October is breast cancer awareness month and we felt that sharing an Eastern philosophical perspective from a Western medical doctor’s personal experience with breast cancer during this time would be greatly helpful for those whose hearts and minds are open and willing to consider an alternative view.
Dr. Deborah Coady, MD is a regular contributor to CYE through her Integrative Health Guide and unique east-meets-west perspective on energy healing. She is currently living with breast cancer and religiously practicing mind-body techniques to cope with the dis-ease. Dr. Coady is Clinical Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at NYU Langone Medical Center, and while her career experience lies in Western medical practices, her very personal experience with breast cancer is extremely Eastern.
Dr. Coady shared her heart, her struggles, her experience and her realization with us. From being diagnosed with breast cancer and the subsequent breaking down of the house of cards which she had built with her own hands, she was forced to see her body as one, and recognize that certain events and circumstances in her life may have contributed to her diagnosis.
“Breast cancer is a traumatic diagnosis. You get easily stuck in the mind asking, ‘Why me? I do everything right. I eat well, I exercise, I am happy, etc,’ but it didn’t take me that long to realize that I really suppressed stress. I was raising a child with severe ADHD, I am a doctor in an incredibly demanding specialty, and along with other stressful ‘hits’ that life threw, I was always internalizing stress and ignoring it to just push forward. My body was internally and chemically in constant fight or flight mode, but I worked hard to never show that on the outside.”
Stress is a killer. Eastern medicine sees dis-ease as a manifestation of unaddressed and repressed emotion that collects in the body and wreaks havoc as a cry for help. When energy (emotion is also energy) becomes stagnant, it inhibits the fluid movement of the vital life force (ki) from coursing through the body. When the natural flow of this energy is inhibited, it is like a dam is formed and the river no longer flows freely, but backs up into the canyon, putting great pressure on the dam and changing the landscape of the canyon.
Stressful situations in life can be considered to be “hits” to the body. “Just like a boxer, we can take only so many hits—whether they be environmental, mental, emotional etc—until the body finally breaks down.”
Stress creates more stress which creates pain and then even more stress. The stress can manifest in different parts of the body depending on what situations, emotions or life events trigger the stress. In Dr. Coady’s case, the stress manifested dis-ease in her breasts because she put herself last on the list and repeatedly ignored her own needs in favor of paying attention to her family and career.
From a metaphysical perspective, Louise Hay’s book You Can Heal Your Life makes an ancient connection between emotion and dis-ease in the body.
From her book:
"Breast: Represents mothering and nurturing and nourishment. —Cysts, Lumps: A refusal to nourish the self. Putting everyone else first. Over mothering. Overprotection. Overbearing attitudes.
Cancer: Deep hurt. Longstanding resentment. Deep secret or grief eating away at the self. Carrying hatreds.”
Anyone diagnosed with breast cancer is literally forced to stop everything they’re doing and tend to their bodies. This kind of attention is what the body was craving all along. Living outside of the body, primarily in the mind, can create a massive disconnect between spirit and human. Our human bodies are our only vessels to navigate this beautiful planet and life with, but there are conditions to our fleshy vehicles. We must honor them, pay attention to them and listen to the messages that are sent.
Dr. Coady began practicing mind-body exercises at Body & Brain Yoga shortly after her diagnosis and has found these spiritual exercises to deeply connect her body and mind, heighten her intuition and generally prevent the cancer from worsening.
“Everyday there would be patients coming in with pain and I didn’t have the right tools to help them. I would mindfully prescribe yoga and meditation, knowing the power these practices held, but I didn’t have time to do them myself. But that was just life—just the way it was.”
Dr. Coady’s health took a beating as the message was sent to her body saying, “we don’t have time for things like this. We’ve got patients to see, family to care for and tasks to get done, so let’s get on with it.” This way of thinking, conscious or subconscious, told her body, over and over again, that she was not worthy of her own time or attention. The body can feel this in the form of energy and it responds in somewhat of a revolt against being ignored.
Dr. Coady’s experience is one that many women and men can deeply relate to. It is all too easy to suppress inconvenient emotions and numb the sensations in the physical body in favor of just getting through the day.
There are many culprits to breast cancer, but this perspective and the role toxic stress plays is something that should seriously be considered by all who nurture others. If we don’t take time for ourselves and honor this vessel, then we are in grave danger of consciously harming our bodies.
So what can be done?
Even starting with just 5 minutes a day of self-care, attention, meditation, positive affirmations or tuning in to the messages of the body can help. Starting small, and working up to 20 minutes a day of deliberate and enjoyable self-care and attention is all the body needs.
In addition to eating well and getting sufficient physical exercise, we must also exercise and strengthen the connection between body and mind. The body is always speaking to us, it is just a matter of deciphering the message and learning the unique language of our bodies so that we can get better and better at taking conscious action.
Affirmations for a Strong Mind-Body Connection
Every little cell in my body is happy and well
I am worthy of my own time and attention
I must come first so that I may better care for others
This life is precious and I want to live it to the fullest
My emotions are mine not me
I acknowledge this stress as mine and I do not absorb the energy of this situation
Getting in the practice of taking a deep breath in a stressful or emotionally charged situation can completely change your energy. By saying, “emotions are mine, not me” you immediately create space between the energy of the uncomfortable emotion and your self. This can help you better manage stress and absorb less and less of the toxic energy it produces.
You are in control of your mind, your body and your reality. Put that power to use!
Please share your experience, thoughts and feelings with us and our community of change-makers in the comments section below. ChangeYourEnergy is committed to giving you the tools and resources to live a long, vibrant and conscious life.
To your radiant health!
Disclaimer: The information stated here is provided as a resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. This information is not intended to be patient education, does not create any patient-physician relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment.