Yoga Barbados

Facing the biggest challenge of my life

The beginning of 2022 I thought I had faced the most difficult time when my son announced that he couldn't go back to university because he needed to put himself of suicide watch. Years back I lost my cousin who took his life because of severe mental depression which he shared with no one. It was my biggest fear for my kids. At times I found myself going in his room looking to see that there was no rope or anything sharp. My husband was away at the time and it was just like when he was in my womb, I was the sole person with full responsibility but limited ability to keep him alive.

Six months later he went back to the UK, diagnosed with BiPolar type 2, on medication and able to face and manage his mental health on his own.

I am so proud of him, I don't know many 21 year olds who stop drinking, smoking weed and start meditation and pranayama (some yin yoga, but definitely exercise) to do the best they can to keep their depression and anxiety at bay. He is an excellent example of how to love yourself and be your own best friend and I know he will find his own way at his own pace and thrive.

I didn't have a breakdown I ate a bit more sugar than usual, but I felt I had learnt the lessons of acceptance and surrendering.

In September, 2 days before my birthday (I swear the universe - we'll call it "him" - does it on purpose) my husband, on a business trip in Trinidad, was diagnosed with oesophageal gastric cancer stage 3 N2 - hadn't metastasised but present in a couple nodes. Bam just like that within one week he was having the first of his 4 fortnightly rounds of FLOT chemotherapy. It Looked like we caught it in time, and the plan was 4 rounds of the chemo, surgery and then another 4 rounds of chemo and then…wait!

My husband handled the first 4 rounds of chemo so well it was incredible. He was already bald so there wasn't the shock of hair loss, he put on weight, he walked more steps than most healthy men. We went into his surgery, I'd like to say optimistic, but in actuality, naive.

Even though the surgeons explained exactly what they were going to do, cut out two thirds of his stomach and about 6 inches of his oesophagus and pull them together and rejoin them yada yada yada, I was more worried that the insurance company would pay the 80% as I expected him to defy all odds and leave the hospital days earlier than expected.

When the first part of the surgery took three hours longer than expected I had that unease in my stomach. The surgeon came out to talk to me and all I could hear was that my husband had a hard stomach with a lot of fat on the inside! I questioned him so much on this after he finally said he wished he hadn't told me anything. He also mentioned something about a blood vessel bursting that he had to sew up, only after I found out that they had to cut 3 of the 4 blood vessels so if this one didn't work there was no way the join would heal so that was the real problem.

The hardest part after surgery in the hospital was dealing with an extremely condescending bossy physio therapist who thought if she spoke in a soft calm voice she had positive energy. She was throughly toxic for my husband and was the catalyst pushing him to leave the hospital a day early just so he wouldn't have to walk around the ward with her softly telling him "slow down. Breathe".

The first day back at his mum's house we went walking, slowly. Each day he walked longer and faster, Christmas Adam (day before Christmas Eve) I think he walked over 13,000 steps…but then he crashed. No energy. We were flying home on Boxing Day and I felt sure being in his own home with our 5 dogs, 2 cats and a parrot and fresh country breezes overlooking the Bajan countryside was all he needed.

His external scars had healed so remarkably I assumed the same was happening on the inside, and maybe if I could have found a way to put some lavender and tea tree essential oils it might have healed better? While he had graduated to soft foods, a couple days after we got home he was throwing up everything, so it was back to liquids (I'm not ruling out it was my cooking). He seemed to be getting weaker everyday. I watched his weight loss, muscle wasting and depression and I just focused on doing what I could, trying not to think when will he start to turn around to get strong enough to start back his last 4 rounds of chemo.

After 20 days at home and the last few nights waking up to hear him coughing and then bringing up his food, getting weaker, I messaged his oncologist (a friend of mind from primary school now one of my best friends - he may not know this yet) who immediately called and said get him to an emergency hospital or back to Trinidad . I sent him off 2 hours later in a wheelchair on a one hour flight to Trinidad to head straight to accident and emergency. My heart was breaking but I knew it was the best place for him. I would follow a week later.

Thirteen days later he's out of hospital, weaker or as weak as before, still coughing, still throwing up liquids. Now being fed out of two tubes, one that goes directly to his stomach the other to his intestines. Last night (first night out of hospital) he tried to have about 30 mls of water orally and spent the entire night coughing and spitting up. I spent the night Ecosia-ing "why after 7 weeks of gastrectomy surgery water won't stay down" and found enough alarming information to make me send a midnight message to his oncologist (hoping his phone would be on silent) telling him my fear was no longer losing my husband to cancer but from recovery of surgery.

Thankfully in Trinidad doctors and surgeons (at least the ones we've been lucky enough to meet) are personable and reassuring and this morning one of the surgeons called to ease my concerns.

So we take it one tube feed at a time. Aim to improve his nutrition. Hope for an assisted-natural, conservative recovery or greater strength to handle further surgery. We don't even mention chemo.

I've not turned to alcohol, but maybe sought solace in ice cream. Here is the honest truth if not for my yoga I wouldn't like to know me at this place.

My yoga has saved me. My practice, every morning makes me fully present in my body and how it feels, where needs to strengthen and where needs to relax. My pranayama (breathing techniques) slowing down my exhale to twice my inhale to help activate my parasympathetic nervous system or bastrika to energise me when I think I can't take another step. My meditation and mindfulness to stay in the present moment especially when I want to think about the future or reminisce on the past.

Everything about yoga brings me to the present moment and I realise I can always bear the present even when it's difficult because it will soon be the past.