Yoga, my dearest friend.

We all have a story about how we “came” to yoga, and beyond that we all have a story. Dianne Rutstein, cancer survivor, RYT 200 and studio owner, shares hers (publicly for the first time) in this first installment of a three-part series.

Part 1.  Before I met you.  

I am 37 years old and am a two-time cancer survivor, a statement I have never said aloud. I always thought cancer was reserved for the old or rarely the very young. The ones you don’t want to speak of out loud, you just quietly prayed for them and their families and prayed this was something you never had to face. But more and more since my diagnosis at 19, it seems like a disease that spares no one. You’d never know by looking at me or meeting me that I have this story. But then you may never know anyone’s true story, and ALL of us have one. Most of us reserve real truth for a special select tribe of friends and family. I have a very small circle that knows the detail of what I think and believe and have fought for, but now I choose to share my story.

I was 18, a freshman at University of Delaware and free to live! I woke one morning on the flip side of a fun night and rubbed my neck to loosen the tension of a hangover. BOOM. It felt like a blueberry in my neck. Ok, it’s just a swollen gland, I told myself, but my intuition was hollering at me. I felt fine, looked great, but this was illegally in my body and I was afraid. Fast forward six months, a few more blueberries and a Doctor who told me I might have cat scratch fever or hurt myself lifting weights. To be clear, I spent little to no time with cats and am not a weightlifter. Dumbbells for tone, not bulk, were my speed! Lesson learned, do NOT listen to someone just because they have MD at the end of their name, you are your best advocate, seriously. From there I found myself just a few short months later with a different ENT confirming that my biopsy was positive for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. And a blur later I am at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania with an extremely direct and genius oncologist telling me I will need chemo, radiation, will lose my hair and even though it’s an early stage I need to get fighting.  Our conversation ended with the best line ever: if you need have to cancer, this is the one to get.

Onward with the maddening and literally sickening journey of months of varying tests, chemo and other drugs to tolerate it (and lots of vomiting) followed by a few weeks of radiation. A side note, I never actually lost all of my hair! I was home from college, devastated that my friends were having an amazing year and that life continued without me there. I took classes over video (no online at that time folks). I rarely went out. I was mortified. I was very sick. I was scared. I meditated A LOT, chanted, and visualized myself healthy and jogging on a beach. I didn’t give up but I didn’t channel my fears. I fought this really internally, if I had to do it again, I would have reached out more, because the emotion of this inside is a destroyer. And so I fought the battle at 19 and I heard the “you are so brave” comments so many times.  What choice did I have? I wanted to live so this isn’t bravery! In February of 1997 I was officially done all treatments and in remission. And I received the next best line:  go about your life as you were, you are healthy. HOW DO I DO THAT? I.WILL.NEVER.EVER.BE.THE.SAME.

I went back to college and lived my life as best as I could. I worked out often to get back my strength (started by just walking down my street and barely making it, to walking several miles). I smiled and laughed and focused on school and friends and boys. At nights when all was quiet and most were sleeping, I had terrors, waking in full panic and sweat from the worst visions and nightmares a person could have. Convinced that this panic attack or headache is the end of me and surely I’m dying. I called the nurse so many times, so convinced I had the next thing, so convinced cancer had returned. These terrors and panic attacks lasted for several years and were quite consuming at times. I was told I was dealing with PTSD and took literally the smallest dose of Xanax ever.  This helped me so very much with my limited ability at the time to calm myself. My meditation practice could not save what happened at night. But I knew that medication was nothing I wanted to stay on; I had to, HAD to, find something else. Enter.Yoga.



Dianne is a Certified Yoga Teacher and Owner at Stillpoint Yoga Studios in King of Prussia, PA.  She loves to love, loves life, yoga, outdoor adventures and her family. She is leading a Rock n Roll Vinyasa to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (100% proceeds to LLS) on April 12, 2015.  Please visit for more information. Please feel free to connect with Dianne on Facebook, as she would love to connect and hear your stories!

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