Breast Cancer and The Mind - Body Connection

The mind-body connection is being talked about more and more lately. We know now, for example, that stress can be a major factor in causing heart attacks. Eating disorders have emotional triggers. Anxiety can cause acid reflux, nausea, or even vomiting. In her 2013 New York Times bestseller, Mind Over Medicine, Dr. Lissa Rankin writes that “Loneliness can make you sicker than smoking cigarettes.” If loneliness can make you so sick, it is not hard to imagine that illness can be also caused by a deep, lingering shame.

Shame is often referred to as the secret emotion. It’s called a secret one because our shame from a situation compels us to hold onto it, to hide and repress it. If something so universal and prevalent as loneliness can cause illness, then the regret, guilt and shame that many of us feel or felt after an abortion must create quite a cocktail of problems in our bodies.

For years, the question of whether there is a link between abortion and breast cancer has been debated. In many ways, this question seems to be a vehicle for the pro-life and pro-choice camps to put a stake in the ground to further each of their positions. What if we set aside the positioning for a moment and take a different look at this theory?

Christel Nani describes the traits she found in women who have breast cancer in her revolutionary book, Diary of a Medical Intuitive. She observes, “Women with breast cancer almost always have a secret, something they can’t forgive themselves for. This lack of forgiveness lowers their vibration and shuts down the energy flowing to their heart chakra. And the heart chakra, of course, is located near the breasts. In addition, having a guilty secret makes them feel ashamed and gives them a vague sense of owing a debt. It makes them think that they don’t deserve to be happy, to have a good marriage or an easy path in life. The fallout from their guilty secret pervades their entire lives.” 

Christel’s observations in Diary, published in 2004, were ahead of their time. She does not tie breast cancer to abortion per se, but does point out her findings that holding onto a secret is one of the several elements present in causing this disease. Now, ten years later, as we find more and deeper mind-body connections, I wonder if we can start to see the truth in her work. 

One way to get rid of the secrecy is to make our world a safer and more supportive place for women who have had abortions. The organization, Abortion Changes U, began a campaign on March 25 called U R Not Alone. This campaign is being done to show women that they have support in their ability to heal from all over our country. 

It is time for a radical change in thinking.

What if the pro-life movement really was pro-life? What if instead of saying “I told you so” when the aftermath of abortion is identified, we stopped the judgment process long enough for to allow women to grieve, to heal, and to find wholeness - to support the life already here? What if the pro-choice movement stopped denying that there are aftereffects to abortion? What if we were privy to the stories of other women in a way that opens us up to support and community? 

One in every three women in the United States will have had an abortion by the age of 45. Despite this common occurrence, it remains so stigmatized that the mere use of the word in conversation triggers many women. For the sake of our grandmothers, mothers, daughters, sisters, girlfriends, aunts and cousins – for the sake of any woman who has ever had an abortion – won’t you please consider signing your name to the U R Not Alone Campaign? Please let our sisters know that they have support in their healing journey. I believe this can be a powerful first step to bridging the divide and bringing peace to the abortion debates. 

A dear friend of mine once shared with me his fear of not taking the opportunity to help someone in need when it was offered to him. This is a chance to be of service - maybe to one woman, potentially to many of us. Signing this statement of support is an easy way to make a big difference.

Thank you, from my heart, for your support.


What Are You Afraid Of?

Life really is funny sometimes. I remember when I found myself unexpectedly pregnant at age 29, I was afraid that I would be raising my child by myself if I chose to have that baby. Flash forward twenty two years and I am a now a single mom to three kids. The admonishment, “That which you resist persists” seems to be right on target for me.

If I had paid attention to that fear many years ago, maybe I would have delved deeper into the truth of my marriage. But I stuck my fingers in my ears like a three year old child, repeating over and over again, “I can’t hear you!” whenever my intuition told me to look closer at my life. 

Have you ever done this? Deliberately ignored your inner whispers?

I realize now that my unborn baby was trying to help me sort out what was wrong in my life, much earlier than I was capable of seeing on my own. That unplanned pregnancy was indeed a wake-up call – the cosmic equivalent to a 2’ x 4’ upside the head – daring me to pay attention. 

