Life Threatening becomes Life Changing

by Connie

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A decade ago, I was diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening dis-ease; but this turned into a life-changing experience.  I hope you, or someone you love, are never the recipient of similar information.

I know you’ve heard the cliché about how time stops when someone hears that type of news.  Having been on the receiving end, I’m here to tell you, it’s absolutely true; time does stop and you find yourself waiting to exhale.

‘Breathe.  Just breathe’, my best-friend and husband, Steven, reminded me.  His suggestion was something I tried to do on my own for years; sometimes with greater success than at other times.

I led a relatively ‘clean’ life.  I never smoked or did drugs.  I hadn’t had a drink in years, because I didn’t enjoy it.  I was a vegetarian and water was always my drink of choice.

My first thought, after the news was delivered was, ‘This is a joke.’

I went so far as to slap the shoulder of the surgeon, in disbelief, all the while tugging for my medical chart asking him, ‘C’mon, what does it really say?  What does the pathology report really say?  You’re kidding me, right?’

Sorry to say, it was all too true; which quickly made it all too real.

The following six to twelve months of treatment were a whirl-wind of information and research, introspection and reflection.

My immediate support system, Steven, his parents and his family rose to the challenge to show me their finest, truest selves.

They were supportive and loving, caring and funny, sharing their darkest humor with me, which I savored and took pleasure in.      (If you can dish it out, you’d better be able to take it, and trust me, I can dish it out.)

The Plan, Going Forward

A year after my initial diagnosis and nearing the end of my treatment, I met separately with my two primary doctors; my personal physician and acupuncturist and my Chinese doctor and oncologist, to review the game plan, going forward.

We were all in agreement that internalized stress was one of the primary causes of the dis-ease materializing in me, in the first place.

I was excited to find something to fill this niche for me; something to help manage the negative effects of stress on my body.  I had practiced Hatha yoga, years earlier, at my health club.

I wanted to challenge my body and my mind, so I signed up for Power yoga classes.  Power yoga is a vigorous, fitness-based yoga with an emphasis on strength and flexibility, while incorporating Vinyasa or breath-synchronized movement.

Taking the First Steps towards My New Life

I didn’t realize it at the time, but that yoga practice was the first step in my ‘journey of a thousand steps’.

Throughout my first class, I began to feel my ‘life force’, my innermost self; all the things that drove me on a cellular level.  It all started somewhere during that lesson.

I’ve come to recognize that there are times in our lives when you know that a specific moment is so important, that it’s going to impact your life.

You can’t image all the ways that things are going to change, but you know, from that moment forward, that things will be different.

There are other times, when you can’t begin to recognize the impact a specific point in time has had upon your life, until you have the benefit of retrospection.

While it is happening in real-time, you just accept it as a matter-of-fact, not recognizing the legacy that instant has unleashed upon your Life or the impact it will have, until you gain the perspective of hindsight.

My first yoga class, after getting a clean bill of health, somehow straddled both categories.  I knew at the end of class that something had changed, that I had changed.

I couldn’t begin to imagine all the ways my Life would be changed, all because I challenged myself to do something different.

How My Life Has Been Transformed

I’ve been practicing yoga now, twice a week, for ten years, with the same instructor, who has also become my friend, Tricia, along with my yoga-buddy, Jolene.

Since that first class:

  • I’ve become much more aware of my thoughts; embracing positive ones and rejecting defeatist ones.
  • I’m more attentive to my breath; I try to remember to ‘belly-breathe’ by filling my lungs deeply, every day.
  • I live my life more consciously; making better choices related to moving my body and the foods that I choose to fuel it.
  • I know when my body needs additional sleep and I see to it that my body gets the rest it needs.
  • The quality of my sleep is better; I fall asleep quicker and sleep through the night, without effort.
  • I have a greater tendency to ‘roll with things’.  I am less reactive.  I have a physical outlet for any stress, I may feel.
  • While walking my path, my body has changed, significantly.    I used to wear size 22 clothing; I now wear sizes 4 and 6.
  • I challenge myself by doing things that scare me, so I can consciously ‘face my fears’.

I call it; ‘Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.’ a reference to the Wizard of Oz.

Most of our anxieties are smoke and mirrors and powerful displays of ‘false evidence appearing real’ (a.k.a-f.e.a.r) only if we believe them to be.

My wish for you is that you learn from my experience.  In reading this, I hope you have a clearer understanding of the connection between stress and its effects on our bodies.

There is a direct-connect between your body and your mind.  How you choose to recognize that relationship is up to you.

Given the choice, I would rather have been pro-active, and avoided the diagnosis entirely, rather than being forced to be re-active.

So, what about you?  There is no need to be overwhelmed.  Remember, baby steps, baby steps…

  • What positive change can you choose to make, today?
  • What can you do to enhance and support a healthier you, today?
  • What change will you make to lower the stress in your Life?
  • If you don’t feel you can lower your stress level, what steps will you take to combat the effect it has on your body and your mind?

Please write back, using the comment form, below, to let me know.  Thank you for taking the time to share with me.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Krystyna Domagala November 18, 2010 at 10:36 pm

I always knew how strong you were just by knowing you, but I had no idea how much you went through you. I truly admire your strength and courage to change your life around. I’m sure I speak for all your readers when I say that you are truly an inspiration, and I’m blessed to be able to receive your wisdom!


Connie December 22, 2010 at 2:30 pm


I am the sum of All of my parts. There truly isn’t one thing I’ve experienced in my Life that I would change. The Life Lessons have been invaluable and So enriching.

The Courage to Question, the Confidence to Choose and the Strength to Fight were all part of my experience and helped form my ability to seek and find the Positive in Any situation.

Thank you for being open to hearing what I’ve learned, through my Life Lessons. The fact that you find my perspectives an inspiration makes them all worth while.



Antonia November 10, 2011 at 1:47 pm

Wonderful story, Connie! Very inspirational!

I, too, found yoga to be an incredibly powerful life tool while I was in a life ‘challenging’ situation. I appreciate your sharing your story, and am glad that you are doing well now :-)
You might also like Antonia\’s recent post..Comment on Yogawoman by AntoniaMy Profile


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