June 8, 2001

Stepping out for cancer awareness

By Elizabeth Campos Rajs
Newsline staff writer

More than 100 employees -- including about 25 cancer survivors -- laced up their tennis shoes and lathered on the sunscreen for a good cause Tuesday as participants in the Lab's first cancer awareness walk.

The walkers assembled at noon near Health Services and wound their way through the eastern portion of the Laboratory to finish the walk near the Lab pool area.

The purpose of the 15-minute trek was to increase awareness about cancer and to show support for cancer survivors during National Cancer Survivor Month. The walk was the kick-off event for the Lab's monthlong Cancer Awareness Campaign organized by employee networking groups.

"We wanted a campaign that shared information at the 'real person' level. We know we're a world class research institution that has pulled together some of the most brilliant scientists ever, but every once in awhile we need activities that help us feel something inside and not just see it in a chart graph," campaign chairman Mark Costella told the crowd after the walk.

"So we went forth with the heart in mind as we sought out speakers and events," he said. "If we can reach just one person and it helps them live a longer, healthier life, all the work that has gone into this project has been put to good use."

Ted Michels, principal deputy associate director for Computation, also spoke to the crowd following the walk.

"I thought it was a great kick-off event. It was a very enthusiastic crowd," he said.

Michels told the crowd on Tuesday, "While you may not be directly affected by cancer, it does touch everyone in one way or another." His mother passed away 10 years ago from cancer.

In addition to the walk, the campaign features seven talks ranging from new research weapons in the fight against cancer to drugs, diet and alternative medicine. There will also be a survivors panel featuring six Lab employees who have beaten the disease. The campaign will culminate with a DDLS talk by nationally recognized breast cancer researcher Dr. Susan Love on July 10.

Next week's scheduled talks are:
• Jim Felton of Biology and Biotechnology Research Program will present, "BBRP Research into Mutagens in the Food We Eat," on Tuesday, June 12, at noon in the Bldg. 361 auditorium. Felton, who is the division leader for the Molecular and Structural Biology Group, will discuss the long-term project to examine the amounts of the chemicals in foods and their effects in a variety of biological test systems.

• Dr. Cherie Evans, chief medical officer of the American Red Cross Blood Services in Northern California, will discuss, "When the Disease Can Be Cured But the Treatment Could Kill You: The Role of 'Stem Cells' in the Treatment of Cancer," on Thursday, June 14, at noon in the Bldg. 543 auditorium. Evans, who is also the chair of the Medical-Technical Advisory Committee of the Blood Centers of California, will talk about the use of chemotherapy to treat cancer and what happens when it also destroys the cells in bone marrow that produce the cellular element of blood.

At each of the talks, there will be a quilt display commemorating breast cancer victims, survivors and caregivers by Susan Gray of the Raging Lights Breast Cancer Quilt Project.

Inspired by that quilt and the awareness campaign, members of the Lab's quilt group, Piecemakers, are now putting together a quilt to honor cancer survivors and victims. This quilt will commemorate LLNL employees, their families, and friends.

If you, a family member, or a friend are a cancer survivor or have a family member or friend who has died from cancer and you would like to honor them with a quilt patch, contact Penny Pennington, 2-1787, pennington2 [at] llnl.gov ( ) .

Also as part of the awareness campaign, employees who are participating in the Avon 3-Day Walk for Breast Cancer Research in July will be at each event to chat with fellow employees about their upcoming fund-raising event.

"Cancer has no eyes for race, age, sex, sexual orientation or any of the other factors which people hide behind to proclaim their exemption," Costella said. "We are promoting this campaign as first of all, a forum to provide awareness opportunities to employees of the Laboratory and secondly, to bring together all employees on a universal issue."

Employee networking groups participating in the campaign include American Indian Activities Group, Amigos Unidos Hispanic Activity Group, Asian Pacific American Council, Association of Black Laboratory Employees, Health Transitions for Women Committee, Lab Women's Association, Lab Veterans Association, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Association and Piecemakers.

Laboratory programs supporting the effort include the Affirmative Action & Diversity Program, Energy & Environment Directorate, Safety, Security and Environmental Protection, Physics & Advanced Technologies, Biology & Biotechnology Research Program, Chemistry and Material Sciences, National Ignition Facility Programs, NAI, Computation, Engineering and the Director's Office.

For more information on the events, contact Mark Costella at 2-8999 or costella2 [at] llnl.gov ( ) .