My latest recovery story began when a lump was found in March 2016. There followed a year of treatment including: a course of chemotherapy, surgical removal of 2 tumors, radiation to the left breast and chest lymph nodes, and a follow-up course of immune-therapy infusions.
As for my earlier recovery, in 2011 I had my left hip replaced. I am very certain that Taiji had a clear and obvious role in my rehabilitation. The memory of Taiji getting me through hip replacement carried directly into my cancer experience, but not quite in the same way this time.
Throughout cancer treatments, I tried to return to Taiji class at various times. But I only had energy to last 15 or 20 minutes. I had various pain and endurance limitations performing with the class. Each time I was disappointed, and for awhile I just had to stop.
Just now, I feel like I am into a period of recovery. I have given myself a recovery year to regain balance, build strength, extend stamina, and reflect.
Here's how taiji has factored into my cancer recovery.
First of all, taiji was a call. I knew what it felt like to be healthy. Taiji was a critical component of that feeling. So even when I couldn’t participate, Taiji was always there – like a Greek siren’s call – beckoning me to be present, to play, to participate.
Second, taiji provided community. For twenty years, our group of taiji-people has been part of my life. They greeted me each week. We laughed together as we encouraged our bodies to relax, to stretch, to balance. We groaned together when we were awkward, couldn’t remember, or couldn’t do. We celebrated together as we completed a form.
I heard from this community during my cancer treatments. I was supported by them. I wanted to return and play with them again.
Third, taiji requires highly honed motions for the areas I especially needed to move. Chemotherapy, but especially surgery and radiation, attacked my chest, shoulders and upper torso full on. Taiji helped open these up -- helped open my chest, move my shoulders in simple but complex and sophisticated ways. Just that has been helping me heal.
Fourthly, taiji meditation taught me to live the life I have, not some other life I imagine or wish for, but the one that is actually and really present to me. Taiji has taught me patience with my body’s capacity and patience with my mind’s very busy chatter. Becoming ‘still’ in my life is a gift that taiji offers again and again.
So, I'm starting over again, learning to heed the call of taiji, continuing to receive from and return support to others in my taiji community, learning to move again and relearning always, the gift of stillness. I am thankful.
About the Author
Ruth Gilbert is 20 years plus studying, teaching and learning Taiji with Dr. Yang. After he relocated to New York City in 2005, she continued on with Scott Grubisich. She has participated annually since 2001 in Dr. Yang’s intensive camps wherever offered, until family and health reversals precluded the last three years of participation. She hopes to return to them soon.
Feeling privileged to have participated, organized or taught in several research studies, she hopes to do more of it. Among various teaching roles since 2005, she worked with senior citizens, Alzheimer patients, and a diverse general citizenry. Other highlights in her taiji-life include attending Grand Master Fang’s training in Champaign and several visits in Seattle with Madame Gao Fu.