In 1967, at just 5 years old, Marsha was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma. 50 years later, Marsha a Yoga Therapist and Author has shared her story inspirational story.
The year was 1967. I was an active five-year-old who loved all things ballet. One day, I fell off my bike and noticed an ache in my left ankle. The ache continued, and eventually became a large lump, hot to the touch and swollen. I was brought to the hospital, and it was there that my 50+ year trajectory into cancer and its side effects began.
In those days, there were far less options. In fact, the options were so few that I was given death rites by my family priest, but the little five -year old was not aware. Instead, I thought that I was eating Jesus as he placed the communion wafer on my tongue. That feeling, that I was eating God and would be all right, has never left me. I went through radiation, chemotherapy, biopsy and constant hospitalizations. The tumor shrank and disappeared, but my left leg was significantly narrower and shorter than my right leg.
The next few years felt like freedom. I went back to ballet, and added gymnastics. Then, one day I fell off the balance beam. The hot, swollen ankle was back and so was Ewing sarcoma. After so much radiation, the only option was amputation and chemotherapy. I was 13 years old.
The next four years were a blur of attempting school in a new state, hiding my bald head and my missing leg, and spending days recovering from the aggressive chemotherapy.
I did survive, and was able to go to college. But the damage to my body had been done. Chemotherapy destroyed my bladder, and soon, my kidneys followed. Through it all I was able to go to graduate school at Harvard, teach English in France, own my own hand-knit sweater company and even work at the UN Centre for Human Rights in Geneva.
In other words, my close brushes with death offered me a fierce determination to let nothing stand in the way of my passions and joy. As prosthetics improved, I was able to get back to dance once again. Eventually that led to yoga.
I became one of the first amputee yoga teachers in the US, and developed an international yoga program training and teaching yoga to those who work with amputees worldwide.
Cancer has given me many gifts. Awareness of the fragility and gift of life, compassion for those who are suffering, gratitude for each moment, the ability to live life large and unafraid, and profound wisdom.
At five years old, I was already an old soul, facing big challenges and seeing, with my own eyes, the value of my life, as well as the need to take nothing for granted.
Yes, there have been huge difficulties along the way: a marriage that didn’t last, kidney failure that led to 11 years on dialysis, a kidney transplant, some heart issues from chemotherapy, and some vulnerabilities as a person with a disability.
But one thing I know for sure, I am the strongest and most hopeful person I know. And I imagine I am not alone among my childhood bone cancer friends and survivors.
Marsha's book 'YOGA for AMPUTEES: THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO FINDING WHOLENESS AFTER LIMB LOSS FOR YOGA STUDENTS AND THEIR TEACHERS' is available to purchase on Amazon by clicking here