The Hidden Gifts of Breast Cancer

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In Australia, one in eleven women will be diagnosed with breast cancer before the age of seventy- five. In 2006, a total of 12,614 Australian women and 102 Australian men were diagnosed with breast cancer and there were 2,643 deaths. In New Zealand, more than 2500 women are diagnosed with Breast Cancer each year, and one in nine women will experience Breast Cancer by the age of sixty-five. Breast Cancer is the most prevalent cancer for women, and though rare, it is also beginning to show up in men.

On a psychological level, Breast Cancer provides a deeper message, an opportunity for self-awareness and soul growth. Every disease and body response has a voice, a precious gift for learning, if we are willing to listen. It is our choice to face the mirror of self-reflection.

I think some medical conditions have an emotional link revealing unresolved issues, wounds and traumas that are stored on a cellular, DNA, molecular and organ level. Stagnancies of blood flow or oxygenation can result from corresponding unconscious psychological issues and patterns. It reveals the places we cut off and shut down. Regardless of the origin of cancer, we can see this as an opportunity to learn more about ourselves.

I have counselled clients with Breast Cancer for the past thirty years and have noticed similarities in psychological profile. Though I haven’t experienced Breast Cancer myself, I have lost both family and friends to this disease. Breast Cancer seems to reflect a “critical imbalance of nurture and self- nourishment.” According to Annette Noontil, author of The Body is the Barometer of the Soul, Breast Cancer is about not nurturing ourselves and and always putting others first. The symbolism of a women’s breast represents mothering, nurturing and nourishment. Every woman deals with the issue of self-nourishment in a different way.

For example, early triggers may have resulted from a lack or excess attention in the parent/child relationship, or an imbalance in a nurturing relationship with self. Some of women haven’t had a nurturing or emotionally supportive parent. The mother or father may have been critical or demanding, forcing their child to grow up too soon with too much responsibility. Or the mother may have been over-protective leaving the child feeling smothered. Many of my clients lost their precious childhood years because of reasons such as these. Some were not cuddled or listened too. It wasn’t OK to be vulnerable or trust their parents would be there for them. Many women had to fend for themselves when challenges came up.

Other women have been abused sexually, emotionally or physically and have carried trauma in their body. Maybe they had an emotionally unavailable partner and didn’t feel safe expressing themselves. They may be carrying past hurts in relationship making it difficult to trust, perhaps a painful break-up or divorce. Some women may have chosen to keep their hurts hidden. Some shut down to protect themselves. It wasn’t safe to trust. For some women, the breast can hold that stifled energy. As a result, it became difficult to be intimate or vulnerable in relationship. Many women choose to shut down, becoming strong and independent. These women feel unsafe opening from a wounded heart. Many women I have seen with Breast Cancer in counseling, find it hard to nurture themselves or realize it is OK to receive.

Some of my gay clients have had issues around not being accepted for who they are. They had experienced rejection or social ostracism by family or the church for not complying with social conditioning. Some came from close families and as soon as they came out, they were rejected which resulted in abandonment, anger and pain. Communication broke down. Some women were no longer welcome in their home. They felt rejected. Many of my clients have internalized their hurt while holding in their anger and pain.

I see my role as a counsellor for these clients is not about externalizing blame, but encouraging these women to examine their history and how they have developed beliefs and behavioural patterns. Some women have learned to give too much away at the expense of self. Over-generous with a big heart, they take care of everybody else before themselves. Sometimes they can over-parent, and get too involved or protective of their children and lose themselves in the process. Or they can feel over-responsible at work or in relationship, finding it difficult to ask for what they need. Some women can’t set boundaries or say no, believing it is not OK to receive. These issues can tie into energetic stagnancy in the breast tissue.

