A Note from Kim’s on E-Cigs

Hello everyone- Kim again.

Today I am writing about something that has really become a “hot topic” for me since I started this position: vaping, e-cigs, Juuls… can you relate? The e-cig trend is huge, and I had an idea on how popular it was with people my age (twenties) but did not realize that nearly every single high school student AND middle school student we spoke with has smoked, or knows someone who has smoked an e-cig.

I personally do not see the appeal, however, I also have proper stress management skills, I don’t feel the need to look cool (at this point I have just accepted that I never will be cool), and I am well educated on the scary and potentially critical effects these e-cig products have on the body. I feel a lot of adults resonate with this thought; how can our teens be so drawn to something so unappealing and dangerous? We know cigarettes are basically a certified killer, and these are just electronic versions, AKA different chemicals, different risk, but more unknown. It can be easy for us adults to be frustrated with the younger generation in regards to their e-cig usage, but it is also up to us to educate our children, students, nieces, nephews, friends, whomever, on the hazards of smoking e-cigs. Please read on.

To start, some facts, because I was a teen once and I needed LEGIT facts to back up every argument an adult figure had with me. I was “that” kid who consistently asked, “but why?” (It was definitely more of a whine but whatever, sorry mom and dad).

E-cigarettes have only been around for a decade. Cigarettes of some form have been around for thousands of years. It has taken us this long to fully understand the fatal damage cigarettes can cause us, so it’s only fair that we don’t fully understand the damage of e-cigs quite yet. Quick refresher, per the CDC, cigarettes are the leading cause of lung cancer (over 90% of the lung cancer diagnoses come from the person being a cigarette smoker), and they also have caused more deaths that illegal drug use, HIV, alcohol abuse, care accidents, and fire-arm related accidents COMBINED. Again, these facts are years in the making and we are only getting started with e-cigarette research.

With my experiences in the classroom thus far, I have found the following to be the most effective points for teens:

  • Each class we spoke with has a friend, or has themselves smoked an e-cig. Every student knows they have to be 18 to purchase this product, and coincidentally every student knows they are not yet 18.  This is important to note I think, because we consequently asked why they are smoking if it is not legal for a person their age to even get the product. Answers are the same among most classes: they want to look cool, everyone else is doing it, they like the feeling of rebelling, it’s a good stress relief, and it’s something to do. We have heard these responses time and time again throughout history of teens doing unhealthy, sometimes illegal things. We can definitely go at this argument by providing them with other ideas of things to do. Insert any idea that does not involve dangerous substances- what happened to Pokémon Go?!
  • When the chemicals in the e-liquid get heated, they turn into all sorts of dangerous chemicals. For instance, formaldehyde. Most teens have heard of this but are not super familiar with what the chemical is used for- I love to point out this chemical is used in preserving dead bodies and organs. Some e-liquids also have acetone in it, which is used as nail polish remover (I always reference how badly it stings when you get nail polish remover in a cut on your finger, and to imagine the damage that can do your insides). Butter flavorings such as butterscotch and popcorn have been found to contain diactyl, which is the main cause of “popcorn lung”. Show your teen an image of this. Yikes.
  • Big Tobacco has paid billions and billions of dollars to have stake and put their nicotine in e-cig products. You can also google this for further proof. So, even if a teen argues that the e-cig does not have nicotine and they are not addictive, which in their defense is how they’re advertised, remind them that they are not FDA regulated and therefore can basically tell us whatever they want. Chances are, there is nicotine in the e-cig product they’re using. And studies have shown smoking one Juul pod is equivalent to smoking 20 cigarettes.
  • Multiple journals and studies (authored by people MUCH smarter than me) have come out with findings that e-cigs cause similar damage to oral cell tissues as smoking cigarettes does to oral cell tissues. In fact, they have seen the same molecular change in the oral tissues in a person who smokes an e-cig as a person who smokes a cigarette (Journal of Oral Oncology). Additionally, smoking e-cigs can lower your immunity, making your body weaker and thus making it harder to fight off those carcinogens (American Journal of Physiology- Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology).
  • E-cigs can explode. Spontaneously combust. In a person’s mouth, their pocket, their hand…. Ouch?!
  • Smoking e-cigs drastically, by over 30%, increases your chances of smoking a normal cigarette within the next six months. No matter how many times a person says “I will never smoke a cig”, chances are they will become a lifelong smoker.

