Challenging Times call for MORE Support

COVID-19 is affecting everyone and no one is immune. But for those of us who have undergone cancer treatment, are currently under the care of cancer specialists or are caring for someone with cancer, there are even more precautions to take to protect ourselves and those we care for. In light of the Coronavirus pandemic, I’ve compiled cancer-specific information you should know so you can reduce your exposure risk, stay healthy and be prepared in these uncertain times.

What do cancer patients need to know about the coronavirus?
According to Miriam Falco, Managing Director at the American Cancer Society, the COVID-19 outbreak is still new, and there’s not a lot of specific information on how it impacts cancer patients. But doctors do have a lot of information regarding the risk of infections in general for cancer patients and they agree the best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus, which is especially important for cancer patients because they are  at higher risk for serious illness. Patients who are in active chemotherapy and bone marrow transplant patients are at an even higher risk because their immune systems are suppressed or eliminated by treatment. [READ MORE] The peer-reviewed medical journal, The Lancet, published a study in mid-February which concluded both current and former cancer patients are at greater risk from COVID-19. The study looked at 2,007 cases of hospitalized COVID-19 patients from 575 hospitals in China. Out of that group, they found 18 patients with a history of cancer they could track — some currently in treatment, some years out. Nearly half of those patients had a higher risk of “severe events” (defined as admission to the ICU, the need for ventilation or death). “We found that patients with cancer might have a higher risk of COVID-19 than individuals without cancer,” the study authors wrote. “Additionally, we showed that patients with cancer had poorer outcomes from COVID-19, providing a timely reminder to physicians that more intensive attention should be paid to patients with cancer, in case of rapid deterioration.” [READ MORE]

How can you protect yourself from getting COVID-19?
Keep these points in mind and make protecting your health a priority. Liz Highleyman, Science Editor for Cancer Health shares common-sense precautions to take.

  • Avoid close contact—meaning within about six feet—with people who have a cough or other respiratory symptoms.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water thoroughly and often for at least 20 seconds.
  • Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water are unavailable.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Healthy people do not need to routinely wear face masks to prevent infection, but use a mask if you are caring for someone who is ill.
  • Get the flu vaccine. Older people should also consider getting vaccinated against pneumonia.
  • If you think you may have been exposed to the coronavirus, contact a health care provider promptly if you develop a fever, cough or difficulty breathing.
  • Before you go to a clinic or hospital, call ahead so the staff can take appropriate precautions.


What extra precautions should you take?
As shared by Cancer Care, there are several everyday measures you should take to protect yourself that the general population may not be as proactive about.

  • Try to obtain extra necessary medications in case your community experiences an outbreak of COVID-19 and you need to stay home for a prolonged period of time. Consider using mail-order medications, if possible.
  • Be stocked with over-the-counter medicines and medical supplies, such as tissues and medication good for fighting upper respiratory ailments. Stock enough household products and groceries to reduce the need to leave your home.
  • Work remotely from home, if possible, or make other plans for work.
  • If you can, use the help of others to fetch or deliver anything you might need, including food and medical supplies. This reduces your exposure to others as much as possible. Even when using this help, ask for them to disinfect themselves and then clean any deliveries you might receive. Caregivers should use the same precautions in public that those with a cancer diagnosis do.

How long after chemo has ended, does a patient’s immune system return to that of a non-cancer patient?
Cancer and cancer treatments can weaken the immune system. The immune system is a complex system the body uses to resists infection by germs, such as bacteria or viruses. When the immune system is weakened, there is a higher risk for infection. Because of this, infection is a common complication of cancer and cancer treatment and certain types can be life-threatening if not found and treated early. If you’re getting treatment for cancer, your cancer care team will talk to you about any increased risk for infection you may have, and what can be done to help prevent infection. Usually the risk is temporary because the immune system recovers after a period of time, but each person is different. For cancer patients who finished treatment a few years ago or longer, their immune systems have most likely recovered. But this depends a lot on the type of cancer you had, the type of treatment you received, and other medical problems you might have that can affect your immune system. [READ MORE] Dr. Gary Lyman, an oncologist and health policy expert at The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, states that those who have finished cancer treatment should also be mindful of their increased risk. “The risk extends beyond the period of active treatment,” said Dr. Lyman. The after-effects of treatment don’t end when people finish their last course of therapy or leave the hospital after surgery. The after-effects of cancer and the immunosuppressive effects of treatment can be long-term.” [READ MORE]

