It's funny... I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer (papillary carcinoma) about a year ago and had a thyroidectomy 10 months ago.... a trained Yoga teacher and avid Yogi, you'd think I'd have written about this much earlier... 

But alas - it seems today is that day. Yesterday I tried shoulderstand for the first time since my surgery. In fact, for the past 10 months I have shied away from all poses that I thought would put too much pressure on the surgical area - especially shoulderstand, headstand, camel and wheel pose.

I found that none of my Yoga teachers really know about which poses to try or avoid in connection to this particular surgery (and why would they?!) and that none of my doctors seemed to understand why I would want to stretch my neck back all the way or compress it. 

Since the asanas are all indicated for someone with a whole body, it's been hard for me to know what to do now that one crucial part is gone. 

What do you think? 

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Hi Shira,
I too am a yoga teacher and had the same thyroid cancer last summer w/ surgery then treatment in August of 2009. I had some trouble doing yoga during my treatment because of nausea and shied away from anything that put pressure there. I have found a year later that I really needed to do throat chakra opening asana. It helped so much for me to be able to get the energy flowing there again. I felt stuck. Doing Ustrasana, for instance, while working on opening the throat chakra, really helped in this. It was amazing how much I stored my grief there. It was cathartic to work this way. I was in a summer solstice practice in June when I was able to reach this breakthrough in my practice. It was wonderful. Getting with a senior teacher who is skilled in chakra energy really aided me in returning to a full and meaningful yoga practice.

I hope this helps.
Hi Shira-
I just completed my treatment for thyroid cancer and have been studying up on poses that would be beneficial. I agree that bringing energy to the area continues to be important because even though the gland is no longer there, the throat chakra is still located there and bringing energy to that area is a good thing. Also, getting energy to move through that area will go a long way towards healing any residual grief over having to have your thyroid removed. Back bends are great, but if you are still getting your medication regulated, you might want to wait on Camel pose as it is contraindicated for people who feel hypothyroid. However, crocodile, bridge, upward facing dog, cobra, and wheel are all good ones. Forward bends are also good. Child's pose, rabbit, standing forward bend will help relax after the invigorating back bends. Also, poses that concentrate on the root chakra, as that is our survival chakra, and it can help work through any fear that still may reside in the body from having a cancer diagnosis. Triangle, reverse triangle, squats, divine butterfly, lotus are all great ones for strength and working through fear.

I know it's hard to think about your body not being "whole". I grapple with this myself. I wish you health and happiness on your healing journey.
Thank you ladies for some amazing advice. Anytime you want to talk about this journey together, I would be glad to. It is a strange feeling to have something removed from your body, especially when you think of yourself as strong and healthy. 10 months later, my scar is still pretty visible, so that's a daily reminder of what I went through, and I really do feel that grief in my throat charkra.

Another asana question - I've been a little nervous to do wheel and headstand, mostly because, even though I know the area is healed, it feels strange - like way too open (wheel) or way too much pressure (headstand). What are you thoughts on that?
I would say listen to your body, it's definitely saying something...either too open or too much pressure for right now. Have you worked with some modifications of the poses? I have an exercise ball and I will do a version of wheel on my ball, which because of the support I receive, feels less exposed than if I am completely lifting myself. With headstand, you could try working with a wall and perhaps rest your feet on the wall the entire time...or if that is still too much, work with another pose that will give you that inversion experience, like shoulder stand, where it places pressure in a different area.
Having cancer is such a hard thing to wrap your head around, when you have the experience of being healthy and strong. The thought is, that if you have cancer you are sick. My doctor says this is an old idea, as cancer is being diagnosed earlier and earlier, it is much more preventative and less like that old stereotype. My doctor was very clear, she still considered me strong and healthy, however I had some mutated, old cells that weren't doing what they should, so they had to be removed. As a consequence, the thyroid had to be removed as a way to discourage other thyroid cells from mutating in the same manner. I look at it as my thyroid sacrificed itself, so that I don't have to go through this again in the future. It's funny, but I had never given my thryoid much or any thought before this, but I certainly mourned it when I heard that it needed to be removed. Allow yourself that. 10 months is not that long. Give yourself time and try to remember what courage you have shown facing something that can be so scary. You are a true warrior.
Be well.
So beautifully said, Sara! I love your perspective and your doctor's comment about being healthy even with a cancer diagnosis is right on!! Thank you for sharing.
Thank you so much! I love your name by the way. My sister's name is Lorien and you are only the second one I have met.
Thanks for the compliment. I am a member of a Facebook group called "So, Your Named Lorien too?" and I've met several through there, but none in person. :-)
Dear Shira,
Thank you for opening this line of discussion. Though I did not have thyroid cancer, I can relate to not knowing what poses would be contraindicated after colon cancer. It seems that 'following our yoga' is the way we are all encouraged to go.

I would listen to your body and use supportive adaptations, laying over blankets, exploring range of motion without weight or stress. Use pillows and tilt your head slightly, and feel the sensations. Work with someone so that you can
have support and if necessary some help.

Of course, follow your doctor's advice.

About 'missing body parts'. Energetically, I feel all missing body parts...and I have had quite a few removed! I imagine them when I do poses and think of them as 'with me in spirit'
and so, energetically, still present. I thank them for sacrificing themselves, taking my grief and anger, allowing it
to be removed. Though I believe emotions played a role in my developing cancer, I do not blame myself, it is the nature of bodies to have changes, absorb stress, teach us about life
both living and dying, illness and health.

Being grateful for what we can do, the body parts that we have left and how they work for us; this is now my focus.
Beautifully said. I am going to read this to my class this morning.


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