American Epidemics

I started losing friends to breast cancer when I was in my thirties. One of the lowest points I experienced during my infertility struggle was coping with my friend Sheila's abortion; she had late stage breast cancer at the time and a pregnancy would have hastened her death. I was so grateful that she lived long enough to meet my twins when they were born. She saw them a total of two times before she passed.

I don't know why Sheila got breast cancer at 34. She was practically macrobiotic and very health conscious. I don't know why my mother, both her sisters and my grandmother got it either. When I was a little girl we all lived together in a three-family home and I used to wonder if it was built over a toxic waste dump, because everybody got sick. I wonder about that now, too; I was tested for the breast cancer gene and don't have it. Given my family history, my gyno thought it was a lock and we were already discussing prophylactic mastectomy when the test came back negative.

This isn't a rant, and I'm not having a particularly sad day. I just sometimes wonder why there is so much cancer. I had lunch with a friend yesterday who remarked that her contemporaries, women in their early thirties, are experiencing so much infertility, too. Her mother and grandmother scratch their heads over it saying, these are young women.

Is there anyone left out there who hasn't known at least one person who has dealt with cancer, or one person who has experienced infertility? Both are everywhere, and affect so many.

Answers, anyone? Theories? Of course, there are tons of both. It's this, it's that, it's the other thing.

I want to throw out there that, when environmental toxins are studied and found to be endocrine disruptors, the list of possible side effects from exposure seem to so very often include both cancer and infertility. And no, I don't think this is the sole cause of either.

Last week I went to get my nails done, and the young manicurist mentioned that she was getting her long, dark, beautiful hair permed. My salon is not as green as I would like it to be (although they are getting better, given my nagging) and knowing that she already spends her days in a toxic soup, I asked if she worried about chemicals. She replied, "I love chemicals". I wonder if there has been a backlash against the green "movement" among younger people, I was so taken aback by her answer.

I know that you can't avoid chemicals, they are everywhere. But my request to you is this. Please, try to reduce your exposure whenever possible. Path2Parenthood has some good stuff about this in our library. There's no down side.

There's a reason why, as Path2Parenthood's program director, I feel an afinity with my colleagues at the Breast Cancer Fund, the Environmental Working Group, CHE, Women's Voices for the Earth and Safer Chemicals Healthy Families, to name a few. Good people doing good work. I'm proud of the non-profit professionals I know, especially my own co-workers at Path2Parenthood. Living a cause-focused life is not always easy.

Please, try to find just a few action items that will reduce your chemical exposure. Limit canned foods. Don't microwave in plastic. Choose green nail polish formulas. Whatever it is that works for you, do it consciously, every day.

I don't want you to love chemicals. I want you to love life.

I miss my friends.

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