Friday, January 8, 2010

the C word

M. is my Aunt's best friend, my redheaded Aunt from a family of redheaded women- including my mother- and M. herself has red hair. I've known her since I was 5 and just found out a few years ago she dyes her hair red. I'd never have guessed. M. was divorced a few years ago and lives with her 13 year old son. Nine years ago, M. had breast cancer. aggressive carcinoma Her mother died after a hard battle with breast cancer when M. was a young girl. And now, M.'s cancer is back. In her 'chest wall' as doctors call it.

Kate McRae is the little blonde beauty in my sidebar, the one I asked you to pray for. The prayers are for her little body, which has been invaded with brain cancer, at the stem of her brain, thick with blood vessels that cannot be surgically removed. Kate just finished with her 4th round of chemo, and had the follow up MRI. It was not good. The tumor shrank. That's it. It's not gone, and it's not even dramatically shrunk. This is horrible, horrible news for her parents, her family. I can't begin... to imagine. I go there and shrink back at the curtains, shying from the true enormity of horror you must feel when your child, your baby, is being attacked and killed from within and you can't stop it.

We all, all know people like this, stories like these. They are at once intensely personal and universally shared. We might have gone through it ourselves. I know a few fellow bloggers who have had cancer in the past, and a few who fight it now. I had a scare in the past, one of the worst weeks in my entire life, when the large, 6 centimeter chunk hanging off my ovary was deemed ' possibly cancerous by my doctor because of it's complex appearance. I had an MRI, and waited. I waited in panic. Terror. Not for my own life, but leaving my children? Before they are grown? We all face that fear, as parents. It's one of many. My cyst turned out to be the result of Endometriosis, and that diagnosis began my journey into the world of health, nutrition, alternative medicine. Turning my body towards health, towards life.

I spent the first few months of my research in a mounting panic. Reading about all the things in our world that we have created- things we press against our skin, put in our mouths, rub into our scalp, soak into our skin, wrap round our babies, enter the bodies of our children- which cause cancer left me feeling helpless, terrified. My cancer risk is higher than the average person because I have Endometriosis. Melanoma risk goes up over 60% for those with Endometriosis, for example. I also smoked from 15 until 30 ( with the exception of my pregnancies ) and spent my childhood saturated in the chemicals brought up by a chronic state of fear. All risks.

What I could do to help my body heal, what I could do to prevent my family from being exposed to so many cancer causing agents- that became my mission. I'd like it to be yours. Cancer cannot be ' prevented ' one hundred percent, of course not. Genetics definitely play a role, especially with certain cancers. Certain obvious factors- smokers, daily drinkers, weight, working with radiation- affect risk. There are risks that can't always be nullified- air pollution, power lines, water - but there are many that can.

In doing research for Endometriosis, I learned about the connection between chemicals and cancer in many household and beauty products. Parabens was a word I found popping up over and over in my reading. Parabens are in almost every mainstream product imaginable : soap, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, makeup, etc. In small amounts, parabens have been proven to be safe. But the accumulative effect is a growing concern, and many now believe that parabens, and many of their counterpart chemicals, greatly increase cancer risk. I replaced my shampoo, conditioner, soaps and lotions with chemical free ones. Often, products will say ' paraben free '
on the front. I buy mine at Henry's or Whole Foods. The risk of putting these chemicals on and into children on a daily basis is truly scary. Their immune system functions differently than adult immune systems, as do their organs.

The chemicals in laundry detergents and household cleaners are also risky. The 'safe' cleaners keep getting better every year, and I've found clean just as well most of the time. I use Nature's Way and Method. Luckily, Method has been mass marketed and you can find it at Target.

Eating whole foods, largely organic, was a natural step for me after reading over and over about the pesticides and hormones put on and into our foods. We are literally creating medical problems never seen before because of how we make food and what we eat. Young men are getting a disorder in record, never before seen numbers, which is basically an endocrine disorder which causes enlarged breast tissue, among other things. There is a direct correlation between this disorder and the hormones in our meats and milk. There is also a direct correlation between the hormones in meat and milk and young girls getting their periods and breasts younger and younger. Hormone balance plays a HUGE role in many cancers, and a healthy hormone balance is essential to every part of a healthy body, including thyroid production. Know anyone with a thyroid problem? I bet you do. Irritable Bowel Syndrome, among many other gut related diseases, used to be considered a problem of aging. Gastro's saw patients primarily in their fifties and above. Now, patients are in their 30's, even 20's, with these gut issues, brought on in large by eating diets large in processed foods, fat, sugar and wheat, and hormone imbalances, which are brought on by... the connections start to become so clear, the more you read. The gut houses what is called the second brain of the body, where many hormones are released. This is why so many people get a stomach ache when they are upset, and why if our hormone balance becomes compromised, so does our immunity.

