Scars and Imperfections: vulnerability and courage

ovarian cancer scars

For a long time I have been embarrassed by all the scars I have on my belly. I have actually felt shame that I didn’t have the super flat and amazing abs that I had all my life, pre-cancer and that we see in so many pictures. Last night, as I was watching a video of myself doing yoga on my paddleboard, I saw my scars and imperfections for what they truly are: beautiful, and a deeper healing is setting in.

I wouldn’t be alive today if these scars weren’t there.

These scars are an ever constant reminder of the hell I went through as a stage 3 ovarian cancer survivor, getting a 5 pound tumor removed, then 50 tumors removed, then a hysterectomy, then a hole in my colon, getting an infection, then being attached to a vacuum for 6 weeks, then a 12 hour surgery to remove more tumors and organs, then an ileostomy bag, then, and finally, freedom. These scars show the story of hardship and trials, pain, and tears of not only me, but my family and friends. I have wanted to get as far away from those memories as I could, for a long time. I have slowly faced them as I have been able. This is my next step in the journey: showing them, being vulnerable and open, facing fears, and inviting in even more healing.

I have prayed for them to dissipate. I have tried all sorts of creams and wraps and detoxes and exercise and yet, they are still there. The mountains and valleys, the craters, and holes, the lumps of fat displaced from all the surgeries, the crevices of stiff scar tissue that try to hold me back.

Today though, I am making the choice to see that these scars also tell an incredible story of hope, of courage, of the power of prayers and support of family and friends, of medical staff who were creative and revolutionary; all these people who believed. These scars do tell of the ugliness of cancer, the evilness of disease, the destruction of surgery, and yet, there is a beauty in them: the power of human ingenuity, God’s miracles through our work, that our thoughts of limitations are only in our minds, that truly anything is possible, and that there is beauty in imperfection. These scars show the story of where I have been, who I am today, and in my story, I wouldn’t be where I am, doing what I do, without them. So, I embrace them.

I know that I will continue to walk out this journey called life, every day. Today marks a new one though, and I’m setting up a marker.

Hope exists. Nothing is impossible. Keep moving forward. Fail a lot. Have the courage to stand back up again, and maybe, just maybe, we can change the world through our courage.

Thanks for reading and loving.

Namaste.

Cancer doesn’t define me

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This week I was featured in Redding’s local newspaper, the Record Searchlight. I’m 12 years post the ovarian cancer surgeries, chemo, and death sentence and sharing my story on a broader scale has allowed me to talk and connect with others who are either going through cancer or are post experience as well. It has been a real revelatory and profound week.

My hope has always been to use what the devil meant for evil, for Good and I’ve had the privilege to see it happen over and over again. It makes me so glad to see that the sh*t I went through isn’t for not. That the darkest places I experienced can be turned around to shine light and hope. This fuels and inspires me to keep pressing on! And yet, I am so much more than a cancer survivor. I am so much more than someone who is strong. I am so much more than a yoga instructor. I am so much more than a woman. I am so much more than someone who works hard. I am so much more than someone who inspires. I am so much more, and so are you.

There is actually a small-ness and belittling effect when we singley identify ourselves with xyz, whether it’s being a Christian, a yogi, a cancer fighter, a woman, a college grad, etc. Our identity’s are not determined by what we do, by what we say, by who we present to the world. We are so much more. I am so much greater. You are way more important. Let us rise to the calling that is from heaven. Let us explore the depths of this being (self) that we have been created to be. Let’s try and work and explore and adventure into the innermost parts of God and ourselves to turn this world upside down and let Peace and Hope and Love and Beauty prevail! It’s going to be messy and hard and fun and challenging, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Who’s with me?

You can see a video of me sharing about the benefits of yoga as a healing process here, from this interview.

Namaste. Shine on!

xoxo

La Salud Body Wrap

A few days ago a friend asked me, innocently enough, “What are you going to do about it?” referencing the sporadic recurring pain in my leg from an old skiing accident. I’ve thought about this question a lot over the past few days and wanted to share what I have been doing because, really, most people probably don’t know how one recovers from 3/4 of a broken lower leg and an ovarian cancer death sentence. I mention the cancer because they are inextricably linked to the pain and debilitation I am experiencing now and am recovering from.

