BRCAn't Stop Me focuses on cancer education

By Samantha Mosley | 11/2/16 8:31pm

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GVL / Courtesy - BRCAn't Stop Me

by BRCAn't Stop Me / Grand Valley Lanthorn

Nearly 40 percent of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point during their lifetimes, according to the National Cancer Institute. Thousands of people face this often unpredictable disease, but a student-run group at Grand Valley State University is working to spread knowledge on hereditary cancers.

GVSU’s BRCAn’t Stop Me is the first college organization in the nation to focus on education of the BRCA gene mutation and the prevention of BRCA-related cancers.

The group was founded in 2013 by GVSU alumnae Mollie Smith in an effort to provide a space for awareness and support for those affected by the BRCA gene the hereditary cancers that often follow.

The BRCA gene mutation can affect men and women alike, and it increases the likelihood of hereditary cancers like breast or ovarian cancer.

Co-presidents Nicole Cervin and Malayna Hasmanis both draw on the motto “knowledge is power" when it comes to talking about cancer.

“When I got tested I was nervous, thinking is this going to be looming over my head all the time,” Hasmanis said.

Finding out about the presence of this mutation, Hasmanis said, does not have to be scary.

Being proactive in your health and prevention of these cancers, she said, involves healthy eating, adequate exercise and a closer look into family history and genetics.

“I think that often times, especially because we’re young, we take for granted our health,” Hasmanis said. “It’s really empowering to be aware of what’s happening with your health and to take charge of that.”

BRCAn’t Stop Me helps students and community members of the group to take steps toward better health with educational events like their recent screening of "Pink and Blue: Colors of Hereditary Cancer" Sunday, Oct. 27.

The documentary focuses on men and women living with a BRCA gene mutation and the subsequent hereditary cancers, which featured interviews with Smith and her family.

Additionally, this spring the group will hold their yearly philanthropic and exercise-driven event “Zumba for a Cure.” The event raises money for hereditary cancer research and the nonprofit organization Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered (FORCE).

Other events include educational seminars, a "pink pumpkin" sale for breast cancer and “Turning the Women’s Center Teal” to raise awareness on ovarian cancer, among many other outreach initiatives.

“One of our goals is to turn something that can be very scary and into something really helpful and educational,” Cervin said.

Membership to BRCAn’t Stop Me are open and encouraged to the greater Grand Rapids community beyond GVSU's campus.

“We want to bring awareness to the community about overcoming something that might be very challenging,” Cervin said. “We try to make people feel comfortable and let them know they have a support system behind them.”

BRCAn’t Stop Me holds twice-monthly meetings, every other Tuesday at 9:15 p.m. in Kirkhof Center Room 2264.

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