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A Conversation
on Prevention

Women's Health, April 16th, 2013

Getting our mammogram on in the South Asian community

On March 28, the Canadian Cancer Society’s Sirf Dus initiative partnered with the BC Cancer Agency’s Screening Mammography Program to provide free mobile mammography services to 51 South Asian women.

We recently celebrated our 75th anniversary by combating barriers to regular breast cancer screening in the South Asian community, which has lower mammography screening rates compared to the general B.C. population. During our early years in the 1940s, the cancer survival rate was about 25 per cent. Today, the survival rate for breast cancer specifically is 88 per cent which is why regular screening and early detection are so important.

The mobile mammography was held at the Surrey-Delta Indo Canadian Senior Centre where ladies gather regularly to socialize. The comfort of being in a familiar setting helped to put ladies at ease as they mingled before and after their mammograms. As a thank you for getting screened, each lady was given a bunch of freshly cut daffodils.

By the time lunchtime rolled around, the room was packed full of women chatting, singing and posing for photos. It was a very special event for the Society to be part of especially because 41% of the ladies screened were first-timers!

The Society recommends that women who are 50–69 years of age should have screening mammography every two years. Women between the ages of 40 and 49 should discuss their risk of breast cancer, along with the benefits and risks of mammography, with their doctor. Women 70 years of age or older should talk to their doctor about a screening program that would be appropriate for them. The Sirf Dus project is kindly funded by the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.

Sirf Dus translates to both “Only Ten” and “Just Tell” in Punjabi.

The initiative asks South Asian women to:

• Take 10 minutes to talk about the importance of the mammography exam and early detection;

• Take 10 minutes to go for mammography screening; and

• Tell 10 friends about the importance of mammography screening.

Guest blogger, Women's Health, February 22nd, 2013

Sirf Dus, Tell 10, Encourages Mammograms

by Christina Beck, Canadian Cancer Society BC and Yukon, Health Promotion Coordinator

Sirf Dus is a Canadian Cancer Society initiative to promote mammography in the South Asian community. Sirf Dus translates to “Just tell” or “Only ten” in Punjabi. Sirf Dus asks women to:

  • Take 10 minutes of their time to talk about the importance of regular mammograms and early detection
  • Take 10 minutes to get a mammogram
  • Tell 10 friends – spread the word!

Promoting health is more than just sharing information–especially for cancer prevention in the South Asian community. The first step is to make it easier to talk about cancer in a culture where it can often be a sensitive subject. There are prevailing beliefs that one shouldn’t talk about cancer for fear of catching it and that cancer is an incurable disease resulting from bad karma. It’s no surprise that South Asian women are less likely to get a mammogram than the rest of the population.

The Canadian Cancer Society’s Sirf Dus initiative was conceived to address this health disparity and to challenge the taboo nature of cancer in the South Asian community. Volunteers with various backgrounds including doctors, students, cancer survivors and South Asian community members, joined forces to develop culturally appropriate educational information about mammography and then shared it.

Sirf Dus volunteers educate with a casual approach through networks of friends, family and community peers. They reach out at cultural events and temples.

Volunteers recently combined their diverse talents to create two videos promoting mammography. They are a powerful new tool to promote early cancer detection and to reduce the number of deaths.

The “Tell ten women” video embodies efforts to educate the South Asian community in a fun and positive manner. The “Screening saves lives” video is reminiscent of Bollywood style drama. Check them out!

Guest blogger, My One Thing, Women's Health, November 29th, 2012

Kelsey Dundon’s One Thing

Kelsey Dundon is a Vancouver-based writer and founder of Northill Creative, as well as the high-profile lifestyle site The Anthology. She appears frequently on television as a trend expert and contributes to multiple publications including Vitamin Daily, where she is lifestyle editor. In this guest blog post, Kelsey shares her “one thing” and shows how to make exercise a priority – anywhere!

My one thing: exercise

I admire anyone who’s committed to the gym. Especially those keeners who manage to make it there before work. I wish the thought of pumping iron got my blood pumping, but it just doesn’t. (Don’t tell my membership card I said that.)

Still, I know I need to exercise for a million reasons – health, sanity, you name it – so I do it the way I like to do it: by getting outside. Walking my dog, jogging through Vancouver’s Endowment Lands, hiking the North Shore Mountains – these are things I can get on board with. Even in the rain.

Or while on vacation. And it doesn’t have to be a hiking trip, like the heli-hiking adventure I went on last year in the Rockies.

Or the Via Feratta I climbed in Whistler.

I’m just as happy to hike on sunny tropical vacations.

I just got back from Hawaii where I spent many a day on the trails. A highlight? Hiking through remote Waipeo Valley on the Big Island where our trail led us to this makeshift dam. Had the water not been chest deep and had we not been carrying expensive camera equipment, we would have waded through it and continued our hike. I swear.

But warm, sunny days aren’t the norm in BC this time of year. Which means it’s time to trade in my hiking boots for my snowshoes. 

When the temperature drops, snowshoeing is my favourite way to break a sweat. And this guy loves it too. He’s never been a big fan of the gym either.

Guest blogger, My One Thing, Tanning, Women's Health, November 8th, 2012

Brooke Ostendorf’s “One Thing”

Brooke Ostendorf is a university student at the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) in Abbotsford, BC. Brooke is a member and coach of the UFV varsity cheerleading team and balances a busy class schedule on top of multiple part-time jobs. We asked Brooke how she manages to incorporate healthy living into her life and what she will do to reduce her risk of cancer.  

How did you get involved in cheerleading?

After an injury in gymnastics, I was invited to join a local cheer team and ever since then I have been hooked. I prefer the team element of cheerleading to the individual sport of gymnastics.

What is the typical day of a UFV varsity cheerleader?

The typical day in the life of a UFV team member would be to attend morning classes and then quickly grab some food and get ready to start cheer practice or go to work and then come to cheer practice.