We humans are interconnected in so many ways, not just spirit, soul, and body, but also with each other, God, and even further than that: the cells, muscles, ligaments, and tissues of our body’s are connected from one hip to the opposite hand, one foot to the same knee, the chest to the back, etc. Because of this beautiful dance that we have with each other, ourselves, and our Creator, there isn’t a single fix or cure-all for most people. Even the miracle stories we hear, whether they are healing, financial, or otherwise, have a backstory. For example, when the Holy Spirit fell in “tongues of fire” in Acts 2, the “and suddenly” of that miracle was preceded by “all joining together constantly in prayer” (Acts 1:14). Those “and suddenly” moments (Acts 2:2) happen, and they are miraculous, for sure, but there is more to the story and it usually involves patience. Patience is a fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and one that is hard to live through, especially in our modern world of instant everything. As I grow in fruitfulness, i.e. patience, take what I’ve learned back to your own life and be fruitful and healed.

What I am in doing to recover from cancer and a painful old skiing accident:

1. Chiropractic: I have been seeing a Network Spinal Analysis chiropractor since October and for 6 months, saw him 3 times a week. You can check out my guy and why he’s amazing, here.

2. Massage: I’ve been getting it once a week to loosen the hold that the scar tissue has from surgeries (I’ve had 12), falls, accidents, and bruises. I’ve come to think of these two health care practitioners working together like this: my chiropractor is shifting my body structurally and neurologically and my massage therapist is kneading out the bumps in the road, so-to-speak, so that the whole system works better together.

3. Foam Roller: recommended by both my massage therapist and chiropractor, this helps to continue to release the scar tissue and myofascial tissue that has been bound up from all the surgeries and injuries. I use the blue Go Fit Foam Roller and have been really happy with it. I like that it comes with a little instruction book to show how to use it.

4. Body wrap: as my body continues to shift and realign itself, toxins that have been trapped and stored in my cells from the 13 weeks of 8 hours a day chemo, CT-scan contrast, narcotic drug pain relievers, pesticides, herbicides, pollution in the air, and even toxic emotions and bad choices, need to be removed. Some of the benefits of this wrap are: detoxification, growth and regeneration of new skin cells, it’s so natural it’s edible, reduces stretch marks, scars, and cellulite, empties and destroys fat cells. This above picture is me wrapped from the chest down with the wrap.

5. Essential oils: my massage therapist gave me a therapeutic blend of oils to reduce inflammation and it is seeming to help with some of the pain. I’ve been able to get to sleep at night without taking a pain reliever, which is good.

6. Yoga: it boosts immunity, allows for better sleep, and promotes overall better health. You can read more about it here and join me for classes here.

7. R.I.C.E: R = rest, I = ice, C = compression, E = elevation (above the heart). A long standing first aid application for injuries.

8. Nutrition: I eat organic, local, and take supplements to help my body perform at it’s peak. I take a daily multi called Thrive and have added the Monatau Extreme recently to help rid my body of the stored toxins from all the new adjusting I’m receiving from my chiro and massage therapist.

9. Dry brush: Before I shower, I dry brush my skin. Some of the benefits are: increases circulation and lymphatic drainage, tightens the skin, stimulates the lymph system to drain toxins, helps muscle tone, and rejuvenates the nervous system. I use a natural boar bristle dry-brush. You can get one similar to what I use here.

10. Castor Oil Pack: I’ve been applying this directly to my old break site in my leg and I’ve used it on the ileostomy and surgical incision scars on my belly. Benefits include: relives pain, decreases inflammation, detoxifies, it’s also been said to help with infertility. I use cold pressed and cold processed castor oil so the nutrients are preserved and wool flannel to apply it. Plastic wrap will help secure it in place. Learn more about how to apply it and the benefits here.

11. Prayer: Everything is possible to those who believe (Mark 9:23). Jesus told us to pray for God’s “will (to be) done on earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10) and because there is no sickness or disease or pain in heaven, I am praying and asking for prayer for this to manifest in my life, and in yours. One of God’s many names is Jehovah Rapha, which means healer (Exodus 15:26).

12. Advil: when all else fails. I am not a fan of drugs, but when the pain is too incomprehensible and all my other efforts haven’t worked, I need a relief. This is a good point for many reasons: don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater; God gave us pain relievers; don’t abuse, stop using them and try other things first; this is not meant to be a way of life: your body is in pain for a reason and it’s a signal that something needs to change; being in too much pain is exhausting and not good either, the body needs a reprieve in order to mend and heal.

