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Shining a Light of Thanks on Women Who’ve Changed the Way We Live Today

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‘Tis the season for coming together in celebration and thanksgiving!  Lately I’ve been reflecting on the people and blessings for which I am most grateful. So many things come to mind; a large and warm family, the blessings of good health, and the locally grown food I’ve come to rely on… my freedom…

As I’ve made my journey with The Breast Archives project, I’ve begun discovering the pivotal role of certain determined and brave women. Through their daring enlightenment, they have paved the way for me, and for all of us to live lives that are independent, purposeful, and powerful. I’ve referenced just a few of these women; models for courage and character, below.

Lucretia Mott

A Suffragist, Lucretia Mott traveled to upstate New York in 1848 to address the first Conference to Address Women’s Rights and Issues. Using the US Declaration of Independence’s proclamation, “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights…” as a model for the Conference, the aim for delegates and attendees was “to forthrightly demanded that the rights of women as right-bearing individuals be acknowledged and respected by society.”

Out of this gathering of The Women of Seneca Falls, came the Declaration of Sentiments and Grievances, one of the earliest and most influential statements of Feminism. The culminating Treatise was signed by sixty-eight women and thirty-two men, and marked the beginning of the women’s suffrage movement in America. The passions-and frustrations-expressed at the gathering are encapsulated by the following (selected) bullet points:

  • After depriving her of all rights as a married woman, if single and the owner of property, he has taxed her to support a government, which recognizes her only when her property can be made profitable to it.
  • He has monopolized nearly all the profitable employments, and from those she is permitted to follow, she receives but a scanty remuneration.
  • He closes against her all the avenues to wealth and distinction, which he considers most honorable to himself. As a teacher of theology, medicine, or law, she is not known.
  • He has denied her the facilities for obtaining a thorough education—all colleges being closed against her.
  • He allows her in church, as well as State, but a subordinate position, claiming Apostolic authority for her exclusion from the ministry, and, with some exceptions, from any public participation in the affairs of the Church.
  • He has created a false public sentiment by giving to the world a different code of morals for men and women, by which moral delinquencies which exclude women from society, are not only tolerated but deemed of little account in man.
  • He has usurped the prerogative of Jehovah himself, claiming it as his right to assign for her a sphere of action, when that belongs to her conscience and her God.
  • He has endeavored, in every way that he could to destroy her confidence in her own powers, to lessen her self-respect, and to make her willing to lead a dependent and abject life.

At the Conferences’ close, its Leaders declared,“This entire disfranchisement of one-half the people of this country, their social and religious degradation--in view of the unjust laws above mentioned, and because women do feel themselves aggrieved, oppressed, and fraudulently deprived of their most sacred rights, we insist that they have immediate admission to all the rights and privileges which belong to them as citizens of these United States.”

Thank you, Lucretia Mott, for your leadership and vision.

Simone de Beauvoir

One hundred years later, in 1949, France’s Simone de Beauvoir published her book The Second Sex, which detailed the “unethical” treatment of women throughout history and which sought to understand femininity from a philosophical perspective.  Simone de Beauvoir analyzed the male rationale, which postulated that “the man of the human species was the norm,” and women, “an inferior, less-desirable model,” and developed a philosophical and intellectual platform arguing, among other things, against the institution of marriage and for the right of women to obtain an abortion. Her well-reasoned, much-admired book was condemned, and even “prohibited” by the Vatican immediately upon its publication.

The Second Sex has influenced the platforms and writings of many feminist thought-leaders since, and continues to be a model for those who dare to confront the duplicitous social systems in which women are undeniably embedded.

Thank you, Simone de Beauvoir, for your clarity and intelligence.

bell hooks

bell hooks was a philosopher, poet, and scholar. Born Gloria Jean Watkins in 1952, she took the name (and lower case spelling) of her Kentuckian great-grandmother as homage, and to compel readers to prioritize her words and ideas over her personal identity. Her first book, Ain't I a Woman? Black Women and Feminism, was published in 1981, and called out the feminist movement as one incapable of addressing “the needs of lower income women of color,” and criticized feminist organizations as “comprised of affluent white women.” From this point, she began a lifelong exploration of the intersectionality of race, gender, money and social inequality.

Thank you, bell hooks, for your demand for truth and real equality.

Madonna

When Madonna Ciccone first burst onto the scene in the early 80’s she knew what she wanted, where she was headed, and the required calculations involved with the process. "When I lost my virginity, I considered it a career move.” When she arrived in NYC in 1978, she famously told a cab driver to, "Take me to the center of everything." She was “insanely jealous” of her brothers, who could take off their shirts in summer."

Madonna’s catchy pop tunes were initially underestimated (more noticed were her lace, rubber bracelets and penchant for hiccupping), several astute journalists, notably Rolling Stone’s Debby Miller, sensed the undercurrent of ambition and knew she was after more; much more.

Through the years, Madonna’s work has been bolder and more cunning. “It's as if she recognizes the discomfort we feel when sensing the human character of a woman whose function is purely sexual,” said Arion Berger, (who probably missed several key points in his review of her Erotica Tour). A lot can be explained by this quote, from the Queen of Pop: "I take what I need and then I move on."

Thank you, Madonna, for your sensuality, creative vitality – and endurance.

Emma Watson

Plucky Hermoine Granger waved her wand and cast a spell on us all in the Harry Potter series.  After earning 13 million for her award-winning portrayal of a feisty young wizard, Emma enrolled in Brown University and graduated with a bachelor's degree in English literature.

