October has been the official Breast Cancer Awareness month for over 25 years. In this time, women have become aware of the necessity for routine mammograms, been warned of the deadly toll breast cancer takes on women’s lives and been encouraged to join the “race for a cure.” This means giving and raising money to fund the seemingly endless program for breast cancer research.
For more than 50 years, the study of breast cancer has been heavily funded, yet there has been very little change in death rates. Does this bring up questions for you as to what’s actually happening in the laboratory? As to where the billions upon billions of dollars are actually going? And does it cause you to wonder how, after all these years, there hasn’t been much progress?
It makes me question and wonder because I am a woman who faced this disease at a relatively young age. I experienced firsthand the massive push by doctors toward following protocol, urging me to agree to be a subject of research. “We don’t really know what will work or won’t work, but you should do this anyway,” the doctors told me. Why? I asked. “Because we have to do something.”
This wasn’t good enough for me, but then, I’m one of those people who could be deemed “difficult.” Stubborn. Non-compliant. I refused to be a test subject for what I felt was a search and destroy mission (i.e., experimental chemotherapy and radiation). This warlike approach didn’t suit me. I wouldn’t subject myself to it because I could find no evidence, anywhere, that it would extend my life. I did, however, believe that the chemicals could damage my organs and immune system, creating a situation where my own body would struggle even further to heal.
I asked my doctors point blank if they could show me any evidence that my life would be extended if I allowed them to infuse me with their chemicals. “No,” they said. In a few cases, they could show me a study indicating that a small percentage of women had lived longer lives. I felt that, for me, the consequences would be worse than the potential benefit. I also had a gut feeling that breast disease stems in part from neglect of the feminine principle. To allow this harsh treatment wouldn’t heal this neglect, but would be dishonest to myself.
I knew I was taking responsibility for my own life. It wasn’t easy in the face of all the white coats, in the face of the authority those coats imply, in the face of their insistence. After my final meeting with a top breast cancer specialist in a town three hours from my home, I walked out of the hospital, into the parking lot, got into my car and sat with the fact that I alone had just chosen to face my life and death on my terms rather than surrender to this huge system I couldn’t align my heart or mind with. It was both liberating and terrifying.
For years now, some cancer research organization has regularly sent me a form asking, politely, indirectly, whether I’m still alive. This past spring when the standard form letter arrived yet again, I pulled out my fat permanent marker and scrawled across the page in large black letters, “Yes, I’m still here. Not dead yet.”
I am in no way an advocate for other women refusing conventional treatment for breast cancer. But I am an advocate for acting on your own behalf, for thinking for yourself, for courage. There is very little useful information offered to women by doctors to help them deal with a cancer diagnosis. This information one must go out and dig up, find for herself, and then have the gumption to follow through with. Utilizing this information can require a massive life overhaul, but almost always, it’s an overhaul that begs to be made.
Once I started my own research – a large task even for someone already in the field of holistic healing – I found more information on how to heal from and prevent breast cancer than I could possibly use in my life. This encompasses the health benefits of daily walking, yoga, green tea, leafy greens, deep orange and cruciferous veggies, emotional release, friendships, poke root oil, turmeric, breathing, eliminating processed foods and all other toxic chemical products in the home, art, self-expression, mending relationships, singing, dancing, playing, letting go, breast massage, organic whole live foods, visualization, nourishing the liver, healing the heart, claiming one’s own power, nettles, dandelion, red clover, lemon balm, modified citrus pectin, Vitamins C and D…the list goes on and on.
So during this Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I won’t be wearing a pink ribbon or running in a 5K to support the further funding of endless research. I will, however, support funding for practical assistance programs that directly help women with cancer pay for their living expenses. This is what is desperately needed. To learn about one of these helpful groups located in my area on the California Central Coast, see http://bcagmp.org.
I’ll also focus my energy and intention on Breast Health Awareness for all women – because there are deep societal wounds that go hand in hand with this disease, and it’s going to take more than science to heal them.
For further information on prevention and alternative treatments, see the website for the Breast Health Project, directed by Daya Fisch. You can also take a look at Think Before You Pink to get an insider’s view of some questionable pink ribbon campaigns.
Image by Yew Wei Tan, via Flickr