Cancer Journey

Oct 5th, 2017

Yoga is the original mind-body medicine and is regarded as being beneficial in various psychosomatic, stress related, lifestyle disorders. The practice of yoga is therapeutically unique in that it conjointly emphasizes body, mind, and spirit.

Such was the case in my journey through cancer. Studying yoga in yoga ashram outside Canada for 3 years prior to diagnosis helped me to take the diagnosis in stride. I was very surprised when I was told I have cancer as I was absolutely convinced that cancer happens only to others, never to me. But I felt fairly strong physically, mentally and psychologically and was ready for the challenge. For a moment only the question came to my mind “Why me?” but somewhere from within a quick answer came – “Why not? After all you are a part of population’s statistics”. And so with an attitude to “beat this thing”, I started the treatment believing that if I keep my yoga daily discipline I will get through the ordeal.

At this point, I need to qualify what I mean by yoga. Most of us in western world associate yoga with body postures, some of them very difficult and strange, or at least with physical exercise. My studies in yoga ashram made me realise that I did yoga without realising it, by meditating for last 20 years. At the time of my diagnosis, I had a well-established daily yoga practice, which included chanting, breathing techniques and meditation. In addition, I dabbled in some yoga postures few times a week.

Diagnose was of aggressive breast cancer and I had to Bouncy Castle leave ashram immediately and come back to Canada for the operation and treatment. I look back now and see that my landing has been made ever so soft by the net of friendship that has supported me. I have been housed, fed and looked after by many with open hearts. I have been cared for and loved with no questions asked. I have been provided for and lifted in times when I was so sick I didn’t want to live. But most of all, the collective power of community of friends gave me the wonderful feeling that I am truly not alone in my fight with cancer. I think this was the most important factor in my recovery.

After lumpectomy, I went into 2 years of tribulation of 8 chemotherapy sessions, 28 days of radiation and a year of Herceptin injections. Throughout the treatment, I used yoga to cope with the ordeal to which my body was often uncontrollably protesting. I had the treatment every 3 weeks at the hospital. The first week after chemo, I would be too weak and too sick to do any element of yoga and would focus only on long and deep breathing.

Meditation was too difficult – the body was protesting often quite strongly to the chemo so when I sat in silence, this protest felt like every cell in my body screaming “What are you doing to us!?” But by the second week as my body would start slow recovery, I would begin doing my normal spiritual routine – chanting, meditation and then adding gentle yoga with pranayama. By the third week, I would bounce back to a fair level of physical and mental energy. Overall, I seemed to be doing much better then the average patients I met in hospital. My doctors commented on my excellent blood results and overall m e n t a l and physical condition. A t the end of my treatment, my body was completely spent and my mind was shut down. I couldn’t focus enough to read a paragraph in the book. And I was wondering – how am I going to live the rest of my life? When my oncologist said, “this is the end of the treatment – we did everything we could for you. Now it is time for you to live your life again!”, I looked at him and wondered – WHAT LIFE? You call my disabled body and halfwitted brain a life?

With time and perseverance, I picked up my yoga routine. This allowed me to slowly recover and regain my energies completely and consequently reclaim my life. But it also made me realise that cancer patients all over the world are dropped by allopathic system at the time when they need help the most. At the end of the treatment, we desperately need to know that we will get better and to be given the tools to do so. We need to be taught to reclaim our power back form all mighty doctors and learn how to regain hope, normal life and well being.

Rejuvenation for Cancer Patients

This realisation led me to creation of special programme – a 3-week residential programme, “Rejuvenation for Cancer Patients” ( offered several times a year in Kiavalyadhama Yoga Institute, near Mumbai, India. In this programme, we help cancer patients to reclaim their life and health once again. We use yoga science and natural healing modalities to improve patients’ general physical and mental health.

A special diet is supplemented by daily unique body massage using healing herbal oils and steam baths. The diet, promoting cell rejuvenation, includes juicing to strengthen the immune system. Gentle yoga, pranayama, chanting and meditations offered 4 times a day throughout the programme rejuvenate the nervous system and increase the strength and flexibility of the body. Spirituality gently enter participant’s life to improve their mental well-being.

There is an educational part of our programme. In daily lectures, we introduce strategies to prevent cancer occurrence by making healthy changes to the lifestyle and diet. You will receive one-on-one yogic counselling to adjust mentalemotional patterns that may have contributed to illness, and learn techniques to foster deep, lasting transformation. The group activity includes health education, yogic counselling, which explores the root cause of the cancer. Participants participate in therapeutic group activities exploring artistic expressions, an assessment and redirection of life attitudes, and the discovery of personal goals that resonate with one’s spiritual identity.

Here is what some of the participants said after taking this programme:

“I have learned things I never imagined learning. I am in awe of evolution that Kaivalyadham has allowed and given me. This was an opportunity of the lifetime – I am glad I took it. “ (Hodgkins Lymphoma)
“I learned how to meditate. I have experienced wonderful moments when meditating. I have reached levels of mind I thought I will never be able to reach. This is great “start to my spiritual life.” (Breast Cancer)

“The program became a great part of my healing. I liked the fact that we had a lot of things to do, it gave me the knowledge of tools and awareness that I am doing it for myself” (Colon Cancer)

“I learned how to forgive and now I feel happy and energetic. I love life and everybody around me, again!” (Breast Cancer)

About the AuthorLee Majewski is an honorary associate creating and teaching therapy programmes for cancer survivors and chronic disease at Kaivalyadham Yoga Institute, Lonavla, India, the world’s oldest Yoga research center. Other current research projects include cooperation with University Health Network and Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto.

Asana Journal

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