The trauma of being told that you have only three to four years to live is extreme. I was so well. I hadn't been sick at all, and yet a simple blood test before minor elective surgery brought the shocking news of leukaemia. How does one deal with news like this?
I was a single parent with an eight year old son; the worry of dying and leaving a child is awesome.
When I told my family and friends they cried, which made me feel worse. I felt so guilty at causing them so much worry and grief . It took about three months before the agony cased a little and I began to think that if the doctors could not cure me, there must be another way. My will to survive was very strong.
I began to believe that it is wrong to give up and die just because a death sentence has been passed. And this is where my path to yoga began. I contacted Dr Ainslie Meares, a Melbourne psychiatrist who was treating cancer patients with meditation, and ultimately spent a wonderful month in Melbourne attending his classes. Dr Meares believed that the stillness of the mind creates an environment of natural healing in the body. His sessions were completely silent (not even he spoke) and his patients had to sit, relax and try to keep the mind clear for one hour while he walked around the room and laid his hands on each person.
When I returned to Sydney, people were amazed that I looked at least ten years younger. I had had a lot of stress in my life for the previous six years and my face was taut. My month of meditation had changed all that. I felt freer, more peaceful and more relaxed than I had been in years, and my blood count had dropped back down to normal levels.
I practised meditation with great enthusiasm and then began attending yoga classes at the Satyananda Ashram. This was my introduction to yoga and the wonderful benefits that I derive from it. I began with a general yoga class and progressed from there onto the intermediate class. Other classes I attended were yoga nidra, antar mouna, trataka. For the first two years I also enjoyed one private class per week, which included yoga nidra, pranayama, meditation and sometimes satsang. Whenever I practised regularly I really felt wonderful, but sometimes I have to admit that I stopped my daily sadhana and during these times I could really feel that I was slipping back and becoming very stressed, and my blood count would increase markedly.
Last year I found my way into Dr Swami Shankardevananda's office, and from there I haven't looked back. Shankardev was a huge support in helping me understand what was going on in my life. He mainly taught me meditation techniques, particularly prana vidya, which had a very beneficial effect on my physical, emotional and spiritual health. I have just given myself fifteen months off work- time to spend on me and my son - and am now in India visiting the Ashram in Munger and receiving guidance from Swami Niranjan.
Shortly I will return to Australia to look for ways of working with cancer patients and their families. I want to be able to help them through the traumas of cancer (and maybe death) by teaching the yoga nidra and meditation techniques, and how to cope positively with their illness.
I have lived for six years with leukaemia, already two to three years more than the doctors predicted. Although I am not cured yet I am extremely well, happy and energetic. My blood count is normal and while I do my daily practises my blood count is very slow in rising to abnormal levels. At this stage I only need to have treatment (tablets) for about one month twice a year.
I have grown so much, have lived through the trauma of possible death and survived. I have had time to sort out my priorities in life and time to help my son grow up. The reason for my leukaemia was, I believe, to set me on the yogic path- a path that has given me the opportunity for great spiritual and personal growth. This growth has meant that I now have so much more to live for and also so much to give to others.