Revealing Grace

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Our Founder – Amy Conn

In April 2005, The Salt Lake Tribune featured Amy Conn on the front page of the Sport’s section, Running through Adversity: “Amy Conn will run the Salt Lake City Marathon four days before undergoing chemotherapy and one month following a lumpectomy.” This story echoed the tenacity of the woman behind the article.

In 2009, Dr. Mikelle D. Moore, LDS Hospital’s Administrator and CEO wrote an article for the hospital about Amy’s story titled, Cancer Team Gets Runner Back on the Road-Personalized Care Positive Attitude Were Key. “One of the big challenges with breast cancer is the amazing number of doctor appointments you’re required to have. Your life has to be able to work around it because it is all set in stone. Suddenly, your job is having appointments.” Conn recalls those early days of discovery and diagnosis. Amy’s team of doctors helped make sense of it all; they helped her hold all that together. “There was no way I could have fallen through the cracks. I was immediately put in the system and felt like I was guided from one perfect doctor to the next.”

The goal was to get Amy to run in the marathon she had been training for the previous six months. “You have to make this happen,“ she told her surgeon, Dr. Regina Rosenthal. Rosenthal kept her promise, the team of doctors and nurses worked to meet the necessary date lines and within one week of surgery, Amy was up and training again. Running with drainage tubes sticking out of her body, tucking them under her running bra, Amy was able to compete and finish in the Salt Lake City Marathon almost one month to the day following surgery.

In 2006, after a year of completing her own regiment of chemotherapy and radiation treatments, Amy began the program Quality of Life: Yoga for Survivors, Caregivers, Loved Ones; a free class for people who desired a healing program that would extend beyond the doctor’s appointments. Her first class had twenty-two participants! Rolf Gates, internationally renowned yoga teacher and author, contributed books and taught meditation courses for Amy’s students.

From 2007-2010, the American Cancer Society (ACS) has collaborated with Amy on two fundraising events per year raising over $20,500 based on her Quality of Life students. In 2007 and 2008, ACS flew Amy and her family to Washington, DC to lobby for rights on behalf of the cancer survivor. She met with each senator and congressman representing Utah and asked each of them to sign the bill at hand (we were lobbying for ‘enabling un-insured women to receive mammograms’ which passed).

In the fall of 2008, The Catalyst Magazine featured the Quality of Life yoga program describing the benefits of yoga. “Fear can be a chronic emotion for those dealing with cancer: fear of the treatment process, the outcome, and even recurrence,” Conn states. “Practicing yoga in a setting like Quality of Life brings a student face to face with that fear and gives them tools to move past it.”

Amy began studying yoga in 1997. In avid pursuit of the heart of yogic wisdom, she has traveled extensively throughout the United States to study with the world’s most renowned teachers. Between births of her two children, Amy studied under Baron Baptiste, Rolf Gates, and Ana Forrest. In 2002, Amy began studying Anusara yoga, which unifies a life-affirming Shiva-Shakti Tantric philosophy of intrinsic goodness with Universal Principles of Alignment. In other words, it is a life affirming practice. In 2010, Amy will study under Anusara Yoga’s founder, John Friend.

In 2007, Amy was invited by the University of Utah’s Burn Center to teach yoga at their Burn camps. The largest Burn Unit in the Intermountain West, campers were flown in from eleven states to attend Camp Nah Nah Mah in Utah’s Wasatch Front Mountains. The ages of these campers ranged from 6-12 years old. A second trip was offered to her in 2008, and again, in 2009 to travel and teach on a river rafting trip along the Green River through Southern Utah. This older kids’ camp is intended for burn survivors aged 13-17 years old. This summer will mark Amy’s fourth year collaborating with the U of U’s Burn Unit.

One of Amy’s most rewarding achievements was fundraising for and organizing a Quality of Life yoga retreat collaboratively with a local yoga studio and the Sundance Resort in Alpine, Utah. In 2009, Amy’s 18-month effort to raise enough money to send 26 family members (all Quality of Lifer survivors) on a four-day retreat came to fruition last spring. The retreat was filmed, documented and submitted to the Sundance Film Festival. In addition to organizing the retreat, Amy taught the eleven children who attended the retreat with their families. Ages 4-11 year olds practiced yoga, hike, participate in arts-n-crafts, nature studies and produce and perform in play finale’.

Most recently, Amy led a Quality of Life retreat in the mountains of Kamas, Utah. Fundraising, organizing and teaching yoga to cancer survivors has brought her to new levels of insight and creativity, transforming her teaching and writing in surprising ways. Upon completion of this retreat, Amy was approached by the University of Utah to file the Quality of Life program as a non-profit allowing for grant writing.

Educated as a Special Educator for children with learning disabilities and the deaf and hard of hearing, Amy has a Masters in Special Education and multiple teaching credentials, as well as an American Sign Language interpreter certification. She taught at the Madeleine Choir School as their Learning Specialist, a position she created and developed. She is currently in a PhD program at the University of Utah in the College of Health dept. of Exercise and Sport Science researching the benefits of yoga on special populations; specifically cancer survivors. She privately tutors children in all academic areas. Amy is also a Nationally 500-hour Registered Yoga Instructor. A teacher her whole life, Amy teaches yoga in two afterschool programs: Rowland Hall (a college prepatory school) and the Open Classroom (a charter school). Amy is the Director and a weekly yoga instructor for A Quality Life Community, her non-profit. As an instructor, she is frequently asked to participate in training teachers for yoga teacher trainings courses (specifically, Children and Cancer Survivor courses).

Amy’s credentials include being part of the first group of volunteers for San Francisco’s Coming Home, the first hospice dedicated to AIDS patients back in 1987. Coming Home was pivotal for changing public opinion and creating political will to fund and recognize AIDS.

Amy considers her greatest adventures to have taken place internally. Looking back on her life, she sees the entire journey to have been a spiritual one. From childhood play, through her education in California, to her fortunate roles as wife and mother, interwoven with her cancer adventure and the discovery and conscious embarkation on the path of yoga, her life has been enriched throughout by insights drawn from her daily life.

Amy was the eldest daughter of four biological children and two foster children. A painting hangs in her parents’ house depicting the children’s personalities intuitively. Even from an early age: Amy is painted as a little girl running across a creek in the woods while her older, protective brother holds onto their younger brother and sister’s hands waiting patiently on the bank of the creek to see if the water is crossable. Deemed ‘Honorary Queen Babysitter’ by parents of neighboring children in her hometown, Amy was considered the ‘Pied Piper’ with the children surrounding her block. Block parties, lemonade stands, YMCA camp counselor and then camp director, leading an active life with children has been a consistent theme throughout her life.

Amy lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with her husband, Firefighter/Paramedic Michael Conn, and their two children Benjamin and Abigail and their two dogs Mazzie and Scrappy. Amy finds respite from her active life in the mountains surrounding her home. Almost every weekend, Amy can be seen hiking with her dogs up a mountain trail stopping at the top for a brief meditation.