We still don’t know everything, but clearly, what we do know does not paint a pretty picture. Who knows what these chemicals will do to our bodies in the long run (the cinnamon flavor is created with cinnamaldehyde which is banned by OSHA, acetaldehyde is another flavoring and is in paint stripper). I was a teen once, not too long ago even, and I remember wanting to fit in and desperately wanting to not be made fun of. I found saying “nah” or “no thanks” is empowering. It feels good to do good things for your body. I also think of it as no one is going to remember if you smoked that Juul or not in high school, but they will remember you at the class reunion when role up with glowing skin, in stellar shape, have a lovely family, and be cancer-free because you have led a healthy, smoke free life.

Overall, education is crucial on this topic and there are new findings out every day. The kids and teens are our future, and we need them around a long time.

Take Care of your Skin!

SPF 2, 6, or 8.  That is all we had when I was a teenager.  I even went through several aluminum/silver blankets they use to sell next to the suntan oils. This great combo along with your willingness, ensured the darkest tan possible. It surely did deliver! I got some seriously dark beautiful tans. I was baking myself like a piece of chicken outside in the hot sun.   In college, my roommates and I would line up our silver blankets, crank the tunes, and check out the boys.  Life was good!  I loved being out in the sun.  I loved how it made me feel and look. Never, did I think that this would come back and haunt me.

Decades have passed since those crazy college days. Life goes on and somehow you become really busy with things. For me, I got married, had kids, I worked a couple of jobs, I did all the mom stuff around the house like running errands, paying bills, taking kids where they needed to be. Life consumed my days.  The days seemed to pass quickly. All of sudden the years passed and the face I once looked at in the mirror looked older.  Gray hairs had taken the place of my once thick dark auburn hair.  Wrinkles appeared around my eyes and my mouth. Dark sun spots had found their home on my arms and face.  One day, while I was getting dressed, life literally seemed to stop for me. There was a small dot on my leg  I never remember seeing before.  It was a different color than the rest of my freckles and moles. My mind wandered and feared this could be the years of tanning had caught up with me.  My gut instinct was to make an appointment with the dermatologist just to make sure it wasn’t something it shouldn’t be.  I was scared to call and I pondered with high anxiety for a few days before I finally made the call.

I did it.  I showed up. I was draped in a hospital gown. I had no idea of what to expect.  I just wanted it to be over with. The anxiety I was feeling consumed me and I could feel that my hands and toes were cold. The room was plain with the exception of some posters on the wall showing you different types of skin cancer. I tried not to look at it as I already felt like I was consumed with my worry.  When the dermatologist came in, he had these google binocular looking glasses on and turned on a bright light so he could examine my skin.  He looked in my scalp, in between my toes, and every other square inch on my body. He examined every freckle and mole on my body explaining in medical terminology what he was seeing on my skin so the nurse could transcribe into the computer.  I had no idea what he was saying but I didn’t like hearing him talk.  When he was done, he explained there was one in particular he needed to have removed.  It was that little dot on my leg! He went on to ask if I would want a plastic surgeon because of the size hole they needed to take out of my leg.  Unfortunately, a year later I had another one removed from the top of my right foot.   Now, it is imperative I go to an annual dermatology exam.

Every choice has a consequence. Good ones and bad ones. Even if it takes years to manifest.  I am now considered a high risk. The lack of sunscreen and the mole removals puts me on a list with the dermatologist to come in once a year for an annual skin check. I have nothing to show by working so hard on those tans except wrinkles, dark spots, and scars from cutting moles and cancer risks.  I have made a lot of mistakes and bad choices in my life.  This is one thing in my life that I wish I could go back and have a “do-over”.  I wonder what my skin would look like had I not tanned so much. I know many think a healthy tan looks great but skin cancer is ugly and it can take your life. Therefore, I resolve that your natural skin tone trumps a tanned version. Trust me on that one. I had asked my dermatologist about the tanning beds I had gone in as a teenager.  His face told me the answer, but he continued to reaffirm that tanning beds only increased my risks.  There is no such thing as preparing your skin with a base tan with a tanning bed to prevent skin cancer/damage. He encouraged me to wear sunscreen every day.  The winter and cloudy days count as well.  How much? When? It was explained to me that I should be applying a liberal amount every couple of hours.  He suggests at least 30 SPF but 50 SPF is now showing in studies to be more beneficial in protecting one’s skin.  Watch for the expiration date on sunscreen and make sure it is a brand that covers UVA/UVB rays. I wish I had known all this way back when I was younger.

