feeling in my stomach that my body didn’t feel right. I knew I had fibercystic breasts so it was hard to tell at the time what was what. The scans confirmed that there was an abnormal mass. When I knew what I where it was I could feel the difference in the mass from the other lumps . I had two cancer masses that were found in the scans and confirmed with biopsies — one in the breast and one lymph node.

I use yoga in my fight against cancer in a variety of ways — mental, physical, spiritual, and well-being. Mental — my yoga practice at Refresh gave me a chance to clear my head and release some of the stress. Svasana or certain stretches would trigger a release of emotion. It was a safe place where I didn’t have to be strong. Physical — after chemo and surgery, the poses helped stretch the impacted muscles. It also is helping me build strength in my shoulders.There was a two-week challenge right after my first surgery, and it inspired me to push myself back to healing, and I won the challenge!  Spiritual — it’s an opportunity to be still, grateful, and kind to myself, deepening my sense of spirituality. Well-being — one of the best parts is meeting new people and having an opportunity to be a part of

a community. Being a member feels like being a part of a new family, surrounded by people who are as passionate about wellness as I now am.

I rely on other tools as well. The list is extensive (walking, rebounding, meditation, juicing, vegan diet, supplements, chiropractor, etc), though yoga is one of my favorites!

What can people say or shouldn’t say? What can they do?

People can always keep people in their thoughts, set special intentions for them and see them healing, or send a prayer.

People should talk to their doctor about their predisposition to cancer. Prevent Cancer Foundation has a free tool that can be downloaded so people can document their family health. People also can talk to their doctor about genetic testing.

Each person with cancer is different. Some are looking for advice and some just want to vent. Each person has a different comfort level with how much they are willing to share. Some people need you to be their ray of sunshine. Some people just need a simple kind gesture — make a meal for them (preferably with lots of vegetables), take out their garbage, send them an Amazon gift card, send them a spa gift card, send them a thoughtful card.  Or, offer to take them to appointments if you can.

Thank you Christina for your strength and bravery and for telling us your story.

Refresh Yoga Center is a community located in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. We welcome all people to share a passion for health, well-being, and love.