Certain foods are more important to eat organic than others, based on how processed they are and if the pesticides 'sink' into the food. There are lists easily found online. Meat and milk is especially important to buy organic, hormone free. Lunch meat has a direct link to cancer because of the preservatives used in it. I had a friend, Lena, who was a scientist who worked on cancer, and she said no one in her lab. ate sandwich meats or wore deodorant, because in the community of scientists, it's known that despite what the press says, there is a link between these things and cancer.

I also know a woman who works with plastics, and refuses to let her daughter eat off anything plastic, including her bottles, which are glass, or chew on plastic toys. This woman told me she had no problem with plastic until she took the classes required for employees of this plastic company, and learned about what plastic is made of, what it does to your food, how it reacts to heat, and what it can do to your body.

So next? Yeah. I replaced all our plastics with glass.

Cancer and autoimmune disorders are becoming prevalent. Long ago, when I was born, Silent Spring was written, and it was all laid out. If we keep poisoning our environment, she wrote, we will poison ourselves.

I can't prevent it. But I'll be damned if I invite it into my body, or into my home.

Stay healthy, friends. And if you have a moment, please pray for Kate McRae.
Allison the Meep said...

I couldn't agree with you more about these things. We really try to stay away from any processed foods in general just because who knows what the hell half of the eight syllable ingredients are really made of. Yes, they're edible, but they're not food. And we buy organic whenever possible.

There's a website, cosmeticsdatabase.com, and it has hundreds of beauty products on record and lists them from least to most toxic. I was so shocked a few years ago when I found out some of the things I thought to be "natural" were in fact riddled with chemicals and very harmful. So now I only use mineral makeup, use coconut oil as lotion, make my own deodorant out of baking soda mixed with cornstarch and essential oils, and use Whole Foods brand shampoo that is free of SLS, parabens, and all other really horrible crap.

There is a lot out there that's scary, but I feel that if we enough people talk about it and we educate ourselves, we can make choices that will help us live as healthy as we can.

Glimmer said...

My mother is from a large rural farm family and they did not start getting serious diseases until they were elderly, most them very elderly. She is 90. She takes one pill, a "water pill" for something she made up.

The children of these very healthy, very long-lived people started getting cancer, etc., at MUCH younger ages, like 50. Canaries in the coal mine, I tell you.

So several years ago I started changing out products, like you listed. Throwing out the plastic. Buying organic (ouch goes the pocketbook, but cutting back elsewhere). Because I had to do what I could. So much is unknown. But at least I could try. My husband thought I was nuts and thought I was overreacting. But now he is with the program with most all of it.

Everyone has to decide. But it made common sense to me and I had to do it.

CitricSugar said...

My mother is a breast cancer survivor and whenever she shakes her head at my lousy chemical-free shampoo, I shake my head right back.

Luckily, I may have her hooked on natural, chem-free mineral makeup. One small subliminal change at a time...

My prayers for K!

SJ said...

Love you, Maggie. Thanks for making us all think.

Katy said...

I would like to think I do okay with keeping as healthy but a few things you said in there really woke me up to not becoming complacent - thank you maggie x

Jason, as himself said...

Awful. Awful. Awful.

It is awful living terrified.

Susan Erickson said...

Cancer is scary...we have lost loved ones and it's devastating...I agree. we have to change...I'm praying...best

The Storialist said...

Lots of positive thoughts and healing vibes her way.

Thanks for this post.

Existential Waitress said...

I will pray for your friends. Many people in my family have endured battles with cancer, and it is truly a terrible, terrible disease.
I have done a lot of research in this area as well, as I suffer from hypothyroidism and wheat intolerance, and my kids had multiple food allergies when they were born. Fortunately, they've outgrown almost all of them at this point. Yes, we really ARE poisoning ourselves with all the crap that in our food, cosmetics, household cleaners, etc., etc. It's so disheartening.

