Cissy Brady-Rogers
Cissy Brady-Rogers Cissy Brady-Rogers Cissy Brady-Rogers

Tag: loving your body

A recent blog post from the Breast Cancer Action (BCA is a nonprofit advocacy group for health justice for women at risk of or living with breast cancer) reminded me why I don’t buy pink.  All the hype about “Think Pink” during October’s breast cancer awareness push is as much to benefit companies using the slogan as it is to increase awareness. Some companies claim to care about breast breast cancer yet produce, manufacture or sell products with chemicals linked to the disease. And some department stores, clothing and accessory manufactures and other companies that sell pink products donate only a small percentage of the profits to the effort. That’s why I don’t buy pink anymore. Although I once did.

This Thanksgiving I’ll be 23 years out from that horrific holiday season I spent being diagnosed and treated for breast cancer. The first few years I walked or ran in “Pink” fundraisers, only to find out later that the companies organizing  the events were pulling in huge profits. I wore pink ribbons or related products, only to discover that in some cases only a minor percentage of the profits went to anything breast cancer related.

I’m grateful for awareness that allowed me and other early diagnosis patients (AKA “Bosom Buddies”) to live full and long lives post-cancer, but I’m not buying any pink products. If I want to give money to raise awareness or research I’ll give it directly to the providers.

Katy’s story reveals the subtle way companies use breast cancer to promote the very products that contain chemicals linked to to cancer. They don’t do it maliciously…at least I hope not. But, as my wise spouse often points out, corporations don’t have a soul. They have no moral compass to guide their decisions. The bottom-line is…the bottom-line. Morals and ethics are a side-note at best and most often not even a part of the conversations about how to do business.

While companies that use the “Think Pink” slogan to sell pink hats, shoes, shirts and other products may give some or all of the profits to breast cancer research and advocacy, the companies do it for their own sake as much as for those of us impacted by the disease. Certainly the decision to give breast cancer patients products full of toxic chemicals linked to the disease wasn’t done with morality or justice as the bottom-line.

Celebrating Life Together with My Bosom Buddies

Celebrating Life Together with My Bosom Buddies

I’ll be celebrating life with my bosom buddies at our annual ThanksLiving party next month. And we’ll be serving as much organic, close to nature food and drink as available. After 23 years I am still careful to eat organic and use personal care products with as few human created chemicals as possible. I’m convinced that all the pesticides in the foods I ate during puberty played a role in activating cancer. That’s why I support Breast Cancer Action’s work in the world. They focus much of their effort toward awareness of the role environmental toxins play in the onset of breast cancer – something the tradition medical industry refuses to address.

As Katy’s story exemplifies, if companies really had her welfare in mind, they’d do something other than provide free products that contain chemicals that interrupt the effectiveness of the medication she’s taking to prevent reoccurrance. And, if they really had the interests of women at risk or living with breast cancer, they’d invest all the time, money and energy spent on developing pink promotional products toward direct services for those in need rather than pocket a portion for themselves.

To join me and Breast Cancer Action in telling the Personal Care Products Council and the American Cancer Society to eliminate the use of toxic chemicals in personal care products please sign send a letter.

Thanks for joining me in this effort to stop the abuse of all the good being doing through breast cancer awareness! Let’s “Think Pink” but do so in a conscious and ethical way!

 

 

Last week I received an email from a colleague. She’s learning how much more effective self-acceptance is than self-hatred for motivating positive health behaviors. She told me what I’d said  the last time we met kept coming to mind: “I love myself more as I get older because there’s more of me to love…”
I don’t remember saying it. But God knew I needed to remember!
Most of the time I’m content with aging, grateful for the wisdom and sensibility of growing older and I accept my body just as I am. But last week I looked in the mirror a few times and felt that old familiar sense of shame and dissonance flood my body and mind. My particular body story combined with living in a body-shaming culture, I don’t expect to ever “get over” it. And I’m not sure that’s either realistic or necessary.
My mantra when that old story of “I’m not okay just as I am” shows up: “Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.” And repeat as needed until dissonance vanishes.
 
