I don’t ordinarily post on a Thursday but with all the hype around Angelina Jolie and her double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery I feel compelled to. I’m not here to judge, although personally I don’t believe the solution is necessarily removal either. And in case you’ve been living in bliss or under a rock (I sure hope the earlier), Angelina has publicly announced she had her breasts removed in light of the fact she carries the breast cancer gene. Can I just say one thing right here. The media are suggesting she has a 87% of developing the cancer – this discovered by genetic testing however, these tests are not read this way – she is in fact, 87% more likely to develop breast cancer in comparison to the rest of the population. This doesn’t mean she will actually develop cancer – but rather, she just has a higher chance in comparison to the rest of the world.
The media are suggesting she is extremely brave – a hero even, and that she’s stepping up because she carries the faulty gene. I totally understand that she wants to be around for her children for years to come – we all do. To me, it seems a pretty drastic ‘prophylactic’ method considering there many other options that simply MUST be considered in reducing risk of breast cancer – regardless. Perhaps Angelina’s story being so public, is freaking women out all over the world. In some instances, women are being advised that this is their ONLY option. I even heard one woman’s story who was having a double mastectomy. She didn’t actually carry the gene what so ever, but because her mother and aunt had passed from breast cancer, she had been advised removal because there are potentially breast cancer genes that we are yet to discover. It provokes me to ponder – where do we draw the line? If I knew I carried the gene for blindness say, would I remove my eyes? Hell no. And whilst some of you may argue that blindness isn’t life threatening, there is a great chance that I can influence the way my body works to prevent cancer from developing in the first place meaning I can decreases my chances of any illness.
I’m forever sharing information here to help people gain a better understanding and make informed decisions. This is no different and before anybody get’s their knickers tied, please hear me out. Each of us are are made of up genes. Some are turned ‘on’ and others ‘off’ and lifestyle, environment, diet, habits etc will have a huge influence on how our bodies respond to this genetic material. Perhaps I can use the example of my son who I’ve shared about on here before – he has cystic fibrosis (CF). Now, I’m a carrier of CF, but I don’t have CF. Geordie on the other hand has CF. CF is characterised by lung difficulties, poor ability to cope with infection and partial or no function of the pancreas, lung degeneration – the list goes on. Basically people with CF can’t move mucus out of the body like the rest of us which is a perfect ground to grow bacteria in the body. Once infection starts, it is very difficult to get rid of and leads to all kinds of problems including scarring of the lungs which becomes a big problem long term. However, genetics, diet, lifestyle, environment etc play a major role in health of people with CF. My son Geordie is a very healthy boy with CF. He is unmedicated, he’s well and he is happy. CF is his genetic makeup but the symptoms and signs associated for him, are almost non existent. We ensure Geordie lives a particular lifestyle to seal the deal on this – probably a little more diligent that your average but for us, it is a near guarantee that he is like most other 18 month old children. That said, me as a carrier – I don’t have nor will I ever develop CF just as somebody who carries the breast cancer gene, doesn’t have breast cancer. Sure, if I’m unhealthy my lung function is substantially less, but I choose to live a certain way to make sure this isn’t an issue. What’s my point? You create your own health. You literally are in control of which genes are ‘switched’ on or off. You need to stand up and be accountable. If you’re unhealthy you are absolutely waaay more likely to develop any of the genetic imprints you own – be it blindness, heart disease, diabetes, cancer… you get it right?
Many of us are scared of cancer. One person who is fearless in this arena is my wellness sister and beauty, Jess Ainscough. She survived and lived with cancer for many years. Many of you know her as The Wellness Warrior and one of my past healthtalks hosts. I had to ask Jess what her take was on this. Here’s what she said;
While I don’t want to judge Angelina Jolie or deny her of her right to choose what she feels is right for her body, I’m terrified that her choice being so widely publicised and so glorified is going to lead to so many women having their breasts removed unnecessarily. We are misinformed, and it breaks my heart that women think that their only choice if they want to avoid breast cancer is to chop their boobs off. What’s next? Is Angelina also going to remove her ovaries? It’s all the same system, and removing the breasts in no way means that she will avoid cancer elsewhere. The study of epigenetics proves that our genes are controlled by our lifestyles. We have the power to switch off and switch on genes by the way we live, what we eat, what we drink, and how we think. This is the message that needs to be spread – to those who have the gene and to those who don’t. Taking responsibility for our health shouldn’t have to involve willingly mutilating our bodies.” Powerful stuff and something many of us may find hard to get our heads around.
On my way into work yesterday, I was listening to an interview on the radio. One women explained she was having EVERYTHING removed. Breasts, ovaries and uterus – the works. She shared about how she was a ‘breast cancer PRE-vivor” and went on to say “stuff you cancer I won.” Whoah! This woman assumed she was going to develop cancer. Perhaps the news alone, to her was possibly like she already had it. This story details a recent study that found there was up to a 26-fold increase risk of heart-related deaths within seven days of a cancer diagnosis. We must realise that factors far beyond the control of our genes shape our potential to develop disease. These epigenetic factors are mostly determined by nutrition, psychospiritual states that feed back to our physiology, lifestyle factors and environmental exposure which constitute as much as 95% of what determines any disease risk. I was so sad hearing this women (and many others stories) because we are being scared into believing our only option is breast removal when really it perhaps should be the last. And as Jess shared, just because you’ve had things removed, doesn’t say you can go and live the same lifestyle and your body won’t present some form of cancer or other disease somewhere else. To live in presumption creates another whole other set of issues.
Lara Wilson, my business mentor (and life coach) had a this to say when I asked her what she thought yesterday. Her answer was pretty simple. “It’s all about mindset. Our thoughts create our reality – if we believe we are going to develop cancer we probably will. If we use this information to our advantage (knowing our genetic make-up) to motivate us toward what we want, then that’s what we will focus on and create for ourselves.” One of Lara’s favourite phrases goes something lie this; “If you think you can or think you can’t, you’re probably right.” Ha! How approprate is this in terms of how we must be ever mindful in understanding how we can think ourselves toward great health, a great life, a job or whatever our heart so desires. In light of information that we may carry a gene, if all we think about is the potential of developing illness or disease, we will look for evidence of disease and illness in our bodies and, yes, we can manifest ill health – just in the same way cancer survivors all share a strong common belief; cancer was never going to win, they were never afraid to fight and they never, for one minute believed they couldn’t fight it. But let me say – it’s one thing to say this, another to believe it. To truly believe is key. I know cancer survivors – they all have this unique mindset and it is far more than words – it was all in their mindset. Need to learn how to apply this to your life? Look Lara up. Seriously, just do it.
Lara gets how the mind works and the science behind thoughts, beliefs and how this shapes who we are, right down to switching on and off those genes. If we have the right mindset and attitude – anything is possible and I see examples of this in my own family with my son and in the clinic with families facing fertility battles. One absolute is that nothing ever is a one size fits all and I encourage all women to explore all their options, do their own research and be informed before jumping into radical ideas like breast removal when if fact it’s may only a temporary solution. If there is ever a time to get healthy – the time is now.
You might like to read a little more about research and the opposing side – this article shares about genetics, the efficacy of testing, and the over-diagnosis of breast cancer.
I’d LOVE to hear your thoughts on this. I know this is a sensitive topic and I’d love for us to share openly and honestly with courtesy, in the comment section below and create a healthy wholesome discussion.
To listen to the interviews from the Mat & Jo show click here and find the audio.