Mastitis – Experiences and Observations on Women’s Health – Part 2

by JK, UK

I am a woman who has experienced a number of women’s health issues (see Part 1 on Endometriosis). One of those women’s health issues was mastitis. I also have a curiosity about women’s health statistics and articles on the state of women’s health today.

Around 10 years ago I had very sore lumpy breasts, much sorer than they were around the time of my period. I went to my GP and I was quickly referred to a local specialist Breast Clinic. On arrival at the Breast Clinic I underwent a series of tests and investigations, including what I experienced to be an uncomfortable mammogram. For those of you who have never experienced a mammogram, it is like having your breasts squashed and pressed between two cold, hard metal plates in the most awkward of positions, whilst standing half naked in the middle of a cold, clinical room. As I was standing there I was nervous as I was also wondering ‘do I have breast cancer?’. This specialist Breast Clinic offers a ‘one-stop’ shop in that over a couple of hours you have many x-rays, tests, examinations, and then you wait in a corridor of chairs to be called in and given your ‘diagnosis’.

On that day I had gone along on my own. I observed while I was in the waiting area that some women came out of the consultation rooms who were looking shocked and upset: I observed other women came out of the consultation room seemingly visibly relieved. I was very nervous waiting to be called in to be given a diagnosis. Then I was called in and told that the reason for my sore, painful, lumpy breasts was mastitis. Mastitis is a condition that causes a woman’s breast tissue to become painful and inflamed, often occurring in women when they are breastfeeding, though it can occur in non-breastfeeding women, as it did in my case. The doctor suggested some medication, gave me some information leaflets, and urged me to return to my GP if the symptoms did not dissipate within two weeks.

On leaving the clinic, as I approached my car I cried. I cried because I felt relief I didn’t have breast cancer, I cried because of the women I had seen in the clinic who had been visibly distressed and I cried also because I knew that the mastitis, even though it was not breast cancer, was a sign that something was not right with my body. I could feel my breasts were so sore that they were crying out to me for some help, some support, and a change in my life. I realised then that I could either continue to live my life the way I was living (i.e. driven, busy, forever supporting and helping others, self-critical, never feeling comfortable in my own skin, and exhausted) or I could take a look at my life and see if there was another way to live, and make some changes. Standing there in the carpark, I knew deep down that if I didn’t look at making changes in my life, I may in future be one of the statistics with a diagnosis of breast cancer. So from that time I began to allow myself to rest more, to take time out for me, and to resist my continuous need to ‘help’ others. Looking back at that time I now know my initial reaction was based upon the fear of getting breast cancer at some stage in the future.

Some years after this, through attending a presentation by Serge Benhayon of Universal Medicine, I was introduced to my first Esoteric Breast Massage (EBM): through this and subsequent EBM’s (always undertaken by Universal Medicine female practitioners), I got to feel how disconnected I was from my breasts and my body. I could also feel how I wasn’t truly caring for myself in my daily living (for example I was often quite tough on myself, pushing and striving).

With the support of having regular EBMs, and more recently the Esoteric Women’s Developers Groups I have attended, I was not offered an alternative to medical care or medical diagnosis, but a complement to it – in that I was prompted to look at my daily living choices, and the way I was living my life. As a consequence, I have made many lovingly supportive changes to the way I live (see my blog From Black Belt Kick boxer). To this end, nowadays my breasts are rarely sore, and if they are sore I know they are asking me to take a look at the way I am living. I am not perfect by any means, and all of this is work in progress for me, a continuous daily learning.

Some months ago I was reflecting on this, and how different my life is now to the time when I had the mastitis – and how soft and tender my breasts (and my whole body) can feel. I was curious about women’s health and in particular, breast cancer in the UK. So I explored the UK statistics for breast cancer in women. I found for instance, in the UK there are just under 50,000 new cases of breast cancer in women per year; 900 women per week are diagnosed with it; in 2010 136 women a day were diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK; and 1,000 women there die every month from breast cancer. Worldwide it is estimated that more than 1.38 million women were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008. It is likely that all of us, if we haven’t had breast cancer, will know someone who has.

