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PCN Board Member Profile: Pauline Cheslock

By Pauline Cheslock

I have been involved with Cancer Prevention since my mother’s death in 2000. I couldn’t quite comprehend how a woman with such healthy habits, always a healthy eater, walking zealously to her music to keep fit – could get 3 completely different types of cancers in her life. My mother Tina Buffon died a young 71. Was it just bad luck on her part? Losing her hit me hard, and with two young children, I felt compelled to find out what I could do to help my family and community.

A year after she died, there was an environmental study released called “Community Health Profile of Windsor, Ontario Canada – Anatomy of a Great Lakes Area of Concern” by Michael Gilberston and James Brophy. Needless to say, this paper lit a fire under a lot of people in Windsor – including myself. This led to my getting involved with the Windsor Cancer Prevention Coalition. I did not have a degree in Environmental studies or anything “expert” that could be attached to my being involved like this. I am on staff at OPSEU (Ontario Public Service Employees Union). I knew I just wanted to help fight this terrible disease anyway that I could.

During the next seven years we did a lot to help get the word out about Cancer Prevention in our area. Working alongside other volunteers like Ken Bondy and Kelly St. Pierre, we brought in Robert Kennedy Jr. to speak on the Environment. Later, Kelly and I put together a Run, Walk and Roll for Cancer Prevention, held Cancer in our Community symposiums – where we had guest speakers Sandra Steingraber and Jean-Dominic Levesque Rene give fantastic talks. Parts of these talks were filmed by the National Film Board of Canada for their documentary called Toxic Trespass in which Windsor was featured. Still though, the problem of getting the word out about Cancer Prevention seemed bigger and more daunting than ever given everything I was learning. I started to think – what did I think I could accomplish? I was lucky enough through the documentary, to meet the director Barri Cohen and Dorothy Golden-Rosenberg. Dorothy spoke about going to a Cancer Prevention Conference in Ottawa – I went. There, all the questions I had about how to reach out, the many, many things we can do to prevent cancer were discussed, and people from all over Canada attended. I knew this was something I wanted to be a part of, and I have been a part of the Prevent Cancer Now family ever since.

Currently in Windsor I sit on the board of the Windsor Essex County Environment Committee. Working together we passed the City of Windsor’s “no-pesticide” bylaw. My kids have known from an early age to watch out for those signs on lawns. Knowing that that poison just doesn’t stay on the grass, it goes into the air and our water systems, I was especially happy being a part of that.

Unfortunately, cancer has again touched my family. Just this past September, I lost my grandniece – Ava Belle Hunter, at age 5. Ava passed a mere 9 weeks after being diagnosed with a brain tumour. This past weekend, I went to Michigan for the funeral of my friend Kathy’s father – David Beneteau, who passed away too young from complications from Lymphoma.

With a busy family life, I sometimes can’t do all I want but I have learned that that is okay to do what I can when I can – I can thank my friend Margaret for reminding me of that. When I look back on the past 10 years since my mom passed away, I think about the passing of the Pesticide bylaws, and bringing Toxic Trespass into both the Public and Catholic school boards here for future generations to see. I am proud of the people and organizations with which I have established strong connections.

Cancer is a mean spirited enemy, mighty in its strength. One thing though we have to all remember, even when it seems too big a problem to conquer, is that together, we can be mightier!

So, my message to everyone is even if you think you can’t do “a lot”, anything you can do to help us is “a lot.” Take it from someone with no real expertise in the matter, just a determination to help, working together we can bring cancer to its knees; together we can PREVENT CANCER NOW!

 
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