Shift of Temperature

The heat has been oppressive and sometimes it feels like it’s all you can do just to make it through the day. And if you or your loved one is in treatment for cancer, the stress and fatigue can magnify.

Recently, I listened to a podcast about the comparison trap and how we often measure our success, happiness, or status by seeing how we compare to others. 

Is she still working through treatment and I’m not? Should I be on a vegan diet like certain influencers? Am I living my best life and enjoying every moment like the people I follow on social media who also have cancer?

Comparison isn’t always bad. It can be a tool for growth where you get new ideas, learn new skills, or access resources.


But  it can also create misery, depending on whether you can hold onto your own worthiness no matter what it looks like others are doing and enjoying.

One takeaway for me was how as humans we have always needed one another to survive, but also how painful it can be when you don’t feel like you belong somewhere.  

The amygdala, the primitive brain of fight/flight/freeze in response to perceived threat, gets so activated that you can end up in a state of constant anxiety and stress, even during the phases or moments in life where there is a break from difficulty.

A cancer diagnosis creates a fight/flight/freeze response in everyone it affects, from the patient to loved ones, doctors, or acquaintances.

The fight/flight/freeze response is automatic but you don’t want to get stuck there.

Last weekend, my JoyBoots Inner Circle Group, that has been meeting for years, got together for our first in person retreat.  Talk about having so many activities that helped us relax out of fight/flight, stress, and anxiety!

We enjoyed the first bit of beautiful weather for practicing yoga and meditation outside, swimming, and looking at the stars.  Our view was bucolic country farms and we breathed in the peaceful natural beauty and sounds. Our delicious, healthy meals were beautifully prepared and served.

We shared our feelings and goals, tears and memories. We acknowledged our weariness. We left with greater tenderness for one another and for ourselves.

We felt safe and nurtured and, I believe, a sense of belonging and understanding.

These are the rare antidotes to chronic stress, especially among cancer patients, survivors, and caregivers.

What are the ways you are showing tenderness this week, especially towards yourself? Can you reach out for more support if needed?

How DO You Heal Emotionally after the Trauma of Cancer? The 6 Principles

Over the years, I’ve received many messages from people who heard an interview I did with Dr. Ann Kelly (shared below) at Therapist Uncensored about how hard it is to heal after the trauma of having cancer.  And I explain the six keys to unlocking the healing process.

In September, 2023, new classes, therapy groups, and an online course will begin to help you learn and practice skills based on these principles.

Be sure you are on the JoyBoots community mailing list so you know when they open up!


Cancer sucks, no way around it. If you have it, had it or are supporting someone who does, this episode will be nourishment for you by bringing your mind and body into the healing and recovery process for cancer and trauma is so important.

Fighting cancer is often traumatic physically, emotionally and relationally. Podcast host Dr. Ann Kelley joins therapist and Yoga Instructor Kelly Inselmann (LCSW, C-IAYT,CGP) as she shares her personal journey through cancer recovery and describes her passion and process in supporting others to find hope and healing while in this compromised state.

They discuss how modifying the six principles of emotional recovery into the basic principles of yoga can have an immense impact on well-being and recovery.

Real Healing Requires Community

“The reality is things may never be exactly the same. Be honest with yourself about what you are feeling and find community who allow you to show up just as you are” from the Healing Well Course.

This Wednesday on June 21, 2023 we have the last JoyBoots Yoga class of the summer. It’s been such a pleasure to reconnect with so many old friends and to meet new ones as well.

I will be away June 26-July 24, 2023.  After the summer break, that’s when you can count on our weekly class continuing…

JoyBoots Yoga is unique in that we address, experientially through our practices, some of the more challenging aspects of living with cancer or after treatment.  These are:

  • feeling gripped by fear (of recurrence, physical pain, our own mortality)
  • negative circular thinking that can’t be easily stopped
  • tension and stress you hold in your body
  • anger you pretend not to have (that comes out inadvertently)
  • desire to understand yourself and your precious path forward so you can make meaning of life
  • chance to deeply breathe and strengthen your relaxation response
  • feel more grounded and emotionally balanced

Being able to show up just as you are to find a seat for you at the table helps heal loneliness and isolation.

It’s hard to heal emotionally when you feel alone.

I’m excited to bring a variety of JoyBoots programs forward beginning the end of August.

My online therapeutic course, Healing Well: Reconnect to your Life After Cancer starts in September 2023 and will be available to take at your own pace.

By request, we will also have some In Person Workshop and Meet Up Opportunities beginning in the fall as well.

Please join the JoyBoots Community (free) or email me at for more information or for an individual session.

Stay Cool this Summer!

Why Do I Do It?

“You have given me the strength to carry on and find happiness and light.” Suzanne Cowper


Sometimes people ask me why I want to work with cancer survivors. They wonder why it doesn’t bring me down. It may seem strange, but I usually have the opposite feeling from my work with people faced with cancer or those who have been through treatment.

