“This can’t be. It must be a mistake.”
For Kristine Rooke, the phone call seemed surreal. She had hoped there would be a second call that would have said: “I am sorry, we made a mistake,” but the phone never rang. She was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Rooke had worked in the health and fitness field for most of her life. She spent over 10 years working as a mental health crisis specialist, helping people who were suffering from different ailments that prohibited them from having a normal, stable life. Simultaneously, she was practicing and teaching Jazzercise, a dance-based group exercise. She spent a total of 25 years working in the health and fitness field.
Life was good, until one day a situation at her work escalated, and in the spur of a moment she was caught up in the middle of a fight; soon after, she was pushed and thrown down the staircase. She got up, took three steps and realized that she couldn’t take any more. Her knee needed surgery; she had to wear knee brace for three months and her recovery took nine months.
The incident forced Rooke to stop teaching her Jazzercise class, which caused her as much pain as the injury itself. This unfortunate situation forced Rooke to give up on the career that she truly loved.
“I was done,” she said. “I didn’t want to work in this environment anymore.”
As an individual who knew how to wear multiple hats, Rooke was able to quickly transition after recovery into her jazzercise routine and her new job as an IT specialist.
This chapter of her life was very different from the one that she yet had to face.
When she got that call, she thought to herself: “That can’t be. I am super fit. I manage my stress well. My family does not have a history of cancer.”
“When it happened I didn’t reach out to support groups. I found support where I had already built it,” she said.
Rooke’s family and the Jazzercise community were incredibly supportive. Her husband’s work demanded a lot of travel, and “he was also under stress for not being close to her.” At the end of her treatment, after three surgeries, months of chemotherapy and its terrible side effects she was in remission and moved to Seattle where his work had relocated him.
This, she thought, was a new beginning. But the cancer came back. The chemotherapy, the radiation, the hair loss, the bone ache, the medications, the pain and the full mastectomy all led to depression.
“The unknowing that the disease could take me at any time was scary. You feel like you stink like chemicals all the time.”
Having a degree in psychology helped Rooke understand her depression and to think of it as a non-permanent condition.
“I hated cancer, but what was I suppose to do? Sit down and cry? Wait when I will die?’’
Today, Rooke sees and understands the many different layers of depression. Over the years she had seen how different emotions could arise instantaneously, how pain can affect people physically and emotionally, so she knew she needed to stay strong.
“I didn’t want to be angry, because anger was like another cancer to me.”
Soon after her second remission, she discovered yoga and this is “exactly what I needed,” she said.
With time she healed in those rooms. Yoga sessions provided her a space where she felt she belonged.
“I was feeling safe and while practicing I didn’t have time to think about anything else.”
Yoga helped Rooke push the dark cloud away, to find peace and calmness through her healing journey. While rediscovering yoga and its gifts, she learned that her brother, who lived in Oregon, had been diagnosed with cancer himself. She wanted to to take care of him and to provide him with the best care he deserved during that “very familiar” moment of his life. So she moved down to Oregon to be with him.
This was right when 9/11 happened. “I remember that morning seeing him watching all this and being horrified, and scared, just as me. He told me he was thinking about all of the souls that he would meet in heaven.”
The emotions were still raw for Rooke; as they traveled through her body and stood still right at the edge of her teared eyes staring at the horizon.
After only three months, the cancer took her brother.
The grieving process awaken many emotions that she had never experienced: from a different type of depression and pain, to loneliness and reflection. Time, travel and yoga helped Rooke to transition from this place of loss to a place of acceptance and hope.
A practitioner since 2007, a non-profit volunteer and a commissioner for a cancer research center, Rooke spends her time involved in the Seattle yoga community and works to spread the word of yoga and its health benefits.
Gaining internal power through her healing journey with yoga, she is awaiting her last reconstructive surgery. After facing a life-threatening disease, twice; after facing family challenges and losses; after rediscovering her new self through yoga, she had, along the way, made a vow that she will be more involved with her family. Nowadays, Rooke travels monthly to Oregon, where she spends quality time with her parents. They go to church and speak about life.
You can feel her heart just by looking at her eyes.
To support the fight against cancer, join the Seattle yoga community for a special event on July 19th: Yoga for Hope.
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