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Franklin Students Raise Breast Cancer Awareness

Two Franklin High School students are leading an effort through October to raise awareness about the disease.

It's not easy for Benjamin Franklin High School Senior Vanessa Zenteno to talk about breast cancer.

On Friday afternoon, she fights through tears as she talks about losing her grandmother to the disease a decade ago.

"Me and her had this special type of bond, I was closer to her than anybody," Zenteno said.

She remembers being picked up early from school by her mother, being taken to the hospital, and then being taken from her grandmother's room as she wept at the sight of the machines that were being used to keep her alive.

And, she remembers being told the next day that her grandmother had "gone to heaven." 

She also remembers that there was never any conversation about why her grandmother was in the hospital.

"My grandma, she didn't want to tell anybody anything, she just wanted to keep it to herself because she didn't want anybody to worry about it," Zenteno said.

But despite those difficult memories, perhaps even because of them, Zenteno is now committed to making sure her peers do talk about breast cancer.

Though breast cancer awareness has peaked in recent years, the disease remains a major threat, especially to Hispanic women.

According to the National Cancer Institute, Hispanic women die of the disease at a higher rate than non-Hispanic white women.

Their studies indicate that a lack of early detection may be a cause, as Hispanic women are more likely to be diagnosed after their breast cancer has progressed to a more advanced stage than non-Hispanic white women.

Zenteno and classmate Vanessa Castillo, who are students in teacher Natalie Esber's peer leadership class, are leading an effort to spark conversation about breast cancer among their classmates throughout Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

It's not always easy, they say.

"People make a lot of jokes about it," Castillo said. "They say that if you hit a girl in the boobs, she'll get breast cancer."

Added Zenteno, "people it as a joke, and its not a joke. No form of cancer is a joke."

Their efforts are modest. At lunch, they'll host games like musical chairs or pumpkin tosses. Students who wear pink can participate in the games and be eligible to win prizes.

It's resulted in more than a few Franklin students sporting pink to school, even some members of the football team.

And, they say, it's gotten a few more classmates talking.

"We want to do more than just get them to wear pink, we want to let them know why it's important," Zenteno said.

Natalie October 29, 2012 at 01:06 AM
I am VERY proud of my two Vanessas who I jokingly call "V2" (squared) It's hard to promote something that is unpopular as breast cancer but they stepped up and all of my leadership class beame a little more aware! We will continue to have discussions to raise awareness about early detection. Go Panthers!
Olivia Yanez-Richkarday October 29, 2012 at 03:30 AM
I'm sure that was a very hard thing to discuss about a great woman who was a loving grandmother and also a secondary parent to my cousin Vanessa Zenteno. I am proud also to her for bringing this situation to light. Our grandmother was a very strong but yet a proud woman whom preferred to not let her weakness show but it did in turn got the best of her and was taken from us too soon. This disease is not something to be quiet about and it has greatly affected our family, especially the future generation.

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