By Beka Apostolidis
Beka a nurse and clinical instructor in Connecticut.
When I was 35, I decided to go in for my first mammogram. I admit, it was a bit earlier than most women, but I had that soft internal voice telling me it was better to go in sooner rather than later. I’m glad I did.
They found breast cancer.
Like many who have traveled the cancer road, my treatment was all but glamorous. I was working full time, taking a graduate class and simultaneously went in for radiation treatment every day, Monday thru Friday, for eight weeks. In addition to a lumpectomy and radiation, I have spent the last five years on Tamoxifen, a common drug for those of us facing breast cancer. (More on that later.)
Breast cancer is on a lot of our minds these days. Breast Cancer Awareness month has put pink ribbons on most products and fast food chains, bringing breast cancer into public discourse. As a young adult cancer survivor, I am here to carry the importance of breast cancer prevention. How much cancer could we prevent if we actually addressed the many toxic chemicals that are linked to cancer?
I have a history of breast cancer in my family (but not the genetic marker); my mother, aunt and grandma all had breast cancer. I’m sure this was part of the nagging feeling that led me to get my first mammogram. But all of the women in my family had breast cancer much later in life, well into their 50s and 60s. What is to explain my breast cancer? And why I got it at such a young age?
"Being a young adult with cancer has its challenges and it became clear that there weren’t many resources for women under 40 facing cancer. "
The materials and literature didn’t address the issues I was facing. Can I have a drink when I go out with my friends? Will the fatigue from radiation inhibit me from doing regular exercise? And how do I talk to my friends about this, when we all seem so young and unfamiliar with facing cancer?
It was at a conference for women under the age of 40 where I learned about the many toxic chemicals that are contributing to the rise of cancer in this country. BPA, a toxic chemical that has now become a household name, is not only linked to cancer, but has also been shown in a scientific study to interfere with the effectiveness of tamoxifen, the common drug taken by breast cancer patients take to prevent a relapse.
This is unacceptable. Childhood and young adult cancer is on the rise. More women like myself are faced with cancer at younger ages. We’ll never know exactly what caused my breast cancer. But what we can do is address the thousands of unregulated toxic chemicals in our homes, bodies, environment and consumer products.
I’m doing my small part to share this message. I spend a lot of time encouraging my friends and nurse colleagues to get mammograms. I also ask them to call their Members of Congress and urge them to support the Safe Chemicals Act.
In the meantime, I’ll celebrate a milestone of going off tamoxifen in February of 2013, and will continue to be grateful for the friends and family that have supported me along the way. I know that this journey doesn’t end in February, that I will need to continue to be vigilant about my health and spread the word about breast cancer prevention.
It is my hope that I can inspire others to take action where we can: toxic chemicals.
Will you join me and take action today? Let Congress know that October is about Breast Cancer Prevention and we need the Safe Chemicals Act.
Please leave a comment or words of encouragement for Beka!
Thank you for sharing. I believe that cancer will be more common in young people in each successive generation. In decades past we did not understand clearly what was going on with chemicals, additives, and the like. Now science and medicine is making the connection and hopefully we can reverse course before it gets much worse.Posted by: Kari Wilson | Apr 15, 2013 6:43:41 PM
I truly like to reading your post. Thank you so much for taking the time to share such a nice information. for example- Healthy eating and exercise after treatment are essential as you recover from treatment and start your life beyond breast cancer.Posted by: jamessmith | Dec 10, 2012 12:30:31 AM
We take way too many chemicals into our bodies from the foods we eat. I try to eat as organic as I can & avoid the obvious poisons like booze,drugs & smokes.Posted by: Ricbldwn | Oct 31, 2012 7:28:48 PM
Profound piece Beka. I am glad you followed your instincts by getting a mammogram. I am concerned about BPA, as well, and it seems we are surrounded by it. One way to start is to use glass storage containers. Keep spreading the word about self exams and the need for mammograms. I will remind my daughters of those important steps to take for maintaining good health. Keep well!Posted by: Carole King | Oct 30, 2012 2:32:37 PM
Beka,Posted by: Anne | Oct 29, 2012 9:41:12 AM
Thank you for your courage in telling your story and for your tremendous advocacy! You are an inspiration to us all and the reason to keep fighting for more health protective chemical policies!
very shocking story.. toxic chemical can cause cancer. every one should take care of it.Posted by: preeti | Oct 27, 2012 4:28:07 AM
Thanks so much for your advocacy and for sharing your story, Beka! Good luck to you and wishing you the best of health now and always.Posted by: Katy | Oct 25, 2012 5:10:08 PM
Thanks Beka, keep up the good fight. You're an inspiration!Posted by: Jenny | Oct 25, 2012 12:10:26 PM
Beka - Your story and your strength is an inpiration to all. Thanks for your advocacy and your dedication to women's health in your personal and professional realms!Posted by: Clout | Oct 25, 2012 10:55:14 AM
Beka, thanks so much for sharing. I know many people who have been touched by cancer, it is a long hard journey. I wish you a speedy and healthy recovery. We need to focus on health and health prevention in this country. I hope we can work together for a healthier tomorrow.Posted by: Kay | Oct 25, 2012 10:31:44 AM