Breast Cancer corresponds to the feminine, intuitive, nurturing and emotional side of a women’s nature. When a woman only expresses from her masculine side involving hyper- vigilance, rational thinking, productivity and self-reliance, she loses balance. By shutting down her need to touch and intimate sharing, she becomes malnourished. She expresses only part of herself, not the whole person. Balancing the polarities of personality such as the head/heart, cognition/intuition, outward expression/inward reflection, male/female, strength/vulnerability, and self-nurture/care for others is crucial.

While it is important to be kind and compassionate, it is equally important to acknowledge our own needs. Many of my clients dealing with Breast Cancer have difficulty with this. Self assertiveness about one’s own needs becomes an issue. Some choose not to be hurt or abandoned again by people not showing up for them. It becomes a safer choice to remain walled off. I help them to understand that we need to trust life to let nourishment in

I think Breast Cancer represents blocked emotional energy on a cellular level. It is the stifling of the “core self” that needs expression. When parts of self shut down, (creative, emotional or sexual), energy jams up in an organ or blood system, thus compromising the immune function. Rogue cells become active and serve as recruiter cells drawing healthy cells to cluster together, constructing a cancerous mass. These cells gain velocity and the immune system becomes unable to differentiate between the healthy and unhealthy cells. It’s like the immune building cells are carrying on their function without noticing interference.

Energetically the immune system is connected to the first chakra at the base of the spine. This connects directly to your family or tribe, which is linked to feeling grounded and safe in the world. When we feel insecure in our home, work, finances or relationships, often the immune system becomes compromised and we get digestive disturbances, a cold or flu. However if we have experienced sustained stress or have been giving out for too long, then deeper disease processes can occur. This is not to say we create our illnesses, but rather illness can reflect the unexpressed areas of blockage in the body. Sometimes we get so busy, we forget to listen. It is easier to focus externally, and pay attention to work responsibilities and others, rather than our own needs.

It takes courage to face ourselves and look at what’s really going on. But it is important to ask questions such as:

• Why is Breast Cancer happening to me?
• What is out of balance in my life?
• Who am I and what are my needs?
• What happened in my childhood or past?
• Was I nourished and supported in my relationships or suppressed or neglected?
• Where have I shut down?
• Am I acknowledging my heart and living my dreams?
• Am I feeling safe and expressing my vulnerability?
• Am I allowing myself to be nurtured or am I just giving it all away?
• Am I playing the martyr at the exclusion of my own needs?
• Am I allowing myself to receive?
• Have I been hurt?
• How did I recover and learn to trust again or did I suppress something and keep it in?
• Was my grief fully expressed?
• Am I being honest with myself?

We are all important. We deserve to be here and to authentically express ourselves. Breast Cancer is about nurture and nourishment, the ability to ask for what we need, and recognizing our self- worth. We don’t have to hide by controlling our environment and accommodating others. It’s about being honest with ourselves and the people we are close with and speaking our truth. Unexpressed energy equates to stagnancy in the body and the longer the core self is suppressed, the more severe the blockage becomes. I think we all get wake up calls to acknowledge issues that need to be addressed. The longer we wait and deny what is calling for our attention, the more the internalized energy causes congestion and disruption.

We each carry our story in our body. Our cells remember. I believe every cell carries the memory of every choice we have made. When we are out of alignment with ourselves and not honoring our needs, we lose energy. Our breast represents nurture. We nourish our babies through breast-feeding. Our breast nourishes our lovers in sex. Some of us adorn our breast through dress, anointing our feminine beauty, power and sexuality. Our breasts are meant to be loved. Our breasts are meant to be celebrated for the beautiful women we are. By ignoring them or downplaying our femininity and nourishment needs, we become less than who we are

Breast Cancer provides the opportunity to slow down and think about our life. With inner reflection, we gain balance and clarity. We have the opportunity to re-evaluate the challenges, become present and look for deeper meaning. We have the choice to listen to ourselves and ask for what we need. It is OK to receive. Life is fragile. It is important to make the most of our experiences giving ourselves free reign of expression. We women have a right to honour our needs.

Contributed by: Shari Rhodes





































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