...love Maegan said...

you're really such an amazing writer ...drawing me in every time. And also well informed. The Endometriosis-Melanoma risk is scary for me as well ...I smoked for almost as long as you did, tan probably a bit more {I love the sun}, have Endometriosis, and my dad died of skin cancer at 54 {although it could have been prevented}. I'm kind of terrified to go to the dermatologist but I know it's a must. I will soon schedule an appointment. Thanks for this :) Happy New Year.

Dingo said...

The whole good for you products v. deadly products debate can be so overwhelming at times and, as Katy said, it is easy to become complacent. Thanks for the reminder to be more vigilant.

PurestGreen said...

It's all so scary and overwhelming. My hormones are a serious mess and if I think about things too much I start feeling like I am under attack by all the things in the modern world. I try to buy organic but it is bloody expensive.

Sigh.

POPPY FRENCH said...

My great grandmother at 98 has survived a lot, two world wars, starting her life a one of eleven children in the smog of east london, working in the print, smoking into her late 60s, "enjoying" the new worlds of convenience cheap food and products. At 98 there is nothing wrong with her she is just slowly wearing out. She has complete health, she still walks everywhere and she is of complete sound mind.
And 98 it has become apparent that she might outlive her son, my grandfather who has chronic heart failure brought on by tightening arteries the blood can't get round quick enough.
She feels if she could swap with any of the poor young children who are sick she would. At 98 she is old and tired but a medical marvel with nothing wrong with her.
Some people are just extremely lucky I guess.

magnoliaamber said...

Silent Spring was not accepted very easily back then. Great post, Maggie, because we need more people to be aware about this issue!

Lucky in the place where I stay, the government is very noisy of being eco-friendly:)

Mwa said...

I could only skim this post, I'm so scared of stuff like that.

Lora said...

yes, yes, yes.

I strive to be paraben and petroleum free. It's so hard. And so many of those long words in the ingredients are actually para/pet derivatives. It's scary.

People laugh when I warn them about using Vaseline on their babies, among other things.

Or when I am eating tuna and crackers because I'm out of shampoo and I have to drop bigger dollars on a good one (I use Aveda) because it's just that important to me

Alicia (aka Dr. Mom) said...

Thank you for sharing this. Such wise words and things i KNOW but don't practice. My heart just breaks for little kate and her parents/family. I pray for a miracle... i cannot imagine going through that.
We have poisoned ourselves - this i am positive of. But, its all so common place... and you get looked at like youre crazy if you use different pots and pans or avoid certain foods/household items... yet isnt it crazy to just not SEE what's happening as result of our chemica revolution??? :)

Jeanne said...

I'd already started doing some of these things, now I'll take it to the next step. The stories I'm reading, about what naturalists are seeing happen to the genitals of male frogs because of ingesting all the hormones from plastic, are downright spooky.

Kass said...

I've printed out this post. Thank you for it. Yes, I will pray for Kate. I love your blog. I wandered over from pics and poems because I like your name. It's my youngest granddaughter's.

Ellen said...

Eighteen years ago my oldest daughter went to college in Oregon. She came home her second year with all the talk of what we are doing to our earth and what we are putting in our bodies from the food we eat. Little did we know that what she was talking about became so clear for us within several years. It is hard to change habits we are instilled in but little by little I am making healthy changes. Wearing my reading glasses more and more when I shop to see what is in the small print. I swear they are making that print smaller so we can't read it though! I want to be here for my family for a long, long time. I want them to be healthy as well. Great blog of merit today....

Angie Muresan said...

Oh yes, cancer has been a visitor in my family too, taking away in it's ugly luggage a few lives, and ravaging the ones left behind.
And I agree with you Maggie. As a mother, death is my biggest fear. Were I to die, who would love my babies as they need to be loved? Who will hold their hand and watch their back, and pray over them, and cry with them, and rejoice when they rejoice?

Lisa Page Rosenberg said...

Thanks for writing about this, Maggie. It is all so overwhelming that I need prodding to keep vigilant and make the changes as I can.

this wheel's on fire said...

It's so sick that these products are allowed to be sold. It always makes me so angry...not so much that they are sold, but that the vast majority of people aren't informed about how dangerous certain things are. Sorry for the mini rant! I just get so heated about these things...

Gillian said...

Hello there. I read this post and wondered about a few things I could change, primarily with my children. We gave up plastic long ago, and replaced with glass.

But organic isn't always a choice, so would you recommend as close to nature as possible and not processed? That seems to be part of the solution. Give up canned soup for homemade, etc.


It seems that many things I do are bad for me. I try my best to limit them. :)

We've lived with and are currently living with "the C word" in our family and it is really a holy terror. The key too is a healthy mind. Feeding yourself healthy thoughts also go a long way....

