The Coast News Group
Claire Petretti shares her story of overcoming a breast cancer diagnosis and how she benefits from yoga. Photo courtesy of Epic PhotoJournalism

Healing and hope with yoga

CARLSBAD — New Year’s Day 2010 was bright with promise for Claire Petretti.A former attorney, she’d successfully transitioned to a new life as a yoga teacher and teacher trainer. She was looking forward to launching her own show on ExerciseTV, leading yoga retreats, and creating DVDs.

But all those plans were put on hold when she made a grim discovery the very next day.

“On Saturday, Jan. 2,” she said, “I found a lump in my breast. It felt like someone had inserted a marble under my skin.”

Although she’d had a mammogram just three months earlier, she knew this was serious.

“It felt absolutely wrong,” she said. “I didn’t sleep the rest of the weekend.”

Following a whirlwind of doctor’s appointments and testing, her worst fears were realized: She had stage 2 breast cancer.

Some might have withered. Not Petretti. She had dealt with physical and emotional challenges before.

Two years earlier, she’d had neck surgery following an auto accident. She’d also survived the deaths of two of her brothers, who succumbed to AIDS.

The inner strength she had honed during those earlier trials would serve her well as she dealt with the diagnosis.

Following surgery, she began six rounds of chemotherapy, followed by nearly eight weeks of radiation.

All the while, she continued to teach yoga and pilates and maintained a blog chronicling her experiences.

Her willingness to honestly share what she was undergoing resonated with those who followed the blog, which Petretti plans to publish as a book.

Just before her first round of chemotherapy, she was also inspired to enroll in a two-weekend certification program to teach yoga to cancer survivors.

Because Petretti has experienced firsthand the benefits of yoga in her cancer recovery, she’s been tireless in sharing her message of hope and healing through yoga.

By the end of 2010, she had joined forces with the City of Hope, a research and treatment center for cancer and other life-threatening illnesses, to help create Yoga for Hope.

The event began last year as an outdoor community yoga class led by five prominent San Diego yoga teachers, including Petretti. This year, it has evolved to now include a series of donation-based yoga classes throughout the county leading up to this year’s main event, to be held Aug. 11 on the lawn of the Hilton San Diego Bayfront. It will once again feature a community class and will also include a wide array of vendors, food and entertainment.

All are welcome to attend, Petretti said.

According to Ellie Levine, City of Hope’s assistant development director, Yoga for Hope “serves as a platform for City of Hope to expand awareness of the importance of the mind-body-spirit connection and the hospital’s unique approach to utilizing complementary and integrative therapies such as yoga and meditation in the patient treatment programs.”

She said the event “would not be here today” if not for Petretti.

“From her brave story, which has inspired and touched so many,” Levine added, “to her sheer tenacity and contagious energy, the event would not be in motion without her … It is rare to have a volunteer with commitment and dedication like she has.”

Earlier this year, wanting to reach an even broader audience who could benefit from yoga, Petretti launched her DVD “Yoga for Cancer Recovery.”

“I loved the idea of providing a tool for people to use at home if there was no yoga available for them or if they didn’t feel up to leaving the house,” she said.

While her life took a wildly different direction than she could have imagined on New Year’s Day 2010, she finds satisfaction in how far she’s come and looks forward to forging new goals as she continues to help others as they recover from cancer.



S. Tashoff August 7, 2012 at 11:18 am

Reading Tracy Moran’s article about Claire Petretti (Coast News, August 3, 2012) was so inspiring. Thank you Claire, for sharing your story with all of us. You’re fighting a very courageous struggle and your determination to recover and share your recovery story with others give us all hope. Your strength will be rewarded.

Spider August 6, 2012 at 11:19 am

God bless you, Claire, for giving back to the community. My prayers are with you.

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