Ayurveda, Cancer, And My Sister

I think of the constants in my life... The places, the things, the people... and there is only one constant in all of it. My sister.

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We have not always been close, my sister and I,  and that surprises most people who see us today. My sister and I start each day with our morning coffee and chat. Rarely do we miss our morning calls - no matter where we are in the world.

Husbands, girlfriends and family members have asked us what we talk about for easily an hour each day. More often, we do not know! It does all seem important though!

Sometimes it’s politics, local and global. Often it’s the kids, and our worries or better yet, our frustrations with them. We talk about our dogs, our work, our latest keep fit plan, - we just talk and connect. And on the odd day when we do not call each other in the morning - I feel a little deflated, just a little down.  I look forward to starting my day with these conversations.

My sister is my constant!

She was my constant growing up too. Five years younger - I was the elder sister and did what I suppose most older sisters do. I bullied her, humiliated her, fought with her, laughed with and mostly loved her. Now my sister gave as good as she got but when push came to shove - she was there for me.

She was there for me when I did not want to return to boarding school and I asked her to push me down the stairs in the mistaken hope that a broken leg would stop my return to school. And while she refused to actually push me - she never let on that any injury was self-induced.

She was there for me too when I ran away from boarding school and hid in the broom closet for all of about 4 hours. It was my sister who brought me cookies, thinking I might be hungry. It was also my sister who sang gaily about how ‘I was gonna get it” from my parents for running away and hiding. She never let on about my hiding place though…

She whispered in the night with me, jumped on the bed with me, argued with me, wrestled with me and listened to ALL of my dreams.

We were separated for several years as our parents divorced and when she was sent away to school.

Early adulthood had us go on very different paths as she married young and I traveled. However, she still found time to teach me how to smoke (properly), how to flirt, and how to have fun in the moment.

She taught me strength as I watched her give birth to a spina bifida baby and she taught me about extremes as she struggled with anorexia.

Tragedy brought us together from across different continents when her husband hung himself and left her devastated with three small children. She taught me about despair as she struggled to cope and strength as she tried to move on with life.

She was there for me when my husband was abusive and I needed a safe place to rest and start again.

We felt the blow of grief together as we became motherless daughters when Mum died of pancreatic cancer. And, today together, it is only my sister and I that carry her laugh, her touch and her smile.

Through these moments of life’s joys and tragedies - my sister is my constant.

She taught me pride when after dropping out of school at the age of fourteen, she completed her hard earned degree at Elizabethtown College. And, she taught me about doing something for a higher purpose when she went on mission trips to underserved countries to help with natural disasters.

She has been my constant!

Why am I telling you so much about my sister? This past weekend, she confirmed her lab results with me - she has cancer...

We don’t know what will come next, what the treatment protocol will be, how long and how invasive.

I just know that at that 3 am awakening, when fears are given full reign to surface - I fear I may lose my sister. If that were to happen, my world would be devoid of color and I would only see in black and white.

So, with all my skills, my training and my love - I will learn now to be a constant for her too!

But, just how will I do that? I will use my training and knowledge of Ayurveda to help me be grounded enough to help her. I often counsel my clients who are caretakers that they also need to care-take themselves. It’s funny how when we care for others, free time for ourselves seems selfish. However, time to rejuvenate, to re-balance and to re-charge is essential if we are to be a good caretaker.

I have made simple changes. I have organized my routine to balance my Vata so that I do not get too stressed or imbalanced myself.  Here are the simple changes I am making:

  • I get up with the sun each morning and spend 20 minutes in silence. I drink my lemon water and breathe deeply. At about this time, my dog who wakes with me starts telling me that he has needs to.

  • I walk daily with the dog, I am mindful of the Spring coming, the change of the seasons and as I live on a bay, relish watching the ospreys build their nests. I watch the tide come in and see the fog off the horizon. It is peaceful and calms and grounds me as I start my day.

  • I have a warming and nourishing breakfast of a grain like quinoa or oatmeal (see my hot quinoa with spiced soy milk recipe) to ground and calm the central nervous system.

  • I make sure that I take time out of my day to check in and see how I am doing

  • I make my favorite lunch of Green Papaya Salad or Spiced Guacamole

  • For my evening routine, I take my ojas building milk (vitality building) before bed and make sure I massage the soles of my feet with sesame oil so that I get a good night’s sleep.

In this way I can be the constant for my sister too!

If you are a caretaker and feel that you have neglected yourself - set up a complimentary consult with me and I can share ways that can help so that you can help your loved one without depleting yourself. Go to my online scheduler here.

In sadness today,