In the summer of 2008 I was a busy, happy, and athletic 48 year-old. A runner since 1981, I had participated in my share of races, from 5Ks and 10Ks to half marathons, and thanks to a cooperative (middle aged) body, I was still running and cycling. Happily married for 23 years, and living in a small but beautiful college town, our son was home from college for the summer when I received a phone call from my physician, telling me that I had a mass on my brain. I felt I had been kicked in the stomach. I don’t have to tell you how that news affected our family. It also profoundly changed our lives.
I am grateful for the extended family that supported me, the friends that rallied around me and for my husband and son, without whom I could not have faced the biggest challenge of my life.
The tumor was large — 4x2x3 cm — and was near my brain stem, wrapped around my facial nerve, trigeminal nerve, auditory nerve and vestibular (balance) nerve. Thankfully benign, the tumor had to be removed but because of its location, I was prepared to lose my hearing on one side, my sense of balance and possibly have a paralyzed face. Wonderful surgeons successfully removed the tumor and saved my hearing, my smile, and my life. Grateful does not begin to describe how I feel, every day.
As a result of the surgery, I was faced with chronic facial pain, loss of sensation, and, after a while, severe depression. I returned to work (as a dean of students at the college) and tried mightily to overcome these and other obstacles.
I began to train for another half marathon, a 10K and a 5K. Though physically I was in the best shape of my life, emotionally I was a wreck. Dealing with chronic pain was exhausting me. As if to counter that, I trained harder, ran faster, and took on new challenges at a job that was already proving to be overwhelming. I was heading for and did experience a complete breakdown. In my quest to alleviate the pain, I tried many medications, all of which left me feeling cognitively impaired, which I found more depressing and harder to deal with than the pain itself. I gave up on the medications. In fact, I nearly gave up altogether.
Desperate to find relief, I turned to meditation and yoga. Never one to slow down long enough to sit down, the incredibly slow pace of meditation was a challenge, to say the least. I worked hard at it and eventually became skilled enough to find some relief. I routinely meditate, sometimes daily. What a gift that is!
Now, for the yoga: I was pretty skeptical about the benefits of yoga. In my book, if you don’t sweat, it isn’t a workout and if it isn’t a workout, why bother? Because my balance was not good post surgery, I thought that yoga could help with that, and because I had also read that yoga might help ease the pain and depression, I was ready to try. I took a beginner series of classes at a local studio and then found YogaGlo. I am particularly fond of Jason Crandell, but love also Elena Brower, Tara Judelle, Tiffany Cruikshank, Dice Lida Klein and Marc Holzman. My husband now practices yoga as well, and together we explore yoga classes whenever we travel. He is also devoted to YogaGlo, as am I.
I still run and cycle, but now practice yoga at least daily, and often more frequently. Today, almost two years after beginning my yoga practice, I no longer take anti depressants and probably experience depression about as much (if not less) than the average person. Yoga also alleviates my pain much of the time. So much so that instead of taking a pain pill, if I am able, I do 30 minutes of yoga. It relieves my pain for hours after. My balance has also improved dramatically (though I still struggle with warrior 3, but who doesn’t?). On a recent family vacation, I hiked to the summit of a volcano, and my footing was every bit as sound as everyone else’s.
More importantly, I believe that yoga has rewired my brain in a most complete way. I am kinder, gentler, and more generous. I am more even tempered, and live with a greater sense of calm and general ease. I am so grateful to have a yoga practice in my life. Yes, I am still a hard charger, but I am not the person I was before brain surgery. I am a much, much better version of myself. Thank you YogaGlo.
Marci Alegant. Oberlin, Ohio
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