Cancer Survivors Belly Dancing Together

By: Kristine Alarcon

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In Charlottesville, Virginia, women cancer survivors are belly dancing together at the My Body Raqs class. The belly dancing class was created specifically for cancer survivors to help them cope with movement through gentle dance. Any cancer survivor is welcome after treatment and diagnosis as no dance experience is required and the class is free.

Jenner LaFleur is the program director and a two-time breast cancer survivor. During her recovery from her surgery after chemotherapy, radiation, and mastectomy, she hoped to combine her experience with cancer and her passion for dance. LaFleur hoped to restore confidence and strength in survivors and ultimately help them feel more like themselves again.

The first series of the My Body Raqs class is from May 7-June 25. There other sessions planned from September-October and January-February.

Kristine Alarcon graduated at the University of San Francisco with a Bachelors of Science in Biology. She is working towards certification in Sterile Processing and Distribution. She is a Social Media Assistant at Cancer InCytes Magazine.


“Cancer Survivor Helping Other Survivors Recover with Dance.” NBC 29. Retrieved on May 9, 2015.

Photo Credit: (NBC29)

Cancer Survivor Story: The Cards She Wished She Got

By: Kristine Alarcon


When Emily McDowell was 24-years-old, she survived Stage 3 Hodgkin’s lymphoma after nine months of radiation and chemo before going into remission.

With a background in design, Emily McDowell launched “Empathy Cards” when she was 38-years-old. She started this project to say the things she wanted to hear when she was ill. As she was undergoing treatment, the hardest thing for her was isolation and loneliness. Her family and friends were at a loss for words and sometimes expressed things that were hurtful even though they were not meant to be. The greeting cards are meant to find better ways for families, friends, and patients communication with each other whether it is mental illness, chronic illness, cancer, etc.

The Empathy Cards have a minimalist style with bright colors and a homey feel. McDowell hopes that the cards allow people to connect and that those who receive the cards feel that they are loved, understood, and seen.

Kristine Alarcon is a senior at the University of San Francisco working towards a Bachelors of Science in Biology. She is a Social Media Assistant at Cancer InCytes Magazine.


Hohenadel, Kristin. “A Cancer Survivor Designs the Cards She Wishes She’d Received From Friends and Family.” Slate. Retrieved on May 9, 2015.

Photo Credit: (McDowell, Emily)



Adverse Childhood Experiences and Health: Heart Disease, Lung Cancer, Depression


By: Kristine Alarcon

On the TEDMED stage, Dr. Nadine Burke Harris quoted Dr. Robert Block saying, “Adverse childhood experiences are the single greatest unaddressed public health threat facing our nation today.”

Dr. Harris’s career as a pediatrician changed once she discovered research conducted by Dr. Vince Felitti and Dr. Bob Anda called the “Adverse Childhood Experience Study.” The research focused on ACEs, which are adverse childhood experiences. ACEs include domestic violence, parental mental illness, parental separation, neglect (physically, emotionally, or sexually), or physical, emotional, and/or sexual abuse.

The 17,500 adults were each given a point for each traumatic experience and points were added up to create their ACE sore. The participants’ health outcomes were then studied and correlated with the ACE scores. Dr. Harris was surprised that ACEs were so common as there were at least 67% of the research pool that experienced one ACE and 12.6% who experienced four or more ACEs. Those who scored four or more, in comparison to those with an ACE score of zero, were more than twice as likely to develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), had twice the risk of hepatitis, quadruple the risk of depression, and twelve times as likely to be suicidal. For those who had an ACE score of seven or more, they had triple the risk of lung cancer and were more than three times as likely to develop the leading cause of death in the United States, ischemic heart disease.

This is not just a problem in poor and underserved areas but everyone can be affected. The ACE study involved college educated people and Caucasians. Anyone can be affected by the overactive and constant stress responses that are caused by the adverse childhood experiences. It is especially important to treat the issue in the youth. Their immune systems, hormonal system, DNA processing, and brain formation and functioning can be impaired by the stress.

One step that Dr. Harris has started to drive the movement to bring attention to ACEs is by opening the Center for Youth Wellness in San Francisco, CA. There, she can provide preventative measures and even treat and heal the stress and impacts associated with ACEs. Some methods to do so are with holistic interventions, mental health care, home visits, and much more.

Kristine Alarcon is a senior at the University of San Francisco working towards a Bachelors of Science in Biology. She is a Social Media Assistant at Cancer InCytes Magazine.


Oran, Nicole. “Childhood trauma triples chances of heart disease and lung cancer in adulthood.” MedCity News.  Date Accessed, 1 May 2015.

