Prevention Is Power: A different road

Ann Maechtlen (right) hugs a teammate on the summit of Mt. Shasta, June 2011We've known Ann Maechtlen since 2008, the first time she signed up for Climb Against the Odds. She's one of those people who immediately, intuitively understands the Breast Cancer Fund's environmental perspective on the disease, largely because of her own cancer diagnoses. Recently interviewed by the Sacramento Bee for an article about the proliferation of pink during October, Ann shares with us here her own perspective on prevention:

Greetings from Missoula, Montana! The fall colors are beautiful and the air is crisp. I get a little sad this time every year as I say goodbye to long warm days full of friends and fun adventures outdoors and spend more time indoors with shorter colder days. My sadness lifts when the snow starts falling and I can go nordic skiing or snowshoeing.

It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, also the anniversary of my breast cancer diagnosis (five years) and 29 1/2 years since my Hodgkin's diagnosis. At age 22 I had cancer—back when I didn't know anyone who had ever had cancer!

Hodgkin's was a very scary disease for me, and people were afraid it was contagious. In 1982 there was no Internet, no support groups and no cancer groups waiting to help, so I was on my own. The public library was my new best friend. The first book I picked up was called, “First You Cry”—how true!

I had a doctor who believed my cancer was caused by exposure to chemicals on my family’s ranch in Southern California. That doctor planted that seed, which took many years to germinate. I found myself reading labels more and avoiding products with ingredients I couldn’t pronounce in my quest for good health.

I also noticed more and more chemicals in cosmetics and cleaners and in trying to avoid them I have found it easier to make my own.

After my breast cancer diagnosis I realized I needed to make big changes to really get healthy and get past cancer. I quit drinking alcohol, changed some other habits and did a lot of emotional healing. After completing nine months of chemotherapy I was really happy just to be alive, and I needed to celebrate!

Then the Breast Cancer Fund came into my life and I learned about the Climb Against the Odds. I knew I had to climb the mountain! I climbed Mt. Shasta in 2008, nine months after I finished chemo. I climbed again this year, thinking maybe it would be easier. No, it was still hard!

I was—and still am—thrilled that the Breast Cancer Fund is looking at prevention rather than finding a cure. Cancer has become big business…too big. I have seen enough lives torn apart and cut short from this disease; I want to see it disappear, at least back to the levels found before the 1980s.

I would like to empower people with real information and real choices in their lives to stay healthy. I see cancer groups working to support cancer patients, which is good, but how about going down a different road of no cancer?

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