Why is leading a healthy life so important to you?

Leading a healthy life is important to me because I want to feel comfortable with myself and feel a sense of accomplishment when I realize that I am exactly where I want to be in my cheerleading and school career. I also get a sense of satisfaction from exercising and eating healthy and this is what motivates me to continue every day.

How do you manage to fit physical activity into such a hectic schedule?

I schedule it. As a varsity athlete, I need to stay fit for my sport. Besides practicing four days per week, I schedule extra conditioning at the gym and remember to give myself a break every Monday!

What are your favourite tips for eating healthy on the go?

The key to eating healthy on the go is planning ahead. I pack a lunch when I go to school – it’s healthier and cheaper! A sandwich and an apple to eat between classes and I carry a water bottle that can be refilled. When eating on campus I choose healthier options such as Booster Juice, Jugo Juice or Subway. I do not eat fast food.

This fall, we are asking British Columbias to do “one thing” towards reducing their cancer risk.  What’s your “one thing”?

My one thing would be to properly apply sunscreen and not to ‘fake n’ bake’. This summer I spent a lot of time at Cultus Lake and while I always applied sunscreen, I missed spots and got burned, so I want to better protect my skin.

Guest blogger, My One Thing, Women's Health, November 2nd, 2012

Randi Melnick’s “One Thing”

As part of our Men’s and Women’s Health Awareness Initiative, we are asking, “What’s your one thing?” Randi Melnick, a volunteer with the Canadian Cancer Society Relay for Life, shared her “one thing” with us and is challenging you to pick yours!

I must say that I’m not typically the most “health conscious” person. I love the winter season not just for the beautiful colors but mostly all the tasty comfort foods. We all know these delicious dishes aren’t the best for us, but they are a part of our cultures, traditions and, in my opinion, the consolation prize for having to say goodbye to summer. My new favorite… sweet potatoes baked with marshmallows on top. Like I said, I don’t come across as a very health conscious person!

This is why the ‘My One Thing’ initiative by the Canadian Cancer Society fits so well into my life. I don’t need to change everything about how I live and what I eat. I don’t need to strive for perfection. I just make a small change that is pretty easy and manageable and it may have a huge impact on my health.

My choice was to have a meat-free day once a week. As a native Albertan, this originally sounded somewhat like punishment, but I took the challenge anyway seeing it as an opportunity to learn some new recipes with which I could impress my vegetarian friends. I must say, so far I have been honestly enjoying it. I’m discovering new foods and fun new twists to old favorites that are still delicious but now are meat-free as well.

Research has shown that a diet high in red meat increases the risk of colorectal cancer. So making this change may reduce my risk of cancer as well as improve my health in many other ways. Not to mention that I’m also reducing my carbon footprint. Strangely it has been good for my ego as well. I now feel like I’m saving the world a little every week.

I enjoy trying new recipes, tweaking them to suit my tastes and being a gracious hostess. It certainly makes me feel great to see people feeling happy and full of great food (at least I hope my dishes are great!).

I’d like to challenge you to pick your one thing. Remember, small things can have a huge impact!

Guest blogger, My One Thing, Women's Health, October 26th, 2012

Miss Chinese Vancouver’s “One Thing”

We had the opportunity to chat with Miss Chinese Vancouver and Canadian Cancer Society Ambassador of Hope, Erica Chui, about her perspective on health and her ‘one thing’. Here is our interview with her:

Congratulations on being awarded the 2011 Miss Chinese Vancouver! What does being Miss Chinese Vancouver mean to you?

Being Miss Chinese Vancouver is like a fruitful journey to my life experiences.  Not only were there ups and downs in finding myself and being who I am, but I got to walk this journey with nine unique girls with the same dream.  Winning the Miss Chinese Vancouver allows me to make my family proud. It is also an honour to take on this responsibility and to contribute my education, knowledge and positivity to the community in promoting awareness of cancer prevention.

When you are taking a break from your duties as Miss Chinese Vancouver, what do you like to do for fun?

I love to be around children, no matter if I am on or off duty.  Children recharge my energy and give me new inspiration in life.  I have a fun time playing with them – I can just never get enough of it!

What are your favorite spots in Vancouver and why?

My favorite spot is the Vancouver Airport.  I can sit there for hours just to watch the planes land and depart, or stare at the line of lights flashing endlessly along the runway.  This spot also has a great view for a sunrise, sunset, or starry night sky.  With this view, I am able to quietly review myself and calm my mind.

With your busy schedule how do you manage to keep health a priority?

I tend to feel stressed when I have a busy and tight schedule.  I have learned to have a calm mind and heart when dealing with stress.  I have to be organized with the tasks I have to complete, and I must fit in enough rest and stable meal times in my schedule.  Both help to keep my immune system strong. Then, I can keep my mind and body healthy.

This fall we are encouraging men and women to make their own Game Plan to defend themselves against cancer. Doing just “one thing” can make a difference to your cancer risk. What is the “one thing” you will commit to doing to help reduce your risk?

I came up with a SMILE as my “one thing” because smiling is something simple and easy to do, so there is no excuse not to do so!  Smiling can also have a positive effect on the people around me. So I am committed to keeping a happy and positive energy to help reduce my own or someone else’s stress.

Anything else you would like to share?

Let your smile change the world.  Don’t let the world change your smile.  KEEP SMILING!

Guest blogger, My One Thing, Women's Health, October 15th, 2012

Sarah Jamieson’s “One Thing”

Sarah Jamieson is a local Movement Coach, FMS 2 Coach and YogaFORM founder, with Vancouver-based Fit to Train Human Performance Systems Inc. Sarah is also the founder of RUN4ACAUSE;  an idea that empowers youth and people of all ages to harness their own potential through the power of sport philanthropy. Her goal is to raise 1 million dollars before the age of 35 by connecting great people to great causes. She has raised well over $807,000.00 for over 40 charities. She has a passion for health and shared her “one thing” with us.

