Caregiver Touched by Cancer, Now Offering Accessible Self-care

by Jo Bregnard in Caregiver advocate June 14, 2021

I was crushed when I was diagnosed with cancer. I had always been active and healthy … what had I done wrong? My husband was home recovering from a serious burn injury, and we were walking through our neglected garden when I felt a lump in my right breast as I was gesturing to myself while telling him a story. One test led to another, and I soon I learned that it was malignant.

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As you can imagine—and maybe even understand for yourself--our second year of marriage was a challenging one. Our days were filled with medical appointments, and we always seemed to be the youngest people in the waiting room. After my mastectomy and chemotherapy, I took up physical therapy in the form of a gentle movement class led by a breast cancer survivor herself. Those graceful and inspirational classes eventually led me to yoga. I dabbled in the practice for years after that, and then finally started attending classes on a regular basis. I enjoyed not just the physical part of the practice, but the break it gave my mind and the boost it brought to my self-confidence.

As difficult as my own health struggles were, it wasn’t until my husband faced some sudden, severe and frightening heart issues that my practice was elevated to another level. That’s when I found true comfort on my mat--along with a peace that seemed unattainable anywhere else. I started down the teacher training path about five years later.

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Since then I’ve helped care for my mother, who recently passed with late-stage dementia in another state. For the last few years I spent countless hours behind the wheel of my Jeep, subsisting on Kind bars and takeaway lattes as I traveled back and forth every few days to visit her and support my dad, hardly noticing anything else going on outside my narrow routine. After too many attempts to find the energy to squeeze in a yoga class along my route, I knew there had to be a better way to find the strength and solace I desperately needed.

I began incorporating bite-sized practices into my days from all the modalities I’ve studied over the years—the balance and flow of yoga, the power of breathwork, the focus and stillness of meditation, the supportive aromas of essential oils, and more. I sprinkled in moments to appreciate the natural world above and around me, including the animals on our Southern Vermont homestead (especially our pet cows). Connecting with the cycles of the heavens and the rhythms of the Earth helped me find my soul again, and renewed my compassion for my loved ones.

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I’m still traveling back and forth to another state to support my dad, so I know from experience what it’s like to be a caregiver during these times. I also know that the practices I use make a marked difference in my daily life—for me as well as those I care for.

If you are spending time caring for others, when are you making time to nurture yourself? I now offer yoga practices specifically for caregivers with hectic schedules, I call them self-care mini retreats—five days of practices designed to ground and nourish caregivers all done remotely.

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Jo Bregnard


About me

I'm a caregiver touched by breast cancer offering everyday self-care experiences from my homestead in Southern Vermont. I know from experience how hard it is for those who tend to others--as part of their careers or as personal support. I was inspired to share the benefits of yoga in 2014, so that's when I began my 200-hour teacher training at Open Doors Yoga Studios in Weymouth, Massachusetts.  I obtained my 300-hour yoga certification in 2019, with a focus on therapeutic essentials. I've learned that a variety of practical tools; yoga, mindfulness, breathwork, nurturing touch, and aromatherapy. will give our bodies and souls the support they need so we can continue doing the things that bring us joy and connection. I delight in making practices accessible, as well as the mindfulness yoga brings to time spent off the mat.
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