In 2014, she was awarded British Artist of the Year, and later that year was appointed as a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador. She immediately pushed to launch the UN Women campaign, an initiative to call men to advocate for equal rights and opportunities for both men and women and making them feel comfortable calling themselves feminists. Characterizing the feminist movement as “an unstoppable current,” Emma has globalized the project; aimed at challenging gender stereotypes “from the ground up.” She has also established the Emma Watson Scholarship, and now selects budding activists from around the world, including Jordan, Angola and Albania.

Yet the road hasn’t been easy. In launching her HeForShe gender equality solidarity movement she said, “My best hopes and my worst fears were confirmed all at once. I had opened a Pandora's Box to a standing ovation and almost simultaneously to a level of critique I had never experienced in my life and the beginning of a series of threats.”

At the One Young World summit in 2016 Emma was philosophical, and offered audiences a clue in how she has navigated her work to secure real progress towards a gender equal world.

“Take a moment,” she said. “You can keep your eyes closed or keep them open, and ask yourself if these have any truth for you in them:

I am willing to be seen.
I am willing to speak up.
I am willing to keep going.
I am willing to listen to what others have to say.
I am willing to go forward even when I feel alone.
I am willing to go to bed each night, at peace with myself.
I am willing to be my biggest, best-est, most powerful self.”

Continuing, she explained, “These seven statements scare the absolute shit out of me. But I know that they are at the crux of it all. At the end of the day, and when all is said and done, I know that these are the ways that I want to have lived my life.”

Thank you, Emma Watson, for your mix of spunk and grace, and for your willingness to lead.

What about you? Who are the people whose lives and works have influenced and inspired you?

Please let us know, and from everyone at The Breast Archives, Happy Thanksgiving!

PAINTING THE INHERENT BEAUTY OF THE DIVINE FEMININE: ARTIST PATRICIA M. BOWERS

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One ordinary day Meagan Murphy was sitting at her desk at WGBY-TV, where she worked as a television producer. As she surfed the ‘Net and munched on a salad an image embedded in an article caught her eye. She clicked it, and was re-directed to the website of Patricia M. Bowers.

The site was filled with captivating and hauntingly beautiful art, and Meagan ordered several prints. Later the two struck up a friendship, and Meagan learned about Patricia’s distinctive artistic process as well as her impassioned connection with the land of Egypt. When a proposed itinerary for a trip down the Nile arrived from Patricia a few weeks later, Meagan signed on. It would be a fateful voyage, and an impetus for the documentary, The Breast Archives.

 Patricia’s life as an artist began as a young child in a one-room schoolhouse in rural Canada. She didn’t know it then, but she had dyslexia and dyscalculia. Her teacher called her stupid. But there was one area in which she excelled: Patricia could draw anything. She didn’t know how she did it; she just knew that she could. She was often called upon to decorate the bulletin boards and enjoyed the validation and praise she received for her art. At 17, with no portfolio but some drawings on scraps of paper, Patricia was admitted to community college, where she found herself valued in a community of like-minded peers. She was finally able to express herself through art.

When Patricia moved to California in 1993, it was a difficult and challenging time to live in the Golden State. Plagued by earthquakes and wildfires, there were also racial tensions culminating in the trial of OJ Simpson. And then Patricia had a revelation that she was surrounded by an energy that protected her. When she felt a message from the Energy that told her to leave California, she listened and headed for Florida (where she now happily resides).

Shortly after arriving in St. Petersburg, and influenced by her new passion for drum circles, meditation and Reiki, Patricia painted her first mandala. She began to see herself as a conduit as she painted - not from her mind, but from her heart and her soul. Now, when she left paintings unfinished, everything needed to complete the canvases would come to her as visions in her dreams. She began to paint fairies, and the simple stick figures she remembered drawing as a child. She began to paint women.

These images are what filmmaker Meagan Murphy saw, and what attracted her to Patricia’s work. They are also what called Meagan to travel to Egypt, and what would lead her to a particular temple in that ancient land. It was in that hallowed site called “Philae;” a place that had borne witness to millennia, that Meagan heard a mysterious voice say, “Within the breasts there is contained an ancient wisdom.”

That experience left Meagan forever changed. “Patricia was a lynchpin for an enormous transformation in my life. And when I set out to make the film, I knew I wanted her artwork, and those otherworldly women in her paintings, to somehow be part of the film.”

Patricia immediately agreed to the collaboration and provided the beautiful images that viewers now see throughout The Breast Archives. “I am proud to be a part of the film,” Patricia says, “and happy to help in any way.”

“Patricia’s very feminine images within the film are profound, because they provide an oasis for viewers to reflect on their own humanity,” says Meagan.

“Because I am a woman, I celebrate women,” Patricia says. “I see beauty in their forms. Their breasts are intriguing, interesting curves that bring proportion and dimension to their bodies. They create light and space.” Now a mature artist, Patricia creates pieces that celebrate the sacred geometry in all things. She believes that tapping into this ancient wisdom awakens our humanity and that it helps activate an ancient knowledge and memory that we all carry in the hearts of our being.

We agree.

See more of the intuitive and visionary art of Patricia M. Bowers in The Breast Archives and at patriciambowers.com.

SEXUAL HARRASSMENT & SISTERHOOD

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What a week it’s been! With the non-stop coverage of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, news about women has managed to push Washington, DC off the front page. In case you haven’t caught up yet, here’s a recap:

  • The New York Times and the New Yorker both published articles containing decades of allegations of sexual harassment against Hollywood super-mogul Harvey Weinstein from multiple sources.
  • Within days, Weinstein had been fired from the company he founded, his wife announced her intention to file for divorce, and he fled the country, ostensibly to enter treatment for sex addiction.

