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Wednesday, October 4, 2023


Campus doused in pink for breast cancer awareness

With October nearing its end, Halloween, midterms and flu season seem to be staple topics of conversation, but one topic might be overlooked: cancer. This month is painted in bright pink to remember the fight against breast cancer, a fight that one in eight women will go through, according to the National Cancer Institute.

The effects can be devastating to those who have been diagnosed with the disease, but just underneath the story of a survivor rests the bedrock that carried them through the darkest hours. It’s the slice of constancy in a dynamic and complex world of physicians, hospitals, operating tables and the excruciating pain of chemotherapy and radiation. For many people, it’s family.

Cancer can take a physical, mental and emotional toll on family members. Many members of the UH community have been affected by the disease in some way.

For public relations senior Samuel Colin, the day his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, his world shook.

“It was a couple years ago, but it seemed like it was just yesterday. I remember she said she had felt a lump in her breast, and so she went to get it checked out. I don’t think she was due for another six to seven months for a check-up,” Sam said. “And that’s when they told her.”

A cancerous lump the size of a quarter was found in her right breast. When Sam was told the news that his mother, Anna Colin, had cancer, memories of both his grandmother and great-grandmother came to mind, both of whom were survivors. Faith and family are what kept Sam strong for his mother.

“I was raised in a Christian house; I knew that God had everything under control,” Sam said. “You think about it, and you think, ‘What if she had waited another 6 months? What if she had waited ‘til her next appointment?’ It could have been worse.”

Though the cancerous tumor was detected early, it had almost doubled by the time Anna went in to begin chemotherapy just a few months later. She changed before Sam’s eyes as the chemo drained her energy, turned her nails a bruised black and caused her hair to fall out.

“Her hair would fall off in pieces. Sometimes, she would wake up, and there would be a whole bunch of hair on her pillow,” Sam said. “That’s when she decided she had to cut it all off. I think she donated it to make wigs for other women.”

Keeping the faith

After five months of intensive chemotherapy, radiation treatments, a lumpectomy and lymph node removal, the Colin family was nearing the end. But then a second lump was found. Sam’s father, Julio, was a pastor for Centro de Fe, where he worked to lift people’s spirits, and this was the moment that tested his family’s resilience.

“He always preaches about stuff like this — never let anything bring your faith down, you will get through it — then all of a sudden, this happens,” Sam said. “It gets to a point where you’re like, ‘Why are you doing this, God? What did we do to deserve this?’ It already happened once, and now it’s happening again.”

The family braced themselves yet again, but then something miraculous happened.

A few weeks later, the new lump disappeared. After Anna received her last radiation treatment and was officially diagnosed as cancer-free, the Colin family went out to celebrate. It had been six months of treatment, and the family was closer and stronger.

Staying cancer-free

Five years later, Sam still remembers watching his mother face her own mortality. That memory was forever ingrained and has lent him a new perspective on life and on breast cancer.

“It could be possible for her not to be here at all. I had the possibility of, maybe, my mom not seeing me cross the stage for my high school graduation, for my college graduation,” Sam said.

Spotlight on breast health

In the various nooks and crannies of campus, commemoration for Breast Cancer Awareness Month has continually cropped up.

In the Women’s Resource Center, shining a light on breast cancer is an essential part of early detection. Program coordinator Malkia Hutchinson hosted Breast Cancer Charities of America to educate men and women on their risks.

“I think a lot of young women disregard the messages. It’s important that they know what they’re doing now can affect their long-term health. Breast cancer can influence if someone has heart disease or pre-diabetes,” Hutchinson said. “Things that we do in our 20s and 30s can influence our long-term health.”

Shades of red: Cougars go pink

Students have also taken the initiative to spread the word. Some sororities have been a part of the fight as they raise money to donate to their philanthropies.

The UH Alpha Kappa Delta Phi — Iota chapter has teamed up with the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade. They plan on hosting their annual breast cancer event, called Breast Fest Week, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 16, 23 and 30 in the University Center Satellite. President of UH-aKDPhi and broadcast journalism senior Tina Pham and her sisters feel strongly about going pink.

“Breast cancer awareness has affect(ed) so many of (our) sisters’ lives, whether it’s them personally or someone that is close to them,” Pham said. “Every time this time of year rolls around, the house is very excited to participate.

“Our event is not targeted only for women, but we have received generous support from men who are just as passionate about the cause as well. Every little effort counts and helps towards our fight against breast cancer.”

For UH Zeta Tau Alpha sorority president Mahira Khan, who has plans of attending medical school after graduation, breast cancer “hits home.” ZTA sponsored a “Think Pink Week” from Oct. 6 to 12 and coordinated with local businesses to donate a percentage of their revenue to their philanthropic beneficiary, Breast Cancer Education and Awareness, on certain days.

Khan looked to the ZTA creed to guide the sorority’s battle against the disease.

The creed reads, ‘We strive … to be true to ourselves, to those within and without our circle; to think in terms of all mankind and our service to the world.’ Khan said that they adhere to this by promote their cause both within the Greek community and in the greater UH population.

“It is an empowering feeling to not only be able to reach out and keep our community informed, but to directly see the impact we make as a small portion of the student body,” Khan said.

Both aKDPhi and ZTA volunteered this year during the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. AKDPhi plans on hosting a second annual CODE: Pink! 5K Costume Run in the Spring, but is still working out logistics, Pham said.

Spreading the word

Other places on campus worked towards raising awareness. The Wellness Center’s Cougar Peer Educators hosted the annual “Paint Your Nails Pink” event during the first week of October, and it has now spread to residence halls like Moody Towers, Cougar Village 1 and the Quadrangle, said Reuben Parrish, Interim Director and Program Coordinator of the Wellness Center.

The Health Center also offered free, walk-in clinical breast exams to the UH community on Oct. 9 and 17.

Parting words of a warrior

For Sam Colin, early detection saved his mother’s life. People are precious and time is invaluable, and breast cancer brought that to the forefront.

His advice: “Enjoy life, enjoy those around you. That’s how we live it.”

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