I generally feel so uplifted and encouraged by the strength of the human spirit, the poignancy, the depth and the humanness we all share. I also like being with people who can deeply understand what it’s like to consciously face their own mortality and carry on, even while living a day to day existence. I get to see people experience the whole range of normal human emotions– the
shock, the fear, the anger, the ecstatic experience of the present moment, the appreciation and gratitude for the gift of life and their blessings. I get to see immense courage which always includes such touching vulnerability.

All these experiences that people have, they bring with them to the yoga mat and to counseling sessions and I get to be inspired by their courage and touched by their vulnerability. I’m deeply moved by the common humanity we share and the different stages of emotional shock, anger, fear, gratitude and wonder we all experience. I get to witness and share in people’s moments of awareness and healing no matter what is happening with the cancer in their bodies.

I had a friend who came with me often to chemo. Her prayer with me as we would begin the treatments was “Thank you for this breath. Thank you for this moment.” I hold this with me today as the highest prayer, simply to be present and aware and show gratitude for this moment, right here, right now.  True healing is not the same as cure. Cure is something else. To me, healing is about coming in to reality and accepting it while maintaining appreciation of the gift of this present moment.

When faced with a life-threatening illness which draws you into a confrontation with your own physical vulnerability and mortality, your system is awakened. First, you are in shock, but then you remain very alert. You are alert to your fear, the side effects, ideas of the future, the urgency to take action, your desire to protect loved ones. More than ever, you have the opportunity to be very alert and sensitive to what is most important.

I want to be around people who have been awakened. I want to surround myself with those who, even though they would not have chosen this path, are using this path to connect to their own hearts and pulse of life. The people I’m drawn to are those who have the undeniable strength to carry on, seek happiness and light even when rummaging around in the darkness of difficult moments.

So many people have reached out to me during my husband’s illness with love, encouragement and deep understanding. They have shared their own experiences of surgery and treatment with great advice and deep empathy for my husband and me. I learn so much from the Joybooters who come to my classes and groups. I get as much energy as I give and learn at least as much as I teach from the brilliant minds and warm hearts I am connected to.

Wounded Amazon

Hundreds of blood red spikes poke out of the white marble head and chest of a statue of a woman. This replica of a Roman statue, a “wounded amazon,” sits in a public art space on the street in NYC.

The placement of the spikes is no accident. They are arranged precisely where women who have had breast cancer surgery are cut and feel residual sensation, discomfort, and pain.

Even as I sit in the cool library and type these words, I can feel sensation a few inches to the right of my left shoulder blade, old discomfort from the left breast mastectomy I had 10 years ago.

The sculpture of the woman is enormous. The pain I see in her eyes is haunting. And so familiar, from looking into the faces of women I work with and from looking in the mirror at myself.

People are walking around the statue, many without a second look. Some glance her way, recognizing something unusual, but it’s hot outside and they are busy. Couples hold hands and laugh. The taxi driver has pulled his van over and parked right in front of her, waiting impatiently for the group he is collecting to come outside.

Her pain is enormous and she is in plain sight, yet the world swirls and moves forward without her. Her agony is her own.

This piece of art was created by artist Prune Nourry, age 33, who recently underwent treatment for breast cancer. It is called The Amazon and is modeled after the life sized marble statue of a wounded amazon at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Nourry referred to it as a “catharsis sculpture.” She decided to extend the timeline of the project recognizing that “healing is a long process.”


The definition of catharsis is “the process of releasing, and thereby providing relief from, strong or repressed emotions.”

Identifying and then expressing the thoughts, emotions and sensations you feel are also the first steps in emotional recovery from the trauma of having cancer.

So why is it so hard to acknowledge the impact that cancer has had on you?

There’s pain, both physical and emotional that you are trying to avoid by pretending it doesn’t exist. And then there’s shame at having pain, at not bouncing back more quickly, at needing time to recover, instead of being an invincible warrior.

But even the Amazon warrior, as this piece demonstrates, can be wounded. And even she needs to be seen, understood, and given time to heal.

Setting Intentions for Healing and Growth

Stay focused on what is truly important to your healing and peace of mind by setting intentions for your meditation practice or simply as a daily exercise. This video leads you through a simple practice for becoming aware of your deeper intention for your day.

Sacredness as Intention


Setting an intention for your meditation practice is a powerful exercise, not just at the New Year, but on a regular, even daily, basis.

Meditation and yoga begin with looking inside to sense, observe, and understand the inner world of your body, mind, and emotions. Consciously choosing an intention to support your healing and higher Self can interrupt automatic, unexamined, patterns of thinking, moving, and reacting.

For example, new yoga students sometimes set an intention of “being open” which interrupts the idea that they should already know how to do the asanas (yoga postures) in class and helps them be less judgmental of themselves as they learn.

I love hearing the intentions of yoga students, psychotherapy clients and friends:

Angela (all names changed for confidentiality) is in a 12 step program and uses daily prayer and meditation to feel centered each day. She shares that her “only intention these days is to sit again for meditation the next day.” Her practice, taken a day of commitment at a time, has turned into a powerful tool.