I was curious as to what kind of treatments were being offered to women with breast cancer. Last year Cancer Research UK spent £42 million on breast cancer research alone. Breakthrough Breast Cancer had 85,000 funding donors last year, and spent £10.5 million on breast cancer research. One of the things I found interesting as I was reading the various website resources and reflecting on this, was that Breakthrough Breast Cancer (who began their work in 1991) have one aim – ‘to stop women dying from breast cancer’ – and whilst they have looked for causes of breast cancer (mainly via research into genetics, e.g. in their ‘Generations Study’), the focus didn’t seem to be on asking the question ‘why do women get breast cancer?’ in a more general way (not just looking at genetics), or ‘how are women living their lives today and is this in any way connected to the occurrence of breast cancer?’ This is not offered as a criticism but rather a pondering on other questions to be asked.

Why am I raising this?

I found at the time of having mastitis (and more recently), whilst there is plenty of information on websites, and in books, fliers and leaflets (e.g. at my GP surgery) about breast cancer, breast health, mastitis and related women’s health issues, I didn’t find anything that prompted me to reflect on the way I was living my life: and whether for instance, the way I was living my life was having an impact on my physical health and wellbeing (e.g. in my having mastitis).  Whilst I found the medical support I received for the mastitis helpful, being prompted a few years later during a series of Esoteric Breast Massages to reflect on the way I was living my life gave me a deeper understanding of my physical body, and of how the way I lived my life affected my physical health and wellbeing. I wondered how much awareness there is by the medical profession of the link between how we live our lives and the impact that has on our physical body. I also wondered how different our visits to the doctor or hospital would be if we were asked by the doctors or nurses about the way we were living our lives so as to support us to realise the link between that and the symptoms we have in our bodies?

What I am now wondering is:

What if the medical profession considered more deeply the link between the way we live our lives and the impact that has on our physical body? And in that, they encouraged us to consider that having a diagnosis of say, mastitis, could be our physical body asking us to take a look at how the way we are living our lives may be affecting our physical health and wellbeing?

Is it possible that the way we are living our lives as women is having an effect on our health and wellbeing? And what if some of the research funds were directed at understanding this more – on understanding how women live their lives and the daily living choices they make, and whether or how these impact on their health?

What if some of the research funds were focussed on tracking and writing up the stories of women who have made changes to their daily living – insofar as their women’s health condition has perhaps subsided – and they are now truly vital, harmonious, and flourishing? Could these stories inspire other women to look at their own lives and daily living choices?

What if part of the missing link was something all women deeply know – that there is far more to breast cancer than the diagnosis, the genetics and the treatment, and that as women (and men) we could all ponder more deeply on this together, and find our way back to true health?

Maybe, in considering these questions this could open up women’s health to a different and deeper place, one where women (and men) together could deepen their understanding of women’s health and wellbeing?

Statistics taken from:
Breakthrough Breast Cancer – http://www.breakthrough.org.uk
Cancer Research UK – http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/cancer-help/type/breast-cancer/

126 thoughts on “Mastitis – Experiences and Observations on Women’s Health – Part 2

  1. It is much more empowering to consider we have an impact on our health than we are at the mercy of illness and disease. Rather than wait for a diagnosis, it would be wise to consider if there is a different way we would treat ourselves if we did get a diagnosis and start to live that now.

  2. Thank you JK, this is a conversation we need to have, looking at the whole picture of how we live, the pressures we place on our bodies, and the eventual development of serious health conditions. We seem to be isolating getting ill with cancers and other illness as random or genetic and not relating to our everyday life, even though if we get a virus we often realise we have not been taking care of ourselves properly and have let ourselves get ‘run down’. We also need to question the years of research and funding that doesn’t look at different approaches to why we get ill, especially if no answers are forthcoming from the current approach.

  3. Imagine spending £10 million on discussing and researching how a woman’s lifestyle correlates to her health. That would be amazing and yet we don’t need all that money to do so but to be open to those types of conversations in everyday life. This website and Esoteric Women’s Health is leading the conversation in this regard.

  4. How many of us truly stop to take stock of how we are living and honestly assess how much of our lifestyle is impacting our body unless we go too far and are stopped by illness, disease or say by an accident? Being more in tune with our body and building our self-awareness greatly supports us in how we care and value ourselves and with our health and well-being.

