Facing a life-altering surgery such as mastectomy is never going to be easy, let’s face it.
Regardless of your age, your breasts have been a big part of your sexual identity, nurtured your children, and/or given your partner much delight (and hopefully you as well). If you are facing mastectomy because of breast cancer, the thought of losing one or both breasts is no doubt a huge shock.
There are many resources out there for you to help you make your decision – and more than a few on this website – but the purpose of today’s article is to share with you the merits of having a “breast wake” should you decide to go forward with mastectomy.
What is a Breast Wake?
The traditional wake, held when someone died, involved family members or friends who stayed awake with the body of the deceased to watch or guard it and/or have a prayer vigil until it was time for the church funeral and/or burial.
According to Wikipedia, a wake is often a social rite which highlights the idea that the loss is one of a social group and affects that group as a whole.
Why should the loss of a breast be any different? I have a friend who held a wake for a much-beloved dog. I really think that this kind of loss should be noted, either before or after the event, but preferable before and here’s why.
Why Have A Breast Wake?
When you have gathered your family and friends together to mourn the loss of your breast(s), this is an exceptional time to ask each of them to help you with that process, in some small way while you are recovering and even possibly after treatments begin (if any).
Whether it be cooking you a healthy meal and bringing it over, or just taking out your garbage, or occasionally scrubbing the sink, you will be surprised to discover how many people actually want to help you and are willing to do just that. And you will need their help at some point, I promise you.
Mourning the loss of a breast doesn’t have to be a solemn occasion. Put someone else in charge of all of this – your best friend, for example – if you don’t feel up to it. Pull the carpets back and dance if you want to. Have some great, healthy food with your friends and family. Cry and laugh with them. Propose a toast to your breast(s) and have others do the same. Serve cupcakes that look like breasts.
Instead of having a guest book where people list their names, have a blank book for people to write in – a few of their favorite inspirational quotes (ask them to bring them along when you invite them) because at some point during this journey you will feel overwhelmed, scared and depressed. Having a book like this to delve into can help you through these difficult times.
With regard to the people who offer to help you, either you or a friend with good handwriting can write down the name and phone number of each person who offers help, along with what it was they offered to do. Don’t be afraid to call them either!
Please do mark the occasion because it will help you in so many ways. It will help your friends too.
If you would like to receive my best tips on getting through breast cancer and preventing recurrences, just sign up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right, and/or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com). I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.
My Thoughts On Angelina Jolie, Prophylactic Mastectomy and Genetic Predisposition
Angelina Jolie’s heart-rending choice to have a double mastectomy has certainly created a storm of controversy this week among breast cancer circles and my friends and subscribers have asked my opinion on the whole matter, hence today’s post.
There are those who applaud her decision and her courage for making it (because it had to be a tough one to make), while others believe it was incredibly stupid because she didn’t have breast cancer, just a strong family history. I’m hovering somewhere in between those two lines of thought. Mostly I just feel incredibly sad for her, because it’s apparent that Ms Jolie fell prey to fear, to overzealous medical providers who must have played a rather large part in that fear, and to the cancer industry as a whole.
Please allow me to share some of my thoughts on the matter.
Surgery Has Risks
In explaining her own choice to have this surgery, Ms Jolie does not mention the many side effects and risks of this type of surgery. Surgery always comes with risks and side effects. To complicate matters, breast implants are considered “high risk” by the FDA (not that I concern myself overmuch with what the FDA thinks). The current statistics indicate that 4 out of 10 women who have had a mastectomy and implants will require additional surgery within 3 years of getting their implants.
More than a few of my subscribers have shared with me that had they known reconstruction surgery (whether flap reconstruction or implant reconstruction) was going to be so painful, so bothersome and such a disruption to their lives they would never have chosen it. I truly feel for them.
Genetic Predisposition Vs Epigenetic Factors
As far as the genetic predisposition part of the story, an excellent article has been written by Sayer Ji, the founder of greenmedinfo.com, a website resource that I trust and often refer to because it always contains well-researched and well-written information on all sorts of health issues. The article is titled Did Angelina Jolie Make a Mistake By Acting On The ‘Breast Cancer Gene’ Theory? Do yourself a favor and click on the link and read that article.