Wrinkle cream is expensive. Having moles removed is also expensive.  Regret is strong.  I can’t undo what I have done to my skin but I can hopefully have an impact on others and advocate wearing sunscreen. Nothing you could ever say to me would convince me that tanning is a good thing.  Tanning in any capacity is bad for your skin. I encourage all to wear sunscreen. There are those who have higher risks like blonde hair, red hair, lighter eyes, 50 or more moles or a history of skin cancer in the family. You also have an increased chance if you have had one bad sunburn before you turn 18. My annual checkup was yesterday. The Doctor shared that the amount of teenagers he sees in his office is at an all-time high.  Malignant Melanoma is no longer an older population disease.  I encourage everyone to be aware of what your skin looks like and pay attention to any changes you see; a new mole or any freckle or mole that changes. Pay attention to that one that looks different than the others. See a dermatologist. Wear your sunscreen using UVA/UVB with at least a 30 SPF protection. Avoid tanning and UV tanning beds. Cover up with clothing and glasses.

For those days that I pondered the thought of even calling the Doctor was for the reason of me not wanting it to be cancer. I wasn’t ready to deal with that. Because I didn’t want it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. I’m grateful I went in. Please don’t ignore your body’s signals. Go with your gut always. It is your body’s way of communicating with you. It has been a life lesson for me and I am glad I went in despite my fear. In the end, you have to do you and take care of yourself. Nobody else is going to do it for you. This one is on you.

Weekend of PINK!

Join us for a weekend of PINK events!

Saturday 10am-2pm: The Ashwaubenon Fire Fighters will be showing off their Pink Boots at the food court entrance outside Bay Park Square Mall!

Saturday: Apricot Lane will be hosting their PINK fundraising event.  10% off everything in the store with 10% of the net proceeds coming back to BCFF! Come early… because the first 25 people will also get a free swag bag with purchase!

Sunday 6pm: Power of PINK is happening!  This is a yoga event like no other!  Come at 6 and give a $15 donation and you’ll be joining several amazing people as we do yoga for a cause!

Monday Tailgate Party: Join Under the Lights of Lambeau for their annual pink tale gate party!

5 S’s to Sunscreen

The number of skin cancer diagnosis’s are on the rise for a variety of reason.  People are more aware and educated (E.G the work we do at the Breast Cancer Family Foundation), longer lifespans (the sun damage that leads to skin cancers generally accumulates over time), the ozone changes, clothing trends leaving more skin exposed than ever before, and of course tanning booths. Bottom line, we all need vitamin D from UV rays. After reaching our limit though, exposure to UV rays can actually be harmful to us buy breaking down our vitamin D. Adequate amounts of Vitamin D can be obtained safely and cheaply through food and dietary supplements without the risk associated with overexposure of UV Radiation. Wearing sunscreen  helps lower our risk for overexposure and lowers our cancer risk by nearly 40-50 percent and does not cause vitamin D deficiencies. Are you wearing your sun protection this weekend?

Prevention begins with Lifestyle Choices

Here at the Breast Cancer Family Foundation, our mission is to empower our community and our youth by providing education on cancer awareness and prevention. Being new to the educator role, I like to share what my job entails with the people I’m close to in my life. When I tell my relatives and friends that I educate about cancer prevention I’m usually met with two comments. The first being “I thought you were a dietitian. How does that fit in with what you studied?” The second is “Doesn’t cancer rely heavily on genetics? How can you teach prevention for that?” These two questions are what makes my job so pivotal in the fight against cancer.

The more that we learn about how cancer begins, the more we learn that, like so many other health crises’ plaguing our population, many cancer cases can be tied into our lifestyle and habits. As a dietitian, I’ve spent many hours studying and learning about how what we eat impacts every facet of our health. From our mental wellness to our physical health, what we eat matters. We’ve known for a long time that diet plays a huge role in diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and metabolic syndrome but it’s only just recently that we’ve begun to see how big this picture really is.

We are starting to piece together the links between diet, obesity, and cancer and the initial findings are staggering. According to the CDC, “55 percent of all cancers diagnosed in women and 24 percent of those diagnosed in men are associated with overweight and obesity.” That’s huge! And when we factor in the findings that cancers typically seen in older adults are showing up earlier and earlier in our youth because of the spike in childhood obesity, this is definitely cause for alarm. So when my friends and family ask why, as a dietitian, I’m providing cancer-related education, I point them to these sobering statistics.

