What Cancer Taught Me About Earth Day

Today is Earth Day. Most of you might brush it off as another random holiday that appears as a little gray dot on your iPhone calendar. But, to me, it is one of the important ones.

Nearly a decade ago, I committed to a better world. At first, it was mostly for my own health benefits. I began with the food we eat, prioritizing organic whole foods in our budget. We supported local farmers by joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), buying maple syrup, honey and eggs from local suppliers. We drastically reduced and eliminated eating meats. I slowly started making homemade household cleaners and laundry detergent — Switching over makeup, our bedding and mattress to organic, using companies committed to sustainability and preserving the earth. We avoided plastics. The side effect of making these changes was a deeper appreciation for the earth and an almost maternal instinct to protect it.

Several years later, at 35, I was diagnosed with a blood cancer that was caused by environmental toxins. To say I was shocked is an understatement. I lived more holistically with concern for toxic exposure than just about anyone else I knew. How could it be possible to have a cancer like this? It felt unbelievable. It felt unfair.

After my diagnosis, I started to take a hard look at how others around me exposed me to toxins even as I was doing the absolute best I could to eliminate them in my personal life. We all impact each other on this little planet of ours. What your neighbor does to their weeds, their grass, the insects that pester them in the summer months —that toxic exposure, it impacts them, but also you. The buildings where you learn, where you work — the chemicals they use to polish the floors, eliminate the threat of bees, make the grounds look appealing — they impact you. We are only as healthy and safe as the environment around us.

If that doesn’t scare you, it should.

We can’t rely on political legislation, although some actions that states have made to ban certain chemicals is a great start. Living in a healthier world takes each and every one of us doing our part. It might feel overwhelming at first, but you don’t have to jump into crunchy granola land all at once to make a difference. We may think of environmentalists as those people who can afford a Tesla and solar panels or someone in a small hippie commune who hugs trees as a hobby, but there’s a great deal more the average person can do daily to heal and protect ourselves and our earth — to be an environmental agent. If you want to commit to a better world, here are some good places to start:

  • Switch to reusables that are safe like glass and stainless — avoid plastics when possible

Advocating for your health begins with standing up for the health of the planet. Speak up when your community sprays glyphosate on the sidewalk cracks, or your neighbor has lawn care spraying eight different insecticides and herbicides to better their grass. Their life is worth more than weeds, and so is YOURS.

Life is fragile, we owe it to ourselves and to our world to do better. We can do better, and we should!

I'm a: mom. wife. daughter. sister. teacher. writer. friend. cali girl. lymphoma survivor. local-organic foodie. new age hippie. packers fan. believer

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