Anyone I’ve ever asked about my mother-in-law, Johanna Pillischer, hasn’t hesitated to tell me what an exquisite person she was. Johanna was an artist, trained at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and a bodyworker, certified in Rubenfeld Synergy and the Alexander Technique. A mutual friend described her as warm and open-hearted, “like a bodhisattva,” the Buddhist deity that represents an ideally awakened, compassionate being.
I never got the chance to know Johanna before she succumbed to breast cancer in 2001. Still, I think of her often, imagining how we would connect around our shared passion for spirituality, health and self-development, and all the things she would have taught me. I reminisce with her sister about their experiences in the 1960s, learning yoga when it was still a new age trend. Knowing what a beautiful and sensitive man Johanna raised in my husband, Matt, I’m wistful that my son, Asa, will miss the experience to know her.
In my sadness, I feel connected to the millions of other families that have lost a matriarch, daughter, life partner, sibling, friend or other beloved to breast cancer.
Despite increased visibility around the disease, breast cancer remains the second leading cause of death among women. Current statistics show one in eight American women will be diagnosed in her lifetime. The battle to end breast cancer is being fought hard on many fronts; locally, and specifically within the complementary care community, the fight has been taken on by such organizations as Unite for HER and the Healing Consciousness Foundation.
These organizations ensure that women get the physical, emotional and spiritual support they need to move through breast cancer and beyond it by providing comprehensive survivorship plans that integrate yoga, massage, acupuncture, emotional and sexual counseling, holistic nutrition, fitness, energy work and other supportive services. Their effort involves tireless fundraising since complementary care is largely not covered by medical insurance. For many families, it were not for the subsidies provided by these organizations, such services would simply be out of reach.
The impact of this incredible work has also been to expand the conversation beyond women and breast cancer to include other communities impacted by chronic and acute illnesses. The science-based evidence supporting the efficacy of massage, acupuncture, yoga, and other kinds of holistic modalities is mounting, making conclusive what was once considered speculative. Major medical systems are evolving and embracing the role of integrative medicine.
This movement towards whole-body, whole-being wellness champions
education and personal empowerment, and promotes a culture where self-care and preventative health are key. When disease is present, the aim is to have a fully integrative standard of care that addresses the illness, while simultaneously nurturing the person. The result is decreased pain, stress, and anxiety, and ultimately, improved outcomes that yield longer, healthier, and more vital lives.
I know Johanna would have valued and celebrated this effort. This issue is dedicated to you, Mom, and all of the women that are loved and missed this Mother’s Day.
Together we are “Making the Awakening” in Bucks and Montgomery counties.
Karen G. Meshkov, Publisher