The Comeback

My whole world exploded when I was diagnosed with a recurrence of breast cancer with bone metastasis during my vacation in Paris this summer (while I was living in the U.S.) After months of silence, I’m getting my voice back. Here’s who I am now.

The explosion happened on June 24, 2022. I had been living in Atlanta, GA for 16 years and was enjoying my summer vacation in Paris—my native city—, when my oncologist announced the unthinkable: “You have a recurrence of breast cancer with bone metastasis”. The PETSCAN showed eight sites on my bone structure where cancer cells had settled. It’s been eight years since my second cancer, 18 years since the disease first entered into my life.

A week later, I made the most radical decision of my life. I came to the conclusion that, if I had a chance to survive this, it would be in France. I decided to settle in my native country close to my mom, with access to France’s universal healthcare and medical system (which is under huge pressure, just like any other medical system in the world). My gut feelings told me to stay put and concentrate on the healing process, not to travel back to Atlanta to move my stuff. To this day, I haven’t returned to Atlanta.

Instead, my Atlanta friends did what I should have done myself. They moved my stuff out of my place in Southwest Atlanta, sold or donated it, and traveled from Atlanta to Paris with suitcases full of my clothes. An incredible movement of solidarity. I still have no words to express my gratitude. Instead, I feel tears coming up.

I’ve felt as if I’ve been dropped in France by parachute, uprooted. Still feeling that way today.

As the medical treatment kicked off in the early summer, the universe sent me help—thank goodness. I was lucky to find a regional park—nature is rare in Paris suburbia, one of the world’s most densely populated areas—close to my place. I practiced yoga every morning in the park’s meadow. Bare feet. No mat. I had to feel and smell the (new) ground I was standing on. Hikers? People walking their dogs? I didn’t care, nothing stopped me from doing what I needed to do to stay somewhat sane.

A bond with my adoptive city

Another “extraordinary” thing happened around the same time. My work (at least part of it) as a yoga therapist and a teacher of French “followed” me in Paris. I’ve continued teaching online to my Georgia students. That’s helped me keep a bond with my adoptive city and stay busy, thinking about something else than cancer.

Finally, I’ve been able to put together a team of complementary medicine healers to help me in this journey where I feel a huge sense of loss. Loss of my health, loss of my Atlanta life and tribe.

Now what? Cancer impacts a person on the physical, emotional and spiritual levels. This time, the diagnosis was an even bigger slap in the face, a stronger mortality wake-up call because of the metastasis. My oncologist believes I will reach complete remission. I feel I can too. When? I don’t know.

A few things are emerging for me.

  1. The emotional work is hard. Still, I’m committed to doing it. I want to know, understand and, most importantly, feel what are the shocks that have led to the recurrence. I’m convinced it’s necessary for my healing.
  2. I’ve been so terrified by the diagnosis that I’ve let it silence me. I’m done with that. I’m finding my voice again. This post is a start.
  3. I’m continuing my work as a yoga therapist and a patient advocate, spreading the word about integrative medicine and integrative oncology. This means the true integration of complementary modalities into health care and cancer care to help us, patients and survivors. Because our lives depend on it.

It feels good to be back—back in the light—showing the world who I am. Thank you for seeing me.

I practiced yoga every morning in this meadow that’s in a park, 5 miles South of Paris. I need to feel and smell the (new) ground I was standing on.