Cancer, not the solar sign


So I learned that May is National Cancer Research Month. In the United States. After a quick research online, I couldn’t find anything like that in the UK, although we have the Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October (we always do some activities at work to raise money and, of course, awareness).

Cancer is such a bastard. It just feels like, no matter what you do or how you live, you will be affected by it at some point in life. And that’s why research is so important; to find ways to prevent it and to find a cure for it. Cancer Research UK is one of my favourite charities in the UK. Whenever I need to buy gifts, I always try to go to them first (they have high street shops and an online shop), but it is not the only cancer related charity, of course. Recently, a little girl, no more than 12 years old I would guess, knocked at our door to ask for donations. She was going on a 10 mile bike ride to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support. I felt very proud for her parents, and wished my girls will do something like that in the future. I also felt a bit rubbish about myself – I should be doing something like this; it’s a great excuse to exercise and help others. Mental note: look into Race for Life.

The fact that I lost my father in February to cancer changed very little my feelings towards cancer. If so, it made it feel even more real, but the awareness was always there, and so was the fear of being haunted by it. My father had bladder and lung cancer, both related to his many years of smoking lots of cigarettes. He stopped smoking 11 years ago, but the damaged was done. He stopped smoking, but didn’t change other lifestyle habits. Things like looking after what he ate and exercising. It surprises me how people can still smoke when there’s so much information out there about all the damage a cigarette can cause to smokers and non-smokers. But then, it’s their choice to poison themselves (well, adults, at least, and the ones who choose to smoke).

What scares me the most are the type of cancers that we don’t even know exist and how we get them. I’ve learned recently about mesothelioma, a deadly type of cancer caused by the exposure to asbestos (amianto, in Portuguese). I also learned, after Goggling “asbestos”, that “asbestos is the single greatest cause of work-related deaths in the UK”, according to the Health and Safety Executive website. Asbestos fibres are present in the environment so we are all exposed to small quantities of it. But then we decided to use it in construction and other sectors and in greater quantities than found in the environment, and when inhaled, these fibres can cause serious diseases, mesothelioma being the worse.  


A couple of weeks ago, my mother and I were chatting about the fact that the roof of our shed/garage is made of asbestos and she mentioned that she was pretty sure its usage had been banned in Brazil because it was dangerous. And I even said that it couldn’t be that bad, because the UK is the land of health and safety and surely it would have been banned here if it was that dangerous. Little did I know… How crazy is that? The thing is a deadly material and still it is present in our homes (and several other places) and it seems that it is widely known. I don’t want to spread fear and paranoia around, but if you feel like knowing a bit more about it, read the Mesothelioma site (USA) and the HSE I mentioned above. I do need to read more about it, to understand what are the implications – if any – of having that roof in our garden.

A great thing about the internet is the information that is now at our fingertips. It’s quite daunting sometimes, hard to see what is true or not, what is relevant or not, and trying not to be too paranoid about everything is hard. I recently reduced – almost to nil – the consumption of vegetable oils and spread at our place, as there are claims that they are really bad for our health and a cause of certain cancers. My neighbour was saying that, in Asia, coconut oil is widely consumed, way before vegetable oils/spreads arrived in the market claiming they were good for our health. And now we are back to basics, where coconut oil is the “new” superfood and your old sunflower oil is the villain. To be on the safe side, we have been using mostly butter and coconut oil (and, of course, olive oil), but try to limit the quantities of everything. As I said, it seems that it is just a matter of time until cancer knocks at our door – so we need to do our best to avoid this day to come. Prevention seems the best approach.

Have you been affected by cancer? Do you have any tips or information that can help prevent it? Are you taking any challenge (like Race for Life) for charity? I am always looking for information and inspiration. I don’t want to live in fear or become (more) paranoid, but it’s always good to know about things and decide how we want to live our lives, don’t you think? Moderation is key, but one thing I want to add to our family is a little more exercise, in a fun way. I am seriously thinking about going for one of these 5K runs to start with (I will need to train before it, which is a perfect change of lifestyle).


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