I have a kind of interesting story. I had joined our local YMCA gym awhile ago to work out, get fit, and lose weight. I was working out several days a week, and I guess got kind of bored with the gym routine so decided to check out some of their exercise classes. They offered a Tai Chi class, and I decided to enroll. An appendix cancer patient I was in contact with was getting a Master’s degree in Chinese medicine, and I’d heard Tai Chi was a kind of “moving meditation”, so I was intrigued. It turned out the YMCA class was canceled, so I checked in my community to see if anyone else offered Tai Chi classes. I found one and joined. It turned out, to my surprise, that the class wasn’t about the “mind body moving meditation” form of Tai Chi, but Tai Chi as a martial art focusing on self defense.

As a teen and young adult decades ago, I’d been physically abused, so know what it’s like to feel physically vulnerable. I also backpack with another woman, and we’d been told before by rangers to be careful as women had been attacked in wilderness areas where we wanted to backpack. I’d toyed with the idea of taking a self-defense class before, so decided to stick with the Tai Chi martial art class.

In my Tai Chi class we learn how to disarm and disable anyone who might attack us. Tai Chi is actually a deadly martial art. We also learn pressure points…amazing, I’ve had a martial arts master use pressure points on my arm that made me unable to use my legs. Tai Chi as a martial art relies heavily on the use of pressure points.

Tai Chi is hard for me as it requires me to be very focused on detail in movement, to move slowly, to learn complicated postures and form….being strong and fit and large means nothing in this martial art, technique is everything. It requires discipline, confidence, patience and concentration…all good attributes.

But to me it is so empowering. It gives me tools to defend myself; it gives me confidence, it makes me less afraid to do things I might want to try solo as a female. Fear is so limiting. I don’t want to be afraid. I want to feel strong and confident.

I think a sense of empowerment as a cancer patient is vital. Education and knowledge empowers us. Having choices empowers us. Feeling a sense of control empowers us.

Empowerment is a good thing.

One of my goals is to form a group for cancer patients at a large local oncology practice. Not a “support group”, but an “empowerment group”. A group of cancer patients who can share ideas and knowledge and resources. Cancer patients who give confidence to and yes, even support each other. Who gather strength from each other. Who empower each other in our battle against cancer.