Anandi Worden, a member of Bay Area Young Survivors, spoke with the Breast Cancer Fund about her thoughts on the environmental causes of the disease and the need for prevention.
Q: What’s your take on the environmental causes of breast cancer-in particular toxic chemicals and radiation?
I think environmental factors are what’s happening and what needs to be addressed. I don’t think any amount of searching for a cure or exams will help without addressing these root causes. I grew up in Northern California in the 70’s and 80’s and grew up in agricultural area where crop dusters flew over town all Spring. I have chronic illnesses as an adult—fibromyalgia and chemical sensitivity.
Q: Do you identify with pink ribbons?
A: I don’t think the symbol itself is bad—it does have value in creating a sense of community. But, I am against it if it’s being used by polluting corporations that are creating toxic products that are slapping it on things to make money. I’m more interested in reclaiming the pink ribbon than getting rid of it. They’re sanitizing this horrible epidemic and re-marketing it as a way to make money. It erases us—women who are sick, it erases our experiences. It creates a lot of easy ways for people to feel they’re helping that don’t actually help. These are people who are sincere that actually want to do something positive. They are frightened and want to take action and do something and they’re handed an easy way to do something. And the work that needs to be done isn’t being done because the energy is being channeled uselessly. There are women with a sincere desire to make a difference. If we could reclaim that energy and that focus- we could actually make steps to make things safer for us- and prevent others from having to go through these debilitating treatments that ruin peoples’ lives.
Q: What do you think needs to happen for change to occur?
A: I think we need to provide useful outlets for that energy and that desire to help. People work hard to help. People do walkathons that are an incredible amount of dedication and help voluntarily. If we could offer opportunities to make a concrete difference, we could do that- people have the energy to contribute.
Q: Why do you care about prevention?
A: I think prevention is important on a societal level. We need to deal with environmental devastation and toxins in our community. I think that’s the key to slowing this epidemic, which keeps getting worse every year.