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.

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.

Helpful emotion

It’s winter time and for me, this is the slower season in my work. I teach yoga classes on land/indoors, so those still continue, but my On Water Yoga classes and my hiking and Arthritis Foundation Walk With Ease classes take a break because of the weather. This gives me some much needed time to reorganize, reflect, dream, and set goals for the new year. It also gives me the time to work on self development more intentionally and today, I’ve been re-doing my La Salud website, which, strangely, is self development.

Today, my mom emailed me some pictures of myself from 2002 and 2003 when I just started and then was ending cancer treatments. I was extremely adamant, at the time, about NOT taking pictures of me because, honestly, I wasn’t sure I would make it through and I didn’t want to be remembered looking like death. On this side of cancer, it would be nice to have those pictures, but what I do have is still very telling. You can view one from this time at www.LaSaludOrganics.com under the Meet Audrey tab.

One of the many great aspects in re-designing my La Salud website is that it brings me face to face with my intentions of why I opened it. I’ve had to look hard inside myself and ask is it just to “make money” or is it to use the pain and difficulty that I experienced to help others? Honestly, at times, what I want to accomplish feels so daunting that I think, IT’S JUST TO MAKE MONEY!, but that’s not sustainable, nor is it the truth, and I know it and can feel it. I HAVE to better myself! I HAVE to push forward and study, learn, grow, and put in the time to learn why it is that I am doing this, how to best communicate that, and thus set goals and time lines for how to accomplish such tasks while really gripping the truth that this stuff doesn’t happen overnight, I will probably continue living in my friend’s pool house for awhile, walking through the cold garage to go to the bathroom and use the kitchen, shopping at Goodwill, and driving a 14 year old car. Strangely, as I continue to learn about myself and other successful people I’m not only settling into these truths nicely, I’m harnessing this temporary discomfort to better myself and, thus, others.

Having had cancer and facing death so intimately was difficult and it’s something I want to use to show people that this doesn’t have to happen. We are not helpless victims to commercial agriculture farms or large pharmaceutical companies. Nutrion-less conventional (typical supermarket) food is not our only option. Regular medical doctors and prescription drugs are not the only answer. We do not have to accept things as they have been dealt us or diagnosed. We do not have to buy into the marketing that we are so overwhelmingly inundated with on a daily basis. There are options that can give us the strength we need, show us the direction to take, and provide comfort when we need it most. It may not always be easy to decipher which direction to take, what option is best, and who is really comforting us, but this is all the more reason to practice these skills now while “the going is good” so that when the “going gets tough” we know how to navigate the path.

May my difficulty be your ceiling on which to reach ever greater heights and truths. May the cancer I experienced end with me and never happen to anyone else again. May life and hope and courage and strength be ignited in you as it is being cultivated and fanned in me. Really, we are all in this together. I’m happy to still be here to share and inspire. Let me know how I’m doing.

Namaste (all of me blesses all of you)!

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