Sometimes that’s not enough. I need time to work my way there. Not with compulsive exercise or dieting…but with breathing in God’s love, naming the shame, writing in my journal, talking to my husband or a friend.
As Brene Brown has confirmed with her research, shame thrives on silence and secrecy. When we can name it and tell another about it, it loses its power.
Glory be to God in Christ, we don’t need to remain silent about the shame that so easily entangles.
With the season of summer comes more body shame activation opportunities. And each one is an opportunity to breathe in God’s love and let go of shame.
I take a deep inhale and pray, “Lord, have mercy.”  I exhale and pray, “Christ, have mercy.” And will repeat as needed!
Don’t let shame win! When it hits you, take a deep breathe and remember how deeply, fully and unreservedly loved you are by God, just as you are right now.  If that cloud of shame is still hanging around after a while, call a friend and talk about it.
Let’s not let shame have the last word this summer!
May the final word be LOVE.

I lead a workshop on working with same-sex attraction for counseling trainees and interns at Life Pacific College last weekend. The clinicians were hungry for information and tools to help their clients cope with not just same-sex attraction, but a long list of other sexual issues.

I presented the work of psychologist Mark Yarhouse on narrative sexual identity therapy, along with some provocative thoughts from anthropologist Jenell Paris’ new book The End of Sexual Identity: Why Sex is Too Important to Define Who We Are. Both teach at conservative Christian colleges where they are seeking more compassionate and helpful ways to think about and work with issues of sexuality among this very confused, ill-equipped and all-too-often guilt and shame ridden group of young adults.

Pastor Steve Smith of Malibu Presbyterian church says that from puberty to marriage students from conservative backgrounds are in sort of exile from their own sexuality — he calls it “Sex-ile.” The church tells them to “wait” until marriage, but then offers minimal resources to integrate and develop a healthy sense of their own sexuality while they wait.

A former student from Azusa Pacific University where I taught human sexuality and sex therapy for 8 years sent me a link to a story that illustrates how well intended but limited efforts to prescribe chastity as the answer for sex-ile can end up doing more harm than good. Samantha Pugsley says that she waited until her wedding night to lose her virginity and wishes she hadn’t. It’s a tragic example of the kind of outcome that I suspect will become even more common among these young people if we don’t develop alternatives.

Meanwhile, five days ago ethicist David Gushee, who’s wise counsel helped me with my decision to discontinue teaching at Azusa Pacific this past summer, stirred the pot in a big way with his speech “Ending the Teaching of Contempt against the Church’s Sexual Minorities” at the Reformation Project Conference. As expected in the heated conversation taking place about same-sex attraction in the church world, he was soon on the chopping block of those who disagreed with his presentation.

Lord, have mercy.

Christ, have mercy.

Lord, have mercy.

I remain in the conversation, committed to staying open and being part of the solution. One day at a time.

Amen.

Last month I met filmmaker James Colquhoun at a screening of his film Hungry for Change. This month I’m excited to tell you about his recently launched FoodMatters.tv – a website devoted to bringing the best information about food and health together in one place. They are on a mission to educate and inspire us to remember the wisdom of Hippocrates: food is medicine. In their vernacular: You are what you eat!

James and his wife Laurentine share my vision of individual responsibility for good health. “We believe that your body is worthy of good care and that no one is more suitably qualified to care for it than yourself.”  Amen!

Inspired by the healing of his dad’s chronic disease through eliminating a boatload of medications and introducing a plant-based diet, James and Laurentine are the real thing. I’m delighted to benefit from and support their efforts to help each of us become our own best advocates for good health.

Christ-centered yoga brings body, mind and spirit together to help you deepen you connection to God’s love.

praying with our bodies

We use the physical poses of yoga, breath awareness and experiential prayer to enhance your ability to sense God’s presence and align yourself with the graces continually being poured out by the Spirit to transform us degree by degree into greater Christlikeness.

In addition to the spiritual growth fostered through praying with our bodies, other potential benefits of regular practice include: increased mobility and energy, improved balance and mood, normalized gastrointestinal functioning and much more.

I’d love to share the gifts of yoga with you.

Tuesdays at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena @ 7:30 p.m. – 8 week session begins January 14th.

The Fuller class is open to people outside the Fuller community when spots are available. Contact Jose at 626-584-5680 to register.

Wednesdays at Glendale Presbyterian Church @ 6:15 p.m. – meets weekly in room 202. Contact me for more information.

Both classes are open to all levels of experience.

Bring a yoga mat or towel, water and wear comfortable clothes.

A courageous, intelligent, creative and vulnerable 25 year old woman sat across from me this morning and reminded me who I am. Half my age but filled with the same eternal wisdom of God, her eyes filled with tears as she said, “When I met you and saw your gray hair, you became my role model. I don’t want to grow up afraid of aging, of my body changing, of getting old.”

