Oct. 7, 2010
As part of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the Washington State University Athletics Department is hosting a Wear Pink Weekend, Oct. 22-24. The Cougar volleyball, swimming and soccer teams will wear pink uniforms at special home events during the weekend.
All three programs are raising money for charity and the department is encouraging everyone on campus to wear pink, Oct. 21 in support of raising awareness about the disease.
A poster highlighting the events taking place during Wear Pink Weekend features Washington State student-athletes Kaleinani Kabalis (volleyball), Jen Dean (swimming) and Ariana Byrd (soccer), each of whom has a breast cancer survivor in her respective family.
Dean, a senior, has lost one grandmother, Barbara Dean, to breast cancer and has another, Jean Gaddie, who is a 32-year survivor of the disease. Jen Dean is reminded of her grandmothers daily at this time of year, especially during the Debbie Pipher Memorial Invitational, an annual swimming meet named in honor of Former Cougar Swimming Head Coach Debbie Pipher, who died of breast cancer in 2007 at age 53. This year's event will take place Oct. 22-23 as part of Washington State's Wear Pink Weekend.
"I think it (the meet) is really cool because my freshman year was the first one," Dean said. "So I have been a part of it since the beginning. I think it is a really important event. When my grandmother who is a survivor was diagnosed with breast cancer, there was a stigma around it that doesn't exist today. The more it is talked about, the better in my opinion. Last year, my grandma and grandpa wanted to come and support me at a meet and they specifically chose the Debbie Pipher meet."
A member of the Cougars' 400 freestyle relay team that set a school record at the 2010 Pacific-10 Conference Championships, it is the races out of the pool in Dean's life that hit close to home.
"My mom and her mom (Gaddie) are both Zeta Tau Alpha sorority members and its philanthropy is Breast Cancer Education and Awareness," Dean said. "So, I volunteered at a really young age for Race for the Cure events in San Francisco. I have also participated in Relay for Life which raises awareness for multiple types of cancer."
Gaddie was diagnosed at age 45 and warns that breast cancer is a disease that does not discriminate against age.
"It can happen to very young people, as young as 10," Gaddie said. "My mother had it in her 80s in one breast and in her other breast during her 90s. I was relatively young when I was diagnosed. I hope by having my story told, it can get one woman to see her doctor if she feels a lump or thinks her body is not the way is supposed to be."
A native of Campbell, Calif., Dean is a two-time Pacific-10 All-Academic second team honoree. Her education outside the classroom led to her offering the following advice.
"Have yourself examined and be aware of your body. Just because you've never had a mom or grandma with breast cancer doesn't mean you can't get it. Just before I turned 10 years old, my dad's mom (Barbara Dean) passed away because of breast cancer. Recently, I found out that she knew about a lump in her breast for a really long time, but did not have herself checked. My grandma who is a survivor benefited from really early detection. That was extremely important in her case."
Dean added, "It means a lot to me that the athletics department, campus and community are willing to wear pink and come out to events that support breast cancer research. It reminds me of both my grandmas and how many people are affected by the disease. The more awareness there is, the more people are going to have themselves checked."
For more information about Cougar Swimming, Washington State's Wear Pink Weekend and the Debbie Pipher Memorial Invitational, visit wsucougars.com.