How does COVID affect oncology and patient treatment?
Call your health care provider and follow their guidance on whether or not you should continue with your current cancer treatments if you’re receiving them. Some hospitals are pre-screening patients for Coronavirus symptoms over the phone prior to their appointment, then screening again upon their arrival to limit any potential spread of the disease to other patients. Jo Cavallo of The ASCO Post, wrote that in the oncology community, the response has been swift to protect health-care providers and patients with cancer, who may be especially vulnerable to contracting the coronavirus because of their systemic immunosuppressive state caused by their malignancy and anticancer treatments, including chemotherapy and surgery. To reduce the risk of infection to patients and staff members, several cancer institutions, including The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, have canceled all international and domestic work-related travel for meetings or conferences. [READ MORE]
Distress related to fear and depression is familiar to most people who face cancer.  What happens when you add the additional uncertainty of unfolding current events? I’m hearing from many JoyBooters who find themselves trying to prioritize self care, but feeling alone with fears, worries, and sadness.

These times call for more emotional support, even in this time of unprecedented physical distancing.

I’m offering some antidotes to the isolation.  Please join me in choosing an online group opportunity to share more personally and deeply and to stay buoyant in these challenging waters:

Weekly Support Group – Weekly on Thursdays 7pm -must have previously attended taken Kelly’s programs. Email me for invite. Begins April 3.
Healing Well Course – Intro Course Beginning May 3rd for people who completed active treatment or are at a stabilized point in ongoing treatment.

If you are a member of Capital of Texas Team Survivor and attend Kelly’s Wednesday Wellness Warrior yoga class (or wish to be) please send me an email at to be on the list for weekly reminders AND THE ZOOM LINK to my free online JoyBooter Yoga classes for the duration of our physical distancing.

This online class is open to JoyBooters from anywhere (not just Austin). Once you are on the online class list, you will receive the reminder and link each week.

More information on how I teach yoga can be found in previous VLOG posts that share meditations and kundalini yoga practices.

Stay home and stay safe and reach out!

Don’t minimize your own feelings and needs.

Falling Apart is Part of the Cycle of Life

Looking to nature helps me appreciate the cycles of life.

The lush abundance of a cool early summer with lots of rain, has moved into stifling heat this year and the grass is turning brown.

Over the past month, as my husband and I waded through medical decisions and his surgery approached, I felt more than a trace of desperation. I found myself falling apart in the face of the unknown. I didn’t know the outcome of my husband’s surgery and leaving my daughter behind as her new school began, to be cared for by relative strangers, felt like a terrible choice.

I appreciated the many good wishes sent my way through email, Facebook and the ethers. They helped to sustain me.

As happens in all moments of falling apart, the process did have an eventual end point as my husband emerged from a successful surgery and is recovering well. My daughter showed great independence and resilience, even while snapping right back into her basic “tween” attitude as soon as we returned.

As with all feelings and states of being, nothing is permanent. Not the dreaded pain and fear, nor the moments of joy we wish we could hold onto forever.

Falling apart is an essential ingredient in the cycle of life. The seeding or germination is followed by birth and Life! And then there is a falling apart (slow or quick), a death or endpoint, which in nature always leads to a transformation or rebirth. If you don’t fall apart, is there transformation?

One of the classic meditations in kundalini yoga, Kirtan Kriya, directly includes the awareness of this cycle of life. The Sa-Ta-Na-Ma meditation has been studied at UCLA and found to lower inflammation and improve memory. It is now being studied at the UT School of Nursing to understand it’s possible impact on cognitive function after chemotherapy.

Kirtan Kriya is a powerful meditation for clearing your subconscious and bringing you into the present moment. With each 4 part phrase, you acknowledge the beginning, middle and end of all parts of life and your experiences.

Here’s a link to practice it with me:

Or here for an audio recording:

As I begin this week in an improved frame of mind and with stronger energy, I’m grateful to the part of me that was willing to allow the experience of falling apart.  I’m going to need the strength to fall apart again and again.

Resistance to acknowledging your feelings of fear, sadness, grief and anger, can freeze your feelings and make you feel numb inside. It also, at least in my case, keeps me from acknowledging that I need help and asking for it.

Falling apart is uncomfortable but essential.


