“Tell your story” I heard multiple times over my great weekend at the 1st Annual ShiftCon conference in Los Angeles. back in September. I had nearly forgotten my story until I listened to Robyn O’Brien speak and tears welled up in my eyes remembering – YES! My story is that of a Minnesota farmer’s daughter. My story is a terrifying one.
My fear must have pushed my story down so I could live with hope from day to day and not dwell on how scared I feel for my beloved parents. How fearful I am that my relatives will contract cancer and their innocent lives will be cut short.
Here are the facts: My mother and father live on a farm in rural Minnesota, far far away from any large city. My father has spent his entire life on this farm save the first 3 months of his marriage to my mother, when he refused to live on the farm with his parents and his new bride. (My grandmother conceded and moved 4 miles down the road to appease his wishes).
Fact: Along a parallel road to my parent’s dirt farm road there are 18 farming families and 15 of those 18 have had fatalities due to cancer. Some call this a “cancer cluster.” This to me is grossly abnormal.
Fact: My best childhood friend, Rachael, lost her mom to cancer – she grew up on that road on a dairy farm just 2 miles from my house/our farm. Another of my childhood friends, Bliss, also lost her mom to cancer. Hell, nearly every family surrounding my parents' farm has been affected by a death due to cancer and this scares the hope out of me.
Thus far my parents have been safe, lucky?, and extremely fortunate. Is it the fact that we weren’t dairy farmers and rather raised western cattle and pigs? It is the fact that my parents haven’t drunk the water from their well for over 20 years? Is it the fact that my father, when approached by some company in the 70’s, did not agree to let them bury barrels of unknown substance in his fields? Or is it simply the fact that my parents eat as much food as they can out of their garden during the summer months and still try to exercise, taking long strolls down that dirt road, every day that they can?
I wonder and wonder – Did those individuals who died of cancer drink unpasteurized milk? Did they drink the groundwater from the rusty well? Why did all those people contract cancer but not my parents?
What are the contributing factors of these cancer clusters? Is it the GMO Roundup-ready corn and soybean seeds they are encouraged to plant year after year? Is it the toxic pesticides that are sprayed over crops by crop dusting airplanes? I used to think those planes were so cool, swooping down over the fields. I played on the lawn while those planes flew over our fields right next to our farm. Meanwhile, the organic farmer down the road is shunned for being different and rocking the local proverbial boat.
My father, now retired, was not an organic farmer. My father bought those GM seeds from a family friend that sold them faithfully year after year – promising better yields and fewer weeds. I trusted that guy would sell us quality product, I grew up to become friends with his daughter and niece. I remember coming back to our farm, and seeing seed company signs line every couple of rows of corn – like an advertisement were these mini billboards on sticks promoting the type of seed that was planted in those soils. Was it an advertisement or a chemical testing ground? I wonder if cancer can be found in the family of the seed seller man. I’ll have to remember to ask my Dad that the next time I speak to him on the phone.
I fear with all of my being that one of the next phone calls I get from my parents is to tell me that cancer has been detected in their 70-year-old bodies. My and all these other parents are innocent. They planted what they were told to. They planted what they were told provoked the best profit and greatest gains for their small-time farms. These families supported their children, went to church on Sunday, and did the best they could.
That is my story – my parents live in a bubble among a cluster of cancer fatalities as I continue to pray for their health. The silver lining? We've educated ourselves about nutrition, health, and the longevity of wellness and keep trying to do better year after year.