Healthy Living in the North

Tough Enough to Wear Pink in the Kispiox Valley

If you’ve been to a rodeo in the recent past, you may have noticed some cowboys and cowgirls dressed in pink. And if you found yourself at the Kispiox Valley Rodeo last summer, you definitely would have noticed someone at the centre of those pink cowboys and cowgirls. New Hazelton’s Sarah Lazzarotto, in her sixth year of fundraising, surpassed $15,000 in total fundraising dollars for cancer care in the Bulkley Valley.

Girl hugging horse

Sarah and a faithful Tough Enough to Wear Pink companion.

I had the chance to chat with Sarah about this achievement and two of her passions: rodeo and cancer care fundraising.

What inspired you to start fundraising for cancer care in the Bulkley Valley?

When I was eight years old, my older sister was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She was 10 at the time and had to spend a lot of time in Vancouver initially for treatment. I didn’t get to see much of her for a while so it meant a lot to me that she was able to get her follow-up treatments at the cancer care clinic in Smithers.

Treatment for my sister’s cancer was successful and my family stayed involved in raising awareness and funds for cancer research and treatment. We would have a team in the local Relay for Life every year but that event was always scheduled at the same time as the rodeo, which is something I love and was involved with at the time! So I asked myself, how can I stay involved in rodeo and get involved in cancer fundraising? I learned about the Tough Enough to Wear Pink campaign while visiting the National Finals Rodeo in 2011 on a vacation in Las Vegas and it was a perfect fit! I decided I wanted to host a Tough Enough to Wear Pink Day for my hometown rodeo in the Kispiox Valley. It was a way for me to give back while staying involved in rodeo.

What is the Tough Enough to Wear Pink campaign?

It’s a nationally recognized campaign – a toolkit, really – for rodeos and western events to raise awareness about cancer prevention and fundraise for local cancer care. The name comes from the cowboys and cowgirls who wear pink to bring attention to the cause. What I like about it, and why it works so well for me, is that it’s flexible! Where other rodeos might focus on breast cancer, I can keep it more general, which is important to me given my sister’s experience and that of other individuals who were close to me. The actual fundraising varies and may include BBQs, raffles, auctions, and more but a big part is typically selling Tough Enough to Wear Pink merchandise at local rodeos.

It sounds like the rodeo community is an important one for you! How did you get involved in rodeo?

I grew up in New Hazelton and spent lots of time in the Kispiox Valley. I worked out there, rode everyone’s horses out there, and was part of the drill team and multiple rodeo queen contests. Did you know that Kispiox has one of the biggest drill teams in Canada next to the RCMP Musical Ride? I worked for the president of the Rodeo Club and was one of the youngest Rodeo Club members, having joined in grade 9. I ran for Rodeo Queen in 2008/2009 and won. I carried my title of Kispiox Valley Rodeo Queen over to the 2010/2011 season, too. In that role, I got the chance to learn about rodeo events, take part in community events, and represent Kispiox at other rodeos. At the time, I lived, slept, and breathed rodeo! For the past three years, I have been living in the city so it hasn’t been as easy to be around the rodeo environment. However, as of this summer, I moved to Quesnel because I missed the small town feel after I had come back from the Kispiox Valley Rodeo. So I’m hoping to get more involved again.

Why is the rodeo community such a special place for you? Why did you look there when it came to the chance to fundraise for cancer care?

I just love being around the rodeo community! It’s homey and social. You can go up to anybody at a rodeo and have a great conversation. I find the people are always kind and appreciative – in part, I think, because of how much work goes into rodeo.

I also simply enjoy and appreciate rodeo as a serious sport. Cowboys and cowgirls practice year-round, just like other athletes. Rodeo is exercise for yourself and your horse, it takes mental discipline, and it leads to new skills – it’s healthy all around and I love watching my friends and others compete or take part in different events!

Now that you’ve surpassed $15,000 in fundraising at the Kispiox Valley Rodeo, what’s next for your combined interests in cancer care fundraising and rodeo?

I’d love to bring the Tough Enough to Wear Pink campaign to other rodeos. I don’t like to see a rodeo go without it! I’m currently working with a nice new team to host the event in Smithers.

Your successes and passion are inspiring! What advice do you have for others who are looking to support health and wellness in their community?

Tough Enough to Wear Pink clothing hanging on a wall.

Fundraising never looked so good!

Find something to join and contribute to. And if there’s nothing that ignites your passion, be courageous, go out there, and be the first to do it! Don’t be afraid of people saying no. In my experience, there’s a very good chance that people will say “yes” to a cause that you’re passionate about and that contributes back locally. Everyone will have opinions – remind yourself of why you started what you started and just go with it. Everyone in the world has an opinion and they are great to consider, but don’t let it stop you from organizing an amazing event. At the end of the day, it won’t be an event without you.

It sounds like the community comes together around this event at the Kispiox Valley Rodeo. Is there anyone in particular you’d like to acknowledge?

The community businesses are wonderful – they donate baskets for us to raffle, sell our merchandise, offer their services at no cost, host BBQs, and more. In addition to these sponsors and volunteers, I have to say a very, very special thanks to my mom, Liz Lazzarotto, and to family friend Jude Hobenshield, who has been so instrumental in making the events happen over the last six years. Thank you to anyone who has ever supported me because that is obviously a huge motivation to keep going with Tough Enough to Wear Pink. I also love, love, love all my volunteers! I love you all!

Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

Vince Terstappen is a Project Assistant with the health promotions team at Northern Health. He has an undergraduate and graduate degree in the area of community health and is passionate about upstream population health issues. Born and raised in Calgary, Vince lived, studied, and worked in Saskatoon, Victoria, and Vancouver before moving to Vanderhoof in 2012. When not cooking or baking, he enjoys speedskating, gardening, playing soccer, attending local community events, and Skyping with his old community health classmates who are scattered across the world. Vince works with Northern Health program areas to share healthy living stories and tips through the blog and moderates all comments for the Northern Health Matters blog. (Vince no longer works with Northern Health, we wish him all the best.)

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Cancer and men

Daffodil

Daffodils are popping up all over northern B.C. thanks to the Canadian Cancer Society’s annual Daffodil Month campaign. It’s a great chance to think about cancer prevention, screening, and treatment.

Flowers may be blooming in the Lower Mainland, but in northern B.C., you’re hard-pressed to find spring blossoms in April. There are daffodils everywhere, though, thanks to the Canadian Cancer Society’s Daffodil Month! The annual campaign raises funds and shows support for those living with cancer.

We likely all know of someone who has been affected by cancer and, according to the Where are the Men? report, men in northern B.C. have higher rates of new cancer diagnoses and are dying of cancer more often than women.

I sat down with Margaret Jones-Bricker, regional director for the Northern Region of the Canadian Cancer Society BC and Yukon Division to talk about cancers affecting men and what men can do to decrease their risk.

Are men at a higher risk for cancer than women?

When you look at cancers that only men can get, their risk is 100% greater. Such is the case with prostate and testicular cancers. Overall cancer risk and risk for specific cancers can be determined by a lot of other factors besides sex like lifestyle, genetics, age and family history. In Canada, men have a 45% lifetime probability of developing cancer compared with 41% for women.

What cancers should men be particularly concerned about?

The three most common types of cancer in men are lung, colorectal and prostate. Prostate cancer accounts for about one-quarter (24%) of all new cancer cases in men. Breast cancer rounds out the top four most frequently diagnosed cancers in Canada, but is much less common in men.

In the north, we have higher rates of tobacco use, which means higher rates of lung cancer. Smoking is related to more than 85% of lung cancer cases in Canada and men develop lung cancer slightly more often than women.

Approximately 1,000 Canadian men were diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2014. It is the most common cancer in young men 15–29 years of age.

What can men do to decrease their risk of cancer?

The number one thing men can do is if you smoke, stop!

Other ways to decrease cancer risk include lifestyle changes related to physical activity and healthy eating. The Canadian Cancer Society has some great nutrition and fitness recommendations.

Occupational and environmental factors can also impact our health; these include our home and work environments. Have your home tested for radon, which is a factor in lung cancer, second only to tobacco use.

What screening options are available to men? How do they know if they should be screened?

Approximately 5-10 per cent of cancers are related to specific inherited genetic abnormalities. The fact that 1 or 2 family members have been diagnosed with cancer doesn’t mean that you will also develop cancer. This is especially true if the family member is not a first-degree relative or if the cancers are of different types. It is important to discuss screening with your doctor if you have a family history of cancer. Your doctor may suggest testing at an earlier age or using a different test than recommended by the provincial guidelines.

The Canadian Cancer Society recommends that men (and women) age 50 and over have a stool test (guaiac-based fecal occult blood test or fecal immunochemical test) at least every 2 years. There is convincing evidence that stool tests with appropriate followup can significantly reduce deaths from colorectal cancer.

Prostate cancer seems to be different. Large, reliable studies haven’t been able to tell us clearly whether it’s a good thing to use these tests to look for prostate cancer. So, we recommend that you talk to your doctor about your risk of prostate cancer and about the benefits and risks of finding it early.

Daffodil

In northern B.C., men have higher rates of new cancer diagnoses and are dying of cancer more often than women. There are, however, things that men can do to decrease their risk of cancer.

Are all cancers preventable?

Up to 50% of all cancers are preventable. Certainly your risk of contracting lung cancer is hugely preventable by quitting smoking.

For other cancers, we don’t always know what the cells in our bodies will do, but we can do our best by following a healthy lifestyle, getting physically active, eating more vegetables and fruit, and limiting our consumption of red meats and alcohol.

Investing in the best research has led to tremendous progress against cancer. We know more about what causes cancer, how it develops, how best to treat it and how we can improve the quality of life of people living with cancer. Today, over 60% of Canadians diagnosed with cancer will survive at least 5 years after their diagnosis. In the 1940s, survival was about 25%.

What resources are available for men looking for more information?

The Canadian Cancer Society has information specific to men and downloadable pamphlets on everything from cancer prevention to diagnosis and treatments:

We strongly encourage smokers to use the supports that are available to help them quit smoking and to get access to nicotine replacement therapies through the Lung Association’s QuitNow and the new QuitNow Men websites.

Holly Christian

About Holly Christian

Holly Christian is a Regional Lead for Population Health. She has a passion for healthy living and health promotion and is a foodie at heart. Originally from Ontario, she has fully embraced northern living, but enjoys the warmth of the sun and the sound of the ocean. She swims, bikes and runs, and just completed her first marathon.

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