BY TOBY PORTER
A yoga teacher’s life-threatening journey to the altar has been retold in an inspiring new book.
Former champion ballroom and Latin dancer Sarah Brown, 40, was told three years ago she had a gene mutation which can cause breast and ovarian cancer.
Sarah has told the story of risk-reducing surgery and her recovery before she walked down the aisle earlier this year.
She has the BRCA (breast cancer) inherited condition – recently highlighted by actress Angeline Jolie – which meant she had a 50-50 chance of getting it.
Her book, Healing with Yoga: The BRCA Gene and Me, reached the top three in Amazon’s health & fitness charts thanks to some rave reviews by readers.
Sarah said: “My friends and family and the doctors were all impressed I healed so quickly and said I should write it down.
“The message is that even if you go through hard times you can find ways to help you cope with these difficulties.
“If this book helps others in my situation then that would be fantastic.” Sarah, of Eversley Road, Upper Norwood, attended the BRIT Performing Arts and Technology School and became a dancer but gave it up when she went to university.
She then trained to be a teacher after graduating with honours in psychology. She taught at Virgo Fidelis school in West Norwood and Ryelands school in South Norwood.
“The job is very different now to how it was when I started,” she said. “It is too much about the paperwork now.”
But it was her introduction to yoga in 2003 which had the greatest impact.
“As soon as I discovered yoga I loved the feeling of my body gently opening up and how its meditative effects had a positive impact on my well-being,” she said.
“I was hooked. I had been spending a lot of money on physios but yoga was very healing. “I was able to think more clearly, had fewer injuries and more energy – and I wanted to pass these benefits on.”
The whole family had been advised to have tests for BRCA when her father’s cousin was diagnosed with breast cancer. Sarah was found to have it and had to decide whether to have preventative surgery.
She had both ovaries removed two years ago.
“That was very young to go through the menopause,” she said. She made the decision to have a preventative mastectomy and reconstructive surgery.
But the first operation went wrong and she had to have two further emergency operations.
The operation burned some of my skin because the surgeon was trying to get very close to my ribcage,” she said.
“So they had to remove my implant and I was left with no breast and a lot of play pain and discomfort.
The lowest point was waking up after the emergency operation, looking down and seeing my body.
“Initially I felt ok because I had had pain suppressing drugs – but the next day I could not stop crying. I had not had any time to prepare for the operation.
My aunt recently passed away at the age of 45 with breast cancer and that all brought it all back again. It was very hard having to carry on, to function. You’re in this black hole and you have to cope.
You must sink or swim.” After recovering from surgery Sarah spent a year writing the book while also commuting to the home of her fiancee, Steven, in Leeds – he is a professional guitarist and also does an Elvis tribute act.
She has now trained as a yoga teacher and is doing classes close to home. “It was good to get it all down on paper and I hope that it speaks to women in my situation going through things like this,” she said.
The book is part memoir, part guide to yoga techniques which can help others also in need of healing.
The last year has been incredible because I got married on a cruise ship in the Mediterranean and I have opened my own studio,” she said.