“When a flower doesn’t bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.” ~ Alexander Den Heijer
A flurry of perfect pink hearts swarm across Facebook in honour of breast cancer awareness.
If I’m honest with myself, my head and heart are at odds with the current zeitgeist around breast cancer.
Earlier this month, my mother sent me a chart detailing how to check “my girls.” A normal person might be grateful and get to it. I felt sick.
Someone I know well lost both breasts to cancer—or, at least, the hint of it.
I find myself feeling angry, frustrated and annoyed. I know the big “C” is a big word. It strikes fear into the hearts of those who hear it is happening, or may happen, to them.
And fear is a killer.
My ill feeling grows. My whole being wants to throw up the quote, “energy goes where the attention flows,” but it catches in my throat. There are just too many fueled emotions on the topic.
I do not, for a moment, intend to undermine the complex difficulties that come with cancer or any other illness. I have enough experience to know that twee narratives hold no water in the real world.
But it’s like this:
I want to hear us talking about “Healthy Tissue Awareness Month.” Because to make a change, we need to shift our focus to what we do want. We need to be consciously considering, “what does it take to create healthy tissue?” And create awareness around that.
Having been through my own illness, as well as supporting a loved one through breast cancer, I am painfully aware how important awareness, lifestyle, nutrition and psychology are in responding to and preventing illness—regardless of whether one opts for chemo, radiation, surgery or an alternative route. Thanks to the hormones and peptides running through our systems, the way we think and feel have a huge impact on our bodies.
We are obsessed with what we don’t want and it’s not doing us any good.
The talk around cancer needs to go much deeper than it does in popular discussion. We need to self-educate and act upon the environmental issues which cause cancer to be so prolific.
We need to address the way we do food. The way we do stress. The way we do chemicals, travel, industry, electricity and medicine—not just individually, but as a global society. We need to actively draw the dots between the conversation on cancer and all these other issues. Obviously many already have, but I feel these issues need to be central to the mainstream discussion on cancer.
The very fact that cancer is so common is clear evidence that our environment is the issue, not the flower, so to speak.
It feels like the whole conversation around cancer is just our way of beating around the bush, because the whole beast is sick, not just the individual who shows symptoms.
I am angry that I have to be reminded to check my breasts for lumps. Especially since cancer runs in the family.
I am angry that fear is unwittingly laced between the pages of awareness campaigns.
I am angry that the people I love and care about—and even people I don’t know—are in a position where this is something they have to think about at all.
I am angry that many are still not switched on about the connection between nutrition and physiology.
And, even more so, that even those who are ever-mindful still get sick.
Sometimes I get an overwhelming desire to appropriate the hive mind concept, from Rick and Morty and switch the whole beast over to implementing practical steps to cut the crap that gives people cancer. Wouldn’t that be nice?
I have a confession:
When my loved one had both breasts removed to avoid cancer—much like Angelina Jolie later did—I was angry.
In general, I have incredible respect for those who face cancer head on and brave the knife, radiation, and chemo. I do not scoff at these things, nor do I take cancer lightly. I know such measures are often necessary. And I am in awe at the courage, tenacity and resilience displayed by so many. I commend such strength and empathize with this dreadful journey, whole-heartedly.
But the energy with which it was done felt brusque—fast-paced like fast food.
There’s something about our bodies which I cannot yet put into words, a form of sacredness. Cutting off parts of our bodies feels like cutting off parts of our selves.
Many months ago, I wrote an article titled “Sick Things Need More Love.” It didn’t get published, but it was about creating a positive and nutritive environment for everything from people to plants and animals. It was about how therapeutic doses need to be significantly higher than the daily recommended allowances (RDA) given to healthy “terrain”—be it soil, plant or animal—including humans.
Creating or restoring healthy terrain is the single most important thing in restoring health and vitality.
When we’re trying to heal a plant that is being attacked by harmful mold or fungus, we don’t treat the mold or fungus. We treat the soil. We address the water content. We increase the nutrients in the soil. We introduce healthy microbes. We make sure it’s getting enough sun, drainage and ventilation.
We observe the environment and adjust the required factors.
There’s something about how we deal with cancer that seems to alienate and deny this principle. A principle that runs through my core.
None of this is fair to anyone, but as Albert Einstein said, “we can’t solve our problems with the same thinking that created them.”
We’re sleeping around with old paradigms. Without the weight of support from the rest of society, we don’t know how to address the social, environmental and genetic catalysts for cancer, because it means changing the way we do everything. And that is one hell of a big ask; one that is almost impossible to agree upon.
So we keep on, calling from the rafters about awareness.
Awareness is good, but our particular brand of awareness is making me angry right now. It’s stunting our thought processes.
What are we focusing our awareness on?
Are we looking at the big picture?
How do we perceive what we’re aware of?
What are we doing with our awareness?
I want us to think about this. I want us to use our hearts and minds to challenge the status quo.
And I want to see more people talking about “Healthy Tissue Awareness Month.”
In the same vein as Mother Theresa said:
“I will never attend an anti-war rally; [but] if you have a peace rally, invite me.”
The power lies in focusing on what we’re working toward, rather than what we’re trying to avoid. The same principle can be applied to pretty much everything in life.
Do with this what you will, but do something with it.
Author: Catherine Simmons
Image: David Thomas/Pixoto
Editor: Nicole Cameron