  5. The statistics you quote for breast cancer are staggering as are the amounts spent on research and although in the intervening years there is now more recognition that our lifestyle choices influence the diseases we end up with if just a fraction of the research money was spent on exploring this preventative approach to breast cancer and other prevalent diseases we would not only potentially save a lot of money but also a lot of anguish for the women who are given a diagnosis and also all their families and wider networks.

  6. Our physical body and how we live our lives is directly connected, people including the medical profession are becoming increasingly aware of this fact, ‘I wondered how much awareness there is by the medical profession of the link between how we live our lives and the impact that has on our physical body.’

  7. We definitely need research on how we live our life and the effect this has on our health, so that people start to understand the connection between the two, ‘Is it possible that the way we are living our lives as women is having an effect on our health and wellbeing?’

    1. Yes and I am sure we have research out there now but we stubbornly don’t seem to want to change the way we live as much as hold on to the belief that we have a right to live our lives the way we want to. We do have this right and, personally, I choose to find a way of living that has less negative impacts on my body.

  8. The way we are living our life clearly has a big impact on our wellbeing, gradually more and more people are coming to understand this fact, and from there make more loving choices as you did, ‘I didn’t find anything that prompted me to reflect on the way I was living my life: and whether for instance, the way I was living my life was having an impact on my physical health and wellbeing (e.g. in my having mastitis).’

  9. There are so many great points raised in this blog Jane. It is true that we never stop and ask ourselves or each other how we are actually living that caused our bodies to get so ill. It is this I think we are deeply missing as a society because of course getting a cure is great but to be truly met and seen for the gorgeous woman you are and asked what is truly going on is like drinking a glass of water when you are very thirsty: super nourishing and satisfying to our core.

    1. And, it is almost taboo to do so. Ive been working with self-care at work for 10 years and often work with groups of people in workplaces. It still feels for some like a taboo topic to ask where they are not taking responsibility for their body, and wellbeing – when, deep down we all know that we don’t care for our physical body enough, or listen to it when it shows us something.

      1. Yes, deep down we do know that all we do has an influence and one day we can’t ignore it anymore when it surfaces as an illness, disease or major event in our lives like an accident or someone close to us dying for instance. Yet what you are sharing shows we can stop before that calamity and change our ways so it does not happen and actually our life is much grander too.

  10. ” I wondered how much awareness there is by the medical profession of the link between how we live our lives and the impact that has on our physical body” This is such an important topic Jane. Despite lifestyle choices now becoming more accepted as a way to prevent and support healing in disease processes, conventional medicine still seems to be fixated on a cure for symptoms and not wanting to find underlying causes. However with time and budget pressures mounting – certainly in the UK – it would seem these leave doctors little choice but to practise symptomatic treatment for the issue at hand, not considering the whole person.

    1. I agree Sueq. Whilst research and studies are prevalent now about lifestyle and the impact on our wellbeing and health, we haven’t yet changed the medical system, the way patients are examined, or talked with during a consultation where at the fore we are asked about the way we are living our lives. Only when we start to address this right through the medical system will we start to see a potential for change, equally only when we as citizens start to realise our health is in our hands, and that we can change the way we make daily living choices will we start to turn around the rates of illness and disease.

    2. We have to look at the role of the pharmaceutical industry in this also, as although many medicines are vital and valuable to the healing process it need not be the only approach. Research may also be influenced by this because they are looking for a product to help, which also makes money for the pharmaceutical industry. There is, for the pharmaceutical industry, no money in preventive medicine.

      1. That is very true, it is worth considering how much of health is about marketing and business. I know public health is very keen to encourage people to engage in their own health and wellbeing outcomes but there are so many outside influences, many of the messages get drowned out.

  11. The more we as women and men accept there is a link between the way in which we live and illness and disease the more we as a society and in general will embrace our awareness. It comes down to our livingness and the choice to align to that which is true.

