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Running For More…

The personal blog and website of Kristen Cincotta

Archive for the ‘Other Advocacy Organizations’ Category

My BIG News – Dr. C Got a Job!

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

So… I sort of fell off the #NHBPM wagon. The goal was to write 30 blogs posts in 30 days. And I promise, I had every intention of doing just that. But yet, it’s now December 3rd and I only wrote/published 3 posts. I feel sort of bad about that. But not too bad, because I had a REALLY good reason for not posting:

I GOT A JOB!!!

It was a very long hiring process, one that honestly stretches back to last December when I applied for a public health policy research position on a team working on Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As it turns out, I didn’t get that job. But my resume did catch the eye of the team lead, who also serves as the acting branch chief for the Health Systems and Trauma Systems Branch in the Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention (DUIP), which is a part of the larger National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC). When the next possible opening on the TBI team came up in May, she got in touch with me and we had a phone interview that went great.

And then I didn’t hear anything more all summer, other than assurances that NCIPC/DUIP were re-organizing and they’d be in touch. In the mean time, I continued applying for other jobs (and hearing nothing… ), researching possible fellowship opportunities, and networking, networking, NETWORKING. Anyone that I came into contact with who had even the most remote connection to a place I wanted to work or experience in the fields I’m interested in, I was all over it. In August, I spent over an hour chatting up a very nice woman who happened to work at the CDC while hanging out at my friend Kristin’s pool. And that conversation was where I learned about ORISE fellowships.

ORISE is an acronym, that stands for Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, a Department of Energy (DOE) institute focused on recruiting scientists and engineers to work on a whole host of health, science, and engineering issues. ORISE itself is a physical place located in Oak Ridge, Tennessee that is managed by the Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) consortium. However, not all ORISE scientists work in Tennessee. Rather, ORAU also sponsors a series of ORISE fellowships at a number of member institutions and partners, including at the CDC here in Atlanta.

So, what does this have to do with my new job? Well, as part of the big reorganization over in the NCIPC/DUIP, a team working on public health policy relating to prescription drug overdose (PDO) was relocated into the Health Systems Branch, which, as I noted above, is currently under the direction of the head of the TBI team that I interviewed with. The PDO team happened to have openings for two ORISE fellows to work on a two year project evaluating a series of state-run prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs). And my contact, who was still looking for a way to bring me in, recommended that I apply for the position, which I did.

And then I didn’t hear anything for over a month.

Thinking that the lack of communication meant the fellowship was a long shot at best, I soldiered on, pursuing networking opportunities with a commitment that could best be described as “relentless fervor”. As part of this pursuit, I figured out a way to attend the Network for Public Health Law Conference here in Atlanta in mid-October. The conference was awesome and I learned A LOT. But more importantly, I met A LOT of people who were generous with their time and really went out of their ways to help me build my networks within the public health field. As it turns out, one of the people that I met at the conference just so happened to work on the PDO team at the CDC. And he went back to his team lead and talked me up, effectively moving my resume to the top of the pile.

[Side note: When you are looking for a job, everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, will tell you “It’s all about who you know!“. I was told this three separate times at my dental cleaning in early October alone. Reluctantly, I admit that they’re right. But what people don’t tell you is that you, and you alone, control who you know. So if your current network isn’t generating promising leads, get out there and meet new people!]

Shortly after I got back home from my networking trip to DC (like I said, relentless fervor!), I had a phone interview with the PDO team lead and another senior member of the team. It was on a Friday morning, it lasted 27 minutes, and I had no idea if they liked me or not. After a weekend of trying to convince myself I didn’t blow it while simultaneously preparing for another networking meeting with a public health lawyer at the CDC the following Monday (RELENTLESS FERVOR), I received an email on Monday morning that basically said “Congratulations on being selected as an ORISE fellow! Here’s 800 pieces of paperwork we need to start working on to get your hiring approved and processed.”

I was FLOORED. But I was also cautious. In all of my networking meetings, I had learned that opportunities with the federal government can fall apart just as easily as they come together. So I tried my best not to say anything until everything was finalized (although my mom leaked it to my 94-year-old grandmother who then posted about it on my Facebook wall… ), which happened the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. So while I was stuffing my face with turkey and potatoes and pie, I was also incredibly grateful that after a long, frustrating search, I had FINALLY landed a fantastic position where I will get hands on experience learning how public health policy is set at the federal level.

I’ve now been at work for a little over a week and I’m still really excited, even though all I’ve gotten to do so far is paperwork and background reading. I hadn’t really considered working in drug abuse policy, but I’m finding the material stimulating and intriguing. Prescription drug misuse and abuse is a huge public health problem across the country right now and different states are trying different things to counter it. My job, then, in a nutshell, will be to help figure out which interventions and controls are working (and why) and which aren’t (and why). It should be a fun challenge and I know I’m going to learn a lot!

The one caveat, though, is that as a guest researcher at the CDC, my understanding is that I need to be careful what I choose to blog about here. In terms of “reporting” on the fundraising and awareness events that I try to take part in on a regular basis, I think I’m fine to keep blogging away. Likewise, fundraising for private organizations like American Cancer Society and Komen for the Cure. However, there are obviously confidentiality issues relating to the work I’ll be doing at the CDC, so beyond what I’ve shared in this post, I probably won’t write much about that specifically. Additionally, I need to be careful that any health and science posts (like my “cancer awareness month” series) are not misconstrued as approved by or representing any kind of official position by the CDC, ORISE, ORAU, or the Departments of Energy and Health and Human Services. A simple disclaimer should do the trick, but I’ll probably err on the side of caution for a while just to be safe.

Finally, I strongly suspect (although I haven’t seen it confirmed anywhere yet) that I am not supposed to do any public advocating or politicizing on issues pertaining to government-funded research, including the current state of said funding and the potentially detrimental effects of sequestration on it. It is something of a conflict of interest to be advocating for protecting/increasing CDC funding when said funding levels have huge implications for the future of my fellowship and whether or not I get hired on as a permanent CDC employee. So PLEASE. Since this is the only thing I’ll be writing publicly about sequestration from this point on, do me a favor and look it up. Look up the effects that an 8% across the board cut in funding will have on NIH, NSF, FDA, AHRQ, and yes, CDC. If you do nothing else, read through this report from Research!America. Read the info that AAAS (especially this report), CIBR, and the Society for Neuroscience have compiled on the issue (note, those links will take you to their sequestration pages). This letter by the Coalition for Health Funding is also worth a read, as is this ACS CAN blog post on sequestration and breast cancer research. Read the Cures Not Cuts! website. And CONTACT YOUR REPRESENTATIVES. The US government funds the vast majority of biomedical research in this country, research that will find the cures for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, diabetes, and yes, someday, cancer. These potential cuts to research investments will have ramifications for decades. We’re falling behind already. We cannot afford any more budget cuts to our science and research budgets and everyone needs to make sure their representatives know it. This PDF from Research!America includes sample letters, tweets, and Facebook posts that you can use as inspiration. Do it for me. Call it a “Congratulations on the new job!” present.

So that’s my biggest news. But I do, actually, have other news as well, this time on the volunteering front. The day before I found out that my fellowship was approved and I had a start date in place, I was asked to be on not one, but TWO important committees at the Atlanta affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, with whom I’ve been volunteering at health fairs and fundraising events since late last winter.