She also spoke of her fears for her six year old cousin who knows all about her mother’s recent liposuction treatment.  And, about how glad she is that smart phones weren’t available when she was in puberty. “It was bad enough without Facebook, Twitter and other media plastering my mind with airbrushed, photo-shopped images. It’s so much worse now.”

At least one prominent Beverly Hills board certified plastic surgeon reports that “a sizable chunk of his Beverly Hills patients are in their 20s, raised by moms who thought Botox was just part of a normal beauty regimen, like a pedicure or a waxing. You see a line, you get it Toxed.”

Lord, have mercy!

21 years ago a breast cancer diagnosis at age 30 became a shocking wake up call to love the skin I’m in! It transformed my attitude about aging. My wrinkles document the tears of love and laughter I’ve been blessed to experience as I’ve grown older.

I earned these wrinkles!

I’m not immune to feeling negatively about aging. Like the wise woman that sat with me this morning, I too have my moments when old ruts of negative thinking sneak up on me.

These days, when an initial wave of  “I’m looking old” thoughts and feelings hits me as I look in the mirror,  I breathe and pray, “Lord, have mercy.” I recognize the feelings and thoughts are part of being a 51 year old woman who chooses not to color my hair or “tox” my lines in a culture where that is becoming increasingly common and expected. I allow the negativity to pass through me like a wave.

Then, I remind myself of the alternative: “I could be dead!”

Hmmmm….wrinkles or death? I think I’ll choose the wrinkles!

My young colleague and I cried this morning as we spoke of our shared passion to bring a better story about our women bodies to the upcoming generations. I told her the story an African woman name Leah told Eve Ensler as she interviewed women around the world about their bodies.  When Eve asked if Leah loved her body, she replied “My body? Love my body…of course I love my body. It is my body.” Leah goes on to point out how all the trees are different, they don’t compare themselves to one another. “Eve” Leah tells her,  “you’ve got to love your tree.

May the eternal wisdom of our loving Creator that Leah embodied and testified to, that inspired our tears this morning, break through the darkness of self-deprecation and shame that so easily entangle and set us free to love ourselves as God loves us.

May we have more faith in that incorruptible, immeasurable and infinite Love, than we do in the stories of industries that want to profit off our insecurities and self-loathing.

It’s been a long time since I ate a burger. I can’t remember the last time I ordered one. It’s just not something I eat, not something I crave.

Occasionally my body craves red meat, but I go for a grass-fed rib-eye or filet. “Hamburger” just doesn’t seem to be on my body’s database of what I need.

This week I’m playing roadie, chauffeur and traveling companion to my niece Caity as she returns for her senior recital as a jazz studies major at University of North Texas. When we arrived last night and wanted something to eat, she suggested “Whataburger.” She described it as the “In and Out” of Texas, “But the meat is better…after all, this is Texas.”

What? Me? A burger?

With that endorsement, I figured when in Texas, do as Texans do. I ordered a Whataburger Jr. and ate the whole thing–gluten filled bun and all!

Why did I eat a burger? Because I don’t want to be a food nazi!

After my breast cancer 21 years ago I became militant about food. I only ate vegetarian, low-fat, unprocessed organic foods because I feared the role animal products, pesticides, processing and other toxins played in the onset of my cancer.

For a few years, that was a necessary and important stance to take. But over time,  I began to listen to my physical needs and not my fears and found my way to a more balanced, loving and life-giving relationship with food.

For me, it’s about moderation, balance and choosing the best food. Today, that includes minimal red meat and limited gluten based foods. Yet, if there’s an Auntie Em’s dessert or a loaf of bread from Fiore Cafe around, I’ll say “Yes” and enjoy every bite of my gluten. If I’m going to eat the gluten that can sometimes activate rosacea on my cheeks, I’m going to make it worthwhile.

My remarkable niece Caity

My relationship with Caity is more important than what we eat. I enjoyed the burger well enough…for a burger. But even more important was how much I enjoyed being with Caity in her college town, going to the places she hung out and getting a taste of her last five years. Celebrating her success as a top-notch jazz saxophonist and experiencing the world where she’s honed her skills, met her boyfriend and matured into a remarkable young woman–that’s why I’m here.