You have a lovely blog, and a good heart. Your intentions here are wonderful.

xoxo

Nancy C said...

Thank you...it's interesting, but not surprising that I read this post today.

I have been thinking of the role of chemicals in my life, and this is another step of the universe, gently nudging me towards change.

Hayley Egan said...

I just found your blog. Thanks for this post...This stuff is deeply concerning.. X

Lydia said...

Thank you for an important article, Maggie. I am going to read more about parabens, as what you said is news to me! I use an aluminum-free deodorant, stopped coloring my hair, try to pay attention to labels for fats, etc. I quit eating mammals in 1977, and I hope that gives me an edge against my years of smoking-which I quit almost 17 years ago. The drinking went 24 years ago.
I had no idea about the stats concerning endometriosis and melanoma.....I had surgery for endo. in the early 90s, and the godawful stuff has not returned. But I'm still glad that I had a dermatologist remove a weird mole just 3 weeks ago (it was benign) and I'll continue to be proactive.
I've been using Seventh Generation laundry soap and dishwashing soap, too. Great stuff.
Need to get rid of more plastics, though....

Little Kate and her family have my prayers. There could still be a miracle. She, in fact, is one.

A Cuban In London said...

A really thoughtful post. I wish Kate McRae better. It's amazing the amount of rubbish we put in our bodies.

Many thanks for such a witty post.

Greetings from London.

Judith Mercado said...

I come from a family, many of whose women lived routinely into their 10th decade. This was true even of those living in the early 20th century. Is it genetics or the fact that they grew up in then environmentally pristine Puerto Rico where the food was whatever you could grow or raise locally? All I know is that after a health scare some years back, I switched to organic, eliminated toxic cosmetics and cleaning supplies, and moved to a less polluted environment. I don’t even use the microwave or Teflon-covered pots if I can help it. Will I live to be a healthy 100-year-old? There is always hope.

krista said...

my whole life i've had "weird female issues" and you've totally opened my eyes to the fact that one of the greatest contributing factors is most likely well within my control.
my body is probably reacting to the crap i put in it.
thank you maggie...you constantly open my eyes in one way or another.
xoxo

Dancing Branflake said...

So eye opening. Thank you for sharing.

Maggie May said...

@ Allison hey that's awesome, i didn't know we had that in common too. i heard about that website but have yet to look at it. i don't wear much makeup but that is my last suck area when it comes to what i put on my body. i use a base that probably is full of crap.

@ Glimmer that's a story you hear a lot... except in cases where there was crop dusting. both my grandparents ended up with Parkinson's and my Gma attributed it to living in those poisons as a child.

@ Citric it is those small changes that add up after the years.

@ SJ and Katy i'm so glad you have an open mind. at first it can be overwhelming

@ Jason and Susan you have both been personally affected by cancer and i'm sorry for that. it IS just awful, as you say Jason. i have worked hard not to live in fear.

@ Storialist that is what we can do, thank you.

Maggie May said...

@ Extistential i have hypothyroidism and gluten intorance as well, and one of my children had severe issues with it as a child. they wanted to put him on steriods! but instead we figured out the food connection and he healed.

@ Megean I have a hard time making myself go, it's scary. poo.

@ Dingo it can be scary, and i've worked hard just to focus on what i can do, and not what i can't control.

@ Purest if your hormones are a mess i recommend Fish Oil and Chasteberry ( also known as Vitex ) i take both and they balance hormones

@ Poppy some people are lucky with genetics, and we never know. i just do what i can.

@ Magnolia that is awesome. your government is enlightened in that area :)

@ Mwa i was the same way when i started learning. i had panic attacks! but not knowing was scarier, not doing anything to protect myself or my kids.

@ Lora i use a petroleum replacement for my Vaseline product. it's so cheap and it's exactly like Vaseline!

@ Alicia some people do think it's nuts. i dont' make a big deal out of it so i've found being casual encourages people to be more curious.

@ Jeanne i've heard about those poor froggies.

@ Kass that is sweet! it's a very unusual name and i've grown to love it.

@ Ellen it's fun to think of all the things my kids will teach me as they grow and enter the world.

@ Angie i'm sorry you've had cancer in your family. it's sucha beast.

@ Lisa i need that prodding too.

@ This Wheel rant on!

Maggie May said...

