Miranda is one of the many women who have chosen to use their personal experience with their Breast Cancer treatment and recovery in order to help others on their journey to recovery. Here is her story.
" Until getting my breast cancer diagnosis I had always been a strong woman both mentally and emotionally. I had boundless energy and enthusiasm, had been a professional ballet dancer and was now an entrepreneur. My daughter had never seen me as someone who was vulnerable and weak, so my reaction to breast cancer came as a shock to both of us. I fell apart emotionally and no words of comfort or gestures of kindness could pull me out of the emotional pit I was falling into.
I had just signed my first contract with PBS to tape a series of Classical Stretch TV shows when I found a lump in my Breast. The lump was large and growing rapidly making my surgeon worry as to the seriousness of the cancer. He warned me of the possibilities of a full mastectomy, followed by an aggressive protocol of chemotherapy and radiation. The surgery was to be performed 6 weeks before I was scheduled to tape the first 15 shows. From my surgeons diagnosis I did not believe that I would ever teach again and the possibility of filming was close to impossible. The treatment he was proposing would cause me to lose my hair, and be exhausted and unable to work for the best part of the year. Everything I had worked towards seemed to be coming to an end.
After the surgery the cancer proved to be contained, eliminating the need for chemotherapy. This meant that only radiation was required so no hair loss; that was a relief. However after the surgery I was unable to raise my arm above my waist and was left with a painful underarm disfiguration. I couldn’t see how I would be able to film the TV shows or even teach again if I couldn’t lift my arm. I am a dancer and movement has been such an important part of my life, so one of the things that affected my morale the most was the unexpected fact that I had terrible trouble regaining my range of motion. Here I was an exercise specialist who had been given clear and detailed instructions from the hospital physiotherapy department, and I could not figure out how to rehabilitate my arm. Once again I fell into a bit of depression and despair. I was very fortunate to have a close friend who was a physiotherapist and who came to my home and led me through my rehabilitation.
The entire experience of cancer: the loss of control of life, the sense of dependency, the helplessness, the not knowing what was going to happen next, the fears, dealing with the unknown, all became too overwhelming sending me into an emotional tailspin that lasted almost a year. I had always been able to deal with every other adversity, this was the first one I felt incapable of overcoming. I went through a personality change becoming reclusive and depressed. Every cancer story is very personal; they are the stories of each person’s private struggles. During my convalescence I found that only real solace and comfort came to me from talking with fellow cancer survivors. We all spoke the same language; we understood each other’s pain. The sharing of their experiences helped me find my way out of my depression and fears.
My Daughter Sahra
I was not the only person who was affected by my cancer. Sahra, my daughter, lost her mother for that year, as I became a different person unable to be the supportive mother she was used to depending upon. The experience of my initial reaction to breast cancer and my trouble inspired both Sahra and I to make an exercise video to help other women avoid the same emotional pitfalls. Given that we were both in the health and fitness field, we felt that this was an area where we could contribute. Not every breast cancer patient is fortunate enough to have a personal physiotherapist visit them after surgery. We made this video to be that personal therapist for other women.
This video is the brainchild of Sahra who became determined to make sure as many women in the world didn’t suffer emotionally and physically as I did. She found all the funding, the film crew and worked with physiotherapists and an oncologist to make sure this exercise video happened and was endorsed by the medical community. She has worked to bring it into other countries including Mexico, Panama, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Greece, India, South Africa and more.
With the advice from my oncologist and physiotherapist we used the Classical Stretch exercises to create a workout specifically designed for breast cancer survivors. We developed specific exercises which safely and systematically increased the range of motion of the arm. We have since worked together giving workshops and lectures to increase awareness of both the exercises and the importance of rehabilitation."