When I was a food nazi (while hard to admit, at times even now) what I ate took precedence over enjoying the people, events and places around me. Thanks be to God for the love, grace and truth that have come to me over these past 21 years. I am free to eat burgers or not eat burgers. For this freedom, I am exceedingly grateful.

Blogger Sarah Kopplekam’s post “How to talk to your daughter about her body” went viral last month, landing her a spot on the Huffington Post where 146,249 people have “liked” it and 35,292 people have shared it.

What Sarah said isn’t revolutionary to those of us who work with eating disorders. Unfortunately, wise counsel like this often only reaches parents too late–after years of negative modeling and messages have already done their damage. And her wisdom applies to sons as well as daughters.

My favorite suggestion: Don’t dare talk about how much you hate your body in front of your kids, or about your new diet.

A dear friend’s daughter recently moved to Los Angeles to attend graduate school. We hung out last week, laughed about how “crazy” her mom and I were when she was young and the impact our relationship with each other and our bodies had on her. “I never heard my mom say anything negative about her body. I asked her about it a few years ago. She raised her eyebrow like she does when she wants to make a point and told me that she was very intentional about that.”

Katie internalized a healthy sense of her body by watching us love and enjoy being in our woman bodies, enjoy good food, move because it felt good and not be afraid of getting dirty or talking about vaginas and penises! Needless to say, I was absolutely delighted by this conversation. I can’t imagine a better compliment than to hear that my example, even more than my words, impacted the life of another person.

The greatest gift a mom can give her child is her own positive relationship with her body.

The greatest gift one woman can give another woman is to fully embrace our own bodies and lovingly care for ourselves through the many changes and challenges of the female life cycle.

Passing it forward to Natalie

I met Kristen Fenton at the beginning of her career in social work. She participated in a self-care mentoring group I lead for ministry and mental health professionals.  I passed onto them the understanding and skills that have helped me find a new way of being in my body and life.  Years later, Kristen passes it forward through helping others heal from disordered eating and body image in her private practice in the Chicago area.

Last spring Kristen visited Los Angeles and I had the delight of meeting her engaging and beautiful daughter Natalie.  In writing to thank me for the time I spent sharing my life with her, she wrote “I am forever changed because of it. And my sweet Natalie now gets to live her life with a mama who is not enslaved to food or a poor body image.”

Thanks be to God!

Maybe you don’t “love and enjoy” your body. Begin with a small step: notice what is right with your body: your eyes that see, your ears that hear, your ability to walk. Practice noticing what is right with your body, not what is wrong.

And, if you need to talk about what is not right, the things you hate, wish you could change, please don’t do that with your daughter or son. Kids have more than enough negative and confusing messages about body image coming from media and peers. They don’t need you to add to that baggage.

Lots of resources are available. No matter what age your kids are, now is moment to begin to change your relationship with your body into a more loving, compassionate, and even celebratory one. It isn’t easy, but it is possible.

If you’d like some support, I’ve been there and done that and would love to share my experience, strength and hope with you.

Angelina Jolie’s disclosure of her choice to remove both breasts spurred me to share my story about deciding not to test for the BRCA gene mutation that prompted Jolie’s decision.

I was thirty years old when diagnosed with early stage breast cancer. In 1992 the options for treating my ductal carcinoma in-situ were either a lumpectomy with radiation or a mastectomy with the option for reconstruction.

I had no interest in radiation and amidst grieving the loss of my mom (who’d recently died) and my breast, I didn’t have energy to deal with the added physical and emotional stress of adding something new to my body. I choose a mastectomy without reconstruction. At the time I thought perhaps after I had kids I’d have both breasts done to match!

I never had kids, but never felt the need for reconstruction either. My left breast keeps me and my husband happy and my prosthesis works just fine for providing a matched set when needed.

At my semi-annual breast check a few years ago an associate of my dear doctor Armando Guiliano (whom I love and highly recommend to anyone seeking a great breast surgeon) suggested I consider genetic testing. She briefly explained what it involved and why it was recommended.  I asked what treatment would entail if I tested positive for the mutation. She very matter-of-factually stated “Prophylactic removal of both ovaries and the remaining breast.”

Shocked! I asked if there weren’t any less extreme options?

She said that the breast could continue to be monitored as we’d been doing but no comparable methods for the ovaries existed. She handed me some literature, said if I had any questions to let her know and left the room saying “I’ll be back in a few minutes with Dr. G.”