This leads me to the second question. Although cancer does have genetic links, we know that only 30% of our risk is outside of our control. The other 70% are lifestyle related. I think for so long we accepted that cancer blindly chooses its victims, which can sometimes be true but isn’t always, that we’ve become complacent with our role in our own health. I think for a lot of us it’s scary to accept that many of the choices we make day in and day out have real and lasting consequences. Most of us know that smoking cigarettes and vaping are activities that can cause cancer, but we can forget about the simple things like the food that we eat or how much we’re moving during the day.

Although it may feel like a paralyzing amount of pressure to put on our choices, I feel this is a huge beacon of hope. If we can take back our health as a community with some simple changes, that’s everything. We have so much power when it comes to how our stories play out and it’s my hope that we can see and embrace that power. This is why I chose to educate on cancer prevention and awareness as a dietitian and this is what makes my job so rewarding each and every day.

~Carese Walcyk, RD | BCFF Community Educator

Impact the World Around You

The classroom bell rang. A high school girl made her way through the chaos of bustling students who were eager to get in the hallway. I had just completed my 4th presentation that day.  When I am done speaking, it is common for students to come up and ask me questions or tell me a story of a family or friend inflicted with cancer. All of the other students had left the classroom and this girl just stood there in front of me. I asked her if she had a question as she didn’t say anything.  She stood there and her eyes welt up with tears. She held her finger up indicating she needed a moment before she could say anything. I asked her if she was ok. She nodded yes.  I asked her if it involved a friend or family member. She nodded no. I stood there waiting patiently and empathetically as I watched the tears roll down her cheeks.  After a few minutes, she gathered enough courage to utter what she wanted to say. “Thank you.” A few seconds of pause and she said it again, “ I just wanted to say thank you.” She wiped her tears and walked away. 

I stood there silently, pondering my last few minutes.  I wondered if there was someone in her life who really had cancer. I then thought of what her family life was like. Did she lack a positive female role model in her life and I filled that void, if only for that hour? Did she need somebody to care? I probably will never learn what brought that student to thank me so tearfully. I will however, forever remember how it made me feel.

Initially, I took on my role as an educator to fill an empty space in my own life.  My biggest passion in life is parenting. It truly is the best thing I have ever done for myself.  My last and third child left for college and I was an empty nester.  The ache is real and it hasn’t been easy.  It seemed only natural for me to seek out opportunities where I could impact our youth. I am so grateful for this opportunity as the lives I have touched and impacted have been many in a very short period of time.  A routine of speaking back to back classes, presenting to different schools during any given week can blur together, but then I have moment like that, with a student, where my impact as an educator becomes the reason. 

As Jane Goodall said, “You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference,  and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”

~Holly | BCFF Community Educator – Central Wisconsin

Influencing Others to Make Healthier Choices

Personal training and educational public speaking has enabled me to see a bigger picture. I work with clients trying to improve their health and I work with kids who can still be influenced to make healthier choices. I always tell students that preserving your life is easier than the cure of disease. 

The growing health epidemic for our youth is concerning. Diseases including diabetes, cancer, metabolic syndrome, heart and liver disease are increasing in our youth. Teens with bad eating habits are more likely to suffer from obesity, depression, fatigue, and poor cognitive and physical performance at school. The Breast Cancer Family Foundation is a not for profit organization that is making a positive impact in our schools. We are on the preventive side and talk to middle and high school students about making healthier choices for themselves. I use real stories to connect and engage, speaking about everyday choices that can make an impact on their health. I love what I do and strive to make a positive difference, impacting others to be better, healthier version of themselves. 

For more information, https://bcff.org/

Their Future is in our Hands

Everyone likes to view their generation as a positive contributor to society.  A generation that will leave a lasting impact on the world.  Just like you, I have hope for not only my generation, but our children’s generation.  The sobering fact is, for the first time in history, our children’s generation is not predicted to outlive their parents. This is a statement that simply cannot be ignored.  Why is this? What can we do to stop this from being a reality?

Let’s begin with the WHY.
For starters, life is so different for our youth today than it was when we were growing up.  Technology has invaded their lives and foods have significant amounts of chemicals and sugar pumped into them.  From a time and generation where family sat around a table eating food from the local farmer and veggies from the garden in their backyards to a time and generation where we drive around a building and grab food from outside a window to eat in our cars.  Things are simply DIFFERENT.

