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In a world where we talk about everything all the time, many important things still go unsaid. As a man who knows he has more than a 50% chance of getting some type of cancer at some point in his lifetime -- with testicular and prostate cancer topping the list -- I can tell you that men don't talk about things like that in public. Perhaps it's considered unmanly to discuss ailments. Maybe we don't really want to converse about our private parts with our male friends. Whatever the issue, we certainly haven't created anything like a blue or a black ribbon to symbolize the fact that we've survived forms of cancer that live so close to our ultimate symbol of manhood.
On the other hand, women, most notably my wife, Sheila, have no trouble discussing their bodies. They are always banding together to talk about the cancers that afflict their most intimate regions.
For the past year Sheila has been on a mission to educate women young and old about the dangers of traditional feminine care products and about the organic cotton alternatives and other solutions menstruating women should consider. I have awoken and gone to sleep, often in the same day, to discussions of Toxic Shock Syndrome, the pesticides used to grow tampon-destined cotton, and the sources of the chlorine-bleached rayon that's neatly tied with a string and sold for that time of the month.
Before Labor Day, Sheila organized an online event called (what else?) "Let's Talk…Period" -- a month-long effort to inspire women to speak up about gynecological health. To mark the start of Ovarian Cancer Month, LetsTalkPeriod.com is teaming up with the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund (OCRF), the leading organization dedicated to finding a method of early detection and a cure for this disease, in order to facilitate conversations and generate badly needed donations for research.
In a strange twist of fate, I now know more about ovarian cancer than any of the cancers that are likely to affect my own body. It is the leading cause of death from gynecological cancers in the United States and the fifth leading cause of cancer mortality among U.S. women. The symptoms of this disease are often vague and subtle, which makes it a difficult condition to diagnose.
The time has come to do something about that. That's why for every person who visits Let's Talk Period and registers their email address during the month of September, Seventh Generation (the company I started 21 years ago) will donate $1 to the OCRF. We'll generate up to $22,000, or one dollar for each woman who will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer this year.
In addition to raising funds, it's our fervent hope that Let's Talk Period will inspire women to openly discuss their reproductive health and the preventative measures they can take to protect themselves, their friends, their sisters, and their daughters. Thanks to Sheila, I also happen to know that the average woman will use somewhere around 11,000 tampons during her lifetime. Given all that can go wrong, this is a product to get right. And it's time men and women alike started talking about it.
Here's also hoping we men can learn something else from the women in our lives, and that's to take our own health risks out into the open where we can share our stories, learn from each other, and come together to prevent cancer and the all too likely possibility that we'll one day sit sadly in silence ourselves as we or someone we love is diagnosed.