Aislinn's Story
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Aislinn's Story

My name is Aislinn Gallanagh. At the age of 31, I was enjoying life to the full.MacMillan-ChiGung_Launch-Apr2013-17.jpg

I had been married for 2 ½ years, had a 15 month old son, was a full time teacher and had a full and active social life, going to the gym and enjoying time with my friends and family. This all came to a halt, when on November 4th, 2009, I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer and a whole chapter in my life turned onto a page that I was not at all ready for.  

It was a huge shock for not only myself, but for my family and everyone around me as many people I knew had no prior experience of dealing with someone who had cancer. I was hugely shocked, but very soon adapted to a way of life where I spent most of my time telling others I was fine and being positive, but behind all this, I was falling apart inside. 
"This all came to a halt, when on November 4th, 2009, I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer​"
Initially I felt bombarded by the appointment and the medical attention was very overwhelming. It was the aftermath, when my initial back-to-back appointments were over and my radiotherapy was finished that I was left emotionally shocked and this is where the legacy of my cancer is very evident. 

I had huge family support but often felt like a puppet on a string with many well-meaning puppeteers directing my every move. In short, my life no longer belonged to me but was the property of the cancer that I was diagnosed with and gradually, somewhere along the line, I lost my identity. It is with the help of family, friends, NHS services, Macmillan and Chi Gung that I have most certainly begun to get my life back on track again. 

I was at my local library to gain some information from Macmillan Cancer Support, I was asked if I would like to attend a class called Chi Gung. I was desperately seeking something to put my life back on track so I agreed, although I was very apprehensive. A referral was made and soon after, in October, whilst sitting in Stobhill carpark, feeling quite deflated after another appointment, Craig Menzies, the Services Manager of Chi Gung, rang. Looking back now, that first contact was hugely important, although I didn’t realise it at the time. I was lost, looking for direction and inwardly lacking in confidence and Craig spoke to me about Chi Gung, relating to me something that sounded to be new, exciting and fun and spoke to me in an inviting and welcoming fashion. 

My first time at the class, Craig met with me down stairs. I'm not sure if it was deliberate on his part or not, but walking into a class on my own would’ve been extremely stressful. However, this made it much easier. The instructors were welcoming and encouraging, making me feel comfortable with where I was and with whom.

"It was the first time that I was within a forum where everyone had been affected by cancer, so I was no longer defined by the illness I had.​"
All classes consisted of gentle exercises and meditation. This was the very first form of exercise that I had done in 2 years. Right from the start things started to change for me. It was the first time that I was within a forum where everyone had been affected by cancer, so I was no longer defined by the illness I had. It didn’t need to be discussed, I wasn’t scrutinised or analysed and slowly I began to feel like I may at some stage in the future reconnect with who I used to be. I began to feel excitement and enjoyment again and was actually doing something for myself rather than doing something to keep my mind away from what had happened. 

Through the classes, I learned how to meditate, something that I had never done before, but have continued to practice when feeling anxious, unable to sleep or in particular, after having nightmares. Engaging in gentle exercises reignited my passion for fitness which highlighted a passion that I had forgotten about and led me to enquire with a physiotherapist as to whether I would be capable of returning to the gym. After being given the green light, I rejoined my local gym and attend at least 3 times a week, leaving me feeling better about myself and feeling less exhausted. 

Going to the classes also opened up other doors for me. Craig set me up with a cognitive therapist whom I regularly see and who has helped me to address the fears and anxieties that I have been left with. 

"thank you very much to the nameless person in the library who referred me that day​"​
My referral to and attendance of Chi Gung classes and from the doors that it has opened for me, have played a huge part in my recovery and opened up a new chapter in my life. That other chapter will never close as it has had such an impact, nor would I wasn’t it to close as it has greatly shaped my future, but this new chapter looks brighter, more secure and a place where the hopes and dreams I had for myself and my family will now be realised.
 
It is with that, that I would like to finish up by saying thank you very much to the nameless person in the library who referred me that day, thank you to the volunteer instructors who are wholly committed to this project and thank you to Craig, whose patient manner, understanding and gentle encouragement helped me to feel secure walking into that new environment. Finally, I have to say thank you to my husband, my son, my family in Ireland, my in-laws here and my friends for their never-ending encouragement and support. 

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