First, I will be serving as the Safety Chair for the Atlanta Race for the Cure which will take place at Atlantic Station in May (registration is now open!). That means that I’m responsible for lining up the medical and ambulance support for the race as well as making sure everyone is where they should be and everything runs smoothly on race day. As I’ve gotten more involved with the local running community here in Atlanta and I’m pretty comfortable with the medical community here as well, it’s kind of a perfect fit! Organizing, race planning, and health care – it’s a perfect fit! I thought I had my first planning meeting for Race for the Cure committee tonight (we meet on the first Monday of each month), but it turns out that doesn’t start until next month. As best as I can, I’ll try to post updates and you can be sure that come spring, I’ll be recruiting as many people as possible to take part in the race!

Second, I will also be serving as a member of the Community Grants Review Board, something I’ve been wanting to do for years. For those who don’t know, 75% of the money that the Komen affiliates raise throughout the year (including through the Race for the Cure) stays with the affiliates and is redistributed throughout the local communities in the form of community support grants. The majority of these grants go to fund breast cancer initiatives and patient support work at local healthcare providers, community support centers (like YMCAs) and cancer support organizations. I’m thrilled that I now have the opportunity to help direct how Komen Atlanta chooses to use their funds. I have grant review training on Thursday and will have until early January to review my assigned grants. Then in late-ish January, I will get together with the rest of the reviewers to decide on which grants to fund for 2013-2014. I’m really looking forward to experiencing this aspect of Komen’s work from the inside and as best I can, I’ll try to keep everyone posted. However, to avoid conflicts of interest and all of that, I will need to keep the specifics of much of this work private as well.

So that’s how the end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013 are shaping up for me. After my defense last December, I thought my whole life would just start moving forward immediately. I fully expected to have a new job in place well before I graduated in May. I never anticipated that I would be unemployed for as long as I was. Moreover, I had no idea how restricted I would be financially because of my lack of a job, which, in turn, restricted the charitable work I was able to do. In short, throughout most of 2012, I felt stuck in the mud when I all I wanted was to be finally moving forward. Well, after almost a full year of fighting to get unstuck, I can proudly say: I AM UNSTUCK. I have a new job that I’m really fired up about where I’m going to learn a lot about public health policy, law, and hopefully communications from inside the federal government. I have two great volunteering gigs where I’m going to have a real influence on how a large breast cancer not-for-profit does their work. I honestly haven’t been this excited for the coming year in such a long time. It’s such a great feeling to finally be on my way!

#NHBPM Post 2: Where Do the Candidates Stand on Health, Science, and Research Issues?

Sunday, November 4th, 2012

Note: This post is a part of WeGo Health‘s National Health Blog Post Month: 30 posts in 30 days challenge. The prompt for Day 2 that I’m responding to is “Find a quote and use it for inspiration”. To see the rest of my #NHBPM posts, please click on the image at the bottom of this post.

“Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.” ~ Thomas Jefferson

Unless you live under a rock, you know that this coming Tuesday is Election Day here in the United States. While many people have already early or absentee voted, the bulk of Americans (including me) will be going to the polls to cast our votes for the next President of the United States, for our members of the House of Representatives, and for other elected officials at all levels of government. As a research scientist who has been funded by a federal grant from NIH, the platforms of our candidates on research investments and regulation are incredibly important to me. The US government is far and away the largest investor in science and health research in the country. As both advocates for and beneficiaries of this life changing (and economically stimulating!) research, I think it is important that everyone going to the polls takes a moment to understand where their chosen candidates stand on issues pertaining to science, health, and technology.

To help everyone be as informed voters as possible on the candidates’ positions on these issues, I’ve compiled a series of resources and reviews that I think present the candidates’ policies and positions as fairly as possible. If you feel that I’ve linked to a particularly biased source, please let me know in the comments. While I definitely have my own personal preferences for how this election will turn out, it is not my goal here to sway anyone’s vote towards or against a specific candidate. Rather, I just wanted to point out some solid resources for those looking to better understand the candidates’ positions before voting on Tuesday.

ScienceDebate.org

Science Debate is an initiative that was started a year ahead of the 2008 election by six concerned citizens (two screenwriters, a physicist, a marine biologist, a philosopher, and a science journalist) in order to help bring science and technology issues to the forefront of the political debate. As they note on their website, within weeks of its founding, the Science Debate initiative had been endorsed by more than 38,000 scientists (including me!), engineers, and other concerned Americans, including every major American science organization, dozens of Nobel laureates, elected officials, business leaders, and the presidents of over 100 major American universities.  Their “call to arms”, as it were, states:

“Given the many urgent scientific and technological challenges facing America and the rest of the world, the increasing need for accurate scientific information in political decision making, and the vital role scientific innovation plays in spurring economic growth and competitiveness, we call for public debates in which the US presidential and congressional candidates share their views on the issues of the environment, health, and medicine, and science and technology policy.”

While the movement has yet to persuade the candidates for President to take part in a physical debate on these issues, it has been successful at pushing the candidates to more clearly define their positions on science, technology, and research. Starting last year, the folks at Science Debate began crowd sourcing a collection of important science questions that scientists, engineers, and concerned citizens wanted to hear the candidates answer. Together with their partner organizations (you can find the list of these organizations on their website), Science Debate culled the list to 14 critical questions, which were then presented to President Obama and Governor Romney. A subset of 8 questions were also presented to 33 members of Congress who serve in leadership positions on committees or subcommittees dealing with science issues. The answers from both Obama and Romney can be found here and the list of Congress members who were surveyed along with links to their responses can be found here.

The questions that were asked cover a wide range of topics and include: Innovation and the Economy, Climate Change, Research and the Future, Pandemics and Biosecurity, Education, Energy, Food Safety, Water Safety and Availability, Internet Regulations, Ocean Health, Science in Public Policy, The Future of Our Space Program, Protection of Critical Natural Resources, and Vaccinations and Public Health. The responses from each candidate are presented side by side, making it easy to compare and contrast between their positions on these issues.

For more information, please visit the Science Debate website here. You can also find Science Debate on Facebook here.

AAAS.org and Science Magazine’s Review of the Republican and Democratic Party Platforms on Science

Following the completion of both the Republican and Democratic conventions in September, Science magazine, the primary publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and one of the pre-eminent science journals in the world, published this editorial reviewing the platforms of both the Republican and Democratic parties on issues relating to science, technology, and the environment. The article touches on the parties’ overall stance on research funding, as well as their positions on funding for embyronic stem cell research, climate change, the future of our space program, energy policy, immigrant scientists, the role of “politicized” science, and actual budgets for this work proposed by each party. I felt that this piece was both comprehensive and fair in its assessment of each party’s platform. Please note that while this article is free to read, you may need to register with the AAAS website in order to view it.

The same author also wrote this editorial for the ScienceInsider section of the AAAS website on Paul Ryan’s record on science and government following his selection as Mitt Romney’s running mate in August. This analysis focused heavily on the funding allotted for various science agencies and initiatives in the budgets that Congressman Ryan has proposed over the years in his position as the Chairman of the House Budget Committee. To my knowledge, this article does not require registration to view.

You can read more about AAAS on their website, here, and you can find the website for Science magazine here. You can follow AAAS on Twitter, here, while the Twitter feed for Science magazine is here.

