Thousands of women are diagnosed with Cervical Cancer every year. Some may live to tell their stories. Others may not. I dealt with this frightening condition twice and I feel grateful that I was able to move on and remain healthy and alive for my children.
The Struggle Begins
It all started out on a good day that would eventually turn bad. My (then) husband and I were going about our normal weekend routine. He was watching television and I was playing with the kids. All of a sudden I felt this excruciating pain in my lower abdomen. It was so horrible that I could not stand straight.
I was pregnant, so I thought it was related to the pregnancy. Boy, was I in for a shocker. The pain just would not subside after resting and other attempts at relief. It did fade away some, but by nightfall, I realized it wasn't going anywhere, so we headed to the ER, leaving the kids with my mom.
Receiving The News From The ER
At the ER, I explained that I was pregnant, but not too far along. I hadn't even seen an OB/GYN yet because we just found about the pregnancy not even a week earlier. After numerous blood tests, an IV drip (in case I was just dehydrated), and the dreaded pap smear test (an uncomfortable vaginal swab test given to women routinely in detecting abnormalities and STD's), I expected the results to reflect something about the pregnancy. It didn't happen.
The doctors came back to reveal my results and I instantly knew something was wrong. The look on their faces said everything. The male doctor revealed my results to my husband and I. He said that the pap test came back abnormal. "What does that mean?", I asked with concern. Well, basically he told me it meant that some of my blood cells could be either precancerous or cancerous, but further tests would need to be done.
I had to schedule an appointment with my regular physician for that. I asked what this meant for the baby and he gave me a vague answer, only telling me that depending on the outcome of any future tests, my doctor and I would have to discuss it. He wouldn't go any further than that. I had a feeling it wasn't going to be good, but still I pressed on, awaiting the day I saw my doctor.
The Doctor Visit and Colposcopy
During the visit with my doctor, he explained to me about the colposcopy, the procedure they would be doing on me that day. Basically, they use an instrument called the colposcope to look at the cervix and detect any abnormalities. This procedure can cause a miscarriage, being that it is slightly invasive. I went on with the procedure anyway, knowing I needed to have it done.
Unfortunately for me, it didn't take long before they saw it. They commented that the mass of pre-cancerous cells they found was so large and so pronounced that even when they looked at my cervix without the colposcopy magnification, they could see it easily. I was scared to death, but being a mom and a master at holding in feelings to mask them from others (mainly children) in hard times, I did not show my fear.
Instead, I asked the doctor to explain to me everything about the next step to be taken and to be honest with me about the predicted outcome. I told him he didn't have to leave out the medical jargon. I was very interested in hearing it in its entirety. Medicine has always been a subject I studied up on regularly, so I wanted the honest, clear, naked truth, with nothing missing.
The doctor proceeded to tell me that this mass must be removed at the soonest possible appointment availability in the cancer clinic upstairs. If it was not removed, it could spread and become much worse, possibly threatening my life. He put it into much more technical words, as I had requested, and let me know all the risks and why I should have it done.
Of course, I scheduled the appointment that day from my doctor's office. The doctor also told me that the baby I was carrying was at risk of being lost by the procedure and may even have been lost due to the colposcopy procedure, which I had a feeling about from the beginning.
Being the curious person that I am, I had already looked up all this information in my medical books and also on medical websites. I pretty much knew what was coming, but I still felt the need to hear it straight from my doctor. Maybe some part of me had hoped what I read was wrong. It wasn't.
Getting The Pre-Cancerous Mass Removed Via LEEP
Once it got to appointment day to have the mass removed, I thought I was prepared for what awaited me, no matter how horrible it might me. I was more concerned about the baby inside of me, if it was even still there. I had some minor cramps and a small amount of spotting shortly after the colposcopy and hoped it was nothing.
As I walked into the cancer clinic, all I could think about was this poor baby inside of me that had to endure all of this, as well as what my other kids would do without me, should something go wrong and the procedure failed. Something was telling me either my baby wouldn't make it or I wouldn't make it. I'm not sure where the thoughts were coming from. I just knew something was going to happen.
So, fast forward to the procedure, and there I was, lying uncomfortably, with a hospital gown on and three doctors working on burning a pre-cancerous mass out of my cervix.
The procedure was called a LEEP, or Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure. The instrument used is a wire device with a loop at one end that is called a wire loop electrode. It is attached to a generator used for this and other surgical procedures. This causes the wire to transmit an electric current that when placed on the affected area, it cuts quickly to remove the affected tissue. This procedure is very invasive, so there is a high risk of losing a baby if you are pregnant.
The area is numbed beforehand, however, I did feel a sharp pinching on the inside, as it was doing its duty. My affected area was a rather large area, so someone with a smaller affected area may not have such pain, or the pain may be short-lived.
The doctors talked to me throughout the procedure, explaining all the medical terms, as well as discussing other medical-related themes. This is not what they normally do, however, I initiated the medical discussions, as I am highly interested in medical matters.
