Yoga Mats and Tears

I was nervous. Wringing my hands in the car, I was trying to convince myself it was a good idea to come here. I’ve signed up online and flaked on more events than I want to admit.

I grabbed the green yoga mat with tiny raised marks from where my cats used it as a scratching post before I got married two years ago. I didn’t need directions – I knew exactly where I was going. The big sign for “Cancer Center” illuminated the sign for the hospital as I went into the same building where my hematologist is housed and their infusion center. Finally, I arrived to the Life with Cancer suite with another first timer who looked as confused and apprehensive as I did.

We chatted casually about when we finished chemotherapy and who was wearing a convincing wig as a few others came for the class. As we filed in and got settled, I grabbed the medical waiver for PiYo. Filling out my name, diagnosis date, and date of last treatment, I peeked at someone else’s sheet and saw their date of diagnosis: “2008” – the same year I graduated high school.

I knew this class would be hard on my body, and as we stretched upward and then into downward dog, I realized this was my first real exercise I’ve done since cancer. The assumption I made that the instructor, a pretty, kind, and flexible soul, was going to be easy on us because we all had cancer, was terribly wrong – but I appreciated her for treating us like we were all “normal”.

As the music thumped, my muscles ached and wanted to collapse. I wanted to stay in child’s pose forever, hugging my emerald mat, but I found the strength to push on from the other women around me. At one moment, the room was silent between the transition of the songs in the playlist, and the only sound was the labored breathing of us all. It was that moment which seemed suspended – stretching longer and more vivid as I remember it. The room did not smell of alcohol wipes but with sweat, our jagged thriving breaths echoed off the mirror instead of incessant IV pole beeps.

Never have I been in a room with so many like me, survivors. And that’s what we were all doing. Surviving with every breath – and all trying to live though we know that our bodies may once again try to kill us.

When we finished and packed up, I pushed myself to say hello and gave my name. Then I cried. I told them that this was the first time I’d been in a room full of people who survived cancer like me. The lady next to me said it’s okay to cry, and another, Murry, chimed in, “we all do it”.

Then I told the truth, I’d been avoiding going to anything that supported cancer survivors because I felt if I did, it would mean all of it was real and that I’d be admitting that it all happened. 

The woman to my left showed me her MediPort scar on her chest as if it were a perfect faded beauty mark. “This is a sisterhood,” she said, and she was right. And I cried more.

My heart kept saying, “This was hard. This IS hard!” and my survivor sister said, “I know” by showing me her scar.

Sometimes, I think God shows up in the places we are most hesitant to go – especially when we must realize and accept painful past experiences. When I’m at my lowest and want to bury that cancer was hard or ever happened or is still hard, I feel Christ showing me his pierced hands and saying, “I know”.

I’m glad I went to PiYo because I was able to see a glimpse of myself and a glimpse of God. I was also able to finally meet my sisters.

Thank you for accepting me.

Thank you for letting me know I’m not and never was alone.

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