When Bridget Ford Hughes emerged in 2008 from four years of breast cancer treatment and a double mastectomy before she got the “All Clear,” the first thing she did was to get married and celebrate Life and Love and the tremendous support she received from her husband and close friends.
The second thing she did was to set forth on yet another journey...
With singular focus, Bridget began to manifest her cancer-fueled and inspired dream: to find a way to help other women through their journey with breast cancer.
When you first meet Bridget it’s really hard to tell she’s been through a battle. Standing at over six feet tall, all muscle and no fat on her, her strength and positive attitude are the first things you notice…after her smile. Since 2009, she’s applied all her strength, positive outlook, and that winning smile to setting up and maintaining a fund to improve the lives of women with cancer by enabling them to nurture their strength and wellness.
Practice what you preach, indeed… The fund’s mission is at the core of Bridget’s life and practices. She lives and breathes strength and wellness. Every morning starts with an Ayurvedic cleansing of her five senses; every day allows for reflection from daily prayer, meditation, and dog walks; and every week clocks in over twenty hours of physical exercise playing tennis, teaching group classes, and personal training - her own and private client sessions.
Bridget’s journey with cancer taught her a new way of looking at herself and looking after herself. She learned through hard work and struggle how to make good choices about her care and long-term well-being. Profoundly eased by the healing power of alternative care, Bridget made it her mission to make sure other women knew about the growing number of alternative healing methods out there. She also wanted to do her part to make them available to women with breast cancer.
Complementary medicine and alternative care are not, as a rule, covered by health insurance, yet we can no longer under-estimate the importance of that “gentle touch.” As individuals and as communities we need to embrace the process of learning new ways to approach health problems from multiple angles - and open up to the union of Mind, Body, Spirit. Alternative methods have been proven to contribute positively to wellness. As awareness grows and scientific data in support of alternative treatments mounts, the list of healing modalities increases, too.
Bridget made sure the fund was set up to support the ever-growing list of healing pathways such as: Acupuncture, Ayurveda, Chinese/Herbal Medicine, Chiropractic, Fitness Instruction, Homeopathy, Hypnosis, Kinesiology, Massage Therapy, Meditation, Movement Therapy, Naturopathy, Nutrition Counseling, Psychological Services, Physical Therapy, Reflexology, Reiki, Spiritual Counseling, Yoga.
Bridget is warm and welcoming, just like the huge St. Bridget’s door mat on the steps leading to her studio. She is completely open about her journey with cancer and this transparency helps others to open up, too. It is then that Bridget is able to flex one of her strongest muscles, and it’s a strong one – her ability to listen to another person’s story.
Bridget understands that cancer is a personal journey. A treatment that works for one woman might not work for another, but through constructive dialogue Bridget is able to help, and to reassure and to offer suggestions that support healing, strengthening and overall wellness.
In talking with my friend, I can’t help but be reminded that when we think of the archetype mythological hero and his journey, we intuit a man, his journey and his struggles, and his ability to impart wisdom to others upon his return home. The key to this myth is that throughout his travails the hero [actually] stops along the way to ask for directions from wise guides who make his journey more…meaningful.
It is this ability – to ask for guidance as well as to share knowledge - that turns a mere mortal into a Hero because he is both able to listen and learn as well as to teach and help others.
But what if we fast-forward to modern day and that archetypal hero is a breast cancer survivor, a woman who acknowledges that through her own journey with cancer she has learned many lessons and is capable of sharing her knowledge for the greater good?
This is the beautiful under belly of breast cancer, the silver lining, the soft part that despite its innate frailty and vulnerability grants a woman with cancer the courage to open up and ask for help and when, in the end, she is possessed of strength and gratitude can help others become Heroines, too.
Like folklore passed down through the ages, the stories and wisdom these women share make them all modern day Heroines, key witnesses and chroniclers of a battle just waiting outside one out of every eight doors to a woman’s home. But every so often, a breast cancer survivor takes the dialogue a step beyond the sacred journey and sets up a fund to help others, to ease their journey and to bring those touched by cancer closer to wellness.
Strength and wellness are gifts we cannot fully comprehend until we find ourselves struggling to regain them. There are many paths to wellness, but no path can lead back to wellness without the gentle touch of Love and Encouragement and Reassurance. Mountains of Gratitude have been built upon the power of a gentle touch and its ability to calm and sooth and ultimately - to heal.
Like a true Heroine returned home, Bridget's own words describe how her experience taught her how very much “we need the support of well-informed, dedicated people to assist us at every level of healing — physical, emotional, and spiritual — so we can focus on hope and recovery…”
When you remember the many blessings in your life this Christmas and holiday season, please also think about the many women with breast cancer who are clinging to theirs. A gentle touch can bring a woman with cancer one step closer to becoming a Heroine, and this belief is what lies at the heart of the network of support that Bridget Ford Hughes has lovingly established at the Women’s Cancer Wellness Fund.