Research!America’s Your Candidates – Your Health Initiative

Research!America is the nation’s largest not-for-profit public education and advocacy alliance committed to making research to improve health a higher national priority. Research!America recently completed some polling that showed that (to quote from their website) “while Americans consistently describe medical, health, and scientific research as important, just 8% of people say they are very well informed about their elected officials positions on these issues”. To help address this shortfall and to aggregate presidential and congressional candidates positions in one place for easy access, they launched the Your Candidates – Your Health questionnaire and website in 2006. In a similar vein to ScienceDebate.org, Research!America sent a letter explaining the initiative and a 13 question survey to every candidate for President or Congress who appears on the ballot this November. All of the responses that they’ve received to date have been published on their website unedited, where they are easily searchable by state, zip code, or name.

Questions in the Your Candidates – Your Health survey touch on: the role of health research investments in rising healthcare costs, investment in research and innovation as a job creation strategy, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education, military investments in research, the budgets for science and technology agencies including the CDC, AHRQ, and the FDA, research and technology tax credits, the role of the government in prevention research, federal funding of embyronic stem research, and whether or not candidates have a science advisor.

It should be noted that Governor Romney chose not to answer each question individually, and instead released a statement summarizing his position on many of these issues, which can be found here. President Obama’s responses can be found here. You can find the responses of the candidates for congressional seats by searching here.

Starting in 2006, Research!America has also been collecting and posting the responses of the sitting members of Congress to these types of questions, on their Your Congress – Your Health website. It is worth noting the questions on the survey have changed over the years and some of the responses on the Your Congress – Your Health page are in response to questions that are no longer a part of the survey. For reference, you can find Congressman Ryan’s answers (submitted in June 2007) here. President Obama’s answers from when he was in the Senate (submitted in July 2007) can be found here. Vice President Biden did not respond the survey while he was still serving in the Senate.

You can find more information about Research!America on their website, here. You can follow Research!America on Facebook, here, and on Twitter, here.

CancerVotes.org

In recognition of the fact that cancer will kill more than half a million people in the United States this year alone, CancerVotes was started by the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Advocacy Network (ACS CAN) to help educate both the public and the candidates about the actions that lawmakers should take to make fighting cancer a national priority. As Chris Hansen, the president of ACS CAN, puts it:

“While we have made great progress against cancer, the disease continues to kill 1,500 people a day in this country. Lawmakers have the power to make decisions that directly impact the lives of cancer patients and their families, which is why it is important that the public understands where candidates for every office stand on issues critical to fighting and preventing this disease.”

As part of their work, CancerVotes presented Governor Romney and President Obama with four questions addressing the most pressing issues for cancer patients and their families prior to the first televised presidential debate. The candidates’ answers to these questions were then posted on the CancerVotes website, and can be viewed here under the title “US President Voter Guide”. The four topics covered in this guide are: the role of the government in leading the fight against cancer, cancer prevention, access to care, and protecting citizens from the dangers of tobacco consumption. The answers from each candidate are again presented side by side for easy comparison.

You can find more information on ACS CAN on their website, here. You can also follow ACS CAN on Facebook, here, and on Twitter, here. You can also follow CancerVotes on Twitter here.

I hope that everyone finds these resources informative and helpful as you all make your way to the voting booth on Tuesday. You are all going to vote, right?!

 

Getting Back on Track with #NHBPM!

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

So…

After a really dedicated month or two of blogging, I sort of fell off the regular posting train there, didn’t I? And during Breast Cancer Awareness Monthno less, when I had so many topics that I wanted to post about it. Alas, after a few months of relatively low key unemployment, my October got REALLY busy. Busier than I’ve been since my dissertation defense last December. Here’s just a sampling of what I was up to in October that kept me away from writing:

Taking meetings on The Hill!

  • I spent four days in Savannah with my family celebrating both my husband & a cousin’s shared birthday and another cousin’s wedding. It was a BLAST.
  • I spent three days volunteering at and attending the Network for Public Health Law conference here in Atlanta, networking my tail off and learning so much about this fascinating aspect of public health. If you follow me on Twitter, I was blowing it up with conference tweets there for a bit using the hashtag #PHLC2012.
  • I spent four days in Washington DC taking a series of informational meetings on public health careers within the federal government and government affairs that a long time friend and colleague of my mom’s generously offered to set up for me. I also got to see some of my closest friends from Atlanta, almost all of whom have relocated to DC over the years, including their cutie kids Alice and Soren!
  • I also had a series of informational meetings with folks working in public health here in the Atlanta area that came out of my networking at the NPHL conference.
  • I took part in a number of public health related webinars and web/twitter chats, something I’ve been doing regularly since last spring in order to learn as much as I can about the current state of public health and the big challenges facing those working in the field.
  • I volunteered at two health fairs on behalf of the Atlanta affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, helping to hand out important information on breast health care, mammography, and breast cancer, something I’ve been doing now for about seven months.
  • I volunteered twice with the Atlanta Track Club, helping them prepare for the Atlanta Marathon and Marathon Relay that took place on October 28th. I LOVE getting to know people in the Atlanta running community and being a part of these events even if I wasn’t running – so inspiring!
  • Speaking of running, I ran in the Winship Win the Fight 5K to raise money for the Winship Cancer Center at Emory University. I also walked in the American Cancer Society Making Strides event in Marietta and ran in another local race as well.
  • I cheered on my friends on the last day of the Atlanta 3 Day for the Cure, which unfortunately overlapped with my DC trip so I couldn’t take part on the other days.
  • And in the midst of all that, I got the worst head cold I’ve had in years that is still with me more than two weeks later. Ironically, I’m pretty sure I picked it up from the Health Policy Director for the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee.

Meeting “new” friends and #3DayTweeps at Closing Ceremonies for the Atlanta 3 Day!

Plus I was still trying to keep up with my usual job searching and training activities throughout all of that. As I said, it was a crazy busy month and I’m honestly not surprised I got sick in the middle of it. I haven’t been out running around like this in a pretty long time. And with all of that going on, something had to give and that something was my blog, just for a bit.

BUT! Looking at my calendar for November, things look a lot calmer. Things seem to maybe, possibly, be settling in on the job search front (no more details for now until things are more definite… ) and I’m not planning to attend any races or big advocacy events in November. In fact, the only really big thing on my calendar is my husband and I’s first trip home to New York for Thanksgiving in nine years. So my big goal for this month is to pick up where I left off with my blog. Which brings me to #NHBPM

#NHBPM is the Twitter hashtag associated with WEGO Health’s National Health Blog Post Month. WEGO Health is an online network of health activists that I’ve been keeping up with primarily via Twitter over the last few months. WEGO’s primary goal is to connect health activists using social media platforms  and to help health bloggers especially by providing useful resources and inspiration. WEGO Health also sponsors weekly twitter chats focused on various challenges facing online health activists that I’ve found pretty interesting, including one on breast cancer activism last week.

Inspired by other November writing challenges, like NaNoWriMo and BlogHER’s NaBloPoMo, National Health Blog Post Month is WEGO Health’s latest initiative to help foster conversations amongst the health activist community of which I consider myself a member. The challenge is relatively simple in concept: 30 health-related blog posts in 30 days. To help with this challenge, WEGO Health has set up different writing prompts for each day of November that I’m mostly going to try to stick to. I say mostly because I’ve looked over the prompts and there are some days where I’m just not inspired by either of the prompts that were given. So on those days, I’ll go “off script” a bit and instead post on the topics that I’ve been meaning to write about for a long time now. Knowing myself and how I work, I can already tell you that I won’t necessarily get a post up every single day either (like, uh, yesterday… ). But it’s my goal that by the end of November, I will have written and posted 30 different blog posts relevant to my little corner of the health activist world, which is breast cancer research advocacy.

