5 Ways To Mindfully Honor Breast Cancer Awareness Month
For many breast cancer survivors, including myself, the pink frenzy of October can be a confusing time.
On the one hand, as a survivor, I appreciate this raised awareness and am grateful for the role it has played in my own healing journey. The opportunities to get involved and show support are plentiful. All things fashion, beauty, food, and design invite us to purchase pink in the name of breast cancer awareness — but that also makes it confusing.
I want to join the party ... and yet with the constant pink reminders at every turn, I also feel as though I am reliving the treatment phase of my illness.
For the most part, I'm past my cancer bubble. I don’t think about it every day. And yet, I can’t deny some old habits from that time still kick in. Every now and then, I'll wake up on a Thursday thinking it's chemo day. Occasionally, I'll step out of the shower and see the scars on my body and just stare in wonder: How did this happen? And while it happens much less, I admittedly still get hit with overwhelming moments of emotion that wash over me at the most unpredictable times.
Then there are the doctors and other survivors who are quick to remind me that it is never really over. The only indicator of the cancer coming back is symptom-based; an ache is no longer just an ache.
Despite all this, I feel grateful for how far I’ve come. I continue to chart my new normal by establishing healthy boundaries, being open to new possibilities, and trying to stay loving and honest with myself.
Most importantly, I recognize the importance of staying present. It’s this present-moment awareness that serves as my greatest daily teacher. And with the pink-hued mania now lighting up October, we all have the opportunity to infuse our support and awareness with a healthy dose of mindfulness. Here are a few tips:
1. Be mindful of your body.
Early detection is key in any disease, especially breast cancer. This is an ideal time to schedule a mammogram for yourself or remind a loved one. You can also commit to performing monthly self-exams, which is how I found my cancer. Treat your body with personal mindfulness and attention.
2. Connect with loved ones.
Most likely, we all know someone who is going through or has been through some type of cancer, breast or otherwise. Reach out to that person and let them know you're thinking of them. I promise you, it's the random texts, calls, and social media messages that mean the world to anyone who has been touched by cancer.
If you are more of a “doer,” offer something more tangible like arranging for a cleaning service; organizing meals; offering rides to appointments; gifting cozy items like blankets, socks, and sweatshirts for chemo days; and sending fresh flowers. My cousins all got together and arranged to have weekly flowers delivered throughout my treatment — that was amazing.
3. Show your support mindfully.
There is no question that the big foundations can play a pivotal role when it comes to cancer research and finding a cure. But there are so many other important organizations for all types of cancer that deserve attention. Consider embracing causes that support overall women's health and helping the diseases that don't receive the level of awareness and support that breast cancer does.
Let the pink frenzy inspire you to find a cause that you connect with. If you're eager to help others, reach out to your local organizations and strive for that personal connection.
4. Donate with intention.
I’ve also been on the other side of watching loved ones go through cancer, so I understand the helplessness. I get the desire to take action and do something — anything. If dyeing your hair pink or buying a designer handbag makes you feel like you're helping, then by all means do it. But do the research and understand where the funds are going, and make sure that resonates with you.
Hold the organizations and brands making the promises accountable. Unfortunately, pinkwashing does happen, so be intentional and informed with your purchases.
5. Practice a "lovingkindness meditation."
I’m a big believer that when we meditate, we are helping to raise the positive vibration of ourselves and those around us. One of the best tools to do this is to practice a lovingkindness meditation.
Picture someone you know who is going through cancer. If you don’t know anyone, imagine someone who is experiencing any type of struggle. Picture them as you breathe into your heart center and silently repeat the phrases:
May your body be at ease. May your heart be open. May your mind be boundless. May you be awakened and free.
Repeat these phrases for yourself, and then for all beings in the world. This practice has played a pivotal role in my own journey, as I continue to reconcile the many gifts, insights, and lessons learned from my life both before and after cancer.