As the story grew, more and more people weighed in. Female celebrities, including Lupita Nyong'o, Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Mira Sorvino began to share their stories of sexual harassment and abuse at Weinstein’s hands. The men of Hollywood expressed their outrage and support. They were applauded for their feminism, although some caught backlash for the patriarchal way they did so at the same time that the women were upbraided, as if their silence were complicity.

Women’s silence around sexual assault and harassment is a byproduct of the oppressive patriarchy they are subjected to. It was born centuries ago in a society in which women’s virginity was a prized possession of their fathers. Rape was a weapon that men wielded against other men, both in society and in war. Women were routinely to make them unmarriageable and to render the paternity of their children suspect. Of course women learned to keep their violations secret.

As we moved into professional spaces, a new kind of violation occurred: sexual harassment became commonplace. Women learned to accept it as part of the cost of their new place in society. We were taught that it was about our desirability, but it never was. Women of every age and physical time were vicitimized.

In a facebook post on October 11, the writer Ijeoma Oluo summed it up well, writing, “So Harvey Weinstein is apparently leaving the country for treatment for sex addiction. Please understand this: it's not sex he's addicted to. Weinstein is addicted to abusing women, to humiliating women, to violating women. Weinstein is addicted to power and his ability to abuse it. Just because Weinstein uses sexual acts to inflict abuse upon women, does not mean that it has anything to do with sex. Don't allow the dialogue around Weinstein to perpetrate the harmful belief that sexual assault is about sex. It never is.” The actress Emma Thomson spoke of this to the BBC, stating, “He’s not a sex addict. He’s a predator.”

Sexual harassment has always been about men’s power over women. It’s been about keeping us in our place and ensuring our vulnerability. It was a new, less invasive kind of rape and, with centuries of practice under our belts, women learned once again to keep men’s ugly secrets. We didn’t tell our bosses, who were often the perpetrators. We didn’t even tell each other.

Finally, that’s beginning to change. A tremendous ripple has been created and women are speaking out. Across the internet, women are beginning to share their own stories on social media. Many are using the twitter hashtags #MeToo, #sexualharassment, #NOTokay, and #WeinsteinMoment.

Women know that when we stand alone we are vulnerable to attack and criticism. Together however, we are formidable indeed.

And in our diversity of age, race, religion, sexual identity and political ideology, we transcend further into Sisterhood. How does Sisterhood form? By sharing honestly, taking risks, supporting one another and claiming/re-claiming OUR OWN FORM OF POWER.

What’s your deepest story? Who else knows it? Do you know your mother’s stories? Your sister’s? Your friend’s? If not, the time is now to share and to ask!

Host an evening! Invite other women to bare their souls and, if your intuition green-lights it, make it ‘top optional.’ Our breasts are a powerful portal for bonding, so ask the women you love to join you in cultivating an environment of trust and community. And know deeply that YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Uncovering Our True Selves: It’s Time to Get Naked

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The Breast Archives’ debut screening at Northampton’s beautiful and historic Academy of Music was a magical event. The evening was the culmination of four years of hard work and dedication, not only to the project, but also to the community of women it serves.

Of course, it was exciting to sit in the theater surrounded by the love and support of hundreds of women and their companions, but it was even more thrilling to watch those same women love and support each other. The women of The Breast Archives took the stage for a panel discussion at the film’s conclusion, fielding questions and sharing their experiences. Their candor was inspiring to all in attendance, especially to the women who were moved to remove their tops and bare their breasts as the conversation took place.

This got me to thinking:

  • What happens when we spend time with other women?
  • What is it like to really see each other?
  • What changes when we take our tops off and spend time together, naked and vulnerable, but without being sexualized?

Whether alone, with an intimate partner, or in the company of other women, there are many proven benefits to spending time undressed:

  • We become more comfortable with ourselves. So many women struggle with body image issues and hide behind their clothes, even from themselves. Being naked forces us to confront ourselves as we truly are, and to learn to love what we see.
  • Naked time outside promotes physical health. While the weather is still warm, spend a few minutes in the woods or on the deck without clothes. Soak in the sun’s warm rays and the vitamins A and D.
  • Being naked encourages intimacy. When we’re naked, we become vulnerable. Our true selves are uncovered. We allow our authentic selves to be revealed.
  • Our happiness increases when we are naked. Although it may take a little while to get there, there is a correlation between the amount of time that women spend undressed and their levels of self-esteem.
  • Nakedness makes us brave. Even in a supportive, non-restrictive environment like the one we created together at the debut, can you imagine the courage it takes for a woman to take her top off in front of over a thousand strangers?

When we combine those experiences with the strength generated by women coming together in community, something really powerful happens. Alex*, a writer living in Vermont, says that spending time with other women, “helps [her] understand how similar we all are -- how life, time, and experience soften us, and how vulnerable we actually are under our everyday armor.”

Being naked with other women helps us see what we have in common, rather than focusing on what makes us different from one another. We feel less competition, more sisterhood.

So, how about it? Invite your friends over this weekend, and ask them to check their t-shirts at the door. It might feel a bit awkward for a few minutes but it’s going to become increasingly comfortable as time moves on. Soon, it’ll feel natural…as it should!

Breast Care Tips for Women

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Breast Care Tips for Women

When it comes to breast care, most of us aren’t taught much beyond Breast Self-Exam for cancer detection. But what happens when the only time we spend interacting with our breasts is a few minutes each month making sure that they’re not trying to kill us? We become disconnected. We learn to see our breasts as something other than the source of our power and beauty, separate from ourselves. We see our breasts as the enemy.

Breast Massage

How about trying something new this month? How about treating yourself and your breasts with love? Breast massage, which allows you to feel a new depth of love and appreciation for yourself, is a great place to start.