This morning I received a call from my family doctor notifying me that I am overdue for my yearly… wait for it… physical, otherwise known as the PAP. Yes, that time when women all over the world flock to the doctor’s office to get poked and prodded, swabbed and sent on their way, crossing their fingers, reciting their own internal monologue; “You better be all good down there.”

Quickly followed by pondering the conundrum of our modern and technological age: “How come they haven’t invented the warm speculum yet?” or “Why can’t they make them pink at least?” Nonetheless, the truth of the matter is that if we can work to overcome five minutes of unbearable agony and being uncomfortable, in exchange for a lifetime of cancer-free living, well then, it’s a no-brainer.

Cancer is in my DNA - my mom was diagnosed with cervical cancer when I was six years old and four years ago I had my own cancer scare. My doctor found abnormal cell formation in my cervix, and the next several tests would show the same thing – ABNORMAL.

Since I am an Optimist-Prime, I believe that there is a clear relationship between our thoughts and our health, and being a “NegaTron” (obvious Transformer’s pun intended) directly impacts the health of your body and every system in it.

As a health professional, I coach my clients on how to lead a healthy, happy lifestyle that can be free of (dis)ease. The moral of the story is that we each play an active role in accelerating the application of our own cancer-free living, simply by making practical and ethical choices.

I include exercise into my daily routine. I eat clean nourishing food 90% of the time, with 10% in moderation. I meditate and make time for myself.

THERE ARE NO EXCUSES. Why? Because one of the hardest things on this earth to do is to learn to love yourself, and when you achieve this you realize that you will do anything in your power to treat yourself and your body with the value and respect it deserves – even if that means braving the dreaded speculum (which I still think should be pink). This is why I believe early detection and treatment, as well as public health campaigns promoting physical activity and a healthier dietary intake are the BEST ways to live a cancer-free life. Now, go get your PAP.

To learn more about Sarah, visit her blog: Sarah M Jamieson

Guest blogger, My One Thing, Women's Health, October 10th, 2012

Krista DuChene’s “One Thing”

She’s known in the running community as “Marathon Mom”, 35-year-old mother of 3, Krista Duchene. On October 14, 2012, she will be attempting to break the Canadian women’s marathon record at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. We were lucky enough to receive a guest blog post from Krista about her “one thing”.

My one thing: lead by example

Losing your parents to cancer as a young adult forces you to make many important decisions early in life.  As a child, I always had a great interest in health and activity; I wanted to be a nurse and enjoyed playing many different sports. Throughout high school, I narrowed my focus to running and ice hockey. During this time my mom’s health started to fail after having leukemia for five years, and my dad was diagnosed with colorectal cancer.

My five siblings and I knew we’d soon be without parents. My older brothers put their lives on hold to run the farm and care for our ailing parents. It was grim.

But my parents were thrilled to see me continue doing what I loved: running track, playing ice hockey, and choosing a career. My athletic passion and new understanding that nutrition played a major part in both the prevention and treatment of cancer sparked my interest in pursuing a career to become a Registered Dietitian.

More than a decade later, I am happily balancing the jobs of a Registered Dietitian, elite marathon runner, and mother of three. My husband and kids never met my parents but they are spoken of often.

So, what is my “one thing”? Simply put, it is to lead by example.

As a dietitian, I tell my patients to eat half a plate of vegetables at lunch and dinner, as I do. I consume next to no alcohol and fatty meat and implement many other chronic disease preventing diet recommendations, and encourage them to do the same.

As an elite marathoner, I inspire others to set high goals and get active every day, even if it means starting with only five minutes at a time. I lead by example by getting up at 5:00 a.m. some days, always wearing my hat that protects me from the sun.

As a mom, I teach my kids that although others have different lunches at school, we make choices based on our family’s values. Even when it means not buying the convenient, store-bought cookies due to cost, packaging, and poor nutrition, I make them at home. I explain that smoking is not good for our bodies and we are responsible for our choices. Again, leading by example.

I explain to and show my patients, community, co-workers, and family that it takes discipline, dedication, planning, balance, and focus. I go for routine check-ups with my health-care provider, not because my choices increase my chance of cancer but because of my family history. But most importantly, leading by example comes from passion. Passion to be the best I can be and take the best care of this body I’ve been given.

Proud Mom

We wish Krista all the best towards achieving her goal! You can follow Krista’s running on her blog: Kirsta DuChene Running.

Advocacy, Cosmetic Pesticides, Guest blogger, My One Thing, Provincial Election, Women's Health, October 4th, 2012

Councillor Selina Robinson’s “One Thing”

Guest Blog by Selina Robinson, City Councillor, Coquitlam B.C.

Selina Robinson is a City Councillor for Coquitlam, B.C. and an active member of her community. When she is not engaged in council business, she runs a small private counselling practice, works with community groups to plan and organize a variety of community events and enjoys staying active. She is well-known for your commitment towards health and creating healthy environments. We asked Selina to share her “one thing” with us.  

I know the realities of hearing the words “you have cancer”.  As a survivor I know the fear, the worry and the anxiety that comes with every surgery, treatment and CT scan.  Many survivors can point to the possible causes of their cancer: smoking, poor diet, sun exposure. For some of us, the cancer just appeared. In my case the cancer was not due to smoking, sun exposure, diet or lack of exercise. It just happened. The physicians and researchers don’t have all the answers for what caused my particular cancer … a genetic mutation is all they can say.  But they don’t know what causes this particular mutation.

Given that we don’t always know what causes some cancers (including my own) – I think it’s important that we don’t expose ourselves to unnecessary risks, like exposing ourselves to cosmetic pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. 

We have enough evidence to know that pesticide exposure may cause some cancers. Given that we use these potentially harmful products for cosmetic purposes, there is no sufficient reason to expose ourselves, our neighbours and our children to their toxic effects. 

