For this post I am kind of connecting all my dots as a therapist passionate about healing the body and wanting to ease a persons pain and suffering, to the artist passionate about honouring soul, (my own and other women’s) and then me personally as a woman who is in constant admiration of the strength, courage and beauty of other women and who they are.
Our breasts are often made out to be an enormously huge part of our identity as a woman. From the time they bud and flourish in puberty, to be noticed by others and sometimes given the wrong importance in terms of physical beauty and attraction, to their amazing function to nurture, sustain, comfort and grow a child, to their changed shape and gravity influenced position on our person as we get older. Society tends to dictate that our breasts be focused on as an outward sign of our womanhood.
When they become hurt from the inside and affected by cancerous tumours. It is not just an external physical cellular change in tissue. Our soul can hurt. Who we are as a woman can feel impacted. Certainly, women who experience cancer of the breast have to endure enormous pain and suffering physically, whilst they undergo treatment and recovery. On top of this, the emotional wounds and scars can take a long time to heal. Fear as an emotion which settled into the body in a very deep way at the time that pain was felt deep into the breast, as a somatic memory…the memory of the emotional trauma may never be forgotten. However, in sharing experiences and disseminating information, holding space for another woman’s grief, fear, pain, venting, relief, we can all help absorb pain and suffering and help each other heal, as well as have a profound impact on each others lives.
Telling our stories can help women heal themselves and each other. Whilst I personally have been fortunate not to have had breast cancer, I have experienced a scare which luckily turned out to be cellular blockage and collection of tissue and fluid in a milk duct. However, what does make my story more of a personal one is that at the age of 17, I nursed my mum emotionally and physically through her radical mastectomy to remove an aggressive cancerous tumour. She was aged 46 at the time. I watched and observed and cried her pain and suffering with her. I saw the males in our lives not know how to deal or cope with it. In many ways seeing her post op in the hospital had a profound effect on me and was one of the reasons I decided to become an OT. I think at a very deep level I didn’t want to see other women suffer alone as my mum did. I couldn’t save her from the pain, although I so wanted to. Nobody could. It was her journey and it is a lonely one even when you are surrounded by the love and support of family and friends. It is the journey of a woman’s soul inward, connecting with her womanhood and back again. To this day, I continue to see how the breast cancer has impacted my mum. She has always been overweight and she wanted to wait to have reconstructive breast surgery once she had lost weight and her unaffected breast had got smaller. It never really happened so at almost 70, she still wears a prosthesis and daily is reminded of her experience. I don’t know what the emotion is that I feel when we are at the beach and she bends down to build sand castles with my children. I see her scars where her breast used to be as her bathing suit that does not sit snuggly on her cleavage, sags. I can’t find the right word for the emotion I feel when I see her like that. But I know without a doubt what it is I am thinking. I think that she is by far the most bravest, dignified woman warrior I have ever known. She is beautiful inside and out. She has always been very much a woman. Yes, she has a pretty face and she dresses nice. But beyond her outward appearance and past the different heights of her chest between her left and right sides, she has the heart and mightiness of love that only a woman can know, give and be able to receive. Children know it and see it. They snuggle deep into her lopsided chest and want to be as close as possible to the womanness that she exudes. It is strong and it is pure and it can not be cast out by the removal of her breast. She is still whole and I can see it and so can she.
I want to thank my mum and another beautiful lady and friend, Ev. For their bravery and courage and their womanhood that they have lighted up my life with. To know that the soul of a woman can not be broken by breast cancer. To know we can endure anything whilst we take breath. Because our strength and our womanhood and our souls lie deep beneath our enormous hearts. Nothing can infiltrate that without our permission. The women I know will never give permission to cancer to take away from them who they are. Let them roar words of encouragement and love to all those before and after who suffer from cancer of the breast. Please share Ev’s post about her Journey with Paget’s Disease. A form of cancer that affects the nipple. Share, make aware, offer support and encouragement and help everyone share their stories and thereby help other women. You can read about Ev’s experience here. Please share it.