It’s not what I was expecting to hear when I went to the doctor. Three months ago, I went to urgent care, thinking I would walk out with a Z-pack and a prescription for rest and chicken soup. However, three ultrasounds and a biopsy later, I found out I had thyroid cancer.
There is no history of thyroid cancer in my family, and I lead a healthy lifestyle. I run marathons, am a certified yoga instructor and I eat healthy fresh food. So I asked myself what any person fighting cancer does: why me?
While it is hard for any of us battling cancer to know exactly what caused our particular case, I have learned about major cancer prevention steps we are failing to take in this country.
Chemicals used in consumer products in the United States are virtually unregulated. The result is that toxic chemicals linked to cancer and thyroid and hormone disruption are found in our homes, couches, cooking pans, lotions and perfumes. We have to take action.
Cancer in young adults is on the rise and in the last two decades, thyroid cancer has risen significantly. Even in my small circle of friends, I know three women who have been affected. Many of unregulated chemicals are linked to cancer and thyroid problems, and yet our current system allows them on to the market and into our homes.
Take for example, toxic flame retardants, a class of chemicals that have fallen under sharp scrutiny because as it turns out they aren’t very effective at stopping household fires, and simultaneously are highly toxic. They are found in our couches, children’s products, car seats and more. Flame retardants have host of nasty health effects, one of which is thyroid disruption.
Our primary exposure to flame retardants is through household dust, and the same levels of these chemicals we’re exposed through innocuous seeming dust are the same levels that have caused these negative effects in animal studies.
Why are we taking this risk?
Another common household chemical, used in non-stick cookware and to treat couches (PFOA/PFOS) has been linked to thyroid disruption. Pesticides are also linked to thyroid cancer and disruption, leading me to choose as much organic produce as I can, and living in Oregon, I have a lot to choose from.
For me, I’ve already been hit by cancer, and while I can continue an active lifestyle, my life will never be the same. I am now a cancer survivor and will fight my way to prevent other people from going through what I’ve experienced.
Will you join me in this fight to protect our health from toxic chemicals? The status quo simply cannot continue and I need your help to show Congress we are demanding they take action on the Safe Chemicals Act this fall.
For more information on:
Young adult cancer, please visit our partners at Stupid Cancer
Ways to protect your family from flame retardants
Thanks for sharing. The conclusions you draw are so very important! When I was your age, no one was getting cancer. But, after the Second World War, Big Chem flooded our world with toxic chemicals. We need to get them regulated. People, as soon as you know who your senators are once the election results are in, call and ask them to support the Safe Chemicals Act.Posted by: Alexandra | Nov 6, 2012 3:24:03 PM
Thank you for sharing your story. I wish you a full recovery and a long, healthy life. I've recently become aware of the dangers of chemicals and toxins which are found everywhere these days and stories like yours are important to underline the need for change. Most of these chemicals are unnecessary - let's get rid of them, and find safer alternatives for the rest!Posted by: Penny | Nov 6, 2012 3:05:14 PM
what a great story and so true about chemicals and fire retardants! I will join you in the fightPosted by: marilyn | Aug 28, 2012 2:58:51 PM
CJ, I want to say that I think it's awesome you're taking this initiative. You've definitely made me more aware and I look forward to more info. You're in my thoughts. Wishing you a complete recovery.Posted by: Shane | Aug 20, 2012 9:27:18 PM
I am with you on this, but in order for it to happen we need tort reform as well, so that those companies are protected when they choose to take those chemicals out of their products.Posted by: Rebecca Cates | Aug 20, 2012 10:14:48 AM
Thank you for sharing yr story. What great balance and flexibility! Safer chemicals and how 'bout "no chemicals" even better for our children and young people. The amount of toxins allowed into the daily lives of America's young people is unacceptable! I'm sorry you have had to battle cancer. I wish all regulators, politicians and anyone in charge of making decisions would always ask; "How will this effect 7 generations?" (and all the generations in between). Business and profits should not be able to have such impacts on what should be our basic right for good clean, non toxic health. And health care expenditures would go down! What a concept.Posted by: Kiann | Aug 18, 2012 9:33:56 AM
Although the cancer i was diagnosed with is classified as a thyroid cancer, it actually is a c cell cancer that effects the thyroid and parathyroids (i have medually). I too have been trying desparately to change my eating habits, exercise routines, cleaning chemicals and household items. My knowledge base has increased almost solely due to my inspirational sister-in-law who has single handedly defeated hepatitis c with diet, organic supplements and environmental friendly living. I only strive to be a more like her, not only for selfish reasons but to have better planet and safer place for my children to live in. I'm one of the lucky ones to have her in my life! And with her influence i have also taken more of a proactive role in trying to make change in increasing the knowledge level of blind consumers, so i am definitely supporting your crusade. I also believe that we need to make products that are healthy and affordable. As a single parent i know whats it like to have to go to discount stores to make ends meet. I will be spreading your message ! Good luck!Posted by: Crile | Aug 18, 2012 8:08:19 AM
What a great post you have written and I do understand just how you would feel on diagnosis.
I have had three separate breast cancers and am now well.
It took me some time to really understand just how many chemicals are in our current lifestyles and just how difficult it can be to eliminate them from your life.
I now work on living sustainably and try to share the word about the importance of this lifestyle not just to our health but to the health of our planet.
It really is an ongoing journey to eliminate chemicals from your life as they have permeated contemporary living on so many levels.
I wish you well in your journey to wellness and will be walking by your side to make this a healthier world.Posted by: Greenearth | Aug 17, 2012 3:25:40 PM
I was just diagnosed last week at the age of 34. Thank you for sharing this!Posted by: andrea | Aug 17, 2012 7:31:18 AM
CJ! Ever since we worked together at lululemon, I have admired your wisdom, strength, and grace. You are such an inspiration to us all, and THANK YOU for raising awareness with this post. As a holistic nutritionist, I see it time and time again...people who are doing all the "right" things with nutrition and exercise, but who still suffer due to toxic chemicals. And yes, the thyroid tends to bear the brunt of it all.
Keep sharing, writing, and spreading the message, and I promise to do the same!Posted by: Michelle | Aug 16, 2012 2:51:09 PM
Thank you, CJ, for your post. Ever since I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2006, I've been waiting for the outrage to start. We've got the only cancer that is growing year over year in the US. We're the canaries in this coal mine.
And people need to stop calling thyroid cancer a "good cancer." There's no such thing. And losing your thyroid makes you susceptible to many auto-immune problems.
I'm so proud of you for using your voice and refusing to be shamed by the ridiculous lack of regulation of household and consumer products, on top of the dangerous chemicals leaking into the environment from nuclear power plants and military installations.Posted by: C.J. MinsterCheng | Aug 16, 2012 1:31:57 PM
Thank you fr sharing. I live in eastern Washington, and am an otherwise healthy 24 year old who was also diagnosed with thyroid cancer and had a total thyroidectomy in May of this year, when I was still 23. This is an epidemic!Posted by: Samantha Cabrera | Aug 16, 2012 11:59:14 AM