My voice is muffled beneath a mask, my glasses steamed. I cannot see beyond the irony of a societal mandate intended to keep me and others safe.
Words fall in a heap at my keyboard. I cannot grab them fast enough. There is no sentence structure that makes sense of this, no punctuation that touches what it is I feel when I read the reports, watch the newscasts, witness the social media battles about masks and rights.
Shelter in. Social distance. Wear a mask.
Breast cancer. High risk. Ethylene oxide.
Tucked away, I have the questionable comfort of a home in a high risk zone, a cancer corridor, just a mile away from a medical sterilization plant that uses ethylene oxide. I am sheltering in with unacceptable levels of a known carcinogen as my companion. My underlying health condition caused by the air I breathe.
I am just three years past breast cancer and a mastectomy. Three and a half years past losing my husband to cancer.
Do I have enough toilet paper?
There is an army tracking COVID, testers and tracers. COVID claims notoriety as cause of death on death certificates. Cancer, not ethylene oxide, occupied the cause of death line on my sweetheart’s certificate. He was gasping for breath, too.
No one was looking for ethylene oxide — unless they were looking the other way.
I was among the trackers and tracers sent home from the state capitol in mid-March, after attempts to get two bills to committee. Bills that would measure factory output and report leaks, humble but monumental beginnings.
COVID was already in the spotlight.
Ethylene oxide factories for medical sterilization given the green light in a pandemic.
Do I have enough hand sanitizer?
The ethylene oxide trigger is silent. Its choke hold on my loved one, gasping for his last breath, was insidious. My breast, removed and tossed in the hazardous materials bin after harvesting its tumors, was not tagged or traced to ethylene oxide.
A silent wake on a river of despair.
I read an article the other day that said those who live near ethylene oxide facilities are at higher risk of contracting COVID. Toxic air and how many other dangerous chemicals, dumped daily, create 24/7 underlying health conditions for our planet and every living creature on it. Setting us up in ways of which we’ve not scratched the surface. Pollutants that exacerbate pandemics.
COVID or cancer? Hmmm. Which mask do I wear?
End of my word spill.
Some links for those who would like to know more about the ethylene oxide issue:
My previous blog posts:
Local update: One bill made it to committee. Governor Brian Kemp signed SB 426, requiring ethylene oxide emitters to report spills of any size to GA Environmental Protection Division. EPD must now make this information available online.
As COVID continues, my heart breaks for those of you who could not or cannot be by your loved one’s side through all of this. You are in my prayers.
If you are a doctor, nurse, first responder, caregiver, volunteer, or anyone else on the COVID front line or sideline, thank you. You are not invisible. You, too, are in my prayers.
Remember, SHaRiNG is CaRiNG. If you found something here that inspired, you may know someone else who will feel the same. Subscribe to this blog or follow me on Facebook. ❤ Much Love, Bernadette