My mother’s death a month or so ago signaled my inner Writer that she was now free to tell the entire, unabridged story about my breast cancer “event.” And so, this morning, I put aside my journal once again to pick up a fresh, legal pad and extra-fine gel pen-my writing tools-and continue sharing my experience with breast cancer in the hopes that it may ignite a spark of recognition in the heart of even one woman. Perhaps after reading my story, she will find the courage to go against the dictates of religion and culture to ferret out those dark hidden feelings of anger, rage-even hatred-towards her mother that have lain long-hidden in the dark recesses of her heart.
I had lots of time during those painful weeks of post-surgery recovery for long periods of meditative contemplation. It was not until my Self-questioning shifted from “Why did this happen to me?” to “What has breast cancer come to teach me?” that the light of understanding began to dawn: the malignancies in my breast had their beginnings way back in childhood. I grew up with an alcoholic and abusive father, and a mother, so deep in denial, she would constantly ask me, “Why are you such a sad little girl?” As if I were something apart from her and our family circumstances. My very visible unhappiness posed a threat to the illusion of a happy home she wished to present to the world. And so I learned to repress my psychic pain and put on a happy face in order to gain mommy’s love and approval. But where did that pain go? All is energy. Energy is all. Energy cannot be destroyed. Energy creates form. Like creates like. Energy creates form like itself.
Then at age seventeen, when my father finally permitted my mother to work outside of the home, I confronted her; challenging her to leave the abuser now that she was earning her own money. I pleaded with her; wanting revenge, retribution-amends from her for the years she did not protect herself or her children from our abuser. We could finally be free. Her blithe response to my urgings to leave my father was: “Oh, I’m not leaving him now. I suffered all of these years with that man. No. I need his income to continue supporting us so that I can save and invest every penny I earn.” And so she did. I felt betrayed. Sold out. My years of suffering traded for money. I carried the anger of that perceived betrayal in my heart from that day to the day that breast cancer showed up in my life as a divine messenger
Through the ensuing years, mother and I continued in a relationship that could abruptly shift from cool civility to her slapping my face and my screaming bitch at her. Of course, anyone outside the nuclear family would never suspect that a murderous rage seethed beneath the dutiful daughter and loving mother façade; a rage for which I could not-or would not-find a healthy release; a rage that eventually went underground where it quietly went to work, diligently undermining my body’s immune system and natural defenses; allowing insidious malignancies to take root in my breast. My precious lost breast: symbol of nourishment, sustenance…mother love.
I offer this story of mother rage and breast cancer as food-for-thought and not as proven, scientific evidence of a causative relationship between a lifetime of suppressed anger and rage felt towards one’s mother, and its eventual manifestation in the body as breast cancer-or any other disease. I do, however, share the beliefs of many holistic healers that what we hold in the psyche will eventually manifest in the soma. Nothing happens to us out-of-the-blue. Our thoughts and strongly held intents, beliefs and emotions are what give form to our lives and our bodies. That especially applies to the diseases we humans love to believe happen to us or are punishment from some patriarchal and cruel “God.” However, at present, mainstream medicine has not caught up with what the most primitive shaman understands about the nature of human reality: we are the co-creators of the very universe-right down to the pimple that just popped out on your cheek.
Watch for Part Three: Invoking the Healing Balm of Forgiveness