What to do when Life isn’t Fair

The Eras Family in 2012

The Eras Family in 2012

I really can’t understand this. I really can’t understand why my friend’s ten year old boy/girl twins and her loving husband have a funeral for her today instead of having her. Why are we losing so many of our loved ones to cancer ? What is it that is causing this ? And what can we do about that ? Those who treat cancer tell us it’s all about attitude and confidence. My friend had all the best of those attributes in her favor upon receiving her diagnosis. If that was what made the difference, she would be winning her battle and not already lost to it. What does Triple Negative Breast Cancer mean anyway ? I won’t pretend to know. My heart says it’s not this, and not this, and not this and because it doesn’t conform to the medical community’s expectations, we really don’t know what to do about it. Nothing we try is working. And maybe it’s not that.

All I know is that a brilliant lawyer who’s passion was the well-being of women and children is no longer practicing law. All I know is that an enormously funny comedienne isn’t making anyone laugh today. All I know is that the mother who loved nothing more in life than her children and that her children loved nothing as much as their amazing mother are bereft. I know that a very loving husband is now a widower. None of this makes sense.

Toxic Chemical Exposure

What I do know equally well is that there are too many chemicals floating around throughout our environment and there seems to be no end to the expanding number of these and no way for the EPA and the NIH and anyone else charged with the responsibility of keeping our environment safe to keep up with the threats. And I know that I do totally suspect that some of the cancers that are robbing families of their loved ones are directly the fault of at least some of these chemicals that we are assaulted with each day.

It just so happens that October has been Breast Cancer Awareness Month. According to Physicians for Social Responsibility, cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States. It accounts for 1 in 4 deaths and robs us of 1,500 lives every day. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women and the second most frequently diagnosed cancer in women. In the US, breast cancer results in the highest mortality rates of any cancer in women between the ages of 20 and 59. Today, I have chosen to honor my friend by putting a real face and a real family into the statistics. I would guess that almost every person knows someone or some family who has been affected. I know more than a handful and several who left young children behind without mothers or fathers. This is simply unacceptable.

Breast Cancer Awareness

Breast Cancer Awareness

In addition to the pain and suffering caused by cancer, the disease places an enormous economic burden on our society. Many cancers are preventable. In a May 2010 report by the President’s Cancer Panel under President Obama, the conclusion was “the true burden of environmentally induced cancers has been grossly underestimated”. Exposure to environmental carcinogens (chemicals or substances that can lead to the development of cancer) can occur in the workplace and in the home, as well as through consumer products, medical treatments, and lifestyle choices. It has long been known that exposure to high levels of certain chemicals, such as those in some occupational settings, can cause cancer. And there is now growing scientific evidence that exposure to lower levels of chemicals in the general environment is contributing to society’s cancer burden.

I am grateful that the Architectural and Interior Design communities are trying to do something about all of this. There is a lot of attention currently being given to indoor air quality in the built environment that encloses so many of us for so many hours of our lives each day. Environmental Product Declarations and Health Product Declarations may be complex and difficult to prepare accurately but at least its a step in the right direction. If we know what we are being exposed to, it may be that better alternatives which are less toxic and lethal could be found.

Movie - Michael Clayton

Movie – Michael Clayton

So yes my heart is heavy and I’m looking for something to blame for the senseless loss of a brilliant and vibrant human being. I don’t honestly know what caused the cancer that ultimately caused my friend’s untimely demise. But I do know that there are those in the chemical business who are not honest with us and who will do anything to keep the profits rolling in. I would suggest to anyone that cares, the George Clooney movie Michael Clayton (nominated for 7 Academy Awards) that my family watched the other night.

I realize that this movie is fiction but my heart tells me that there is even so a lot of unfortunate truth behind the story that makes the movie entirely credible. We should not be deceived into believing that the lack of accountability and transparency that is typical of the chemical industry is acceptable. And like the behavior of the tobacco companies we should not underestimate what the chemical industry is willing to do to protect themselves.

