Part One – Why do we get sick?
When my friend Jenniveeve, found out I was having a cancer party in my boob, she called me up to offer support. She wanted to know Why I thought I had cancer? The ten million dollar question to be sure. We talked about what would happen if I asked my self why I needed to get cancer? What purpose was it filling in my life? And about taking complete responsibility without veering off into the thankless realm of blame and fault.
I think most people can answer the question of why they started cancering pretty well for themselves, without the need for outside experts. If we assume that there is an emotional component to any disease, we are likely to find some inner demons that have been quietly propagating a death wish in the background of our minds. Then there are the many factors outside of ourselves to take into account.
Besides if you ask your doctor why you started cancering, they are unlikely to know why- unless you happened to have lived in a building with lots of asbestos at sometime and now have developed mesothelioma. There is a tremendous amount of mystery as to the whys, and the whens. Was my extreme fatigue from 2009-2013 because I was already cancering? Probably, but who knows. On the outside I didn’t have lots of risk factors for early breast cancer, I was eating organic, riding my bike to work, naturally happy temperament, blah blah blah. When I have asked others why they think they got cancer, they have had a gut level knowing as to what might have led to their situation. When I asked myself it was pretty easy to come up with a list.
So here is a roundup of why I think I started Cancering. David Letterman style.
#10 Lived in Michigan during the PBB disaster. “Drink your Milk.”
“For nine months in 1973 and 1974, thousands of Michigan dairy cows and other farm animals were contaminated with polybrominated biphenyl (PBB), a highly toxic fire retardant. A relatively simple mix-up at the company that produced both the PBB and an animal feed additive caused the massive poisoning of the animals and, in turn, the leaching of PBB into the food supply of Michigan’s nine million residents.” From Dome Magazine.
#9 Living downstream of Hanford Nuclear Reservation
“The weapons production reactors were decommissioned at the end of the Cold War, and decades of manufacturing left behind 53 million US gallons (200,000 m3) of high-level radioactive waste stored within 177 storage tanks, an additional 25 million cubic feet (710,000 m3) of solid radioactive waste, and 200 square miles (520 km2) of contaminated groundwater beneath the site.” Wikipedia
#8 Root Canals
My brother Kevin has a joke, “Why are Irish eyes always smiling? Because they don’t have any teeth to smile with.” Soft teeth are part of my heritage- or maybe it has something to do with the microflora of my mouth? who knows – but I have a lot of mercury fillings from way back and I have had three root canals. All before I knew that root canals have been implicated in cancer. You see root canals create pockets of dead tissue that can house infection. Weston Price the brilliant early 20th century dentist found what any horse buyer knows, our health is mirrored in our teeth. EEKS. You can read an article on Dr. Mercola’s site here.
#7 Wedding Cakes
I was the sole person in the cake program at the Scorcher for much of 2008-2009. I made a lot of cakes. Wedding cakes are the central ritual of the wedding reception, the show piece second only to the Bride. No pressure.
#6 Shift Work
Shift work has been shown to create imbalances in the endocrine system, which makes folks who work odd hours susceptible to all kinds of ailments. Including Breast Cancer. All those years with my alarm set to 2:50 a.m. really paid off.
“Working the night shift raises a woman’s risk of breast cancer risk by 30 percent, according to a study in the International Journal of Cancer.” Huffington Post
#5 Stress Within My Family of Origin.
I love all my family. Remember what I said about not assigning blame or fault? I am just acknowledging that the experience growing up in my particular family combined with my subjective inner stories about it set me up for some things. We form our beliefs around worthiness while we are very young. Some studies indicate that the emotional atmosphere in the home of your grandmother while she was pregnant with your mother has impact on your health. Bernie Seigel describes the lack of belief in your own lovability resulting from unsupported families as the #1 public health risk of our nation. Just to reiterate this is not a bash family.
Starting a business is pretty intense. When you tend towards being a workaholic it is intense and needlessly, ridiculously exhausting. I started two businesses back to back. While raising young children, and while experiencing great personal loss. There are parts of the whole bakery experience for which I am immensely grateful. The aspects of it that made Joe and I work opposite shifts and all kinds of crazy irregular hours for years on end is not one of those things. Being a Baker is tough work- not compensating by setting aside time to rest was definitely a contributing factor to my health decline. In Japan they call it Karōshi (過労死?), or Death by Overwork.
#3 Emotional Distress.
After the sudden death of my close friend in 2003, and then being prevented from fulfilling my promise to her to raise her daughter I experienced daily obsessive worried thinking for years. In fact I still think about her daughter daily. The whole thing pretty much sucks. Even after the situation shifted a bit a couple of years ago, I have felt powerless to take part in her life, while feeling guilty for not trying harder to be a presence in her life. The whole situation is fraught with unhealthy psychological puppetry.
Mold, without it we would not have soil. It is really good at breaking down dead stuff. But if you haven’t heard about the dangers of toxic byproducts of certain molds, you must be living under a rug- where you are probably, most certainly, breathing in tons of mold spores. Mold, you can’t live with it and we can’t get rid of it.
#1 Grief – Ten Deaths in Ten Years
Starting in 2001 until 2011 I had over ten people whom I deeply loved die. Now I know that everyone dies, but this was a bit ridiculous. I am thinking that all the times I watched Harold and Maude in high school with my friend Colleen was some sort of foreshadowing. I started to feel like grief was my full time job. I deep pond that I kept falling into, and just as I made my way back onto the dock- I would fall in again. There are plenty of studies to support the negative impact grief has on your health. This is what feels like number one for me.
So that about sums it up, except I have just a few honorable mentions to well, mention.
Sam thinks I’m crazy but there is mounting evidence that cell phones and wifi are dangerous to our health. For sure my fears about it can’t be good for me.
Toxic Chemicals Applied to Forests
Oregon is world famous for our trees. Any frenzy of clear cutting, usually to supply China, is soon followed by application of toxic herbicides, pesticides and fungicides in the effort to make the land receptive to mono cropping more trees. I live in a county with lots of clearcut forests, including surrounding the watershed that supplies our city water supply. Hmmm.
The Tsunami which instigated the Fukushima nuclear disaster happened the day of my Father’s funeral. I live on the west coast, conveniently down wind from it. Hmmm.
Though there is no way to prove any of this, I feel confident that these might be some of the reasons I ended up cancering. But my decision to take complete responsibility for my health dictates that I don’t get caught up in mental spin outs of blame or fault. Because really what would be the point?
Naming the contributing factors may function as a way inspiring changes, of motivating me to attend to life in some new way. And I have made many changes in my life to accommodate these insights. In part two of this series I will investigate what some of the contributing factors to health might be.