Sunday, March 15, 2009

March 12th Editorial- Prevent Cancer, Don't Just Cure It

There are moments in your life when you recognize that nothing will ever be the same.

One such moment occurred to me about 3 1/2 years ago on a beautiful hot August afternoon. I recall standing on my moms' patio as she looked at me and said, "Well I guess I better tell you, I have a lump on my breast. I’ve been to see the doctor". I looked at her and tried to tell her it would be okay. We didn't know, did we? All we knew was that there was a lump.

But one week later, we did know. And two weeks later we knew it was cancer – and terminal. There was nothing that anyone could do. As I sat in the surgeon’s office with her and heard that final pronouncement I was paralysed with despair.

It has been a year this month since my mother died. She lived her final years with dignity and courage. I miss her terribly.

My story I am sure is tragically familiar to many people. Most people have family, friends or colleagues who have had cancer. Cancer, it seems, affects us all.

Supporting cancer runs/walks and similar activities has become the compassionate thing to do. Research into a cure has received a big boost. But I do not support them. I don't wear a pink ribbon. I am oddly disgusted when I see this marketing ploy applied on everything from paper tissues to food products. My mother, a huge supporter of good causes, immediately discarded any requests for support from cancer causes, even as the cancer raced through her body, her lungs, her brain. Why?

I am not interested in a cure for cancer. I want cancer to be prevented. Drug companies profit from cancer drugs while manufacturers get rich using carcinogens in their products and processes.

Preventing cancer is not about eating more vegetables, fiber and exercising more. How many people do all the "right" things, like my mom, and end up with cancer? In Canada alone, 14 million kgs of known carcinogens are released into the air every year. Blood testing for adults and children can show heavy metals, pesticides, PCB, mercury, lead.

Health Canada knows Canadians are regular users of carcinogens, but allows us to unwittingly apply them in concoctions of creams, deodorants and shampoos. Not enough to hurt us they say. But daily use, long term, changes things.

Dr Sam Epstein, a cancer specialist at University of Illinois calls mainstream cosmetic preparations "a witches brew of carcinogenic ingredients." Dr Vini Khurana, a worlds top neurosurgeon suggests the radiation from cell phones may one day cause more cancer than cigarettes or asbestos. The latency time is considered to be 10-20 years, and in the next few years we will begin to see definitively the impact of regular cell phone use on brain tumour rates. Some countries have issued warnings to parents advising them against allowing their children to use cell phones. But companies keep putting them out there, and there are specialty phones with cute caricatures just for kids. It seems that for every study that says a certain thing causes cancer, there is the equivalent that says it ain't so. Its’ easy to become complacent while the scientists dither. We don't really know about some things, do we? And that, I think, is the problem.

The old adage in criminal law should not be applied by Health Canada to our health. It should not be innocent until proven guilty for cancer causing chemicals in our environment. It should be guilty until proven innocent. I resent that my tax dollar supports this branch of government whose focus should be to keep Canadians safe, but doesn't. And when the Cancer Society starts lobbying big business and government hard for real change, I'm in. In the meantime, I'll walk and run for no reason other than I can.

1 comment:

melissa said...

Hi Linda

So sorry to hear about your Mum.

As a cancer survivor I agree with everything you said. I abhore the "run to make more money for the cancer industry" events and have been waiting for some time to hear about a "run for prevention".

This disconnect is by the far the greatest challenge we have to overcome in our professional lives as environmental guides.

Melissa Hellwig
NOTL Sustainability Network