by Susan Cotton, Executive Chair
Did you know that February 4th was World Cancer Day? For those new (like me) to this day, it serves a very important purpose – to encourage each of us to remember the wonderful friends we have lost to cancer and take action to prevent its deadly diseases.
In Honor of The Women Who Inspire Our Work Every Day.
Executive Director Anielka Medina’s mother, Azucena, lived a life typical of women in Nicaragua’s impoverished rural communities. Her story, unfortunately, is one we hear repeatedly in Nicaragua. Married and a mother at the age of 16, she became the sole provider for her young family of seven children when her husband left them just ten years later. In late 2006, just after Anielka turned 16, her mother was stricken by sudden weight loss and severe pain. Too weak to continue working, she finally made her way to a hospital where she learned she had cervical cancer. Despite the immense courage Azucena showed in the face of the disease, she lost her excruciating battle to cervical cancer and died at the young age of 48 – just weeks before Anielka graduated from high school.
Two years ago, just after Christmas, I heard that Cindy Ruff, a cherished friend from our years in Tampa, died of cancer. I was heartbroken for her husband and two daughters – one in college and the other still in high school. I assumed she died from breast cancer, but her husband Tim wrote me later explaining how passionately and bravely she fought and lost her battle to cervical cancer. He shared that Cindy was diligent about getting her annual pap and results would always come back negative. By the time the cancer was detected, it had spread to her pelvic tissue and lymph nodes. She received excellent care and fought the cancer for two years with exhausting rounds of radiation and chemotherapy, but ultimately it spread and she died just days before her 55th birthday. Tim is helping to increase awareness of cervical cancer and HPV, the virus that causes the disease; and the new preventive measures including the HPV test and vaccine - "to keep Cindy’s fighting spirit and memory alive by spreading the word so no one has to endure what she did.”
The Lily Project: No Woman Should Lose Her Life To This Preventable Disease
Cancer affects all countries, but those with fewer resources are hit hardest. Nothing illustrates this better than the burden of cervical cancer. The world’s poorest countries are home to more than 8 in 10 women newly diagnosed with cervical cancer, and 9 in 10 deaths from the disease. Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary General, Feb. 4th, 2015
We are proud that on World Cancer Day we are doing what we do most days – conducting a Lily health event in the rainforest of Nicaragua for some of the most vulnerable women in the world to screen for cervical cancer, treat women infected with precancerous lesions and educate women and girls about their reproductive health.
Today, we have the knowledge, experience and tools to protect every woman, everywhere. Comprehensive cervical cancer prevention includes vaccines to protect girls against future infection with the human papilloma virus (HPV), screening measures and preventive treatment of pre-cancers. Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary General, Feb. 4th, 2015
This year we will join Tim and others in spreading the word about the risks of HPV through the work of The Lily Alliance – students and young adults in the US who host events to increase awareness in their communities, and in doing so raise money to provide health, hope and a brighter future for girls in Nicaragua.
Our Hope is You Make Cancer Prevention a Priority for YOUR Life
So what action can you take? It is well documented that most cancers are the result of external risk factors – environmental and behavioral – and can be prevented by proper screening and lifestyle changes. Here’s a link to an interactive cancer risk check developed by the MD Cancer Research Center at the University of Texas: http://bit.ly/1mgt2dv. Check it out!