Since I’m a day behind already, I’m going to roll my #NHBPM response for Day 1 right into this blog post. For each day of this challenge, there are two prompts and as bloggers, we’re challenged to reply to one of them. So, for Day 1 the prompt I’m choosing to start with is:

Why I write about [my] health…

First and foremost, I should note that I differ from the majority of WEGO Health’s bloggers because I generally don’t write about my own health (other than talking about my training for events) and I definitely don’t write about my experiences with a given health condition from the perspective of a patient. While I do choose to focus my efforts on one particular disease (breast cancer, natch), I instead write my blog from my perspective as the daughter of a cancer survivor, a biomedical health researcher, and a passionate research advocate. As I’ve dug further into the breast cancer advocacy community, I’ve come to realize that, through no fault of their own, health research advocates, while well meaning, are often ill-informed about the actual process and needs of biomedical research. Rather, I think this mis-information is the fault of scientists who have done an exceptionally poor job advocating for themselves and educating the public about why science and health research is so critical if we want to live in a world with breast cancer. Or diabetes. Or Alzheimer’s disease. Or any of these diseases that are stealing our loved ones from us far too frequently. So as a biomedical research scientist (I studied neural/immune control of heart function as an undergraduate and Alzheimer’s disease and mild cognitive impairment for my doctoral work), I decided it was time for me to heed the advice of Ghandi and be the change that I wanted to see in the world.

Ultimately, I have three primary goals that I’m working towards by writing this blog:

  1. I want to be the best advocate I can be by learning as much as I can about the current state of breast cancer research, funding, and policy. Researching and writing this blog helps me achieve that for myself.
  2. I want to help my fellow advocates be the best advocates they can be by helping them to understand the biomedical research community and its needs from an insider’s perspective. I don’t think I do this nearly enough, and I want to change that.
  3. I want to inspire those who are currently on the sidelines to get into the game when it comes to health advocacy, whether they choose to focus on breast cancer in particular or not. We are all human beings walking around in vulnerable bodies, which means we all stand to benefit from a better understanding of public health best practices and from more/better biomedical research. I hope that by highlighting various ways to get involved in advocating for improved health education, greater disease awareness, and increased research funding, I can motivate others to join me in my efforts.

So that’s why I choose to write about health issues. Hopefully with each post that I write, both throughout #NHBPM and beyond, I’m getting closer to achieving those goals!

You’re Invited to the Atlanta 2-Day Walk for Breast Cancer!

Friday, October 5th, 2012

This weekend, October 6-7th, marks the 10th anniversary of the Atlanta 2-Day Walk for Breast Cancer and while it’s too late now to register for this year’s event, I’m here to encourage you to head out for a few hours this weekend and do what my pink people do best: cheer each other on!

The Atlanta 2 Day, which markets itself as “the kinder and gentler breast cancer walk” is put on each year by a local Atlanta 501(c)(3) organization called It’s The Journey, Inc. It’s the Journey was founded in 2002 after the Avon Walk left the Atlanta area as a way of raising funds that will stay entirely within the local area, supporting Georgia breast cancer patients and breast health programs. Officially, the mission statement of It’s the Journey, Inc says:

It’s The Journey, Inc’s mission is to strengthen Georgia’s breast cancer community by raising money and awareness for local organizations that focus on breast cancer education, early detection, awareness and support services, as well as the unmet needs in the breast cancer community.

Over the past nine years, It’s The Journey, Inc has funded 169 grants totaling $8 million to various Georgia and Atlanta-area breast cancer programs and organizations. That’s a huge amount of money for a relatively small group to be investing in breast cancer programs in my adopted home city and I am sure that every single cent is very appreciated by their grantees. More impressively, to my knowledge, the vast majority (if not all) of that money was raised by the participants of the Atlanta 2-Day; I don’t know of any other major fundraisers that It’s The Journey does. So when I say that these 2-Day walkers deserve the support of the greater cancer advocacy community, I really, truly mean it.

As for the specifics, the Atlanta 2-Day Walk for Breast Cancer is modeled after endurance events like the Komen 3-Day for the Cure and the Avon walks. For this event, participants walk 30 miles over two days and “camp out” on Saturday night at their host hotel, which for 2012 is the Atlanta Marriott Marquis. Participants have the option of walking both days, or walking only Saturday (20 miles) or only Sunday (10 miles). As with other multi-day walks, walkers are asked to meet a fairly significant fundraising minimum just to participate. In this case, that means $1000 for 2 day walkers, $750 for Saturday-only walkers, and $500 for Sunday-only walkers. It really is an event that lets you choose exactly the right level of participation for you. They don’t call themselves the kinder, gentler breast cancer walk for nothing!

So, if you have a few free hours this weekend, I highly suggest that you come out and cheer on these walkers as they take on this challenge (perhaps after you’re done with the Making Strides event in the morning!). Opening Ceremonies will take place at 7am on Saturday morning, out on Peachtree Street in front of the Hard Rock Cafe. Following the conclusion of the ceremonies, the walkers will head out on the route. You can view the Saturday morning route here and the Saturday afternoon route here. In general, though, you’ll be able to find the walkers heading east towards Agnes Scott College in Decatur in the morning before turning back towards to downtown after lunch. Official cheering stations are planned throughout the day on Saturday and will probably be the best option for catching the walkers on the route:

  • Cheering Station 1: Fishburne Parking Deck, Emory University (free on Saturday), 1672 N Decatur Road, Atlanta, GA 30322 from 8:45am – 10:30am
  • Cheering Station 2: Downtown Decatur, at the intersection of Church Street and Sycamore Street from 10:00am – 12:30pm
  • Cheering Station 3: Candler Park Village, at the corner of McLendon Avenue and Clifton Road from 1:00pm – 4:00pm

In addition, you can cheer for the walkers as the return back to the Marriott Marquis after a long day of walking as well. The hotel is located at 265 Peachtree Center Avenue, Atlanta, GA 30303. It’s The Journey asks that you cheer on the Courtland Street side of the hotel. They expect walkers to be returning between 2:30 and 5:30pm.

Sunday’s festivities will also kick off with Opening Ceremonies, this time at 7:30am in the Atrium Ballroom at the Marriott Marquis downtown. From there, the walkers will be walking north from their hotel up to Atlantic Station. Closing Ceremonies are planned for noon on Sunday at Atlantic Station. You can view the complete Sunday route here. There are no planned cheering stations on Sunday besides at Atlantic Station as the walkers are finishing.

In the past, I’ve expressed my hesitation in promoting and encouraging It’s The Journey, Inc and the Atlanta 2-Day. It really bothers me that It’s The Journey positions this great walk as a competitor to the 3-Day and other multi-day breast cancer walks, rather than as an additional walk. I thoroughly believe that there are plenty of passionate advocates that will fill up however many walks we need to have in order to raise enough money to finally cure cancer. There is no need for cancer organizations to compete with each other. If your organization is doing good work (and I think It’s The Journey ultimately is), people will take part in your events. I really wish It’s The Journey would figure that out and change their marketing going forward. Regardless of if they actually do make changes, the walkers that take part in the Atlanta 2 Day aren’t doing this walk to spite some other organization (I hope!). They’re doing it because they want to contribute to the fight against breast cancer. And seriously? $8 million dollars for local breast cancer centers and patient support programs? That’s AMAZING. These walkers deserve everyone’s respect and encouragement for their hard work. They’ve earned it, regardless of my feelings about how It’s The Journey chooses to promote their walk.