I particularly appreciated the author’s assertion that “even in those in which a BRCA mutation is identified, the genes, in and of themselves, do not alone make the disease.” I have been endeavoring to teach that particular line of thinking via my posts on this site. In June, 2012 I wrote an article Cancer Genetics: BRCA1 and BRCA2 Are NO Cause For Concern!wherein I shared some information from the book “The Biology of Belief”, by Dr Bruce Lipton, a cell biologist, whose research and studies clearly indicate that many other factors are at play in health and disease than merely genetics.
To quote again from the greenmedinfo article, “…we must now accept that factors beyond the control of the gene, known as epigenetic factors, and largely determined by a combination of nutrition, psychospiritual states that feed back into our physiology, lifestyle factors, and environmental exposures, constitute as high as 95% of what determines any disease risk.“
Did you get that? Epigenetic factors (factors beyond the control of our genes) constitute as high as 95% of what determines disease risk. Our bodies are incredibly smart. They have the ability to prevent and heal all disease if they are given the right conditions!
Human Genes Should NOT be Patented
The thing that bugs me the most about all of this is that Ms Jolie’s decision is going to persuade thousands of other young women to do the same – to needlessly lose a valued part of their anatomy. Not every woman with a mutation will develop breast cancer! And Myriad Genetics, the patent-holders of the BRCA1/BRCA2 genes, are profiting. According to a Yahoo Finance report dated May 14, 2013, Myriad Genetics’ shares rose 4% after Angelina Jolie announced her mastectomy surgery.
I support an activist group called Breast Cancer Action, who in 2009 joined researchers, genetic counselors and cancer patients in a lawsuit to overturn Myriad Genetics’ patent on BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. The case is currently before the U.S. Supreme Court and a ruling is expected this summer. Please visit this page on the Breast Cancer Action website for more information.
My best advice is to do three things:
1. Sign up for my free newsletters to find out how best to reduce your risk of breast cancer;
2. Sign up for the free newsletters offered by greenmedinfo.com (use this link);
3. Donate funds to Breast Cancer Action (use this link), help them to continue their good work, compelling the changes necessary to end the breast cancer epidemic.
Prophylactic Mastectomy, Thoughts Shared By A Cancer Coach
In my last article, I promised to share some information about prophylactic mastectomy, which is the removal of a single breast or both breasts, disease-free, to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer. My own personal opinion (which may or may not count with anyone) is that this sort of surgery is happening far too frequently these days, especially in younger women. While there are certainly situations when prophylactic mastectomy might make sense, they are few and far between. If your doctor has suggested prophylactic mastectomy for you, please read this article.
While the following is not an exhaustive list, these 7 situations are most frequently the basis for a recommendation of prophylactic mastectomy.
The 7 Situations When Your Doctor May Recommend Prophylactic Mastectomy:
When you have a strong family history of breast cancer.
When you have a personal history of breast cancer – the thinking here is that this your likelihood of developing a new cancer in the opposite breast than someone who has never had breast cancer.
When you’ve tested positive for the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations, which some feel increases the risk of breast cancer.
When you have been diagnosed with lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS), which has been shown to increase the risk of developing invasive breast cancer.
When you’ve had radiation therapy to the chest before age 30, which appears to increase the risk of breast cancer throughout your life.
When you have widely spread breast microcalcifications (very tiny deposits of calcium in the breast tissue) sometimes this means cancer can be present, certainly not always.
Some doctors are even recommending prophylactic mastectomy for women with dense breasts. The thinking here is that it can be difficult for doctors to diagnose breast abnormalities which sometimes requires the removal of tissue samples to study under a microscope (biopsy). If this happens too many times, the scar tissue that is created can cause problems for mammography screening.
My Answers To Those 7 Situations
Using the above numbering system, I would like to go out on a limb and offer a new way of thinking. Again I remind you that this is simply my opinion (and everyone, as you know, has one!) I have years of mind-body research, a background in natural medicine, years of experience as a breast cancer coach, I fought the disease myself, and I am continually reading the latest research.