@ Gillian whole foods are definitely part of the solution, i totally agree. at least you aren't getting all the chemicals for preservatives, which is a huge change. i try to buy the most important products organic, like meat and milk and certain fruits or veggies.

@ Nancy i need those nudges too.

@ Hayley i'm glad you are here, and reading and responding. glad you have an open mind!

@ Lydia i'm glad you had that mole removed. it's scary to go to the derm. for me and i have to really push myself to do it. i didn't know you had endo. too. i'm glad it's not come back.

@ Cuban glad you are here and responding. replace rubbish with real!

@ Judith there is definitely hope! you are obviously very pro active and informed and that is thebest we can do.

@ Krista i would be so interested to hear if you make any changes. write a blog post about it! ;)

@ Dancing thank you, thank you for reading and responding.

Trouble.Thinks said...

There's tons of good info in this post. It reminds me of a book I read a while back "Slow Death by Rubber Duck: How the toxic chemistry of everyday life affects our health" And it makes me sick all the advertising and brainwash for products that are in fact harming us & the environment.

Have you found a good shampoo brand? I'm having trouble finding one that works well.

Petit fleur said...

Prayinh for Kate. Bless all of you. My God!

Thanks for all the preventative tips. I agree with you and wish that I were as vigilant. I try.

Hugs all around,
pf

saracita said...

Very thought-provoking. I've been trying to eat healthier in general, and avoid processed food... and since I have pretty much every form of cancer in my family and/or personal history, this are all good to keep in mind...

Petit fleur said...

PS It kills me how everyone is squacking about our gvmt's potential involvement with healthcare. It is my understanding in countries who's gvmt's do provide healthcare, there are built in incentives to pass legistation stricly regulating toxins (if any) allowed in products and food. Not because they "care" necessarily, as much as they will end up paying for it if everyone gets sick! Also (and I may be wrong here) but there seems to be some incentive for the coverage of preventative maintainance too...

Ok, now I'mall fired up! heh!

Maggie May said...

@ Trouble Thinks, i'm gonna do a post listing the products i use! :)

@ Petit what a fascinating point! i never knew that!

@ Saracita if cancer runs in your family there is so much you can do to help your body prevent that gene from 'expressing' itself as they say xo

Shaista said...

I just had this thought. It's not about resolution. It's about Revolution!!!!
And this right here is the beginning of a new kind of revolution...

Cinda said...

Prayers going skyward for baby Kate and your friend. Sometimes it is so much easier to pretend that all of this didn't exist and even easier to think that there isn't much we can do about it anyway. But all we need to do is look at our children. We must find the will and effort to leave our planet in a better place than we found it.

Sarcastic Bastard said...

Sorry to hear about little Kate. I will pray.

Love you, Maggie.

Miss Malorie said...

I couldn't help but comment... I felt compelled, as I'm sure everyone else has.

It's so hard when that's all you're used to... I recently stopped relaxing my hair and went natural, and I've heard a lot about paraben-free shampoos and things since I started that journey in 2009... it was so overwhelming to realize the way the shampoos were actually hurting my hair, so to think about all the things that we use that could be hurting our bodies...

*sigh* I'd really like to be healthier, but it is scary, overwhelming, and expensive. At least I feel better knowing I don't smoke cigarettes and I stay away from a lot of processed foods, microwave dinners, and the like... hopefully that's a start in the right direction...

Johanna said...

Awesome, I loved this! Thanks for reminding me about the scariness surrounding plastics. That's one thing I've neglected to think about. This year, one of my resolution to to finally ban all non-Green products from my home. I'm excited to read your list of products you'd recommend. I've been looking around for new things to try.

Amber said...

Thanks for a very informative post...and i'll say some prayers for little Kate.

A Musing Mom (Taylorclan6) said...

Thank you so much for that succinct summary. I don't make time to research this stuff so I appreciate it very much when someone else does and types it up for me.

You are amazing.

Phoenix said...

I will keep beautiful Kate in my thoughts and prayers - thanks for this informative article, Maggie May.

Magpie said...

Well said - and I too have been moving away from plastic as much as possible. It just skeeves me out to think about.

jeannette stgermain said...

Thanks for this informative post - there are some areas that I need to attend to!

--It's Your Movie-- said...

I've been thinking about this post since you posted it. Every time I read a story about a little one with cancer, I instinctively start scanning the story, looking for IT, the thing that tells me why this baby's body was invaded with something so horrible and why she is different than my child and why it can't happen to us. I never find it.

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