Flying in the Face of Fear

Last weekend I learned to fly.  I signed up for a Circus Yoga workshop and it delivered me to the brink of my comfort zone on more than one occasion.  We learned how to free fall forward or backward, trusting that the people encircling us would be there for the catch.  With a partner we practiced trust as we took turns leading each other around the room with closed eyes.  And then there was flying.  In another exercise we moved throughout the studio space, spontaneously pausing one at a time in front of a chosen person to say our name and then add the word “flying.”  Placing both hands on the person’s shoulders, we were lifted high above the floor by a steady team to “fly” around the room.  We also learned how to fly with a partner, which was considerably more fear-invoking for me.  I didn’t mind the flying; it was being the base person who supports the flyer that elevated my heart rate.  Little did I know how this metaphor would take on a new meaning in just a matter of days.

On Tuesday morning the phone rang and it was my doctor’s office.  The lab reports from my breast biopsy indicated ductal carcinoma in situ.  Breast cancer.  After decades of benign cysts and mammograms that cleared me for yet another year, I finally crossed the threshhold into the world of breast cancer.  For the next twenty-four hours my life felt scrambled until I met with my surgeon, the guy with the skillful hands who operated on my thyroid twenty years ago.  He assured me it was a cancer in its infant stage, treatable and curable.  Surgery, five days of radiation, no chemo.  I’d even get to keep my long hair that I’ve spent the last five years growing out.

As the week unfurled, the idea of having cancer began to sink in.  Curiously,  I haven’t felt sorry, sad, or angry about this.  I’ve never thought Why me?  I realized right away that it’s my path now, and it’s a huge opportunity for self-inquiry and growth.  Initially, the hardest part was thinking about the pain, suffering, and worry it would cause for others.  I knew I could handle it, just as I knew I was safe being lifted into the air as a flyer, but I was concerned about everybody else.  When I spoke of this to my yoga teacher, she said, “If you can handle it, everyone else can.”  Her words have lingered in my mind all week as I’ve learned to be okay with sharing my news and allowed myself to comfortably receive others’ support.  Ironically, just a week ago it was the supporting part of “flying” that challenged me,  even though most of my adult life I’ve supported and taken care of others.  Now that I’ve entered a new space of being, it helps to remember how much I love flying, held up securely by the strong hands of those who are with me throughout my days.