But I was raised to believe that marriage was forever, no matter what. There would be good times, but there would also be difficult times, and I needed to ride them out. When the going gets tough, the tough get going, right?

Over the years, my husband and I did have children, and even though I was married, for the last several years of our marriage, I was a single parent in the everyday sense. He had a demanding job, and with two young children had decided to go back to seminary school at night to become a deacon. As our family got bigger, he got more and more interested in activities outside the home. In a very real and practical way, and without the label, I was doing the very thing I was so afraid of doing so many years earlier: being a single parent.

Putting a name to what I was already doing only made it harder. Single parent. That phrase sounds hard and lonely, doesn’t it? My friends would remind me repeatedly as I endured the roller coaster ride of my divorce that I had already been doing this for a while anyway. It wasn’t a new gig for me. 

Last week, I took my kids on vacation: a far away vacation where we had to fly to reach our final holiday destination. I realized as I was doing it that it was another thing I had been afraid to do on my own – travel to a new place where I was completely unfamiliar with the precious cargo I call my kiddos. But last week I was not afraid. Not at all.

You see, before I left I decided it was time to make friends with fear: Talk to it and ask it what it was doing for me and why it was there. As I dissected my worries and anxieties, I realized they were based on a belief that the world is not a safe place – a fear I was raised with that goes back many generations and perpetuates itself with the news we see and hear every day on the television, radio, the internet etc. 

For months now, I have been challenging that belief, choosing instead to see the world as a safe place full of good people. And amazingly, (or maybe not so much), last week on vacation, that’s what I found. 

I found love and tenderness with my children; hospitality and kindness in airports, hotels, and rental car businesses. We even experienced magical moments in nature - like sea turtles swimming right next to us! When I met the world with trust, it greeted me back accordingly. 

So what are you afraid of? What beliefs and ideas have you been running from? Maybe it’s time to stop running and look head on at that fear and make friends with it. I bet you will find the same freedom and joy that I have experienced of late.


What IS Normal Anyway?

What is your “normal?” Have you ever found out that your view of normal was not the healthiest way of being? My nine year old son Ryan helped me see in the last month how I could create a new normal in my life and let go of the past. Isn’t it great how kids can be some of our greatest teachers? 

Ryan has never been a big fan of sports. His only experience with organized sports to date was in pre-school playing soccer. He literally sat in the middle of the soccer field watching the butterflies and picking dandelions that year. Despite my best attempts to support him (including being a coach for the team), Ryan never took to the game. Other than gymnastics, he did not seem particularly inclined towards any sports at all.

That is, until this year. We had a 10th grade exchange student – Gilad – living with us this past fall. Ryan and Gilad became close friends. They would play basketball in our cul-de-sac almost every day. I feel certain it was Gilad’s influence that inspired Ryan to become interested in that sport. He bugged me daily to play basketball and couldn’t wait to get started. 

He had a blast during practices, but once the actual game started, he felt lost. He couldn’t figure out what was going on with two teams moving around on the court. He was confused and overwhelmed. It was no longer just a one-on-one game in the cul-de-sac. So much so that the first game he was scheduled to play in, he hid his jersey under the sofa hoping that if he couldn’t find his gear, he wouldn’t be able to play. That’s a story for another time, but he did end up playing that day, running up and down the court, managing to look engaged while at the same time staying as far away from the ball as possible. 

His last game was on February 23rd. My parents were in town visiting that day. I had told them the week before about the game. They did not offer to come, nor did I ask them to. As the stands filled, Ryan’s best buddy Brady came in with seven of his family members. It was not unusual for Brady to have several folks in attendance at the games – typically his parents and often his grandmother and uncle. Today there were three more there to support him. To be honest, all season I found it sad that I was the only one watching Ryan play. The beginning of this game was no exception.  

By the second half of the game, Ryan had not scored. He was the only player, in fact, not to have scored all season long in a game. Rather than substitute Ryan out as he did the rest of the team, that day, Coach left him in. He was determined not to let Ryan end this season without giving a 120% effort in helping him score. Every time Ryan’s team had the ball, Coach yelled to the boys to pass to Ryan. It wasn’t long before the kids figured it out, and Ryan was the first one back to the net after each rebound, waiting for the pass to make his shot. (Ironically, the other team saw all the passes being made to Ryan, and had their best and tallest defender on him that whole second half too.) 

