Photo: ©Anna Guest-Jelley; Art Direction: The Magazine of Yoga™
or How Curvy Yoga Took Off
BY MAGAZINE CONTRIBUTOR ANNA GUEST-JELLEY
Do you know what it means to be Thanksgiving-full? It kind of sounds like it should have something to do with gratitude since that’s the point of the day, like instead of saying I’m thankful for another great year, you’d say I’m Thanksgiving-full for another great year.
As much as I’d like it to mean that, though, it actually means I ate too much and am now Thanksgiving-full thanks to (ah ha! I knew gratitude got in there somehow) that last helping of mashed potatoes.
Well, that was me this year, and so I did the only thing that seemed logical: I claimed a place on my parents’ couch with reclining seats (designed especially for such days, I believe), and snuggled in for a good nap. Before I dozed off, though, I heard my dad calling for me.
I looked up from my cozy seat to see him pulling something small out of a kitchen cabinet. When my eyes focused in, I realized that it was a button that someone would wear on their shirt, the ones that are usually emblazoned with slogans like “Kiss me, I’m Irish!” or “Get Your Pet Spayed or Neutered” with a picture of Bob Barker in the background. This one was a little different, though. It was white with red lettering, and it read “Cancer Sucks.”
I couldn’t agree more.
I got the call on January 17, 2007.
When I heard the phone ring, I was in the midst of a dinner party at my house. We were celebrating a friend’s birthday. My husband and I had cooked salmon cakes, and no one had left the party yet after eating them, so the night was off to a great start. Our cozy group included me, my husband, the birthday celebrator, her partner, and another friend.
I hesitated to answer when I heard my cell phone launch into my parents’ signature ring, but something made me answer it anyway. And then something made me go in the bedroom and chat, even though I had guests in the other room.
After the initial pleasantries were out of the way, my dad said they could let me go since I had company. Before I could even take a breath to answer, though, my mom calmly but firmly said, “No, we need to talk to her tonight.”
What unfolded next was kind of a blur, but I got the gist of it: my dad had cancer, multiple myeloma (I won’t dignify it with capital letters).
After I got off the phone, I sat, stunned, for a moment on the edge of my bed and then went back to the table to join the party. I must have had a distracted look on my face because my husband asked me if everything was okay. I said that I’d just found out my dad had cancer. Our non-birthday friend immediately laid his head down on the table.
He had lost his mother to cancer not six months before.
In May of this year, I flew to Florida to visit my sister for our annual sisters’ vacation. I was looking forward to it more than usual because (a) we didn’t have one last year and (b) my sister is awesome (not a new reason, but still a good one).
As soon as we arrived at the beach, we set up our chairs and umbrella (we’re pale and burn easily) and let our feet sink into the sand. I closed my eyes, let the ocean lull me for a moment, and then gently started to cry. It seemed like a good opportunity since I could blame the tears on sweating in the hot sun. If my sister noticed, she was discreet enough not to say anything; it’s part of our sisterly pact that we can fall apart in front of each other and it’s totally fine.
It had already been one of those years, and it was only May.
I started out the year stressed, overworked, exhausted, and cranky as all get out. My yoga mat was a dusty memory in the corner of my office.
Late in the spring, and shortly before this trip, I got a punch in the gut to cap it all off (not literally, but bear with me). My dad’s cancer was back–with a vengeance. (I like to imagine that movie announcer guy saying that last part to give it its full dramatic effect).
“Ayurveda, macrobiotics, acupuncture, and raw food books. Check, check, check, check.”
I ran down my mental checklist as I packed up a box to send to my dad. After I neatly packaged everything together, I sat down to write an earnest (now embarrassingly so) plea.
Here’s a snapshot of my big finish:
“I feel empowered; there are so many stories of people dramatically changing their health after making these [food and health] changes. I want our family to be one of those stories!”
I was never the cheerleader type during high school. Apparently, I thought my late twenties was a good time to start (sans uniform, of course).
My parents didn’t say too much about the box of hope-filled and misdirected wishes that arrived on their doorstep the summer of 2009, after the first cancer recurrence. They did say thanks, though, and I know they appreciated the effort.
But when I tried to bring up those same ideas this summer, my mom finally said that sometimes the information overload is too much, that, really, everything in their life is just too much sometimes–too many doctors, too many medications, too many days of dashed hopes, just too much.
Continue reading here: Cancer Sucks, Part Two
Anna Guest-Jelley is an advocate for women’s rights by day, a yoga teacher by night, and a puppies’ mama all the time. She is making her way through life with joy, curves and all. Visit her at her website Curvy Yoga and on Facebook and Twitter.
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© 2011, The Magazine of Yoga, LLC.