I arrived early to the cozy, wood cabin style coffee shop to get a spot at the cafe's peak busy hour. As I sat down in preparation for my guest, Jamey, I reflected on my first encounter with her several weeks ago. I met Jamey on a wintery Monday afternoon as she arrived early for her first yoga class at Alchemy Yoga Studio. As I showed her around the studio she was quite frank with me stating that she had just had a surgery and was a little concerned about how she would do in class. I was teaching a yin style class so assured her that it was very gentle and if she felt uncomfortable at all that she could always call me over and I would help her out. This eased her mind but then reluctantly added that due to the surgery she had to wear a colostomy bag. Being the first movement style class she had taken post-opp, she was unsure and nervous of how it would be affected. Again, I expressed that this was the beauty of yoga that she could use this time to just listen to how her body felt in the space with the different positions and to modify as much as she needed to feel supported and comfortable. After class, she was all smiles. She expressed how much she enjoyed the class and was surprised with how her body responded to the postures and the warmth of the room. After this class, I began to see Jamey show up regularly to classes throughout the week, sometimes twice a day. Each time I saw her she had the biggest grin on her face and was always showing appreciation and love to the teachers and other students. Little did I know, Jamey was going through one of the most intense changes of her life.
My interactions with Jamey were frequent but brief as we would chat before or after classes. She would let me know how she was doing both in healing from her surgery and progressing in her practice. I observed how she began to experiment from meditative and gentle movement style classes to more hot and vigorous practices in no time at all. Weeks later, after class one day, Jamey told me she was moving back to Edmonton, where she works and lives, and was so sad to say goodbye to the people at Alchemy. She expressed how much her life had changed over the course of a few short months and how the practice of yoga was a major driving force in helping her through this change. I only briefly and superficially knew what Jamey had gone through and was intrigued by her story but didn't want to pry. However when I asked to go for coffee and hear her story, she was eager and open to share. Jamey has given me full permission to write about her experiences and I feel so grateful and honoured to be entrusted with her story. This is the story of her journey.
Jamey is 24 years old and lives in Edmonton Alberta. According to her, she was a completely different person than she was just a few months ago. Jamey explained to me that she had been in a toxic relationship not too long ago, she didn't live a particularly healthy lifestyle, she smoked and didn't have great self-image or confidence. After her relationship ended, she spiralled into a pretty dark place and struggled to find balance only sending her deeper into shame and destructive thoughts. A few days prior to Christmas 2017, Jamey noticed something out of the ordinary on her body that didn't look, nor feel normal. She went to the hospital to get it checked out and they advised her that it could be a cyst, that she could take some hot baths and monitor it but not to worry. Almost immediately, the cyst got worse and worse, causing a pretty scary fever that signalled to Jamey that something was seriously wrong. Upon her return to the hospital, the doctors confirmed that the cyst had progressed drastically and they needed to operate immediately. This progression came out of nowhere, which scared Jamey but she was reassured by hospital staff that it was a routine surgery and not to worry.
Jamey was informed that surgery would take approximately half an hour however it ended up being over 3 hours due to some serious complications. The surgeon had made a major mistake, cutting too deeply during the operation, causing Jamey to bleed out extensively a mistake that almost cost her, her life. The surgeon attempted to fix it and Jamey was released on Christmas Eve only to be back at the hospital on Christmas Day, now septic and in serious pain. She underwent another emergency surgery to fix the problem but it only confirmed that the depth of the cut from the previous surgery was unrepairable. Her doctor entered the room after surgery to explain to Jamey what happened and she was in shock. He told her that she was left with very few options and it would be a long road to recovery. He explained that she would have to wear a colostomy bag during this time. Jamey laughs now as she remembered that she actually told the Doctor point blank, "you have the wrong room." This was not supposed to happen to her, how could things have gone downhill so quickly? She wasn't able to process it all. She kept going though her mind how this was supposed to be a routine surgery, that everything should be fixed and she could go back to living her life as she always did. In reality she had two options... Option A, accept the news, be released from the hospital and wear a colostomy bag where she should expect her recovery to be close to 12 months... OR Option B, remain at the hospital for a minimum of three months, be fed through an IV with almost 100% chance that she would STILL need to go through Option A. In addition, she was told that if she didn't heal well, she would have to go through another repair surgery which would bring her back to square one. Given the prognoses you can imagine that Jamey was pretty upset.
Jamey's parents who live in Cochrane, brought her to their home to take care of her as she recovered from surgery and from the shock of the change she would need to adapt to. Despite her reluctance to take medication, Jamey had to take something for the pain post surgery. She hated how it made her feel, she felt spaced out and disjointed adding to her already frustrated and dark outlook. She was not in a very good space; she suffered from extreme mood swings from the medication, felt helpless and annoyed that we wasn't able to move around freely, she had difficulties sleeping and generally just felt stuck in her head which boiled with a lot of anger towards the surgeon who had made just a huge mistake.
At the routine check up with her Doctor a couple weeks later she was looking for any positive news to help her outlook. The Doctor gave her the go-ahead to try some light exercises, like gentle yoga. That same day, January 31st, a significant day in nature as it was the blood and blue moon with a lunar eclipse (A rare cosmtic trifecta, with the last one happening over 150 years ago), but also a significant day for Jamey. She felt that this was the sign she needed to take a step towards healing not only her body but mind and spirit. Jamey signed up for a month unlimited pass at Alchemy Yoga Studio, chose to completely stop taking any pain medication and committed to being more positive and optimistic despite her circumstance. This was the day I was honoured to meet Jamey.