When they returned I greeted Dr. G. with a big hug and chatted a bit as he perform my exam. After a few minutes I mentioned the genetic testing recommendation. “Yes” he said, “we weren’t doing that when you were first diagnosed but it would be a good thing to consider now.”

“That’s all well and good,” I replied, “but if I test positive the treatment options aren’t very appealing. How would you like it if someone recommended prophylactic removal of your testicles?”

We all got a good laugh out of that, but it presses a point. As Dr. Susan Love points out  “We really don’t have good prevention for breast cancer. When you have to cut off normal body parts to prevent a disease, that’s really pretty barbaric when you think about it.”

You can be sure that if the likelihood and rate of survival of testicular cancer in men (1 in 250 men will be diagnosed with an 80-100% rate of survival depending on stage) were comparable to that of breast cancer for women (1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with a 15-93% rate of survival depending on stage) someone would have developed far better measures for monitoring and treating it than they’ve done for female cancers.

Barbaric!

I decided that even if I did test positive for the mutation, I wouldn’t remove my ovaries or my remaining breast. Since I don’t have children, like Jolie who lost her own mother to breast cancer at age 56 and said she did it so her children wouldn’t have to lose their mom they way she did, I don’t have that weighing on me. If I did, perhaps I might have made a different choice.

Beyond that, I don’t want to live in fear of death. As Joel Shuman and Brian Volck point out in Reclaiming the Body: Christians and the Faithful Use of Modern Medicine, when it comes to extreme measures of avoiding illness and prolonging life “few people seem interested in asking whether or to what extent such an aim is appropriate for creatures of a providential God.”

The additional issues of cost ($3000 which might be paid for in my case, but not necessarily) and the audacious ethics of  the only company who currently offers the testing (their patent on the BRCA genes is currently under consideration with the Supreme court) also factored into my decision.

The bottom-line question was: What difference will knowing make? Testing negative for the mutation wouldn’t make any difference to how I live each day. Testing positive might increase my vigilance about self-care and monitoring, but I already do everything I’m “suppose to” in terms of prevention.

I’ve always said that I reserve the right to change my mind about reconstruction. And I feel the same about testing for BRCA.

But for today, I am alive and well, being of service to many, and full of gratitude for the goodness of life that has come to me. If one day I decide two breasts are better than one or knowing my genetic status would give me a better life, I’ll go for it.

But until then, I’ll remain a one-breasted woman committed to living in the love of a providential God that has no room for fear of death, disease, aging, accidents, and whatever else might stand in the way of fully loving and enjoying my life, just as I am.

I love coffee. In college and graduate school I drank a lot of coffee. My husband even roasts his own: Dave’s Roast – The Cure for Common Coffee. But sitting around in coffee shops ingesting caffeine and calories I don’t need isn’t particularly good for my health.

A Harvard Business Review blog about the health risks of sitting caught my attention. Most people sit more than we do anything else (she noted while sitting at the computer)–including sleeping. At work, in the car, on the computer, in front of the T.V., while eating or socializing over coffee or a drink–the author suggests that sitting is the smoking of our generation.

Many health risks are associated with excess sitting including: increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol levels. It also seems to increase the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer.

In light of the potential lethality of excess sitting, James Levine (an M.D. and researcher at the Mayo Clinic) advocates we shift away from a “chair-based lifestyle” by finding alternatives wherever we can. These included taking regular stretch and stand breaks if you must be seated, standing while on phone calls, adjusting your work station to a counter height so you can stand, or even creating or buying a treadmill desk.

The blog author schedules four walking meetings into her work week. She reports many personal and professional benefits, including adding 20-30 miles of activity to her week.

My contribution: walking is the new coffee. Instead of spending money and ingesting calories and caffeine I don’t need anyway, I’m going to start suggesting a gentle walk instead.

Who’s on board?

Dr. Levine’s campaign against a chair-based lifestyle goes beyond physical health: “Go into cubeland in a tightly controlled corporate environment and you immediately sense that there is a malaise about being tied behind a computer screen seated all day,” he said. “The soul of the nation is sapped, and now it’s time for the soul of the nation to rise.”

Let’s rise up and do this!

What will be your creative alternative?

How might you get out of your chair and into motion this week?

Set a timer on your computer to alert you to get out of the chair every hour and do something active. It doesn’t need to be much.

Your body and soul will be better off if you do!