My “one thing” has been to champion a cosmetic pesticide ban in Coquitlam where I am a City Councillor. I started the process shortly after getting elected in 2008 and successfully implemented a local ban in 2011. It took three years of engaging the community and educating my colleagues on Council in order to bring the cosmetic pesticide ban to fruition. But the work is not yet done.  A province-wide ban on the sale of these products will achieve better compliance and better results. I plan to keep at it, but I wonder if that will make it two things?

Men's Health, Women's Health, September 13th, 2012

What’s your one thing?

by Brittney Parks, Canadian Cancer Society

Did you know that up to 35% of all cancers can be prevented by being active, eating well and maintaining a healthy body weight?

Yes, it’s true! It’s easier than you think. Just one change can make a difference. 

During September through November, a Men’s and Women’s health initiative is being undertaken by the Canadian Cancer Society to encourage the public to take charge of their health. We’re asking men and women to take action to live well, be aware and get involved.

 Live Well – You can reduce your cancer risk by making healthy choices every day.

 Be Aware – You can help detect cancer early by getting screened and knowing your body.

 Get Involved – You can fight for change in your community to help reduce cancer risks.

Create a cancer game plan

Start by making one change. Think of one thing you can do to live well, be aware of your body or get involved in reducing risks for everyone. Don’t smoke. Keep a healthy body weight. Limit alcohol consumption. Pick one thing and start making a difference to your health.

Healthier living starts by doing just one thing. Once you’ve declared it, share it.

Spread the word

Upload a photo representing your “one thing” on and “share it” on your favorite social network declaring your one thing. Use the hash tag #myonething

Get social with us

Like us on Facebook: Canadian Cancer Society, B.C. & Yukon Division
Follow us on Twitter: @cancersocietybc

Guest blogger, Survivor, Tanning, Women's Health, Youth, August 23rd, 2012

Don’t Shorten Your Life For A Tan

By Jessica Van Wageningen

At the age of twenty-four, Jessica Van Wageningen from North Vancouver, B.C., was diagnosed with melanoma, the most severe form of skin cancer. As a former indoor tanner, Jessica is now hoping her story will inspire others to embrace their natural skin tone and not the tanning bed. She doesn’t let skin cancer define her and she is ready to move past this experience, with a new outlook on life.

It was the moment I heard I had melanoma that my life changed. I realized life is short, so I shouldn’t take anything for granted. I think I took my health for granted when it came to tanning and if I could go back and undo all the indoor tanning that I did, I would in a heartbeat. 

Just days after my twenty-fourth birthday, my mom finally convinced me to get a small mole on my left side removed. I thought her concerns about my mole were crazy, but I went to have it looked at one Monday afternoon to put her at ease. My mole was the size of the top of a pencil easer, with irregular edges, and as dark as dark chocolate. The doctor that removed it believed I had nothing to worry about but took precautions to be one hundred percent sure by removing it.

I am thankful the doctor was aggressive and took it off right then and there. I received a call four days after my mole was removed from my doctor’s office and they asked me to come in, as my results were ready. I sat down and the first words that came out of the doctor’s mouth were, “You have melanoma skin cancer.” I sat there in shock, as tears streamed down my face. I asked the doctor if I was going to live and she said she didn’t know. It was the scariest feeling to hear that my own doctor was not sure whether I would have my life back.

I asked myself, “Why me? Why anyone?”

A week after finding out I had melanoma, I went to the hospital and a plastic surgeon removed more tissue to make sure all the melanoma had been cut out. It was a painful recovery for the next few days after the surgery as my muscle was bruised from digging so deep into my tissue. I received the results for the tissue biopsy and the melanoma was not in the tissue. It was the happiest day of my life.

I was in an early stage of melanoma and early detection is the key to catching it.  Melanoma is an aggressive cancer and it grows quickly. I am a lucky girl, but some people aren’t so lucky and melanoma takes many lives each year. I wish I knew back then, when I loved tanning, what I know today.

I went indoor tanning twenty-two days in a row before grad and continued throughout the last seven years. I want people to know, whether they are a teenager, a young adult or older, how incredibly scary tanning beds are. Melanoma can happen to anyone. I never believed it would happen to me.  

The steps to protect yourself are so easy! Don’t do indoor tanning, wear sunscreen, seek shade when you can, and get your skin checked! Love yourself for who you are and embrace being your natural skin tone – you are beautiful when you do. Don’t shorten your life for a ‘healthy glow or a base tan.’ No tan is a healthy tan. 

Now cancer-free, Jessica shows her scar from where the melanoma was removed.

Read Jessica’s Letter to Editor of the North Shore News – Grads: Tanning not worth your life.

Guest blogger, Survivor, Tanning, Women's Health, Youth, August 17th, 2012

Fa-shun-able Me

by Sarah Merrill

Since my last post there are a few things I would like to clarify. I know suggesting forgoing a tan for some equates social suicide, you might as well “put your head between your legs and kiss your butt goodbye”. I understand, but please realize it took a bout of skin cancer for me to even think about changing my ways. In fact, one month after being cancer-free I spent days lying in the California sun (applying sunscreen every two hours of course and making sure I did not burn…). Although I was consciously applying sunscreen I also kept checking my tan lines to see if – by chance – I’d achieved a little color. Yup, one month after skin cancer I still managed to justify baking in the sun. Really there is no difference between you and I, I’m just one of the ones who got caught.  I did not share my story expecting you to drop everything and stop tanning. It’s a process, a process that can only happen if YOU want to make it happen. Having skin cancer forced me to get creative, unfortunately I can’t reverse the damage done, but I can take precautions so it will not happen again.

It’s about making little tweaks here and there; sun protection does not have to be a daunting task. Last summer, I set a goal to remain sunburn-free through the scorching months and I achieved it! This summer I upped the anti and decided to make adjustments to my daily routine and wardrobe. Instead of adding to my already abundant collection of short-shorts and sleeveless numbers, I purchased feminine maxi skirts, breezy cover-ups, a wide brimmed hat and I’m slowly replacing my cosmetics with products containing SPF.

