Positive is such a strong word. It can evoke feelings of love and happiness. It can also bring up feelings of fear and dread as it did the day I found out I am BRCA positive. This means I have a mutation in my DNA that increases my likelihood of breast and ovarian cancer. I also have an increased risk of colon cancer. The day I received my positive test results changed my life.
My chances of being diagnosed with breast cancer by my 50th birthday were at 87%. Let that sink in…87%. I was also at an extremely high risk of ovarian cancer – three times more likely than the average population. Add in my family history and it’s even higher. My options were 1) increased testing each year and 2) bilateral mastectomy and 3) total hysterectomy. Basically, everything that makes me female will eventually kill me so I need to cut it all out. I could have opted not to have the surgeries, but I felt that staying alive was more important than the scars (inside and out).
At this point, I was already practicing and teaching yoga. I had no idea that my yoga experiences were preparing me just for this fight. And that is what it is – a fight to live. I had my first surgery – the hysterectomy – about a year and a half ago. I thought that would be the easier of the two surgeries. I was wrong. Complications abound and my recovery took about a year. I am just starting to gain back muscle strength in my core – and that is essential to any yoga practice.
Why am I telling you this? Because from the beginning of my journey with the BRCA mutation, my yoga practice has been there. Sometimes it was just meditation with no physical asana, sometimes is was restorative practice, and sometimes, on a few good days, it was a sweaty Vinyasa practice. I’m happy to report that there are more sweaty Vinyasa days now than ever. It has helped me cope with and accept the challenges that are before me. Never before had I faced such a struggle to remain upbeat and know that it will be OK. My mantra has become “Every little thing is gonna be alright.” from Bob Marley’s song, Three Little Birds. Often during my meditation when things are looking dark, I conjure up an image if three little birds and instantly feel calmer. The word “positive” no longer evokes feelings of fear and sadness. It brings to mind joy and the possibility of the future as I prepare for my second surgery.
Try starting your own daily practice. Practice can be as simple as closing your eyes for a minute and breathing deeply. Each day, make the choice to set aside a minute to breathe and be still. Over time, you may notice that your burdens feel lighter and your definition of the word positive takes on a whole new meaning. And remember , every little thing is gonna be alright.