Thursday, July 9, 2009

If I Had My Life to Live Over Again. . .

Tonight I had planned to post pictures and write about how we're having a great time with Eamonn's sister and her family who are currently here visiting us from England. So I sat down with my camera and got ready to download some pictures.

But first I did a quick surf through of all of the blogs and CaringBridge pages I try to get to every few days. We've been doing some traveling with Karen, Neil and the kids, so I had some catching up to do.

There are so many cancer families that I follow now, almost more than I did when Finn was in treatment, that I hardly remember how I originally found many of them. I know many of you followed Finn's story on CaringBridge, so you know how it is: You read a site, see a link, follow it, find a link, follow it, etc., until you're 10 times removed from where you started, but you read a story, it touches your heart, and a bond is formed. You go back over and over again because you identify for whatever reason. And their stories become a part of your life.

Some of the stories are hard to read.

Yes, it sucked out loud that Finn had cancer. It sucks that I will worry about it for the rest of my life. Let's put it this way though--I HOPE I worry about it until the day I die. That will mean Finn outlived me, which I hope he does in grand style.

Anyway, tonight as I was zooming through various blogs and CB sites, I got that "punch in the stomach feel" that comes when I get to a site and realize that another friend has lost their battle. This one particularly sucks though because not only did Missy pass away yesterday, but her son, Ryan, is in the final stages of his battle with neuroblastoma. Their family is planning two memorial services simultaneously.

The number of people dying from various forms of this hideous disease is mindnumbing. And it's getting worse. When are we--and I'm including me in that we, just so you don't think I'm getting all high and mighty and pious on you and wanting you to think that I'm some model citizen who thinks she'll never get cancer because I lead such a clean life--going to wake up and realize that we need to radically change how we live. . .so that we can keep living?

Are we purposely giving ourselves cancer? No, of course not (unless you're a smoker and then, sorry, I've got very little empathy for you if you continue to smoke). There are tons of toxins in our environment that we have no control over. I get that. I'm frustrated by that. In fact, it enrages me.

But there are so many things we can control. I realize that at 41 years old, it may be too late for me to reverse any damage done, but it's not too late for my kids. And it's not too late for your kids. We all just need to get a grip, reprioritize our lives and DO SOMETHING.

People tell me they can't afford organic food. Really? How was that trip to Mexico? I love your new car. How many channels do you get on your cable?

I sound like a lobbyist for the organic food industry. I'm not. I'm just mad that every day, people like you and me have to make choices. Not easy choices like: will I wear the blue shirt or the yellow shirt today? But stuff that seems inocuous, but isn't, if you do a little bit of research at all: Will I spend the money this week to have food, personal care items, household cleaners, and things like laundry detergent without chemicals so that my family's health isn't affected? We seriously have to ask ourselves that? Why should that be something I have to choose between? Why are there chemicals in things that we rub on our bodies or put into them? Manufacturers are allowed to make and sell things that are dangerous and we have to decide whether or not we can afford to avoid them?

Unfortunately, it comes down to choices. Eamonn and I have been talking a lot about choices lately. We've always talked about where our money is best spent and in these financially trying times, it is so, so tempting to stroll into WalMart and cut our grocery bill in half by buying non-organic produce, shampoo and lotions with chemicals that are wreaking havoc on our bodies. But we pretty much have an agreement that this is one area that we will continue to not compromise. After witnessesing so much tragedy from cancer (and the other havoc these chemicals can cause), we are compromising our budget in other areas to make chemical-avoidance a priority.

I know the FDA tells us these chemicals are safe. For adults. In small quantities. But if I'm getting a little bit from my shampoo, a little bit from my lotion, makeup, hair gel, hairspray, face cleaner, soap, laundry detergent, fabric softener and dryer sheets, dish washing powder, from clothing, from that tomato, that lettuce, that pepper, that meat, that milk, that cereal, that toilet bowl cleaner. . .the list is endless and overwhelming. . .how far did the FDA go with their research? Did they test two of these chemicals' effects together? Five? The several hundred that the average women comes in contact each day? What is the effect on kids? Oops, they only did research on adults.

I know I used to say things like, "Make small changes--try to move towards an organic lifestyle slowly."

Screw that.

Read Jillian Michaels' book "Master Your Metabolism." If you can read that and not make major changes in your life, more power to you--you're a braver man than I am (and if you can still drink diet soda with a happy heart, I'll be amazed).

I know I sound like a crazy fringe hippy. I might be. Really though, I'm just sick of us as a population being surprised at our bad health and having to go on all sorts of prescription medicines when so much of it is flat out what is going in our mouths and what we're surrouding ourselves with every day.

With all of that said, I believe in enjoying life. I believe in living for today because we're not guaranteed tomorrow--I. Get. That. Do I want to go through life eating only mung bean sprouts and tofu? But maybe that's not a good example because I actually love mung bean sprouts and I'd never eat tofu because it's a totally processed food. But that's another story. Plus, I love Fritos. That makes it hard.