However, my enthusiasm is not shared by everyone. Since incorporating sun safe changes I’ve received the following comments: “Why don’t you wear clothes that fit?”, “Show some skin” and my favourite “You look like a 60 year-old grandma”. Moral of the story, people are not down with my new digs, but I find consolation in the fact that my grandma is one sexy old lady, so whatever.

Ladies I know sunscreen can be greasy, ruins your makeup, and is just an overall hassle, but there’s a solution! Try a 30 SPF powder foundation! They do exist. And despite my earlier quip, it is possible to protect yourself from the sun and look good while doing so! (At least I think I pull it off…) If you choose to embrace your natural skin tone there are ways to showcase it. If not, there are methods to fake it till you make it!

Guys, it’s your turn. Sunscreen can be a royal pain in the butt, yet going without it ain’t worth it! Wear sunglasses, a hat, and try a spray sunscreen. It’s a quick application method, so quick you won’t miss a second of the beach action.

YOU can minimize your risk of skin cancer (melanoma is one of the most deadly & common diseases in young people ages 15-29, but it is mostly preventable!) by taking note of these alternative tips and tricks. I look at it as a special you treatment all summer long. You’re worth it! Summer is coming to a close, but start the process by thinking about what little change(s) you might incorporate into your routine next summer. I risked my life in the name of beauty once, and I don’t plan on doing it again, even if it means being fa-shun-able.  For now, I’ll take 21 dressing like 60 over skin cancer any day.

Sarah Merrill is a volunteer blogger for the Canadian Cancer Society’s Tanning is Out initiative.

Guest blogger, Survivor, TIO Ambassadors, Tanning, Women's Health, July 23rd, 2012

I’d hate to be Frank

By Sarah Merrill

Sarah Merrill is a volunteer blogger for the Canadian Cancer Society’s Tanning is Out initiative. She is also a skin cancer survivor. In her latest post, she shares her story.

A few years ago I remember reading a magazine article about a girl in her twenties who after excessive tanning was diagnosed with skin cancer. The spread contrasted photos of her tanned with pictures of her embracing her natural skin tone.  In the moment the story resonated, but I got up, put the magazine down and walked away.  It would never happen to me.

I have always been a health conscious individual; I exercise regularly and eat healthy because I was taught to treat my body with respect. I wore sunscreen most of the time, but my lily-white skin didn’t mix well with the Saskatchewan sun. My love for outdoor sports seemed to make at least one major sunburn  inevitable each summer. When it came to indoor tanning I was apprehensive, but at age 16 I tanned to get a “good base tan” for Mexico. A year or so later I tanned a couple of times before a friends prom, and one last time for my own prom. I did not want to be orange like the girls who graduated before me; I just wanted that “healthy glow”. I debated a spray tan, but it didn’t fit my high school budget and I’d have to travel to find a salon that offered spray tan services. Sadly, I didn’t know going in a tanning bed for ANY AMOUNT OF TIME before the age of 35 can increase one’s risk of skin cancer by 75%.

Somewhere along the line, a mole on my knee morphed from the small brown beauty mark it once was to a funky-looking pink aberration. I went to my doctor to get the mole removed – simply because it was unattractive – but he considered excision of the mole cosmetic and sent me on my way. By grade 12 the mole grew bigger, was getting more attention, and thus became worthy of a name – Frank. How the name came about, I cannot recall but it stuck. Frank was a creepy little guy, so unpleasant looking my peers suggested I wear band-aids over him and pretend it was a cut.

That fall, I moved to Calgary for university and the following short-shorts worthy summer brought Frank to my attention, for a second time. He was a little more red, a lot more raised, and rather round. With more determination than last time I went to a few doctors, but the results were the same; one doctor offered to freeze Frank off and the rest said, “It is nothing”. Finally, after pulling some strings, I got an appointment in Saskatchewan and drove home specifically to have the mole removed. Both the doctor and the surgeon who removed Frank said, “It is nothing,” and that they were only sending Frank in as mandatory procedure. I watched them plop Frank in a little container thinking a tiny little scar would be all I had to remember him by. Good riddance!

Wrong. Frank actually had a family and they had moved in. It turns out “nothing” was stage 3 invasive malignant melanoma. Fortunately, the process for me was short; I was diagnosed around Thanksgiving in 2010, went in for surgery on December 16, and was announced cancer-free freshly into the New Year. Even though I have the battle wounds to prove it, a scar on my knee (initial incision) and upper thigh (lymph node removal), the seriousness of the situation did not sink in until recently when I heard about Glenna Kohl. At age 26 after excessive tanning both indoors and outdoors, and a misdiagnosis, stage 3 invasive malignant melanoma took Glenna’s life. As I read her story, it finally hit me that it’s a miracle my cancer had not spread since stage 3 invasive malignant melanoma generally means the cancer has gone beyond the skin and traveled throughout the body to the lymph nodes.

If you are reading this you’re probably feeling the same way I did years ago sitting in the doctors office, but please don’t walk away thinking, “It will never happen to me,” like I did. I encourage you to discuss Frank to your friends, family, or anyone who will listen – tweet it, Facebook it, or get old school and just talk about it – tanning is not worth the risk. Make little changes in your life (I’m not saying don’t go outside, just be careful when you do). Know your skin, watch for signs of change and talk to your doctor if you have concerns.

TIO Ambassadors, Tanning, Women's Health, Youth, June 28th, 2012

Keep it real.

By Brittney Parks

Summer is here and the pressure to rock your beach-ready body and flawless tan is on. Unfortunately, this is one of the pressures some women face throughout their adolescent lives and into their young adult years. A new social media campaign aims to change this – the Keep it Real Challenge.

