In this blog entry, Temple University Press author Sabrina McCormick (Mobilizing Science) talks about her award-winning film, No Family History, which, like her book, examines the environmental breast cancer prevention movement.
Last week, my film, No Family History, won Best Real Time Documentary at the Philadelphia Independent Film Festival. I started making the film about a woman on Long Island, New York as I was writing my book Mobilizing Science. The research for that book had taken me to Long Island for years, researching activism there. It is one place in the United States with heightened rates of breast cancer where researchers were trying to figure out the causes of the disease. Is it exposures in the water? The air?
Researchers had been given support to ask these questions after a group of women in the area instigated the passage of a Congressional bill that mandated the study of breast cancer in the area. Robin, the main character in my film, had gotten breast cancer while I was there doing research. When I met her, I knew her experience deserved a film.
Robin is honest and forthright with the camera. She is unafraid. This is also how she approached battling breast cancer. She did not hesitate, but walked into her double mastectomy with her head held high, and came out the other side smiling, even when in pain. Like millions of other women who have gotten the disease, she asked why? She had exercised, eaten right and had no family history of the disease. No one could give her answers about what had caused the pain and suffering she was forced to endure for several years, and may face again.
Scientists have been looking for a cure for breast cancer since Nixon declared the war on cancer in 1971. In the early 1990s, activists in Long Island, then across the nation pushed a new agenda – looking for the causes of the disease that could be prevented, hence averting the dire struggle Robin and others have faced. These teams of activists and researchers have worked together, finding new exposures, learning that the younger we are when we are exposed to a carcinogen, the more extreme that exposure seems to our bodies. They are reshaping science, and with it, what we do about breast cancer.
For more information about No Family History, visit: www.nofamilyhistory.com
For more information about Mobilzing Science: Movements, Participation, and the Remaking of Knowledge, visit: http://www.temple.edu/tempress/titles/2027_reg.html