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  • Healthy Living through Tai Chi

    Suzy Chan
    Tai Chi Instructor

    The art of Tai Chi Chuan is woven deeply into the life-fabric of Suzy Chan. In 1978, she began studying the ancient philosophy with her husband and celebrated Grandmaster Pui Chan at the Wah Lum Temple in Orlando, Florida. Since that fateful beginning, Suzy has traveled extensively throughout China and Hong Kong to train with some of the world’s great Masters, including Master Liu Chengde, Master Zhang Bing Dao, Master Lu Jin Hai, Master Mok Poi On, Master Chen Dao Yun, Master Kwan Hing Lin, Master Yun Yin Sen, and Master Chen Ru Qing.

    In 2001, after a two-year period of misdiagnosis, Suzy Chan was diagnosed with cancer. She was able to survive the disease without conventional therapy by immersing herself in the joys of family, friends, faith, and the disciplines of Tai Chi.

    Today, Suzy Chan is an accomplished author, having penned an inspirational memoir about her fight with the debilitating disease of cancer. She also continues to operate Golden Tours and Travel, an organization that she founded in 1983. Under her leadership, countless travelers have studied the art forms of Tai Chi and Kung Fu around the world.

    Interview Intro:

    So that the community can better understand where you are coming from… Tell us a little bit about Suzy Chan the Thai Chi instructor and cancer survivor?

    I was born in Kingston Jamaica, a small Caribbean island, in 1947, which makes me 62 years old now. I have been practicing Tai Chi for some 30 years and teaching tai chi now for over 25 years, and I have survived cancer now for 15 years.

    How did Thai Chi help you to heal your cancer?

    Tai Chi has helped me heal, as the basic principles of Tai Chi are the philosophy of balance. I realized I had to balance my lifestyle a little better as I got too caught up with the stress of the business world and not taking care of myself. It gave me a reality check and taught me that I had to balance my life better and start taking care of myself with my Tai Chi exercise program…as I would teach and spend more time helping others and not myself.

    Looking back on your experience with cancer… What affect did being misdiagnosed have on you?

    I have learned to listen to one’s own intuition, to know your own body and never think it would “never happen to you”. To learn to get copies of your medical records and to really not take things for granted and listen to your own heart and instincts.

    In what ways has teaching helped you to heal and maintain your health as a survivor?

    By teaching daily, I am reminded to take care of myself in addition to helping others, and since it has been some 15 years, I know the power of doing an exercise program is very helpful; especially the Tai Chi exercises.

    How do you feel about Thai Chi and conventional medicine working together to treat cancer and ease the side effects of treatment?

    I do believe in combining conventional treatments and therapies with Tai Chi exercises. This is definitely a win-win situation. It is best to try every means of therapy, as they do compliment each other. Even if you do chemo, the Tai Chi exercises help strengthen the body, whereas chemotherapy is very debilitating, affecting the good cells as well as the bad cells. Tai Chi exercises will help improve blood flow, which in turn nourishes the vital organs.

    Can you briefly explain the practice of Chi Gung and how it has helped you in your journey?

    Chi Gung is the practice of deep breathing and meditation. “Chi” means breath. The essence of life is breath. With Chi Gung, we concentrate on taking deep breaths to the “tan tien”, which is 2 inches below the navel.

    What are the physical and mental benefits of Thai Chi?

    Tai Chi believes in constant flowing; so the exercises emphasizes on slow, flowing, techniques. With a clear mind and not thinking about the stresses of life, we can achieve and accomplish so much more. It is the negativity and the stress of life that cause most illnesses.

    When we can achieve this level of mental and physical awareness, this enables our body to rejuvenate and strengthen all our organs. I call Tai Chi exercises, “ Meditation in Motion”.

    From what I’ve read about you, you beat cancer through faith and exercise. What made you decide to forgo conventional medicine to treat your cancer?

    The mind is the most powerful healer in the Universe. One must first have a positive attitude before you can accomplish anything.

    Having a positive mental approach and trusting in the power of prayers, you can accomplish much more. I did try the tamoxifen pills that the doctors prescribed for me, but I had an allergic reaction to them. When they mentioned chemo, I asked around for advice on this as it was new to me, and a wise person said, “it is like burning down the house to catch fleas”. I decided I would concentrate on helping myself by practicing my basic breathing techniques and the Tai Chi form daily, as well as continuing to eat a healthy diet, which means “moderation in everything”.

    Can you discuss a few daily habits that contributed most to healing your cancer?

    At the beginning, I was very weak when I came out of the hospital and I could not even move my arms. I had to try and just stretch my arms by slowly walking them up the wall. Then, with the basics of the Tai Chi exercises, I finally regained my flexibility and the strength by doing it consistently every day. I do believe that Tai Chi exercise helps to heal…as we concentrate so much on the deep breathing, the flow of the body and the inner strength of getting the Chi to the organs to rejuvenate and refresh the soul.

    Eat the proper food, and find time to cook at home and not eat “junk food”. Take time to eat a good meal.

    I can only add that to survive one must start your day off with a good mental attitude and try to improve your health mentally and physically. Mental attitude starts with having the right frame of mind, that you can really beat this thing.

    What was it like to write a book about your experience with cancer?

    It took me 10 years before I was able to sit down and write the book, as cancer is not something you want to remind yourself about or even think about. I also wanted to make sure that I could say that I am a survivor, and the first few years it was hard mentally to even accept that you have cancer.

    I hope by writing this book, I can inspire people to take care of themselves and to start living a more balanced lifestyle with regards to work, eating habits and exercise programs.