I did not know that October was Healthy Lung Month until I was contacted by Heather Von St. James. Nor did I think that Healthy Lung Month had much to do with me or my family this year. We were too busy celebrating Breast Cancer Awareness month after my year of successful treatment for Stage III breast cancer. After learning of Heather's story I thought again.
Eight years ago Heather was diagnosed with Pleural Mesothelioma, a rare cancer caused by asbestos that attacks the lining of the lungs. She faced every individual's nightmare when she was given 15 months to live. When Heather first emailed me, asking if I would help to raise awareness about Healthy Lung Month, I said yes for three reasons. Firstly, I had just completed a year of cancer treatment; we were kindred spirits. Secondly, I had just written about how breast cancer research and awareness had saved my life. Thirdly, my family and I had spent two years living under the pollution-filled skies of Beijing; we certainly needed to be celebrating Healthy Lung Month.
When we returned to the U.S. from Beijing, in the summer of 2012, I knew that I would never take clear, blue skies for granted again. Not only did my children pick up some Chinese language skills while living in Beijing, they were able to guesstimate the Air Quality Index, or as they liked to call it, the "do we get to have outdoor recess today" index. We were fortunate to leave Beijing before we needed to contemplate a fashionable set of matching face masks for the entire family.
Upon returning to the U.S. I knew that I would make sure my voice was heard when it came time to vote in November by supporting politicians who support sensible regulation on air pollution. I would make a more conscious effort to support businesses that are creating a renewable, clean energy economy. Until I learned about Heather's story I didn't know that I needed to add an additional item to that list: voting for politicians that support sensible regulation on the creation and use of toxic substances, such as asbestos. All of this amounts to being aware of the importance of Healthy Lung Month.
Breathing easy, under clear, blue skies is not something to take for granted. I learned in Beijing that outdoor recess for our children is not either. In my opinion the regulation infrastructure in the U.S. is the second best thing about our country. The first being that my vote counts and my voice can be heard. Not something that can be said of anyone in Bejing.
You can learn more about Mesothelioma here.