Mary Papciak recalls feeling the sharp pain in her breast right after the holidays in 2006.
She rubbed it to help the pain and felt a teenie tiny spot the size of a BB. Her gynecologist sent her for a mammogram and then a sonogram, and she was told not to worry, that it was nothing, and to come back in six months.
However, by February the tiny knot had grown to walnut size and Mary asked for a second opinion and a biopsy, which she had the first of March in 2006.
"It felt like an infected cyst that needed to be drained. It was painful and that's why I kept pushing," she said.
The phone call came on March 15, her husband's birthday, telling her that it was cancer and that she would need a mastectomy.
"I was devastated. Hearing that I had cancer didn't scare me as much as the trauma of having a mastectomy," she said.
The surgery to remove her right breast took place on April 3, 2006, a day Papciak says she will never forget.
"That's a rough surgery," she says now. "But the type of cancer I had was a very aggressive type and I did what I had to do to live."
Papciak underwent six months of chemo and she passed the five-year mark in March 2011 cancer free.
However, in April 2012 Papciak got sick with flu-like symptoms. Tests showed the cancer had returned — this time in her lungs.
"I felt like I wasn't going to make it," she says now.
Even though the cancer had metastasized to another location, Papciak says the good news is that it was not lung cancer, but the exact same cancer as was in her breast, which means it is easier to cure.
Papciak is a certified yoga instructor at Balance Health Studio in Seagrove. After learning of her diagnosis, for six weeks straight all the girls at the yoga studio took turns taking organic foods and juices to her.
In treatment since early May, Papciak feels she is getting well and is back to teaching spin and yoga classes.
"When I knew I was going to survive, I thought, 'How can I give back?' I feel God is curing me to help others," she says now.
Her answer came while in her oncologist's office when Papciak read about a national support group that offers free yoga classes to those taking cancer treatments. She then met some people at a support group who she felt would benefit from the program.
The owners of Balance enthusiastically gave permission to use their studio and became members of the national organization YogaBear.
YogaBear is the national organization offering free yoga classes for people currently undergoing treatment for any kind of cancer where the patients can participate in a yoga class that focuses on postures and movements specially designed for them and their needs while they are in treatment.
"People with cancer need to do something to move their bodies so they feel better and don't get depressed," said Papciak. "We use a very gentle restorative yoga with light touch and aromatherapy. I will love them as someone who has been through it; they know I understand. This is a way for me to give back and I feel it's what God is calling me to do. I feel great and am getting awesome reports from my oncologist that the cancer is almost gone. I attribute this great outcome to many prayers, family support, and the love and support from my yoga family."
The free yoga classes for those currently undergoing cancer treatment kicks off Oct. 18 during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Classes are at 11:30 every Thursday at Balance Health Studio in Seagrove. For more information call 850-532-4295.