I guess we are all aware of breast cancer, thanks to a month filled with dyed pink ribbons, T-shirts, and even the cleats on the feet of the New York Jets. We are aware that it is a prevalent disease, especially on the Island on which we live, but is that enough?
Our community has the best of intentions, with a strong desire to support those who suffer from the disease, as was apparent at a fund-raiser last weekend in Amagansett, and we all hope for a cure, but that is not enough. What about prevention?
I regularly hear medical care providers, i.e., oncologists and gynecologists, disguise mammograms as a form of prevention, while I hardly ever hear about research proven to reduce incidents of the disease.
In support of those who suffer, and with a lump or two of my own, I attended two 5K benefits last October. Aside from the exercise provided, which more and more research supports as a major factor in reduction of the disease, I gained little else but anger. I walked away from the race furious about the gift bag that I received from the oncologist-sponsored event containing chemical-filled lotion and a plastic water bottle.
Am I the only one who has read the research about hormone-disrupting chemicals in body care products and dioxins from plastic water bottles being linked to this disease?
The idea of taking advice from those who make their living from selling pharmaceuticals or surgery to those with disease has never made sense to me. With no talk of prevention or possible environmental causes, I become more skeptical.
I reached my boiling point two weeks ago when I was asked to preview a Hamptons International Film Festival entry that dealt with breast cancer. “Mondays at Racine,” a short documentary, led me to watch the minutes on the clock, waiting for its end. It pained me to see women removing their body parts and shaving their heads, while their relationships with their significant others were also destroyed. I wondered why the film and everyday conversations never reflect that course of treatment as being a choice. Losing hair is not a side effect of breast cancer, it is a side effect of chemotherapy, which kills all rapidly dividing cells, good and bad, including those in bone marrow, the digestive tract, and hair follicles.
I sucked it up, called it work, and forced myself into writing a review that made no mention of what I thought was an important omission. I focused on the touching personal glimpse of Long Island women who suffer and those who seek to support them. The salon owners in the film are to be commended for offering complimentary treatment and holding the hands of women who must shave their heads because it is less traumatizing than chunks of it falling out as a side effect of chemotherapy.
When I had the chance to meet the film’s director, Cynthia Wade, at a panel discussion prior to the screening of her film, I wondered if I should express my opinion or ask a question. Luckily, I didn’t need to. She said it herself. After filming these women for months, it had occurred to Ms. Wade, who said she had “no interest in fiction,” that a cure may not be imminent, or even the goal.
The audience got involved too, wondering whether a tritium leak from Brookhaven National Laboratory could be to blame, as was documented in another film, “Atomic States of America,” whose director was also part of the panel. “Is it in our water? Air?” attendees wondered. People in attendance also talked of a doctor’s influence on decisions via intimidation or just being a doctor that a patient trusts.
I know from my own experience that it is quite difficult to defy doctors’ advice when they recommend a procedure, such as a mammogram, which I refused.
My “awareness” has come from international research that I have found online and through hard-to-find local doctors who are aware of it and willing to share it. I have learned about treatments that get to the root of the cause, that include following a diet based on blood type, following a chemical-free diet, exercise, and natural supplementation.
“You’re going to do nothing?” I have been asked. Yes, nothing traditional of the medical and pharmaceutical industries. My nothing, so far, has included a thermography — detection of heat in the body that would be evidence of cancer — which many do not know exists and that insurance does not cover. I also take the time and spend the money and energy to use water filtration and glass reusable bottles for it, and purchased a stand-up tanning bed for increased vitamin D levels, which are almost always low in those with cancer of all types. I limited my body care products, which were already of the natural type, bought nontoxic cookware, and increased my exercise and intake of organic fruits, vegetables, and meat.
To note my results, I had an ultrasound, and the results of the follow-up six months later confirmed a reduction in size of the lumps, but the strongly urged recommendation, in a certified letter that created a moment of panic, was for a biopsy, which I refused.
I do not recommend that anyone follow the path that I have chosen, but I believe that awareness should include choices and information about prevention. I will continue to do nothing . . . that will add increased toxicity and fear to my body and mind. I am choosing health care instead of disease care from an industry that profits from it. I want to know why something has occurred and what my body wants me to do about it.
I do not believe it is an extremist position to have some faith in the body’s healing abilities. You can watch it in action when you cut yourself, and see its ability to grow and feed a child on its own. I believe in eliminating things that cause it to malfunction. Adding toxins and killing good cells is not the way for me, and it should not be pushed upon anyone.
Carrie Ann Salvi is a reporter at The Star.