Friday, August 22, 2008


This morning, I learned that a college classmate and friend—a young, vibrant, 27-year-old SHC Badger, class of 2004—passed away from breast cancer.  She had been battling the disease for nearly 2 years, but by the time she and her doctors realized that she had breast cancer, it was so far advanced that the odds were stacked against her.  Khrysten Encalarde lost her battle with breast cancer because too many people believe that screening and detection doesn't need to happen until a woman is 40, the age when the majority of women begin having mammograms.  For that matter, many insurance policies won't cover a mammogram until a woman is 40 years old.  But evidence shows that young women are at as much risk as their older counterparts, and in fact, may be at more of a risk because of the lack of detection techniques.
Despite the prevailing opinion that young women don't get breast cancer, the reality is that they can and they do. In fact, one in every 229 women between the ages of 30 and 39 will be diagnosed with breast cancer within the next 10 years. Following are some additional startling facts about breast cancer in young women:
  • Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in young women ages 15-54.
  • More than 11,100 women under age 40 will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, and more than 1,100 will die.
  • There are more than 250,000 women living in the United States today who were age 40 or under when they were diagnosed with breast cancer.
  • Young women's cancers are generally more aggressive and result in lower survival rates.
  • The five-year survival rate for young women with breast cancer is 82 percent, which is lower than their post-menopausal counterparts.
Young women CAN and DO get breast cancer. While breast cancer in young women accounts for a small percentage of all breast cancer cases, the impact of this disease is widespread: There are more than 250,000 women 40 and under in the U.S. living with breast cancer, and over 11,100 young women will be diagnosed in the next year. But, despite the fact that breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in women ages 15 to 54:
  • Many young women and their doctors are unaware that they are at risk for breast cancer.
  • There is no effective breast cancer screening tool for women 40 and under.
  • Young women are often diagnosed at a later stage than their older counterparts.
  • There is very little research or educational material focused on issues unique to this younger population, such as fertility, pregnancy, genetic predisposition, the impact of hormonal status on the effectiveness of treatment, psycho-social and long-term survivorship issues, and higher mortality rates for young women, particularly for African-Americans and Latinas.
  • Young women diagnosed with breast cancer often feel isolated and have little contact with peers who can relate to what they are experiencing.
  • As the incidence of young women with breast cancer is much lower than in older women, young women are underrepresented in many research studies.
I write to you because it is vitally important that women know their bodies and know their risk factors.  Make it a point to do a self-exam every month.  It is important that you choose the same time each month, as your breast tissue changes throughout the month.   If you're not already in the habit, make it a point to start this month.  The best defense you have is early detection.
Breast Self-Exam

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Three Years

So much can change in three years.

August 14, 2005 was, without question, the worst day of my life. 

One year later, the scars were still brutally open, the wounds not even close to being healed.

Two years later, I had closure.  I took him to court with my best friend by my side, and found peace in justice.

Three years later, I have a boyfriend who remembered before I did, and has gone out of his way to show (and not just tell) me that that loves me and is thinking about me. I have let someone fully into my heart, and I am thankful every day that I did. 

So very much has changed since then.  I am lucky to be alive, lucky to have wonderful family and friends, and lucky to be very much in love with someone who is very much in love with me. I have a fantastic job, a beautiful niece, a grown-up baby brother,  a home of my own, a halfway-retarded dog, and a cup running over with love and happiness.

Thank you.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

somethin fishy in Beijing

While there is an obvious bias because I would have loved for our American gymnasts to come home with gold after last night's competition, I now have to wonder if the Chinese women really are too young to compete in the Olympic competition.

First, there were the fireworks during the opening ceremony, which have now been revealed to have been digitially altered by the host country.

The there was the case of the little girl lip-syncing because her voice wasn't good enough, and the girl whose voice WAS good enough wasn't "cute enough."

And now the age contraversy.  I'm sorry, but only one of the girls on the Chinese team even remotely looked old enough to be 16.  I wouldn't be surprised at all to learn that the rumors are true and that the Chinese girls are truly 14, as websites that have now been blocked by Chinese authorities claim they are.  In past competitions, Jiang Yuyuan and He Kexin have been listed as 14 years old, born in 1994.  Suddenly, their passports, both issued this year, state that they were born in 1992, which would, in fact, make them legal to compete this year.

Normally, I wouldn't have paid any attention to the controversy, as anyone watching the competition last night knows that the Chinese outperformed our American team.  But in light of the other deceptions that the host country has already pulled, it makes the age of the gymnasts stand out that much more.  If the girls truly are underage, it therefore makes them ineligible for competition AND it makes the Chinese guilty of cheating by doctoring documents to allow these girls to compete. 

Just by looking at the Chinese team in comparison to EVERY other team in competition, the girls look like babies.  One girls even has front teeth missing.  I know that appearances can be decieving, but not one of them even slightly resembles a teenaged girl.  They look like the children a teenaged girl would be babysitting.

Do I know something for certain?  No.  But the fact remains that FIG, the Federation Internationale de Gymnastique, which is the governing body for international gymnastics, has ignored published proof that the girls are too young to compete in senior-level competition.