October 2014 Ritual: Breast Cancer Awareness Month

By Diann L. Neu

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Women’s Words about Cancer

My world turned upside down at 7:00 on the morning of March 8 as I stood in the shower. A lump in the breast. A moment of panic. So begins a journey that every woman fears.
Susanna, health care provider
* * *
My cancer scare changed my life. I’m grateful for every new, healthy day I have. It has helped me prioritize my life.
Olivia Newton-John, singer
* * *
Cancer wakes you up, and you say,
“There must be more out there to life.
I wonder what that is.”
Jill Eikenberry, actress
* * *
The moment I found my lump in the bathtub, I knew it was cancer. I thought breast cancer was a death sentence. I didn’t know that most women who get breast cancer live a long life. But you know, the woman I was two years ago died.
And the real me was born.
Claire, mother
* * *
As soon as I am able to touch it, I resolve to caress this flatness. My chest, my dead-feeling armpit, my arm, all that remains. I run my fingers over the area, petting it, caressing it, letting it know that I am not angry, that it is still my body, that I still love it. I tell a friend that I am doing this, caressing the place where there is no longer a breast, for which there is no name. I press my fingers gently all around the scar, I squeeze my armpit. My friend is surprised. But if I cannot love my body, I cannot heal.
Alicia Ostriker, poet

Prayer for Healing
O God! Grant me healing.
Healing in my eyes, healing in my ears;
Healing on my skin, healing in my blood;
Healing in my bones, healing within me;
Healing on my tongue, healing in my feet;
Healing in front of me, healing behind me;
Healing above me, healing below me;
Healing on my left, healing on my right.
Divine Wisdom! Grant me healing.
Healing in my hands, healing on my face;
Healing in my breasts (or where they were);
Healing in my ovaries (or where they were);
Healing in my womb (or where it was);
Healing in my lungs, healing in my heart;
Healing in front of me, healing behind me;
Healing above me, healing below me;
Healing in my body, healing in my soul.
Holy Mystery! Grant me healing.

Women’s Feelings

An individual doesn’t get cancer, a family does.
—Terry Tempest Williams, naturalist, writer, environmental activist

* * *
Your first emotion isn’t “Am I going to lose my breast?” It’s “Am I going to lose my life?”
Linda Ellerbee, TV reporter
* * *
…with one breast or none, I am still me.
The sum total of me is infinitely greater
than the number of my breasts.
Alice Walker, author
* * *
It’s all right to cry, but not for too long.
I made it, and so can you.
Betty Ford, former First Lady
* * *
But I’ve been writing letters, making phone calls, “announcing” my condition to the world: I want “everyone” to know—as if their affection and good wishes would keep me safe. And closer to them.
Marilyn Hacker, poet

Act in Solidarity This Month

•Participate in Breast Cancer Awareness events.
•Wear a pink ribbon in solidarity with women who have breast cancer.
•Do a breast self-exam and encourage a friend to do one.
•Schedule a mamogram, if you need one.
•Donate to a group that works with women with breast cancer.
•Raise awareness about breast cancer: tweet about National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
•Add information about breast cancer screening to your newsletter.
•Go on a breast cancer walk with friends.
•Search online and learn more about breast cancer.
•Explore environmental causes of cancers and help to eradicate them.

Women’s Wisdom that Strengthens

What does it mean to say I have survived until you take the mirrors and turn them outward and read your own face in their outraged light?
Adrienne Rich, poet
* * *
Living a self-conscious life, under the pressure of time, I work with the consciousness of death at my shoulder, not constantly, but often enough to leave a mark upon all of my life’s decisions and actions. And it does not matter whether this death comes next week or thirty years from now; this consciousness gives my life another breadth. It helps shape the words I speak, the ways I love, my politic of action, the strength of my vision and purpose, the depth of my appreciation of living.
Audre Lorde, poet
* * *
 “The thing to do is to grab the broom of
anger and drive off the beast of fear.”
—Zora Neale Hurston, author
* * *
“But when this happens to you — and I think other people would identify with this — suddenly, colors are brighter. You see everything.”
—Lynn Redgrave, actress
* * *
When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left and could say,
I used everything you gave me.’ “
—Erma Bombeck, humor columnist

Interested in More Rituals? 

Cancer Packet Series by Diann L. Neu

Diann L. Neu of WATER has written prayers and rituals, journaling and resources for women with cancer and their families. You can order them from WATER.
_____Send me  “Seasons of Healing: Journaling and Resources
@ $10 each + $2 shipping & handling.
_____Send me “Seasons of Survival: Prayers and Rituals for Women with Cancer” @ $10 each + $2 shipping & handling.
_____Send me “Seasons of Compassion: Resources for Companions of Those Needing Healing”Prayers and Rituals for Women with Cancer” @ $10 each + $2 shipping & handling.

Make your check payable to:
WATER • 8121 Georgia Ave • Suite 310 • Silver Spring, MD 20910
301-589-2509 • www.waterwomensalliance.org

© Diann L. Neu, D.Min., MSW, is Co-founder and Co-director of WATER. dneu@hers.com. This ritual is based on one in “Seasons of Healing: Prayers and Rituals, Journal Writing and Resources for Women with Cancer” by Diann L. Neu, available from WATERworks Press.