fiction by Laura McCorry
It was almost time. Christine Tran took a deep breath and let it out slowly, watching her face in the mirror. Her straight, black hair was starting to grow back, just as thick as before chemo, which surprised her. It felt weird that she was no longer visibly marked by cancer; even weirder to realize that people she met now wouldn’t know about that chapter of her life unless she told them.
A month ago, she’d decided to try a yoga class with a friend. It was a community class, led by a new instructor, and maybe that partly explained their experience, but from the moment Christine walked in the door, she had felt nervous about reconnecting with her body.
In the middle of class, when the instructor tried to physically assist her into a deeper twist, Christine wanted to run out of the room. Instead, she told the instructor quietly but firmly that she physically couldn’t twist any deeper. What Christine didn’t explain was that she was thirty five years old and in the past year, she had undergone major abdominal surgery and lost several organs, as well as a football-sized tumor.
After class, her friend had been incensed on her behalf. “Did the instructor ask you about injuries before the start of class?” No, Christine shook her head. Her friend wanted to complain at the front desk but Christine stopped her. She didn’t like confrontations and she really didn’t want to explain her medical history in front of everyone.
The clock read almost 4pm on a Friday. The sun was shining out the window, which Christine knew meant it was warm enough she would only need a sweater, even in January, because she now lived in San Diego. Back in Virginia, it could be bright and sunny and still forty degrees outside. Christine shivered involuntarily. It had been more than six months since her last chemo treatment and she still experienced near-daily side effects. It was very nice to live in a warmer climate.
“Are you ready?” Christine asked her reflection. Her dark eyes stared back at her with determination. She knew not all yoga teachers were the same and she knew, or had an inkling, that yoga was a practice that might really help at this stage of her life.
It was a short drive to Yoga One downtown and she easily found a parking spot, most of the offices were emptying that time of day. The instructor greeted her at the door with a friendly smile, “Hi, I’m Missy!” Christine filled out the new student form and briefly wrote out her relevant limitations, not wanting to write down the actual saga. She wondered if Missy would read the form or if Christine would need to bring it up herself.
Upstairs, Missy approached Christine’s mat and talked clearly but discreetly just to her, “I saw you noted down abdominal surgery, do you have any concerns you’d like to share or questions about our class?”
Christine felt a warm glow of appreciation inside her chest. “I still have a lot of scar tissue, so I won’t go very deep into twists,” she told Missy.
“That’s totally okay,” Missy reassured her. “Don’t do anything that doesn’t feel good in your body. Feel free to modify any poses and if you need a suggestion for something else to do, you can just wave at me and I’ll be happy to come help.”
Already, Christine’s experience at Yoga One surpassed that of every other yoga class she had attended. She felt seen and heard – and she had been welcomed just as she was, with all of her injuries and insecurities. It was exactly what Christine needed in order to relax and truly receive the benefits from the restorative practice.
Before she walked outside to her car, Missy waved at her. Christine could have waved back and kept walking, but something made her pause and walk up to Missy.
“Thank you,” said Christine. “That was exactly what I needed.”
“You’re welcome,” Missy replied warmly. “Isn’t it amazing how yoga can change your whole day? Just connecting with your own breath and body.”
Just hearing the word prompted Christine to take another deep breath. One breath at a time, it was a phrase she had repeated to herself during some of the worst days of her treatment. Funny to think she had been practicing a form of yoga all along.
“Life-changing.” Christine heard herself affirm in reply. “I’ll be back soon,” she promised to Missy, though she knew the words were also a promise to herself.
Yoga and Laura had an on-again-off-again relationship from 2004 until 2009 when they decided to move in together and there’s been no looking back since. Passionate about both yoga and writing, Laura loves to introduce others to the joys and benefits of yoga and healthy living.