  • According to Japanese tradition, regular care of the breast fosters lymph drainage, which is important for immunity and tumor prevention.
  • Regular nipple and breast massage releases oxytocin, also known as the “love molecule,” which is believed to be highly critical in human pair-bonding.
  • Developing a strong connection with your breasts can lead to a better understanding of the organs, glands, meridians, and chakras.
  • Use a dedicated cream for moisturizing your breasts while sending visions of wellbeing across your heart center.
  • Incorporating tender breast care in your self-care regimen can become a spiritual practice.
  • Massage your nipples regularly. Healthy nipples are associated with a healthier vagina.
  • Rub your hands together vigorously to generate positive energy before you massage and care for your breasts.
  • Remember to massage the muscles around your breasts. Well-toned pectoral muscles allow deep breathing, reduce depression, and support vibrant, healthy breasts.

Choose Unrestrictive Clothing

Are you wearing clothing that loves your breasts? Avoid constricting bras and clothing that can block the flow of energy. Stagnation can lead to cyst formation. Further, the jury’s still out on a possible link between bras and breast cancer. In Dressed to Kill: The Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras, researchers conclude that there is a correlation between the number of hours a day women wear bras and their risk of developing cancer. Underwires, which can conduct radiation, may exacerbate the situation. Choose the bra that is most comfortable and least restrictive, and wear it only when you need to.

Resist Unnecessary Mammograms

You can do more than breast self-exam to stay healthy. In A Challenging Second Opinion, John McDougall M.D. writes, “The human organ most sensitive to the cancer causing effects of radiation is the female breast. The softer the tissue, the more susceptible it is to the effects of radiation.” If your doctor recommends a diagnostic mammogram, make sure you understand why it’s appropriate and necessary. Consider thermography as an alternative for routine care.

Talk About Your Breasts

Our society teaches women to be ashamed of our breasts. We’re taught to cover ourselves and silence our voices. Resist! Talk about your breasts. Share your breast stories with the people you love.

 

 

Topless Beaches

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TOPLESS BEACHES

In The Breast Archives, Petra Roelofs, one of the nine women who so boldly share their stories, tells us of her first visit to the beach after moving to the United States from the Netherlands as a young woman:

"My sister and I … I believe I was… my early 20’s, she was 3 years younger… we came to America for the first time on vacation and went to L.A., and we were so happy to see the beach and be out of the plane… like a 12 hour ride… and so we were ready to go in the ocean and so we took everything off except our bikini underwear, so to speak, and… topless. I mean, that’s what we were used to in Holland and other places in Europe where we would go on vacation -- But before we could even reach the water, there was a lifeguard running after us, right away. And we’re like, “What’s going on?” And he realized that we were visiting, and were from Europe, and so he took us back to our parents and explained to them: “I could have arrested them, I could have fined them; this is big deal. Can you please tell your daughters to put on their tops?” And I remember this feeling that we had done something wrong."images-1

This summer, Ocean City, Maryland is playing host to a Battle of the Breasts, but it’s not a wet t-shirt contest at one of the local bars. Rather, it’s a legal fight over whether or not women can sunbathe topless on the city’s famed white sand beaches. On one side is Mayor Rick Meehan, who says, “We will not allow women to be topless on our beach or on any public property within city limits.” On the other is Chelsea Covington, an activist who has submitted a 78-page legal brief that pressed the county and state on women's right to sunbathe bare-chested. Currently, police are looking the other way when women go topless at the beach, but that could change.

As we enjoy the beautiful New England summer, this got us thinking about women going topless on the beach. Who does it? Where? How do they feel about it? We reached out to some friends to learn more about their experiences.

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Many women take advantage of the anonymity afforded by travel to enjoy topless sunbathing. The first to speak up was Debra, a massage therapist living in Maryland. She said, “I’ve been to topless/nude beaches in Majorca, St. Martin, and Anguilla. I didn't go totally nude but did go topless. It appears that it’s just the U.S. with the hang up on nudity.”

Jenn is a lesbian from Brooklyn. She has been to many topless and nude beaches, especially during trips to Fire Island, home to a vibrant gay summer vacation community. In reflecting on her experiences, she was interested to note that, while she has been to gay women’s beaches and mixed queer beaches, she’s been most comfortable disrobing on straight beaches. She says, “I am a larger woman with a short, masculine haircut, three tattoos, and hairy legs and armpits. Although my breasts are very large, on a straight beach, I am ‘other,’ and not part of then men’s gaze. I have no relationship with being sexualized. I am much more cognizant of my body shape, size, and everything else among my queer peers.”

Some women make their choices about going topless based on who is with them. Sharon is a working mother from Seattle. She once went to a topless beach on a vacation with her best friend. “I could only be comfortable taking my top off either in front of someone I knew intimately or a bunch of strangers,” she said, “Never someone I knew casually!” Debra tells of a trip to Europe on which she and her husband were joined by another couple. The group went together to a nude spa in Czechoslovakia. When asked if she was uncomfortable with a male acquaintance seeing her breasts, she replied, “He sees mine, I see his…what’s the big deal?” On the other hand, Jenn says that, while New York City law makes it entirely legal for women to be topless on the beach, she avoids the one where she is most likely to encounter co-workers. She doesn’t so much care that they are topless but she feels that, because her breasts are large, she is “more topless” than others and that it’s awkward to share that with co-workers, especially those who report to her.

