Oct 06

I Am a Young Breast Cancer Survivor and This Is What I Want You to Know


Kimberly Chacon

I was 28 when I heard the words that changed my world forever. “You have breast cancer.” At the time I was working full time, finishing my graduate degree, and living a healthy life. My diagnosis completely knocked my life into a new reality that was dark and frightening. I did not look or feel sick, but I had a tiny lump that I mentioned to my doctor, and that was where it began.

I’m choosing to write about this now because October is breast cancer awareness month and it always brings on mixed emotions. Sadness at those we’ve lost, pain for those engaged in the battle and hope that we are going to find a cure for this vicious disease. Every October I participate in different ways, but this year I wanted to share more of my experience. This is what I’d like you to know about being a young breast cancer survivor:

1. There is no cure for breast cancer and women continue to die everyday.

There is a misconception that this disease is easy to treat. Again, it is still a fact that breast cancer does NOT have a cure and while some prognosis are better than others, breast cancer can come back, even years after you have shown to have NO EVIDENCE OF DISEASE.


2. Eight years after my diagnosis I still take a daily medication and while you may never hear me complain about it, there are side effects.

It is recommended that I take this medication for ten years following my initial treatment. When you are in your 20’s and you imagine ten years of medical treatment it seems impossible. It is life saving and a blessing to have it, but it is also a daily reminder of my past with cancer.

2. Medical research saves lives and quite possibly saved mine.

Based on the kind of cancer that I had, I was able to take a “new” drug called Herceptin. It only exists because of extensive research which involves lots of $$$$ and brave end-stage patients that agree to try new drugs. This drug became available two years before I was diagnosed and without it my odds of survival would have been much lower. There was even a Lifetime movie made about the breakthrough starring Mr. Harry Connick Jr.

3. A mastectomy does not mean you get a free, new pair of boobs.

Yes, several people made that comment to me while I was in treatment. (Why?? Why would you say that to anyone? Please don’t ever say that to anyone.) Quite the contrary. Having a double mastectomy means that you lose a part of yourself and gain significant scars. It means a painful surgery and a long healing process. It means fighting to gain acceptance of a new version of the most intimate parts of your body. It steals a part of your sexuality and it robs you of the basic human choice of breastfeeding your children. It is often all of these things right before beginning six months of chemotherapy. It leaves scars, both physical and emotional. While the procedure and outcomes have improved over the years, do not believe that a mastectomy is an easy solution.

4. Just because your hair has grown back does not mean that you are “finished”.

After going through the hell that is cancer treatment you are a different person and it takes time to find your new normal. We have gone down a tumultuous road and it takes time to heal. That can mean that relationships change, you make lifestyle changes, or you look at the world in a new way. Be gentle with someone who has gone through treatment, even if it’s two years later. Just because we look fine again does not always mean that it’s done.

5. As survivors, we are glad there is extra awareness every October, but we are always concerned about who benefits from all the pink.

First, read the fine print on anything you purchase and see what they are actually doing with your dollars. Second, keep in mind that Avon and Komen get tons of money and they have major corporate sponsors, so don’t worry about them. What’s better than buying pink socks and glitter boas? Donating to organizations that directly benefit research and women likewww.metavivor.com or www.pinkdaisyproject.com. If you want to give, make a smart donation.

Becoming a cancer survivor changed my life forever. Chances are that you know someone who has been touched by the disease.  This year, make October count and do something meaningful. Make a donation to a research program or an organization that directly helps women in treatment. If you personally know a survivor, reach out. Finally, if you’re putting off having yourself checked, please make sure you make that appointment. It could be the most important thing you do this month.

Kimberly Chacón is a graduate of New York University. Prior to becoming a stay-at-home mom she taught high school English for ten years in New York City. When she’s not running after her 18 month old twins and eight month old baby, she blogs about kids, food, and motherhood at www.partyoffiveblog.com. This post originally appeared on her blog.

Sep 23

Key Quotes from Social Good Summit 2016 – Day Two


What an amazing two days at the Social Good Summit 2016. From the Vice President calling on us to challenge the way we manage cancer research to Demi Lovato sharing her challenges with mental illness and addiction, the US policies around social issues were pushed into a global conversation. Besides the celebrity ambassadors, there were global leaders, policy makers and entrepreneurs sharing ways to tackle the Global Goals and move the needle on global issues. Several apps, online resources and information to help people and companies develop a plan to tackle the goals were also shared, which helped to move the goals from idea to action. While last year we were called to “Tell everybody”, and make the goals famous. This year we were pushed to plan and commit. What will your group or organization do to address one or more of the Global Goals? Stay tuned as we share some of our plans throughout the year.

