There are many reasons why medical professionals claim that breast cancer is affecting a younger generation of women than ever before and why it is the second leading cancer in women. Lung cancer just tops this. Much of the UK media are covering the release of data that indicates breast cancer rates in the under-50s are now at a record high with one in five diagnosed breast cancer cases now being in women under this age. Breast Cancer UK states that 'possible explanations for the increases are speculated to be due to known hormonal risk factors for cancer – such as having children later in life. Increased alcohol intake, could also be involved'.
Other speculated factors I have heard are a highly processed diet, high intake of sugar, smoking, meat based diet, lack of exercise etc.
I don’t tick any of those boxes.
I had my children at 28 and 30 respectively, not late in life but maybe later than some. I barely drink. I have been a vegetarian for years and in more recent years, a vegan on a fairly unprocessed diet, an average western intake of sugar (I love cake but definitely nothing to write home about), I have never smoked, I am a professional choreographer and fitness instructor and I have run the London Marathon twice. I do not carry the BRCA gene meaning I am not predisposed to developing breast cancer although admittedly there was an increased risk of ovarian cancer due to family history. I offer this information to demonstrate that sometimes we just don't know what the plan is for us and we can live the physically healthiest life we can and still we are not immune from disease.
I believe for the most part that my cancer was just down to bad or good luck (depending on how you look at it). But I also know that my internal systems had been under chronic stress for some time. Adrenal fatigue. Long term lack of sleep. Physical and emotional stress of life - two children, a wedding and divorce within 4 years to name but a few. I would be a fool to ignore the fact that although on the outside I lead a healthy life, my emotional / energetic / spiritual balance was out of whack and that this in my opinion contributed to a manifestation of dis-ease in my body over time. Energetically I offered a hospitable environment for rogue cells to run amock. I also don't think I am alone in these factors.
I had been a performer for years, a training and career seeped in judgement and ‘never enoughs’, dynamic highs and lows from auditioning with hundreds of others and performing on live television to waitessing and leafleting commuter tube stations at 5am. I loved it. (not the handing out leaflets at 5am-that was crap-but paid the bills) This constant emotional shifting meant that my stress receptors and fight and flight reflexes were finely tuned. My tolerance to stress was maybe higher than the average person's. My adrenal system was a well-oiled machine (or so I thought) and I lived a very ‘exciting’ existence for a long time. Such a long time, that any sense of normality of everyday life, when things weren’t either very high or very low, became a little uncomfortable for me. I would subconsciously seek the next ‘hit’ of adrenaline and dopamine; natural hormonal highs, in the form of creativity, work or family times and the idea of ‘rest’ was unfamiliar. This transferred into how I managed my personal life. I had become accustomed to the extremes on the emotional spectrum and anything in the middle just didn’t cut it. I didn't realise how much strain I was putting my well oiled machine under consistently. I still have an abundance of energy at times but I can now identify quicker when it is working against me rather than for me. And also I am a role model for my children who learn from what they see. I don’t want to raise internally stressed children who don’t understand how to just ‘be’. Modelling a balance of work/play/rest can only be positive. Not always easy though.
Back to gender. Women are under a different kind of stress than they were 50 years ago, not worse, but different. The rise of feminism and insidious need to appear to do it all and be it all All OF THE TIME, unknowingly struggling to just keep afloat emotionally with the ever mounting pressures of busy western life. This back and forth exchange of perfectionism among our circles only perpetuates the problem as everyone is having the same struggle, somehow making it socially acceptable. This has probably always been a 'thing' but some of us are under pressure to provide financially, emotionally, physically and still smile at the end of the day. EVERY day. I am not saying a man’s role has not shifted in recent times as well. Our roles have all changed. But maybe some of the knock on effects of this change have not been accounted for. So yes maybe we are having children later in life, maybe drinking more than generation before us but to me these are not causes. These are symptoms of a changing external world and we are not acknowledging or adapting to the internal consequences of these changes.
I’ll share what I have learnt from this. I don’t know why I was given the gift of bastard cancer. There could be a number of reasons. Or none. But I’m certainly not about to take 100 steps back from any self-development I have done, blame myself and start saying that things could have been different ‘if only I had done this etc’. That is the point. We can’t punish ourselves any more than we do subconsciously every day. That unkindness is horrendous. But that’s not to say I can’t make positive changes in my life now I have a better understanding. And acknowledge areas that could do with a bit of attention. Being kind to myself means listening to myself. It sometimes then says have a bar of chocolate and a glass of wine but more often it just reminds me that I have a voice and it’s worth listening to without guilt.
As my brother says #livingmybestlife (he’s a millennial and I’m sure is taking the piss out of me)