A Messy Life Musings

Canaries. Tipping Points. Deadly Toxins.

White Rose with Shadow
When I took this shot of the white rose and my shadow, I did not see the larger shadow looming behind me — the shadow of a factory spilling toxic ethylene oxide into the air I breathe. I did not see the loss of Ray to cancer. I did not see a mastectomy in my future.

Instead, I saw a moment, seized: creative play with a single rose and a camera. I saw a blue sky on a clear, crisp day. I saw children running, chasing each other in the playground of the daycare behind my home. I heard their excited shrieks and laughter, as my camera clicked away.

Canary in a coal mine.
For those who don’t know the phrase, miners would carry caged canaries down into the mine tunnels with them. If dangerous gases collected in the mine, the gases would kill the canary before killing the miners, thus providing a warning to exit the tunnels immediately.

I didn’t see canaries on the day I took that shot but, today, I hear their outcry in this community I love. I feel the panic of those around me who scramble to find the door out of this invisible cage within which we reside. I feel the pressure of broken trust and betrayal while the systems designed to protect us now dismiss us. I feel the heartbreak in the stories shared, all while this factory and some leaders insist there is nothing as wrong as “all that.” After all, who really knows what causes cancer in one and not another. Right? Continue reading “Canaries. Tipping Points. Deadly Toxins.”

A Messy Life Musings

Dear Doctors, While you profiled stress, he died of cancer.

Dear Doctor, While you profiled stress, he died of cancer.

He didn’t have to die. Not the way he did. I write these words not for drama sake nor your pity and prayers. I have been silent, up to this point, in order to deal with my own health issue. But now that I am finished with what I hope to be my final big deal in this breast cancer journey, it’s time to speak up.

PLEASE NOTE: The article below was originally posted on my old blog. I am re-posting due to the latest revelations about the ethylene oxide emissions in my community. I am stunned. You will find the link to the update article at the bottom of this post. 

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February 6, 2018

Denial never sustainably served anyone. I am not sweeping this under the rug. Consider this post a tiny ripple in a vast ocean of health care despair; urging attention, focus and advocacy for solutions in a health care system that breaks as many hearts — in what they miss and dismiss — as the diseases/conditions they work to cure.

“… Ray lived only 50 days beyond diagnosis and most of that in a hospital. And now, I am left to digest that it was a slow-growing cancer, missed by a medical system of specialists and primary care that only looked at their piece of the elephant. A blog for another day.” — Why I’m Not Fighting Cancer Again,  July 2017

Today is another day. Why today? Because on February 6, 2017, I was not sitting at a keyboard in front of a computer screen. I was sitting in the emergency room of a hospital an hour away from home, terrified that someone I loved lost his footing and fell between the cracks within the medical community that was supposed to help him — to the point that suicide now appeared his only option for relief. Continue reading “Dear Doctors, While you profiled stress, he died of cancer.”

A Messy Life Musings

Ray Died. I Got Breast Cancer. Ethylene Oxide. Medical Mayhem.

Covington Georgia Courthouse

In 2001, Ray and I bought a house in a neighborhood not far from a plant that uses ethylene oxide, a chemical used to sterilize medical equipment. It is a mutagen, meaning that it alters genetic material in cells, and is known by the EPA to cause cancer.

Ray and I didn’t know all that stuff when we moved into our 100-year-old mill house. Didn’t know that we needed to. We were excited about the creative venture of remodeling our new home, and looked forward to experiencing what life had to offer in Covington, Georgia, a small bedroom community east of Atlanta.

March 26, 2017, Ray died of cancer, found too late. Stage IV metastatic. In his liver, lungs, spine, and brain. Just 3 months after he died, I was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer, invasive lobular carcinoma. The medical devices and supplies used in Ray’s final days at Emory Hospital, and used for my mastectomy at Piedmont/Rockdale Hospital, might very well have come from this medical equipment plant. A plant now on the radar for emissions that could have caused the cancer that took Ray and my breast.

With documented leakages, and questionable self-reporting of the emissions leaving their facilities, I guess we needed to know all that stuff after all. The watchdogs entrusted to do their jobs were sleeping, it seems. Or looking the other way.

Does anybody else see the irony here? A company that makes its money supplying hospitals and doctors with medical equipment also supplying hospitals and doctors with patients?

I can only label this as “full circle medical mayhem.” Continue reading “Ray Died. I Got Breast Cancer. Ethylene Oxide. Medical Mayhem.”