A Rite of Passage?

cancer 2011

cancer 2011 (Photo credit: mike r baker)

Take a close look at the photos on the homepage of these two websites:

What do you notice about those young, gorgeous women in the photos you see?

What I noticed is precisely that they are young, and gorgeous.

Off the top of my head, here’s a list of people I know of who have had cancer:

My grandmother, my father, my mother, one aunt, two uncles, two neighbors, four colleagues, two friends of my parents, the wife and the mother of our contractor, the father of one of my students, my sister-in-law’s brother-in-law, two colleagues of my sister, a friend and her father, another friend’s sister, the mother of my daughter’s friend, my physical therapist, and the father of my husband’s colleague.

Oh, and me too.

Twenty-seven people. Ten types of cancer — the predominant ones being breast, colon, and lung, an array that reflects the rank of cancer types in the United States. Some of these people have had more than one type of cancer, and some had a recurrence after many years of remission. Eleven of them have died. Of these 27, a third (including me) were under the age of 50 when they were diagnosed. From the look of those gorgeous women on the websites, cancer is increasingly common among younger adults.

A couple weeks ago, I came across a chilling statement in the People’s Pharmacy column, which is syndicated in many national newspapers. A writer commented, “When I told my doctor that I am reluctant to take Premarin for fear of cancer, she actually said that cancer is no big deal. It is just a way of life now: Get cancer, get treatment, and get over it…”.

So is this what we’ve come to? With no cures in sight for many of these cancers, and so many of us being given this diagnosis, has the experience of cancer become a rite of passage — like puberty or a midlife crisis?

With the ever-increasing numbers of people affected, the challenge is not to “get over” cancer, but find out why we aren’t working as hard to prevent it as we are to cure it. I’d like to start by eliminating the chemical stew our corporations have cooked up for us to eat, drink and breathe.




6 Responses to “A Rite of Passage?”

  1. Maribeth D Says:

    Your last paragraph hits home, Julie! I share your concern. We need to do more to prevent cancer. I did research at NIH in the late 80’s (in breast cancer) and what is clear to me from my work with cells in a lab, is that our bodies are bombarded daily by carcinogens (things that turn on the genes – oncogenes – that start the cancer process). Our immune systems are what help us out. Our air, water, food supply are all concerning for carcinogens, and our crazy schedules/stress, work to lower our immune systems. Cancer rates are certainly not decreasing. Protecting our children and ourselves is a challenge. I no longer believe that government/third party is protecting us (FDA, EPA, etc) – it just isn’t happening. Sorry if that sounds disturbing. Ironically, I’ve been called a “polly anna’ more than once, but I’m a realist when it comes to these kinds of issues.

    My sister, several of my friends, my uncle, my aunt, my cousin…all under 45…

    • Julie Yamamoto Says:

      I’m glad for your input Maribeth, and would love for others “in the know” to speak of what they’ve seen. We’re on the chase for a cure, but give only lip service to curtailing causes, esp. if they involve getting big businesses to quit their polluting practices. I’ve seen how corporations can hide things from the agencies appointed to monitor them, and we’ve all seen how politics and money influence regulations and policies. So I’m not surprised at your statement that these monitoring agencies aren’t really protecting us. Discouraging. And it makes me sad that my children grow up learning that they have to protect themselves.

  2. lat Says:

    Don’t forget to add to that final paragraph the one thing that hinders the defense of cancer, as well as many other health challenges. We all face it every single day. Those who live by the clock, run their lives by the clock, do their jobs by the clock, cram as many “to do” things in a 24-hour clock… we live and die to keeping up with the clock. We even compete against the clock… It becomes the slavedriver of who we are, what we do, what we want, how we get what we want… it goes on and on and on and on…
    At some point it is time to stop, recognize and accept who we are and where we are. It is time to determine how to live life by our own rules, not what is on tv or what others are doing. It is time to smell the flowers, not just one, but take time for everyone of them and to watch them grow and blossom. We need that, our kids need that, our spouses and families need that, we could be better friends for our friends, and be better equiped to do whatever each day brings our way.
    What is that main ingredient that jeopardizes our health so? What is it that robs us of truly enjoying everything there is in our lives to enjoy? What is it that robs us of truly being the best we can be:


    It is a factor that greatly affects our overall health. Cancer is just one collaborator for premature end of life. There are many many more.
    While we may not be able to control what disease(s) we are faced with, we can and need to learn to take a deep breath, eat better (not on the run), and plan our days understanding and accepting that we don’t have to do it all. We aren’t perfect, we will never be perfect… who would want to be perfect! Who we are is only as good as the relationships we have with ourselves, with other around us, and with the world around us. Furthermore, we cannot control what others do or the condition of the world. We can only control ourselves.

    So let it all go… and give disease a reason to reconsider taking you on.

  3. Julie Yamamoto Says:

    I agree, but unfortunately the trends in society only reinforce the stress — even convincing us to be stressed about how much stress we’re under! The other piece that bothers me is that cancer appears even in those who do manage their stress and live healthful lives. I’m an example of that.

    • lat Says:

      Lesson to be learned… there are no guarantees in life. Even if you do everything right, there are no guarantees that life will be what we expect it will be. Not fair… but so what. There are no guarantees in life.

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