|3/25/2014 2:08:00 PM|
The Myra Lani Project
By Bunny Thompson
|Myra Lani was, and remains, an inspiration.photo provided|
Most people knew her as the yoga teacher at Sisters Athletic Club. Modest, unassuming and a bit shy, Myra Lani Fisher lived a quiet life in Sisters, occasionally traveling back to her homeland of Hawaii or to Mysore, India to rejuvenate her yoga style. You might have seen her at the SAC gym or in the yoga room, at Sisters Coffee Company playing scrabble with friends or out on a hiking trail. Her life was as she wanted it: understated and with a focus on yoga, her passion.
Then came the day when Myra found out she was suffering from a rare terminal cancer. It was a shock not only to her but also to everyone who knew her. How could this happen to such a healthy, incredibly strong and fit woman? A woman who ate almost entirely a vegetarian, low-fat diet and who could lift her own body weight with effortless grace.
Myra struggled to come to grips with the diagnosis, the implications of her life from that moment on and the stigma of having to admit you have cancer. She had to find the right doctors, assess her options, and balance all of this with the need to continue to live her life. And, she had to tell people about it. Who, when, how, was a difficult process. Myra had always been a private person, and if she were to continue teaching yoga she would have to open her illness to others. Cancer treatments would take an obvious but unknown toll on her body and spirit and she would have to make decisions about her yoga classes, her outings with friends and trips to practice with her yoga contemporaries in Hawaii.
Like others diagnosed with life-threatening diseases, Myra wondered how people would react to her news. At first, she shared it only with family and a few very close friends, one of them was me. I made a spreadsheet of the few people who knew and offered to send out an email and let others know. But Myra had always been an independent woman who made her own decisions and, as she said, "just took care of business."
So, she began slowly, calling a small circle of friends and quietly informing some of her more dedicated yoga students. In a small town like Sisters, the news would ultimately travel through the community. Her phone began ringing and her email inbox began to fill with notes offering to help, people expressing their heartfelt concern and assuring Myra of their genuine care.
This shy, unassuming woman was realizing that sometimes things are just beyond your control. You may think you're independent and you may prefer your own privacy, but people feel compassion when someone is in need, and the Sisters community rallied to share their compassion. She let a few friends into her private circle, and she was shocked when suddenly that circle began to expand almost exponentially.
With all of the treatments, doctor visits, decisions, the loss of her hair and the malaise caused by chemotherapy, it was often overwhelming. Myra turned to what she knew best: the power, discipline, peace and inner spirit of yoga. She found an outpouring of unconditional love from her yoga community and began to reevaluate her journey and the entire death process. As Myra said, "I intended for my passing to be a quiet affair, a non-event. But the energy of a few people turned it into an exploration of life and death, and in the process so many hearts were touched; so many lives changed."
Courageously, Myra began down the risky path to narrate her journey with death by opening her heart and telling her story from the humorous anecdotes to her deepest trepidations. She allowed Karin Mellberg, a videographer and documentarian, to film her discussing her disease, the effects of chemotherapy, and the difficulty of often-inconsistent information. She wanted her story and the stories of others who were walking in similar shoes to help guide and influence positive changes in healthcare and in the support system of future cancer patients.
This story and Myra's wish to help others is a local project that is rapidly becoming a reality. "The Myra Lani Project: A Tribute to the Strength of the Human Spirit" is the development with a mission to bring Myra's story to the public. Through Melberg's video, still photography by Laurie Eichhorn-Bretz, in partnership with renowned documentarian Ryan Suffern, this film explores the many neglected end-of-life subjects through the power and grace of a woman experiencing it. It is an intimate look at the complex subject of life and death, and offers some thought-provoking challenges to the way we choose to travel the journey.
The Myra Lani Project started a funding campaign to raise $20,000 to bring this documentary to the screen by summer 2014. The project is gaining momentum with a generous $5,000 founding donation, a website and a Facebook page (Myra Lani Project). If you would like to contribute to this project, please visit The Myra Lani Project website at www.myralaniproject.com to donate online or send a check to: The Myra Lani Project, P.O. Box 726, Bend, OR, 97709.
If you have questions, feel free to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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