Tuesday, September 20, 2005

A Canadian Hero Working for the Wrong Cause

I’ve been thinking about cancer a great deal this past few weeks. You know, Terry Fox Day and all the requisite activities and school homework related to raising money for cancer research that hits us every September. “Back to school” is synonymous with “cancer cure fundraising” when you have an elementary school-age kid in British Columbia (Terry’s home province).

So, at our school last year, the teachers set the goal of raising $500 for cancer research in the name of Terry Fox. A mighty feat, one would think, at an inner-city school with just 100 kids. Well, the rascals did it – and then some, raising almost $1,500 for the Terry Fox Foundation and cancer research. So this year the fundraising target has been set at $2,000, with the promise that if the kids succeed, the principal will allow one of the Grade 5 kids to shave his head (the principal’s head). My son, who is in the Grade 4/5 split class says that they all agree the principal will be sporting a mohawk if they succeed. Of course, the kids want to make the target.

So, how much effort have I made to help my son get his pledge sheet filled in and money raised to support cancer research and the shaving of the principal’s head? Zero. Nada.

Now, before you get all, “It’s Terry Fox…a Canadian icon…one our true heroes…how can you be such a heartless person…one in two people will develop cancer in their lifetime” on me, here’s why I cannot support fundraising for cancer research – especially fundraising done by kids who are fed only the line about how heroic Terry was, and that’s why they should raise the money.

Canadians (and I can assume Americans and Europeans as well) have been assured that a cure for cancer will be found in the foreseeable future. I’m sure I heard that when my own grandmother lost a breast to cancer back in the 80s. Twenty years later, the cure is still around the corner. How much money have well-meaning individuals, governments, charitable foundations and businesses contributed to finding this elusive yet at-our-fingertips cure? Billions of dollars.

A cure…spoken of as though cancer were one disease with one cause. While all the researchers are looking for a cure for cancer, who is out there addressing the causes of cancer? Why aren’t billions of dollars being invested in preventing cancer?

Cancer is caused by many things we know and lots of things we haven’t pinpointed. Of those things we know cause cancer, why haven’t government, industry and well-meaning individuals stepped up to stop the manufacture and use of cancer-causing chemicals?

Number one most obvious: the chemicals added to cigarettes. Why is this allowed? Why does the government continue to allow the tobacco industry to add proven cancer-causing chemicals to cigarettes?

This past summer I bought sunscreen for my son. Got it home and compared the ingredients to a list of chemicals known to cause cancer. Two of the six ingredients were identified as cancer-causing. Yet this product is allowed on the market.

Look at the ingredients in highly-processed foods. Many have been linked to cancer.

Think of the toxins spewed into the air by certain industries. Known cancer-causing fumes that we still allow to be released into the air we breathe.

Water polluted by chemical run-off from farms. Pesticides and herbicides sprayed directly on the food we eat – known to increase risk of cancer.

There’s no day to commemorate all the activists who work with miniscule resources to reduce the causes of cancer in our environment. Why don’t we have an Erin Brockovich Day where kids raise money and awareness about the industry in their hometown that employs and ruins the health of their moms, dads, aunts, uncles?

My own family used to own a paint and wall-board manufacturing company in the small town I grew up in, Cowansville, Quebec. A few years ago I checked a Pollution Probe website (which I can’t find now) to find the environmental ranking of my hometown. Cowansville, was listed as the major contributor to water and air pollution in the region. I told my mom.

“Yeah,” she said, “The big problem is the JJ Barker Company. You know, almost every one of the men who worked in that factory has had cancer? It was a terrible place to work.”

Pah! (Can’t point the finger at my dad though, because he got out of that business in the sixties, before anyone really understood how poisonous the manufacturing process actually was.)

So, aside from all the typical conspiracy theory tiatribe that you’ve no doubt heard and discounted, why would all the cancer agencies be so focused on curing cancer, rather than preventing it to begin with? Check out this eye-opening article about how tied to industry the American Cancer Agency is at NewsTarget.com.

And the links in a post I made in May called, Cancer is a Political Disease

And when that cute little kid comes knocking at your door, asking for five bucks to support cancer research and Terry Fox and shaving the principal’s head: smile nicely and tell the little sucker that he’s been duped. Pat him on the shoulder and be the first to tell him the truth:

“Son, there is no cure for cancer. Eat your organic vegetables and pray that the winds are blowing in the opposite direction when the PVC-sided house next door goes up in flames. The only cure for cancer is prevention, my child.”

2 Comments:

Blogger Herbinator said...

I am entirely supportive of your position. Cancer is caused. It doesn't make much sense to keep deliberately ramping up the rates of cancer just to spend more and more money attempting to treat it, unless you work in the health care business.

September 21, 2005  
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November 29, 2005  

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