Everyday from that point on, Jamey was at the studio trying new classes and each time she stepped on to her mat she purposefully made the intention that she would choose to show up for herself, to be completely present and feel gratitude for this time to heal. Jamey attended weekly Nidra meditations led by Corey Jo Danyluk and was introduced to incorporating a sancalpa into her practice. A sancalpa is an intentional seed that one plants in their subconscious during a state of relaxation and comes in the form of an "I am" statement. It is stated in the present tense, "I am" instead of "I want to be" or "I will" because when one pairs the words with an emotional feeling force, one is already manifesting it, right now, in the present moment. When working with a sancalpa you are encouraged to use the same one over and over until you feel as though it is unfolding and becoming a reality in your life. Jamey chose the sancalpa, "I am healed". She chose to believe it, repeat it all the time and even write it on post-it notes all over the house to remind her of it. She said it so often and with so much confidence that she began to truly feel it.
Through her journey with yoga, Jamey experienced the benefits of having the anchor of the practice help calm her mind that was previously busy with anxiety. She grew from a place of feeling sorry for herself, into a space where she felt empowered, confident and extremely happy and grateful. Being on disability and unable to work, she made a routine of attending as many classes as she could and then go home read books on yoga, nutrition and healing. Jamey did a complete 180 in a short amount of time. Although she still felt physical pain, she began to listen to her body and find more natural alternatives that didn't send her on an emotional rollercoaster. Meditation became a major part of her life and Jamey's positive energy was felt by many of the teachers and students at the yoga studio.
On the next follow-up appointment, the doctor was shocked when he saw Jamey. The last time they met, Jamey was still angry at the surgeons mistake, frustrated that she had to wear a colostomy bag and cried through the appointment. This time, Jamey was lighter, brighter as she chose to forgive the surgeons mistake and accept her circumstances. The Doctor after doing a full check-up was absolutely blown away by the rate of her healing. No one could have expected it, but she had fully recovered in a matter of weeks instead of the estimated year. When the doctor asked what she had done to explain this drastic change, Jamey gleefully explained that she had committed herself to yoga, meditation, a healthy diet, positive outlook, dropped the pain medication and got lots of sleep.
Jamey admits that before her health scare, she was incredibly hard on herself, she felt the pressure to be skinnier or prettier and never felt that she was enough. She practiced yoga a couple of times prior to this however would rush to class from work, used it as a purely physical exercise and was really hard on her body. Now, she feels like she has more confidence then ever, she looks at her body with so much admiration for what it is capable of, not wanting to take it for granted ever again. She has a whole new understanding on trust as she literally healed herself. Jamey very openly explained to me that she never really felt as though she loved herself, and it took this health scare to experience what self-care and self-love truly meant. "My mindset has totally shifted" Jamey explained, "I don't experience judgement the way I used to. I am less judgemental of myself and of others. I just want everyone, including myself to be happy."
Jamey returned briefly to Edmonton to visit with her friends during her recovery and they all couldn't believe how much she had changed. One of her friends, feeding off of Jamey's positive and light energy suggested that they go dancing! Not one to be known for going out dancing, Jamey now tore up the dance floor. She laughed as she told me, "It was like something out of a cheesy hollywood flick, the whole dance floor opened up as my friends and I danced our hearts out. I didn't have a care in the world that under my top I was wearing my colostomy bag. I never would have done that before my surgery and have so much fun doing it." Jamey explained how she feels as though people are drawn to positive energy and she felt it on the dance floor that night that she was radiating this energy and people were able to feed off of it and become more confident in themselves at the same time.
Almost three months later, Jamey has just recently returned to work in Edmonton with mixed emotions. She misses her friends and loves her job but she had built up such a positive energy here in Cochrane and feels very bonded to the studio. She explained that she doesn't feel tied down to any one place like she did before but acknowledges that happiness is not an external place, it is a place within. She said that if she feels pulled back into her old habits and way of being, she is not going to waste any time feeling trapped by her circumstances, but choose to move her feet and choose happiness every time. Jamey has found another studio in Edmonton to practice at and meditation continues to be a part of her life. "Through meditation I have learned gratitude, the ability to just listen and be patient with myself and to live life in the present moment. I am so incredibly grateful for this life." Jamey is currently waiting for an MRI for her final surgery, one that was expected to be booked next December.
On Jamey's first yoga nidra class she drew a "possibilities" card and this has stuck with her ever since. Life is full of different possibilities, ones that may steer you towards your dreams and ones that may lead you towards struggle. However we have the ability and the inner wisdom to overcome fear, to combat negativity and to choose our next steps. Jamey chose to seize the opportunity the universe presented to her; to grow, to believe that it was possible to heal herself, to experience darkness yet pull herself back to reclaim her innate light. "I truly believe that everything happens for a reason" she said and went so far as saying "I am grateful for everything that has happened, I am the person I am today, happy, positive and free, because of what happened. I would never give that up."
I want to thank Jamey for allowing me to write this blog on HER story. She is such an inspiration to me and has reawakened my deep gratitude for my personal practice of love and acceptance. I am reminded that each and everyone of us is going through SOMETHING, that we are not alone when we feel struggle. If we take the time to step out of our own way, ask questions, listen, observe with more love and compassion then we begin to shed some of the armour that distances us from each other and ourselves. We are all so deeply connected and if we can peel open some of our own layers we can begin to peel open the layers of others. If we are receptive, we can honour the fact that we have so much to learn from each other. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.
With so much love,