SPARK Movement,,, Endangered Bodies and I Am That Girl are joining forces to host the Keep it Real Challenge, a three-day social media campaign to urge print magazines to pledge to print at least one non-photoshopped image of female models per issue.

This movement started with just one individual – 14-year-old Julia Bluhm. Julia started a petition to get Seventeen Magazine to include one non-photoshopped image in every issue. She has successfully collected over 80,000 petitions and counting!
Her one-person campaign has snowballed into a much larger movement.

The Keep it Real Challenge, which runs from June 27th to June 29th, is empowering girls and young women to challenge unrealistic expectations of appropriate body image.

Throughout our Tanning is Out initiative, we encourage young women and men to not outdoor or indoor tan and to own their own skin tone. When speaking with young women, they often bring up the pressures to tan resulting from the media – the image of a tall, tanned, skinny woman. While it may seem beautiful in a magazine, in reality, it is an image that many young women struggle with as they strive to live up to this notion of perceived beauty. They should not have to face these pressures – they should feel empowered to embrace their own skin tone and natural beauty.

The Tanning is Out initiative is breaking down some of the barriers faced in terms of beauty; however, our work is not done yet.

Today, we are participating in the Keep It Real Challenge by sharing our voice, through our blog. We are encouraging others to do the same. Please note - this campaign does not apply just to women – it is an opportunity for guys to also get involved and let magazines know how they feel about the use of photoshopped images and unrealistic expectations about appearance.

Day 1 (June 27th): Use the #KeepitReal on Twitter to challenge magazines to drop photoshop.

Day 2 (June 28th): Use your blog to share your voice and tell the world why photoshop needs to go. 

Day 3 (June 29th): Post images of real beauty via your Instagram account and be entered into the #KeepItRealChallenge, with selected photos being shown on a billboard in New York City.

We are continuously inspired by the youth we work with throughout the Tanning is Out initiative and their commitment to natural beauty and keeping it real by being tan-free.

Tanning is Out Ambassadors presented to the Capital Regional District on Vancouver Island in support of a bylaw prohibiting those under 18 from indoor tanning.

Young women standing up for real beauty!

For more information, check out the Keep It Real Challenge Toolkit. Here is a photo worth sharing.


Guest blogger, Tanning, Women's Health, Youth, March 1st, 2012

Interview with Julia Murray

By Julia Zhou, Guest Blogger

Julia Murray is an athlete, Olympian and advocate for skin cancer prevention. Both her parents were members of the Canadian National Ski team, which led to her passion in skiing. She is currently a member of the Canadian National Ski Cross Team and was a silver medalist in the FIS Freestyle World Championships last year. Julia feels strongly about cancer prevention as her father passed away from melanoma. Today, she shares her experience as a professional athlete and as an advocate for skin cancer prevention.

Julia Murray, FIS Freestyle World Ski Championships

As a professional athlete, you probably spend a lot of time training and practicing – how do you balance your personal life and your profession?

Life is definitely busy! But I like it that way. I always love to be on the go. I enjoy training for my sport, going to school, and spending time with family and friends – so I always make an effort to make time for it all.

Did you always know that you would become a professional skier? Did you have any other dreams before? If so, how did it change?

I have been skiing since the age of two, then ski raced until the age of seventeen, before switching to ski cross. With my mother being a professional freestyle skier in the 70’s along with my Dad’s background of being one of the four Crazy Canuck Downhill ski racers in the 70’s, skiing is definitely in my blood! I grew up in a town of people who love the mountains, and skied on average three or four days a week – and our school supported that! As early as grade 4, I was presenting projects to my teachers about the Olympics in our backyard, with me racing down my Dad’s downhill (Dave Murray Downhill).

As a professional athlete you are very physically active – what are some other ways you maintain good health?

In the summer, I do a lot of biking (mountain, road and dirt biking), along with a lot of time in the gym. In the winter, I’ve been skate skiing a lot and going to yoga, as well as biking in the city!

The sun’s rays can be very strong on the hill and in winter, reflection off snow can nearly double UV strength.  What are some ways you stay protected from the sun’s harmful UV rays?

I wear sunscreen every day I’m on the mountain. I make it a part of my routine in the morning, to put sunscreen on before breakfast. I then reapply once a day while I’m up there. I always keep my goggles down to protect my eyes too.

You are working to help raise awareness about the importance of wearing sunscreen in the winter. Why is this important to you?

My father passed away when he was 39 years old (I was two) from malignant melanoma. I really want to help make people aware of how dangerous the sun’s rays are and prevent melanoma from taking the lives of others.

Indoor tanning is an important priority for the Canadian Cancer Society. How do you feel about indoor tanning?

Indoor tanning is so bad for you. It increases your chances drastically of developing skin cancer. Stay away from them! Enjoy your own beautiful, natural skin colour!

What would you advise to the teens out there that might also wish to become a professional athlete someday?

If you have a dream – keep taking the little steps towards achieving it – because you will! And you’ll look back at your hard work and accomplishments and learn from them and be so proud of your self for putting all those hours and sweat into it!

Photo: Julia Murray, FIS Freestyle World Ski Championships

Jen, Tanning, Women's Health, January 24th, 2012

New Year, New You

By Jen

At the start of every year the common trend seems to be to make resolutions only to forget them by the end of the week. True, quitting smoking or tanning may not be the easiest things in the world, but it’s vital to highlight the benefits you would get from achieving your goals.

Make 2012 a year of health conscience moves, to love yourself and the skin that you’re in. Maybe you want to limit the amount of times you check yourself in the mirror or to stop obsessing over how “pale” you look. Whatever your resolution is, let 2012 be a year to focus on you.

Typically, I find girls my age (and some guys!) complaining about how they resemble an “Edward Cullen” vampire figure. Yes, I have to admit he may be a tad pale but hey, that doesn’t stop him being incredibly gorgeous and winning every girl’s heart out there, does it? My point is that, the tone of your skin doesn’t define you, your character does!

