Everyone has a story about health and I love reading them. We learn so much from hearing about other people’s journey’s in relation to illness and disease. After hearing so many people’s reaction to Angelina’s decision to have a preventative double mastectomy, I feel like I want to tell my story. It is not for any other reason than to help people take another look at the same issue. As it is with many many women in this world, breast cancer is an issue so close to home for me. Three years ago I nursed my best friend to her death.....she had breast cancer, she had a double mastectomy, she lived another 9 healthy years and then it metastasised into her lungs and bones. She was a very intelligent, healthy, emotionally connected integrative medicine doctor. She knew so much about health and it didn’t make any sense that someone who knows everything about alternative medicine, who looked so vibrant and healthy, who was very emotionally and spiritually aware and connected, could number one get the disease, and number two, die from it. That just didnt make sense to me and it made me question everything. It also made me realise, there is something about illness and disease that we don’t fully understand. It is different for every person. Even though you might be diagnosed with “breast cancer”, it is a different set of things that have caused the disease and that will allow it to either grow or go away.
Last year I got my own personal encounter that was both scary and enlightening. I had that experience that every woman dreads of finding a lump in their breast. When I spoke with my doctor, we both agreed that it was not surprising, given I had only just gotten through adrenal fatigue and knew that I had a whole heap of extra estrogen floating around in my body....otherwise known as estrogen dominance. None of this worried me, I knew it was just a consequence of pushing myself too hard and going through a few years of quite a lot of emotional stress. I was not scared until I was lying on the table having an ultrasound of my breasts and the very scary, powerful radiologist came in to give me the report on my ultrasound. Her booming words were that the lump I had found was no issue, however, they found another lump on the other side and it was time to panic please.
What I realise now, is that if it were not for some prior knowledge, some voices of reason and a very skilled and understanding integrative medicince doctor, I would be sitting here now having had either one or two of my breasts cut off.
I was scared and I was in absolute turmoil about what to do. I did not want to get into the system.......mammogram, fine needle biopsy, lump removal, etc etc. I wanted to make some informed choices. And, I had to make decisions that were right for me with or without the approval of those close to me. I came to realise that I could make a decision that was right for me and my body, even though others disagreed with it. A very hard thing to do when all you want is the people around you to agree with you and prop you up.
So I decided I would give myself 3 months. I would do some more testing to further understand why I had excess estrogen and why I might have a lump in my breast and how I could best cultivate a healthy body, mind and spirit. The hardest thing was, during this time I had to try not to stress out about the obvious and I had to somehow get rid of this belief I had. Without even realising it, I had developed this belief that if I got breast cancer I would die. Quite extreme, but it’s funny how our minds work based on our experiences.
Part of the tests I had were some genetic testing.....and of course, it showed I was in the 10% of the population who have the progesterone receptor gene that indicates increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer. Hhhhmmmm...what now?
Wtih this information, rather than feel doomed to get breast cancer, I felt empowered to know how to further look after my health. You see, I do not believe that your genes determine your health, it is just the blueprint for what you have got to work with. There is such a growing field of science in epigenetics that confirms that it is our internal environment, and the signals we send our genes through our belief systems, that determines our health, not the other way around. Although I knew, understood and believed this, I felt like I was butting up against a massive system that didn’t agree. If I was to think this way, I had to get the system to agree?! It is such a new way of thinking, and the recent stories of Angelina Jolie show how we have such a long way to go as a society and as a medical system to integrate this knowledge. When you think and act like I have, most people think you are a bit whack. I have even been reluctant to tell this information to people because I don’t want other people believing that I am at high risk of breast cancer because of my genes. I don’t want that around me.
Now I realise, it is actually ok for people to know, because I know in my heart what really matters to me.....and if the system doesn’t agree, it actually doesn’t matter. I know what really really matters to me and therefore, what gives me the absolute best opportunity at maintaining a healthy body. I know that for me it is about healthy and intimate relationships, time at the beach, engaging work, running in the bush, nourishing food, red wine with friends, camping, travel, wearing nice clothes, time with my niece and nephew, dinners with my girlfriends doin weird things like angel cards and astrology. And, this combination of “things” is totally unqiue to me and would not work for anyone else. And that is ok. I don’t need to explain nor justify it to anyone else. And no one else needs to explain nor justisy to me what their set of things that really matter are.
So after three months of turmoil, freaking out, deep soul searching, mediatating, drinking wine, juicing and some funny conversations about whether I should do some coffee enemas, I went and had another ultrasound. This time my experience was totally different and it was calmy, cleaning and precisely explained to me that the lump identified on my previous ultrasound was a fibroadenoma.....it presented nothing like a cancerous lump and there was absolutely nothing to worry about. It had not changed and that was a good thing. What the? Why didn't I get that information 3 months ago!! Obviously, taking a closer look at what mattered to me was the lessons I needed.
It is my hope that as individuals and as a society, we are able to see things differently. That we develop a more whole way of seeing and understanding health, and we don’t blindly follow the system that surrounds us.
After seeing my friend die, and sharing her journey, I learnt at a very deep level, that you can never ever judge anyone else for their decisions or actions, because you have absolutely no idea what they are going through. We have absolutely no idea what Angelina has been through and it is not for me to judge or even have an opinion about her decision. It is however important to see things for what they truly are, and not get sucked into a system that will now have women all over the world having “preventative” mastectomy’s.