When Jeannine attends my Yoga and Talk for Cancer Survivors Group, she shares that she finds herself sleeping a lot and avoiding exercise. While she knows rest is important for recovery, her deeper intuition is that to “stay young I need to move my body a little more each day.” Her intention is to increase her exercise from minimal to moderate each day.

Gina is several years past active treatment for lymphoma. During treatment she realized how critical she can be of others and herself. She comes to weekly yoga class because it’s “helping me learn to love myself.” She makes an intention each day to notice when she is judging herself harshly or cruelly. She doesn’t stop there. Once she notices the belittling thought, she counters it with a compassionate one such as “You are trying hard. One step at a time.”

Frank’s intention is to keep “living life,” and not allow the cancer diagnosis to lay him so low emotionally that he quits participating in family life. He wants to reach out for community when he feels depressed and not isolate.

Sylvia is a self -described neat freak. She likes everything in its place in her lovely home. Her intention each day is to surrender the idea that “things always have to look perfect” in order for her to feel relaxed inside.

I want to share the intention I developed with the help of my friend and yoga teacher, Guruatma Khalsa (, 8 years ago, when I was really struggling with getting back to an active life after a year of treatment for stage 3 breast cancer. I wanted the same energy I’d always had!

I was in denial regarding how long the side effects from treatment can linger. Lymphedema of the arm, fatigue, and chemobrain were interfering with my pre-cancer pattern of taking on lots of projects at once. The more I recovered, the more I wanted to DO. DOING more has always been a way that I have felt worthy and appreciated. Can you relate?

Guruatma shared with me a teaching of Yogi Bhajan, master of Kundalini Yoga. He taught that from a yogic perspective, autoimmune disorders (including cancer on this continuum) are about learning to appreciate your own sacredness.

Instead of feeling defensive, as I sometimes can when I hear a psychospiritual interpretation of illness, this idea of honoring my own sacredness touched me profoundly. I could clearly see how pushing myself to DO MORE, when my body was asking for rest and healing, was the opposite of valuing my own sacredness.

I find that the question of What is Sacred? comes up for many people as they face cancer and its aftermath. In my work as a psychotherapist and yoga teacher over the last 20 years, I hear how this universal spiritual theme catches people by surprise during physical and emotional ordeals.

Some are led to deeper faith, others feel at loose ends and grapple with a sense of meaninglessness as their world is re-arranged. For some of us, it’s both.

Everyone I’ve ever interviewed for my Yoga and Talk Therapy Groups for cancer Survivors has experienced moments of suffering and of realizing the fragility of life. They are much more aware of our interconnectedness and interdependence, and the beauty and poignancy of nature and humanity. Regardless of religious background or lack thereof, almost everyone has a story about how a moment of connection to the DIVINE gave them hope and strength. Sometimes that moment has come about through connection to another person, sometimes to nature, sometimes it’s an internal experience like a dream or intuition. The variations are fascinating.

I’m always moved by what people are able to survive and live to tell about. When I ask about the transcendent moment that strengthened or inspired them, for some, it’s the first time they are talking about it. Because it is so personal and meaningful, some fear they won’t be believed and have protected their story from the casual scrutiny of family and friends.

Sometimes people ask me why I like working with people touched by cancer. This is why: it keeps me in conversation with what is sacred.


To contemplate this idea of sacredness, I began my daily meditation practice with this phrase: It’s my intention to have the experience of feeling my own sacredness.

I sit with this intention for a few moments each day, even 8 years later.

This morning, as I sat with the intention of feeling my own sacredness, my belly relaxed. The muscles of my face and jaw loosened and I mentally came in to awareness of still being present on earth at this moment in space and time. In my appreciation for still being here on planet earth, I felt pretty good. There was gratitude, even joy.

I noticed sensations of discomfort, in my arm with its mild lymphedema, and in my back behind the area where I had surgery. I also noticed how flexible and capable my body is in so many ways.

I allowed all the sensations and feelings of today to make themselves known and be welcomed. This is how I honor my own sacredness, by accepting all parts of myself: the physical sensations, my feelings, my mind (busy or quiet) and my heart. Sometimes I feel impatience, anger or discouragement. However I show up in that moment is perfectly ok. It’s how I keep connected with what is true.

There have been days when once I feel my own sacredness, I’m done! I mean, what else is there?

Other times, I have thoughts about how I want to eat or exercise, how I want to treat others, and which items can be left off my to-do list in order to have a less stressful day.  I move into yoga or meditation to nurture my body and mind as part of feeling my own sacredness. The intention gives me permission to take the time I need, even when my busy or bored mind wants me to move on.

Today, I am also reminded that more important than DOING anything perfectly is BEING PRESENT with my 9-year old daughter and my husband for the time I will spend with them.

Take sacredness as your intention or create a different one using the phrase “It’s my intention to have the experience of feeling _________________ by the Grace of God.”  You can substitute your own words to guide your further healing.

As we step into 2017, may we move forward together in health, compassion, justice, peace, and recognition of the sacred in our lives.