Brave Mom Shares Cancer Heartache at National Stroller Brigade

Mother of 3 Polly Schlaff Lost her 35-year-old Husband to
a Non-Genetic Cancer, Spoke at Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families Rally

The mommy guilt was kicking in a bit during the busyness of Tuesday morning's preparations for the National Stroller Brigade and meetings with our various US Senators. There I was, part of a family-centered health concern, and I'd left my two young daughters at home with my husband to fend for them by himself. Usually I'm at home providing all of those little things that our children need.  That little voice inside doubted, "Should I have stayed home?" 

Then I saw Polly Schlaff standing on the US Capitol lawn with her three young boys from Michigan, and I heard her share her raw, personally story about losing her husband.  You see, he's one of a growing number of young people attacked by cancer in the prime of their lives.  The high school sweetheart she married who became a teacher and planned on raising their sons together -- died -- at age 35 -- from a non-genetic form of cancer called Ewing's sarcoma.  I felt God intended for me to be there, to bear witness to her story.
This brave, young, widow told us, "I did not know that cancer-causing toxic chemicals are so prevalent in our lives that we are exposed to them daily without our knowledge or permission." Another relative has also suffered from cancer. And then, there was the medical concern after the birth of their twins.  Schlaff shared candidly, "Before my son was born with a urological birth defect that his surgeon said was caused by prenatal exposure to environmental estrogens, I did not know that hundreds of synthetic chemicals course through our bodies; it's in the blood that mothers share with our unborn children."

Before a diverse crowd estimated in the hundreds, Former Maine Speaker of the House Hannah Pinigree also spoke up about her health concerns.  She took part in a landmark body burden study in 2007 that proves toxic chemicals have invaded our bodies.  Scientists found troubling toxins in blood and urine.  "Some of these chemicals were in high enough concentrations to impact my health and especially the health of a developing baby."  Pinigree lives in a rural area of Maine, and she explained, "These chemicals didn't come from a nearby factory or a city, these came from my home, the products I buy, things I eat. The more I learned about how these chemicals got into my body, the angrier I got!"
Pregnant Mom Hannah Pinigree Spoke
to National Stroller Brigade Crowd in Washington, DC

Pinigree has helped improve some product safety rules in her home state, and she spoke from the heart about wanting better standards for everyday products that affect us all, even mattresses and nursing pillows.  "My most important role in this issue is that of a mom of a 14-month-old daughter...and as I stand here I'm also four months pregnant with my second child.  There is nothing more important to me than the health and safety of my daughter and my future child." Pinigree pointed out that the Safe Chemicals Act calls for gravely needed chemical safety standards to help the wider parenting community.  "As a parent, I do everything I can to protect my family, but the reality is in the case of the chemicals in our environment and our products, there's only so much one mom or dad can do."

Schlaff has gained much wisdom through heartache, and feels called to share what she's learned.  "I learned that chemicals that interfere with the body's hormone system change the course of development and cause a host of health problems ranging from the early onset of puberty to infertility and cancer...many of us are here today because we cannot unlearn what we have learned."
My View Marching in National Stroller Brigade
And so I am also learning, and being the best parent I can with the information I have. When my daughters back home asked me to tell them what I'd been doing outside the capitol building, I showed them pictures of the other parents and kids and also the nurses I met whose hearts are heavy with concerns about unnecessary suffering.  I told them I went on that trip to Washington to gather with lots of mommies who care about their having a healthy future.  I appreciate the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition making that trip possible and allowing me to learn.  Schlaff told us all, "Now you know better, you must do better." That means getting involved, writing letters to our local newspaper editors, writing our US Senators, calling their offices, and letting our elected leaders know that moms in every state are relentlessly working toward a healthier future.