Summer Running: See a movie, save a life

Olympia Dukakis said in Steel Magnolias something like, "If you don't have anything nice to say, come sit by me."

I have some distant relatives who complain about everything. "My ankles are swollen. I look like Starr Jones." "My back is killing me from all the years I worked in the fields to feed you ungrateful kids." "I have a hangnail, and now it's bleeding like a sacrificial lamb."

I wonder how these relatives would respond if they heard Christa Slotboom, a Charlottesville wife and mother of three, say, "I'm 39 weeks pregnant, and I've just been diagnosed with breast cancer. So what's for lunch, girls?"

Women under the age of 40 have a 1 in 235 risk of getting breast cancer; for those 40-59 years old it's 1 in 25; for 60-79-year-olds it's 1 in 15. A woman's overall lifetime risk is 1 in 8. Unfortunately, Christa was 34 years old and carrying her third child when she became 1 of the 235.

Though heart disease is the #1 killing disease in women, the #1 for sheer fear is breast cancer. Breasts are a huge part of how many women value themselves. If you don't believe me, think about why Pamela Anderson Lee, Anna Nicole Smith, and Marilyn Manson (breast implant phase) are so popular.

Breasts are associated with femininity and womanhood. Do you think Marilyn Monroe would have been a sex icon in a AAA bra? Even skater Kristi Yamaguchi was rumored to have had implants, which explains why she tips over now when she does a layback spin.

Cancer is also a scary word (I pity people born under the Zodiac sign of the crab!). But folks, it's out there! I have heard many women rationalize why they don't do their breast self-exams or get mammograms.

"Oh, well, I don't have any family history of breast cancer." "I have had a baby, so I'm at lower risk." "My Victoria's Secret push-up bra protects me; the under-wire deflects negative energy."

In reality, only 10 percent of women with breast cancer have a family history of the disease. In Christa's case, her half-sister had breast cancer at the age of 32. Christa has the BRCA1 gene that's linked to breast cancer. Women who have had a baby before the age of 30 might have a lower risk of breast cancer, but not by a whole lot. And as far as the Victoria's Secret bra...

Early detection of breast cancer saves lives. I believe Canadian studies are wrong when they say routine mammograms don't save lives. With lumpectomies as an option for some women, having breast cancer doesn't make a mastectomy a fait accompli. And reconstructive surgery can do wonders for those who do face a mastectomy. There are options for women with breast cancer (yes, men can get breast cancer, too), and so early detection can be life-saving.

Christa is Charlottesville's Barbara Stanwyck and Eleanor Roosevelt rolled into one. She underwent a year of surgeries, chemotherapy sessions, and radiation treatments while raising her children and running the household. In comparison, Paris Hilton would be so dead.

Christa is in Scott MacTavish's documentary, Summer Running, premiering locally to raise money for breast cancer research. "Summer Running, had me a blast, Summer Running, happened so fast..."

Summer Shin is a woman with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis who runs through her pain to raise money for breast cancer research. She is Norma Rae and Sigourney Weaver rolled into one. I can't get most of my patients with intact joints to even walk up a flight of stairs for exercise.

Come to the Paramount or call and make your donation to raise money for breast cancer research. I have.

Summer Running Film Premiere Gala– A Benefit for Breast Cancer Research happens Saturday, June 25 at the Paramount. 7pm (doors open 6pm). $50 ($20 for screening only). 979-1333x3.