Yoga for Cancer Survivors, My Story

“Behind every cloud, the sun is shining”

yoga for cancer survivorsLife for me, like most of us in our mid-forties, was full and busy. I was a Resource Specialist for a large, city school district, a mother to a 15-year-old girl, a wife of 23 years, and daughter to an aging mother. I actively participated in a community singing group, was taking part in a social group,  and exercising with weights, aerobics and yoga. I was told I was depressed, when really, I had late stage colon cancer. But I felt more and more miserable. Really tired!!!

It was late spring of 2002, I went for a complete physical. My doctor said nothing was wrong with my body, so, I resigned to go on antidepressants. My stomach ached with each dose, I continued to have more symptoms of unwellness:  bloating, weight gain, fatigue, night sweats and back pain.

By Christmas, I was unable to eat anything but white rice, without throwing up.

I thought my Irritable Bowel Syndrome may have turned into Crohn’s disease, since both my older sisters have it (a family risk factor for colon cancer). I went back to my doctor, who sent me to a GI specialist just to be on the “safe side”. The specialist wasn’t too concerned, because I was young, looked healthy, remained active. But my family history of bowel disease did put me at a higher risk and I should have been screened  with a colonoscopy at age 40 ( prevention/education are key to my advocacy work).

A colonoscopy was scheduled three weeks later, late March, 2003. It was the longest, most painful three weeks of my life! I didn’t even noticed I turned 47 .  My symptoms got worse. I lost fifteen pounds within that month and there was blood in my stool (a late sign of colon cancer). During March 2003, which coincidentally is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month (wear BLUE), I heard Katie Couric on the radio explain the symptoms of colorectal cancer, and then, I knew what was wrong with me.  I had colon cancer! It all made sense.  And I was scheduled for surgery to remove a ‘blockage’, tax day, April 15th 2003.

Stage IIIc, is late stage colorectal cancer, my odds were 1 in 4, maybe 50-50. After my colon resection and six months of weekly chemotherapy, I was emotionally and physically whipped out! What was ‘normal’ exercise? Even gentle yoga classes exhausted me. I used a yoga tape at home redoing the first five minutes, deep breathing, gentle stretching. I did only five minutes everyday. During this time, I realized that many other survivors probably had the same need to ease back into exercise. I repurposed my life and my teaching to teach yoga to cancer survivors.

Yoga for Cancer Survivors

Feeling inspired to fill in the gap and help other survivors, I asked my local “ Y” if they would let me create a class for cancer patients. With joy and purpose, I become a yoga teacher, in May 2005, and started teaching. Yoga for Cancer Survivors was released in January 2007, and almost 3,800 have been given away to non-profits, hospitals and individuals. It is  now FREE  download, here, and on Soundcloud.


Yoga for Cancer SurvivorsWHO ME?

Name: Jean Di Carlo-Wagner
Age: 62
Birthday: March 27th, 1956
Location: San Diego

Favorite Book: Awakening Intuition
Favorite Posture: Savasana
Favorite Food: dark green veggies
Favorite Store: Thrift Shops
Favorite Quote: “The cracks are where the Light can get in.”