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I’ll do my part to help end cancer. Will you?

standard July 17, 2013 Leave a response

My grandmother. My aunts. My mom. Without looking too far that’s at least 4 people, possibly 5, directly connected to me, who have faced a cancer diagnosis and lived to tell the tale. They’re not the only ones in my entourage. And not everyone has been so lucky.

Ever since the day our mother was diagnosed back in 2007, my sisters and I have debated whether to get tested for the BRCA gene. At the time my doctor was adamant that I not be tested, that it would put me at risk, from an insurance perspective, of being labeled as having an “existing condition” and refused coverage should I ever unfortunately need it.

I didn’t really mind. With my family’s health history, I never really felt the need to be tested. I operate on the assumption that I will, at some point or another, get breast cancer. I operate on the assumption that my two daughters are also in the high risk category.

For my sister, that wasn’t good enough.

But really, whether she ended up getting tested or not isn’t the issue. The simple fact that we can have this discussion is.

For my grandmother’s generation there was no test for ‘at risk’ genes, there was no screening for breast cancer, there wasn’t even much choice for treatment. For my mother’s generation things were better, and for ours, well, it’s a whole other landscape.

Whenever I think of breast cancer, or any other type of cancer, I think of all the doctors and scientists working hard in their labs doing their best to eradicate cancer in their lifetime. I think of people like my little sister who dedicate their days to finding a cure.

And I want to do my part.

But I’m not a scientist and I’m not a doctor. So I can’t help in that way.

I do, however, have something that I can bring to the table, something we all have.

I have blood and I have my story.

Those scientists and doctors need something to study and you and I can give it to them.

In our generation 1 in 3 women will have cancer in her lifetime. 1 in 2 men will have cancer in his. If those numbers horrify you the way they horrify me, read on. 

ACS Cancer Prevention Study-3 ~ CPS-3 – AKA, How you can get involved.

The American Cancer Society is running Cancer Prevention Study-3 (CPS-3), a huge nationwide long-term study that seeks to better understand the factors (lifestyle, environmental, genetic) that cause or prevent cancer and ultimately will help eliminate cancer as a major health concern for future generations.

They’re looking for 300 000 people between 30 and 65 years old who have never been diagnosed with cancer (not including basal or squamous cell skin cancer)and are willing to make a long-term commitment to the study, which involves completing periodic follow-up surveys at home.

If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area now’s the time to get involved. Recruitment is taking place in the following places:

• Alameda (July 20-August 3)
• Marin County (July 24-August 7)
• San Francisco (July 17-August 10)
• San Mateo (July 24-August 10)
• Santa Clara (July 13-August 10)

Registration details here.

If you live elsewhere in the US, check the ACS CPS-3 page to see when and where recruitment is taking place in your area. 

Participation in the study is a long term kind of thing. The study is slated to run for 20
years. OK, fine, that might be a tad daunting. But remember, CPS-3 offers us an historic opportunity — a once in a generation opportunity — to be personally involved in research that will advance ACS’ understanding of the lifestyle, environmental, and genetic factors that cause cancer.

That means that with a blood and by answering a few questions every couple of years we can help create a world with less cancer for our children. A world with more birthdays.

I’m lucky, my mom and my aunts are still around to celebrate their birthdays. I know way too many people who aren’t. I want to do my part to change that for my kids and their kids.

Will you?

(Please note: While I was compensated for my participation in learning and sharing about CPS-3 through Women Online/The Mission List, all opinions and stories stated here are mine and mine alone.)

What soap, smiles, and gratitude have in common.

standard July 17, 2012 2 responses

The impeccably dressed, incredibly thin man danced his way up the stage stairs. Even from where I sat, I could see that his eyes gleamed with joy and humor. In a room filled with women, he stood out – not like a sore thumb, but, rather, like a beacon.

Derreck Kayongo founder of the Global Soap Project.

 All eyes were riveted.

His melodious voice picked up the dance where his feet had left off; the unfamiliar accent full of warmth and light.

