My name is Marcia Mercier and I’m a yoga teacher based in north west London. I’m the founder of Marcie Yoga and I’m excited to announce that I’ve just launched Yoga for Breast Cancer. These new online classes are designed specifically to support anyone with a diagnosis of breast cancer.
It was through my own personal experience of breast cancer, 22 years ago, that I discovered yoga and it has been a huge part of my life ever since. I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 32 and it came as a huge shock - I didn’t think that younger women could get breast cancer.
I noticed a lump in my right breast but, because of my age, I thought nothing of it. Eventually I told my husband who insisted that I get it checked out immediately. I went along to see my GP who referred me to a specialist for further investigations.
I was told that the cells were suspicious, and I’d need surgery to remove the lump and an area of tissue around it. I was in total shock. My first thoughts were for my children. How would I tell them? And would I even be around to see them grow up?
Everything happened rather quickly from that point onwards and I felt like I was being carried along in a whirlwind, just going through the motions.
A few days after the surgery we were back in the consultant’s room and he gave us the news that he hadn’t removed enough breast tissue, so the best option would be to have a mastectomy with an immediate reconstruction. I remember recoiling in horror as he said the word “mastectomy” – I’d never imagined this would be happening to me.
I remember waking up from surgery and the first thing I did was look down and check for a bump under my hospital gown as it was really important to me to have something that resembled a breast.
I stayed in hospital for several days after my surgery. I just needed that time to rest, contemplate and regain my strength. I remember my surgeon doing his rounds the morning after surgery and him saying to me: “You’re one of the lucky ones.” As I lay in my hospital bed, I struggled to agree with him! I felt like I was the only 32-year-old in the world going through breast cancer and it was scary.
The first two weeks of my recovery were very frustrating, as I needed to rest a lot and wasn’t able to lift my children or even cuddle them. I felt very fragile inside and out.
Gradually, life returned to normal and, from a physical aspect, I had healed, however, I didn’t feel fully back to my normal self. I felt overwhelmed and emotional about what I’d just been through.
This is when I decided to try yoga. Yoga became my lifeline in the months following my treatment. Yoga rehabilitated me; it made my whole body strong; it stretched the tight areas around the scar tissue and mobilised my right arm and shoulder; it focused and calmed my mind. Most importantly, I felt empowered that I was taking charge of my own recovery and well-being.
It was only as the years went on, that I grew to appreciate my surgeon’s words. I truly feel that I am “one of the lucky ones” because I caught my cancer early and had a better chance of survival.
If there’s one message that I’d pass on from my breast cancer experience, it’s to be breast aware and know what’s normal for you so that you can notice any unusual changes. If you notice anything unusual, visit your GP and get it checked immediately. You can find out more information about how to check your breasts at Breast Cancer Now.
No previous experience of yoga is necessary, but you must have the consent of your doctor to start exercising.