My youngest cousin was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was pregnant with her third child. A terrible decision ensued — who to protect, which life was more important? My cousin deferred any cancer treatment until after the baby was born, but the cancer ravaged her body and took her before her baby had the chance to say, "Mama."
My wife and I "raced for the cure" in her name every year and supported many of the cancer support networks that expressed concern for finding a cure for this tragic disease. But I wondered: Where did her cancer come from? Was it her lifestyle? She was an Olympic-level swimmer. Was it her genetics? There was cancer in the family history, but at 33, it was curious why she would have gotten it so young.
As I studied my cousin's history, I discovered that she grew up in one of the worst cancer "hot spots" in the country, where potato farms were prevalent and the pesticides of choice were DDT, chlordane and Temik used to fight the Colorado potato beetle. These chemicals have been linked to cancer for many years, which is why they are now banned for use in this country. In her older years, she lived on a golf course, and numerous studies link the use of pesticides on golf courses to higher cancer rates.
It is a comfort that there is growing awareness and numerous efforts to seek a cure, however, precious little efforts are ever directed toward finding out why we get cancer in the first place. When I was a child growing up, cancer was a very rare occurrence. We heard about folks who got the disease but didn't know anyone personally with it. Today no family is left unscathed. It's hard to believe that cancer is solely a result of too many french fries or genetics.