Less Cancer has been at the forefront of informing people on everything from lifestyle to the environmental risks associated with cancer. Our approach seemed obvious; however, many people thought we were creating a new paradigm on cancer when we first took our work public in 2004.
We campaigned for expanded consideration about the way we as Americans live, looking deeply into products from foods to consumer goods to cleaning supplies. Examining the American way of convenience, rethinking time-savers and money-makers with an eye towards protecting human health from the over 50% of preventable cancers.
Our work in education and policy change has only just begun. We need to maintain a presence to protect the health of coming generations from the darkness and cataclysmic outcomes that accompany our shortcuts of convenience and drive for profit at any expense. We end up paying a very high price with people’s health.
I followed my heart when I started Less Cancer, gathering the best scientists, physicians, and experts on cancer prevention. The work to begin Less Cancer was a response to love, loss, and the instinct to want something better for my children — all of our children — a future that promises less suffering, less cancer.
The suffering that comes with fighting or surviving cancer, or the memory of those we may have lost, can become acute during the holidays. I celebrate Christmas and for me, over the years through personal experience, I understand how this is a tough time for many and how words and thoughts can make all the difference.
For many people, Christmas reflects loss, not gain. The holidays can be a fragile time.
New Year’s Eve is my sister Anne’s birthday, every year at midnight, even after so many years since her death, I quietly send a prayer to her telling her I miss her. Since Anne died, I have not been great at celebrating New Years. I have had several experiences of being at a party and feeling as if I were in a bubble removed from any connection to the event. I smile through it, air-kissing and toasting, but I am not actually present.
My appeal this season is not unlike the work of Less Cancer where we work to end those toxic exposures linked to cancer. In the same context, we need to expand our thoughts and hearts to think beyond the toxic exposure of negativity, hate, and anger.
These last weeks have seemed full of a generalized rage which to me feels toxic. It makes me feel physically sick. My remedy is to love more. I just do not know what else to do.
I want to be fully available for those who need me; yet, I find the general rage in the country’s temperament to be depleting. It keeps me at bay from being my best. To fight that, I need to focus on what I can control.
As a shield, not unlike protecting myself from toxic relationships, I find myself editing news and social media, using caution including removing news and social apps from my phone. When I decide to allow something into my day including telephone and face to face conversations, it is allowed because I allow it.
Doing all I can to put distance between me and the negativity that we all witness, I need to protect my reserve for those that need my clear thinking and emotions. I advise people to do the same and to disengage from the negative dialogue.
I meet people frequently who tell me their stories of cancer, their loss, their sadness. I owe it to them to be present, hold their hands, dry their tears and listen.
There are some terrible, shocking things going on in this country, and while they should not be ignored, we have to have some filters, so we can do what we do best.
For me, the best way to fend off this type of negativity is to stay focused on helping and being fully available to serve and to love others by bringing my best to the table.
I understand that a smile or a simple gesture can make others feel better. It doesn’t take much, and if we all would focus on lifting up those we can with small thoughtful deeds, it will help them and ourselves.
The thermostat for negativity, anger, and hate is rising. Do not give it oxygen. Do not sacrifice your heart and souls to the outside static of anger and rage. Our leadership for goodness must come from within. I am doing what I can to be there for people who need care, who need a handheld, who need to be heard.
This Christmas season I will be putting a little extra love in my heart and hope you will too.
Originally published at www.huffingtonpost.com on December 6, 2016.