Tai Chi Brings Balance after Breast Cancer

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A post by writer Lisa Flinn:

In early January 2008, I felt like Alice plummeting down the rabbit’s hole into a new reality. I’d just received biopsy results confirming that the invasive ductal mass in my left breast was cancerous. 

Needled by worry, I’d seen my doctor three weeks earlier, and she had arranged for an immediate diagnostic mammogram.

Swiftly, appointments were scheduled for me at the University of North Carolina Comprehensive Cancer Center. There I met my team of specialists– Claire Dees, Keith Amos, and Jan Halle. Each person I encountered was gentle and plain spoken about my diagnosis and treatment plan. My emotions vacillated between hollowed-out fear and the flickering sense of new courage and openness. 

On that same day, I volunteered for several research studies. Less than 72 hours later, I readied my claustrophobic self for an MRI. Climbing on and turning face down on a sled-like contraption, I surprised myself by laughing. And still laughing, I wiggled my boobs into two openings, then rode the sled into the tube.

My laughter didn’t last too long. The imaging revealed suspicious atypical cells in the other breast. Pathology on those cells concluded the presence of lobular cancer. I was seized by numb shock. Might this additional finding indicate need for complete bilateral mastectomies?

I collapsed into my husband’s tender love and care.

When the hospital called me in for even more imaging, my surgeon, Dr. Keith Amos, met me in the waiting room as I arrived. He explained the MRI findings, addressed my concerns, and assured me that partial mastectomies on both breasts would be my best course of care. The surgery, six years ago on January 28th, with lymph node removal, went very well.

Our friends, family, and church encircled Bill and me with the warmth and light of a summer sun on those scary winter days. And as I recovered from surgery, then radiation, I began to crave something new and positive for my body. I chose five things. One of them was Tai Chi.

In July, I began Tai Chi classes with Nina Maier in Hillsborough, NC, and I was enthralled.

It took three years of practice to gain a rudimentary ability to move through the 108 positions of the Wu (Hao) form.

lisa-demonstrating-tai-chi

More importantly, NIna led me along an ancient path towards intention, balance, patience, strength, and a mental and physical readiness to act. In Nina’s ongoing class, she also teaches Shiba Luohan Gong for breath, flexibility and energy work.

It’s 2014, and I’m still loving the class!

The concentration needed to learn and improve is good for the mind. The practice is wonderful for the body. The mind and the body house and rouse the spirit. Tai Chi has been a true avenue to my healing and overall health. 

Lisa Flinn is a year-round organic gardener who delights her family and friends with home-canned creations.

As the author of twenty-two books for children, teens, and adults, she appreciates the contrast between her all-season outdoor labors and her fruitful diligence at the desk.

One Moon: Learn more about Lisa’s  instructor, Nina Maier, on her website.

Photo One: Gongs made  from oxygen and argon tanks by Lisa’s husband, welder Bill Flinn

Photo Two: Lisa strikes a pose called “Grasp Sparrow’s Tail.”

Photo Three: Lisa, who has been my writing partner for twenty-five years.

Lisa Flinn

18 responses »

  1. Thanks for sharing a positive recovery story. I am glad the Tai Chi is helpful and enjoyable for Lisa!
    The first time I saw Tai Chi was in 1987 or 1988 out my hotel window in San Francisco at 4 AM on Summer’s Solstice by ancient Chinese men on the rooftop garden of the next building. I thought I was dreaming it was so mesmerizing and unexpected.

  2. Great post, Lisa! Hard to believe it was six years ago. Time does fly! You have done so much to take care of yourself, from Tai Chi, eating healthy food, fasting, and keeping a positive attitude. It takes a lot of perseverance, determination, and courage to go through something like that.

  3. Lisa, I had no idea you were into Tai Chi! Wonderful that something so positive came out of your scary health situation. Thanks for your post which I really enjoyed.

  4. Lisa, you continue to amaze me with your positive spirit and determination. It is a privilege to call you my dear friend. Your loving heart and open spirit continue to be an inspiration to me. Thank you so much for sharing your story with the wider world.

  5. So happy for your new life Lisa! What an inspirational story. And that you have embraced Tai chi!! It is one of the things I took up after I hit menopause and I absolutely love it as well! I practice a different style but have not mastered the 64 forms yet. I will perservere as it has given me great balance, mindfulness, plus all the added benefits attributed to tai chi such as lowering blood pressure, cholesterol, relaxation and most importantly, a happier ME!!

  6. This is inspiring to read, Lisa (and Barbara). When I lived in NYC a billion years ago (I think it was the early 80s), I was invited to explore Thai Chi. But I thought it was TOO SLOW. Today, I’m thrilled to be studying with a Thai Chi teacher in Lincel, France. Yesterday, we spent the day working — the sun was out and the Alps were glowing. All-in-all, a perfect Sunday. And now I understand that that “slowness” is waaayyyy deeper than running a mile or doing 100 jumping jacks. Now to master one position…

    • With the glowing Alps and the winter sun–what a perfect place to work on the form! After treatments, the deep concentration required by Tai Chi freed my worrying mind and infused me with healing, positive thoughts about my body. Celebrate the slow!

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