  12. What a fabulous blog written from personal experience and with your wealth of understanding of the current healthcare system. It is mind boggling how much is spent on research to find the cure for breast cancer that is outside of women. Nothing addresses the inner woman, where the disease begins. I agree that funds need to be directed to supporting women to actively explore this, rather than passively sitting back waiting for a miracle cure.

    1. I agree Fiona, but in some ways it’s the public that are demanding the miracle cure, as in my conversations with medical professionals over the past few years exploring diabetes prevention particularly, the attitude is that patients prefer a pill over changing any aspect of their lifestyle.

  13. ” I could take a look at my life and see if there was another way to live, and make some changes ” thanks for sharing Jane , is it not amazing how simple healing can be , if one makes the personal choice to be more loving in the way they live.

  14. I’ve found through the Well-Being for Women’s groups that research into how we live affects our health is being conducted in these groups. It doesn’t cost a lot and the richness that each woman brings as she shares how her lifestyle choices and health are inseparable is absolute gold. I am not a doctor so I can’t change the medical system ‘from the inside’ but I do have a responsibility in presenting my body to the medical professionals when I do require their help. Changing medicine is everyones job and self-care and self-responsibility supports everyone.

  15. If we start from the point of true health, vitality and wellbeing and work backwards we would be open and maybe see what choices we are making to cause our dis-ease and dis-harmony. This also should include defining what true health is.

  16. As you write, Jane, there is a dearth of understanding and perhaps support in how important patient behaviour is in the development and the treatment of disease. The fact that patients make a difference is well know but there may be much more to it than what is known at this stage, which could be a great thing as then much more can be done.

    1. I agree Christoph, and part of this maybe in us as patients and citizens taking responsibility for the way we are living, reflecting on how we are living, and being open to understanding all there is about life, which is often far more than meets the eye.

  17. Breast cancer and prostate cancer kill similar amounts of men and women but the males who pass away are typically much older while many cases of breast cancer happen to young people, hence the bigger impact on everybody as the shock is much greater.

  18. “Is it possible that the way we are living our lives as women is having an effect on our health and wellbeing?” The scientific world thrives on statistics so if studies were made of those who choose to deeply self-nurture and those who do not and the subsequent rates of disease then this could provide some evidence based research as to the effect of self-nurturing.

    1. I agree Mary – there is a brilliant study in the making here of the many women for instance (see all the other blogs on this blog site) who are making self caring and self nurturing choices in their lives, and the impact this is having.

  19. Having witnessed many people experience a reduction of symptoms or even a complete healing of medical issues after applying self care to their lives and moving in honour of the belief that our bodies respond to the way in which they are treated, much research needs to be done. For whilst the world looks to ‘evidence’, without it, some are not prepared to consider the part they play in their own healing, at great cost to themselves and the financial strain of illness and disease on our society.

    1. Well said Samantha – if we took all the women who have written blogs or comments on this website alone, and wrote up their experiences this would in itself be a large scale study in the power of self care and self nurturing.

  20. Thank you Jane for raising these critically important points and it seems incredible that we are still focussed on looking for solutions once women have breast cancer rather than asking the obvious questions about how we are all living our lives and whether we are truly caring for our bodies or not. Starting these conversations would not only vastly improve the physical health statistics but also the mental health of so many women who have to go through the process of wondering if they have cancer and then coping with the consequences if they do.

  21. I for one didn’t know mastitis was something all women could have, I thought it was only for women when they were breast feeding. This is possibly one of the most informative articles I have seen around womens health. There is some amazing statistics in relation to womens health, breast cancer and how we can all support going forward. Many many people have been touched by a serious health issue and it’s great to see an article drawing us to complementary rather than alternatives. It seems there are 2 sides to a fence at times and everyones pulling when in fact we should be meeting and appreciating what each other complements.

    1. I agree Ray – and there are a number of medical conditions that we don’t talk about, and don’t understand enough about. There are many conversations we could be having in life, in our societies and communities about health, illness and why things are the way they are.

      1. True and the quality of conversation is important. Medical conditions don’t just turn up out of the blue, you don’t truly just ‘catch’ them. So our conversations need to first start, I agree there and then we are needing to go to the depth of understanding why things are in our lap like they are. It’s not a blame game or beat up on yourself but more an honest account of how you have moved yourself to the point where you stand. We appear afraid to ask or talk about what truly causes these things and in that no one goes there and hence then no one does. The more of us who enter into more awareness and understanding of where any style of conditions started the more it is available for us all.

