Cancer: the Big Picture

I was asked at the grocery store today if I wanted to donate to breast cancer.

Not breast cancer research. Breast cancer. Who the heck would want to donate to that?

I’ve spent this breast cancer-awareness month (October 2010) frustrated and bemused at the way our society approaches cancer. (NFL players have been wearing pink shoes to draw attention to breast cancer. How does that accomplish anything?)

As you know, I preach self-responsibility. Care for your body (healthy food, exercise, relaxation), your mind (stress management, positive thinking), your emotions (have fun!), and your spirit (enjoy the interconnectedness of all life).

Along with self-responsibility comes responsibility to the planet and those around us. I do a lot of voting with my dollars—I give money to local organic farmers, not large pesticide-using multi-nationals like Archer-Daniels-Midlands and Monsanto. I drive a 1996 car that gets 32 mpg because I want to put less petrochemicals into our environment and use fewer of the precious resources that can do so much damage to our planet in their extraction.

And I know you do these things too.

So when I sit across from a dear client recently diagnosed with cancer, I know she is doing all the right things, and yet she has embarked on a battle for her life. (One that is lucrative to the U.S. economy—each cancer diagnosis puts a quarter million dollars into the U.S. economy. That weirds me out. Why are we making money off illness? Could we erase the deficit if we all got cancer? Something is really wrong here.)

I grieve with my clients who have cancer. And there is no way in hell I am telling them that the diagnosis is their fault.

Cancer, like all major illnesses, is an opportunity to step back from our lives and take stock. To look at our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual levels of existence and see what we can improve and change.

But I refuse to buy into the new age conceit that people create their cancers. I think it is far more complicated than that.

Sure, our thoughts and emotions affect our bodies. As does the food we eat and the air we breathe. Our basic approach to the world—passive or antagonistic, pro-active or defeatist—affects our chemical make-up.

But that’s not what gives us cancer.

Scientists are looking for drugs to fight cancer, and doctors are pushing procedures like mammograms for early diagnoses.

But who is looking at the foundation chemical cause for cells in our bodies to mutate and for our immune systems not to be able to stop them?

The World Wildlife Fund. That’s who. And they’ve been doing it since the 1980s. (Click here to see their latest push on hormone disruptors—chemicals that are affecting sex hormones in animals and humans.) I was teaching about hormone disruptors in the 1990s. None of this is new. But the chemicals are still being dumped into the environment.

And we live in the environment we have created. Thanks to big business, it is a toxic environment. Name an industry: farming, mining, oil exploration, electronics—all pollute our environment.

I can choose with my dollars all I want, but I alone cannot get big business to change its anti-environment tactics. (Can you believe the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was still denying global warming in 2009? It has finally buckled to public pressure, on the surface, but it is still resisting. Read more here.)

So who is supposed to balance the avaricious tendanacies of business with the basic needs of the people? Government. That’s who. By the people, for the people.

So our other responsibility, beyond taking care of ourselves, is to take care of the air, water and earth—the commons. And we do this by voting.

I know, at election time it’s all anger and hatred out there in attack-ad land. I mute the t.v. and radio too. But you can be an informed voter without subjecting yourself to all that stupidity.

Go to the website for the candidate or proposition you’re voting on, and see who endorses them. You know which organizations you trust, be it the League of Women Voters or the Sierra Club or whoever. See who the people you trust are endorsing. They have done the research and looked beyond the lies and are willing to stand behind their endorsement. Look at your options, make your choices, and vote.

Remember, although corporations are buying millions of dollars worth of ads, they cannot buy your vote. Your vote, which suffragettes and civil rights activists fought to get for you, is yours to use, and yours alone.

I’m not going to tell you who to vote for. That’s your decision. But make sure to get to the polls at election time.

Voting is one way you do your part to make the world a better place. Your vote is more effective than a football player wearing pink shoes.

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