Sometimes, a visit to a topless beach is a life-changing experience. One of our favorite stories comes from Jackie, a writer who lives in Connecticut. When Jackie was 20, she spent a year living in Paris. Her French boyfriend Alex spoke Spanish, and the two of them took a trip to Barcelona. Jackie says, “I have always had particularly severe body issues. Alex was such a kind soul. Others invalidated my body issues. They said, ‘You have a beautiful body!’ but he said, ‘What if you just start loving your body the way it is and go from there?’” When Jackie and Alex got to Barcelona, they went straight to the beach. Jackie says, “I realized that not everyone on the beach was gorgeous. There were old people, fat people, women with saggy breasts, and I thought, ‘Ok! I can do this.’ First I took off my top and lay on my stomach so just my back was showing but, after a while, we were playing cards and hanging out and it was no big deal.” Jackie had such a good time that she didn’t realize how much sun she was getting. “Suddenly,” she says, “ I had a feeling like every cell in my body was cooking, like I was in a microwave!” By the time we got back to the hotel, I was turning purple and my eyes were swelling shut. I had to spend the whole next day or two inside. But it’s a sign of how comfortable I had become that I lost all track of time. Not only did I go for it, I forgot that I was going for it. I lost all sense of body consciousness, to the point that I literally let myself catch on fire!”

This year, Petra moved back to her home in Holland after many years in the U.S. She and her boyfriend too his daughters, aged 12 and 14, to the beach this summer. The first thing that Petra noticed was that fewer women were choosing to go topless than she remembered from beach trips years ago. A 2014 Guardian article backs up her observation. For reasons including fashion, cancer concerns, and social media, fewer European women are taking their tops off than did years ago. Holly, of Portland, Oregon, agrees. “In this era of a camera in every hand, and the Internet, no way.” Petra offers one more possible cause for the change: “If they don’t have a mother or another women to show them that this is ok, then they choose the other image.”

On their excursion, Petra removed her top after swimming, as she prefers to do. She says she just likes the way it feels. “I feel it’s natural when I go into the ocean and I put on the top and when it’s wet I take it off and I’m exposed to the sun topless.” The girls are used to going to the beach with their mother, who prefers not to be topless, but were very interested in what Petra was doing. The younger girl, who is not yet developed, took off her top, saying, “Dad takes his off, and I am equal!” The older daughter, whose breasts have grown, declined to do so, but Petra was pleased nonetheless. “I am just happy that she knows that she is allowed, that she has a choice.”

Herbs and Supplements for Breast Health

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By now, we all know that the best way to support overall well-being is through a proper diet – one that provides us with all of the vitamins and trace minerals that our bodies need. In an ideal world, we would eat organically and seasonally every day and take the time to experience and savor each meal. In reality, that’s hard for many women. We’re doing the best we can to juggle the demands of careers, family, volunteer commitments, and more. Sometimes we have to grab a bite as we’re running out the door and eat in the car, but we can still prioritize our health! Careful supplement choices can maximize breast health and minimize our risk of cancer. Please keep in mind that it’s essential to have a current physical and to work closely with your health care professional when beginning or altering any course of supplements.

Remember… none of this will take the place of a balanced, plant-based, organic diet. But if you want to make sure that you’re taking in as much goodness as you can to combat some of the toxins in your environment, supplements are a good place to start. Read on to learn more about the most common recommendations, and about some lesser-known, but very effective options.
Where Should I Start?

Supplement with a multivitamin daily! Take a comprehensive multivitamin/mineral supplement that is rich in antioxidants, including vitamin C, E, B-complex, D, beta-carotene is a must. Choose one that is organic, gluten-free and contains no GMO’s.

Antioxidants including vitamins A, C, D, and E help the cells in your breasts fight cellular inflammation, which can be a precursor to breast cancer.

Vitamin D is especially important for breast health. A study from the University of California reported that “Researchers estimate 250,000 cases of colon cancer and 350,000 cases of breast cancer could be prevented worldwide by increasing intake of vitamin D.” Studies show that women with optimal levels of vitamin D have a lower risk of breast cancer. Your Vitamin D blood level should be at least 40 milligrams per milliliter. See your doctor and get a blood test to determine your level. If it’s low, talk with your doctor about the best strategy for to raise it. Sunlight spurs production of vitamin D in the skin, and people who don’t get much sun exposure tend to have lower levels of the vitamin. Get outside and be prepared to take supplements.

Omega-3 fatty acids have also been associated with a lower risk of breast problems. Populations in countries that consume high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids from fish have lower incidences of breast, prostate and colon cancer than people in countries that consume less omega-3s. The theory is that Omega-3’s work to reduce risk in several ways, from reducing the effect of estrogen-like compounds to decreasing inflammation. Fermented Cod Liver Oil is a good source of Omega-3s as are wild caught fish and grass-fed meats.

 

I’m Getting All That Already! What Else Can I Add to my Supplement Regiment to Promote Breast Health?

Iodine and breast health are related, as discussed in Breast Cancer and Iodine by David M. Derry, MD, PhD. As iodine is also often tied to thyroid function, this is another reason that balancing hormones is so important for many women.

Alpha lipoic acid is a versatile antioxidant that is both fat- and water-soluble. It has the ability to neutralize the toxic effects of radiation and chemotherapy as well as recycle other antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E.

N-acetylcysteine (NAC), breaks down to glutathione in the body and promotes breast health. The same is true of whey protein.

Melatonin is a sleep-regulating hormone that decreases with age that may also support breast health.

Immunomodulators, such as coenzyme Q10, promote a healthy immune system, which is essential for long-term breast health.
What About Herbs?

Essiac tea contains herbs such as burdock root, sheep's sorrel, slippery elm bark and others, and is regarded as a potent tonic and detoxifier that supports the body's natural defenses. You can find it in most health-food stores.

Fenugreek contains mild plant estrogens that may increase healthy breast tissue. Legend has it that, centuries ago, harem women were fed these seeds to make them more buxom.

Curcumin, an extract from Turmeric, is a potent antioxidant that has also been found to help boost breast health. It is available in capsule form, or it can be obtained by adding turmeric to the diet in cooking or in a daily cup of Turmeric Tea.

