Too Many Lost to Cancer

Edited version of this post published today at Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families

Meet Kristen. We met in childbirth class. She in her swanky maternity clothes, and me wondering   how she could possibly look so stylish and beautiful while pregnant.  I wondered  if she would be nice or a bit snobby.

I should never have worried. What happened next is the sweet and simple story of easy friends. My husband, hers, and she and I. The four of us got along well and found we had many things in common.

Kristen was a vegan, since she was 22 years old. She ate clean, whole foods, and was an outstanding vegan chef and baker. I’m a vegetarian too, but no chef, with little cooking skills and a spazztic mind. Dinners in her home were salad pizza, homemade indian cuisine, veggie strombolis and vegan fudge, to name a few. It was always a treat, always fun and breezy, and we always left happy and full in spirit and body. 

Since we were pregnant at the same time, and then the mothers of daughters together, we talked all the time of chemicals in plastic, hormones in food, the clean 15, non-toxic sunscreen….all the things I write about here.  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 safe ingredients.  

Kristen 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. We ran together a few times here in Vermont, with one brilliant day last summer where we ran around a lake (5 miles) and swam to a dock afterward. We ditched our shoes and shirts in the bushes, and swam to our families frolicking in the sun. She was the picture of brilliant health and self care. 

You 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. 

You can’t tell me that her cancer had nothing to do with 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.
She lived the cleanest, healthiest life possible. 

What 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. 

Those are too many choices, too many vulnerable time periods– especially ones 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, personal care products, or in health care.  Too many harmful chemicals:  BPA, mercury, parabens, phthalates, pesticides, rBGH, PVC, lead, to name a few. 

Why are we as a nation stacking the deck against women?  Our mothers, sisters, friends, daughters and neighbors?

If we know that chemicals are starting to (or already) show links to increased cancer rates, how can we in good conscious just 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?  

How can we risk the lives of people like my dear friend Kristen?

Because believe me, if you knew her– your life would be better in some meaningful way. I can’t even begin to tell you, her warmth, her laugh, her openess filled you up.  And her daughter, can you even imagine?  The loss is unforgiveable. What if it was preventable?

I 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. Or showing adorable babies being slathered with lotion with cancer causing ingredients.  These corporations act like they love babies, mothers, and families. If they truly did, they’d demand that all chemicals are tested for safety before they enter the market. In fact, they wouldn’t rely on the market– but careful 3rd party testing and vetting– before making and selling any product.

That is so far from reality.  Over 80,000 chemicals in products we use everyday have NEVER been tested for safety. 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. 

And 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.

We keep hearing how we need less regulation from a certain political party.  I beg to differ. I’ve seen what happens. 

I 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 everywhere by limiting toxic exposures wherever we can.   

Starting with chemicals in our everyday products. That is why we must support the Safe Chemicals Act with our full hearts, minds, and effort. 

Please join me. 

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