In 2015, Christine Hodgdon was diagnosed with Metastatic Breast Cancer (MBC)—also known as Stage 4 breast cancer, where cancer that began in the breast has spread to other parts of the body form of breast. Before then, Hodgdon was working full-time as a conservation biologist. Yet a year and a half after her diagnosis, she was too exhausted to continue working, so she quit her job to focus on managing her cancer.
Nine months of physical therapy with little improvement in her symptoms was extremely frustrating, says Hodgdon. Yet when she started practicing yoga and pranayama, she noticed significant improvement.
“Almost instantly I felt a change in my physical and mental state,” says Hodgdon. “I started feeling less fatigue, nausea, and irritability. I was sleeping and eating better, and my daily yoga practice was helping increase rotation and flexibility of my right arm, where lymph nodes had been removed.”
In addition to her daily yoga practice, Hodgdon took part in a 6-week meditation class designed specifically for cancer patients to help them manage stress and anxiety. “Meditation now helps me react to things more slowly, thoughtfully, and less impulsively,” she said. “As cancer patients, we get bad news all the time. So I use meditation to help manage the stress and anxiety that go along with treatment.”
Metastatic Breast Cancer: The Facts
MBC is the most advanced stage of breast cancer, which means that the original breast cancer has spread beyond the breast and throughout the body, according to the Susan G. Komen Foundation. One study published by the American Association for Cancer Research in 2017 estimated that more than 154,000 women in the United States have MBC—three out of every four of those women originally diagnosed with stage I to stage III breast cancer.
There is currently no cure for MBC, but there are numerous treatment options, such as chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and targeted drugs. Unfortunately, it is estimated that less than 8 percent of funding for breast cancer goes toward MBC, according to the MBC Alliance.
Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness: The Thriver Movement
To help spread awareness for those living with MBC, drug company Eli Lilly and Company created a campaign called the Thriver movement, with a goal of raising money to support MBC research and to help support those living with MBC.
As part of the campaign, they commissioned a national survey to understand the emotional, social, and physical impact on people living with MBC on a day-to-day basis. The results of the survey showed that 9 out of 10 people living with MBC found yoga to be helpful in managing the everyday stresses associated with the disease.
Thriver’s Pose is a take on Upward Salute (Urdhva Hastasana): From Mountain Pose (Tadasana), turn your palms facing upward and lift your arms up and over your head. Bring your gaze up to your hands and lift your chest up toward the sky.
“The Thriver yoga pose and flow is a symbol of the emotional and physical strength these women and men exude,” says Kaiser. “The Thriver pose can be done standing or sitting, so anyone—no matter their limitations—can do it. I am so proud that the pose has become a symbol of strength and unity for the women and men living with this disease.”
What can you do to help?
The initial goal of the Thriver campaign was to raise $225,000 through donations. For every Instagram photo that was posted with a person doing the Thriver’s Pose, Lilly donated $100 to MBC charities. Earlier this month, Kaiser gathered with a group of MBC “thrivers” and advocates at her studio in Manhattan to participate in a Thriver flow and pose, and on that day, Lilly reached their goal.
But the campaign isn’t over. You can show your support and spread awareness by posting a picture of yourself in Thriver Pose on social media, with the hashtag #MoreForMBC.
Is social media not your thing? Hodgdon says it’s important to remember that advocacy comes in a variety of forms. “I used to think that I had to be all over social media to get my voice heard, but that’s not true,” she says. “You can remain completely anonymous, but still post on various social media platforms. You can go to a support group or start your own support group and help people one-on-one. You can launch a blog or website, attend breast cancer conferences, design and sell lingerie for breast cancer patients that have undergone surgery, sit on peer-review panels for cancer research projects, lobby Congress for more research dollars—the possibilities are endless.”