The most difficult part of my condition was that there seemed to be no light at the end of the tunnel. I was depressed, I was constantly exhausted and my mind was behind the veil. The world seemed different and I felt very lonely…
But life had a way of showing me the way and bringing me back, although at the moment I didn’t realize that. About 3 months after finishing treatments I was scheduled to travel to Poland with a friend. It was home of her ancestors and her first trip there. She is naturopathic doctor specializing in breast cancer and I thought it would be nice to organize some lectures for her in Warsaw. We had all the slides ready and we were set to have 2 workshops for Cancer Society over the weekends.
About three weeks before our take off she had to cancel her trip. And I was left with pre-sold workshops, which now I had to do on my own. I had this idea that since I will be doing the talking I might just as well do it in Polish. This meant of course that I had to translate the slides from English to Polish. All 120 of them in 3 weeks!
I opened the file and started with the first slide. It had 5 points and I thought – no problem. I read the first point and then switched to the blank screen to translate… but my brain somehow forgot what the point to translate was. So I went back to English slide, read the point again, went back to blank slide… and my mind was blank again!! It wasn’t a joke – my mind had no memory!
That day it took me 3 hrs to translate 5 points of the slide and at the end of the process I felt completely exhausted. It was terrifying – I now realized how badly my mind was impaired. I looked at the over 120 slides to be translated and I had 3 weeks to do it! This meant about 6 slides per day!!
Nevertheless I kept at it and as I was proceeding, the process became easier and easier. Sometimes it felt almost like I was forcing a neuron connection to happen and when it did – the right word would appear. It was interesting to watch this process – there was this sense that my mind was very slowly coming back from behind the veil, it was waking up!
I managed to translate all the slides at the end. In this progression I found that my mind had great plasticity and improved quite a lot. Moreover I felt that this whole exercise managed to activate parts of my mind, which I never accessed before. Today, 12 years after, I can see how differently my mind functions. I lost ability to “multifunction” and “multi task” but instead I gained a laser-like ability to focus on what is in front of me. However I am far from what it used to be I still keep working on exercising my mind by using www.brainhq.com program.
I also noticed about ¾ way into the work my mind started to work in a different way. Instead of trying to translate word for word, I would read the point and go into inner silence, from which a corresponding phrase in Polish would come out. Often it was much better translation then trying to match word for word.
As I progressed with translation the levels of mental fatigue lifted but I still was physically exhausted. Walking 100 meters was an effort and climbing a flight of stairs seemed like an impossible challenge. At the time I was living by the lake Ontario near a big park. It was summer and I made a point of walking every day and challenging myself to achieve longer and longer distances. I would then sit by the water and simply be with the nature. This was very nurturing – both physically and mentally. Slowly week-by-week I felt I was improving.
As I was progressing my depression also lifted. I became busy and productive – this gave me mental lift. I went back to daily discipline – doing asanas, pranayama and meditation. I felt I am succeeding in recovery and this gave me a hope that I might one day reach the levels of functioning I had before the cancer.
Today, 12 years later, I realize that this is not possible. In about 2 years between the day of diagnosis and the end of the treatment, I aged about 20 years – physically and mentally. I still function pretty well but in different ways. My body is not capable of doing what it used to do before. My mind is not the same but I like it better the way it functions now – I can achieve great focus, which was not possible before. I also know now that I can still change it and improve it as I keep working with it.
Perhaps what’s most important is that I found the purpose of my life. The difficult experiences during my cancer journey turned into assets which allow me to understand and help other cancer survivors. Creating Beyond Cancer and later Chronic Solution would not be possible without the experiences I had. To see faces of clients after 3-week retreats is the greatest payoff I can wish on anybody. The light in the tunnel slowly started to flicker to finally shine in full force…
I describe this and process of healing with yoga in my upcoming book – “Healing with Yoga Therapy – the Whole Person Approach to Health”.