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  • 2010 November 13
    From the daily archives: Saturday, November 13, 2010

    I once heard a story about a young girl with IBC. She was embarrassed to talk about the rash on her breast. She did not get diagnosed and she did not survive.
    Nasty opening sentence, right? Well, cancer is not nice, it’s not pretty, and while we don’t have the answers on what causes many cancers, we can and must do all we can to make sure they are detected, and as early as possible.

    One of the most important ways we can make this happen is to teach our children, and ourselves, to be on good, intimate terms with our precious bodies.

    One of my readers asked, is IBC hereditary? Many people want to know what puts people at risk, so they can either do something about the risks or reassure themselves that they are doing all the right things. The fact is that for many of us, a cancer diagnosis blindsides us out of nowhere. Very few of us are watching out for cancer. We don’t want to think it can happen to us.

    Being scared all the time is no answer either. What we can do is pay attention to our bodies the way we care for our children. If our child is cranky, we see what they need and give it to them. Is it sleep? Is it food? Is it a hug or a cuddle? Do they need to run off steam outside because they’ve been cooped up all day?

    Instead of seeing our bodies as that which produces (the work, meeting the deadline, the taxi service for offspring, etc) we can choose to enter into partnership with our bodies.

    I had that conversation with my daughter the other day. I told her how important it was for her to get to know her breasts. She’s growing into a young woman before my eyes. So many girls her age are wearing pink ribbon bracelets, and when I ask them what they mean, they say “breast cancer awareness”. When I ask them what that means to them they get squirmy and say, “I dunno!”

    Are we teaching our children to know their bodies, and be comfortable talking about them? Do our daughters and sons know they can come talk to us if they notice something not quite right about their “private parts”?

    What kind of example do we set for them? Do we eat good food, mindfully, enjoying each others company? Do we get enough exercise? Do we go to bed when we are tired?

    In the two months before I was diagnosed, I had pain and tingling in my left arm. I was a professional massage therapist, and smarty me, I figured I had been working too hard and was developing thoracic outlet syndrome. I began stretching like mad, but it wasn’t working. Instead of inquiring, taking the time, tuning in to my body as I knew how to do, I told myself to get back to my yoga. My hands got cold (they had always been characteristically hot..my clients said they were like heating pads) and I assumed that stress and lack of sleep was the culprit. My department had just downsized, and I had almost lost my job. I didn’t have time for a crisis.

    When it became clear what that little rash was, all of it made sense. It was a good thing I reacted to that tiny rash and did something about it. Many women don’t, they just figure it’s a rash and will go away.

    I am trying to teach my rebellious, on top of the world indestructible children to honor the needs of their bodies, and they do get tired of it. However, repetition is the mother of skill. They may think I am annoying (that’s my teenage son’s favorite word to describe me) but deep in their little noggins it will reside, and when something is wrong they will know.

    I had large breasts when I was a teenager. My name was on the bathroom wall. A boy two grades older than I was embarrassed me repeatedly. I wish I could have figured out that they were mine, they were beautiful, and that knowing them well and examining them once a month was appropriate and right, not shameful.

    After nursing two babies and letting their heads rest on my soft chest, I really missed my left one when it was gone.

    Let’s teach our children now, when it matters most.

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