Yoga Instructor, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Hospital Administrator, Academic Researcher, Volunteer, Wife, Mother…Survivor. Brenda Ohta has held many “titles” in her life, but it is safe to say that she doesn’t let any one person or thing define her, or shake her faith in the power of healing and positivity…not a hurricane, not a wild fire, and certainly not a cancer diagnosis.
After her diagnosis and a prolonged battle with a malignant glioma, or primary brain tumor, Brenda and her husband packed up their hustle-and-bustle lives in New York City and moved to Southern California to be closer to their son.
“My husband and I left behind the skyscrapers of the Big Apple for the sandcastles of Malibu,” Brenda said. “I made healing a priority, which is different than looking for a cure, and finding CSCVVSB became part of that plan.”
Healing was exactly what Brenda did, through her positivity and mindful practices, she was able to remake her life and face every challenge that came her way, like Hurricane Sandy at the beginning of her cancer journey.
“I had 14 months of ‘migraines’ before the tumor was found,” said Brenda. “This had started just as Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast.” Brenda described the horrific conditions at her workplace as Sandy swept in with walls of water 14 feet high, stating that it was truly a “Dark Storm” time in her life. Then, just a short time after moving to California and purchasing a new home, Brenda and her husband found themselves evacuating in the wake of the Woolsey Fire.
“Houses all around ours burned, but miraculously ours did not,” said Brenda. She goes on to describe how she found herself looking at the fire through the same lens as her cancer diagnosis and facing a hurricane. “There is always a path. The prognosis may look grim, but healing is always possible.”
Joyce Boucher, the facilitator of Brenda’s support group raves about her participation. “Brenda is such an integral part of the group. Her advice is invaluable, when she shares everyone listens.”
When asked about a specific benefit she feels she has received through her participation at CSCVVSB, Brenda is quick to note the yoga classes, which actually are what brought her to the center in 2017.
“The yoga classes were a wonderful way to begin to heal both my body and mind; to regain both inner and outer strength and balance,” Brenda said. “Eventually I delved deeper into this practice to continue my healing journey and received my teacher training certification.”
And what did she do once she had received that certification? She brought it right back to CSCVVSB to help others facing her same challenges. “As a person with cancer I know despair, and being in a body that no longer seemed to be my own. I also know what it took to rehabilitate my body and mind,” said Brenda. “I firmly believe that regardless of whether cure is possible, healing always is. Through my training as a certified yoga teacher and also as a therapist, I know I can help others do this as well.”
Finally, when asked why she decided to volunteer her time back at CSCVVSB as a yoga instructor, Brenda illustrates her compassion for others and how important her work is to her. “Seeing the stillness and relaxation among the participants in Savasasana at the end of a yoga class, hearing one say ‘I am so glad that I got out of bed to come to class today’, or simply having one tell me ‘thank you for asking how I am feeling,’ are all examples of meaningful interchange and make every minute of my time as a volunteer worth it.”
Brenda Ohta is a volunteer yoga instructor at Cancer Support Community Valley/Ventura/Santa Barbara in Westlake Village. Participants can join her class at any time, Thursday mornings at 10am.