• How Yoga Helps Me Face Metastatic Breast Cancer

    Personal Stories, Dollars Making A Difference

     

    My name is Adiba Barney. I'm 40 years old, married to the most wonderful man in this universe, Kris, and we live with our 2 precious dogs in beautiful San Francisco.

    I've had a life filled with both tough challenges and great achievements. I was born as a child of war in Lebanon. At the age of seven, my family and I fled to Sweden to survive, and start over.

    In 2005, I was diagnosed with breast cancer for the first time. I was only 27 years old.

    Then in 2008, when I was only 30, I received my second diagnosis – the same breast cancer was back, and in the same breast. This time, I knew what to. I had things under control. I felt like I was the one telling my friends and family that it was going to be OK.

    Once I was told that I was “cancer-free,” I was ready to achieve a lifelong goal of starting my own company and moving to the United States.

    Things were going well! Then, in January of 2015, breast cancer changed my life again. After trying to have a baby for a couple of years, Kris and I were about to start IVF in the hopes of finally starting our family. Unfortunately, that was not in the cards. My routine mammogram showed that a new breast cancer was developing in my previously healthy breast. After doing a mastectomy of that breast, I was taken to the ER due to shortness of breath, where a CT scan showed that my previous breast cancer had spread to my bones. Instead of having a baby and fulfilling our dream of having a family, I was now facing a new reality: living with stage IV metastatic breast cancer.

    I started on a new treatment in April, but by Christmas it was no longer working. The evil cancer cells had become resistant to a treatment that we had hoped would work for at least 5 years. And, as a result, my breast cancer was now also in my lungs.

    Luckily, a new treatment regimen that involved aggressive, experimental radiation therapy and a new drug was effective. Today I have no evidence of tumors in my body, and I’m so, so happy. But, the side effects of the treatment will be with me forever. The radiation to my spine left me in a wheelchair, and I had to go to physical therapy to learn to walk again. That’s when yoga came into my life, and truly changed me forever.

    Before I got sick, I hadn’t really grasped the benefits and community of yoga, or what yoga could really mean and do. Because I was so busy, I never really relaxed and just got into the Zen mode. But, when I ended up in a wheelchair and started physical therapy, I started yoga just to try it out. I realized that it was helping me even more than the physical therapy. I learned a lot about breathing. My body was beginning to function normally again. Plus, it was a great therapeutic way to deal with everything I was going through.

    It had been almost a year of treatments, good news, bad news, fear, hope, and pushing my inner strength to new levels, and yoga was a part of that journey. Being able to get into your own body and just being part of your own self – being able to process everything – yoga helped me with that too. Not to mention, it is also a very fun thing to do.

    And, because of the way breast cancer has affected my body, it’s also a bit of a challenge for me. I push myself to see how far I can go, and what I’m capable of. Every time it's like a little competition to see if I can do a specific pose or not.

    Throughout the years I've learned how to handle challenges, survive and thrive from them instead of laying down and giving up, and yoga has been one important and special part of that journey.

    Today, now that I have no evidence of tumors in my body, Kris and I are looking forward to welcoming our baby boy this October, currently being carried by our lovely surrogate.

    My fight continues – just as it does for every person living with stage IV metastatic breast cancer. And I’m grateful for yoga and all the tools in my toolbox that keep my spirits high and my cancer at bay, for me, Kris, and my baby boy.


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