I feel so connected to so many amazing people right now. It’s like these spirits from all over are beaming light toward me and wow is it powerful! My dearest friends Susan and Michael Johnston and their three gorgeous children hiked to the very top of highest oceanside monolith in the world Pedra da Gavea in Rio, Brazil decked all in pink and flashing their message to the world that read “Thrive Erika”. Can you imagine the loving energy I felt when I saw this? It was like an immediate pulse of bold, electric energy that I can just sense even now just thinking about it. Thank you dear friends for holding me in your prayers, minds, and hearts. Let the power of intention reign!
Just a couple days after my Breast Cancer diagnosis, I saw a post on Facebook about a wonderful study that a Nia colleague, Deb Reis, RN, NP, and Nia Black Belt, had published about the benefits of using Nia to heal from Breast Cancer. The universe is providing for us all the time in the coolest ways. I think in some ways we are more open to hearing and feeling these messages or noticing them when we are our most vulnerable selves. In other words, when we are struggling, we are open…searching even…we are paying attention in ways that our busy, focused self doesn’t always allow. Certainly this is true for me! As I mentioned in my last post, in 2007 I was Director of Nia Specializations and I remember many conversations with Deb Reis about getting funding for this study and how we at Nia HQ could support her in this endeavor. And then I left Nia to give birth to my daughter Avery and subsequently shifted my focus to family, and then starting my own practice, etc., and pretty much forgot all about this study…until a couple days after my Breast Cancer diagnosis when I see this post!!! Seriously? Bizarre to say the least. But so cool and reassuring too.
So – here it is the post from Deb Reis about how the practice that I have taught for the past 15 years will now once again support me in my healing, growth, and recovery.
My mantra/motto for starting off 2015 was “Let it Emerge”. I am such a planner. With the balancing of my work, family, kids schedules, etc. I felt like I was constantly planning. I decided that 2015 would be my year to practice “allowing” and letting things unravel and show up without my managing it all. Little did I know how necessary this mantra would be as I face the unknowns and uncertainties of my journey with Breast Cancer.
The very weekend before I was diagnosed I attended a Nia training called “Moving to Heal”. Invited that very week by Debbie Rosas, co-creator of Nia, I felt uncertain as this was not planned in my already busy schedule. Listening to my mantra, I felt called to be a part of this training. After all, about 7 years ago I was Director of Nia Specializations and it was exciting to be a part of the very first “Moving to Heal” trainings which I helped to co-create. When I introduced myself that Friday evening to the 50+ amazingly talented and skilled participants in Studio Nia, I shared “Being here is very much following my New Year’s mantra and so I am letting it emerge”…in other words, I would see just where this training might take me and how I might apply it to my healing work. The very next day following this incredibly powerful training I received the call to come in for a second mammogram. That Wednesday is I was biopsied and by Thursday I received my breast cancer diagnosis.
After my initial marathon appointment with my Oncologist that Friday, I was sent home completely stunned and overwhelmed with stacks of paperwork that I didn’t even open until the following Friday. Upon perusing the amazing resources given by my Oncology center, there in print was “Nia – Moving to Heal”. In other words, I was being referred to the class that the very weekend before I was training to be a Practitioner in. I know this chain of events is meaningful in a variety of ways…so now I will continue to “let it emerge” to see just what it all means…or more precisely, what meaning I create from it all. So much of the training delved into the vastness of healing and “being in the shoes” of the people we are working with…expanding our compassion to understand the plight of another…in whatever way we can. I was moved at a deep level to tears many times that weekend…for example when I danced in a chair throughout an entire Moving to Heal class. I thought about and felt my sister Rana who has Multiple Sclerosis and the hurt, pain, and anger of her limited mobility. And I was gravely aware of her fierce courage that she musters each and every day. She is an inspiration to me and I walk this path now with courage, compassion, and the knowledge that this journey has already opened my eyes and my heart in some amazing ways.
We met with the plastic surgeon, Dr. Zegzula yesterday and we really liked him. He said much that helped me to understand more about what is involved in both a mastectomy and a lumpectomy. First, there is no reconstruction involved in a lumpectomy. I didn’t realize this. Also, lumpectomy requires radiation and radiation scars tissue. Given my age, I need to consider possibility of reoccurrence. There is a 1% reoccurrence rate with a lumpectomy so that is a 44% chance of reoccurrence between now and age 85 if I went with a lumpectomy. And operating on a previously operated breast increase many risk factors – like infection, etc. Also given the size of my breast and the size of the mass, my breast would be fairly disfigured with a lumpectomy. There is just not that much there to take! :)
And I also found out that my oncologist – the amazing Dr. Nathalie Johnson who is also a survivor – had Dr. Zegzula do her mastectomy. This meant the world to me! Check out this video to see what I am talking about – she is special and I felt that immediately and am so grateful.
I have my MRI on Friday. This will hopefully help to show more about that other spot that was unable to be biopsied. So little by little we are gathering information. I am learning to sit with this information, dance with this information, write and talk about this information and slowly but surely a clear path will emerge.
