The Journey: Defying Gravity

On March 10, 2008, Comcast’s Vice President of Talent and Leadership Initiatives, Grace Killelea, joined an audience of nearly 1,000 people being inspired by Mary White’s acceptance speech at the WICT New York Chapter Wonder Woman luncheon. Little more than a year later, Mary would be part of what inspired Grace to publicly commit to an incredible personal journey that would take her, and others, further than they could have imagined.

In an email dated March 8, 2009 Grace wrote "This week another fantastic woman I know died of breast cancer. In the past 90 days, five women I know personally have either been diagnosed, had surgery or had a recurrence of the disease. I am angry... I have decided to channel my anger and energy into doing something proactive." Two days earlier, Mary White, the former president of Charter Communications Central Division, had died from breast cancer at the age of 46.

The step Grace took was to register for the "Breast Cancer 3-Day", which benefits "Susan G. Komen for the Cure" and the "National Philanthropic Trust Breast Cancer Fund". Grace set out to raise $5,000 before the October 16-18 walk in Philadelphia. She met her goal within 24 hours and raised it to $10,000.

She soon formed “Team Defy Gravity” with many familiar cable faces including Deborah Buhles, Sherita Ceasar, Jodi Friedman, Darlene Chapman-Holmes, Carabeth Ott, Suzy Persutti, Laurie Root, Colleen Rooney, Kim Woodworth, Elaine Yarbrough and others. The group includes four breast cancer survivors.

Team Defy Gravity

Team Defy Gravity quickly exceeded the new goal of $10,000, then $20,000 and Grace realized “Oh, I need to get a bigger dream.” Soon a donation of $640 was made by a friend who Grace had supported through a breast cancer diagnosis. That donation brought the team to $30,000.

In her blog she titled “Fat Girl Walking”, Grace documented the “unbelievable generosity” of her supporters and the diversity of her team. “Women in our 30's-40's-50's and 60"s. We are tall, thin, short, fat, mom's, not moms, every color of the rainbow, we don't all love the same, pray the same, live the same way....Yet here we are. We are bold, brave, sassy, unexpected, courageous, survivors, leaders, friends, sisters.”

Grace explained that every advancement in breast cancer research, treatment, education and prevention in the last 25 years has been touched by a “Komen for the Cure” grant. “They are working hard to build a future without breast cancer, to help bring us closer to the cure. Without a cure, one in eight women in the U.S. will continue to be diagnosed with breast cancer. That’s why I’m walking in the 3-Day. Because everyone deserves a lifetime.”

Team Defy Gravity raised $98,924 and completed this journey on October 18, with family and friends at Philadelphia historic Navy Yard. 

Read more about Team Defy Gravity at Grace’s blog.

 Mentoring Corner

For the Mentor: Leveraging Electronic Communications to Mentor Technical Women Across the College-to-Work Divide
MentorNet (10/01/09)

Mentors seeking to mentor young, technically skilled women may want to contact MentorNet, the National Electronic Industrial Mentoring Network for Women in Engineering and Science, which links college-age female technical talent with mentors in industry. The mentoring is conducted via email.

For the Mentee: Most Successful Women Have More Than One Mentor
Clarion University (09/25/09)

Mentees may want to consider developing relationships with more than one mentor. According to a study by Clarion University Professor Miguel Olivas-Lujan, most successful women have more than one mentor.

Abstract News by INFORMATION, INC.

 WICT Buzz

Breast Cancer Incident Rates by Race

The National Cancer Institute has identified different rates of breast cancer according to race:

Source: National Cancer Institute, 2009

 WICT 30: 30 Things You Should Know About Breast Cancer

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, dedicated to increasing awareness of the importance of early breast cancer detection. Here are thirty things you should know about breast cancer: 

1. Clinical breast exams are as important as mammograms. Mammograms starting at age 40 are crucial (earlier if you have a family history of the disease), but they’re an imperfect screening tool. That’s why an annual clinical breast exam from a doctor is a must.

2. Breast self-exams really can help. You become familiar with what’s "normal" for your breasts, so when something’s off, you’ll know and can bring it to your doctor’s attention.

3. The third Friday in October of each year is National Mammography Day, first proclaimed by President Clinton in 1993. On this day, or throughout the month, radiologists provide free or discounted screening mammograms, and women are encouraged to make a mammography appointment.

