Losing my friend to cancer: Time to focus on breast cancer prevention
we were pregnant at the same time, we talked all the time of chemicals in
plastic, hormones in food, the clean 15, non-toxic sunscreen. Kristen
made every effort to eat organic, local and vegan, to feed her family only the
best foods, to use only non-toxic personal products, and to clean her home with
see, Kristen died less than a month ago, at 42 years old, leaving behind our
good friend–her husband– and their beautiful 7 year old daughter. I haven’t
been able to write much about it, because I am overcome with sadness. She
died of breast cancer that had travelled to other parts of her body, a few
years after her first round with this evil disease.
was an athlete. She played soccer in college and ran her whole adult life. She
was an avid hiker and backpacker, having traveled with her high school
sweetheart across this country for months at a time, visiting almost all of the
nation’s national parks. She was the picture of brilliant health and self
was her cancer linked somehow to environmental chemical exposures? I know you
will say we can’t be certain– what about genetics? There were no other women
with pre-menopausal cancer in her family. She didn’t have the genetic marker
for breast cancer.
exactly tipped the scales of her body toward cancer? We will never know. It
could have been chemical exposures during pregnancy, her childhood, or during her pregnancy
and nursing periods. Her first tumor was found shortly after she stopped nursing, and
it was growing aggressively.
“There are too many choices, too many vulnerable time periods—many that were beyond her control.”
Chemical exposures during any of the times in her life
could have been from the air, water, food, plastics, cleaning products, or personal
care products. There are many harmful chemicals: BPA, mercury, parabens, phthalates,
pesticides, PVC, lead, to name a few.
are stacking the deck against women? Our mothers, sisters,
friends, daughters and neighbors?
we know that chemicals are starting to (or already) show links to increased cancer
rates, how can we in good conscious keep them on the market? How can we
let chemicals be sold without any knowledge of their safety or connection to
cancers and other diseases and health problems?
can we risk the lives of people like my dear friend Kristen? And her daughter,
can you even imagine? The loss is unforgiveable.
cannot sit idly by, while thousands of people are exposed to chemicals in
products, food, plastics, cleaning products, and the manufacturers make cute
commercials about being the Sponsor of Moms Everywhere.
Most of the 80,000 chemicals in products we use
everyday have never been tested for
Companies can use an ingredient until it is proven unsafe (taking years and
countless exposures) and then use a slightly different one until that one is
proven unsafe. Making gobs of money during this process.
the same companies send safer products over to Europe, where they demand it and
chemicals are better regulated. The U.S. remains a dumping ground for the more
toxic versions of products because of our lack of regulation.
seems “regulation” has become a dirty word, although the majority of Americans support increased
regulations of toxic chemicals. I’ve seen what happens in the face of lax
need my friend back. My sweet 7 year old friend needs her mom back. While
this obviously can’t happen– we can stack the deck in the favor of all women
by limiting toxic exposures where we can.
with chemicals in our everyday products. That is why we must support the Safe Chemicals Act with our full hearts,
minds, and effort.
Katy Farber is a teacher, author, and founder of the
blog, Non-Toxic Kids and a valued Safer Chemicals blogger. She is also the author of two books about
Great Teachers Quit and How We Might Stop the Exodus and Change the World
with Service Learning and she has written for various news,
parenting, non-profit and educational publications and websites.