WHAT can we do about it?
Every generation has their challenges, but our current youth has a significant amount of challenges that they cannot beat alone.  We need to be stewards of good information for them so they can be equipped with the knowledge to fight this war and hopefully beat it.  At the Breast Cancer Family Foundation, we speak to middle school and high school students about cancer and the connection between their current lifestyle choices and cancer risk.  With cancer being the second leading cause of death in the United States, this is a topic that we simply cannot ignore! The solution starts with prevention.

While in the classroom, we have a small amount of time to share our mission and impact our students in a positive way that brings about change.  From defining what cancer is to understanding that 70% of our choices in life affect our health stories, this is a challenge worth taking on!  In the state of Wisconsin, students are only required to have one semester of health during their four years of high school.  For some, they complete this requirement while in 8th grade. As we go into the classrooms, we consistently hear from teachers the challenges they face with this requirement such as material (it’s always changing) and simply being able to impact the children at a time when they need the information the most!  At the Breast Cancer Family Foundation, we seek to bridge this gap.

Their FUTURE is in our hands.
Our children are demanding a better world for them.  It is our job to listen to this calling and be stewards of hope in this world.  While our mission at the Breast Cancer Family Foundation is cancer related, I like to think that our educators are impacting these students far beyond just cancer.  We talk about having a trusted adult in their lives, being involved in community through volunteerism, and knowing that they have influence over not only their peers, but adults in their lives. They are not just a “dumb” millennial generation, they are courageous and fearless future leaders!  When you redefine what that means for them, looking at how they can reduce their cancer risks through lifestyle choices becomes much clearer and more importantly, easier!

As adults, in a world calling for change, we have a large responsibility and obligation to our youth.  Please join us in our mission to encourage healthy cancer-free lifestyles for our community.  They need our help! Their futures are in our hands!

To learn more about our education program, click here! 

2017 in Review

2017 was a great year!  This past year brought significant growth for our foundation as we set out and exceeded our goal to educate over 10,000 students in Northeast and Central Wisconsin.  We are passionate about cancer prevention and awareness education, which is why we continue to grow our goals each year. Thank you to the educators in our community who invite us into their classroom time and time again.  Your support of our mission speaks to our very hearts!

Beyond the classroom! Although classroom education is our primary program and passion, we also seek to educate the entire community! In 2017 we had the opportunity to present to over 1,000 adults at businesses and clubs!  With a focus on early detection and ways to reduce our risk, our hope is that we are changing the story on cancer locally.  Healthy living continues to be a growing trend!

Live our mission out loud!  We strongly believe in living our mission out loud for all to see.  Healthy living is an active mission and one that our entire team and board of directors take seriously.  Because of that, we continue to host two large events (Titletown Bike Tour in July and Pink Pumpkin 5k in October)  within the community that encourage families and friends to lead healthy cancer-free lifestyles.  Stay tuned for 2018 as we have some exciting additions coming for both events!

Together, with your help, we can change the ending to the story of cancer. It’s true that you can do everything right and still get cancer.  However, healthy living lowers your risk and enables you to fight (and possibly beat it) should you be diagnosed.   Each time we enter a classroom, we increase awareness and provide hope on changing the current trends.

THANK YOU for your support!  Thank you for your support of our mission in the community.  We could not move the needle of change without people like YOU.  From volunteering to financial giving, it all adds up and matters.  From our hearts to yours, THANK YOU!

Happy New Year!

Melanoma Awareness Month

As the weather begins to warm up and the sun is out more, I cannot help but be anxious about the thought of spending more time outdoors with my family.  May is always a month where I find myself looking for ways to refresh my routine and bring a new spring to my step.  Can you relate?  

May is also known as Melanoma Awareness Month.  Did you know that skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States? With our skin being our largest organ, skin cancer is no joke! Please make sure that your using sunscreen, even on those cloudy days! 

At the Breast Cancer Family Foundation, we are closing in on the end of another great school year!  We are thankful for the many opportunities we had to influence our community. Our impact does not stop here though!  Summertime brings camps, day programs, summer school, and our personal favorite, the Titletown Bike Tour! Living a cancer-free healthy lifestyle is a year-round mission for us!  Please join us by getting involved in your community, signing up for an event, and by helping us end cancer with education!