Friday, January 9, 2009

The Unexpected Gift

I have always loved surprise gifts. And I especially love the ones that sneak up on me and take me unawares. Like the unexpected gift I got this holiday time...

I was in Maine visiting my daughter's in-laws for the holidays, along with my daughter and her husband of 1 year. Knowing I would be without my reclining lift chair for 5 days, I decided to take my traveling air mattress with me so I could lie on the floor to rest my back during the day. And that turned out to be a wonderful choice.

But I also discovered something wonderful. In the mornings when I set out to do my physical therapy exercises, I decided to lie on the air mattress and try some of my former yoga routine that I used to do lying on the floor. With the air mattress under me, my back was comfortable enough, and it was actually possible to move my body in ways that I haven't been able to in well over a year. And it felt so good to stretch my arms, my legs, my back. Reaching this way, moving that way.

When I returned home, on the morning of New Year's eve day, I carefully put my yoga mat on the floor and added a soft blanket on top for padding. Then I got onto the floor and spent 45 minutes going through my old yoga routine. Moving from one pose to another took a little thought after so many months -- 18 months in fact -- of not doing yoga. But it came back very easily, the recollection of what to do. And in the moving, my heart went to a place of such gratitude that I spent much of the time wiping the tears from my eyes. And stretching gently. It felt SO good.

Since returning home before the New Year, I have continued with morning yoga on a padded mat. This has given me the benefit of adding a gentle stretching routine to my daily physical activity, and also giving my back more time in the horizontal position in the late morning. After all, 2 years ago one physical therapist suggested that I spend 15 minutes in the morning and evening lying on my back on the floor with knees bent, in an exercise she called "decompression". It has taken me until now to take her advice. Better late than never.

So this was the unexpected gift, the return of my yoga practice at the start of the New Year. All it took was a trip to Maine, a padded yoga mat, and 18 months of healing from a collapsed spine. My muscular flexibility, or lack of it, is another thing entirely. But being the eternal optimist that I am, I know that my healing will continue and that some day I will be touching my toes and doing Sun salutations!!!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Excited About the New Year

I love celebrations -- be they birthday, holiday, New Year's, anniversary. My ritual on New Year's Eve for many years has been to take inventory, month by month through the past year, and recall the highlights which made that year unique and special. This process helps remind me of all the wonders that have come my way, and of all that I have to be grateful for as the new year begins.

And as the year 2009 begins to unfold, I feel enormously positive and hopeful. And it's not just because of the changing political situation that will occur when President Obama is sworn in on Inauguration Day. Positivity and hopefulness are qualities that I display in general, and now they are enhanced due to the fact that I am much stronger than I was 1 year ago. Yes, I am healing.

One year ago at the beginning of 2008, I was still on chemo, I had just stopped using a walker when I was indoors, and I was just beginning to be able to get any regular exercise through walking or bending my body. Also, one year ago I developed vertigo while taking Revlimid to treat the myeloma (and that condition -- of getting dizzy when lying down and also when sitting up -- stayed with me through October 2008).

My condition now is very different. I can stand up straight with ease. No dizziness. I can bend forward and sideways. I can open the refrigerator (good thing, too, because I love ice cream). Last week I went snowshoeing in the woods for an hour, for the first time since my spine collapsed. And I can lie on the floor and lift my legs. I can do some parts of yoga poses. Most of this was impossible 1 year ago.

There has been so much improvement in my condition since 1 year ago, that I am certain that in the coming year I will see even more. And THAT is something that I will continue to celebrate for the rest of my life.