So, with that, I say:

GO ATLANTA 2 DAY WALKERS!! TURN OUR CITY PINK THIS WEEKEND!!

You’re Invited to The Young Survival Coalition’s Tour de Pink!

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

With Breast Cancer Awareness Month right around the corner, the number of “pink” events taking place here in Atlanta and all over the country is growing by the day! One series of events that kicks off this weekend is the Young Survival Coalition’s Tour de Pink bike rides to raise money for their outreach, education, and advocacy programs. I’m planning to attend the ride here in Atlanta this weekend as a spectator and I’m hoping that I can convince you to as well!

About the Young Survival Coalition

The Young Survival Coalition (or YSC) is, per their website, the premier global organization dedicated to the critical issues unique to young women who are diagnosed with breast cancer. YSC was founded in 1998 by three women who had all been diagnosed with breast cancer before the age of 35. Recognizing the relative rarity of their situation and the unique issues facing young women with breast cancer, YSC was born. YSC is head-quartered in New York City and currently has affililiates in 30 cities across the United States.

The primary goal of YSC is to improve and increase both the quality and quantity of life for young breast cancer patients and survivors. To achieve this, YSC focuses its efforts on three fronts:

  1. Advocacy – YSC advocates for increased research attention focused on the unique issues facing young women with breast cancer, including higher mortality rates, body image issues, and survivorship questions about things such as fertility and early menopause. Through their “Reach Up and Speak Out” programs, YSC is working to empower and unite the voices in the young survivor community to shine a spotlight on a much needed area of increased research.
  2. Education – Breast cancer in young people is not the same as breast cancer in post-menopausal women. YSC provides educational information and leads seminars to help highlight these differences and educate young women with breast cancer so that they can make informed choices about their own care and treatment. Moreover, YSC dedicates considerable efforts to increasing awareness of breast cancer in younger women, emphasizing that this is not a disease that limits itself to older women.
  3. Community building and patient support – The community of young breast cancer survivors is relatively small, leading these women to often feel out of place or overlooked at traditional cancer patient support groups. YSC and its affiliates regularly host networking and social events as well as an annual conference specifically targeted at young cancer patients and survivors in order to help young women find and support each other through their cancer journeys and beyond.

About the Tour de Pink

The Tour de Pink is a series of bike rides at various locations across the country that serves a dual purpose as the YSC’s primary annual fundraiser and as a wonderful celebration of the YSC community. Or, as YSC Board President, founding member and three-time breast cancer survivor Lisa J. Frank puts it (much more artfully):

Tour de Pink was created to empower young women diagnosed with breast cancer. Our participants create an incredibly strong community that one wishes they could experience every day. Combine that with the inspiration everyone feels when they watch a young woman climb on a bike to reclaim her body after being diagnosed with breast cancer and you truly have the experience of a lifetime.

The Tour de Pink was first started in 2004 with just five riders, who rode 200 miles from the Boston suburbs to the NYU Cancer Institute in New York City. That inaugural event raised $26,000 for YSC; with more than 1400 riders expected to take part in at least one Tour de Pink ride in 2012, that number only promises to grow.

For the 2012 season, interested participants have the choice of a number of events depending on geographic location and riding ability. The two primary events in the Tour de Pink series are each three day, 200 mile long rides that are similar in nature to the Susan G. Komen 3 Day and Avon Breast Cancer Walks. Riders will ride a set distance each day and will “camp” together overnight in hotels. Riders who register for the entire weekend are challenged to raise a minimum of $2500 in order to participate (again, similar to the 3 Day or Avon). There is also a one day option for riders who prefer a shorter challenge. One day riders are asked to raise $250. The dates and locations for these Tour de Pink rides are:

Each of these events is limited to just 200 riders and I’m not sure if registration is still open for either of them. However, if you live along the route (you can double check the east coast route here and the west coast route here), please take some time to head out and cheer on these riders. Not only are they taking on a tremendous physical challenge, but they’ve also been working for months to raise lots and lots of money for a good cause. Give them a supportive car honk, pass out water bottles, whatever seems right for you. As a fellow endurance event participant, I can testify that community support goes such a long way!

In addition to these two multi-day events, there are two other single day Tour de Pink events that folks can take part in:

  • The Indoor Tour de Pink (Columbus, OH): If you live in or are willing to travel to Columbus, Ohio, you have the option of taking part in an indoor, two hour stationary bike team relay event on October 27th (so basically like a giant spin class where teammates take turns on the bikes). Participants in this event are asked to raise $125 for each half-hour that they plan to ride. If you are interested in taking part, you can register here. There was a similar event held in Seattle on September 23rd, which you can read about here.
  • The One Day Tour de Pink Atlanta: If you live in or are willing to travel to Atlanta (my neck of the woods!), you have the option of taking part in a single day, outside Tour de Pink bike ride (or simultaneous 5K family run/walk). For more details on this event, jump down to the next section.

Finally, if you can’t make it to any of these events and aren’t satisfied by just donating to YSC and really have to get on your bike, you can always register as a Virtual Rider for any of the above Tour de Pink events. More information on that can be found here.

About the Atlanta Tour de Pink Event

This coming weekend, over 600 riders, walkers, and runners will be taking over the northern suburbs of Atlanta and turning it pink in Atlanta’s only bike ride for breast cancer, the Tour de Pink. The festivities for this one day event kick off at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in northern Atlanta at 7:30am, with riders then heading out into the streets along four courses of various distances. Riders will take on either a 20 mile, 40 mile, 65 mile, or 100 mile course before returning to the Verizon Amphitheater for Closing Ceremonies. If running or walking is more your style, once the riders have begun their journeys, a smaller 5K run/walk will commence from the Amphitheater grounds as well. Throughout the day, there will be entertainment, food, and family friendly activities for supporters and participants to enjoy. The last riders are expected to finish around 5pm. You can find details on all of the days activities here.

If you live in the Atlanta area, I highly encourage you to come out and support YSC and these awesome riders as they tackle the Tour de Pink. As with the other Tour de Pink events, these riders (and runners and walkers…) have each raised $125 just to participate in this ride. They are working hard to support a cause they believe in. Even if you can only spare an hour, please stop along the route or at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater and cheer on these riders!

If I’ve managed to convince you to check out the Tour de Pink Atlanta this weekend, you can find directions to the race site here and a detailed schedule of events here. You can also download the courses here. For similar details for the East Coast, West Coast and Indoor events, please click on the links above.

Thanks for reading about this great cause and I’ll see you out there as I cheer on the Tour de Pink Atlanta riders!

Video of the 2011 Tour de Pink Atlanta, courtesy of the Young Survival Coalition

PS – Much like with the 3 Day or the AVON walks, registration for all of the Tour de Pink events begins months prior to the event dates. Keep your eyes open for a follow up blog post about how to register to take part in one these rides in 2013 sometime in mid-spring!

 

Blood Cancer Awareness Month!

