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October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Breast cancer, if caught early, is one of the most easily diagnosed and successfully treated cancers. Also, early detection helps to prevent extensive surgery and chemotherapy. Unfortunately, many people (like myself) fail to take preventive measures resulting in over 685,000 male and female global deaths per year. This tragic statistic could be practically eliminated with better self-care.

Illness can be a wake-up call and an indication you’ve treated yourself lovelessly. Cancer is not a part of your body’s natural functioning. It is the result of a cell’s DNA being damaged. The highest (non-genetic) risk factors are consuming alcohol, poor diet, overweight, lack of physical activity, radiation to the chest, and combined hormone replacement therapy. All of these risks are 100% under your control.

Cancer is a wake-up call to better love yourself. I like to think of self-love as treating yourself like a tiny baby who can’t survive without proper nutrition, rest, and lots of cuddling. But we don’t. Instead, we often treat our bodies like toxic waste dumps, putting substances in them that would immediately kill most living things. When we take for granted that our vital organs will continue to serve us despite the way we’ve treated them, there’s bound to be consequences.

I thought just because I’d quit drinking and smoking, ate healthily, and was a runner; I’d never get cancer. So I ignored the doctor’s prescriptions for mammograms. I was blindsided when I found out I was in serious trouble and had to have a mastectomy. That was one of life’s shocks that taught me how to take self-love to the next level. That self-love started with the first day of my recovery after surgery. Instead of blindly following chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and Tamoxifen recommendations, I listened to my intuition that told me to avoid these treatments. I then collaborated with the oncologist, who supported my decision to decline all three. (I’m not recommending that’s what anyone else should do, each person is different.)

I then decided I would never use the term “my cancer.” Cancer is not mine. It’s something that happened to me. I want no part of claiming it’s a part of me. I always say, “When I had cancer,” and “It’s just something that happened long ago,” precisely twenty-two years ago. Now, I make my body as inhabitable for cancer cells as I possibly can. In addition to caring for my body, I get regular checkups with my physicians, mammograms, and blood work. I make sure mind, body, and spirit are equally attended to, and when stressed, I focus on all three to regain balance.

Whether or not you’ve ever had breast cancer, and whether you’re a man or a woman, now is the best time to pay attention to your body. Mammograms, self-examination for lumps, BRAC tests (risk assessment for cancer) for genetic predisposition, exercise, anti-cancer diets, and eliminating toxic substances can significantly increase your chances of staying healthy. And remember, cancer is not a part of you. Make your body such a happy, loving place that cancer cells won’t find a place to make a home.

Join the Movement

Donna Marks believes that the models for diagnosis, treatment, and addiction have failed. Her mission is to help save at least one million lives by 2030, through education and prevention. She has been an author, consultant, educator, public speaker, licensed psychotherapist, and addictions counselor in private practice in Palm Beach, Florida for more than thirty years. In 1989, Dr. Marks developed a chemical dependency treatment program at Palm Beach Community College, that has since grown into a four-year degree program, and for which she was granted an Award of Appreciation. She became licensed as a Mental Health Counselor in 1987. In 1989, she earned a Doctorate Degree in Adult Education, then became a Certified Addictions Professional, Certified Gestalt Therapist, Certified Psychoanalyst, Hypnotherapist, and Certified Sex Therapist.

Dr. Marks is the author of the 22-award winning book, Exit the Maze: One Addiction, One Cause, One Cure.

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