Anyhow, aside from the pinching, the procedure was not as bad as I expected. It was fairly quick. I seemed to be finished in no time at all. The doctors then, once again, warned me of the things that might occur as a result of the procedure. I might be having some slight bleeding, so I was directed to wear a sanitary pad home, just in case.
Tampons are not allowed after a procedure such as this, due to the risk of infection. Also, my baby might be lost, which would cause abnormally heavy bleeding (heavier than my menstrual cycle). Since the pregnancy was in the early stages, bleeding may be the only symptom I'd experience and I would likely not notice anything else releasing, as the baby might be too small to see at that stage in development.
There were other risks rattled off as well, such as hemorrhaging and a myriad of other complications. I left the clinic with an information packet in hand, should I forget anything they had warned me about more than once. I was relieved that the cancer was likely gone, and that a follow-up appointment would determine that for sure. However, I was overly stressed about my poor baby growing inside me.
The Following Days
Over the next few days (or maybe even a week or so), I experienced heavy cramping and bleeding. The first two days were the worst, as far as the cramps and bleeding went. After those first couple days, I felt somewhat drained inside, energy-wise as well as physically.
To make this horrible part of the story short and less painful, as you might have guessed, I lost my baby. That was likely the cause for the drained feeling. Something (or someone) was no longer there.
I knew somehow that this would happen, however, no matter how much I prepared for this, I still was very upset. It wasn't fair for this poor baby. My follow-up appointment not only determined that my baby was gone, but that the pre-cancerous cells were gone as well.
Moving On To The Happy
There was a positive side to all this. I went on a whole 3 years without any further pre-cancerous or cancerous developments. I got pregnant again and had a happy healthy little girl. One year later, I gave birth to her little brother.
Cervical Cancer Strikes Again
Following her little brother, I felt extremely tired, but chalked it up to having a baby and thought nothing of it. When my youngest son was merely 5 months old, I again found out I had pre-cancerous cells in my cervix. But, the worst part was that I was pregnant again, as well.
I know by now you've got to be thinking that I must have the worst birth control method out there. The truth is, I have tried many different methods (and all good ones) and nothing seems to work for me. The doctors say I'm just extremely fertile - lucky me. Anyhow, here I was in the exact same boat as before, only now it was worse because I knew what to expect.
A Different Method For Destroying The Mass
This time the doctor suggested I go through a different method of ridding the pre-cancerous cells. He was to freeze them, which would kill them off. The basics were about the same as before. I laid onto the gurney in stirrups. The freezing probe was placed onto the affected area.
The difference between this method and the other is that instead of a sharp, pinching pain, I felt a horrible cramping pain. Recovery from this procedure was worse than the last one. The symptoms were the same, but for the first couple of days, I could barely move.
The Outcome and Accompanying Feelings
As you likely predicted, I lost that baby as well. But, I have had no pre-cancerous or cancerous cells since, so I still feel lucky. I do still think of the poor innocent babies, but I feel comfort in knowing that they are at peace and that had the pregnancies come to term, these babies may have suffered health issues or been born too early.
That last bout was about two and one half years ago, so that's two and one half years free of cancerous cells.
My current husband also had a run-in with another form of cancer. Read our story and a little bit about that here:
"Stay Positive - Someone Special is Out There for You"
2017 UPDATE: It has been about twelve years and still no more recurring issues with cervical cancer. I am glad to be here for my children. I've also given birth to another healthy girl (in 2016) and have another on the way. So, for those wondering if kids are possible after cervical cancer, yes they most certainly are.
2018 UPDATE: I'm still free of pre-cancerous and cancerous cells and it has not yet returned and I gave birth to another beautiful girl who was a preemie (but is no longer) in 2017 and one year later, she is thriving, as is our whole family. Though the cause is unknown, we do not think her being a preemie had anything at all to do with the prior run-ins with cervical cancer.
NOTE TO THOSE DEALING WITH CERVICAL CANCER: You are not alone and it is very possible to go on living your life afterward and even to have children afterward. You are strong and you can get through it. Tell cancer that it will not win.
*I originally published a version of this via Yahoo Contributor Network
Established in 1997, Anusara yoga now is one of the most popular forms of yoga being practiced today. It is also often referred to as heart-centered yoga. Its popularity may have something to do with the positivism it espouses.
By definition, Anusara specifically means to go with the flow of nature, the flow of grace, or to follow your heart - hence the alternate title of Heart-Centered Yoga. In Anusara yoga, the "asana" poses, when combined with the "universal principles of alignment," allow a connection with the divine goodness of nature. This connection is referred to as "supreme consciousness." To achieve that, Anusara yoga practitioners must exercise the principles and go with the flow.
For some, simply hearing the words "go with the flow" can be very relaxing. But Anusara yoga does not end there. It holds a much deeper meaning. The feeling obtained also is much more intense. It is an overwhelming feeling of joy, love, peace, enlightenment, happiness, oneness and connection with nature. In this type of yoga, your heart is centered and in tune with nature, as well as yourself.
Energy from the Heart
The energy that is tapped for Anusara yoga comes from within the body, rather than the outside. Specifically, the energy is deeply rooted in a natural state of inner feelings from the heart. To tap these feelings, Heart-Centered yoga participants use the universal principles of alignment.
