Mother and Daughter, Both With a History of Breast Cancer, Reach & Raise Together
At Living Beyond Breast Cancer’s Reach & Raise: Philadelphia, you can join thousands of your friends and community members for a unique morning of connection and inspiration. This outdoors all-levels yoga class with live music and a Healthy Living Expo takes place May 21. The event raises money for LBBC programs that help people affected by breast cancer have the information and support they need.
Below, just in time for Mother’s Day, Reach & Raise veteran Megan DoNascimento talks about being diagnosed with breast cancer years after her mother was diagnosed with it, and how both women have embraced yoga, which helps them “raise our chins to the world and strike a pose!”
I was introduced to yoga 3 years ago while undergoing chemotherapy. At 45, I was diagnosed with stage II invasive ductal carcinoma. I was triple-positive (HER2-positive and ER/PR-positive). My cancer was aggressive and I needed six rounds of chemotherapy. Genetic testing proved that I didn’t have a BRCA gene mutation.
Living Beyond Breast Cancer become a part of my life days after diagnosis. I was very upfront on social media and decided to post part of my cancer journey. My first post on social media was a picture of myself after my port placement and I looked miserable and sad. I had a rough morning. I wrote “Today is the first day of my cancer journey.” I received a ton of support. A friend of the family that knows LBBC CEO Jean Sachs connected with her, and Jean called me and offered her support and her organization’s resources to me.
I was an active mother of two teenagers and wife to an avid cyclist and editor. I had no time for cancer … Who does? As an indoor cycling instructor I felt as though being surrounded by healthy people was going to help me deal with a cancer diagnosis. The cycling helped keep me on my toes in terms of keeping busy and remembering to make doctors’ appointments. My body was active and busy, but my mind needed a break, and yoga was the place where I could rest my mind and not think of cancer and all of the side effects.
I walked into a yoga class taught by my friend Katy Hawkins and became hooked! Even though my feet and hands were in pain due to neuropathy, I rested when needed and learned the fine art of Child’s Pose.
When we are diagnosed, we don't really see that our loved ones around us also suffer and deal with depression and anxiety. My mother, Mary Small, who was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 33, while raising three young girls, suffered even harder than me watching me go through a cancer journey. I think that I understand now what my mother went through on her cancer journey and how hard it is to tell your children.
I was 12 when she was diagnosed, and I wasn’t told she had cancer. It was better, per my mother’s doctor, not to use the “C-word.” We were told that Mom had a small cyst on her breast and it had to be removed. I knew from the hundreds of cards, visits, meals, flowers and gifts that this was more than a cyst. When I was diagnosed, I felt like the best thing to do was to be upfront with my children about my diagnosis:
My kids: “Mom…are you going to be OK?”
Me: “Yes, I think so.”
My kids: “Mom, am I going to get cancer?”
Me: “No, I don’t think so.”
My kids: Mom … are you going to die?
Me: “No, I don’t think so.”
My mom felt guilty for passing her genes to me – this was something that she needed to get out of her head. Mom had genetic testing done about 15 years ago that also proved that she was negative for a BRCA gene mutation. I convinced my mom to come to yoga class with me and soon enough she also became addicted.
My Living Beyond Breast Cancer family sent me emails about a yoga event on the art museum steps, in Philadelphia, and I told my mom that we had to be there. My sisters created T-shirts for the event that said “Team Megan” on the front. I had just finished chemo and was more concerned about if I needed to wear a wig on the steps or not. I was not a wig wearer and also thought that it could fall off mid-pose. The first year that we attended Reach & Raise we had about 10 people on our team. It looks as though this year we may have close to 50!
I grew up not far from the art museum steps and spent my summers swimming in the fountains, running up the steps like Rocky Balboa and absorbing the spectacular views of my city. Imagine adding a couple thousand friends, the smooth groove of Yvette Om and her crew, and the sweet and caring voice of Jennifer Schelter teaching the whole city of Philadelphia to do Warrior I pose. I can't begin to explain the wave of love and emotions that radiate from the front of the art museum during this event.
My mother has become an integral part of the team. She comes to all of my yoga classes, events, walks, and is my biggest fan. As a result of her first experience of practicing yoga on the art museum steps, my mom has become a daily yogi and when I think of Reach & Raise, I think of how my mother and I can reach and raise awareness of this disease that has taken our friends and family – and raise our chins to the world and strike a pose!