  22. Doctors still aren’t educated about nutrition or how making lifestyle changes can affect overall health. This was the case over forty years ago ( my husband was a doctor and I was a nurse). To know this is still the case is shocking; when so many magazines focus on health and wellbeing and how the diet industry has taken off, despite little long term results. Because of the lack of ‘evidence base’, it feels tragic that many opportunities for patients to help themselves in their own healing are lost. I don’t need an evidence based study to know that I feel more vital and energized on account of making different lifestyle choices for myself. There are many like me.

  23. I like very much where this article takes us. To the possibility of spending funds raised to investigate how we as women live, and the physical repercussions. The wisdom that would be available in such a learning would provide a steady foundation to all women.

  24. Hi Jane by sharing your experience you have started the powerful process of allowing women to access an article that prompts us to reflect on the way we are living and how this effects our health, well-being and therefore our lives.

  25. You make some amazing points in this article Jane, why is it so rare for health professionals to ask the hard questions and bring some responsibility back to the patient? Choices and lifestyle seem to be over looked fare to often in research too.
    When I say lifestyle choices I’m not just talking about eating well and doing exercise, I am referring to the relationship you have with yourself as a woman? What is the quality of care we take with ourselves? Does it make us uncomfortable loving ourselves as much as we love and care for our children or partner?

    1. Well said Sarah, and in those questions alone you have started a much needed conversation, not just amongst women but amongst us all about why things are the way they are in the world today.

  26. I remember having a very high temperature and not being able to get warm with it, only to find out that I had mastitis. This was over 30 years ago, and I was breastfeeding one of my sons at the time, and one of my breasts had become very hot, swollen and engorged with milk…It was suggested that maybe I stop breastfeeding. How great that people are starting to understand the impact of how we live on our bodies and our health, ‘ having a diagnosis of say, mastitis, could be our physical body asking us to take a look at how the way we are living our lives may be affecting our physical health and wellbeing?’

  27. Fabulous blog Jane. Our lifestyle choices are a consideration in why women develop breast cancer. We know that smoking and drinking alcohol increase the risks. But it’s interesting, just reflecting on what you have shared that this isn’t explored in greater detail for it’s more than our lifestyle choices it’s very choice we make and why. It is beyond diet and exercise, even though they are super important. But all of this is asking us all to be much more honest about how we are living and with that take responsibility for all of our choice. That way we will see that cancer of any description does not just happen to us. But is our bodies offering to stop our current way of living and gently guide us back to a way of living that is much more nurturing and deeply caring of the women we already are.

    1. I agree Jennifer, there is far more disregard in most of our lives than we are prepared to see, or talk about. And in that there is far more we can each do in taking responsibility for the way we are living that could move mountains in terms of our own health and the impact on health services.

  28. It sounds so simple but any form of energetic responsibility, i.e.: our choices and the way they affect our physical well being seem to be avoided like the plague. In fact, we avoid this so much it actually begs the question of whether KNOW exactly what we are avoiding? Maybe we actually know deep down our body is calling us to more responsibility in all areas of our lives but conveniently ignore this fact.

  29. These are some great questions raised in this blog for us to ponder on. What if the answers to breast cancer lie within us after all and all we need to do is take responsibility for our health and wellbeing? To me this is something certainly worth investigating as I am feeling the noticeable effects of changes I have made for myself and in my life.

  30. It would be true service to all women to have some research money dedicated to researching how we live as women and the changes that are needed to live in true harmony in our bodies. The research collected would deliver on a world wide scale the effect such changes have on the health, wellbeing and vitality of the human body. Changes that could actually reduce the rising number of women diagnosed with Breast Cancer and many other women’s health diseases.