In the words of Dr. Douglas Brooks, a leading scholar of Hindu Tantrism, "Flowing with Grace, anusarena, we experience our inner worth, we align our bodies, our minds and hearts in the current of the Divine flowing through us, we celebrate life itself as we touch the Divinity who pulsates within us as our every thought, feeling, and experience."
One With Nature and Heart-Centered
Anusara yoga celebrates the heart as well as nature. It is not a domination of nature, but rather a harmony and participation with the natural flow of things. "Inner body bright" is a secondary principle and is the term for the energy flow achieved through the first main principle of Anusara yoga. That first principle is called "opening to grace" and is an essential starting point for every pose. In opening to grace, the goal is to align with supreme consciousness.
In Anusara yoga, the main focus is a spiritual connection to innate goodness as well as the freedom of expression related to that goodness. While there are strict principles involved, creativity and self-expression are greatly encouraged.
Anusara (Heart-Centered) Yoga as a Way of Life
The philosophy behind Anusara yoga is not left behind on the mat for participants. It often is a big part of the way they live. Anusara yoga is not just practiced a few times a week like simple exercises. In fact, it is not actually considered an exercise at all, but rather a spiritual connection and a way of life.
With Anusara yoga comes the realization that life, as experienced through one's true nature, is perfect. It is not something that needs to be corrected, but rather should be embraced for what it is. There is beauty in everything and nature is as it was intended to be when created. That said, the spiritual awakening, or supreme consciousness, achieved through Anusara yoga is also intended to allow the discernment between things that are of nature and are good for us, and those that are material and may not be. While not all material is bad, some may be.
An Inviting Community
Anusara yoga is rapidly growing in popularity and has a large community base. Those involved in the Heart-Centered yoga community are said to be friendly, inviting and have open minds. All expressions stemming from Anusara yoga are positive in nature. They stem from the heart and are all about experiencing and expressing love, peace and happiness from the inside out. Because its roots involve love, participants from all backgrounds and religions are welcome to join the community. The philosophy can be learned and practiced by attending classes and seminars.
Anusara Yoga Techniques
*I originally published a version of this via Yahoo Contributor Network
The definition of Anusara is to flow with grace, or "go with the flow." In Anusara yoga, often called heart-centered yoga, certain principles are followed. But participants are also encouraged to be creative and to go where their heart takes them.
Philosophy and Meaning of Anusara or Heart-Centered Yoga
Anusara yoga has a philosophy that is Tantric in nature, inspiring participants to go where their hearts lead them. It is not a form of exercise, but rather a series of yoga poses that are meant to lead to a deeper spiritual meaning and connection. It is a way of finding the good in everything, including yourself. Basically, you follow the principles to properly achieve the energy, enlightenment and state of awareness required. Then you let natural creativity take over and go with the natural flow of nature.
Universal Principles of Alignment
There are five main principles in Anusara yoga, which are called the universal principles of alignment. Anusara originator John Friend defines alignment as "mindful awareness of how various parts of ourselves are integrated and interconnected." There also are secondary principles involved.
For heart-centered yoga to be effective, each principle must be followed in succession with each pose, while still holding to the preceding principle. For instance, before starting any pose, "opening to grace" must be achieved. Then throughout the pose, each of the alignment principles must be adhered to without interrupting the others.
The Five Principles of Anusara (Heart-Centered) Yoga in Detail
Opening to Grace - Opening to grace is the act of going with the flow to align yourself with supreme consciousness. This is achieved by practicing the poses with an open heart and mind. During this first main principle, "inner body bright," a secondary principle, is achieved. Inner body bright is a feeling and energy that flows from within to the outer body. This energy should create a feeling of fullness and buoyancy in the outer body.
Muscular Energy - Muscular energy is that which is drawn into the focal point. This action causes the pose to be stronger, more stable and more effective. The focal point is a secondary principle in Anusara yoga involving the pelvis core, the heart and the palate. In Anusara yoga, the muscular energy is drawn through the focal point, while the organic energy is extended outward from it.
Inner Spiral - The inner spiral is the energy felt throughout the core, starting at the feet and running up into the waistline. It is the energy that enables inward rotations of the legs to allow for widening of the pelvis and thighs.
Outer Spiral - The outer spiral is basically the opposite of the inner spiral. The outer spiral allows outward rotations of the thighs. This spiral runs outward from the waistline and down and out through the feet. This is the spiral that draws the pelvis and thighs inward, rather than widening them.
Organic Energy - Organic energy is that which extends outward, starting at the focal point and extending throughout the core of the body. This allows for increased flexibility in poses during Anusara yoga.
Applying Principles of Anusara (Heart-Centered) Yoga to Life
Anusara yoga is more than an activity, it is a way of life. The Anusara yoga community consider themselves to be very organized. Yet at the same time, there is much room for individual creativity. Those who practice Anusara yoga often apply some of the things they learn to their lives, such as appreciation for the good in everything. Those interested in learning more about it can learn the principles and techniques from a certified Anusara teacher through seminars and classes offered at many yoga centers.
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