Astragalus functions in your immune system both as a modulator and as an adaptogen. This means it has the capacity to tune your immune function up or down, as appropriate.

Saw Palmetto and Wild Yam are often also recommended by naturopathic physicians as natural breast enlargers.

Diet and Breast Health: What’s the Connection?

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A Conversation with Leslie Cerier, “The Organic Gourmet”

(Leslie is featured in The Breast Archives documentary)

Thousands of years ago in ancient Greece, Hippocrates wrote, “Let food be thy medicine.” Those words are as true today as they were then. The choices that we make at the grocery store and the farmer’s market have a clear effect on the health of our breasts. Read on to learn more my recent interview with Leslie Cerier, one of the nine women who bravely bared her body and soul in The Breast Archives. Leslie is an internationally recognized, organic farm to table vegetarian chef, educator, cookbook author, recipe developer, consultant, and award-winning nature photographer. Every day, she cooks gourmet, seasonal, vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free meals for health and pleasure as a way to inspire others to discover and embody delicious living. Leslie joyfully offers retreats and B&B stays in her beautiful passive solar home.

-Meagan

 

Q: What is the relationship between diet and breast health?

A: Our diet keeps our whole immune system strong, and of course that includes our breasts. You know, many people think of food scientifically, in terms of calories and molecular building blocks. As a woman with healthy breasts, who prepares delicious and nourishing food as medicine for myself and others, when I cook for women with breast cancer, I take a less cerebral approach. What you eat creates a connection for your whole health. I think that it’s all about having a good connection to Mother Nature as the source of your food, and to the organic farmers whose farming practices sustain the planet upon which it’s grown. Eating locally and seasonally is about going to the farmer’s market, joining a (CSA) Community Supported Agricultural farm, or planting a little garden of your own. It’s about the art of self care, which includes nourishment on every level and sustaining the circle of life on our plates.

 

Q: What is the relationship between diet and breast cancer?

A: Well, there are two: one is the link between what we eat and the development of breast cancer, and the other is the link between our diets and recovery from breast cancer.

If you eat fake or unnatural food that is toxic, your system can develop all kinds of ailments including breast cancer. We see cancer in women who eat a lot of processed junk food, in women who live near farms and orchards that are routinely sprayed with pesticides, and in women who get so caught up in physically and emotionally feeding others that they offer themselves only scraps.

As a private chef, I have done a lot of medicinal cooking for women with breast cancer. So many of the women that I’ve worked with have found healing in changing their diets to more whole, real, organic food.

 

Q: How has our understanding of the relationship between diet and breast health evolved over the past several years?

A: There is much more information out there now! When I began cooking for people with breast cancer in the late 1980’s, certain healing diets were popular — macrobiotic diets, the Gershon Diet, and the like. I offered my clients delicious food for healing and many had the same epiphany: “Oh my gosh, I’m now eating and serving real food!” People thought I was radical back then, but it’s much more mainstream thinking now because the public is so much more educated.

The bottom line is that cooking from the heart makes the tastiest meals and eating is a pleasure. I choose to focus on eating local, seasonal, organic foods that are not just good for you and me, but also pleasurable, delicious and good for the planet.

 

Q: What are some foods that promote breast health?

A: I especially love wild and organically certified sea vegetables such as nori, dulce, arame, and kelp. They contain every mineral! I like to use them in Miso Soup with Ramen Noodles. It’s a delicious recipe that extracts heavy metals and toxins from the body, and gives you vitamins and minerals back.

Naturally fermented foods such as pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir and kombucha are great choices. They encourage healthy gut flora and strengthen the immune system. Whole gluten free grains such as quinoa, millet, teff, and amaranth are high fiber and lower in acid than grains with gluten like wheat. They provide B vitamins, which reduce stress.

Superfoods such as cacao, maca, coconut, hemp and goji berries are also good for the breasts and promote overall health.

 

Q: What are some foods that are detrimental to breast health?

A: Junk food! Stay away from GMO’s, white sugar, and artificial foods with preservatives. Eat the rainbow of organic, seasonal fruits and vegetables. Eating foods that are alkalizing will help the body establish and maintain balance and will reduce inflammation. Good news: so is a glass of organic wine once in a while!

 

Q: What are different foods for breast health at different ages and stages of life?

A: I am post-menopausal, and I went through menopause with no hot flashes or discomfort. I eat a lot of organic beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. I also eat a ton of organic vegetables and fruits in season and grass raised organic local eggs and cheeses. I’m careful to choose organic healthy fats such as avocados, hemp seeds, and extra virgin coconut and olive oils. Toxins tend to reside in fats, so it’s especially important to select them carefully. Plus, when we choose local organic foods such as eggs, cheeses, veggies and fruits, we reduce our carbon footprint, which is good for the whole planet.

 

 Q: What else would you like readers to know?

A: Ultimately, things catch up with us. Unexpressed emotions, bad food choices, everything. We can’t run away from ourselves. Before I shop or cook, I ask myself questions:

  • What do I want to eat?
  • Am I nourishing myself with food, or using it as a weapon against myself?
  • Where am I getting my food?
  • Are my food choices enhancing my energy, stamina, and pleasure?
  • Am I building community by connecting with farmers?

Your relationship with the land is deeply nourishing. Remember to get outside in nature to de-stress!

Ultimately what I want women to hear is this: You must engage in the art of self care. Make sure that you are getting the most luscious possible experience preparing, eating and digesting your meals. You deserve it.

