My Mother's Death, Breast Cancer, & Organic Clothing
On this day, three years ago, my mother, Carol A. Breckenridge, died in my arms in her apartment after her valiant battle with breast cancer. I still listen to the recorded voicemails she left me years ago, which I have saved like hidden treasure. Her voice reminds me that I am on this planet for a reason and that reason has only gotten clearer since she died. So how does this connect to organic clothing, you ask?
There is something about losing one's mother that spurs you to act and I was no different. In the days, months, and years since October 4, 2009, I have been on a mission to learn everything I possibly can about breast cancer, and cancer in general. This journey hasn't been pretty, as you can imagine: through endless hours of research, I came to realize that known carcinogens are swirling around me in virtually every element of what would be considered my 'normal' life. How did it, in fact, become so normalized to surround ourselves with such unfriendly and unwanted contaminants?
Cleaning products, carpets, and cars all contain known carcinogens. What about plastics? What about the food we eat that has been genetically modified? I began to question everything and the questions lead to truths that we, as Americans, seem to prefer to close our eyes to. But why? Aren't these questions a matter of family safety? The more I talked to people about how toxic our cosmetics, personal-care products, and food are, the more I got the odd feeling they either don't care or are too shell-shocked in a haze of conscious avoidance to want to hear it. Because the truth is, once you open your eyes to these realities, there is no going back, much like taking the red pill in the movie, The Matrix. (Or was it the blue pill?)
And this brings me to my clothing. Non-Organic cotton production requires 25% of the pesticide usage globally, a staggering figure. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to get that pesticides probably are deliterious to our health. But when we go further, we see that pesticides and traditional cotton production can affect drinking water supplies, soil quality, are quality, and beyond. We have been trained to wash fruits and vegetables like maniacs to remove pesticide residue. And then I began to read stories of pesticides being sprayed onto fields near where children go to school and the resulting health complications that ensued. Furthermore, the global cotton industry is not immune to child-labor, especially in certain foreign countries that account for a not insignificant percentage of the overall cotton market.
So what is the connection between my mother's cancer and organic cotton? Health. I truly believe it is my mission to reduce cancer levels in America and around the world. I don't preach about this often but it is the underlying theme behind much of what I do. At Fed By Threads, we couldn't just go along with the 'way things are done' in the apparel industry, which sees American workers fired so that cheaper labor can be hired in other countries. I view that sad phenomenon as a cancer on our economy.
If we really want to staunch the rise in deaths like my mothers, we simply need to buy products that don't contain carcinogens and did not require them to be produced in the first place. Our choices are the only mechanisms that will inspire changes. While it is still claimed there is no cure for cancer, I am confident that if we stop buying known carcinogens, the probability of your family members getting cancer will decline. It's simple math. Likewise, if we buy products that are made here in our own country, the cancerous erosion of our job market will reverse.
So today, I remember my mother fondly and proudly smile knowing she would be proud to see that her son picked up the torch, that he, like her, is standing behind what he believes. Is my wardrobe fully organic? No. Am I making steps to reduce my carbon and cancer footprint? Absolutely. I miss my mother from a place deep down in my soul but I am at peace knowing I am walking a walk she would deem vital, necessary, and that which makes a mother proud.
Nothing changes unless we change.
Come with me. You aren't alone and neither am I.
The more we care, the more we will see there is a growing movement of those who are making the hard choices to open their eyes and change their lives. It is indeed important work. But more so, it is a way of life.
Rest in peace, Mom. You are missed & you are loved,
Co-Founder :: Fed By Threads