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Pink Ribbon Drumming

By: Bonnie D. Harr, MSN, MS, RN
Category: Therapeutic
Population Served: Others

There's great news to report! While the statistics remain formidable and much is yet to be achieved, a truth, in fact, is that more women are living with breast cancer than are dying from it! Many variables are impacting this shift including, but not limited to, earlier detection, advancements in technology, increasing public education and awareness, better pharmacotherapeutics, legislative advocacy, diverse, multi-factorial and multi-dimensional research yielding new therapies and so very much more! We are galvanized and responding - women aware, taking the dare to stare the disease in the face and triumph! It's passionate, pink life on the edge of profound and transformed wholeness beyond diagnosis!

One of the most fulfilling areas of the work I'm involved in with HealthRhythms drumming is with breast cancer survivors and their families. Theirs' is a "rhythm of hope" that resounds in the chambers of every heart that encounters the courage, stamina, endurance and perseverance that these women embody. Yes - there is fear; yes - there is pain; yes - there are body changes; but YES! -- There is hope and resiliency! The fabric of the human spirit is textured, glistening and woven through and through with love, compassion and mystical moments far past our ability to describe them! These spirits are housed in bodies that are fearfully and wonderfully made. . . (Psalms139:14).

Every year in May, we host a "Spa Serenity Day" where Breast Cancer Survivors have the opportunity to not only experience the healing hands of the many Spa providers of care (massage therapists, reflexologists, estheticians, healing touch practitioners, etc.), but also have the chance - most of them for the first time - to place their hands on a drum! In a circle well-planned to allow for expression, healing and the inner and intra-communication of something larger than the self, participants are invited to dialogue with their disease, their doctors and surgeons, their family members, those who have or are supporting them through the journey to wellness, and with each other.

Healing is the organizing theme of the circle. The HealthRHYTHMS drums provide a serene blue backdrop to the diamonds of sensitive truth and self-offering that each participant eventually unveils. Techniques are simplified - open hand, closed hand, tap, slap, whoosh... There are no knowledge knots or unnecessary burdens in the circle. Rhythmic naming warms the spirits, with each participant given space to create her own name's unique sound and to be affirmed by the responding sounds that echo her name back to her! In this matrix of giving and receiving, laughter, gentle smiles and genuine joy fill the circle and warm the room.

By intention, I use guided imagery techniques (referenced elsewhere on this site), to have the participants imagine the surface of the drum as being their own affected / diseased breast. I ask them to place their hands right on the area where the first hint of a problem was found. In the eight years I have been doing this event, there has never been reluctance to participate in this moment. What happens next is sacred and largely unpredictable.

Generally, tears begin to flow somewhere or several somewheres; someone reaches out to softly touch a tearful one; someone else draws inward; another begins to pound the area on the drum that represents the diseased area; still another says, "I can?t do this." At the exact right intuited moment, I begin a centering beat - one that will lead us all to a shared rhythm. They drum. They REALLY drum! I stop the rhythms and ask what they are feeling, sensing, realizing?

- I'm more than my disease.
- I don't have a breast, but I have a life, and a
good one!
- I'm not alone in this.
- I feel free and empowered.
- I'm lost and found in the warmth of this circle.
- I don't want this to end.
- This is a rhythm of life, not death.
- I never thought a drum could make me feel this
way. Maybe it's not the drum, maybe it's all of
you here with me.
- I didn't want to come to this. I was going to go
home.
- We actually went from heaviness to celebration in a
drum beat!
- I need one of these drums.
- I've never felt such pulsing love.

I'm asked many questions about breast cancer, about individual symptoms, about support groups, about whether it's true that hair comes in more fully and curly after chemo, if I've ever seen a "good" prosthesis, about where to buy drums and bras. The noise of life lifts us above the plane of fear. THIS IS THE GIFT of Pink Ribbon Drumming.

I always close this circle with the Ocean drum. Again, I invite participants to imagine with me a pristine white beach, polluted with seashells, seagulls flying overhead - one a "carrier gull" dropping a message. I invite each group member to read the message, and then write it in their mind and the cavern of their heart space. We breathe . . . we live. Life is breath; breath is life. And when the ocean sounds recede into the faded distance and stillness, we hear the sounds of balanced silence. I thank each woman for sharing her soul-space.

No one ever wants to leave the Pink Ribbon Drum Circle. When they do, they leave forever changed and connected to the friends who shared the circle with them. Imagine that a drum can bring such healing peace in one hour?s time. . . Just imagine!

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