Photo Credit: (TEDMED)




Native American Women: Child Abuse, Prostitution, Trauma, Medical Problems

By David H. Nguyen, Ph.D.

Native_American_little_girl_at_Celilo_Falls_(3229174441)An article from 2011 highlighting the plight of Native American women in Minnesota who were prostitutes reveals the ugly side of prostitution. The abuse these women endure leaves with them PTSD, brain damage, and drug addictions (1). Cancer InCytes focuses on the healthcare needs of disadvantaged populations in order to raise awareness, spread information, and learn about the links between childhood trauma and cancer.

Arthur Michalek, Ph.D., an expert on cancer disparities for several decades, wrote an article for Cancer InCytes about the disproportionate rates of cancer in Native American women in the United States (2). Childhood trauma is associated with many chronic diseases during adulthood, which is a public health concern for children who are coerced into sexual slavery (3). Since childhood trauma also associated with the risk for developing cancer during adulthood (4, 5), the reasons behind the high cancer rates in Native Americans becomes clearer.

Quotes from Leslie Bennett’s “Native American Nightmare.”

Conducted by the nonprofit Minnesota Indian Women’s Sexual Assault Coalition and the San Francisco–based Prostitution Research & Education, the study is based on interviews with more than 100 Native women. “Before this, nobody had ever done research speaking with Native American women used in prostitution and trafficking,” says Nicole Matthews, executive director of the coalition.

The report, released today, found that 92 percent of the women had been raped, 84 percent were physically assaulted, and 72 percent suffered traumatic brain injuries in prostitution. Almost all the women—98 percent—were either currently or previously homeless. Seventy-nine percent of the women interviewed said they had been sexually abused as children by an average of four perpetrators.

Nearly half the women in the study had been used by more than 200 sex buyers, and 16 percent had been used by at least 900 sex buyers. At the time of their interviews, 52 percent of the women had posttraumatic-stress syndrome, a rate comparable to that of combat veterans. Seventy-one percent manifested symptoms of dissociation. “There’s times I’d walk around in a space-out because when I stop and think about reality, I break down and can’t handle it,” one woman said.

Most of the prostitutes had sought help for their problems, with 80 percent using outpatient substance-abuse services, 77 percent using homeless shelters, 65 using domestic-violence services, and 33 percent using sexual-assault services.

Although 92 percent of the women said they wanted to escape prostitution, the study reported that “there are currently few or no available services especially designed for Native American women in prostitution.”


1. Leslie Bennetts. “Native American Nightmare.” The Daily Beast. October 27, 2011. Accessed July 19, 2014


2. Arthur Michalek. “Cancer in Native Americans in the U.S.” Cancer InCytes. Volume 2, Issue 1, Summer 2013.


3. Vincent Felitti. “Childhood Trauma Linked to Chronic Diseases in Adulthood.” Cancer InCytes. Volume 2, Issue 1, Summer 2013.


4. Monique J. Brown, Leroy R. Thacker, Steven A. Cohen. “Association between Adverse Childhood Experiences and Diagnosis of Cancer.”PLoS ONE 2013, 8(6): e65524


5. Michelle Kelly-Irving, Benoit Lepage, Dominique Dedieu, et al. “Childhood adversity as a risk for cancer: findings from the 1958 British birth cohort study.” BMC Public Health 2013, 13:767



David H. Nguyen, Ph.D., is Editor-in-Chief of Cancer InCytes magazine. He is a tumor biologist interested in the links between childhood trauma and cancer. He studies both the biological and cultural components of cancer.

Image by OSU Special Collections & Archives : Common from Wikimedia Commons.

Surviving Both Human Trafficking and Cancer – Chong Kim’s Story

Cancer InCytes magazine highlights the deep intersections between public health and social justice. Our upcoming December, 2013 issue will feature double-survivor stories of victims of human trafficking who also survived cancer. Their stories highlight how cancer and social injustice are intertwined. Here is an excerpt. Stay tuned!

Neither Height nor Depth, nor Hot, nor Cold

By Chong Kim

Cancer InCytes Magazine. Volume 2, Issue 2, Winter, 2013

She was hung from a hook and beaten. This was Chong Kim’s life as a victim of human trafficking. She was stuffed in a storage locker in the sweltering heat. She was tied in a bath tub full of ice, while her teeth were plucked, rendered from her mouth. This was the torture Chong overcame to become the cherished survivor and advocate that she is today. Having lived through the abuse, she now lives with the many medical problems that resulted from it – including a brush with cervical cancer. Her courage is an inspiration to many. Her story was the basis of the 2012 feature length film Abduction of Eden. Chong is now on a crusade to educate health care, legal, and law enforcement professionals about human trafficking: How to stop it, and how to help those recovering from it.