Meditation and Memory: Cutting Edge Research

Can the cognitive side effects of cancer treatment be improved or lessened by daily meditation? This is the question we are attempting to answer by studying Kirtan Kriya, a kundalini yoga meditation, through the Brain ABC Study (Improving Brain Function after Breast Cancer) at the University of Texas School of Nursing.

Ashley Hennehgan, PhD, MSN, RN is the researcher leading the study as part of her valuable work studying survivorship after cancer.

I met Ashley when I participated in her prior study on chemobrain in breast cancer survivors several years ago. Dealing with “chemobrain” myself, I wanted to understand and contribute to the data being collected.

I helped her recruit more participants from my classes and groups and then asked if she’d be interested in studying a kundalini yoga meditation, Kirtan Kriya, that was found to reduce inflammation and improve memory.

Fast forward a few years and I’ve been collaborating with her on a PILOT study of the effects of Kirtan Kriya on the cognitive functioning of breast cancer survivors. The results are just beginning to come in and they are very interesting.


It’s funny how many full circle moments you experience with the privilege of getting older and emotionally navigating the cancer experience.

11 years ago, I was completing 12 months of chemotherapy and Herceptin. Perhaps the most devastating side effect of a difficult journey was how cognitively impaired I felt. My questions and concerns about chemobrain were dismissed.

I was told that chemotherapy did not cross the “blood/brain barrier” and that any cognitive symptoms must be due to depression or anxiety. I remember looking in the library at MD Anderson for anything I could find on chemobrain.  There was very little.

I was used to having a great memory. I could remember all the details of my client’s stories, plan and strategize my work, speak with confidence in workshops and yoga classes.

But after treatment, my ability to plan or prioritize was noticeably impaired, as was my short term memory. I would forget conversations I’d just had and could no longer remember people’s names or simple words.

Recently, a yoga class student shared her sorrow and fear about memory problems as she goes through chemotherapy. I told her that the cognitive challenges were among the most difficult part of treatment for me. While I have never gone back to how I was before cancer, my executive functioning and memory have improved tremendously over the years.

What’s more, I’ve learned to treat the challenges with patience instead of fear and alarm. Meditation certainly helps!

Stay tuned to learn more about our chemobrain research in upcoming months and for the possibility of an expanded PILOT program that will include survivors of many different cancers.

You can find information on the current study here:

The Art of Saying No

So you want to say no, but you don’t know how?

If you are unsure whether you should make others comfortable at your own expense, read last week’s post here

Many people don’t get early training in saying no or asserting yourself. That’s ok-but there’s no time like the present to start!

In the service of your health and emotional wellbeing, you must be willing to take the time and space you need to heal.

And that means being willing to choose to prioritize your peace of mind and energy and to reclaim your time. Giving yourself this permission can be the hardest part for some people.

Does this mean never help or be there for another person? Of course not!

But I will wager most of you are already well trained and adept in the art of putting others first.

Allow me to share a few of the phrases that make it easier for for me to protect my energy:

  • I’m so sorry to interrupt, but I’m going to have to hang up now. Talk to you later. Then hang up!
  • I really want to hear more about this, but I’m going to have to call you back (take a nap, get on to my next activity). Then move along.
  • I wish I could sign up, but I’m still healing/resting/receiving treatment.
  • I wish I could, but I can’t.
  • I’m not in a position to volunteer right now.
  • No thank you.
  • “No.” It can be a complete sentence!
  • I’d love to, but let me think about it. I’m still healing.
  • Do not raise your hand or sign your name if it’s not going to bring you JOY (or save an actual life).
  • Try to avoid giving long explanations that will tempt others to keep asking.

It’ s crucial to get used to the idea that you may not receive as much (or any!) praise and thanks for saying no.  Some people may even push back with annoyance or hurt.

But as you stop overcommitting, you are making space for joy, delight, and healing.  You are preparing for the moment that you can say YES and mean it.

It is your right and responsibility to keep setting limits on activities that drain your energy.

They may not thank you for saying no, but that’s OK!

Act of Rebellion


The news is troubling to me. And I know I’m not alone.

I hear from friends and clients who also worry about our country’s leadership, the economy, violence and oppression.

Among people touched by cancer, there is a genuine fear of losing health insurance benefits which could mean the difference between continuing to live and thrive and dying.

It’s a heavy situation. And yet, cancer survivors have faced heavy situations before. To survive and thrive, you must pace yourself.