If you are looking for a bit of inspiration here are a few key quotes from the second day similar to the quotes we shared from day one. Also read a post from Genevieve on some of the highlights from the event especially on the role of women in leading the change or equality. You can also watch the videos and learn more on the Social Good Summit website.




Sep 20

Inspiring Women and Power Players – Social Good Summit

Due to my amazing internship with the SISGI group, as well as the happenstance that I live in New York City, I was able to attend the two-day Social Good Summit 2016.  This summit is hosted by Mashable and takes place during the United Nations Global Goals week. It brings together global leaders from around the world to discuss plans to achieve these sustainable development goals by 2030. It focuses on how technology and innovation can positively address these challenges.

“Not just about connecting the world with more technology, but connecting the world with more humanity.”  #2030NOW


During the first day of this global conversation, I couldn’t help but notice that women’s rights and equality was a prominent theme when discussing concrete plans to reach these goals. The wide range of injustices that are present in the world today occur disproportionately to women and children. It takes certain people to lead in creating much of the change needed across the globe. Qualities that are necessary for success in these roles are statistically seen more in women, such as compassion and the ability to organize and include.  


“Change is difficult, but not impossible” – Muzoon Almellehan

Inspiring Women Power Players

The Social Good Summit 2016 recognized and featured many powerful female global leaders of today. These ranged from the Chief Technology Officer of the U.S., to two young refugee Malala Fund campaign girls, Muzoon Almellehan and Zaynab Abdi. Here are a few of the inspiring women who shared their passion, experiences and plans to change the world.

carolynCarolyn Miles is the CEO of Save the Children  and works with refugees, although she prefers to call her mission working with human beings.  

“These are not just not people with needs, they are people with rights”.  A refugee is a not just a number, although it is important to remember that there are 65 million refugees, making this issue a current global crisis. “This is not a secondary problem, this is central.”

Carolyn recognizes that collaboration between all resources is the only way to create long term investments that are necessary to solve this issue. Her compassion allows her to advocate for the tremendous skills, resiliency, and drive that refugees possess.


malalagirlsMuzoon Almellehan & Zaynab Abdi

These two girls are both refugees, Malala Fund campaigners. The girls participated in a conversation with the Malala Fund President and with the U.S. Secretary of State Toby Blinken.  This was one of my favorite conversations, and it was amazing to witness the intelligence, drive and courage of these two.

“I want world leaders to keep their promises…Not just to Syrian children, every child.” – Muzoon.

Zaynab Abdi is a refugee girl displaced 3 times, and is now in a U.S. school with a 4.0 GPA and captain of her soccer team.

“Refugees are the same as other people. We all come from the same sky.” – Zaynab


maryrobinsonMary Robinson is the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on El Niño and Climate Change.

Mary Robinson is an expert on climate change and action and emphasizes that environmental issues and human rights are very interdependent and awareness creation is critical.

“It is not just a global climate issue but a humanitarian, environmental, gender, inequality, politics, issue.  It is not effecting the most developed countries as much, but these countries are causing it.”


dr-alaaDr. Alaa Murabit discussed the necessity of universal health. For political reasons, universal healthcare has not been possible. However, Dr. Alaa Murabit explained how healthier citizens lead to more productive and peaceful countries. She explains that even just basic immunizations and prenatal care are not available in many areas of the world. “Girls have the greatest need for health care, but least access to it in poor countries.”





megansmithMegan Smith is the Chief Technology Officer of the United States. She was previously a vice president of Google[x] at Google. How amazing and inspiring is her leadership position in a field which is predominately men?! She is currently using her position to try and bridge the gap between tech people and the rest of the general public, and to spread the importance of women in these roles.





brittanyBrittany Packnett is the Founder of Campaign Zero which advocates for the #blacklivesmatter movement. Brittany is fearless, and is in the front line of protests around the country. She prides herself and her community on speaking the truth and is not afraid to do so in any situation or environment, including the White House.





helenclarkjoyceUNDP Administrator Helen Clark and former President of Malawi, Joyce Banda spoke together about the importance of women in leadership positions and the need for women to support each other.

“Before colonization we were already queens. We are prepared for leadership because we have always been in leadership” –  Joyce Banda

“We’ve been cracking our way through these glass ceilings to say women can do these jobs! And, by the way, very well.” -Helen Clark


chelseaChelsea Handler is a comedian and the host of her own Netflix show, which airs in 190 different countries. Chelsea makes difficult and complicated topics digestible for people. She is not scared to be political and talk about what matters in the world.  She understands that human beings are more than same than they are different.

