by Penny Scheenhouwer, 44 yrs old, Brisbane, Australia
I was 18 when my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 42. Back then I thought of my mother as old. It was not until a few years ago that I realised how young she was for a first diagnosis and that I came to appreciate how valuable the lessons I learnt from my mother’s breast cancer really were.
We had no family history of breast cancer so this was something that blindsided all of us. At the time my mother had a lumpectomy (removal of the tumour from the breast). She also took up a whole range of other treatments and therapies, including Acupuncture, Chinese Herbs, Intravenous Vitamin C therapy, Herbal therapy and Vitamin therapy (orally).
I watched her change her diet and lifestyle – out with gluten, dairy, alcohol, sugar, yeast and in with fresh vegetable juices and fat free cooking. From basic changes such as taking up regular exercise to a much more intense fitness routine and all sorts of other things and to more extreme changes such as juicing detoxing diet, colon cleansing therapy, vaccines, supplements, digestive enzymes and cleansing enemas – just to name a few. Also in was the spiritual new age.
She felt on some level that there was more to breast cancer treatment than just the medical. This I have always felt too. What she started to do was take care of her body on a very deep level (albeit out of fear) and explore the idea that there was more to health than looking after yourself (apparently).
I didn’t talk to my mother a lot about the cancer in the early days because at eighteen I felt if I ignored it, it would go away.
My mother was cancer free for the next 10 years. During this time she continued to care for her health and delve further into the spiritual. I too followed her down this path as I saw how she was cancer free and had seemingly turned her life around. Many people were inspired by her. Over this time as I matured I began to talk to her a little about her breast cancer:
Q How did she find the lump?
A By accident when putting on a bra one day and something didn’t feel right.
Q Did she check her breast regularly?
A Don’t need to as that is just looking for it and creating the energy of it.
I was totally into the new age then so all this made sense to me. I liked the idea that an affirmation would make things go away and I didn’t have to take any responsibility.
In the January of the year before my mother died she was leaning over a cardboard box to reach for something and the box poked her in the breast. It hurt a lot and when she felt her breast she felt a lump. Now I have no idea what else she felt in that moment but fear, as she said nothing to anyone and did nothing about it. She pretended it wasn’t happening. It wasn’t until June that she went to see a specialist. I went with her as my father was overseas working at the time. The diagnosis was her entire right breast was a tumour and she would have to have a mastectomy. She went into surgery within the week and had her right breast removed and began taking Tamoxifen and having radiation treatment.
Twelve months later my mother was in hospital dying from complications. During this time she and I got many opportunities to talk openly and honestly.
Q I asked her about why she didn’t do anything about the lump when she first discovered it.
A She replied that she felt afraid and that she also didn’t want to believe that after all the things she did the cancer could still come back.
Q I asked her if she had noticed anything before the box incident when she did self-examinations.
A It was then that I found out my mother did not self examine her breasts.
This should have been nothing short of crazy to me. How could someone who had a significant cancer not consider this?
The truth though was it didn’t seem crazy to me, I just took it as what she did and how she felt about things and let it go.
I had my first Esoteric Breast Massage (EBM) 6 years ago. The idea of the breast massage felt so right to me but at the same time confronting. Why confronting? Well I had absolutely no connection or relationship with my breasts. My mother never had one, so this is something I did not learn from her. If I was honest with myself, on some level I was trying to avoid anything to do with my breasts, as I was afraid of breast cancer after watching my mother go through an horrific final 3 months of her life. I wanted to just ignore them and believe that maybe nothing would happen.
It took me quite a while to open up and connect to myself during these sessions. Not just because of the process but also because for me my breasts were only about breastfeeding and sexual pleasure and I found it difficult to accept there was a deeper purpose.
Over the ensuing years between EBMs, Women’s Presentations with Natalie Benhayon and the Esoteric Developers Women’s Groups, I have learnt that by connecting to our bodies and being aware and responsible for them, true healing can occur.
Once upon a time, when I moisturised my body I would exclude my breasts and I never would have considered breast examinations. I firmly believed that if I ignored my breasts then nothing would ever happen to them. It took me a long time to realise that disconnection from who I was as a woman and the fear of finding a lump in my breasts was responsible for this.
Today I moisturise my whole body daily, including my breasts:
- I use this time to connect to and check my breasts.
- I am familiar with every inch of my breasts so I am very confident I would be immediately aware were there any changes that warranted investigation.
- I also have an annual mammogram and examination by a doctor – not out of fear but out of love for myself and part of taking responsibility for my life. As a 44 year old woman whose mother was first diagnosed with breast cancer at 42, it would be irresponsible not to.
If it were not for the EBMs and the Esoteric Women’s groups I know I would not be doing self-examinations nor having mammograms today.
My mother was an amazing woman but I can see with no judgment her irresponsibility for her health. I know that she never had anyone nor any modality to reflect, inspire and support her truly as a woman to connect to, love and be responsible for herself, so there was far less opportunity to do it differently.
She did know one truth for sure though – there is more to breast cancer treatment than just the treatment of the physical body.
Self-love, deep self-nurturing and being responsible for your body and health are choices that are vitally important – lessons that I have learned myself.