  31. Pondering more deeply, one can’t help but feel that the whole allopathic medical model – as amazing as it is – is missing a core component, that being self-responsibility and all that has comes under the umbrella of esoteric medicine. Without true consideration of the whole – inclusive of how we live, the level of abuse we accept and engage in in our daily lives, the depth of care we bring to ourselves and each other, and the love that all of our activity has the potential to be sourced from… we are bereft… left floundering in a field of solution-seeking and ‘fix it’ drugs, striving for a ‘cure’ to what ails us. When the true ‘cure’ if it can be said as such, is our re-connection to who we are, and the impact that THIS may then have on the quality of love in which our lives are lived.
    A woman who knows this love cherishes herself deeply. Even if there is illness to face, her whole approach is not that of the cure-seeking paradigm, for she has transcended the entrapment that this would seek to hold her in. She knows there is far more to the picture that has presented for her.
    Thank-you as ever Jane Keep, for the conversations you open up – via your willingness to look deeper, and live such love in your own life.

  32. Every word you have shared makes absolute sense Jane Keep.
    “I didn’t find anything that prompted me to reflect on the way I was living my life…” Millions of dollars and pounds in research, and lip service being paid to the actual way we live with ourselves is what does NOT make sense – it’s time for the scope of what’s going on, and the role we all play in it, to most definitely be deeply considered.

  33. This would revolutionise health care. It is so much more powerful to consider how the way we live our lives has an effect on our health. This is not just about food and exercise, but also about the level of stress in our lives, our relationships, how we react to things and whether we harbour ill thoughts, how we express ourselves, how we move and how we love ourselves. All of these things logically impact on our health and are worth looking at.

  34. Jane, the disharmony and devastation felt in our choices as well as the choices of others can be deeply disturbing for the body to feel, and when we allow ourselves to truly feel as you did in your experience, there is understanding for your tears. Not caring for myself in any small or big way is truly devastating to feel, this is not being over-sensitive, this is truly how the physical body communicates to me if I choose to listen. Feeling another not caring for themselves is tricky because I care, and deep devastation is felt when I am attached to how another chooses to live, which causes disharmony within myself. That said, returning to a deeper love affair with myself is a cycle of feeling everything deeply, expressing what is felt, acknowledging the devastation and choosing therefore to build more care for myself and in that being stronger in my love and less of a need for others to be a certain way. As women, we do have to feel more, much more rather than accepting how everything is and saying it is okay.

  35. “What if the medical profession considered more deeply the link between the way we live our lives and the impact that has on our physical body?” We would, en masse, start being held responsible for the health of our bodies – which we have been all along, except that we have been trying to avoid this responsibility at all cost, preferring instead to charge our medical professionals with ‘fixing’ us when our bodies can take no more of our irresponsibility.

  36. Until we feel the difference between our innate stillness within and the tension that living life in constant motion and doing leaves in the body, it is not even on the radar for most women that their lifestyle affects the body. It is this very simple yet profound difference once felt that has the power to guide us to a self loving tender way of living life.

  37. “And what if some of the research funds were directed at understanding this more – on understanding how women live their lives and the daily living choices they make, and whether or how these impact on their health?” And we are not talking megabucks or lining the pockets of the big pharmaceutical companies but just sharing experiences as how making changes to the way we choose to live has such an effect on our physical body – a meeting of conventional and esoteric medicine.

  38. It is interesting yet not surprising when you say research for a cure has been going for over 20 years and the question is to stop people dying from breast cancer. Sure this is a noble deed however, as you have raised, why isn’t the question how did the women get the breast cancer in the first place.

    When this question is asked the answer, I suspect, will be very clear.

  39. “Maybe, in considering these questions this could open up women’s health to a different and deeper place, one where women (and men) together could deepen their understanding of women’s health and wellbeing?” Thank you Jane, I think we are ready.

  40. How fantastic would be if the medical profession even handed out a pamphlet at the breast screening places that gave some information about how diet and lifestyle as well as self care and self worth play a role in the development of illness or disease – just to remind us as women that we are not victims of illness and disease, that we do not have to be sitting ducks waiting for something to ‘happen’ to us. The power lies in our hands with simple choices, but are we feeling worthy of making these choices for our own well being? We are certainly well worth it…and the more we can appreciate ourselves, the more we can begin to make changes that are there to remind everyone around us of what is indeed possible.

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