Let’s Turn The Light on Breast Cancer

When I was about 10, my mom gave me a copy of Our Bodies, Our Selves, the first book of its kind cobbled together by the Boston Women’s Health Collective in 1970 and an underground hit by 1971. This book was revolutionary at the time it hit bookstores in those early years of the ERA, and as a precocious child of intellectual parents growing up in conservative Connecticut, was revolutionary to me and my circle of friends. Pictures of vaginas! Breasts! Descriptions of sexual intercourse! OMG! Shocking as it was, it was a book designed to normalize the functions of the female body and to teach girls and young women bodily autonomy. Our Bodies, Our Selves was a precursor to #metoo. In the setting of equal rights for women and minorities, the notion of bodily autonomy was radical. It still is.

Where We Are Now
Fast forward to the 2020’s. We are still teaching our girls and young women how to declare bodily autonomy, but not in a setting of conservative and Puritanical thought; rather, in a setting of over-sexualization, reproductive rights erasure, violence against women, and civil unrest. Fifty years after the publishing of Our Bodies, Our Selves, we are collectively still dealing with objectification of the female body, gross disrespect, and simply a struggle to just be female in our patriarchal society. There is a veneer of support for women, for equal rights, and the notion that women can “do it all,” yet we still live in a society that punishes women for being too this or that, for choosing career OR motherhood, and for choosing both and never having enough time, energy, or resources. We continue to live in a society that betrays us by not supporting our bodies and our selves.

The Struggle Is Real
If you are a woman with breast cancer, one of the roughly 1,000 diagnosed each day in the United States, your diagnosis will catapult you through your own struggles along these lines, but also lay bare the problems with a medical system designed by men. Doctors who don’t listen, who minimize female complaints, and who neither do adequate research nor create a patient-centered model of care, perpetuate the “Breast Cancer Industrial Complex” as I call it. This complex is a heroic system devoid of healing, that uses militaristic language with brutal, slash and burn means.

Breast cancer is not just a disease to be battled, it is a disease that shines a light on the female experience both good and bad. By examining your body, your self, and your choices, that light can help you grow and heal.

A Female Issue
I’ll just say it: breast cancer is a feminist issue. From the day-to-day experience a woman has facing this disease, to the choices she is presented with for treatment, to how breast cancer impacts her work and family, a diagnosis of breast cancer acts as a spotlight on this complex web of issues.

Your Body Belongs to You
In a series for 2024, I am going to address myriad concerns for women with breast cancer and provide opportunities and resources for dealing with it. I have heard repeatedly over the last two decades that no one in the breast cancer care structure gives women the time to discuss these meaningful issues. So let’s talk about them. Let me pull you into the Barbie® van with a simple declaration that your body belongs to you.

Connect with Me
While I am closing my practice at Bellingham Naturopathic Clinic on March 20th, you can continue to connect with me online for cancer education courses, community-based workshops, and naturopathic consultation options.


Yours in Health,
Dr. Laura James, ND, FABNO


Sara Stamey
February 17, 2024

Thank you! Right on!
I look forward to reading more, and appreciate the help you are giving me in my (different) cancer healing process. It is true that each of us must find our way through and sometimes around the mainstream U.S. medical "industrial complex."

February 16, 2024

Thank you for this. It touches so closely on my pain of going from being self sufficient to spending three months in a rehab center/nursing home unable to perform 4 of the 6 Activities of Daily Living as a result of my cancer treatments.

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