Who cares what you look like – it feels so freeaaakin GOOD! – Amen to Bryan Kest by Beverley Ward

News Flash – 69 tickets BRYAN KEST sold and 20 more now released due to VENUE CHANGE – Mecure Brisbane – Sunday 26th 4pm-7pm.“The Church of Bryan Kest” by Beverley WardWho knows what caused my breast cancer. Diet? I don’t think so; I eat better compared to most. Lack of exercise? Absolutely not! I am fitter now than when I was twenty-five. The stress from taking my production job too seriously? Not having children and breast feeding? The environmental pollutants in the atmosphere? The hormone replacement pills I took nine years ago? The whole stream of crappy boyfriends who I willingly allowed into my life over the past ten years – Don’t forget to breathe! The deepest richest breath spilling through my nostrils.Or is it just a jigsaw of a combination of nasty things that just happened to all fit together at the wrong time? Who knows! I have been banging my head against that wall for nearly a year. According to my diagnosis, April 28th, 2003, the wrong time was eight years ago. But, specific cause still unknown.

How could I ever have gotten cancer being so active? Were all those downward facing dogs a waste of time? Definitely not! I wonder how bad or how fast the cancer would have grown without my yoga practice, without learning how better to curb my reactions to the stress life presented me. My fight for survival was helped by the stamina built up in my yoga practice. I was lucky looking back. I sailed through compared to most.

I have gone to Bryan’s classes on and off for seven years, but regularly for the past four. I am part of the Church of England, but was never forced to go to Sunday school. I was taught that it is better to help others. And that is basically what I have tried to adhere to. Now I attend what I like to call “The Church of Bryan Kest”. It’s a place I go to help ME a couple of times a week. And on occasion directed by the preacher, I give thanks to the things I am grateful for in life. I must confess that for the past year I have been questioning that concept, having had a double mastectomy, eight rounds of chemotherapy and 28 sessions of radiation. I definitely need to creatively prod and poke that area of my life right now – and breathe.

In reality, I have plenty to be thankful for. The friends that rallied around me, bathed me, fed me, shopped for me, chauffeured me to hundreds of doctors’ appointments and did laundry, shrinking all my clothes 🙂 These are only a few of the myriad of things I can think of when encouraged to sit cross-legged and reflect for a while. Having this Church to come to is another!

I actually tried to blame my tumor on yoga. I had felt a bump very close to my ribs seven months before it was deemed cancer. I thought I had just stupidly pulled a muscle. Later on I developed what I thought was a tear in my rotator cuff. No doubt I had been over doing it again. I should really heed Bryan more. That damn competitive nature of mine was getting the better of me.

I ignored the constant sinus infections and just took more antibiotics. I had blood tests that said I had 15 times the normal amount of Epstein Barr in my body. Gama Globulin injections were offered for increased energy, but the doctors and I brushed them aside. My neighbor was frightened at the thought I would get more energy. One ‘specialist’ said that she suspected something would show up sooner or later in my immune system. Now run along. Grrrrrrrr –Just breathe

Then I came across that bump again, but it had grown. Buggar. I was sure I had herniated something. After having it examined by a couple of girlfriends, I was banished to the doctors. They found two tumors and it was all down hill from there. The mammograms and doctors had missed it two years running. The doctors forgot to tell me that I had dense breasts and that mammograms weren’t of any use then. And of course insurance companies hate paying for an Ultrasound. Do I sound bitter? -Just breathe.

I woke up from the operation feeling internally healthier than I had done in months. The pain in my shoulder had disappeared and the crook in my neck was gone. My physiotherapist told me that the glands in my arms and neck had been trying to tell me that I was ill. There was no tear. The body is a wonderful thing. I just wasn’t listening to what it was telling me. And the doctors certainly weren’t heeding its cues.

It’s amazing how you can get through the umpteenth chemo shot by just breathing. Especially when it takes five attempts for them to get the needle in just the right place. When you are all alone in a room that looks like a “Star Wars” set, all you can do is lay there, and –Just breathe.

My friends knowing my love for yoga, on 5th and Santa Monica, researched places they thought would be more ‘appropriate’ for someone with my constraints. Places that catered more to people getting over mastectomies and other cancers. They meant well, but I didn’t want to be constantly reminded everywhere I looked that I had had cancer. I have no fear of being stared at in my Church. Woe betides the person that raises her head to look around in Bryan’s class anyway. 🙂

After my operation it took a while to return to Church, as it was physically impossible to raise my arms for three months. Until I couldn’t use them I had no idea how important they were! When I did walk in the door I was welcomed back to the Parish with Bryan’s open arms. It was one of the few places where I felt comfortable being bald. I fit right in with the scenery. And when I got the butterfly tattoo on the back of my head, I actually felt trendier than most there. A first for me! Anyway, as Bryan says, “Who gives a crap what you look like!” I am there just to touch and take care of things. And in the words of our preacher, “it feels so fuurrreaking good” 🙂

Now I am back in my BC (before cancer) environment. I am home. I love the group energy. It’s my sanctuary, a place where for an hour and a half I can escape from my color, empty bank account, medical bills, fear of reoccurrence and just breathe. My favorite thing is getting a ‘laying on of his hands’ or his feet – depending on what part of my body needs adjusting. I need some normality in my life and Bryan’s Church gives me that. Even if it means that I lay on my mat the whole time.

Now I just back off and adapt. Even someone with my ego can do it. I am very familiar with child’s pose at the moment. The only exercise that I have to skip is “lower down, nipples first.” Because I don’t have any! The nails on my fingers and toes are in the process of falling off because of the chemo, so I lean on knuckles rather than fingertips. I can’t stretch too far as my temporary chest expanders are stitched to my ribs. So I just go as far as I can. My “peck” muscles are rebelling at the expanders under them, so I just put my knees down to do push-ups. The radiation destroyed an eighth of my right lung, but I am still able to breathe well because of the amount of yoga and lung expansion I had previously done in class. Being physically forced to back off and listen to my body has indeed taught me humility.

I do have one regret. Before all this happened I can’t say that I was truly thankful and appreciative for the body I was given. I didn’t have what I thought were great breasts. Even though my reconstruction is going to make me two-cup sizes bigger, I would give anything to turn the clock back. I should have made love to my own body more. I no longer worry about how much shorter my legs are compared to the girl next to me and how much further she can get her head to her knees. Bryan is right. It’s not going to make me healthier. And she certainly doesn’t have what I have going on, or at least I hope not.

Apart from all that and not liking the term “corpse pose,” everything is great and my mobility is improving every day. I now love my body and am just thankful that it has forgiven me and I it. It’s bouncing back. And thank God Bryan’s Church and class is run on a donation basis. I have nipples to pay for this year.

One of the best advantages of having a temporary handicapped sticker is that I can spend as long as I like in Shavasana and won’t get a ticket. Namaste – Amen 🙂

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