Saturday, September 15th, 2012

As I mentioned in this post about Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and CURE Childhood Cancer, September is a busy month in terms of cancer awareness. While I consider myself primarily a breast cancer activist, I recognize that at the heart of every type of cancer is the same thing: formerly normal cells behaving badly, growing out control, and becoming malicious. To that end, I think that any type of cancer activist should take some time to familiarize themselves with the other major types of cancer that exist in the world and take innocent lives every day. Because today is officially World Lymphoma Awareness Day, and because the rest of the month of September is more broadly recognized as Blood Cancer Awareness Month, I thought today was a great day to write a little more about blood cancers.

Two Important Stats About Blood Cancers Worth Knowing

  1. Someone in the United States is diagnosed with a blood cancer every four minutes. (per the Lymphoma Research Foundation)
  2. Blood cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death in the US. (per the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society)

Did you know those stats? Until I started researching this post, I didn’t. I guess this is one cancer awareness month that I really need!

Blood cancer as a group is actually made up of three major types of cancer: leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma. Each of these cancers begin as a different type of white blood cell that ultimately begins accumulating at an above normal rate, either due to increased cell production or decreased cell death. As a result of this rapid accumulation, those cells quickly become abnormal, resulting in different types of cancer, depending on the type of cell the cancer originated as. Because each of these types of cancer are such different diseases, I’m going to talk about each of the major types of blood cancer individually.

Leukemia

Leukemia is a type of cancer that starts in the bone marrow, the site of blood cell production in the body. There are three primary types of blood cells that the body produces: red blood cells (or “erythrocytes”, the cells that carry oxygen to the rest of the body), white blood cells (or “leukocytes”, which fight infection in the body), and platelets (which are responsible for clotting). In general, leukemia is the type of cancer that arises when the body accumulates cancerous leukocytes/white blood cells, or WBCs, as I’m going to abbreviate them here on out.

[Science reading comprehension tip: The prefix leuk- is derived from latin word for white, and in science/medical parlance, generally refers to white blood cells. Any term that ends in the suffix “-cyte”, is a specific type of cell. Therefore, a leukocyte is literally a white blood cell. The suffix -emia is used when referring to anything blood-related. So a blood cancer of white blood cells = leukemia.]

The body makes a huge number of different WBCs, each of which performs a different role within the circulating immune system. WBCs develop from one of two types of stem cells, depending on which type of WBC they are meant to become: myeloid stem cells (which are also the precursor cells to red blood cells and platelets) or lymphoid stem cells. Leukemias can develop from either of these stem cell types. Based on the type of stem cell that the cancer developed from and the rate at which the cancer progresses, the majority of leukemias can be classified as one of four types:

1. Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL) – leukemia originating from lymphoid stem cells that progresses slowly. CLL affects primarily adults.

2. Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML) – leukemia originating from myeloid stem cells that progresses slowly. CML also affects primarily adults.

Chronic leukemia cells usually retain some degree of functionality as WBCs, at least at the beginning of the disease. Because of this, the decline in health of individuals with chronic leukemias is relatively slow. As a result, chronic leukemias can be more difficult to diagnose.

3. Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL) – leukemia originating from lymphoid stem cells that progresses rapidly. ALL is the most common leukemia in children, although it is also found in adults.

4. Acute Myelod Leukemia (AML) – leukemia originating from myeloid stem cells that progresses rapidly. AML affects both kids and adults.

Acute leukemia cells cannot function as normal WBCs, leading to a rapid decline in health for those with these types of cancer.

CLL is the most prevalent type of leukemia (accounting for approximately 15,000 new cases of leukemia per year). AML accounts for approximately 13,000 new cases of leukemia per year, while CML and ALL each account for about 5,000 new cases of leukemia per year. Other minor subtypes of leukemia also exist, and together they account for approximately 6000 new cases of cancer per year. Ultimately, it is predicted that 47,150 new cases of leukemia will be diagnosed in 2012 and 23,540 people will die from the disease. One in 74 people will be diagnosed with leukemia in their lifetimes. It is also worth noting that while leukemia affects 10x more adults than children, it is still the most common cancer diagnosed in children. In the US, we spend approximately $4.5 billion treating leukemia every year.

The National Cancer Institute (who was my source for all of this information) allocates approximately 4.7% of it’s annual budget (or $239.7 million) for leukemia research in 2010, the last year for which that information was available.

The information in this section was provided to the public courtesy of the NCI. You can find more information about leukemia in their “What You Need to Know About Leukemia” booklet, here and in their “Leukemia Snap Shot” report, here. All of the stats came from the Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results (or SEER) fact sheet on leukemia, here.

Lymphoma

Whereas leukemias originate from stem cells located in the bone marrow, lymphomas are cancers that arise from lymphoid stem cells that are found in the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system (which is part of the body’s large immune system) includes lymphocytes (a specialized subtype of WBC), the lymph vessels (found throughout the body), the lymph fluid, and the lymph nodes, which connect the various lymph vessels and act as something of a filtration system to keep the lymph fluid clear of bacteria and other infectious agents.

There are two major types of lymphomas, and further subtypes of each of those:

1. Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which is distinguished by the presence of a specific type of cancer cells called Reed-Sternberg cells. Hodgkin’s lymphoma can be further classified as either the more common classical subtype of Hodgkin’s lymphoma or the comparatively more rare nodular lymphocyte-predominant Hodgkin’s subtype.

2. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which is defined as any lymphoma that lacks Reed-Sternberg cells. There are many subtypes of Non-Hodgkins lymphoma based on the rate of progression of the disease (generally defined as either aggressive or indolent/slow), the original lymphocyte subtype that the cancer developed from, and other cellular characteristics.

Lymphomas account for 5% of all cancers in the United States, with Non-Hodgkins lymphoma being far more prevalent than Hodgkins lymphoma. It is estimated that in 2012, 70,130 will be diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins lymphoma and 9,060 will be diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Further, it is estimated that 18,940 people will die from Non-Hodgkins lymphoma and 1,190 people will die from Hodgkins lymphoma this year. One out of every 47 people will be diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins lymphoma and one out of every 436 people will be diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma in their lifetimes. In the US, we spend approximately $10.2 billion annually treating lymphoma.

NCI allocated 2.7% of its annual budget (or $137.0 million) in 2010 for lymphoma research.

The information in this section was also provided to the public courtesy of the NCI. You can find more information about lymphoma in their “What You Need to Know About Hodgkins Lymphoma” and “What You Need to Know About Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma” booklets, here and here, respectively. Additional information can also be found in their “Lymphoma Snap Shot” report, here. All of the stats came from the SEER fact sheets on Hodgkins and Non-Hodgkins leukemia, here and here, respectively.

Myeloma

Myeloma (or plasma cell myeloma as it is also known) is a type of blood cancer that originates specifically in the plasma cells. Plasma cells are a highly specialized type of white blood cell that produces antibodies. When the disease first develops, myeloma cancer cells accumulate specifically within the bone marrow, much like with leukemia. As the disease progresses, myeloma cells accumulate in multiple bones simultaneously, at which stage the disease is described as Multiple Myeloma.

Myeloma is the second most common blood cancer and accounts for 1% of all cancers in the United States. It is estimated that 21,700 people will be diagnosed with myeloma in 2012 and that 10,710 people will die from the disease in this same time frame. One in 150 people will be diagnosed with myeloma in their lifetime. NCI did not report an estimate for aggregated annual treatment costs to the country for myeloma.

NCI allocated approximately 1% of it’s annual budget (or $48.5 million) in 2010 for myeloma research.