Too often we get caught up in the media and the idea that tanned skin is beautiful or essential. Yes, there may be a lot of products and services out there that seem tempting for that “quick fix” for that achieving that bronzy glow, but there are many dangers that result from tanning. According to the World Health Organization , any use of indoor tanning equipment before the age of 35 has been found to increase the risk of melanoma cancer by 75%!

Baby steps.

Okay, we might not be able to wake up looking as godly as a Victoria Secret model or as gorgeous as Ryan Goseling, but we are beautiful and amazing in our own way! Instead of dwelling on things we can’t change, let’s start loving the skin we’re in.

Everyone at some point will struggle with image issues. Being self conscience or not feeling good enough is common, but the way you deal with those insecurities depict how strong you really are. Sure, fake tans may grant you a temporary satisfaction of “beauty” but who are we kidding? You’re basically hiding your own skin and wearing some temporary shell that the media has advertised as a “healthy glow”. Self confidence begins with acceptance of one’s true self and grows when you embrace yourself, flaws and all.

Fact! : The effects of tanning are irreversible and once your skin colour changes, it’s damaged which can lead to premature aging and even skin cancer.

Stay Motivated and make a plan.

REPLACE “I want” with “I WILL”

Will 2012 be the year that you cut the tanning visits and replace it with a gym membership? Maybe you want to stay more focused, active, and take better care of your health. Whatever goals you have, jot it down, stick it beside that tempting chocolate bar, or even by your computer to remind yourself of what you’re fighting for!

Fact: Melanoma skin cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer for people between the ages of 15-29 and it’s mostly preventable.

Make 2012 a year about YOU ! Whether it be to fit into that bridesmaid dress by March, or to quit the salon tanning sessions. Have a game plan, make reminders of all the benefits and stay focused because you WILL get there! Overcome those insecurities and avoid the tanning bed and start embracing your natural glow! Own your skin , love yourself, and achieve your goals!

Feel free to comment below to share your goals for 2012!

Until next time,

XOXO Jennifer Wu

Guest blogger, Tanning, Women's Health, December 7th, 2011

Sun Safety Tips for Heat Seeking Travellers

Winter is here and with that comes tropical holiday getaways for those heat seeking travellers. Heading somewhere tropical for the holidays is great – just remember to enjoy the sun safely this season! For advice on how to make the most of  your tropical getaway we asked Trish Friesen, Editor-In-Chief of, a daily travel lifestyle website dishing daily trip style tips to aspiring jetsetters. Trish eats, sleeps and breathes travel, packing her bag every two weeks for a wild adventure or sun-drenched hotspot. As a former tanner turned sun safe guru, Trish provides insight on how she regularly plays in the sun while still being safe about her skin.


Trish on a recent trip to Aruba

For those travellers heading to a tropical location and planning to lounge on the beach for a week or two, do you have any tips so that they can enjoy the sun safely?

Yes! Ease into the sun like it’s an old friend. You can’t expect to be BFFs right away, especially when you haven’t seen each other in awhile. In both cases, you could get burned!

1) Apply sunscreen before you leave your hotel room and don’t forget your ears, the tops of your feet or the skin around your armpit!

2) Always bring a beach or pool bag with you to lounge in the sun with a face and body screen for re-application, lip balm with spf, Evian mist to cool you down, sunglasses, a hat, and since we’re on the subject, your iPod and some reading material!

3) Sit under the shade of swaying palm or beach umbrella when the sun is most intense between 11am – 4pm. The late afternoon is my favourite part of the day to sit in the sun. There’s something so relaxing about lazily lounging into the evening watching the sunset.

Have you ever had a bad experience when travelling, where you wished you had planned ahead? A bad skin peeling sunburn or unsightly tan lines?

Yes, a few years ago I got badly burned on the first day of my trip to Maui. I applied a lot of sunscreen, but apparently not enough! For the next five days I had to wear my rash guard with UV protection and lie in the shade to let the burn heal properly. Needless to say, I had a brief error in judgement at the outset that impacted the rest of my tropical vacation. Fail. I’ve learned my lesson. If I’m in the sun on the first day of my tropical vacay, I reapply suncreen every hour.

Having what people call a ‘base tan’ doesn’t offer protection against skin damage or skin cancer. A base tan provides at most, SPF protection of about 2-4, yet many travelers think they need to hit the tanning beds before heading out for their tropical vacation. Do you have any suggestions for travelers wanting an alternative to a tan?

I made the tanning bed mistake in university. I guess I was still longing after the Baywatch, 90210 or OC glow! Since then, I have learned to embrace:

If you put it on right before your trip, it will give you that sun-kissed glow you are looking for.

Power bronzer for face is a tried-and-true tanning cheat.

Body Shimmer
There is also something beautiful about ‘winter’ skin {ie – skin that hasn’t seen the sun in months} enhanced by a lotion with a touch of sheen, or a silky glimmering body balm.

From Curacao to Bonaire

Stepping off the plane in Bonaire

For more tips from Trish, read our interview with her or visit

Women's Health, November 17th, 2011

Women’s Health Highlights

By Brittney Parks

For the month of October we launched our women’s health awareness campaign, What’s Your Game Plan?.

We encouraged women to be aware of three cancers (colorectal, breast and cervical), and to have a Game Plan to defend themselves, family members and friends against these cancers.

What should your Game Plan include:
• Know your body
• Check your family history
• Get screened and help find cancer early
• Make healthy choices

To help spread the word about women’s health and encourage all women to adopt a healthy lifestyle we worked with university communities, businesses and the general public throughout the province.

Here are a few photo highlights…

University of Victoria Undie Run

What’s Your Game Plan? briefs at ShoreRunners in Campbell River

Health and Wellness Fair at Simon Fraser University

For more photo visit us on at

Keep your game plan in mind throughout the year, beyond Women’s Health Awareness Month.