4. Don’t panic if you get called for a mammogram “redo” or have calcifications. Many women over 40 have calcium deposits (calcifications), and most of them are benign.

5. Active women are less likely to develop breast cancer. Regular exercise has consistently been associated with a lower risk of breast cancer. A new study from the University of South Carolina suggests that women with high aerobic fitness levels have a 55% lower chance of dying from breast cancer than their less-fit peers.

6. Being overweight is riskiest after menopause. When it comes to breast cancer, it’s the postmenopausal body fat that is one of the most significant sources of estrogen.

7. Steer clear of soy supplements. Soy contains isoflavones, which can act like estrogen in your body and potentially stimulate the growth of certain types of breast cancer.

8. Lumpy breasts don’t mean a higher risk of cancer. Many women have cysts in their breasts that fluctuate, but these types of cysts don’t typically lead to cancer.

9. Pain isn’t usually a sign of breast cancer. More common warning signs of breast cancer include a palpable lump, a change in the size or shape, puckering of the skin, changes (like scaling or discharge), or increased warmth—changes you should bring to your doctor’s attention ASAP.

10. Women with very dense breasts are four times more likely to develop breast cancer. Since mammograms aren’t as effective at detecting cancer in very dense breasts, MRI scans or ultrasounds plus mammograms may be a better course of action.

11. Breast cancer risk is not 1 in 8 for all women. That stat applies to lifetime risk, assuming you live to 85 or beyond. At age 40, the average woman has a 1 in 69 chance of getting breast cancer in the next 10 years; at 50, the risk rises to 1 in 42; at 60, it’s 1 in 29; and at 70, it’s 1 in 27.

12. A family history doesn’t mean you’ll definitely get it. Only about 20% to 30% of people who develop breast cancer have a family history of the disease.

13. If it’s caught very early, breast cancer has more than a 90% survival rate in the U.S.

14. Many factors affect your risk. Family history isn’t the only thing that matters: Other factors come into play, including if or when you have children and how active you are. Discuss all the details of your medical history with your doctor to ensure you’re getting the right screenings at the right time.

15. A father or brother with prostate or colon cancer can raise your risk. These are signs of possible BRCA1 or 2 mutations, a gene mutation that can run on your Father’s side.

16. Get an MRI and a mammogram. Both will increase the odds of picking up small tumors in women who are at high risk. However, an MRI should only be ordered under the care of a breast specialist.

17. If you have the BRCA1 or 2 mutations, removing your ovaries lowers your risk by nearly 50%.

18. Taking certain medications can lower the chances of developing the disease. Tamoxifen and raloxifene are drugs that can block estrogen’s ability to promote breast cancer.

19. Breast cancer is not a single disease. There are different types of breast cancer with different causes. Among the primary ones: estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancers, whose growth is fueled by the hormone estrogen; HER-2-positive breast cancers, which contain a protein called HER-2/neu; and triple-negative breast cancers, which don’t have receptors for estrogen, progesterone or HER-2.

20. Chemotherapy isn’t always a given. These days, doctors do genetic profiling on a breast cancer tumor to gauge a woman’s risk of a recurrence. If chances are low, doctors may not advise chemotherapy.

21. Women who consume even a few drinks of alcohol per week raise their risk for breast cancer. Scientists aren’t sure why; it may be that alcohol raises estrogen levels or interacts with carcinogens.

22. There is evidence that vitamin D helps protect against several types of cancer, including breast cancer.

23. A mammogram can detect cancer up to 4 years before a woman would notice a sign herself.

24. More women get breast cancer than any other cancer.

25. Your risk of getting breast cancer increases as you get older.

26. Breast size is not related to cancer risk.  While examining and screening larger breasts takes more time and attention, large breasts are at no higher risk than small breasts of developing breast cancer.

27. Most experts recommend mammography for decreasing breast cancer risk, yet mammograms are an imperfect test.  Breast thermograms, which evaluate blood flow and heat, may help to pick up early changes that may lead to breast cancer.

28. There are several treatment options for breast cancer including hormonal therapies, immunotherapies and new chemotherapeutic agents as well as cutting-edge research protocols. 

29. Women are a 100 times more likely to develop breast cancer than men.

30. Get your folate, the water-soluble B vitamin that is found in leafy green vegetables, beans and fortified cereals. While experts say that an overall healthy diet may help prevent breast cancer, a growing body of research suggests that getting enough folate ) may help mitigate the increased risk associated with drinking alcohol.