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Walk Against Cancer Builds Bridges

Event aims to bring awareness to Latinos who may face language challenges when it comes to health outreach and awareness, as well as barriers to medical care and preventive medicine.

On Mother’s Day weekend, Sandy Ramirez participated in a two-mile walk against cancer in memory of her own mom, who lost her battle with colon cancer last year.

“Cancer really doesn't affect you unless you've gone through it, either physically or emotionally with a loved one,” she said. “And people don't normally think about it until it really affects them personally, so it wasn't really anything that we considered or thought about until it really hit home.”

Ysabel Duron, founder and executive director of Latinas Contra Cancer, said more than 350 people attended the walk. Participants who gathered at Alviso’s Marina County Park on Saturday morning chose to do so for reasons similar to Sandy Ramirez—some were cancer survivors, others knew someone who had lost their lives to the disease.

Walk Against Cancer is in its eighth year. More than 2,000 people have participated, according to Duron. It was created to raise awareness about cancer in the Latino community—one in five Latino deaths are caused by cancer, second only to heart disease. 

The “Mother's Day Walk Against Cancer” was organized by nonprofit Latinas Contra Cancer, which translates to Latinas Against Cancer. According to the county public health department, cancer was the leading cause of death in Santa Clara County in 2008, followed by heart disease. In the county’s most populous city of San Jose, Latinos comprise a third of the nearly 1 million residents, and, in Alviso, 75 percent of the population.

“Our No. 1 goal is always to raise awareness in the Latino community about cancer and for them to not be afraid of the word,” said Duron, also a survivor. In 1998, she recovered from Hodgkin's lymphoma, a cancer that tends to occur in the nymph tissue and lymph nodes. 

“We want to bring people together to show they’re not alone and raise money for our outreach to educate the community,” she said. 

After the walk, the participants, wearing yellow T-shirts that read, “Healthy Eating, Healthy Living, Healthy Environment Campaign & Our Annual Walk Against Cancer” visited the health fair with vendor booths and exhibits.

The largest exhibit in the event was a 20-foot tunnel shipped from Washington, D.C., that displayed the insides of a healthy colon and a cancerous colon. Colon cancer is ranked in the top two or three leading cancers in the U.S. It is a preventable cancer, yet less than 43 percent of people are not screened. The ethnicities most at risk for this cancer are African-Americans, Latinos and Asians. 

“People have the power to prevent this with exercise, diet, getting screened, stopping tobacco and alcohol intake,” said Janet Hudson, manager of exhibit services for the Prevent Cancer Foundation. “Those are all powerful components of what’s available to you as an individual, but you have to advocate for you and your family.”

Since 2005, the "super colon" has traveled to more than 250 towns and states across the country and has been seen by more than 2.3 million people. Before arriving in Alviso, the event was held in Oregon. The event will travel next to Los Angeles for the nation’s largest Cinco de Mayo festival.

The walk previously took place in downtown San Jose but was moved to Alviso this year to bring it closer to the local residents in the area. There are about 1,700 individuals living in Alviso, and, according to the American Community Survey 2005-2009, the median household income (in 2009 inflation-adjusted dollars) was $51,425 and per capita income (in 2009 inflation-adjusted dollars) was $27,041. 

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