Last June was the fifteenth anniversary of my mastectomy, the flagship event of my cancer dance. I meant to write about it at the time, but I was busy painting the outside of the house here and organizing brochures for my sole proprietorship and a million other things. I thought about it a bit, and the real reason I’m writing now, and should have then, was because of a phone call I got around that time.
I don’t usually answer the phone; I screen. Why should I be surprised by the caller or the subject matter? This particular morning I didn’t screen and it was a woman calling to ask for donations to fund breast cancer early detection options for poor and younger women. This could be considered a controversial topic because younger women have more dense breasts so mammograms are unlikely to be effective and I wonder if all that mangling is not doing harm as well. I’m off mammograms these days. I’m supposed to have diagnostic one every year. It’s been a couple now and I’m not obsessing.
Anyway, the woman on the phone said something that got me thinking. She stated that the highest mortality figures from breast cancer were for women ages 35 to 50. Interesting. I was diagnosed when I was 43, I knew the lump was there a year earlier, and I’ve lived through that entire period of my life when breast cancer is said to be most lethal. How cool is that?
It does make me wonder about treatment. I opted for surgery because, at the time, I was barely informed and I just wanted it GONE! I chose, on the fly, to go a mostly natural path after the surgery, refusing chemo and radiation. I can’t say for anyone else; everyone’s journey is individual. I know there are plenty of women as far past diagnosis as I am who did chemo. I’m certain, for me that avoiding chemo was the best decision. A strong immune system is required and chemo weakens the immune system and for me chemo was about shooting in the dark thinking that maybe there might be some stray cancer cells and maybe some of them would be destroyed. Waste of ammo if you ask me.
Am I lucky? I always say I’m lucky with life, so maybe I created this favourable outcome with my certain optimism. There’s really no knowing and I’m happy with the mystery. I do know that if I had it to do over again I would do the same but I might decide to forgo the surgery and eliminate the tumour with the natural path as well.
I do know that I probably had cancer cells when I was in my 30’s. In my early 30’s I worked in landscape construction, using Roundup regularly and 2-4-D sometimes as well, although we knew enough to only use the 2-4-D where food would never be grown. Ironic that Monsanto has plans for 2-4-D corn and soybeans, as if Roundup ready seeds are not bad enough.
I am certain that my exposure to pesticides caused my cancer. When I was diagnosed I was rare in the breast cancer crowd because of my age. Now young women in their 30’s are more frequently being diagnosed and their cancers are more virulent. It’s not difficult to see that the difference is the increased amounts of toxins in our environment since the early 80’s when I was landscaping.
I can feel a rant coming on. Pesticides built in to seeds is unconscionable. Agribusiness monocultures that need excessive spraying for pests and weeds is an affront to all that is lively energy. We are lively energy, part of this lovely greater whole that corporate agribusiness, chemical companies and pharmaceuticals are poisoning for profit. I truly hope that Californians pass the GMO labelling initiative. It’s a start toward accountability and a much needed one. It’s time that everyone realized that the FDA is not in the business of protecting citizens but protecting the interests of big business. Convenient that the chemicals go into the food system, poison the people who then are told they must have more chemicals to get better. Don’t get me started on the cancer ‘industry’. That and the sham that passes for health care in the United States is the topic for another blog if not a book.
Most of the time I don’t even think about cancer and barely remember that it was part of my experience. With all the negative talk about universal health care these days and the deluge of ads for drugs of all kinds, encouraging people to simply take a pill, it might be useful for others to know that there is an alternative. It takes a bit of work but it feels good. I can say that I am healthier and stronger than when I was in my 30’s and early 40’s. I can paint a whole house by myself. I eat mostly organic or sustainable whole foods. I know many of the people who produce the foods I eat. But I wouldn’t be here at all maybe if I hadn’t had Canadian health care and a fabulous community of natural healers. With their help I have more than survived those deadly years, I have thrived.