Tuesday, January 18, 2011

There but for the grace of God go I. Or maybe not??

Growing up, I heard the words "there but for the grace of God go I" often. It was one of the things my mom always said after watching a particularly horrible news cast depicting gang violence in the inner city, the treatment of women in cultures and religions so foreign to us and images of famine and genocide in third world countries. "Count your blessings you were born where and who you were" usually followed and to this day I am honestly and whole heartily thankful that I was born to a loving family, in an affluent neighborhood, in a country where basic freedoms are given to everyone and opportunities are limitless. I was truly blessed to be placed on the planet where and when I was. Or was I??

When something like cancer hits close to home, actually in your home, so many questions start to wear on your mind. Why my family? What next? What's the best course of treatment? After these initial questions, I began to think about cancer on a bigger scale. How does it start? How can we prevent it? What really causes it? All this wondering made my fingers do some typing on the internet and I started to look into cancer rates around the world. What I found was shocking. While depending on what cancer we are talking about, the U.S. is not always first on the list, but this country on a whole appears to be infected with cancer. The stats are alarming and shocking when you compare cancer incident and mortality rates with other countries around the world. What is equally, if not more, shocking is the correlation between industrialized, technologically advanced nations and cancer rates. The more money, power, education and innovation a country yields, the higher the probability that the citizens living there will be one day be taking a big dose of chemo.

Of course, we all know why. Nations like our own are all about convenience, technology, money and power. On a global and political scale this means far more than I care to delve into; after all this is a blog about health, fitness and cancer. :) But on a cancer related scale, it means that our surroundings are slowly poisoning and killing us. Our "food" is not "food" any longer, our air isn't clean and chemicals are constantly seeping into our lives from around every corner.

My dad doesn't eat fast food and isn't struggling with a pack a day habit. In fact, he is pretty darn healthy (was healthy?) with low blood pressure, low cholesterol and strong bones and muscles. He is active, smart and a non-drug user or alcoholic. However, just like all the members of our society, he is walking this earth and breathing the air above his head. He probably enjoys some take out pizza now and then and drinks a soda a few times a year. He has a cell phone and a laptop (similar to the one that I'm typing on right now which might be killing me) and uses bathroom cleaner when doing chores and wears regular toxic deodorant. He flies in planes, works long hours some weeks and didn't really know what high fructose corn syrup was until a couple of years ago. In short, he doesn't put himself at risk knowingly and leads a pretty healthy life, which doesn't seem to be enough.

In the U.S., our life expectancy is longer than most countries, however our cancer and obesity rates are through the roof. So, we are living long lives, but the lives are filled with illness. It is almost like the very same technology that can make a packaged meal last in our cupboards for years is the one that is offering our dying loved ones cutting age cancer treatment. We have invented the monster, but we also know how to fix it!

Do I want to trade my life for the life of someone in a village in Africa (one of the areas with the lowest rate of cancer) dealing with starvation, violence and death? Probably not. That is not my point. My point is as a nation we have so much to look at in order to better our lives. This entry is simply a "rant" and mostly stems from frustration and confusion. That is what blogging is all about, right? :) My plan of action......rid at least the fridge of dangerous things and then move out from there. Do I think we are all going to give up our cell phones and never use Windex or eat pizza? Nah. Or maybe so....