“I was born in Uganda…” Derreck Kayongo started, speaking softly to the captive audience. He shared the tale of how his happy young childhood came to a brutal, tragic end and how he, all too early, was forced into a terrifyingly unimaginable adulthood.

As the audience listened with shock twisting their faces and tears pooling in their eyes, he told gentle jokes and lightened the mood.

Again and again he shared horrors followed by smiles.

His story, the one behind the Global Soap Project, was riveting and inspiring, but what kept me captive was his face.

This man who has seen more horrors and hardships in his lifetime than any of us could possibly imagine had a beautiful, trusting face with huge eyes that betrayed none of that horror, just endless joy and delight in all the wonders the world had to offer. He looked like a child taking delight in the littlest thing he discovered.

I watched him closely as he shared his discovery that 800 million bars of barely used hotel soap are discarded every year in the United States and again as he shared the rather simple, yet brilliant solution that he dreamed up to fix this situation. His passion and excitement were infectious. His animated face was mesmerizing.

This man, who by all respects should have been allowed to be full of hate and bitterness, was literally oozing with delight and hope.

With pride, at the end of his talk. Derreck held up a beautiful, fragrant bar of recycled soap that his organization was sending to Africa.

Soap. Such a simple thing. Every day we grab a bar of it in our shower. We bought it in a store, picked out our favorite fragrance from the bunch available, giving it barely any thought. We don’t stop to marvel at the lather the soap creates, the smell it leaves on our skin, the ease with which it rinses off dirt and germs, leaving us healthy and clean.

To children in Africa that soap means life. To us it means virtually nothing.

Derreck stood in front of a large group of women and, with a twinkle in his eye and a burble of laughter in his throat, reminded us that there is wonder in every little thing we take for granted. He also reminded us that sometimes the solutions for fixing the world lie in the most unexpected of places.

Having heard him speak and share his story, I’m not just moved to go visit every hotel in my vicinity to beg them to research how they can help the Global Soap Project, I’m also moved to try to keep seeing the world through eyes like his. I want to make a point to appreciate all the little things that are so easy to dismiss or take for granted so I too can work to keep the world around us perfectly magical.

Want to help Global Soap? Check out what you can do here!

So much bad and the potential for so much good

standard April 2, 2012 4 responses

On Wednesday morning I attended a talk on human trafficking and the state of slavery in today’s world. Like learning that 1 in 5 children in the US go to bed hungry every night, learning that 70% of children in the foster system end up trafficked one way or another broke my heart.

There are children, women, and men, in our towns, in our schools, in our stores, our restaurants, our every day haunts who aren’t there by choice. Who have no way of escaping. Who fear for their lives daily.

I left that talk feeling so powerless and small.

Later that afternoon my husband and I had a rousing discussion about the state of the workers in China who assemble our favorite gadgets. For all the debunking of the stories recently published about the factories used by Apple, fact remains that those workers are treated less than optimally.

And Apple, well, they like to say that it’s not their fault, it’s how business is run over there.

That makes me want to scream.

To top off the despair, that night M and I went to talk given by Jean Michel Cousteau, Jacques Cousteau’s son, about how we as a species, are destroying the oceans and all that they contain. He talked about fire retardants leaching into the water, killing baby orcas and about deserted islands covered in trash from around the world. He reminded us that the oceans equal life. Without water we cannot live.

I went home exhausted. I spend my days making sure the kids are well fed, safe, and happy. But it’s not enough. There’s a whole world that needs fixing, healing, saving, feeding, watering. There’s so much to be done.

It would be beyond easy to take Apple’s stance. To throw up my hands and say “that’s the way of the world. It’s not up to me to fix it.” But that’s a cop-out and we all know it.

For sure, factories in China and all over the world are poorly run, with unsafe worker conditions and people — children and grown-ups — who work insane hours for a tiny bit of pay. That is the way of the world. But it doesn’t have to be the way of the world.

Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts don’t have to sell Fair Trade coffee. They could make more money selling coffee bought for less. They’ve chosen to make the right choice, the ethical choice. Others can too.

It is rumored that Apple only needs to charge $50 more per device to turn the same profit and give their workers more humane work conditions. Arguably, they could also just take that loss. After all, it’s also rumored that they have more cash in their coffers than they know what to do with. Making that change would do more than just helping their workers, it could start a change felt throughout the industrial world.

All these thoughts swirled in my head as I went to bed on Wednesday, tired from a day working, being with the kids, cleaning the house, heartsick because of all the sad, horrible things happening in this world I love.

Thursday I woke to the news that Apple was changing their policies. That they would shorten worker’s hours and increase their pay. That they would do the right thing.

And why? Because people like you and me started a petition.

We live in the age of communication. Informing people of the horrors that surround us invisibly is no longer impossible. The more aware we are, the more we do. When was the last time you left a light on in an empty room without giving it a second thought? Do you stop to think about the water that runs into your sink when you brush your teeth? Do you wonder how you can reduce the amount of gas you use in your car?

I’m pretty sure that I can’t clean all the oceans, but I can buy better detergent. I can’t get water to all the thirsty people in Africa, but I can turn off the water while brushing my teeth. I can’t free all the slaves in America and Europe, but I can be more aware of what goes on around me and report things that seem off. And for the rest? I can sign petitions, I can lend my voice and my influence to the masses, so that as a whole we can start making changes to this world where we’re raising our children.

(Why yes, that is my heart bleeding all over the place. Deal.)

Community In Schools Helping Where They Can

standard September 13, 2011 Leave a response

Last night M and I dragged the kids to our school’s first parent meeting of the year. While we sat in our daughter’s adorable little classroom surrounded by bright wall decorations, children’s art, books, and everything else a classroom should have, our kids played outside with the other school kids, supervised by paid staff.

Oh. And the kids got snacks.

Granted, it’s a private school. But still, in this area, this is the norm.

Kids have books, staff, resources. They have sturdy and safe buildings. They have teachers who spot and recognize issues and know how to help parents get help.

These kids don’t drop out. They finish school and go on to live their dreams. 

And on the flip side of the coin, I have friends whose kids sit in classrooms hosted in prefabs because the school has no money to build real buildings. I have friends whose kids have to eat lunch or breakfast at school. Not because they don’t have food at home, but because so many of their classmates don’t and the school has found that making at least one school meal mandatory is the only way to get the kids to focus.

30 kids to a class.

Not enough books.

Not enough to eat.

Not enough resources for children with special needs.

Schools that don’t know what to do with the resources they have.

So many rampant issues in our schools.

So many kids who drop out because the things necessary to keep them in school and on track just aren’t available. 

The public school situation in America makes my blood boil and my heart ache. I WANT to reach in and fix it all. Our kids deserve to be educated in a way that makes them want to learn, makes them see how amazing acquiring knowledge can be.

But I’m one person. One already overwhelmed person.

Community In Schools is an organization working to right the wrongs and help the kids. They’re the proverbial village working to build a community of support for children by embedding needed resources inside their school.

They’re giving us the push and the tools we need so we can all start helping too.

How can you help?

Donate – Your dollars can help keep kids in schools and on track. It doesn’t take much to make a difference.

Volunteer – There are countless ways you can volunteer and help a child. Even if you can only help one child. To that child, that will mean the world.

Advocate – You have a voice and an opinion. Raise it. Speak up. Share information. The kids need us. They need you.

Communities in Schools is Fill the Backpack’s not for profit benefactor. We’re donating 10% of our net profits from our Back-to-school campaign to the organization. We’re been so proud to share information about this fabulous outreach. To learn more about the organization and what aspects of their work has the Splash Creative Media bloggers all fired up, check out everyone’s blog this week.

Still haven’t entered the big Fill the Backpack giveaway on each blog? Get on that! Each giveaway is worth $750+ and ends in two days!