What Would You Pay to Prevent Cancer?
Written by Robyn O’Brien for the AllergyKids Foundation August 26, 2010
A friend just lost both of her breasts to cancer. In a matter of days, they were gone. Just taken off in a double masectomy. And upon completion of her surgery, she was then told that her breast cancer was invasive.
Needless to say, it stopped me in my tracks. Because she is a mom of two boys, someone that I see everyday and we’ve been in it together for the last five years with kids in the same school, on the same soccer teams and with the same allergies. So as she was diagnosed and disfigured, all I could think is “There by the grace of God, go I,” since today, 1 in 8 women have breast cancer, yet only 1 in 10 of those cases are genetic (meaning 9 out of 10 breast cancers are environmentally triggered).
Because like my friend, I wasn’t raised a foodie or an environmentalist. I grew up going to KFC, loved ordering Dominos in college and nuked my kids’ plastic bottles in the microwave when they were babies. I didn’t know I had an “environmental footprint”, and I didn’t want anyone telling me what to eat or how to feed my kids. All I cared about was managing costs and convenience.
And then one of our kids got sick. And I suddenly realized that our cost benefit analysis hadn’t captured everything. We had ignored the total cost model of cheap food. The less money I spent in the grocery store, the more we were spending in the doctor’s office. The less time I spent on health, the more time I spent in the checkout line in the drugstore. There was a direct correlation. And I suddenly realized that we were paying a high price.
But as a stay at home mother of four small children no longer bringing in a salary, and obviously not contributing to the top line as I had been when I was earning an income, I was mindful that the contribution that I could make to our financial situation was to help manage costs so I’d done everything I could to keep the food costs down. And as our own family recognized that contribution, with a laser like focus on the top line, I realized that it was indicative of a pervasive mentality.
In our focus on the “cost” of food, we had justified our penny saving and our exemption of prevention, failing to value it. But as our children got sicker, I thought, “What if our kids got so sick that savings didn’t matter?” As the high costs of cheap food took its toll, had we been overly concerned with the “cost” of prevention rather than focusing on its “value”?
In a world that values the dollar over just about everything else, we are often judged by the amount of money that we bring to the table. How much revenue are you generating? What does your top line look like?
But what dollar value should we put on prevention?
As I reflected on this question over an email to the friend with breast cancer, and in her case, it is genetic, I couldn’t help but wonder what dollar amount she would put on prevention. Or what her children would pay to have their mother’s health back. Or how much her husband would have paid, had he been given the choice, to prevent the breast cancer in the first place, and the emotional and physical costs that come with it.
What would our family pay? If given the chance to prevent cancer, would we prioritize the food budget over the entertainment budget? Or weekly fresh produce over monthly digital cable? Absolutely.
Perhaps it is time that we do this as a country. And rather than dismiss prevention as a passionate pursuit by those with the “luxury” to afford it, perhaps we should value it for the contribution that it will bring not only to the health of our families but also to the health of our economy and our country.
To learn more about the precautionary measures that you can take to protect the health of your family, visit the Environmental Working Group at www.ewg.org