When I was diagnosed with breast cancer back in 2006, I had felt like I was at the peak of my powers. I was young, fit, active and healthy. I ate well, drank in moderation, didn’t smoke, exercised daily, ran my own successful business and felt fantastic. I couldn’t have been more shocked by my body’s betrayal of my respectful lifestyle.
When the enormity of it started to sink in (and for me everything happened lightning fast – diagnosed on a Friday, in surgery on a Monday) as I recovered from the operation and waited for my pathology results, I realised that, as clean living as I was, I needed to be extra careful to stay well going forward.
As a formerly super-healthy person, going through the amount of chemo I was required to have, I was rendered fairly immobile for large chunks of time, which gave me ample opportunity to contemplate the unseen enemies I had never realised I was exposing myself to. As a well person, you take a lot for granted and never question, but when you are fighting for your life (on a daily basis with chemo, and bigger picture, long term recovery and remission) you become acutely aware of everything that touches your senses.
The first time I went into the CBD during chemo, I was blown away by what was entering my nostrils. I literally felt every dirty car exhaust that passed me, and I wondered how I had never noticed before how much of this un-natural toxic cocktail I was breathing in every day. Normally we scurry by – meeting to meeting – but when I was slowed down by chemo, the smell, and the realisation of what it was, really shook me.
Face – cosmetics
The good thing about chemo and your complexion is that it kills anything nasty before it starts! Your skin is clear, pores clean, you positively glow. However, as soon as you start losing your precious eyebrows and eyelashes, you need some make-up intervention. There was heaps out there on the market, but heavens, when you look at the contents, you start to realise you need to be a lot more selective. I ended up wearing make-up designed by a cancer survivor who had been a former air-hostess – plastering make-up on every day – and who had an equally visceral response when realising what we put on our skin (our largest organ) and how that might have contributed to our diagnosis.
Hair and Shampoo
You don’t have your hair for long, and so your scalp feels naked, but it’s still in the shower with you every day and it needs cleaning. Once again, astounding to see the chemicals in shampoo. Even organic shampoo can be called ‘organic’ because of the percentage of organically sourced ingredients it has in it, but it can also contain nasties which can legally be smothered by the ‘organic’ branding.
Don’t get me started on nail polish! When you’ve lost your hair and you are a walking flesh coloured sickly thing, a brightly coloured nail polish can be a real pick-me-up, a reminder of the fun person we used to be in better health. However, a closer look at what chemicals we routinely use on our nails makes me feel so sorry for women who work in nail bars ingesting that stuff every day, and I have never been in one since. Thankfully I did find some formaldehyde-free options over time.
Having become terrified of everything that touched my body and skin, another challenge was deodorant. Ok, so you’re not going anywhere very fast but trying to look like a ‘normal’ person on a hot summers day with a sun hat over your artificial-looking wig, (in order to draw attention from it), you can get pretty hot! The available option in my day was some sort of crystal thing which I didn’t really understand and was never convinced of, however, as the only aluminium-free option, that was the one I took.
And so began my involuntary entry into all things natural. I’m 12 years out of cancer treatment and am grateful every day to be so. With the benefit of time, my cancer story gets further behind me and sometimes goes un-noticed. But the habits I formed during treatment stay with me. Why would I take the risk when with a little research, I can source product just as good, made with love and care without the nasties? We shouldn’t wait until we get sick to look at everything we expose our precious bodies to. I’m thrilled to see more options on the market every day and I congratulate Black Chicken remedies on their thoughtful and innovative range. I only wish they had been around 12 years ago.