I have been through multiple laparotomies to remove tumors from my ovaries and fallopian tube. . I was 22 years old for my first surgery and 24 for my last. The last surgery resulted in the removal of my right ovary and fallopian tube. That ‘part’ of my body was no longer viable. It was destroyed by tumors. Decayed. Parasitic, to be exact.
I often ask myself, how and what could have been different? At 22 I was an avid exercise-a-holic, crazed with dietary restrictions. A size 1, petite, healthy human being. Softball sized parasitic tumors do not run in my family. Do not start asking, “but… is it genetic?” Unfortunately it is not.
The only things I didn’t do:
- Eat organic food
- Use chemical-free sanitation pads/cloths
The past three years have been the darkest years plagued by surgeries, post-traumatic stress disorder, and depression. PTSD and depression go together hand in hand and were directly linked to my surgeries and recoveries. I am constantly adapting to hormone changes and challenging myself to bring awareness to the chemicals and toxins we unintentionally expose our body to.
The female reproductive system is one of the most porous and absorbent organs in our body and easily uptakes chemicals – which is the reason why women can easily suffer from ovarian cancer, toxic shock, and/or PCOS. That means it can take up chemicals and easily insert it into our bloodstream.
In 2014 I phased out to eating organic products (of course not 100% of what I consume is organic because most SEAsian dishes can not show that). In 2015 I changed all of my shampoo, body washes and conditioners to sulfate/paraben free products. My goal, by the end of 2016, is to phase out all sanitary pads – permanently. Why?
I have never, ever, used tampons. I’ve always felt that the introduction of harmful toxins into the body (for 5-8 hours at a time) posed a deep risk to one of the most porous organs. Tampons contain bleaching chemicals in order to remove odor and, whilst there has been drastic improvements to prevent toxic shock, tampons are considered a medical device and do not need to release all the ingredients and chemicals used in their product. The same goes for pads. Small traces of dioxins are found regularly in tampons (although tampon companies claim it is so small that it is minimally damaging). Dioxin is known to abruptly damage tissue and create tumors. However, why risk that level of exposure in one of the most porous and sensitive organs? Pads are less risky due to their minimal contact but still doesn’t excuse the chemicals we are introducing our reproductive tract to. For example, is the cotton in our sanitation pad made of pesticide-free cotton? If not – are we inadvertently exposing our organs to pesticide ? Until adequate research is conducted on tampons … I opt out of voluntarily introducing devices into my body regularly. The second point is: why are sanitation companies so protective of allowing scientific communities to research the risks involved with using their products? Safeguards are only put in place if there is a cause and/or adequate concern.
A great way to think about this is: if you wouldn’t keep this in your mouth for 8 hours, why would you keep it near your uterus, ovaries or vagina? Your saliva has enzyme products that can break down harmful chemicals but your vagina/uterus/ovaries do not.
I opted to test out Thinx last month and have officially started transitioning pads out of my monthly routine. My goal is to use one pad, on the first day of my cycle (only), each month from here on out. I would like to reduce my exposure to harmful chemicals (baby steps) but be realistic that most products accessible to me have been exposed to harsh chemicals. I am challenging myself to minimize my own exposure but in a realistic manner. The question is this: How can we hold large companies accountable to the risk it is putting women in? On average it takes 20 years to learn the long term effects of chemicals. Let’s be smart. Let’s demand transparency. Let’s demand accountability around our body. We are not science experiments.
Reproductive Health, take care of yourself, alternatives:
Herbal Vaginal Steaming
Sources outside of National Institute of Health:
**note. I am not a hippy/hipster. I have a bachelors of science in bioengineering, a master of science in health sciences, and over 5 years of experience in reproductive health, trauma, and children’s health.