So when people who feel comfortable enough to do so ask me why I think I have this brain tumour – what actually caused it in the first place – you can be pretty sure what I say below counts for nothing. Your guess is as good as mine, maybe better. But, I can’t help pondering, of course, if for no other reason than if I knew, there’s a chance that knowledge could help someone else.
What would be really helpful would be to know the precise time that the rogue cell started to multiply. Was it a year ago, or ten, or has it been quietly but slowly reproducing itself since I was a child, until it reached that exponential level when all hell started to break loose? I don’t know, but if I did, it could surely eliminate some of the possibilities below. Here’s what I think they are. Feel free to add your own.
Firstly, that's one thing I doubt it could be. I have used mobile phones very sparingly compared with most people, though the tumour is in the left side where I would be more likely to have the phone to my ear. About 20 years ago I did have one of the first mobile phones – I called it a brick and it was about that size! It could pull in the signal from further away than some modern ones, even though there wasn’t such a complete network, so it must have been quite strong. Still, I have my doubts. And there’s nothing conclusive about any relationship anyway, between mobile phones and brain tumours, though I wouldn’t have had one stuck in my ear as long as many of you do, I have to say, and a lot of you better hope that there’s no nexus.
High voltage cable radiation?
Something makes me keep coming back to radio wave interference of one sort or another, and of course, we baby boomers have had plenty of that. When I was a child, a high voltage electric cable system passed through our property, one pole of which was very close to the house itself. On foggy mornings, the cable where it passed through the insulators on the pole would crackle audibly for as long at the moisture was around. There must have been quite a magnetic field emanating from those high voltage cables. That system was there for much of our childhood.
We also had the first of the microwave ovens, and I don’t know how good their seals were protecting people from radiation from them.
Atmospheric atomic testing?
Atomic testing in central Australia in the 50s also meant that considerable radiation passed over the eastern coast of Australia. It was claimed to be harmless but we know what has since happened to those soldiers ‘volunteered’ to be in the vicinity of those atomic explosions.
Of course, we spent long periods out in the sun with little headwear as children, and who knows what radiation we absorbed from sunspot activity, solar flares or normal microwave radiation from the sun over the years. It only takes one cell to divide into a cancerous form to begin the process….
Baby boomers had notoriously bad dental health as children, as fluoride wasn’t in vogue in toothpaste and we didn’t have fluoridated water, as we used rain water. This often meant x-rays of the face when dentists investigated tooth decay, and I wonder how effective shielding was then and what dosage of x-rays we often received.
CRT screen radiation?
I also was one of the first to have a personal computer, in the early 1980s, as I could see its potential for word processing. [The internet was quite a way off at that time.] This was about composing articles, lectures, etc. I sat for very long periods in front of bright CRT screens at close range, and I wonder about the effect of those.
Leaving aside radiowave activity as a possible cause, on farms in the 50s, there were many dangerous farm chemicals. On ours, for example, there was Rukream [I don’t know its proper name, just the trade name] which was a strong poison for dipping cattle – subsequently withdrawn from the market. I can smell it even now, as the air was full of it even in the dairy round dipping time, which was frequent as cattle ticks were a major problem.
We often got splashed by it as the cows plunged into the dip, or when we handled containers of it. We just washed it off, if we thought about it at all, and it didn’t seem to hurt us, but of course these are cumulative poisons, and carcinogenic. The warning labels were tiny and though we knew there were dangers, we took them lightly as far as skin contact was concerned. After dipping, we had to wash the cows’ udders prior to milking, and we just did that by hand, with cold detergent water. As well, sometimes heavy rain meant that the dip poisons got into the gullies below the plunge dip and ended up in the creek, where we swam and played, and drank the water.
I mention this specifically because my youngest sister Kay died of breast cancer two years ago. She had an excellent quality of life and did not smoke or eat the wrong foods, nor lived in an environment as an adult that would promote the possibility of cancer of any sort. Cancer of course often appears to be arbitrary in who and when it strikes, but she shared a childhood environment with me that had all those common characteristics. So I can’t help wondering.
Then there’s genetic predisposition to cancer, and there’s nothing all that indicative in our family. I realise how little I know about the cause of death of some of my immediate ancestors, not that I think it’s greatly helpful unless there’s a strong indication of predisposition to the disease. My mother survived till almost 90 with no indication of it, but her mother died of cancer in her early 60s. I don’t know for sure of anyone else in the family who died from it, but no more than in any other family, probably.
I don’t think there is a smoking gun here, but I do suspect there is a very long fuse.
If you have any thoughts on the matter, please share them.