By Julie Savage Parker
Tuesday the 24th of September 2013 was the day I found out I had ovarian cancer. Since that day I have been seeking fellow travelers in my journey to healing who understand the importance of getting one’s whole life in order, in order to heal. And then I found Cathy Desfosses.
Cathy had her own ‘24th of September’ 21 years ago… and is still here to tell the tale. It is her passion to “share knowledge, a holistic lifestyle, the benefits of yoga, integrative self-care practices, support and passion for living a wholesome, healthy life FREE of illness” with those whose lives have also been touched by cancer, lymphedema, a life-changing illness or chronic condition. And FREE, for Cathy, means to ‘Feel inspired, Release Stress, Eat Healthy, Exercise’. Hence, the inspiration behind Journey to Be FREE Naturally, a newly established nonprofit organization in South Asheville. [journeytobefreenaturally.org]
Cathy’s life has been touched by cancer several times and in many ways. From being a caregiver for parents, losing family members and friends to cancer, to supporting a friend during treatment and recovery. As a 21-year life thriver, Cathy understands how cancer and living with lymphedema can affect the whole person and family physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially, and socially. Living with lymphedema as a result of her cancer treatment, she understands the physical and emotional toll of managing this life-long condition each and every day. This is why she is so empathetic, compassionate and aware of the daily needs for cancer survivors, caregivers and all those whose lives have been touched by cancer, lymphedema or another life-changing diagnosis. Cathy speaks of “shifting my perception of this life situation from an affliction to an awakening. The next step was to redesign my life landscape and then make it happen. Thereafter, each step forward came naturally and easily. Change is good! To be lasting, it must happen slowly and one step at a time!”
Yoga came into Cathy’s life just at the right time. It offered her tools to cope, manage and move beyond all that was going on in her life. A regular yoga practice has made a positive impact on her life and influences how Cathy lives her healthy lifestyle today. As part of her mission to make a difference and share the healthy lifestyle practices she has been living, Cathy obtained her 200-hour certification as a Kripalu Yoga® teacher. Discovering that yoga acts as a natural pump to move and drain lymph, Cathy created Yoga for Lymph Flow™ as a means to manage lymphedema and maintain optimal lymphatic function for overall health and illness prevention. In addition to her numerous continuing education trainings, Cathy has been professionally trained and certified in Yoga for Breast Cancer Recovery & Beyond© by founder Camille Kittrell, M.S., E-RYT. Kittrell’s safety-designed program meets survivors’ needs at various stages of treatment and recovery, and is renowned across the Boston, Massachusetts medical community for its uniquely effective healing techniques.
In addition to specialty yoga and meditation, Cathy teaches cellular exercise a/k/a rebounding. A rebounder is a mini trampoline that offers folks on their healing journey a slew of health benefits. A complete list of benefits would fill up half of this article. It has especially been shown to help those with cancer. (By the way, I love the significance of the word rebounder, because when we fully embrace this healing path, it is about rebounding from a major imbalance in our body.)
Cathy speaks of the meaning behind the logo: “The butterfly leaving a rainbow trail and shadow symbolizes shedding old habits or letting go of what no longer serves you, transformation and freedom! This will mean something different for each individual depending upon their current life situation. These life situations do not define who we are; they are only experiences we endure along this life journey. These experiences present themselves as opportunities to learn, grow and then move beyond!”
How can you help? Donations are welcome! Journey to be FREE Naturally’s philosophy is grounded on seva (Sanskrit word meaning “service”) and how its healing space can best serve you. Specialty yoga, meditation, rebounding, and mind/body dance classes are free; cancer and disease prevention, lymphedema management, holistic health and nutrition education workshops, plus 10-week lifestyle sessions are donation-based, and massage therapy and wellness services are sliding fee for men, women and families who truly cannot afford to pay as their funds have been exhausted on medical care and other expenses for survival and healing purposes. This center is a necessity for them, not a luxury! Journey to be FREE Naturally is the next step on their healing journey to move beyond illness to thriving in a healthy life of – FREEdom! They will be welcoming practitioners who would like to present a workshop relating to their practice, healing modality, health-related topic, etc. Cathy invites you to be a part of the FREEdom movement…caring people helping people! Journey to be FREE Naturally is a nonprofit organization pending 501(c)(3) status so your donations may be tax deductible. This healing and wellness space is located at 541 Long Shoals Road, Suite B, (next to Merry Maids), Arden, North Carolina.
Julie Parker is using what she has laughingly labeled the ‘Asheville Protocol’ to heal her own cancer: nutrition – eating whole, local, organic foods, mostly alkaline foods (btw. sugar is verboten for cancer patients, so if you see her about town eating something with sugar in it, feel free to slap it out of her hand), exercise, meditation, rest, friendship, laughter, engaging in pursuits that bring her joy, and not under any circumstances chemo or radiation. See her blog “The Vocabulary of Joy: Celebrating the Blessings of Life with Cancer” at julieparker.me. (not dot com or dot org, but dot me)