Treating Breast Cancer – A Holistic Approach
- By Maryna Esterhuyse Therapeutic Reflexologist-
“Cancer kills more people every year than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined.”1
Breast cancer is the abnormal growth & change of breast cells
The genes in our cell’s nucleus – the “control room” of the cell – can sometimes undergo abnormal changes or mutations. The cells in the human body normally replace themselves when the old ones die – but with cancer, the cells keep on dividing uncontrollably, producing more cells and eventually forms a tumor. This tumor can either be benign (not cancerous), or malignant (cancerous). Malignant cells can spread from the tumor to other parts of the body, causing the cancer to invade the whole system.7
Breast Cancer is a term that refers to a cancerous tumor that developed from breast cells, and can in the cells of the lobules (milk producing glands), or the ducts (passages that drain the milk from the lobules to the nipple).
Lifestyle choices play a very important role, with certain profiles being at higher risk than others. Over-weight people have a higher risk for breast cancer, especially after menopause. Other factors that can increase your risk for cancer includes: high alcohol consumption, low Vitamin D levels, unhealthy diet and a lack of exercise.
“I grew up thinking it was normal to have a mom who was always sick and wore a wig….” These are the devastating words from a 10 year old girl who lost her mom to breast cancer la year. Tammy recalls how scared and lonely she was when her mom was in bed – too weak and sick to play with her or take her to school. At first her mother was bed-ridden only during her menstrual cycle. She complained of heavy and painful bleeding and migraines, and was eventually diagnosed with endometrioses. Additionally to the endometriosis, her mother was also an asthma sufferer which always got worse during her cycle and always complained about extremely painful hip- and knees pains. After a few months of feeling very weak, she noticed a strange discharge from the nipples as well as a change in the shape of her left breast. A visit to the doctor confirmed her worst fear – she had stage IV breast cancer which already spread to other parts of her body. The doctors recommended a double mastectomy and immediate treatment with chemotherapy. Tammy’s mother unfortunately lost the battle after only 3 months, and a whole family’s lives was ripped apart.
As with any cancers, early detection is crucial to effectively treat and stop spreading this debilitating disease. About 90% of all woman diagnosed early will be treated successfully and survive.
Signs and Symptoms of Breast Cancer
The following are some of the signs and symptoms of breast cancer.8
Always consult a medical professional if you are worried about any abnormal changes to your breast.
- A lump or thickening inside the breast or underarm area
- Warmth, redness, swelling of the breast
- Change in the shape or size of the breast
- Itchy, sore or a rash on the nipple
- Dimpling of the skin – “orange peel” look
- Inverted nipples
- Sudden discharge from the nipple
- Enlargement of the glands
Looking beyond the tumor – through the eyes of a therapeutic reflexologist…
Therapeutic Reflexology is an art and sciences, practicing specific foot massage techniques in order to stimulate the correspondent organs represented by specific areas on the foot. By stimulating these specific areas you open up the energy pathways (meridians) through the body – allowing the chi or “life force” to flow uninterrupted and strongly towards the correspondent organs – thus improving the oxygen supply and overall health.
Traditional Chinese Medicine believes in a holistic approach to health, where body, mind and spirit are all equally important and need to be in balance in order to obtain optimum health.
An unhealthy lifestyle caused by diets filled with artificial hormones and preservatives, lack of exercise, stress, increased alcohol consumption and exposure to radiation from cellphones causes toxins to build up in our systems and subsequently blocking out chi.3
According to TCM, warning signs of disease appears along the meridians when the chi becomes stagnated or block. Recognizing these congestions along the meridians and taking appropriate action in rectifying this imbalance (through lifestyle changes and complimentary therapies) can decrease the occurrence of disease.3
The meridians can be best described along the analogy of a river. When a river gets clogged up with leaves, twigs and trees, it becomes muddy and dirty. The water can’t flow freely and the end result is low quality water filled with bacteria and dirt. Our bodies work in a similar way. When disease is discovered, it means that energy (chi) in the meridians has been blocked and stagnated for a long time. The warning signs were there a long, and with a good understanding of the meridians, the specific disease could have been prevented.5
There are 12 parallel meridians traveling through the body, and 4 of these meridians control breast health. Almost 70% of cancer is diagnosed along this meridians.3
Prevention & Treatment: A holistic approach
“When there are problems with the breast, it usually means we are “over mothering” a person, a place, or a thing, or an experience… if cancer is involved, then there is also a deep resentment.” – Louis Hay
TCM believes that everything is about energy, and everything is connected. When treating cancer, we cannot only focus on the disease in its current state, we need to look at the whole energy interrelationship from where it started in the first place as minor blockages in the meridians to where it manifested in a serious, life threatening disease. Cancer prevention focus on the over-all good health rather than the disease itself – this mind set will ensure lasting health and a quality life. 4
What can we do in our everyday lives to ensure good health?
- The stomach meridian penetrates all the major organs and is thus one of the most important meridians to keep clear of stagnation. A strong digestive system is vital to a healthy body and organs. Disease (and especially cancer) cannot grow in an alkaline environment, and many health problems are caused by too little stomach acid. By increasing the hydrochloric acid (HCL) in your stomach this problem will be eliminated. How can you increase HCL in your stomach? By simply adding fresh lemon juice to your daily water, or drinking apple cider vinegar (mixed with water) every day.2
- Learn how to channel your emotions in the right direction. Don’t over think things and try not to worry about everything. All those negative emotions will get stuck in your meridians and subsequently cause stagnation of chi. Channel all emotions through meditation, yoga or even just a relaxing walk in fresh air daily.4
- Lastly, but most certainly not least, regular reflexology has shown to provide amazing results in especially cancer patients in relieving of pain and shortness of breath who receives chemotherapy or hormone treatment.5
Cancer is a debilitating, dreadful disease that invades your body and slowly destroys it, cell by cell. As can be seen in the very sad story of Tammy and her mother, this disease causes so much heartache and rips families apart.
Prevention is so much better than cure. Traditional Chinese Medicine teaches us that energy is in everything and everything is energy. Keep the energy pathways (meridians) open with quality and strong chi, and disease will not be able to put its ugly claws in our bodies. This can be done by changing our lifestyles and include nutrient, quality foods, channeling our negative thoughts into the right channels and making use of complimentary therapies like therapeutic reflexology.
We need to listen to our bodies and the warning signals it sends out to us. Tammy’s mother paid the highest price for not listening to her body. Throughout her lives’ story there were definite warnings that her body was screaming for help. Early on she experienced painful and heavy monthly cycles (and eventually was diagnosed with endometriosis) as well as migraines. She suffered from asthma and had knee- and hip pains. As per the meridian chart it was evident that she had stagnation in especially the stomach, spleen/pancreas and gallbladder meridians. If she had the knowledge about meridians and how it works, it would have been a wonderful assessment tool for her to understand what her body was trying to tell her, and she could have taken precautionary actions to prevent the terrible disease that is breast cancer from developing.
“The human spirit is stronger than anything that can happen to it.” – C.C. Scott
2. Dougans, I. 2005. Reflexology: the 5 elements and their 12 meridians, a unique approach.