“If you have a soapbox, stand on it and scream.”




memorybandaMemory Banda a young leader and board member from Girl Up discusses what “leading like a girl” means. In her country of Malawi, child marriage and rape is a common practice, and education is not an option. She continuously stands up for girl’s rights, and is a role model for other girls in her country and around the world.





… and this is just a small portion of the women featured during the Social Good Summit 2016.  The incredible potential that women have to be leaders in today’s society is clear.  The essential contribution of and focus on women as part of the plan to achieve the UN’s global goals must be acknowledged and acclaimed. Who runs the world? GIRLS!



Sep 19

Key Quotes from the Social Good Summit 2016 – Day One

As we sat in the digital media lounge we prepared for a day full of insight and inspiration on social good from around the global. The  annual SocialGood Summit is the intersection between technology + social good and as a company interested in innovation it is a chance to hear from global changemakers utilizing innovation to address social change. With speakers like Chelsea Handler, former Prime Ministers and Presidents, Secretary of State Kerry, actors, media personalities, and refugees there were several quotable moments throughout the day. Here are just a few…



Mar 24

Busting Macro Social Work Myths – #alsoSW Tweetchat

In celebration of National Social Work Month, SISGI Intern and MSW student Jenn Hurtig (@jfhurtig) is hosting a Tweetchat. Join us Thursday March 31, 2016 at 12 PM EST on Twitter for a lively conversation surrounding the myths and misconceptions about careers in macro social work. Anyone is welcome!

635893456958848927-1458604587_social work ma

Macro social work is the concentration in the profession that looks at systems and institutional level social change. Often social work is associated with clinical and direct practice work but social workers can also be found in roles such as an executive director leading a national organization or a consultant designing a community wide initiative. They also are policy makers, educators, researchers and community organizers. Students interested in the field of social work are often curious about the career opportunities for MSW professionals that have a macro social work concentration. Our Tweetchat will cover some of these topics and even more, so please join this online conversation!

The hashtag for this conversation is #alsoSW, which is an abbreviation of ‘Also Social Work’.

In order to join to the conversation, follow @Sisgigroup and @NotEnoughGood on Twitter. At the time of the chat simply type the hashtag #alsoSW in the Twitter search bar or visit our Twitter page (@Sisgigroup) and click on the hashtag in a post to see all of the recent posts.

Make sure to use the hashtag #alsoSW when you reply to questions or retweet posts of other users in the conversation, otherwise we will not be able to see your Tweets!

Never participated in a Tweetchat before? Check out How to Participate in a TweetChat by The Social Media Coach to learn the Do’s and Don’ts of Tweetchats.



Feb 18

Best Practices For Grief: Parental Incarceration

parental incarceration 2.7 million

Building onto our current series, this post looks at grief and loss experiences of children and teens impacted by parental incarceration.  Previously, this series explored the grief and loss experiences of children and teens touched by foster care placement parental deployment and death and divorce.

2.7 million children in the United States have an incarcerated parent.  

Often key players in the lives of youth have difficulty knowing how to best support children and teens impacted parental incarceration.  Due to the stigma and shame incarceration brings, the incarceration of a parent is often kept a secret.  This creates and perpetuates even more feelings of alienation and shame youth touched by incarceration may already be feeling.  From their peers, to their teachers, to the many adults impacting their lives, these youth often struggle to find someone they can trust. They often resort to isolation. 

Below is the fourth video in this video series highlighting best practices for educators, teachers, and other vital players in the lives of grieving youth today.  For this interview I sat down with Zoe Willmott, Project Manager for Community Works Project WHAT!  WHAT! stands for We’re Here and Talking.  In this best practice video, Willmott draws on knowledge she’s gained from her experience working with teens impacted by parental incarceration and from her own experience of being a child with an incarcerated parent.

Willmott tells us that a child or teen impacted by parental incarceration may experience a range of feelings related to their parent, their parent’s incarceration, and the relationship the young person has with his/her parent.  So as adults working with this population of youth, honoring all feelings a young person impacted by parental incarceration may have is vital to their coping and healing.


Willmott reminds us about the importance of authenticity and being honest when working with children and teens impacted by parental incarceration.  Oftentimes these youth are told their parent has left for vacation or the military for example, instead of jail or prison.  With this in mind, it is imperative that youth impacted by parental incarceration learn to see adults as trustworthy.

parental incarceration suddenness of arrest

One of the key takeaways from my interview with Willmott is the importance of remembering the resilience of children and teens impacted by parental incarceration.  They have so much to offer the world around them.  Most of the time these youth aren’t looking for pity or for someone to feel sorry for them.  Children and teens impacted by parental incarceration are looking for someone to listen to them.

Do you know of helpful resources for working with children and teens impacted by parental incarceration?  Do you know of an organization working with this population of youth that you think isn’t getting enough attention? Please leave a comment below or email me at amlee@sisgigroup.org.

