CJ & I first heard Peter's story from his beautiful wife Melissa who works with us. His courage and strength is deeply moving, so we asked him to share his story with you, for a little inspiration before heading into the labour day long weekend. Thank you Peter!
I'm fairly new to Yoga, at least when it comes to Asana. My down dog is awkward to say the least and there are many postures I am not able to do. That is just the physical side though, as I begin studying the philosophical side of Yoga, I am realizing I have been on this path for quite sometime.
In 2003, at the age of 18, I was diagnosed with osteosarcoma or bone cancer. This was a shock to say the least, but my prognosis was good. Three years later, after the cancer spread to my lungs and I endured an above knee amputation of my left leg, I was given a 30 percent chance of survival. I am now going on over eight years remission and life is pretty good. But it took me a long time to get to this point, where I can say "life is good" with absolute faith.
There are many definitions of what yoga is, one that resonates strongly with me is the unification of the heart, body and mind. In retrospect it is easy to see, but when it happened, I had no idea that my diagnosis with cancer had pulled the key components of my being so far apart. This caused me years of turmoil as my body was physically broken and incapable of many things I once took for-granted, my heart was incredibly thankful just to be alive after coming so close to death, and my mind was furious to have so much taken without reason and through no fault of my own. To say the least I was left in a confused haze of existence.
I was mad and nobody could or would fault me for that, yet I had nothing to be mad at. I was emotional and amazed by simple things in the world, birds and bugs etc. while my own existence continually broke me as I went from running a five minute mile to hopping and scooting on the floor. And my mind just ran circles around itself, I had no idea what to do, eventually I didn't want to do anything. I finally broke and literally locked my door to the outside world. Daily living left me longing for a more vivid and authentic existence, after battling for my life most other things seemed lacking in meaning. Luckily, I had some strong support and while these individuals gave me space to heal in my own time, they also pushed me when needed and kept me from completely shutting down.
The simple fact of my survival planted a seed in me, a seed of faith and belief in a higher power. Through all the years I spent in and out of depression and doing my best to heal, even in my darkest moments, I never lost faith that I would find my way. This faith came from the fact that even though I did everything I could, followed doctors orders and took countless supplements, whether I survived cancer or died was not up to me. And if god, the force, the universe, whatever you want to call it, gave me my life back there must be a reason for it. So even as I felt meaningless, I knew meaning had to be out there. I found my faith in the simple fact that I was alive, when I very well could have been dead.
As I regained my faith in life I began to delve deeper and deeper into what cancer had done to my psyche. This took patience, perseverance and strength. I read books and wrote and wrote and wrote. In the end, I came to the conclusion that healing takes time, often more time than we would like, and the only true path to healing is acceptance. First there is accepting acceptance, then there is accepting grief, trauma, and loss over and over again. These emotions are strong, and as I much as I would like to say they someday leave you, they don't. Which is why throughout your life you may have to accept the same thing over and over again. In the end though, as you accept your life, the strong emotions that brought you down will begin to lift you up.
When I first started practicing yoga I found myself overwhelmed by what I physically could not do. In trying to move slowly and hold difficult poses, I had no choice but to spend intimate time with the loss of my leg. Something I had avoided doing for years, but also something I recently decided I had to do if I was going to break out of the up and down existence I had been leading. Another simple yet in-depth definition of yoga is that yoga is the intention to be. I started this year by setting the intention to be and to start proactively healing rather than waiting for healing to happen on its own. I set this intention before I even found my way to yoga, but as I begun practicing more and more the reasons I set this intention have become clear to me. After giving up on a yoga class and feeling down on myself I was able to put all the reasons why I intend to be down on paper. This is what I tell myself whenever I start to doubt.
I intend to be for my heart and mind to continue healing, for the leg I lost, the stump I rely on, the years I spent depressed and confused, and the trauma I suffered through. This is for healing and growth. This is for my wife so I can love her with all my heart. This is for my parents and my siblings because even in my darkest moments they never stopped believing in me. And this is for my community far and wide for always having my back. THIS IS FOR LIFE BECAUSE EVEN WHEN IT ISN'T FAIR, EVEN WHEN IT BREAKS YOU AND TAKES FROM YOU WITHOUT REASON, IT IS STILL BEAUTIFUL TO BE ALIVE!
To read more about Peter go to: http://standingondeath.blogspot.ca/