I imagine most of the parents knew Ryan had not scored during season. He kind of stood out all season long with the various ways he had of avoiding being engaged. Twirling the string on his shorts, biting his nails, etc. At one point during this last half, I muttered to myself, “I so want Ryan to score before this is done.” Brady’s mom, sitting right next to me said, “We all do Christina, we all do.” 

It was then that I noticed what was going on in the stands. The other parents were yelling for my kid too. Telling him where to stand, how to escape the defender, rooting him on, wanting him to score as much as I did. And Ryan was in the moment, fearless and in the flow, like I had never seen him before. He never did score any points, but he couldn’t have been any happier at the end of the game.

This moment shifted everything for me. Suddenly all the games that I had as a kid that my parents never went to didn’t matter. The fact that my parents were in town and chose not to see their grandson did not matter. That Brady had seven family members there cheering for him did not matter. The illusions that I had carried with me all my life about family were shattered. I felt an experience of empowered love, coming from the coach, the kids on Ryan’s team, and the parents that day completely and utterly overwhelmed me. That my parents missed this was truly their loss. And I had changed the cycle of non-parental support for my son – I was present for him in a way I had never had from my parents.

This past week, I tried to call my parents just to say hello. I did not hear back from them, so I tried again later in the week. My mom finally called me back on Friday. Turns out they had been in town on Wednesday and Thursday visiting with my sister, but hadn’t felt it important to call or stop by. I realized while talking to my mom that if I had known, they could have seen Ryan get an academic award at his school on Wednesday. For a few seconds I thought about saying something to them about what they missed, and then realized it did not matter. It was okay for me to let go of all of it – the illusion, the anger, the resentment. They are who they are where I and somehow that got me to this point of here and now: where it is all perfect, am able to be who I am without apologizing or trying to be something moreIt was all really okay. 

We continued our conversation, with no mention of the timing on Ryan’s award and their visit. As our conversation ended, I told my mom I loved her and I meant it. 

I have known for some time that my normal was not healthy for me. But something was missing in bringing that full circle for me. Last month, being in a gymnasium watching a Sunday morning basketball game, I learned how to love and how to forgive. And I am so excited as I feel my new “normal” unfolding.


Would I Do It Again?

They say hindsight is 20/20, right? So I recently got to wondering, if I had to do everything over again in my life, including having an abortion, would I? 

I used to think I would not. I used to think that hindsight informed me that it was too painful, too traumatic, and impossible to get over to ever do again.

I used to think that way… until I didn’t. 

One day, a few years ago, after I’d already had three children, was separated from my husband, and very much in overwhelm being a single parent, I thought I might be (gasp) pregnant.

I had been seeing a kind and gentle man who loved both me and my kids. My divorce attorney had told me to wait to start dating as I was just stirring the pot of anger with my ex by getting involved with someone before my divorce was final. After putting this wonderful man him off from having sex for a good six months, I finally agreed to go away for the weekend with him. We used birth control, specifically condoms, that weekend so it couldn’t have been any safer, right? Besides, I was due to get my period within days so by my calculations everything would be okay.

It would have seemed that way, but I didn’t get my period for three weeks. And they were the longest three weeks of my life. 
I had already started my healing journey with Project Rachel and thought I had processed everything there was to process about my decision to abort. I knew after living the Project Rachel weekend that I would never have another abortion. 

And then suddenly there I was, in my mid-forties, separated and not yet divorced, exhausted from juggling work, single parenting, and the stress of the legal proceedings (my divorce), only to find myself wondering if I really could handle having another child.

How would my body handle this? Would I be able to take care of a baby and the three kids I already had and not lose my job? The man I was seeing had his own complications with family at home so the choice of having or not having another child was mine to make.

“Good God” I thought. “Maybe I will have to make this choice again!”

