Cancer not just an 'old man's disease'

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Perspectives Editor: Elise Milbradt •

Cancer not just an ‘old man’s disease’
At 18 years old, Jessie Scace had finished one semester of her law and human rights program at Carleton. She also found out she had breast cancer. Scace, now almost 20, is approaching the one-year anniversary of the end of her treatment, and the toughest year of her life. “I woke up one day in early December [two years ago], and there was an absolutely excruciating pain in my left breast. I just kept going about my day though — going to school, just taking a lot of Tylenol. But then, later, a lump formed. Then, clearly, I knew it was something more than just me sleeping wrong.” Because of her young age, Scace says she was not diagnosed right away. “A lot of doctors were saying, ‘Oh, it’s just a cyst or an infection,’ because I was only 18,” she says. But Scace says she knew, in her gut, that it was something more serious. She went to the Women’s Breast Health Centre at the Ottawa Hospital and got a biopsy. At that point, doctors “were pretty sure” it was malignant because they had never seen that type of tumour in anyone so young before, she says. “It was pretty shocking because I was naive enough to think that cancer is a 58-year-old man’s disease as opposed to something that could happen to me.” After being diagnosed, Scace says she had to stop school and put her life on hold so she could have surgery and begin treatment. She says she was scared, but felt confident in the information she was being provided with and the fact that the doctors caught the tumour early. “I didn’t actually get upset until [the day of the surgery] when they were rolling me down the hallway into the room. That’s when I really realized, ‘Oh shit. I have cancer,’ ” she says. After a partial mastectomy, being put on six rounds of the most aggressive kinds of chemotherapy and undergoing two months of radiation, Scace says she was emotionally and physically worn — but cancerfree. After seeing first-hand what cancer can do to someone and the people around them, Scace says she wanted to do her best to make a difference in the lives of those who are currently diagnosed, or who will be in the future. She came up with the project, Raising For A Cure. “I was just sitting around my house and I was thinking about the issues that women and men face when they’re going into the cancer clinic to get treated,” she explains. “For example, one of the drugs that I had to get when I was off treatment just to stabilize my body was an injection that I would need for eight days, which would cost about $5,000 an injection. And, I mean, if I didn’t have a health plan, I’d be screwed. So the ‘raise’ in Raising For A Cure is about funds.” Right away, Scace says she knew she wanted to make her point with a photo exhibit but needed some help to do it. She met Jen Thorn, an Ottawa photographer, through a friend, and explained her vision. She hoped to display a diverse variety of nude torsos, all faceless and covering their breasts to show that anyone can be affected by cancer. Thorn says she knew she couldn’t pass up the opportunity to take part. “I have always been looking to have my work make sort of a statement [and] to bring awareness to things. I’m trying to make people look at what needs to be seen.” With Thorn on board, Scace sent out e-mails with her proposal to radio and television stations. The biggest response came from Ottawa radio station, LIVE 88.5, which said it wanted to meet with Scace right away. Two events were scheduled — one to raise funds and one to raise awareness. The first event is set for Oct. 18, at the LIVE Lounge. With help from Ana Miura and Babes For Breasts, a musical group that raises funds for breast cancer, Scace and Thorn will show a sneak preview of their exhibit at the concert. The second event will take place a week later, Oct. 25, at the Hard Rock Café, where the entire


Jessie Scace has spent the last year battling breast cancer and wants to show other young people that it is an important issue to be aware of. Raising For A Cure exhibit will be unveiled at a cocktail event. These events are timely because Health Canada recognizes October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Scace says her objective for Raising For A Cure is simple. “I’m trying to raise the awareness to get 18-year-old women to actually check their breasts. It should become a habit, like brushing your teeth. Just check yourself. [...] It’s just important to know [breast cancer] is something that can happen to you when you’re young. It’s low odds, but it can still happen,” she says. All funds raised from the two Raising For A Cure events will go to the Ottawa Hospital Regional Cancer Centre through the Ottawa Hospital Foundation, a registered charity. “The response has been absolutely excellent,” Scace says. “We’ve had a lot of luck with getting models, and the support from everyone around me has been great.” While it is still early, Scace says she thinks Raising For A Cure has a future. “I’d love to do an annual thing. It’s a hell of a lot of work, but it would be pretty great to do,” she says. “I don’t know how we can top the exhibit we’ve just done though,” Scace laughs. “We’re going to have to show nipples next year.” K

Message to the Burmese: ‘You are not alone’
Burma was renamed Myanmar in 1989 by the military government of Burma. The name Myanmar is recognized by the UN but contended by those who do not recognize the military government as the lawful government of the country. For the sake of clarity, the country is referred to as Burma in this article. The government of the country is referred to by its preferred name, the “Myanmar government.”