1. If your doctor recommends prophylactic mastectomy because you have a strong family history, get a new doctor. That is practicing fear-based medicine at its worst. I had a strong family history – both my mother and her mother died from breast cancer. And even though I did get it as well, I learned that there are many causes of breast cancer, it is a multi-factorial disease. I learned what those causes are and limited my exposure, I learned not to be afraid of cancer and how to take my healing into my own hands, and now I teach these things to others.
2. If you have a personal history of breast cancer, it doesn’t mean that just because you got it in one breast, you will get it in the other. It’s not too late to change your life by taking some positive steps towards health and wellness. If you need more information about this, sign up for my free newsletters on the right side of this page and you’ll get my two free e-books as well.
3. Ah, the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. Would you be interested in knowing that the ONE single company that tests for these genes (and charges thousands of dollars for doing so, thank you very much) is presently trying to take out a PATENT on the genes? Would they be doing this if there weren’t a lot of money involved here? Read my article on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. Read also the web page of Breast Cancer Action, an organization that opposes gene patenting.
4. If you have had LCIS then you might have an increased risk of developing invasive breast cancer. But as I said in paragraph 2, it’s not too late to change your prospects by being very proactive with body and mind and immune system. Find out what things will take you back to a state of extreme good health.
5. If you have had radiation therapy before the age of 30 but you still have healthy breasts, there are things you can do to minimize whatever damage that might exist. Don’t undergo needless mastectomy if you have healthy breasts.
6. Microcalcifications in the breast do not mean that cancer is present. Again, there are things you can do to minimize any possible problems.
7. On Aug 20, 2012, in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, researchers reported that high breast density does not increase the risk of death among breast cancer patients. If you have dense breasts and your doctor recommends prophylactic mastectomy, get a new doctor.
Here’s what I recommend if you’re on the fence about prophylactic mastectomy. If you have healthy breasts, you have time to make your decision. Subscribe to my newsletter series because I’m all about being proactive with your health, both body and mind. I have lots of top quality information based on actual research in my newsletters, and they won’t cost you a thing.
Prophylactic Mastectomy: No Guarantee
Although prophylactic mastectomy is shown to greatly reduce your chances of developing breast cancer, it is not a guarantee. For one thing, it is almost impossible to remove all the breast tissue. Cancer can still develop in the tissue that is left on the chest wall or underarm area.
The latest paleoanthropological research shows that cancer was virtually nonexistent before pollution and poor diet became the norm.
Science is still no closer to finding out what causes cancer because I think they’re looking in the wrong place. Cancer is a man-made disease. It’s going to require us getting VERY proactive with our food and nutrition, our environment, our body products, and our minds to rid ourselves of cancer.
Sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark Breast Health Coach) and I’ll do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for advice from your physician or other health care professional. You should not use the information on this site for diagnosis or treatment of any health problem and please be sure to consult your health care professional when making decisions about your health.
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About Marnie Clark
Hi I'm Marnie Clark, breast cancer survivor, and breast cancer coach. I have 20+ years of experience in natural medicine. In 2004/05 I battled breast cancer myself. You can see more about my journey on my page Breast Cancer Diary.
I've been healthy and recurrence-free since 2004 and in 2012 I became a Breast Cancer Coach because I became aware of the fact that whilst there is now a wealth of information on the Internet, much of it is confusing, conflicting, and sometimes just wrong!
Why should you work with me? Because:
(1) You don't want to go through this journey alone, feeling unempowered, frightened or just plain
clueless about what to do to help yourself.
(2) You will have someone working tirelessly on your behalf, putting together a healing plan for
you so you don’t have to lose your precious energy researching what food you should eat,
what supplements you should take, and what other things you can do that will give you the
best chances for survival. Instead you can spend that time resting, meditating, healing.
(3) You will learn what questions to ask your doctor (and have someone to turn to for the
questions they can't or won't answer).
(4) You will be armed with the tools and strategies you will need to get through the therapies you
choose so you can make your body hostile terrain for cancer.
You can also “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark, Breast Health Coach) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates. I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.