That pink ribbon is everywhere.
It’s a symbol to remind us to find the cure. I’ve seen it on my container of Q-Tips, my package of mushrooms and even on the sole of my new sandals. There are even bibles benefiting breast cancer research. The little loop seems to say, “Don’t forget. Our women need help. Please support this cause.”
But what do you think when you see the pink ribbon or learn that October is Breast Cancer awareness month? Fearful thoughts? Hope?
Initial reactions to the ribbon may vary, but if we pause to think about it, can any of us resist these signs of compassion and outreach?
Not me. Each of us does what we can to support women’s (and men’s) health. While many focus on the usual treatments of mammograms, surgery, chemotherapy or drugs, others are increasingly adding a key factor-- examining thought rather than breasts. Why?
Probably it’s because the influence of thought on the body is increasingly being reported, studied and accepted. Consider breast cancer survivor Stacie. She reports, “Don’t let that word (cancer) scare you.” Recommending a positive attitude she adds, “You can let it beat you and, a lot of times, I think it’s the depression that wins. I don’t think it’s the cancer, I think it’s the depression.”
Consider findings from the nursing faculty from the University of Missouri that breast cancer survivors’ health improved after they were trained in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), combining meditation, yoga and physical awareness. Says UM Professor Jane Armer, “Mindfulness-based meditation… teaches patients new ways of thinking that will give them short- and long-term benefits”. Yoga particularly improved wellness and quality of life by reducing depression and even post-chemotherapy nausea, according to findings from a Mayo Clinic study.
Some studies push the envelope and support mindfulness for currently suffering breast cancer patients, not just survivors. These studies suggest that cancer symptoms and physical health are positively affected by positive – perhaps what some might call uplifted - thought. Even caregivers were positively affected by these practices.
But what about the actual cure of breast cancer? From the evidence cited, should we conclude such practices – including prayer – are limited to a palliative role? Can an actual cure come only from further research into a biomedical solution?
Perhaps not. Instances of diagnosed cancer, healed through changes in thought and lifestyles as well as through prayer, exist. While they cannot be explained from an allopathic medical standpoint, that does not mean they didn’t occur. For example, physicians who examined Dodie Osteen confirm that she did have incurable and terminal liver cancer in 1981. Dodie says that she was healed through the power of prayer. One physician, who provides a statement at the back of Dodie’s book "Healed of Cancer" says, “She was healed – not in the traditional sense but … in answer to prayer. … We’re discovering some tremendous things in medicine today – especially about how attitude affects healing.”
I can readily accept these findings because of what many women tell me. Consider my friend Betty, whose prayers delivered her from a large growth in her breast many years ago. Now in her 80s, she has not suffered again from this disease. Or my friend Liz who writes: “When my children were… young, I noticed a lump in one of my breasts... Although I believed completely in God being able to heal all our needs, I became very fearful and started researching the possible causes, etc. Of course, this only increased my fear.” Liz spent the next two weeks in spiritual study. She adds, “Eventually I began to see … that nothing is separate from Him… I am not sure when, but it soon became obvious that the lump was gone as well as my fear.”
These experiences, some from published research and many more from personal stories, give me hope. Now when I see that little pink ribbon, I’m grateful that so many resources are available to defeat breast cancer once and for all.
The pink ribbon will remind me that prayer is one of them.
(Cynthia Barnett is the Media/Legislative Representative for the The Christian Science Committee on Publication, NC.)