Cancer to me was mostly an obscure disease… something people get when they get old or perhaps when they are unlucky enough to have genes that carry a predisposition to cancer. It was something mysterious and I felt it was the luck of the draw if you faced it down or not… it was not, in my mind, something I could prevent if I wanted to and it was not something I could get from my environment or my poor choices, save perhaps cancer from tobacco products.
But then cancer hit home for me all within the span of a few years. My Aunt died in her early forties after years of working in a factory and the man who exterminated our house died suddenly. It made me think about our choices, our environment, and the exposure to deadly chemicals that was all around us. The link to cancer wasn’t so mysterious. I was seeing direct links between environment and this deadly disease. These events and the fact that I had almost lost my youngest child to vaccines made be start looking at things with new eyes. Our environment and our choices were making us sick.
This point was of course driven home all the more when I got sick soon after. I thought my third pregnancy was just the gestation period from hell but I would soon be diagnosed with cancer myself. Genetics were ruled out officially by my doctors but I already knew why a 28 year old woman got a type of cancer common to people in their 60s… poor life choices.
Sure I knew that my diet could have adverse effects… like increasing chances for heart disease later, bad skin, diabetes, weight gain, etc. Cancer was never on my radar though. From about age of 19 to age 26 I lay all the groundwork for my own illness. My diet all through those years was deplorable. I worked at a movie theater while I was in college as a projectionist and manager so I had all the free junk food I could want. It was not uncommon for me to go weeks with my meals only consisting of hot dogs, popcorn, and soda. After college I worked 40-60 hours a week in an office and who had time to cook or prepare meals, so my son and I ate exclusively at fast food places.. breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Ironically I turned this around by the time I was diagnosed a couple years later but the damage had been done.
In many ways getting cancer was a blessing because it is a great teacher. I came to see fully just how closely linked our lifestyle and our product and food choices are to bad health and disease. It helped me to see what kind of risks I am taking with my kids when they eat the processed crap that permeates the grocery store. It helped me see everything with new eyes and I wouldn’t say I live in fear… I just have a realistic view of the exposure around us. Our environment matters! Our choices matter!
By calling it a blessing I don’t want to make cancer sound glam either. It wasn’t easy to spend two weeks in the hospital after being cut from groin to belly button. It wasn’t easy to have to stop breastfeeding my son at six months old or worry that my kids wouldn’t have a mother. It wasn’t fun to come home strung out after becoming addicted to the IV pain medicine. It wasn’t fun to have a port-a-cath put in my chest or to have it taken back out. It wasn’t fun to throw in up my purse. It wasn’t fun to get Pancreatitis and need another hospitalization and surgery. And it wasn’t easy to tell my doctor I quit Chemo and that I would rather take my chances with cancer than go through one more minute of torture in his office. You know what would have been easy though? Avoiding it in the first place.
There is risk involved in hiring that exterminator, lawn care expert, or pool guy… for us and for them. There is risk involved when selecting shampoo, mattresses, food, and food storage dishes. The risks may seem to be minimal when you look at the products individually but when you add up all the cumulative exposure the risks aren’t so small anymore. When natural substances are outweighed by initials… BPA, PVC, PET, PFOA, PFOS… you are doubling down on risk.
We cannot rely on industry to make the necessary changes on their own because money is more important than product safety. We see this clearly with the plastic industry, the tobacco industry, and the pharmaceutical companies. The ultimate battle against cancer can be fought in large part by becoming aware of what constitutes risk and educating yourself about where the dangers are coming from. We can choose to vote with our dollars on products that are safe and for companies that take environmental responsibility seriously. By doing so we reduce our own risk and we send a message loud and clear.
We may not be scientists capable of finding a cure for cancer but we are savvy people capable of reducing our risk and protecting our families when industry will not. Follow along as some other green moms expose the environmental links to cancer via the Green Moms Carnival. Enjoy!
Environmental Links to Cancer
Lisa at Retro Housewife Goes Green examines the link between a local cement plant and cancer.
Marie at Project Earth examines the link to cancer that can be found in our personal care products in Phthalates: It’s not Just a Fragrance. It’s a Birth Control!
Deanna at The Crunchy Chicken writes about her husband getting leukemia after working in biotechnology for many years.
Jennifer the Smart Mama highlights many common links to cancer found in the home and two books that motivated her to make changes.
Karen at Best of Mother Earth discusses the term carcinogenic and where we can start in making changes.
Kellie at The Green Phone Booth has some good advice to help us avoid becoming overwhelmed about the C-word.
Amber at Strocel.com examines Environmental Toxins, Breast Milk and Cancer.
Sommer at Green and Clean Mom shares her thoughts on empowering ourselves to beat cancer.
Diane at Big Green Purse talks about how we can take precautions with We Don’t Wait for Our Child to Get Hit By a Car Before We Tell Her to Look Both Ways When Crossing the Street.
Linda at Citizen Green writes about cancer and sunscreens which is timely since warmer weather is around the corner.
Anna at Green Talk discusses toxic chemicals in furniture and building products.
Jennae at Green and Gorgeous, has a child battling cancer, and she asks the question When it Comes to Cancer, I Say Why Take the Chance?
Micaela at Mindful Mama speaks out about her own cancer wake up call.
Lynn at Organic Mania talks about the Hypocrisy of Cancer.
Monday, March 8th, 2010