Blog > Opinion

Too Many Lost to Cancer

Posted on October 29, 2012

Losing my friend to cancer: Time to focus on breast cancer prevention

By Katy Farber, author and founder of Non-Toxic Kids

KristenMeet Kristen. We met in childbirth class.

Since we were pregnant at the same time, we talked all the time of chemicals in plastic, hormones in food, the clean 15, non-toxic sunscreen. Kristen made every effort to eat organic, local and vegan, to feed her family only the best foods, to use only non-toxic personal products, and to clean her home with safe ingredients.  

You see, Kristen died less than a month ago, at 42 years old, leaving behind our good friend--her husband-- and their beautiful 7 year old daughter. I haven't been able to write much about it, because I am overcome with sadness. She died of breast cancer that had travelled to other parts of her body, a few years after her first round with this evil disease. 

Kristen was an athlete. She played soccer in college and ran her whole adult life. She was an avid hiker and backpacker, having traveled with her high school sweetheart across this country for months at a time, visiting almost all of the nation's national parks. She was the picture of brilliant health and self care. 

So was her cancer linked somehow to environmental chemical exposures? I know you will say we can't be certain-- what about genetics? There were no other women with pre-menopausal cancer in her family. She didn't have the genetic marker for breast cancer.

What exactly tipped the scales of her body toward cancer? We will never know. It could have been chemical exposures during pregnancy, her childhood, or during her pregnancy and nursing periods.  Her first tumor was found shortly after she stopped nursing, and it was growing aggressively. 

"There are too many choices, too many vulnerable time periods—many that were beyond her control."

Chemical exposures during any of the times in her life could have been from the air, water, food, plastics, cleaning products, or personal care products. There are many harmful chemicals: BPA, mercury, parabens, phthalates, pesticides, PVC, lead, to name a few. 

Why are stacking the deck against women?  Our mothers, sisters, friends, daughters and neighbors?

If we know that chemicals are starting to (or already) show links to increased cancer rates, how can we in good conscious keep them on the market? How can we let chemicals be sold without any knowledge of their safety or connection to cancers and other diseases and health problems?  

How can we risk the lives of people like my dear friend Kristen? And her daughter, can you even imagine? The loss is unforgiveable.

I cannot sit idly by, while thousands of people are exposed to chemicals in products, food, plastics, cleaning products, and the manufacturers make cute commercials about being the Sponsor of Moms Everywhere.

Most of the 80,000 chemicals in products we use everyday have never been tested for safety. Companies can use an ingredient until it is proven unsafe (taking years and countless exposures) and then use a slightly different one until that one is proven unsafe. Making gobs of money during this process. 

And the same companies send safer products over to Europe, where they demand it and chemicals are better regulated. The U.S. remains a dumping ground for the more toxic versions of products because of our lack of regulation.

It seems “regulation” has become a dirty word, although the majority of Americans support increased regulations of toxic chemicals. I've seen what happens in the face of lax regulations.

I need my friend back. My sweet 7 year old friend needs her mom back.  While this obviously can't happen-- we can stack the deck in the favor of all women by limiting toxic exposures where we can.   

Starting with chemicals in our everyday products. That is why we must support the Safe Chemicals Act with our full hearts, minds, and effort. 

Please join me. 

Katy Farber is a teacher, author, and founder of the blog, Non-Toxic Kids and a valued Safer Chemicals blogger. She is also the author of two books about education, Why Great Teachers Quit and How We Might Stop the Exodus and Change the World with Service Learning and she has written for various news, parenting, non-profit and educational publications and websites.


I am very enjoyed for this blog. Its an informative topic.

Posted by: design leaflet | Feb 20, 2013 11:24:35 AM

Useful info. Hope to see more good posts in the future.

Posted by: sponsor a child | Nov 25, 2012 4:56:29 AM

Thanks for writing this, Katy. Sadly, far too many of us have been losing friends and loved ones to cancer. Those of us staying healthy, God willing, seem to have an obligation to do better and honor their memories in the process. You're right, there seem to be some logical steps we could be taking right now to at least decrease our risk. Please keep writing and speaking out.

Posted by: Anne | Nov 11, 2012 8:16:24 PM

Katy, thank you so much for your post and for sharing your story with our community. Kristen's story has struck a chord with our members. I know it inspires our staff to keep working with you towards a less toxic future. I look forward to the day when cancer rates and other chronic diseases go down.

Posted by: Safer Chemicals | Nov 5, 2012 12:41:41 PM

This is very sadly story about Kristen. It should become a good lesson for other moms. What happened to Kristen may happen to you too. So, take action now before this disease attacks you.

Eat wisely and carefully. Get informed about what chemicals may contain in your food. Start from now not tomorrow. It is better.

Posted by: Ricky Joe | Oct 31, 2012 10:45:59 PM

Thank you Ronnie, Ryan, and Maria for your comments. Yes, we have to work together to better protect our families, friends, and neighbors from toxic chemicals. I wish you and your families the best health, thank you so much for commenting and for the support.

Posted by: Katy | Oct 30, 2012 7:27:38 PM

Beautiful post, Katy. You are asking all the right questions and demanding all the right answers. It's now time to take action. In my lifetime (in my 50's), I lost one friend in her 30's to breast cancer, a close friend and a teaching colleague both had mastectomies (in their early 40's), and now my sister-in-law has just finished radiation treatment. She's 52. I know way too many women who have battled this disease. We need strong regulations now. Our kids should not have to inherit a toxic world. Thank you for sharing.

Posted by: Ronnie | Oct 29, 2012 2:32:08 PM

You're right, way too many people lost to cancer. Let's do this thing and pass the Safe Chemicals Act, I'm in!

Posted by: Ryan | Oct 29, 2012 10:26:17 AM

Katy, thanks for sharing this sad and personal story. Too many of us have lost friends and family members to cancer. My aunt is battling cancer as we speak. We must do everything we can to stop cancer where possible, starting with toxic chemicals is a no brainer!

Posted by: Maria | Oct 29, 2012 10:09:11 AM

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