Tuesday, Nov 4th is election day in the United States. It does matter who you choose to represent you. Before you step into the voting booth be sure to check the environmental score of the politician you plan to vote for. Go to On-the-Issues.org (see Information Resources below). The Environment is about more than Climate Change, it’s totally about quality of life on this planet. So please DO vote. It’s the only avenue that most of us have to make any difference at all at the governmental level. It may not seem like much but it IS something every person of mature age can do.

Vote Nov 4

This sad blog and my commitment to being a part of the change that I wish to see in the world is dedicated today to my awesome friend, Lorraine Breitman Eras, and to her beautiful little family who now must find a way to continue through life without her shining presence there with them.

~ Information Resources

Cancer and Toxic Chemicals posted at the Physicians for Social Responsibility website – http://www.psr.org/environment-and-health/confronting-toxics/cancer-and-toxic-chemicals.html

Michael Clayton (film) – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Clayton_(film)

Environment at On the Issues.org – http://www.ontheissues.org/Environment.htm#Headlines


Blog author ~ Deborah Hart Yemm is co-founder of
Yemm & Hart, a green materials producer



6 Comments on “What to do when Life isn’t Fair”

  1. Terry says:

    I, too, mourn the death of Lorraine, a bright star that was extinguished far too soon. I agree with you that there are many alternatives in the built environment that offer healthier indoor air quality and healthier occupants. This is a movement we can all support.

    • debyemm says:

      Thank you for commenting Terry. I was trying to think about how I could somehow turn my overwhelming sadness into something better for all of us. I could at least give voice to my feelings and long-held suspicions about factors contributing to the prevalence of cancer. I realize how insignificant my writing about it is but expressing my feelings did help me yesterday evening – to begin to integrate the reality, which even this morning does not feel entirely possible, entirely real to my own heart. Shared hugs.

  2. Alluvja/Lucienne says:

    Wonderful blog for such a sad occasion.
    Yes I suspect too that the many toxins we are subjected too in our environment as well as foods can all play a role in this horrible disease. But there are more factors that we simply do not know off. People have died of cancer for many decades now. We simply do not have enough answers yet.
    The numbers are staggering but yes behind each of them is a story, a human story. Someone’s husband, wife, father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, friend, relative, neighbour.
    Having lost my own father at age thirteen to this dreadful disease I know how devastating it is. I have no answers to the questions nor the sadness, except the love we can always keep in our hearts for those we lost.


    • debyemm says:

      Thanks for coming here to read this, Lucienne. Yes, it is a complex disease, of course. I remember now about your father and certainly you can relate to the impact of losing a parent in this manner at such a young age. Quiet knowings of nothing more adequate but holding the space of love and love is always adequate. No life comes with a guaranteed length either, it’s true. Thanks for the hugs, returned to you now as well. Deb

  3. Laura Baron Bellome says:

    Lorraine and I worked together at the Livingston Public Library when we were in High School. She was a few years ahead of me, but she was such a wonderful, bright spirit and a very good friend. Whenever I make tuna fish sandwiches, I think of her because she could dice the celery while still attached to the stalk! For some reason, that always amazed me. When she had mono, Holly Shaw and I would go to her house for lunch sometimes. I’m a late joiner to Facebook and was just looking up the Library Krew tonight. My heart caught when I saw her obituary. You see, I too, have battled breast cancer 3 times since the age of 34 – Triple Negative and BRCA 1+ with no apparent family history. You’re tribute is very sad and very comforting at the same time. I am SO very glad that she married a wonderful man and has two beautiful children – and yet, I am so terribly sad that they had such a short time with Lorraine. I remember her humor and her smile – she could make us laugh til the tears streamed down our face! I am so sorry for your loss also Deborah. If you are still in touch with her family, please let them know how sorry I am to learn of Lorraine’s passing.

    • debyemm says:


      I am glad that I could give you a place to share your memories and will pass them on to Lorraine’s family. I wish you wellness and freedom from any future concerns such as those you have faced before.


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