 

 

Touching Your Breasts with Love: The Art and Science of Personal Breast Care

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Women’s health expert Dr. Christiane Northrup says, “Our task as women is to learn, minute by minute, to respect ourselves and our bodies. Whether our breasts are small or large, perky or droopy, whether we have implants or lumps, or have had a mastectomy, all of ‘the girls’ are wonderful – and a source of nourishment and pleasure for both ourselves and others.”

I agree! Unfortunately, many women don’t feel so positively about their breasts. Even worse, most don’t offer themselves the regular breast care practices that can help them develop a loving bond with their bodies and manage the wellbeing of their breasts. The good news is that, with some contemplation and a little bit of education, we can all step forward on the physical and emotional path to deliberate breast health.

 

Breast Massage

Breast care is a hands-on affair! However, we must remember to be gentle with ourselves. Dr. Northrup suggests that when we touch our breasts, we remember to do so “with respect and caring.” We must begin with gratitude that our breasts are part of our bodies, and refrain from approaching our monthly exams with a “search-and-destroy mentality.”

We can massage our breasts as often as we like, even daily! We may not be in the habit of offering ourselves this kindness, but it’s a bit of gentle self-care that’s easy to add to our morning or evening routines. Here are three great benefits of breast massage:

  1. Promote Breast Health: According to the Texas Institute of Functional Medicine, breast massage is a viable way to release toxins from the body’s lymphatic system. Toxins can become trapped within the fat cells of breast tissue, increasing chances of cancer and restricting blood flow into the breast. Massaging the breasts gives the lymphatic system a boost and facilitates in the draining of breast tissue. Massaging also helps to break up benign cysts contained within breasts.

How to: After you’ve dried off from a bath or shower, lie down on your bed and massage the breasts right away. This will serve both as a self-exam and as a preventative procedure. Always pay special attention to the area under the armpit where the lymph nodes reside. “Massaging this area will assist in ridding your body of toxins, while increasing blood flow and life energy,” says Northrup. “Every cell in the breasts and other organs is bathed in lymph. Lymph carries nutrients and immune cells throughout the body and filters waste products through the lymph nodes, where they can be detoxified. Stimulating lymph circulation through regular massage of the breast and chest wall area can help maintain healthy breast tissue.”

  1. Reduce Tenderness: Breasts can become sore or swollen and cause discomfort at various points during the monthly cycle. Breast massage is an easy way to alleviate swelling and ease the soreness of the muscles underneath fatty tissues.

How to: Use small circular motions with all four fingers and press firmly to massage every part of the breasts for at least five minutes. You can do this with both hands on one breast at a time, or do them both at one if you’re in a hurry.

  1. Sexual Arousal: Did you know that many women can have orgasms from nothing more than breast and nipple stimulation? (Don’t worry if you can’t…it’s not a contest. All orgasms are good orgasms!) Breasts are an erogenous zone for many women and can bring about great sexual pleasure. In fact, breasts can swell up to 25 percent when a woman is aroused. Researchers from the Journal of Sexual Medicine, found that “women’s brains seem to process nipple and genital stimulation in the same way.”

How to: Use Breast Balm or a scented oil to massage the breasts simultaneously or individually. Use a variety of massage methods. Cup the breasts in the hands; use the fingers to knead. What happens if you focus on the nipples? Try different techniques! Remain in constant communication with your partner to know what feels right.

 

Breast Balm

“The nerves from the breasts are connected to all the major organs and glands of the body.”

Mantak Chia, Healing Love through the Tao – Cultivating Female Sexual Energy

Our breasts are an important part of our life journeys as women. Caring for our breasts in a loving and tender way deepens our relationships with them while bolstering their health and vitality. Many women will be challenged in some way by compromised breast health during their lives. That might be something as simple as diminished “consciousness” or cystic breasts, or as profound as treatment associated with breast cancer. Regardless, we are better prepared to withstand that moment when we are engaged in a language of love with our breasts. I enjoy all-natural Breast Balm as an important part of that relationship.

Our breasts undergo monthly changes each month, and may be tender or lumpy at different points in that cycle. Regularly massaging Breast Balm into our breasts enhances our awareness of normal and natural changes and sharpens our ability to notice differences and irregularities requiring professional attention. In addition to fostering a positive relationship with our breasts, Breast Balm firms and invigorates breast tissue, moisturizes and softens the skin, and gently cleanses our lymph systems.

 

Hydrotherapy

Hydrotherapy is a fantastic complement to Breast Massage. First practiced in ancient Greece, hydrotherapy uses the power of water to strengthen and detoxify the bodies’ immune system. Science has also found that a watery massage, especially with contrasting temperatures, increases blood circulation and the production of collagen and other skin proteins.

How to: Shower as us usual, and then allow your breasts to receive a steady stream of warm water for several minutes. Next, switch the shower to the coldest temperature you can manage and allow your breasts to respond to this contrast; 1-3 minutes. Repeat this action 3 times, always finishing with cold water. The key to the effectiveness of this therapy is the alternation of hot and cold water, which stimulates the immune and circulatory systems – to name a few!

 


 

In ancient traditions, the breasts of a woman were seen not only as holy but also as a physical extension of her heart. Take a few minutes today (and every day) to treat your body as the sacred temple it is…I do! Give your breasts this well-deserved attention. Massage them tenderly with a dedicated cream. Experiment with hydrotherapy. Look at your breasts in the mirror without judgment or criticism. Tell them that you love them…and mean it.