I don’t do all these things at once or even in the same week. Too much detoxification can be dangerous as well and your body can experience a detoxification crisis. Talk to your health care practitioner and get help with your specific situation. We are all different and it helps to be in community and on a team to be the best you possible. La Salud offers a Health Coach and is a great place to start.

As with all things, go slow, take your time, and enjoy the journey. I’ll be smelling the roses, come join me!

Namaste and God bless.

How to prevent colds and illnesses

As of late, I have been noticing that my friends who are 10+ years younger than me often have a cold, or a headache, have to call off work, feel exhausted, and/or aren’t nearly as active as I am. This has lead me to do some research into sickness and diseases. I’ve come across some fascinating articles from pHd’s, university’s, medicals centers, and nurses and wanted to share my findings.

“Nutrition is a widely accepted tool for prevention of chronic diseases” – according to the Washington State University. “Hydration, plant-based foods, probiotics, exercise, and vitamins and minerals are 5 ways you can prevent colds and flus” – says the University of Tennessee Medical Center.

This seems somewhat obvious to me. Don’t most people know these things, I wonder? Are my friends just not privy to such helpful info?

I remember a past roommate of mine who suffered from chronic back pain. I was working for a chiropractor at the time and loved his expertise and suggested she see him. After months of resistance, she finally did and several weeks later she told me, “Wow. I had no idea how much pain I was in! I was so used to it that it became part of my life and I tolerated it. It’s not until I’ve become nearly pain free that I can see how bad it was.” It reminds me of the frog in the boiling water analogy: if a frog is put in a pot of boiling water, it will jump out immediately. If a frog is put into a pot of room temperature water and the heat is added slowly, it will stay there and be boiled to death. I think we humans are the same way, and I’m no exception. We need to think bigger than the pot/situation in which we find ourselves. After all, we aren’t amphibians or reptiles. We can think and choose differently.

I experienced a deadly health condition (ovarian cancer) at 24 and have been exploring what it means to be truly healthy ever since. I can see my own past (and current!) bad behaviors mirrored in others and wonder how I can best use my experience to help. Hitting people over the head with all the knowledge I have hasn’t really worked. Me being silent about it and letting people continue to get colds and have headaches and pain, isn’t helpful either. I’m exploring a different option through this blog and sharing my journey. My hope is that you can avoid the hell that I experienced and live a much richer and fuller life.

So, how have I gained the health I have today after being told multiple times that I wouldn’t live, having had 13 weeks of 8 hours-a-day chemotherapy, a dozen blood transfusions, my abdomen sliced from my sternum to hips 5 times, a 5 pound tumor and 50 tumors taken out-at-one-time? That’s a long story, maybe for another time. The short version is to never give up. Look beyond what you can see. Cry, laugh, sing, dance, do yoga, take supplements, eat organic, work with alternative as well as mainstream health care practitioners and in various fields, talk to people, pray, and keep moving forward.

If you want to read more of my story now, visit http://www.lasaludorganics.com and check out the Meet Audrey tab. Today, I take just 3 supplements and eat whole, real, organic food, with the occasional treat to In-n-Out or a steak house. I’ve learned to lighten my grasp on “my health” and I recognize that it’s so often out of fear that we do and don’t do things: I used to be extremely rigid and regimented in what I ate and didn’t, ALL THE TIME. Thankfully, perfect love casts out fear (1John 4:18) and so I lean into His heart for me (and the world) and am watching this fear and control leave as I step into more and more health. It’s funny how it works that way. I let go, still using my knowledge and understanding (not throwing the baby out with the bathwater), and I get even healthier.

May love and health come to you like a river! Thanks for coming on the journey with me. I’d love to hear how it’s going for you.
Namaste!

Read more from the UT Medical Center: http://www.utmedicalcenter.org/news/370/5-ways-nutrition-can-prevent-cold-flu-and-treat-them/
Read more from Washington State University: http://www.pitt.edu/~super4/38011-39001/38711.ppt

Blogging like a child and experiencing heaven

This blogging experience, like so much of my life, feels like a new adventure to explore. I love looking at life and activities this way! Whether it be moving in with new housemates, teaching a yoga class, budgeting, vision casting, having brave communication with people, etc. if I look at it as an adventure to explore, it’s WAY more fun!

