Benefits of Yoga by a Cancer Patient/Survivor
I began practicing Yoga in the early 1970’s and through the years since have practiced it continuously for myself, in varying rates of commitment. I know it has benefited me with increased well being, balanced flexibility, toned muscles and a relaxed, focused state of mind. Since 2012, I have participated at various times in three offered yoga classes through the generosity of the Beth Wright Cancer Resource Center.
At 59 years old in the late winter of 2011, I was diagnosed with High Risk Multiple Myeloma at Stage III. My first meeting with my local Oncologist after she consulted with my myeloma specialist resulted in scheduling immediate treatment with high-dose chemotherapy in hopes of preventing further involvement. My prognosis was bleak.
I was treated for my bone cancer, four compression fractures and accompanying plasmatoma (a group of cancer cells outside the bone) along my spine near the fractures. I was given a strong pain reliever to use, which, after two months, I found to be only masking the pain and causing constipation and disruption in cognitive acuity. ·
While being treated with chemotherapy through August, the sharp pain near my spinal compression fractures continued. I intuitively began stretching and continuing to practice gentle yoga at home to hopefully alleviate this pain. Daily I stretched, and I was able, with yoga practice, to improve my pain and decrease the frequency of the strong pain medication and its side effects.
I felt I needed a more structured yoga class and support for my situation. My doctors determined that my response was very good and I had reached a state of remission. Myeloma has no cure so remission is the goal, followed by a reduced dose of maintenance medication. My doctors gave me cautious approval to enroll in a yoga class.
With my improved sense of well being, I began to participate in offered classes at the Beth Wright Cancer Resource Center. I immediately enrolled in their offered yoga class to help with pain and recuperation. My subtype of myeloma is generally managed with continued chemotherapy drugs to maintain a remission, each having some side effects that may hinder physical, emotional, and cognitive well being. Quality of Life has been a priority choice for me from the beginning.
I attended a gentle yoga class and added the intermediate class, both instructed by Naomi Greychase, RYT at the Ellsworth site, when I felt well enough to increase my participation with the benefits I was feeling. Eventually my cancer relapsed, and needed repairs on my car, prevented me from traveling the 30-40 minutes twice each week to attend yoga at the Center in Ellsworth. My participation and volunteer time on those days waned. With new chemotherapy working to help my myeloma, I was ready to return to class, albeit weakened, and regain my health once again.
Examples of side effects from my cancer and chemotherapy treatments that I feel have improved with Yoga instruction and practice include: bone, joint and muscle pain, fatigue, constipation, improved breathing, increased relaxation, and sense of well being. I particularly find benefit from the inward focus involved, when so much time with cancer is outwardly consumed with appointments and treatments.
I was thrilled when the BWC was able to offer a similar class closer to my location in the Blue Hill-Deer Isle area at the Blue Hill Center for Yoga and Wellness with David Walker, CYT. David is highly regarded by many individuals in the community for his dedication to health and wellness practices
I have been very pleased with the class. It includes time for warm-up and routine yoga practice, some more challenging positions with necessary cautions, as well as the use of equipment that enhances the benefits of certain positions. The class also includes relaxation and meditation time with chants, breath focus, and mantras that aid inward focus. This is extended with a recited poem or tones from David’s flute. Each class creates a total yoga experience of well being. I leave feeling invigorated.
The class is always a new and varied experience and expertly addresses the needs of those attending. David is able to adjust practice based on the number of attendees and the issues and health concerns raised during open sharing time. Health concerns gleaned from this sharing can then be addressed specifically with yoga positions and practices only benefiting individual and group and well being. It also allows for being open and empathetic to others’ experiences and gives opportunity to learn what has helped, or might be considered for our own needs.
Additional health benefits I have experienced from yoga instruction and the time for sharing personal concerns include improved balance with a reorientation of posture due to osteoporosis and myeloma bone involvement. Also I have significantly decreased use of pain medication and at a much lower dosage. Our class also includes practices which enhance blood circulation flow, and lymph system drainage.
David’s sharing of knowledge and experience from his longtime involvement and dedication to yoga and wellness practices with many individuals in the community is an added benefit.
His work as a yoga instructor and trained health consultant at the center, is complemented by his position as Wellness Manager of health care products offered at the Blue Hill Co-op. This allows for further in depth discussions and opportunity to have questions answered and options explored in a relaxed and supportive environment at both sites. He always provides details and options that individuals may consider for themselves and discuss with their doctor.
This integrative approach to the wealth of information available today, is a welcome addition to any individual ‘s healing. Prior to my cancer diagnosis I had seen improvement in my health with various therapies and advocated as such with my oncologists, asking for their support to continue with these as much as possible in an integrative manner with my chemotherapy. We met on an agreed plan that I believe my current well being confirms has been successful, as I look in four months, to my seventh year of survival,
I am most grateful to all those involved in this success, especially Beth Wright Center, and their yoga classes and instructors. Love, Light and Life to you.