By Guest Writer: Ashley Armstrong
This is the third October I’ve had the privilege of living through since my breast cancer diagnosis in 2016. The first one felt momentous, the second, a little less so. This one feels pretty much like any other month—a positive sign that I’m settling into my new life as a breast cancer survivor, I like to think!
Overcoming Breast Cancer
October is the time where I’m supposed to play the hero. I’ve slayed the dragon; I’m victorious over this disease. But the truth is that overcoming breast cancer is so much more than a David and Goliath story, and it takes so much more than just determination, grit, and a little luck. It takes perseverance and standing up for yourself to get the medical care you need. It takes flexibility and patience to submit to the fact that most of the time, you’re just along for the ride. And it takes resilience, a lot of it, to keep going when things get hard.
It takes a lot of little moments to overcome breast cancer, and none of them feel like heroic acts. They feel like doing what I have to do in order to get by. Looking back, though, I can see the sum of the parts. I see everything I clawed my way through, and it’s amazing to think that I did that.
Really, the question should be: how hasn’t yoga helped me? Yoga has been a constant in a time full of dramatic changes. It has been my physical therapy and my mental therapy. It has kept me strong and sane. But it has changed, too. I have less energy than I used to, and I don’t always have it in me for a vigorous vinyasa practice first thing every morning anymore. This has been an adjustment for me, and I’ve had to return to the principle of ahimsa, or non-violence. It reminds me to forgive myself for a practice that’s less perfect than I’d like it to be. My next yoga goal is to pay it forward. I recently completed a workshop on teaching yoga to breast cancer patients, and I’m excited to put my knowledge to work helping people.
The Struggles After Cancer Treatment
I had this naïve thought that after my treatment ended, I would be “done” with cancer. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Reminders of cancer creep into my life in small but noticeable ways. I take one medication to reduce the risk that my cancer will come back, and five more to manage the various side effects the first pill brings on. It’s a constant balancing act.
Advice For The Newly Diagnosed
Science has proven that optimistic people recover faster from surgery, resist infections, and even live longer. Surround yourself with positive people and do what you can to keep negativity out of your life. Nobody is positive all the time, but remember—your attitude is your choice.
Build Your Mind-Body Connection
My yoga practice carried me through breast cancer in so many ways. Yoga helped me adapt to the changes that were happening in my body. Yoga taught me to trust the process, even when I was impatient to get to the finish line. Yoga reminded me that despite everything I’d been through, I was still strong.
Look Ahead, Not Back
I wanted life to go back to the way it had been before cancer, like it had never happened. But when I got through treatment, I realized that I couldn’t go back. We’re always growing and changing, and we can never go back. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Now that the dust has settled, I kind of like the person I’ve become. I’ve proven to myself that I’m tough enough to get through most anything. I’m braver and more confident. And in my day-to-day life, I’m almost unshakable. All the little things that used to bother me are just background noise these days. Breast cancer was by no means a gift, but I’ll take what I can get!
About the Author:
Ashley was just starting to feel like she had her life together when a breast cancer diagnosis turned her world upside down. Thanks to her yoga practice, she found the fortitude and resilience to come back stronger than ever before. Now, she helps other women with breast cancer discover chronic wellness through intentional living and radical self-care. In addition to yoga, Ashley lives for running, scuba diving, and underwater photography. You can find her on Instagram and Facebook or at www.breastcanceryogi.com