The information in this section was also provided to the public courtesy of the NCI. You can find more information about myeloma in their “What You Need to Know About Multiple Myeloma” booklet, here. Additional information can also be found in their “Myelnoma Snap Shot” report, here. All of the stats herein came from the SEER fact sheet on myeloma, here.

Recommend Resources

If you would like to learn more about blood cancer in general, or one of these types of cancers in particular, I highly recommend reading through the NCI’s web pages dedicated to leukemia, Non-Hodgkins lymphoma, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and Multiple Myeloma. The “snap shot” reports linked to in each subsection are particularly informative, especially the sections discussing recent research investments and findings.

 The American Cancer Society also has the following subsections of their “Learn About Cancer” webpage dedicated to blood cancers:

 The American Association for Cancer Research also recommends the following blood cancer advocacy and patient support organizations:

Finally, to learn more about the origins of World Lymphoma Awareness Day, please visit The Lymphoma Coalition.

Image source – Thanks for letting me borrow it!

 

Note: While I am a biomedical scientist, I am not considered an expert (medical or otherwise) on any of these types of cancer. This post, as with future planned “awareness month” posts, is not meant to be an in depth review of these types of cancer. Rather, I only wanted to provide a brief overview of each type of cancer in the blood cancer family in order to help further the larger cancer community’s awareness of each of these cancers. Moreover, while I provided links to a number of blood cancer organizations at the end of this post, I have not researched these organizations to the extent that I do for my “Spotlight On” series of posts. Until I can research them further, I am not explicitly advocating financial donations to these organizations (although I certainly won’t advise you against it either should you find them worthy!). Instead, I am recommending them here because each organization is a well respected leader in these specific areas and is considered a reputable source for further information on blood cancers.

Piedmont Park goes PINK!

Monday, July 30th, 2012

As I mentioned back in this post, on July 21st, Piedmont Park (the Atlanta equivalent of Central Park for you non-ATLians) played host to not one but TWO separate events promoting breast cancer awareness and women’s health. Even though I opted not to take part in either event (for a number of reasons), I was able to spend some time at both events, getting a nice dose of pink spirit in the middle of the long, hot summer.

The Pink Ribbon Walk

While I spent time with both groups, I focused most of my time on the Pink Ribbon Walk. While this was actually the 9th time that this event was held, I only became vaguely aware of it last summer when I was driving to meet friends for a 3 Day training walk and passed by all the walkers. While I had every intention of looking up more about the Pink Ribbon Walk and the Sisters… By Choice Inc group, in all honesty, I completely forgot about it until a few days before this event when I saw a passing mention of it on Twitter. And man, am I glad I saw that tweet because this event was FANTASTIC!

When I first walked up to the group, I was blown away by the turn out. I consider myself pretty plugged into the breast cancer awareness community here in Atlanta so I assumed that if I hadn’t heard about this until a few days before, well, I wasn’t expecting much. I am happy to say that I was very wrong. Even the Atlanta Falcon cheerleaders and the mayor of Atlanta himself, Kasim Reed, turned out for this event. The energy level before the runners/walkers took of for their 5K was palpable. There were a number of community and business groups taking part that gave the whole thing such spirit. I’m really hopeful that I can convince Hubs’ office to sponsor a team for this next year as part of their community support work.

One of the best parts about this event was the “expo” area. While most of these types of events feature tables from their sponsors and information about the sponsoring organization (in this case, a local group called Sisters By Choice… Inc), this expo was unique in that it featured tables from a number of other cancer organizations as well. As a cancer advocate, I think this is really great because groups like Living Beyond Breast Cancer, the Young Survivor’s Coalition, the Georgia Breast Cancer Alliance, the American Cancer Society, and Komen Atlanta all focus on such different aspects of the larger fight against breast cancer. I get very discouraged when these organizers are positioned as competitors to each other rather than as co-advocates, so to  see them all proudly represented at one event was fantastic.


Pictures from the Pink Ribbon Walk Expo

I cannot speak highly enough of the organization and energy around the Pink Ribbon Walk and I’m really looking forward to running in the 10th annual event next summer!

SheMoves Atlanta 5K

When I first got to Piedmont Park on Saturday morning, I almost immediately came upon the women of the SheMoves Atlanta 5K lining up for the start of their event. The group was a bit smaller than I anticipated but the race organizers were energetic and really got everyone going for the race. Unlike the Pink Ribbon Walk (which focused on runners and walkers), the SheMoves 5K was pretty much solely runners. Also, while the Pink Ribbon Walk went out into the streets around the park, the SheMoves course was entirely within the park boundaries. I suppose that reflects the goal of each event. The Pink Ribbon Walk was designed to get people talking about breast cancer awareness while the purpose of the SheMoves 5K was to provide a fitness event to motivate women to make healthy decisions for their families and themselves. As a result, the SheMoves 5K was a more low key, intimate affair.

The one thing that these two events did have in common, though, was that they both had great post-race expos. The SheMoves 5K expo, which was held at Park Tavern, was really focused on celebrating women’s health, with champagne, flowers, and beautiful race shirts. It reminded me quite a bit of the post-race area for the Atlanta Track Club’s Women’s 5K. All in all, it seemed like a great, supportive environment for a race. The SheMoves Atlanta group hosts a number of these types events over the course of the year so I’m going to be keeping my ears to the ground in the hopes of participating in one of their other runs.

All in all, it was a very pink-filled morning in the park and I loved soaking up every minute of it!

To see all of my pictures from both the Pink Ribbon Walk and the SheMoves Atlanta 5K, please click here.

 

Piedmont Park is turning PINK tomorrow!

Friday, July 20th, 2012

Tomorrow morning, there will be not one, but two separate 5K events focused on women’s health and breast cancer awareness taking place at Piedmont Park tomorrow. I’m not planning to run in either race (I have a volunteering commitment later in the day), but if you need a hit of the pink spirit, I highly encourage you to check out one (or both!) of these events tomorrow morning:

8th Annual Pink Ribbon Walk/Run

This 5K is the primary fundraiser for a local breast cancer organization called Sisters… By Choice, Inc, which was founded here in Atlanta in 1989 by breast surgeon Dr. Rogsbert F. Phillips-Reed. The goal of SBC is to remain an innovative leader in breast cancer education, awareness, and resources for women diagnosed with breast cancer. In particular, SBC is currently working on an initiative to establish and operate a full-service Mobile

Breast Clinic, which you can read more about on their website, here. I love supporting local organizations doing good work for our community like Sisters… By Choice!

As for the event itself, onsite registration begins at Piedmont Park at 7am. Registration is $35 per person with free registration for kids ages 6 and under. The race itself will begin at 8am and is 3.1 miles in length (which is a 5K). You can find out more information at Active.com.

SheMoves Atlanta Piedmont Park 5K

While not specifically a breast cancer organization, SheMoves Atlanta is a local group that looks to empower women by providing the support and events necessary to engage in an active, healthy, balanced lifestyle. Since exercise and healthy eating have been linked to a reduced risk for breast cancer, I think we can all agree that this is one awesome mission that is well worth supporting!

Race day registration for the SheMoves 5K will begin at 7am at Park Tavern, which is located on the corner of 10th Street and Monroe Dr. As with the Pink Ribbon Walk, registration for this race is $35 and the race itself begins at 8am. This 5K will take place entirely within Piedmont Park and there will be a post-race event expo in the finish line area. You can find out more information about this race at the organizer’s website or at Active.com. Please note that this race is for women only.

