In sickness and in health

By the title, you’re probably expecting this post to be about my marriage. J. has been with me since I first got sick 15 years ago, and she married me three years ago, two months before I was diagnosed with leukemia. I regret that timing, but trust me, it was unplanned. I couldn’t ask for a partner more loyal and devoted through tough times.

But no, that’s not what I’m talking about today. Today’s post is about yoga, my other loyal companion in sickness and in health. I can’t believe I’ve become a yogi, to be honest, since I used to be a hard-core workout fanatic. In the past, I took aerobic classes, I ran, I swam, I even sweated sometimes.

Sickness threw a wrench in all that. I couldn’t manage the high-intensity workouts after my polycythemia/blood clot diagnosis, so I cut back more and more over time. Eventually, yoga became my “compromise”. But I quickly realized yoga was no compromise; it was a challenging workout for someone as unbalanced–physically, not emotionally, thank you very much–and uncoordinated as me. I liked yoga, to my surprise.

Then leukemia struck. After two months in and out of hospital, I was pretty darn glad I had become a yogi before I got cancer because I don’t know how I would have recovered without it. I had lost 20% of my body weight and, without a doubt, much of that was muscle. My balance was severely compromised and I had trouble walking unaided initially. Forget the granny pill case; I needed a walker to get around my first few days out of bed.

One month after my hospital discharge, I was upright most of the time, and I was itching to return to yoga. My helicopter parent (J.) insisted on coming to catch me if I fell, and fall I did, a few times that first class. Slowly my balance, coordination, and strength returned. I doubt I’ll ever be as fit as I was before my prolonged hospitalization, but I’ve come a long way, baby. I have more stamina and strength and I don’t stumble as often as I used to, despite this summer’s double tripping fiasco.

Woman in yoga wear in triangle poseYoga has proven its emotional benefits to me too. Those four hours per week I devote to yoga (assuming ill health or doctors’ appointments don’t interfere) are my reprieve from the craziness of being sick. Sure, my triangle pose could always be better, but I don’t fret about that. I’ve found that my absorption in the correct positioning of my body is an excellent distraction from having cancer.

Has yoga prolonged my life? I don’t believe it has, although some people might claim otherwise. But I am sure that yoga has improved my quality of life while I’m here. And that’s good enough for me.

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