Recently I have heard from a few close friends that I receive things well: that I’m like a little kid and that it’s easy and fun for them to give me things because I react so innocently and whole heartedly. I have been thinking about that these past few days and wondering why I do that and how important it is that I do! One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Matthew 18:3 “And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” You will NEVER enter heaven if you don’t become like a child! WOW!

My life changed when I got cancer at 24. Because I fought so hard to stay alive, I know the frailty of this life that we have here on earth. It can be gone in an instant and I know this not as most people do, in my mind, as an idea, I know this through experience. We have been given the awesome privilege to be alive right now, at this very moment, breathing this air, sitting in this chair surrounded by these things. Look at them! Aren’t they incredible! Isn’t it a miracle that you are alive at this very second?! Isn’t it profound that you were even born! The miracle of birth and all that had to come together to make that happen! I live with this reality in my very being. I act and respond to things from this mindset so that blogging, receiving gifts, choosing to work where I do, to make the choices I make about food, travel, purchases, etc. all come back to the reality of knowing that I am a miracle.

I know I get to inspire people in my work. I can see it on their faces. They tell me in conversations. They show me through support. What I want to do now is inspire through blogging. May this blog not be another feel good, wow that is so great, she is so lucky, dead end, but may this blog be a life giving, movement producing, peace infusing, powerful tool to create change one life at a time, starting with you. I have been blessed to be a blessing. The good news is that you have too.

I’d love to hear how you’ve been blessed and because of it, what kind of blessing you are bringing to your community.

May the Kingdom of Heaven invade through your childlike curiosity and joyous exploration on land or on water. 😉Image

Namaste!

Courage OWY

Webster’s defines courage as “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty”.

Many look at my life, hear my story, and tell me that I have a lot of courage. I don’t disagree, but I don’t want to be the Dead Sea. I don’t want to hog all the courage. My heart’s cry is to edify, build-up, and strengthen my students, you, and the world with courage! I want to en-courage. I want to encourage you that YOU can do what I am doing. You have what it takes. You can accomplish things that seem hard. You can overcome. You can dream big dreams and make them a reality. I also want to bring to light some more good news, you already have.

I teach a class for the Recreation Department called Walk With Ease that starts with 10 minutes of walking 3 times a week, then gradually adds 5 minutes each week for 6 weeks. Today one of my students, who is in her mid-60’s, said that it wasn’t until this class that she realized she is normal. She thought the pain and struggles she deals with daily were abnormal. She, too, is a cancer survivor. She too struggles daily with pain, old injuries, surgery aftereffects, and negative emotions and thoughts. And she too is courageous. She stepped out and registered for a walking class. She stepped out and has shared her pains, her struggles, her fears, her successes, her failures and in doing so she has en-couraged me, the other students in the class, and now, hopefully you. It makes me such a proud teacher to hear my students say such things. I know that they are getting it. I know that they are different. I know that they are becoming more powerful, able to share and spread good news of hope and healing. I know that they will not leave my class(es) with some more head knowledge, but with a real demonstration of courage and strength. I am now embarking on this journey in blog form. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Education. I have been teaching since my sister was born and have a lot of practice with encouraging and teaching in person. Now, I want practice encouraging through writing. Thanks for being on this journey with me. My hope is through this blog, my classes, and my life, we create a new and larger story of hope, healing, and courage, together.

I welcome your stories of courage. May the world be all the better for it.

Namaste!

Am I worshipping the devil if I do yoga?

Maybe, but maybe not.

I have been a Christian since 2001. I didn’t grow up in church and soon after university, I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and my life turned upside down. I tried to maintain hope, courage, and strength in the 1 and 1/2 year intense cancer battle where I underwent 6 major surgeries, a hysterectomy, an ileostomy bag, 13 weeks of chemo, eating only from an IV for 9 months, losing all my hair twice, weighing only 95 pounds with huge tumors in my belly, getting a 5 pound tumor removed in one surgery, having 50 tumors removed in another, experiencing lung damage and hearing loss, getting shingles, having about 12 blood transfusions, spending 3 full weeks in the ICU and spending another 6 full weeks in the hospital, among many other things, but I found out really quickly I couldn’t do it on my own strength. Enter Jesus.

My first experience with yoga was when I was an adolescent and my Dad bought a yoga book. I remember flipping through it and trying the poses and thinking to myself, wow, there’s nothing too mystical or hard about this. It’s just like what we do in gymnastics class! My next experience was with some friends at a gym, right after college. Since then, I have taken yoga classes all over the world, and seen a lot of different styles and techniques. I have really enjoyed some classes and others I haven’t. Some have felt and been spiritual, some have not.