They used to be prisonmates. Now they are activists in Canada, still sharing a common passion: to help bring democracy to Burma. Tin Maung Htoo and Toe Kyi say they vividly remember Burma’s 1988 demonstrations and consider themselves part of the “88 generation” of student activists involved in the military crackdown almost 20 years ago. “I can see it, I can feel it. I can see how they are feeling at this moment,” Kyi says. For Htoo, memories are also awakened. “I witnessed the massacre, the slaughter right in front of me,” says Htoo.

He is the director of Canadian Friends of Burma, an Ottawabased non-profit group. One night, just before midnight, Htoo, then 15, and Kyi, 14, were part of the group of students gathered at the Sule Pagoda, a Buddhist monument located in Rangoon, Burma’s largest city. It is now called Yangon by the Myanmar government. The group was awaiting the government’s next move. That is when Htoo and Kyi say chaos erupted: soldiers opened fire on the assembled students. Both narrowly escaped, eventually fleeing to Thailand where they joined the Burmese student resistant movement. Human rights groups, such as Amnesty International, estimate at least 3,000 protesters were killed. Sule Pagoda is one rallying point for the recent protests making headlines around the world. Last month, several monks were injured at demonstrations that began as a protest against government-imposed fuel price increases but quickly evolved into pro-democracy marches. The Buddhist monk-led “saffron revolution” hit its peak Sept. 24 when approximately 100,000 protesters took to the streets. According to the Myanmar government, 10 people were killed

in clashes with the military, but dissident groups say that just like in 1988, accurate numbers for the number of protesters killed is unconfirmed. Kevin McLeod, a former Carleton University student, says the ruling government’s firm grip over the media has obscured alleged atrocities against dissidents. McLeod, research director of Canadian Friends of Burma, postponed his studies at Carleton because of what unfolded in Burma this fall. He is now helping co-ordinate Canadian protests in support of the Burmese democracy movement and working with Carleton’s Burma Solidarity Committee. McLeod, 26, says he joined the group because he found Htoo and Kyi’s stories inspiring. “They’re like the Nelson Mandelas of our time,” he says. Both Htoo and Kyi were detained in Thailand for about four years without trial. They say their alleged transgressions are attending a human rights conference and being a part of the student rebel group. In 1996 Amnesty International raised concerns about the detention of both Kyi and Htoo. They were eventually accepted by Canada on humanitarian

grounds. As part of Canadian Friends of Burma, Htoo, Kyi and McLeod helped organize the Canadian contingent of global protests condemning the actions of the military junta, Oct. 6. protesters demonstrated in Ottawa on Parliament Hill and outside the Chinese Embassy. According to analysts, China has key strategic interests in Burma that would influence the country’s response. Although China has refused to condemn the government and rejected the idea of sanctions, it agreed two weeks ago to a UN Security Council statement expressing concern over the military’s response and urging Burma to allow a UN envoy to visit. “If China doesn’t do anything or doesn’t use their influence over the military junta, then we will definitely ask the government of Canada to boycott the Olympic Games because we believe that China has a lot of influence with the military junta,” Htoo says. For its part, Canada has condemned the military’s response. “We reiterate our call upon the Burmese authorities to respect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the protesters and of all people in Burma,” Canadian foreign affairs minister Maxime

Bernier said in a statement. But without sanctions, Htoo says Canada’s response is not enough. Meanwhile, at the vigils and marches held in the capital so far, protesters have sported saffroncoloured bandanas and carried homemade signs with the slogans: “Free Burma” and “Free Aung San Suu Kyi.” Aung San Suu Kyi is Burma’s opposition leader who has been kept under house arrest by the government for 12 of the past 18 years. Kyi says the current uprising is a historic moment for his homeland. “Any little contribution is very, very helpful,” Kyi says. He says that when he was released from his detention in Thailand, he was released into a world with few people to support him. “[Then,] suddenly you discover you are not alone. That is the message for the people of Burma.” K

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ZAHRA BHIMANI talks to grad student Andrew Crosby about his time working abroad with the ‘Newfies of Asia.’

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the Charlatan • October 11, 2007

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