I have an amazing guest on the blog today! I met Andrea a few months ago and I quickly realized we shared a love for natural living. What I found out later is that Andrea’s story has been one with much pain and hardship as she had to fight for her life against cancer. A busy mom and survivor, she is now passionate about keeping harmful toxins out of her home and away from her and her family. I am deeply moved by her story, because it really drives home what all of this is about. “Crunchy” is a fun term to call myself, but the real reason I live the way I do is because I have to take responsibility for my life and my family to protect them from environmental dangers. The skincare industry will not do it for me. The food industry will not do it for me. I know it can be overwhelming, but my wish is that I can help other women find a way to live a healthier life, just as others have helped me.
Here is Andrea’s story, and some advice she has for you!
Who is Andrea?
I am a believer, the wife of Jason, the mama to five, a writer, a fan of all things creative, and a cancer survivor. You can read more about my non-toxic journey at Wild About Pure. I also have the opportunity to rep for two great companies who share my non-toxic mission–Wildtree and Pure Haven Essentials. You can learn more about those products at www.mywildtree.com/andreagressman and www.purehavenessentials.com/andreagressman. (affiliate links)
Why is toxin-free living so important to you?
Six years ago I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. It was after cancer treatment that I started really reading labels for the first time and was absolutely shocked at what they were putting in our food and household products. I was in treatment for a year, which was very hard and I questioned more than once if I was going to be able to make it through. I ended up going through twelve rounds of chemo and a month of radiation before it was all said and done. After treatment I just thought I was going to be all better and move on with my life. I was wrong. The next two years were extremely difficult as I struggled to get out of bed every single day. I began to realize that certain things would exasperate my fatigue and the cleaner I ate and lived the better I felt. The truth is, as a mom of five I just don’t have time to be sick and tired all the time. So it is really important that I take care of myself.
It seems that sometimes as moms we can get caught up in being the “most natural”? Why is this much more than a trend or fad to you?
I think it is hard to understand unless you have been diagnosed with a life threatening illness, but I literally feel like non-toxic living is either life or death for me. I know the statistics. I know my risk factor for developing a secondary cancer. I feel like I have to do everything in my power to decrease that risk any way I can and living as non-toxic as I can is one of the ways I can do that. It is also really important to me to reduce the risk factor for my children. I can’t control much in this world but I can control what comes into my home. Ultimately I really want to raise my five children and have more years with my husband. I want to keep them from the devastation of losing their wife and mama too soon, so yes, this is way more than just the latest trend for me.
If someone is just beginning a more healthy lifestyle, what advice would you give them?
First, it is never too late to get started. The human body is remarkable and when given the opportunity it can do a wonderful job of healing itself. I would also say keep it simple. Figure out one or two ingredients that you want to avoid to start with. That one ingredient will actually keep you a lot safer than you realize because if a company is going to use that one ingredient they are likely putting other harmful chemicals in their products as well. But you don’t need to know everything your first day. High Fructose Corn Syrup was the thing I started with when my first two children were little. Then I just kept adding to it and I learned more. You learn more and do better. You also have to have some degree of grace for yourself. To this day I still get frustrated with myself when I discover a toxin that has slipped through and I just have to think about the hundreds of others that I did stop from coming into my home and celebrate that. Finally, you do have to develop a thick skin. There will be many people who won’t understand the mission you are on and even criticize you for it. You need to be able to stand firm. When I tell people I am a cancer survivor people generally understand but I do run across those who still think what I am doing is a waste of time. But, in the end they haven’t walked out my journey and only I can know what is best for my body and only my husband and I can decide what is best for our children.
How do you go about choosing toxin-free products and food?
I compulsively read labels. If a company isn’t going to disclose everything in their product I don’t use it because to me that means they are trying to hide something. I don’t rely on company reputation (I did that for some time only to be hugely disappointed and frustrated to find their products had junk in them) and I don’t fall for clever marketing strategies either. I have learned the marketing “lingo”. Naturally based, botanically based, etc. does not mean there aren’t toxins in there that should be avoided. “All-natural” doesn’t necessarily mean it is safe either. Things like lead and talc are natural ingredients that are still harmful and should be avoided. Basically, it comes down to good old-fashioned label reading. The more you do it the better you get at it and you will figure out the companies that really have made it their mission to make clean, non-toxic products and then I stick with those.
Give us one final thought!
Every time you spend money you are voting with your dollars and every time you cast a vote you are voting for the type of world you want to live in.
What to do next:
Emily here! I hope you are impacted by Andrea’s story and inspired by her advice! Be sure to follow her story at Wild About Pure.
Please follow my friend at The Golden Sea Turtle, an organization dedicated to raising awareness and funding for childhood cancer and toxin-free living. Shannon, the founder, says this about the organization: “I share information and resources on health and wellness through clean eating and clean living. I use my blog as a platform to raise awareness and funding for childhood cancer and provide families impacted by childhood cancer with care packages of healthy items!”