For three weeks, I pondered this question and more. I lost weight, sleep, and any sense of who I thought I was. My companion was concerned, of course, but agreeable to whatever I decided. Death seemed a preferable option, but my kids' needs removed that thought from my mind. “Dear Jesus, Mary, and Joseph! Why can everyone else in the world have sex and not get pregnant while I, ever so cautiously, put one foot in the sexual pool and bam! – I get pregnant? Why me?”

Just when I thought I couldn’t get out of bed another day, I FINALLY got my period. Sweet, sweet relief flooded my body!

So would I have gotten an abortion again if I had been pregnant?

You can’t tell from looking at me now, but at the time my friends thought I had an eating disorder as I had lost so much weight from all the legal shenanigans. I was only getting about six hours of sleep a night on a good night as it was, and my three children were needy, especially since they were dealing with the separation from their father. I could see no other way out but to seriously consider choosing to have another abortion.

Luckily, I did not have to make that choice, but I can remember those three weeks like they happened just yesterday. Would I choose to have an abortion again after the excruciating pain, mentally, physically and emotionally of the first one? Despite everything I knew and experienced already, I have to say - Yes, yes I would.

It’s easy to be philosophical about abortion… until you are in the shoes of someone facing this decision. It’s all theory until it’s happening to YOU!

Today, I am in a much better place with abortion – personally and generally speaking. It is something women have been doing for over 4000 years. Isn’t it time we are able to embrace our sexual essence and inner wisdom and listen to our own knowing?

Because in the end, everything will be okay IF you deem it to be so.


The Transformational Power of Love

My journey to healing from abortion was forced upon me more than eleven years after it, in 2003, when I miscarried that year at nine weeks. I had no choice but to pay attention to the devastation I was feeling at the loss of another baby. It wasn’t until the winter of 2012, however, almost twenty years after my abortion, that my healing journey came full circle.

The steps along the way proceeded incrementally, each giving the next the foundation necessary for the subsequent step. I went from acknowledgement to grief. Through grieving, I learned to let go of judgment and forgive myself. And from that acceptance came love and worthiness — the final lesson in healing.

It started in February 2012. I had been reconnecting with high school friends on Facebook, and one of my former classmates suggested that I check out James Van Praagh’s book, Growing Up in Heaven. We had not talked about the loss of a child, the theme upon which this book is written, so she had no idea that I might need to read it. Her intuition spoke and she listened. 

I couldn’t wait to get the book. I ordered and waited as patiently as I could for it to arrive. 

When the book finally got here, I devoured every word of it. And when I got to page 98, I knew exactly why I needed this book. The author writes, “From a spiritual perspective, abortions are lessons for the mother to learn self-love and self-worth. In the case of abortion, the soul always knows that the fetus will be aborted and does not attach itself to the physical body of the unborn.”

My intellect devoured these words, but they still had to find their place in my heart for the circle of healing to be complete.

At that time, I was in full-blown menopause. I had been catapulted there at age 48 following a time of extreme stress. I had irregular periods, gained some weight and was having pain in my knees and hips. For six months I had been having hot flashes and couldn’t sleep through the night. I was up and down repeatedly to use the bathroom, and had a hard time falling back to sleep.  

After reading Van Praagh’s words, I reflected upon where in my life I lacked self-love and feelings of worthiness. My thoughts turned to my abortion and to Mary, my unborn daughter. The idea that she not only chose me but that she loved me deeply entered my consciousness. As I let the feeling of her love and Van Praagh’s words mingle, a feeling of wholeness came over me. I felt like I was being lovingly and tenderly held. If that presence loved me this deeply, how could I not love myself? Realizing this was a moment of grace.

After that, I never had another period or hot flash. I slept through the night, every night. My weight stabilized. Within a month, my knees and hips, already under chiropractic care, ceased being painful. Menopause ended for me in a matter of months, not the years I was told to expect. It was as if the meeting of heaven — in the form of my baby's soul — and earth — in my human form — healed and transformed me. 

I have no doubt the power of love is transformational. You may have entirely different results when you invite the connection between your mind and your heart, but you will have results, of that I am certain. When you open your heart and invite love in, miracles can't help but occur.