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Finding Strength After Fighting Breast Cancer

For Catherine Guthrie, reconstruction after a double mastectomy would have meant taking muscle from her back to rebuild her breasts. She opted against the reconstruction—but it wasn’t until she attempted a certain yoga move for the first time post-surgery that she knew she’d made the right choice.

Catherine Guthrie

MY CONFIDENCE wobbled as I walked into the studio and unrolled my mat alongside 15 young women in tiny yoga tops. Their long hair was swept back in neat pony tails. Their limbs toned and coltish. In the mirror at the front of the room, I caught a glimpse of a short-haired woman with a T-shirt fluttering across her chest, like a windless sail. I used to see myself as a confident woman who didn’t care what other people thought. But that woman was nowhere to be seen. In her place was a person still reconfiguring herself from the ground up, still shaky in her post-cancer body.

An hour later, the class was sweaty from a series of standing poses when the instructor, Lucy, told us to find a space at the wall to practice handstands. I hesitated. My eyes shifted toward the door and then the small clock at the front of the room. Class was almost over. Sneaking out early would be easy. The noise of two dozen yoga students bustling and sliding their mats, water bottles, and props to the wall offered plenty of cover. Had I been cleared for handstands months ago? Yes. Had I tried the pose? No.

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October 2018