I recently began running and working out several times a week. My endurance has increased greatly, I can run 2 miles now (again with short walk breaks). Two people have asked me if I am doing something different because I look better, look healthier (did I look unhealthy before? Hmmm….).

I also enrolled in a Tai Chi class just out of curiousity thinking it would be the healthful mind-body stretching exercise class I’d heard of. As it turns out, my Tai Chi class is taught as a martial art. It is the Yang Long Form version of Tai Chi Ch’uan and teaches self defense. Tai Chi Ch’uan is actually a very deadly martial art similar to Kung Fu. For a time it was banned as a martial art in China, hence it came to be practiced instead as a form of relaxing exercise.

In learning this martial art I have truly had to work to wrap my mind around many Asian and Chinese concepts that are very new to me. I’ve learned a little bit about Chinese medicine. There is a lot of mind-body philosphy. I’m learning about pressure points and how they are used in self defence, about energy and meridians. I’m also having to learn to concentrate more, to become more disiplined and more focused. I’ve learned that in using martial arts you can defend yourself well and that defending yourself does not rely on your size or strength, it’s all technique. When I get good at the martial art, I don’t think I will ever feel afraid again hiking alone in the wilderness or walking in dark parking lots in inner city neighborhoods.

It’s truly made me feel empowered….and a feeling of empowerment after a living with a cancer diagnosis is a great thing. It gives back a sense of control, of self-direction, of strength. I’m not sure if I’ve ever truly felt this empowered before, so I’m really loving the feeling. A cancer diagnosis makes you at least initially feel powerless, so the new feeling of empowerment is great. Tai Chi has also made me take my mind to a place it’s never been before, to learn things I’d never contemplated learning; so it is also a great distraction from life in the cancer world. It’s also making me take a longer look at medicine and health from a different angle, which is challenging for me.

I’m guessing there are different ways of acheiving this sense of empowerment, and I truly think it is worth pursuing something that gives those of us in the cancer community that feeling. It gives us another tool to use in our fight, another source of strength.