Rest is essential if you want to be strong enough to continue living and to stand up for yourself and others. Can you give yourself permission to nourish your body and mind by setting aside the unknowns and the fears for a few moments?

The rebel in me likes Child’s Pose.

I bring my forehead to the floor and feel relief.  Closing my eyes, I temporarily

withdraw from resonating with the sorrows of the world.  

                   Sitting on my heels, forehead to the floor, my arms are relaxed to the sides or along the floor above my head.

Knees are open to relax the hips.

In this era of “infomania,” we are stimulated by thousands of competing thoughts, fears, feelings, and ideas.   There is much information and precious little understanding.

In this context, Child’s Pose is a subversive and vital act of rebellion.

Simple and intrinsic to our bodies; babies and children do it in their sleep and play.

In Child’s Pose, time slows down. I temporarily reject the outside world to experience my inner one. I feel grounded, connected to the earth, and aware of the sensations in my body.

Symbolically, it is a classic position of vulnerability and humility.Neck exposed, my head (and intellect) is momentarily surrendered. No more obsessing, problem solving, planning, attempting to control things.

In my Yoga and Talk ® Therapy Group, “Denise,” who suffers from chronic fatigue since her cancer treatment, feels a shift when she comes into Child’s Pose, dropping into her body and the felt experience of herself. She later describes child’s pose as a refuge from her fearful thoughts about her condition, the expectations of others, and anxiety about the future. Over time, Child’s Pose has become an experience of safety she draws on when stressed or exhausted.

And for me, each time a group comes into this resting posture, or I do it myself, I feel the subversive power and potential that is cultivated through deep rest.



Which Side of Your NOSE are YOU Breathing Through? (and why is this important?!)


Before reading further, take a moment to feel connected to your body. Notice the sensations connecting you to a chair, the floor, or bed.

Breathe long and deep a few times, allowing your chest and belly to expand on the inhale like you are filling a balloon with air, and relax with the exhale.

Now bring your fingertips just below your nostrils and breathe out powerfully a few times. Can you discern which side of your nostrils is more open than the other at this moment? Left, right, or equal?

I’m going to share a secret about your body you probably never learned growing up or in school: several times a day, our bodies naturally change which nostril side is more open and easier to breathe through.

Why on earth is this important?!

Many of us, but cancer survivors in particular, struggle with fatigue, difficulty focusing, anxiety and insomnia.

Yogic breathing practices such as alternate nostril breathing can help you bring more prana (life force energy) into your body to manage the side effects of cancer.

At a given moment, the nostril side which is more open reveals the state of your mind and energy. You can even learn to track your mental state and physical energy by observing which side is more open or more blocked.

You have an incredible potential to change your state of mind and body by deliberately switching which nostril side is more open through alternate nostril breathing.

When I first learned about this and started using it in my daily life, I felt like I had a hidden superpower to lower stress, calm emotional reactions, make me more alert, reduce anxiety, and choose to focus.

But which side is which?

TO RELAX-Open the Left Side

When your left side is more open, you are usually calmer, more relaxed, less anxious. (You might also feel tired or sleepy, unfocused or fatigued). When the left side is more open, it is easier to fall asleep.

If you find yourself struggling to sleep, check which side of your nostrils is more open. With insomnia, based on my own experience, I can almost guarantee that the left side is blocked and the right side is open.

To encourage relaxation or sleep, block the right nostril and begin long deep breathing through the left. Continue for 3-11 minutes or until the dominance changes to the left. Lie on your right side to sleep, allowing the left nostril more ease at being open.

Anxiety: If you are feeling anxious during the day, check your nostrils. No doubt the right side is more open and the left side is blocked. Again, block the right side and begin long deep breathing through the left. You can practice anywhere!

Practice along with me to lower anxiety OR get ready to sleep by clicking here:

FIGHT FATIGUE-Open the Right Side

When the right side is open, you are usually more alert and awake with higher energy. (You might also be feeling anxious or restless).

 If you need to stay awake, drive, study, listen to a friend or client, care for a child, block the left nostril with your left thumb and begin breathing long and deep through the right side for 3-11 minutes or until the dominance switches to the right.

To wake up, energize your body, focus, become more alert OR to lift your mood, practice along with me by clicking here:

Believe it or not, there are some yogis who, with practice, can learn to switch the dominance of the nostril without even using the fingers to block one side. Through deep self awareness and attention they are able to open up one side or the other.

 Let me know the results of your observations and experiments!