While I was fighting cancer, I started to attend church and the local Cancer Support Center regularly. I was learning spiritual truths at church and in the Cancer Support Center. What was also incredible, was that at the same time I was learning about the Spirit, I was learning about physical and mental truths applied practically, with scientific evidence to confirm their importance. At the Support Center we learned about the power of a whole food diet, of shared experiences and the sharing of experiences in community. I started to take yoga classes again, along with Tai Chi, cooking classes, guided imagery, and read all that I could about healing, cancer, “alternative medicine”, and God. It was through this that I saw the power of the spirit partnered with movement in the body and I saw and read the stories of people being healed through simple changes to diet, exercise, and prayer. The importance of each became incredibly significant for me through my battle and subsequent win over cancer.

As I have grown in my relationship with Jesus, I have had to face fears and change my thinking in all sorts of areas. Because I had such a radical conversion to Christianity, I knew the power of the cross and God’s great love for me, but there is always more to learn. I had begun to believe things that some Christian people, whom I respected, told me about demons, the devil, yoga, and opening one’s self up to dark spiritual powers. Although it caused a lot of fear and insecurity, I needed to walk through this.  I needed to really understand that there is more to this world that what we can see and even feel, but what I have learned since is that what Jesus did on the cross, his dying, his going down to hell, his reappearance and walking around on the earth thereafter, and then his rising up into heaven, was enough. It defeated the devil and gave us humans the power to live a free, full, joyful, happy, and healthy life on this earth, right now! So, when I am asked about yoga and if it’s demonic, if I am worshipping the devil, and when I am told that yoga originated from people seeking spiritual enlightenment and that it’s a form of devil worshipping, I laugh, although, honestly, I sometimes get irritated. It makes me sad to think that someone can be so fearful of the devil that they point fingers and judge people and completely discount the power of the cross.

God talks a lot about belief. The word occurs nearly 150 times in the New Testament alone. Some highlights are: “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” – Mark 9:23. “Do not be afraid, only believe.” – Mark 5:36. “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life.” – John 3:36.  What we believe becomes reality. If you believe that what Jesus did on the cross was enough, or as He said, “it is finished” (John 19:30), then you will live out the truth that “he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” – 1John 4:4.

I don’t want to discount that there are demonic forces in this world. I have experienced them (hello, can we say cancer?!). However, do we believe in a big God, or a big devil? Do we believe that Jesus took the weight of sin, all sin, so that we could live in freedom? I pray for us to allow the perfect love of Jesus to cast out fear (1John 4:8), especially when we feel, experience, or sense that there are some not so good vibes coming from someone or something, whether that be in a yoga class or otherwise.

One of the many amazing tools I learned from ministry school is to eat the meat and spit out the bones. God is everywhere. He created this planet, the computer/phone you are using, the grass outside your door, and even the movement of your body into a particular position. It is always about belief or the position of the heart and one can be believing lies at any particular moment in their life: while overspending at the mall, eating one too many ice cream sandwiches, gossiping about their co-worker, or losing their temper with their significant other.

Jesus said that we will not enter the kingdom of God unless we receive it as a little child (Mark 10:15). What is just one noticeable characteristic about children? I have found that they constantly ask questions! They constantly want to learn! They usually aren’t afraid (until an adult teaches them to be) and are always exploring and searching. If God is everywhere, if He defeated the devil, if he created everything that we see around us, then why would it matter if some people shaped a pattern of particular movements, called it yoga, and maybe found demonic forces? They were looking for spiritual enlightenment!! Let’s allow this little light to shine and enlighten people to the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6) that is Jesus. Some have found Him through yoga, but because some Christians point fingers, judge, and condemn them, they think His name is something else. It’s time to change that and love the hell right out of people.

Let’s explore as little children. Let’s strengthen our living temples (our body’s – 1 Corinthians 3:16) through exercise, movement, breath, and the perfecting of love that casts out fear. Let’s let our light shine in the darkness because that’s where it shines the brightest!

You are always welcome to come and join me in my yoga classes where I happily lead people into encounters with the Lord (whether I say His name out loud or not) but more than that, I hope that you find the peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7) in EVERY situation you find yourself, yoga class or not.

In love and light!

Audrey

http://www.OnWaterYoga.comImage