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Saturday, March 29, 2014

love my breasts

Breasts are amazing.
They are. I mean, look at what they can DO! Feed babies. And they are nigh on irreplaceable at doing their job, too. Breasts have been nourishing the world since God made it, and I am personally skeptical that any of these sci-fi ideas of humans being grown and nourished successfully by machines will happen in anything closer to real life than the newest Superman movie. (Have you seen it, by the way? Man Of Steel. It was pretty good.)

Women tend to carry a lot of self-esteem in their breasts. In some parts of the world, boobs are just...well, there, and you don't cover them up, and you don't spend big bucks to make them perkier or larger or smaller, and you don't actually hold much sexual attraction in your breasts, either. That's predominantly a western culture thing. Not saying it's right or wrong, just different elsewhere. In some parts of the world, boobs are a sign of fertility, of womanhood, of worth. In some parts of the world, cancer resulting in a mastectomy (removal of one or both breasts) can cause some women to simply feel lopsided, or lighter, or affect them to such a severity they feel as if they have somehow lost their femininity and worth as women altogether. The point is, women carry a lot of self-esteem in their breasts.

Then why, oh why, don't we treat them better?!

Firstly, don't get mammograms.
Or if you already have done so in the past, stop now while you're ahead. I mean it. Don't get mammograms. They're awful things.

See this video. This explains for you -- scratch that, shows you, basically, what a mammogram is. It is an x-ray of the breast. But the machine that is used to perform the mammogram sandwiches the breast flat in order to get a good picture. They say it "may feel uncomfortable" but should not be painful... Well, there are frankly very mixed reports on that score. Size does make a difference when it comes to mammograms.

But I don't want to freak you out about the pain. There's worse. Discomfort versus pain aside, new evidences are showing that mammograms can actually prove to be more beneficial in causing cancer than in diagnosing it. One study actually found that women who went for annual mammograms developed breast cancer at 22% higher than women who relied just on self-examinations. Radiation seems partly to blame, in hand with the squishing action of the mammogram machine's design. Even without the radiation, it seems in some studies that the squeeze design is negative all by itself -- put an area of the body under severe stress and there is a chance that it could go overboard in replacing damaged cells and just not stop growing, and then you have a tumor. And who wants their breast squeezed flat like a pancake anyway? Really? Let's make a similar device for squeezing men's testicles flat in order to screen yearly against testicular cancer and see how long that one lasts! Really. But anyway.....anyway! Don't take my word for it. Please don't. Go read Tanya Harter Pierce. And the British Medical Journal. And Christie Aschwanden.  And the International Journal of Health Services. And more evidence is out there. Go seek it out and form your own educated opinion.

That is not to say we should just ignore our breasts. Every month, or thereabouts, I have a ritualistic poke around to make sure nothing new is going on in that part of my body. Like many women, I get sore boobs sometimes during PMS, so I usually wait until that part of life is through for the month and I'm feeling less sensitive. It's a good habit to make. It's a good habit to know the rest of your body, too. Check all over once in a while for new freckles, skin irritations, muscle tone, and so forth. I encourage mothers of daughters to teach your teenage girls how to perform self-exams on their own breasts, so that they get in the habit early and learn to be aware of their bodies in a healthy way. This link provides a good breakdown of the three basic moves for self-exams, although it really doesn't take as long to check a breast as any instructions seem to indicate. Just a few minutes. No biggie.

(Nope, I am not getting into some breast cancer awareness thingy, certainly not in affiliation with a certain American-founded society... I don't want to get into that. The phoniness makes me too mad. Besides, awareness never solved anything. Action is change, not awareness, not running marathons, not wearing pink, and not vowing off fast food the rest of your life -- although that wouldn't be such a bad thing, really. I am getting into my own breast cancer battle, hoping that more women will refuse mammograms and learn to care for their bodies without unnecessary invasive techniques.) 

This next recipe is based on one from Rosemary Gladstar's book, Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health. You can use it as an oil, thicken it up with beeswax into a salve, whip that salve in the blender with aloe juice into a body cream, or make up a Green Goddess body butter. It smells absolutely lovely to me. Astringent without being sharply pungent.

You don't have to use this oil exclusively on your breasts, either. I used this oil on my legs, with pokeroot oil added, after a bout of rheumatic fever (a systemic infection of the strep virus that manifests with symptoms akin to rheumatoid arthritis) raised hard, sore lumps on my shins and calves, called erythema nodosum. Those lumps looked much like someone had shoved large dried beans under my skin, leaving bruises. Persistent body brushing and massage with LMB + poke oil all over my legs, as I finished my 10 day course of antibiotics, proved to soften and dissipate the lumps. Why? I was helping my lymphatic system to drain. The lymph system is an important network of the body that causes drainage of fluids. Without it, the body can quickly become congested and blocked, and ill, and it often reflects existing illness, such as a sore throat, with inflammation. The 6 large lymph nodes are located at the jaw, neck, armpits, creases of the elbow, the groin, and behind the knee.

This is the same problem that can happen with our breasts, ladies. You know that soreness, sensitivity, that happens at different points in our menstrual cycle, or in life? Sometimes the soreness can seem unrelated to anything usual, which is when women tend to be concerned. While you get in the habit of self-exams, add this massage oil to the process. I use it during my periods to reduce unnecessary tenderness, and I find it helps greatly. I have had reports from other women that the use of this oil has helped soothe those times of occasional inflammation while nursing. Since the skin of the breast is very delicate, and since many women pop on a bra quite quickly and neglect the breast while they lotion their legs, regular care with these healing, soothing herbs will at the very least help to keep your breasts in top condition. Massage lovingly, and be sure to extend a little into the armpits to work those lymph nodes before you apply deodorant.

Love My Breasts Massage Oil 

12 oz olive oil 
1/2 oz calendula flowers 
1/2 oz comfrey leaf 
15 drops lavender essential oil 
8 drops rosemary essential oil 
7 drops pine essential oil 
Begin by infusing olive oil with herbs of calendula flowers and comfrey leaves. Comfrey heals and restores flesh deep down, not just on the surface, and can prove wonderfully soothing to deep soreness. Calendula works with the lymph system for effective drainage, and also heals and strengthens surface skin. Calendula is my very favorite herb for any person and any skin condition, whether alone or paired with other herbs, because it is gentle enough for babies while being effective. The lovely yellow color of calendula oil makes me smile, too.

Follow these instructions for infusing your oil with heat. Use a pint jar, 1/2 oz comfrey, and 1/2 oz calendula, and enough oil to fill up to the neck of the jar over the packed herbs.

Once the oil has finished and cooled, add essential oils. You will need approximately 15 drops lavender, 8 drops rosemary, and 7 drops pine essential oil to your 11-12 ounces of calendula-comfrey oil. Add the essential oils to the cooled jar of infused oil, swirl gently, and leave to synergize overnight.

Rosemary Gladstar says, "Lavender increases circulation to the breast area and activates the immune system. Pine essential oil also increases blood flow to the breast area and contains compounds that have been proved to destroy cancerous cells. Rosemary is warming and decongesting and stimulates the lymph tissue." It seems to work for me! It all smells gorgeous, besides.

So go at it, ladies! Love your breasts. Whether you have nursed a baby or not, you only get one pair from God in this lifetime, and in whatever size or shape He made you they are a part of your body which deserve respect and care, just as the rest of beautiful you.

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