ENCINITAS — The late comedian Robert Schimmel received lots of laughs with his book, “Cancer on $5 a Day** Chemo Not Included.”
The fact is, too often money can make the difference between life and death for a cancer patient.
Such is the case with Summer Autio, a popular yoga teacher who has had to rely on the kindness of strangers as well as friends since being diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2006.
Her medical insurance alone runs $1,300 month. Then there are living expenses.
“Ideally, I need $5,000 a month,” she said. “But $3,000 would take the pressure off.”
Autio views her personal crisis as an opportunity for learning and teaching. Those who know her say this is true to her character.
“When I’m pushed against the wall I think, ‘Can I have one more opportunity to be a loving person?’” Autio said. “I can be sad or angry, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be loving. With cancer, I’m turning it into an experience rather than a punishment.”
Autio teaches at Yoga Vista in the city of Vista where owner Sherry Zak Morris has generated $6,000 in donations for her.
“When she had a relapse, we could not understand why this vibrant, beautiful and gifted person had to suffer once again,” Morris said. “I believe it in my soul and have shared it many times with Summer that she is not going through this because of anything she did or anything she has to learn. Rather it is for all of us around her to learn compassion, love and the joy of living in the moment.”
Autio also has a loyal following in Encinitas where she has taught for more than 20 years. She currently teaches at Soul of Yoga. The school has a nonprofit arm, which raised $30,000 last spring enabling Autio to receive life saving treatment at the Hope4Cancer Institute in Baja.
“Summer is beloved in Encinitas,” said Tom Kelly, owner of Soul of Yoga. “When we were first doing fundraising, the ones who had money that Summer thought would donate, didn’t. The ones who didn’t have it, did. It didn’t matter if it was their last $500. It was the right thing to do.”
Kelly adds that on the last day of the fundraising drive individual donations of $5,000 and $16,000 came from people who didn’t know Autio at all.
Susan Budner is a student who became a close friend and caregiver for Autio.
“Summer’s cancer wasn’t detected until she had two very large tumors, and it was at a stage three,” she said. “She has been an advocate for early detection. In general women need to be more proactive about requesting pelvic ultrasound and CA-125 (blood) tests.”
Budner adds that as Autio’s battle with the disease continues, it’s become less about the diagnosis, treatment and result and more about her journey.
“She’s on the precipice every day, physically and financially,” she said. “In spite of everything going on in her life, I think she’s really happy. That, in itself, says a lot about who she is.”
Autio has attracted a large audience who follow her blog at theinnerhouse.blogspot.com.
“I can’t cocoon because it’s about me,” Autio said. “My job is to continue to teach. It doesn’t stop just because I’m not employed. I’m employed by the community.”
At 5:30 p.m. Sept. 23 at Soul of Yoga is sponsoring a fundraiser for Autio in which all fees collected for her regularly scheduled class will be donated to her care and living expenses. If Autio is strong enough, she will teach the class herself. Soul of the Yoga is located at 627 Encinitas Blvd. next to Chin’s Szechwan Cuisine. Cost is $15 for one class; $25 for a new student special which includes unlimited classes for two weeks.
To make a tax-deductible donation through the Soul of Yoga Foundation call (760) 943-7685 or e-mail [email protected]
Yoga Vista also has a fundraiser for Autio in progress called “Yoga in the Garden” from 1 to 2 p.m. on Saturdays through Oct. 16. Cost is $10 per class. For more information visit yogavista.net/events.html or call (760) 630-9642.
To learn more about Autio visit theinnerhouse.us or e-mail her at [email protected]