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The Green Life: Brain Tumor Survivor: ''World Was in Technicolor''

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September 30, 2011

Brain Tumor Survivor: ''World Was in Technicolor''

IndieleeIndie Lee loved working in her garden. That is, until the rheumatoid arthritis set in. In her thirties and health-conscious, Lee couldn't believe the diagnosis. "It's impossible!" she recalls telling her doctor in disbelief.

But the New York native was in for an even bigger shock: her doctors discovered a brain tumor pushing on her frontal lobe and optic nerve.

"Everything in my world changed at that moment," she said.

Because Indie was a conscientious consumer — she ate homegrown organic food from a greenhouse she built in her backyard — she was more than a little startled when her doctors told her the tumor was probably caused by environmental toxins.

"We’re so uber-aware of this organic movement when it comes to food, but we don’t really take the time to recognize what we put on our skin — and it's our largest organ," she said.

After surgery to remove the tumor, Indie's mission became crystal clear: "When I woke up, the world was in Technicolor," she said. Since the operation, she has dedicated her life to educating the community about the dangers of cosmetic products — and has started her own product line.

The hazards of cosmetics have been relatively well documented by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit that raises awareness about environmental toxins and has evaluated the safety of over 65,000 beauty products. A study conducted by the group in 2008 revealed that teenage girls had toxins in their bodies found in many of the cosmetics they use.

"While the FDA has taken pains to research and account for the still-maturing decision-making abilities of teens using over-the-counter medications, they have made no attempt to protect teens from the deceptive marketing practices used in the cosmetics industry," the EWG study states. The FDA admits to having little regulator control over cosmetics, and their website states that they do not have to pre-approve products before they hit the market.

Currently, Lee's site offers baby products and skin-care products. Make-up will hopefully come in the future, she said. The cosmetics range in cost, from $6 for a cleansing bar to $89 for an anti-aging serum. The cost, Indie said, is largely dependent on the product. Rare ingredients — like the Swiss apples found in the serum — cost more. For those who may not be able to afford her products, Indie has a DIY section on her site that provides at-home beauty secrets.

 --Avni Nijhawan

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