My point here is that people like to say things to me like, "It's part of childhood for kids to enjoy soda and Doritos!" Or, "I only drink diet soda so I won't have all the extra calories!" (Nevermind the research that shows our bodies freak out and go into a tailspin because we're giving it a "calorieless" food). Or, "The organic food industry is a big scam." Or even, "Food would go bad without all of the preservatives in it!" Personally, I love, "My lawn would have weeds in it if I didn't put pesticides on it!"

It's hard for me to keep quiet when people say things like that. Plus, I'm a Sagittarius and a middle child which makes me prone to speaking my mind.

And I guess in my less radical moods I might agree. Yes, we should all go ahead and drink that drink with artificial sweetners, gorge on that processed food (or even eat it in moderation), roll around in that lotion that has all sorts chemicals that mimic estrogen and disrupt our endocrine systems, smoke.

We should do it because we only live once. We're not guaranteed tomorrow. We're on vacation. We deserve a treat. It's our kids' rights. We shouldn't deprive ourselves. Take your pick.

When we're all hooked up to chemo poles in an infusion room somewhere in our 40s or 50s (or in many cases, watching our children be hooked up), I wonder if we'll think, "But that was so worth it."

Personally, I'll probably wonder (obsess) what I could have done differently. In fact, I think it every day already when I look at Finn. It's a shitty way to go through life. I don't advise it.


Anonymous said...

Amen, Natalie! I've been thinking for quite a while about saying good bye to my old, dear friend Diet Pepsi and this great post may have pushed me over the edge to where I will actually do it. Thank you for that.

P.S. I was heartbroken to read about Missy yesterday. What a strong, loving family they are!!

Mary Z

1dreamr said...

I'm speechless.... talk about food for thought. Wow.

The Professional Bag Lady said...

Hi Natalie,
Thank you for letting it out... and giving everyone 'food' for thought. I too surf the CB sites (bookmarking them as I go) and find that I become overwhelmed with the stories...after the loss of several of my CB 'friends'... I had take some time and regroup - rethink - redouble my commitment to supporting these CB families.

I can't even remember what took me to Finn's site, but think it was your decision to move west - when I really started to read it and get to know you and your family through the entries you posted.

I am in awe of your strength and commitment to educating the "masses". It has given me pause, though I have yet to make the total change... today's entry will push me closer.

Thank you again, for all you do...

With Love and Joy,

Leeann said...

Big post from one of my favorite bloggers.

In many ways, big and small, you and Finn have made us more conscious and have caused changes in our lives- we clean with vinegar, water and baking soda, we use scent free products, take more care in choosing products we will use on our bodies. Not all of it, but some.

The hardest part to read was the last, that you will be second guessing yourself and possibly blaming yourself for Finn's cancer. I will say to you, Don't. However, I don't know that I wouldn't be doing the exact same thing. I think it is parental nature.

No real point here, just a hug and a lurv ya.

Mom2Toribug said...

I live in the same small town as the Morgans. Really difficult time for their family I imagine. Being in a small town it was difficult for us all, regardless if you "knew" them or not. I would see them at Relay for Life, out in the community, etc. but didn't necessarily "know" them. I will not be able to make the funeral b/c I will be in Florida on vacation, but I can bet you our small town will be there in full support. I am a pediatric nurse as well so this really hit home to me and I have been following a lot of blogs for quite a while, much like you said, find one, follow a link, etc. I think I am up to checking on a dozen kids daily. Some I am happy to say are off treatment. One is about to have a transplant at Egleston on July 22. I have mixed feelings on all organic. I love non-organic produce (wish I could grow a garden). I have never really sat down to think of why to choose organic vs. non-organic, but I will thanks to your post. I should have long ago with being a nurse, but.... just haven't. Thanks for speaking from the heart.

sportzmom said...

You are so right about how you end up following different blogs. I found you through Kristie's blog and I found her from who knows where. I too follow a bunch of caringbridge blogs and other blogs of people who are battling cancer. I followed Missy and Ryan's blogs until my computer crashed last month and I lost all of my bookmarks. When I saw your entry tonight I was sick to my stomach--especially when I went to Ryan's site and found out that he too lost his battle. I hate cancer.

On another note, I am a huge Diet Pepsi drinker/addict. I believe those days are over.

Hope you all are enjoying your summer days!


Beth said...

Yes yes yes. But you sure did put the kibosh on my craving for a Twix bar.

I'm glad that you're yelling from the tops of blogger about this. It really is scary when our own government subsidizes the corn with which the food processors turn into HFCS which pollutes most foods, in turn causing an obesity epidemic. And then the government spends money on teaching people how to eat healthier! Craziness.

But the real deal is that people have the ability to make changes in their habits to improve their own lives, and the environment. But nobody is paying attention.

And now, I confess, I have not gone to the gym again.

But I have squelched that Twix idea, so that is somethin'.

p.s. yes, you'd better get a credit towards your internet bill. I get so frustrated when stuff like that happens!