As my friend Marykay told me, I need to just start writing. I can tell that writing is very therapeutic for me right now so here I go… almost 2 weeks ago today I was diagnosed with breast cancer. What the F#%*#??? Even writing these words is so surreal to me. Can this really be true? There is still a small part of me that doesn’t believe it and maybe that is a good thing. I’ve noticed that there is a fierce part of me that wants to protect my identity as the healthy, strong young woman. This is how I view myself so I shall maintain this identity through this process as that is surely what will see me through. I remember my sister telling me about a billboard that had an image of the overwhelm and chaos one feels when receiving a cancer diagnosis. I think this is probably true for any diagnosis. And here I sit as a mental health therapist dealing with diagnoses quite often, and my heart is filled with such compassion for the way this news can rock one’s world. For me, it was a rupture, a complete fissure of trust.
What does this mean? How could my body betray me? How will I ever feel safe again?
This is trauma. I am a trauma therapist. Crazy. I understand that this this news disrupts my sense of myself and my sense of safety in the world. And healing and moving through this will come with integration. How do I make sense of this diagnosis? How can I integrate it into who I am? One way is for me to acknowledge my role in advocating for my health and getting this mammogram in the first place. As my friends and family continually point out, I know myself on a deep level and I am so thankful to have caught this early…so very grateful. And I use my health and strength that I work so hard to maintain every day to move through this. I always say that practicing during the normal times makes us ready to use skills when stress or crisis hits. Well – bingo!
Starting the week off with the first of my Nia Spring Series at Studio Sol with a Focus of Flexibility allowed me to start my week by stretching myself. When we stretch our physical bodies by moving energy out along our bones, we create space within ourselves and carry ourselves lighter and with more ease. In class, we explored how finding the sensation of flexibility in our physical bodies leads to cultivating more flexible emotional and mental bodies. The experience of beginning my week by creating space inside myself by consciously breathing and lengthening my muscles set the stage for a week of continued expansion.
On Wednesday, I led the second session of my Moving Inside Out River Workshop Series where we focused on Principle number two of the Nia’s Body’s Ways Principles, “The Body Demands Balance”, and what a powerful experience we had. In our play with Nia’s nine movement forms, we evaluated which movement form could bring bring more balance to our dance, and therefore to our lives. By noticing our comfort zones in terms of movement, we could also notice which movement forms felt a little less “homey” and therefore challenged us. By letting ourselves have an experience that is not our “norm” – for some, dancing in spherical, continuous movements as in Aikido, for others, the focused and linear motions of Tae Kwon Do, and for others, the more subtle and small motions of Feldenkrais – we found Balance in the most surprising ways. We found that by broadening our movement terrain, we experience more of ourselves and therefore feel the sensation of Balance. Many were surprised by what was revealed in their dance when they played in the unfamiliar….and how that brought Balance in a very new way.
I ended the week with a photo shoot by my dear friend and Nia student, Christy Goldsby. She had a very clear vision about photographing me in the element of sunshine and light. We played at Studio Sol (very appropriately as “Sol” means Sun in Spanish) in bright, bold fabrics and colors as I danced and moved to music and she captured these moments so masterfully. I have not yet seen the outcome of this photo shoot (stay posted) but I can say that the process itself was full of meaning and joy. Christy very skillfully brought her gifts as a Nia teacher and student to her role as photographer by assisting me to be present in my body. This made all the difference as I settled into an internal experience of being bold, light, serene, and joyful – dancing to the music, and being RAW (relaxed, alert, and waiting) – as Christy did her own dance of finding light, shifting angles, and interacting to direct me to new terrain. Certainly, the timing of the photo shoot felt right in many ways. Dancing this week and playing with stretching, balancing, and the element of surprise allowed me to be present to a very new experience of being photographed, being seen, and sharing myself fully.
Start your day with some simple stretches this week. Focus on moving energy out along your bones and finding the sensation of lightness, expansion, and ease and notice how this might set a new stage for your day. Or for those of you who practice Nia, play with the energy of the nine movement forms throughout your day and see how this variety and spectrum of moving and being in the world can help to bring balance to your day. Who knows, you might be surprised!
As I prepare for my Nia Black Belt training which will begin in 2 days, I am filled with excitement, openness, curiosity, wonder, and nervousness. Teaching class this morning and having a special “mini ceremony” from my students helped me to “step in” to this experience as a Wolf. My wonderful student Roni, who is a gifted facilitator, brought some Medicine Cards and I chose “Wolf…Teacher”. It said, “Wolf is the pathfinder, the forerunner of new ideas who returns to the clan to teach and share medicine”. This resonated with me as I love how my path with Nia has awakened the teacher within me. I feel blessed every time I teach to hold the space for my students to explore their bodies, become stronger and more grounded…for them to care for themselves in such a powerful way.
Each time I have embarked on a Nia Belt, I have felt ready. The timing is always interesting… the way I receive and embody the information and experience very much has to do with where I am in my life, career, family. I began my Nia journey a decade ago in 2000 in Hamburg, Germany. To round out 2010 with my Black Belt really is a dream come true. I am grateful for the depth of this path, for my intimate relationship with Nia. I look forward to sharing this depth with my students, my clients, my family and friends, and myself. As the Wolf card said, “As you feel Wolf coming alive within you, you may wish to share your knowledge by writing or lecturing on information that will help others better understand their uniqueness or path in life.” I am grateful for the Wolf in me and in each of us!