Life isn’t measured by the number of breaths you take but by the number of moments that take your breath away.

I love this quote. I believe in it. I want every day to leave me breathless in a happy way. But, there are also moments that take your breath away for all the wrong reasons. And that’s when you learn to breathe deeply with intent to keep balanced and focused.

The day I realized I had cancer was a day that took my breath away. Literally, I could not breathe. My hands shook. My mouth became dry.  I looked at the woman facing me in the mirror, and her eyes were round with fear. I cupped my hands over my nose and mouth and just started breathing…deeply…to stop my eyes from filling with tears and my head from spinning.

Learning to breath again with purpose has been a life saver throughout my cancer treatment, my father’s death and daily stress. I encourage you to do the same. Start with a deep slow inhale through your nose to the count of five.  Then, take a deep, slow exhale through the mouth to the count of five.  Feel your breath navigate your chest, your diaphram, down to the pit of your stomach to help dislodge the knots of tension. Do this over and over and then have a glass of water to hydrate. Stress and tension are dehydrating.  For me deep breathing slows down the rapid pace of my heartbeat when I am tense, and it stabilizes my emotions. It gives me clarity.

Today, I had the same horrible experience all over again. I was told someone I love very much, who loves me back unconditionally, may have cancer.  An Xray shows a suspicious mass in his head. More tests are needed. Sitting there hearing this news was liked being whacked in the chest all over again. I literally felt my chest cave in and my head start to spin. I was mentally reliving the day I learned I had cancer.

I summoned all the energy I could and quietly took deep, long breaths until I was relatively calm.  Another battle must be faced, and another battle must be won. I calmly recalled all the steps I took to seek answers and make choices and in my head plotted out next steps, next tests and what the implications could be. I was grateful to have my husband, my lifeline, with me to hear the doctor’s recommendations. You always need a second set of ears because you don’t always hear the same thing. Lips are moving, but words start  jumbling when your mind is racing and your emotions are flying off.

The tip for today is this: Whether you face the diagnosis yourself or a loved one faces this challenge, it will be one of those moments that takes your breath away. Slow down; be still and quiet and take deep, long breaths. Make sure you have someone with you whom you trust to take notes, even bring a tape recorder, because you will only hear half of what is being said. Then, set your battle plan, in small marching steps. You can’t do it all at once, so aim for planning and taking the most logical first steps: a second opinion, a CAT scan, PET scan, Xray. Write everything down; or have someone do this for you.

That evening, do anything possible to recapture what should have been a normal day. I remember calling some girlfriends, both cancer survivors, to meet me at a cafe where we drank two bottles of pretty decent French rose, ate salad Nicoise and, for a few hours, pushed the diagnosis to the side and pretended we were in Provence.

That day, I initially cried and gasped for breath, filled with shock. But by that night, with dear friends close, we all laughed until we were breathless.

  1. Actually after reading this article, i am against you on this. I do not blame you,and am actually thankful for bringing this up on your blog. I am just conjuring up a dialogue here,no hard feelings.

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