 

Thermography: A More Effective, Less Dangerous Way to Monitor Breast Health

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by Meagan Murphy

Since embarking on my journey as Director of The Breast Archives, I have talked to hundreds of women about their breasts. Sadly, one of the topics that comes up repeatedly is breast cancer. Every time I screen the film, women speak with me about their breast health. Some want to share their difficult journeys with me; others just want to talk about their fears. Last month, a woman told me about the discomfort and fear she experienced at her recent mammogram. She said, “My aunt had breast cancer. I worry that, because my doctor is concerned about my family history, I am exposing myself to radiation by getting mammograms year after year. I can’t decide which is the greater risk.” I suggested thermography as a safer alternative to an annual mammogram and, as if often the case, it was the first time they’d heard the term; “Thermography? What’s that? I’ve never heard of it.”

 

What Is Breast Thermography?

Breast thermography is a 15-minute infrared technology that visualizes and measures heat activity in the body. Early detection of disease is possible with absolutely no radiation and no body contact. The procedure can assess breast cancer risk, which is something mammography cannot do. Mammography is a test of anatomy. It can only detect mass. Thermography, on the other hand, can detect the inflammation that occurs before a mass is formed. Thus, one of the most promising aspects of thermography is its potential to spot anomalies years before mammography can, because it can detect changes at a cellular level.

Cancers, even in their earliest stages, need nutrients to maintain or accelerate their growth. This “feeding” activates blood vessels and increases surface temperature in the affected region, creating distinct heat patterns. These can be detected through thermography, which measures subtle differences in skin temperature. Through this imaging, thermography can detect abnormalities associated not only with cancer, but also with infection, fibrocystic disease, or other pathology. It can also detect lymphatic congestion—so important for women.

 

A Certified Clinical Thermographer’s View

According to Dale Thomas, CCT and owner of Healthy Body Thermography, “What our clients love most about getting a thermogram is that there is no compression. No cold glass, no pain. Just a specially designed camera on a tripod that takes infrared pictures of their body. Quick and easy.” Thomas is in business with her sister, Leslie Bowden, and together, they own and manage several thermography clinics in both Southern New Jersey and New England.

“Because it is a very safe space for women, where they have our full attention and care,” Thomas further revealed to me, “they share all kinds of personal things with us. And probably the most rewarding part of our work is how grateful they are to have found us. We have a broad range of clients, from breast cancer survivors who just refuse to get one more ounce of radiation, to women—younger and older, who want to monitor their breast or overall health on a yearly basis and be one step ahead of any risk. We get lots of hugs.”

 

The Benefits of Thermography

  • Thermography poses no risk of radiation or other injury to the body.
  • Studies show that a thermogram can identify precancerous or cancerous cells even earlier than a mammogram.
  • No referral is required. Medical doctors, called thermologists, who are specially trained to interpret the thermograms, create a report from the images, which goes directly to the person whose thermogram it is.
  • Thermography produces unambiguous results which cut down on additional testing.
  • Thermography is a tool of prevention. It shows inflammation anywhere in the body. And while not designed for self-interpretation, a woman can see where there is heat or coolness on the torso, affording the opportunity to work with a holistic practitioner to make lifestyle adjustments for maximum wellbeing before medical intervention is required.

 

The Risks of Mammography

Because current statistics indicate that 1 in 7 American women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime, tracking the health of our breasts is more important now than ever.  Mammography may not be the best tool for the job. Mammography has its place; it can nail down the precise location of a tumor.  But as a regular monitoring tool, it is an unwise choice as the toxic effects of mammogram radiation is finally being acknowledged as a significant factor in the development of breast cancer.

  • 80 percent of breast lumps are non-cancerous.
  • 70 percent of breast cancers are found through breast self-exams, rather than mammography.
  • While family history is a factor in breast cancer risk, it is overemphasized. More than 75% of women with breast cancer have no family history of the disease and less than 10% have a known gene mutation that increases risk. (National Breast Cancer Coalition)
  • In 2010, the New England Journal of Medicine, published the first study in years on the efficacy of mammograms. It found that routine mammograms reduced cancer death rates by only 0.4 deaths per 1,000 women, an amount so small it might as well be zero.
  • Mammograms carry an unacceptably high rate of false positive results: up to six percent. These false positives then lead to repeat screenings, more radiation exposure, and often invasive and unnecessary procedures including biopsies and chemotherapy. According to the NEJM, 1.3 million women had unnecessary biopsies in 2010.
  • The more mammograms you have the more harm they do. Christine Northrup “guarantees” that, if you have a mammogram every year for 10 years you’ll also have a biopsy.
  • American women are increasingly undergoing bilateral mastectomies for Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS), most commonly “detected” by mammograms. DCIS is a condition of abnormal and non-cancerous cells contained within the breast’s milk ducts that have not spread to tissues nearby. It is categorized as a “pre-cancerous” condition by conventional medicine – doctors who like to take the narrative an extra step by classifying it as a ticking time bomb. In fact, it is a called zero stage cancer and has emerged in part because high-resolution mammograms pick it up on breast cancer screening tests. These DCIS diagnoses have increased the number of women being diagnosed with cancer by over 60,000 annually. They now represent about 25% of screen detected breast cancer…and huge profits for the medical industrial complex. Christine Northrup says that the problem is that women have been trained to be so afraid of breast cancer that they’ll often willingly sacrifice their breasts just to relieve their anxiety—or what other doctors call “surveillance fatigue.”

 

Ask Your Health Care Professional About Thermography

Isn't it ironic that the mammogram—the principle diagnostic test given to women to help detect and prevent breast cancer—is responsible for increasing women's risk for developing it? Do some research of your own (more links are below) and then self-advocate. Talk to your nurse or doctor about thermography today. Make the switch from mammography to thermography. I did it years ago, and I’ve never looked back.

 

Read More

http://www.drnorthrup.com/best-breast-cancer-screening-tests/

http://www.thermologyonline.org/breast/breast_thermography_what.htm

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/christiane-northrup/the-best-breast-test-the-_b_752503.html

https://draxe.com/thermography/