Better Off Well
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INSIGHTS

Cancer Thriver Kristi Marsh: Mom Empowerment

Four years ago, Kristi stood in front of the room at the local YMCA and I sat entranced in the audience. The story of her journey through breast cancer and what she came to learn afterward was just being unfolded in her newest publication, Little Changes. Diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer at age thirty-six and with three young children at home, Kristi started on a quest to eliminate harmful chemicals from her home. Once I took her book home, I was equally entranced by the eloquence of her story and the details of her lifestyle tips.

kristi marsh

Today, Kristi's book can be found across New England, including in Whole Foods stores. Kristi’s commitment has also been recognized by Prevention Magazine’s Picture of Health, Women’s Voices for the Earth, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics as their first featured Rockstar, as a WorldWiseBeauty Icon, as a recipient of Clean Water Action’s 2011 John O’Connor Award, as well as Healthy Living Magazine’s Champion of Health 2010 Awards and Greenschool’s 2009 Outstanding Leadership Awards.

Now Kristi is on a mission to empower women- moms especially- because she knows that as a group we have the potential to make serious change. Change that's happening already.

Your book resonates so much with me! While my health issues were different than yours, I've resolved them by making the very lifestyle suggestions you recommend in your book. Do you find that it's an ongoing journey, always learning something new?

Definitely. Making little changes isn’t a to-do list, something to crumple up and toss toward the recycle basket, but a responsibility of our generation to push forward. This shift of thinking is vital as then we realize there is no personal failure as long as we are moving forward together.

Kirsti, Little Changes

Celebrate the tiniest of wins and replacements, and when you come across frustrations, reassure yourself we live in an imperfect world right now, and sometimes we can only do our best.

For sure. I always say, "We do what we can and don't stress about the rest." How has it been to tour with your book and share your story? Are other women coming to you to share their own?

In just the last year I have been invited to speak at a press conference at the Senate Building in Washington DC, received a letter from the Office of the First Lady, collaborated with Seventh Generation and Little Changes was selected to be an Evergreen Gold Medal winner for being a ‘world-changer’ of this millennium.

While all of those accomplishments are an amazing part of this wild ride as a national speaker, my true inspiration comes from private moments when readers send me a personal email thanking me for being honest and raw in Little Changes, allowing them to feel not-so-alone. This is what it is about for me. Every reader and every audience member.

After completing your chemo treatments and starting your journey toward a cleaner lifestyle, you found many surprises in the products you'd been using. What was the most surprising element?

The most surprising element was simply that the information and science on environmental health (what we bring into our homes and put on and in our bodies) exists, but because I spent the last decade busy doing what I do and raising a family, I didn’t know. For a brief time, I felt deceived and angry, which turned into an urgency of I want my friends and family to know.

When I was going through my chemotherapy treatments, I started reading everything I could about environmental health. The first book I read was Stacy Malkan’s, Not Just a Pretty Face. It was such an approachable read and enlightened me to a world I didn’t know existed about the very personal care products industry I grew up in.

Hungry for more information, I used Malkan’s list of resources and found an entire network of organizations dedicated to the very topic I thought I was just discovering! Next, I read Michael Pollan’s book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which shifted the axis of my entire world. I slowly switched our family over to an organic diet. I joined a CSA. I got chickens. I hadn’t realized how many harmful ingredients were in the food I was choosing to eat…of course, never knowing they could be compromising my body and my children’s bodies.

Knowledge is a beautiful thing, but once you know something, you can’t un-know it. The more I read, the more changes I made in my purchases and in the items I brought home and used with and for my family.

No one really suggested this path to me. If any voice directed me, it came from a wise knowing, something very deep inside that maybe, just maybe, I was too busy to listen to before in my mainstream world filled with alarmist headlines and marketing.

You are very big in the fight against genetically modified food, a technology that never saw long-term testing before it was green-lighted for our food system two decades ago. Why are you particularly passionate about GMOs?

GMOS is an immense topic. I have interviewed and met just about every leader in the national movement who is fighting for our right to know, and I have spoken to an ex-exec from the opposition, as well as biotechnology scientists. I have marched on the steps of the FDA, and I have presented the topic in the kindest, gentlest informative manner that I can muster.

I have done my research on both sides and it really comes down to this: We are the ultimate advocates for our bodies and those of our children. We have the right to know, to educate ourselves and decide about the products we bring into our home and devour. We have the right to know how our food is raised or created.

This moment we have to educate ourselves is a tiny brief slice of now. If we as citizens don’t protect it, we won’t be able reverse our food system. 2015 is the year for each and every woman to take a moment to learn about the topic and decide for themselves. Please share this piece with your readers: Waiter, there is a GMO in my Soup! as a friendly and slightly humorous place to start learning about GMOS. It is an entire chapter from Little Changes and I am happy to give away to the world if it helps women know it is okay to start learning about GMO basics.

You make a poignant point at the end of your book. There are women who come up after a presentation to congratulate you on all the lifestyle choices you've made and then go on to say they could never make those changes in their own lives. As you say, they missed your point. We don't do it ALL at once, right? Your "little changes" are like the "baby steps" I suggest. So what do you think would be the most important step a woman could take to improve her health today?

I know you're hoping I will say ‘avoid synthetic fragrances’ or ‘learn about BPA’, or some tip like that! Those are easy steps to start ladies on their way to making tremendous impact on your bodies and with places to save money, and I list forty more of them in the back of Little Changes, but really, the most important thing you can do comes from one of my favorite Little Changes quotes:

There is something incredibly moving to me about linking arms and coming go the side of another. In togetherness, we find safety and strength. Standing together, we become pioneers. Do not do this alone. Find a curious friend and turn this into a challenge and game. Do not be afraid to discuss, or embarrassed to share your learning curve. I promise, women who are in the same position surround you. Celebrate and share your little changes and others will learn from you. When women come together, the tipping point can be achieved.

Absolutely! There is nothing more powerful than having a tribe, and as women who tend to make many of the household decisions, we can be very powerful if we come together! I love that.

...And THEN you ditch the chemical fragrance. ;)

Your book could make a great holiday gift of health. Any chance you can offer my fabulous readers a little holiday discount cheer? :)

I would love to offer them an autographed, wrapped Little Changes for $15.99 (normally $18.99) with two quick steps:

1. Order a standard Little Changes paperback from www.choosewiser.com.

2. Follow with an email directly to me at kristimarsh@choosewiser.com, letting me know they would like an autographed copy with the spelling of the name.

Fantastic! I know just who I want my copy to go to. Thanks, Kristi!