So what are you waiting for? Get out your sneakers and help these two fantastic groups turn Piedmont Park PINK!!

The Breast Cancer Network of Strength’s National Walk to Empower!

Monday, May 10th, 2010

This Sunday, I woke up bright and early for the second day in a row to head out to a breast cancer related event.  This time, I was off to take part in the Breast Cancer Network of Strength’s National Walk to Empower in Chastain Park!

The Team Village area at the Walk to Empower

After the loud, organized chaos of the Atlanta Race for the Cure on Saturday, this event was a welcome change.  While the Network of Strength has been hosting Walk to Empower events for years, this is only the second or third year that the event was held here in Atlanta.  Because of that, the event was still on the small side with only a few thousand people taking part.  While the crowd was on the small side, it was the biggest group they’ve had to date for a Walk to Empower event in Atlanta, suggesting that the event is starting to gain some public recognition.  

In a lot of ways, this event was like a lot of other cancer awareness events.  There were the standard registration tables where everyone checked in before the race, turned in their donations and received their event t-shirt if they raised enough money.  (I didn’t, but I knew that going in.)  There were also vendor and sponsor areas all along the area.  One sort of unique aspect was the Team Village area that featured tables and tents assigned to the larger teams where they could meet up, share snacks and water and display photos of those they were honoring.  It was similar to the tent areas around the Relay for Life, although on a smaller scale.    Even though I wasn’t on a team, I took some time to wander through the tables and get a feel for the teams involved.

One of the larger teams prior to the walk.

The event itself kicked off with a short Opening Ceremonies hosted by a pair of radio DJs from 94.9 The Bull here in Atlanta.  The Ceremony featured some short remarks by the organizers and a beautiful performance of Mariah Carey’s song “Hero” as a tribute to the survivors.  After a really lame gag by Ronald McDonald of all people (McDonald’s was a sponsor), we were on our way!  We walked just over 3 miles through the gorgeous Chastain Park area of Atlanta, mostly on a paved greenway that is part of the Path Foundation.  I had never walked up in this neck of the woods, but I will definitely be coming back.  The walk we did was so peaceful and beautiful – a great way to spend the morning.  In fact, I liked it so much that I stayed after and did another loop around the route as part of my 3 Day training for the day.

Heading out on the Path in Chastain Park.

I honestly had no idea what to expect when I headed out to this walk.  While I very much support the wonderful work of the Breast Cancer Network of Strength, this was the first time I had participated in any of their events.  I was pleasantly surprised by the calm, easy nature of the whole thing.  It strongly reminded me of the start of Day 3 on both of my Atlanta 3 Day walks.  A little sleepy and a little chilly, not much chit chat.  Just a contemplative walk through a beautiful neighborhood to get the day started.  I’m thrilled that this event is getting more recognition in the Atlanta area and I can’t wait to come back next year.  Since I couldn’t be with my mom this year, it was the perfect way for me to spend the morning of Mother’s Day.

A mother and daughter team at the Walk to Empower

If you would like to see more pictures from the Walk to Empower, please visit this album on my Picasa page.  I have also included a slide show of my pictures at the bottom of this post.  Please pardon the quality of the second half of the pictures.  I had to switch to my cell phone after the batteries died in my camera.  Otherwise, there would have been a lot more pictures of this very pretty walk!

You’re Invited to the Breast Cancer Network of Strength Walk to Empower!

Friday, May 7th, 2010

The Race for the Cure isn’t the only breast cancer awareness event taking place in Atlanta this weekend.  This Sunday, in honor of Mother’s Day, the Breast Cancer Network of Strength will be hosting it’s annual Walk to Empower series of events all around the country to help raise money for their support services.

For those who aren’t familiar, the Breast Cancer Network of Strength (formerly known as the Y-ME National Breast Cancer Organization) is a national non profit organization with the mission to ensure through information, empowerment and peer support, that no one faces breast cancer alone.  Unlike Susan G. Komen for the Cure, this organization does not raise money for research.  Instead, it provides immediate emotional relief for anyone touched by breast cancer.

At the heart of the Breast Cancer Network of Strength is their 24/7 breast cancer peer support center and hotline, YourShoes.  Through YourShoes, breast cancer patients are put into email or phone contact with peer counselors and breast cancer survivors who are there to help them make educated decisions about their treatments and to provide comfort in a time of need.  In addition to YourShoes, the Breast Cancer Network of Strength also provides newsletters and publications help provide breast cancer patients and their families with information and support.  Local affiliates provide a number of support services as well, including support groups, early detection and teen workshops, wigs and prostheses for women with limited resources and advocacy on breast cancer policies.  To learn more about the Breast Cancer Network of Strength, please visit their website, where I found most of this information.  You can also learn how to get involved in their various outreach programs here.

Marcia, the angel of the Mag 5 family and the Relentless Optimism 3 Day team, learned that her breast cancer had returned in January 2007.  Just a few short weeks later, my mom first learned that she had breast cancer as well.  Marcia reached out to my mom immediately, recommending an oncologist, talking through treatment options and going out for ice cream dates on rough days.  The two of them accompanied each other to an endless array of doctor’s appointments and chemo treatments.  They talked on the phone all the time and commiserated about yet another unexpected side effect of treatment.  They were each other’s rock through out their personal battles with the cancer demon.  

Watching Mom and Marcia, I have seen first hand just how important it was for my mom to have someone to talk to who just “got it” without having to explain anything.  I could listen to Mom and comfort her, but it wasn’t the same as the understanding that she got from Marcia.  And I know that Marcia felt the same way about my mom.  

No one should have to go through cancer treatment by themselves.  The work that the Breast Cancer Network of Strength is doing is so important for just that reason.  So many women and men facing a diagnosis of breast cancer don’t have a Marcia to turn to.  They don’t have anyone to recommend a good place to buy wigs or the best way to tie a scarf.  Helping the Network of Strength do their work is one way that we can all be a Marcia for someone else.

This Sunday, on Mother’s Day, I will be walking in the 3 mile Walk to Empower at Chastain Park here in Georgia to help raise money for the Breast Cancer Network of Strength.  There are 13 other Walk to Empower events taking place at the same time in cities all around the country.  If you would like to take part in the Walk to Empower here in Georgia, you can find all of the information here.  Information about the other cities can be found here.

There is no registration fee for this event.  They simply ask that you do your best to help them raise money using their online tools.  I have set up a fundraising page that can be found here.  While I haven’t been actively fundraising for this event, I have been supporting the Breast Cancer Network of Strength through their BeeWell for Life collaboration with Bumble Bee.  I have been logging all of my training miles for both the Atlanta Race for the Cure and the Susan G. Komen 3 Day for the Cure on their website every week.  In return, Bumble Bee will donate $0.15 to the Breast Cancer Network for Strength for every mile logged on their site from now through the end of Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, up to $200,000.  Since I started logging my miles two weeks ago, I have already raised over $13 and I’m hoping to raise a lot more in the coming weeks. 

If you would like to support the great work of the Breast Cancer Network of Strength, I highly encourage you to start logging your miles at www.beewellforlife.com as well.  And come out and join us for the Walk to Empower this Sunday.  My mom was lucky enough to have someone to share her cancer journey with the first time.  This year, I will be helping to ensure that other breast cancer patients around the country have someone to face their battles with as well by supporting the Breast Cancer Network of Strength.  What a great way to spend Mother’s Day!