For more tips, check out our Women’s Health guest blog posts by Leah Munday, blogger for Trip Styler and Miranda Massie, blogger for Healthy UBC.

Guest blogger, Women's Health, November 1st, 2011

Staying Healthy on the Road

by Leah Munday

For the month of October, we launched our women’s health awareness campaign, What’s Your Game Plan? We encouraged women to have a game plan to defend against breast, cervical and colon cancer by taking 4 easy steps: know your body, check your family history, get screened and help fight cancer early, and make healthy choices. As October comes to an end, we hope you will keep your game plan in mind – at home and away!

To make healthy choices while travelling, a game plan is a great idea. Who better to give us tips on doing this than Leah Munday, owner of OTfit as well as health and wellness contributor to Vancouver-based – a travel lifestyle website providing daily trip style tips to aspiring jetsetters.

At Trip Styler, we choose to write a regular column about staying healthy on the road, because we believe in taking care of ourselves every day, whether at home or away. Healthy living isn’t just about exercise, it’s about making healthy lifestyle choices and treating yourself, others, and the environment well. Physical activity, balanced nutrition, and healthy thoughts/feelings are key components to living well.

You may already have, or be in the process of, adopting healthy lifestyle habits. Unfortunately, travelling has the potential to hinder our best efforts. On holiday, it’s tempting to toss aside our good habits with the rest of our daily routine. Your vacation destination may have a state of the art gym, or be within minutes of incredible walking paths, but without a game plan, there’s a good chance your sneakers won’t be laced up—or even packed, for that matter!

Here are some tips to help you prepare for a vacation which returns you home feeling refreshed and rejuvenated:

Do something physically active every day. Pace, intensity or activity type, it’s all up to you, just do what appeals most to you and get moving! It will lift your mood, reduce your stress and improve your sleep to name just a few of the many benefits.

Before setting off on your next trip, make a list of activities you could do at your destination. The goal is to engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate activity each day you are away, and then pack/plan accordingly. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Walk whenever you can. You will need more than flip flops, so pack your sneakers!
- Purchase a pedometer before you go and be conscious of gathering the recommended number of daily steps (10,000) over the course of your day (no need to do anything more).
- Choose excursions which involve physical activity.

Be Mindful
Be mindful of what you consume:
- Drink 8-10 glasses of water per day. Bring a water bottle and don’t forget to empty it before security!
- Pack snacks. I recommend packing nutritional bars with approximately 200 calories, fewer than 25 grams of sugar and at least 10 grams of protein. My favourite bar at the moment is Vega’s Whole Food Energy Bar. These are perfect for snacking on between meals.
- Eat a balanced breakfast (in a pinch, nutrition bars can be handy here too).
- When facing a buffet (think all-inclusive resorts and cruises), choose a smaller plate and fill half your plate with vegetables, a quarter with grain products and a quarter with meat or alternatives.

Time Out
Take time out to calm your mind. Emotional and spiritual wellness are very personal matters, but travelling can present some amazing opportunities for reflection and renewal. Wherever you find renewal, try going there for at least 20 minutes each day you are away. These 20 minutes will have a huge impact on every other hour of your trip, including your sleep. Consider bringing a journal to record some of your thoughts and reflections.

If your next trip involves a game plan that includes physical activity, healthy eating and mindfulness, you will be better equipped to handle the daily challenges waiting to greet you when the trip is over. Keep these habits up when you get home and your overall health will soar!


Looking for more great advice to stay healthy while jetsetting? Check out our interview with Trish Friesen, Editor-In-Chief of!

Guest blogger, Women's Health, October 28th, 2011

Do You Have a Game Plan?

by Miranda Massie, Guest Post

October is Women’s Health Awareness month and as it wraps up, Miranda Massie, blogger for Healthy UBC, shares her game plan with us. In her latest post she asked her readers, “Do you have a game plan?” We hope this encourages you to take steps like Miranda did and possibly, hold yourself accountable to it – in other words – making it happen!

On a daily basis we are bombarded by research in the media with respect to practically every aspect of our mental and physical wellbeing. With each passing day there is something else out there that will kill us, give us cancer or leach radiation into our brains. While I am not dismissing these claims as false or ill-intentioned, sometimes, I just stop listening. It is important to be aware of new information being discovered but it is perhaps more important to transform this awareness into lifelong habits that could potentially save our lives.

The promotion of this type of lifestyle behaviour change is something I feel the Canadian Cancer Society is really trying to touch on with their latest campaign: the Women’s Health What’s Your Game Plan? Campaign. It encourages women to become active participants in their own health and in protecting themselves against 3 types of cancer that account for 40% of all new cases: Colorectal, breast and cervical. The campaign encourages women to set a game plan based on the following:

Know your body

Check your family history

Get screened to help with early detection

Make healthy choices

We supposedly have the most accountability to ourselves when we set a goal and write it out by hand. This takes the idea out of our mind and makes it tangible and more attainable. You can now all be witnesses to my game plan (I typed it but I think it will still work!):

I will try to be more aware of changes that I notice within my body and will be sure to see a doctor if they persist or worry me. I am aware of a family history of colon cancer and intend to follow the suggested age guidelines for when I will need my first screening. I will continue to get my annual PAP test to help protect me against cervical cancer and I will continue to strive to maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle that includes getting enough veggies, sleep and exercise.

So, what is your game plan?

My plan took me about 2 minutes to write and already I feel as if I have taken a step in the right direction with respect to my health. I am feeling the mental benefits already and providing I stick with it, I am hopeful the physical benefits will follow.





Miranda is blogger for the Healthy UBC Blog, as well as an Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) Clerk in Health Promotion Programs at UBC. Miranda feels passionate about inspiring people to become active participants in their own health. To view more of Miranda’s blog posts visit the Healthy UBC Blog.