By Jennifer De Shields
It’s sad how many lives may be affected by poor environmental regulation. I feel that in the upcoming years we’re going to see more and more people diagnosed with cancer, neurological disorders, endocrine disruption, and other diseases and disorders associated with the environment. Environmental health is an issue I never thought about until now, even though I think it’s been a presence in my life for a long time. I didn’t think about it in depth until I started to suspect that our poor environment has affected my mother.
I went home a weekend or so ago for an internship interview and to see my family. I got good news; I found out that the Courier Post wants me to intern for them in the summer. Then I got some devastating news; my mother has breast cancer. Trust me, medical problems aren’t new to my mother. She’s had a myriad of problems over the years, but up until recently she’s never had cancer. In fact, nobody on my mother or father’s side has had cancer before either. She has a very positive attitude about the situation; she’s sure that whatever doctors she has will treat her very well and that she’ll be okay in the end. Others have been supportive also, telling me how great cancer treatment has gotten and how it’s good that she doesn’t have a more serious form of cancer. The whole situation got me thinking about cancer in general; it seems so common today. My mother certainly isn’t the first person I know with cancer, and when I thought more about it I realized that I know a lot of people with cancer.
My best friend’s mother died from leukemia when we were in 7th grade. That was the first time I had ever known somebody with cancer, and it certainly wouldn’t be the last. In 8th grade my friend Jessica was also diagnosed with leukemia, but luckily she was able to beat it. The majority of the den mothers from my Girl Scout troop have died of cancer or some other disease. In 10th grade I started to receive treatments for hematological problems at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia at their Voorhees campus. Since the hematology and oncology department were together, I met a lot of children with cancer. These parents were mystified as to how their children got such serious forms of cancer. All of the stories seemed to blend together; it was always the first time someone in their family had cancer.
Although the mortality rate for cancer has fallen, the number of cancer diagnoses has gone up in the past few decades, according to the National Cancer Institute. Some people argue that we’ve been detecting more cases because our technology has gotten considerably better. Although I’m sure a part of that is true, I feel that the cases have gone up because of our poor environmental situation. I don’t think that it’s a mere coincidence that I know a lot of cancer patients who live in a state nicknamed “cancer alley” by environmental personnel.