I also encourage you to join our ongoing conversation by using the hashtag #Grief5.  

You can find images from our fall hashtag campaign on Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram here.  Find us on Facebook at The Alliance for Positive Youth Development and The SISGI Group.  On Twitter we are @NotEnoughGood and @Ideas4youth.  We are also @Youth4change on Instagram.

To see all the videos in the series please view the playlist on our ISC Youtube channel.


Feb 09

Best Practices For Grief: Death and Divorce

divorce.jpegPreviously, this series explored the grief experiences of children and teens impacted by parental deployment.  This series continues with the focus shifting to the impacts of death and divorce on youth today.


Below is the third video in our video series highlighting best practices for educators, teachers, and other key players in the lives of grieving youth today.  For this interview, I sat down with Roxanne Storms, Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) and Fellow in Thanatology with the Association of Death Education and Counseling.  Storms offers best practices for working with children and teens impacted by the death of a loved one and/or parental divorce.  Storm’s caring and passion for this population of youth is evident in the way she carries her message.


In this video Storms addresses the importance of understanding that when children and teens grieve and as they age, they will re-experience grief at different developmental stages and as adults, we need to acknowledge that grief every time.


Storms reminds us not to assume that one grief experience is more impactful than another and to not compare them.  Storms also reminds us to “be aware,” as life will never be the same as it was for a child or teen impacted by death and/or divorce.


Although our twitter chat is over, our conversations about #Grief5 and the grief experiences of children and teens are only just beginning.  Look for my upcoming blog post where I will introduce a best practice video for educators, teachers, and adults working with children and teens impacted by parental incarceration.  In the meantime you can see images from our hashtag campaign on Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram here.  Find us on Facebook at The Alliance for Positive Youth Development and The SISGI Group.  On Twitter we are @NotEnoughGood and @Ideas4youth.  We are also @Youth4change on Instagram.

Are there grief experiences of children and teens you don’t think are getting enough attention? Please leave a comment below or email me at amlee@sisgigroup.org.
I also encourage you to join our ongoing conversation by using the hashtag #Grief5.  Together we can begin to create more awareness of the impacts of grief and loss on youth today and best practices to better serve this population of “invisible grievers”.

To see all the videos in the series please view the playlist on our ISC Youtube channel.


Dec 07

Quiet Health Concern – Iron Deficiency Anemia

I was a junior in high school and 17 years old when I first heard the term anemia. In California, where I live you have to be at least 110 pounds to give blood, I finally got to that weight and was energized to give blood and give back to the community. So the blood drive staff pricked my finger as they do to all the blood donors and told me I had anemia. Their solution, go eat lunch, then come back and try again.

The next time I heard the term was about 3 years later when I was 20 years old during my annual OB/Gyn visit. Because I had missed a few menstrual periods they ran blood work.  My Nurse Practitioner didn’t feel anything was wrong with me but did the blood tests just to see. I received a call the next day and was informed I was iron deficientPicture4 and anemic. After hearing this diagnosis I researched all I could about my disorder.

Iron Deficiency Anemia (IDA) is the most common type of anemia and occurs when an individual does not have enough iron minerals in their blood. There are different reasons why this occurs including blood loss, pregnancy, not eating enough iron rich foods, and internal bleeding. Though, It can occur in men and women, some groups are at greater risk. For example vegetarians, infants, and children who may not get enough iron in their diet. Other groups such  as those who give blood frequently, pregnant women and women  21-41 years old are also high risk populations. Individuals can experience IDA symptoms for years without knowing the cause.

During my follow up visit, my doctor did a bit more than tell me to go eat something, they told me to get some folic acid and some iron pills and to keep taking them. I also saw a hematologist, and was quickly faced with the reality of having IDA. The way the doctor described it, I was running on fumes, like if a car was running on its last legs of gas. IDA doesn’t sound so threatening, but it is the most common nutritional disorder in the world and can be life threatening .

IDA contributes to 841,000 deaths per year. My doctor told me the first day in her office that if I did not get this resolved quickly, I would be dead by the time I was 22 years old. I was already in shock from how anemic I was, how sick I really was and didn’t know it.

Sometimes you have to laugh because otherwise you cry. We had been driving home that night and a car cut us off on the freeway. I remember saying “Excuse me, I still have two more years to live” I think I needed to make it lighter somehow.

There are many different ways to treat iron deficiency anemia depending on how severe and the causes of IDA. YouIron Deficiency Anemia (4) (2) can treat it with oral supplements, changing your dietary habits to include more iron rich foods. For the more severe cases, you may need blood transfusions, surgery or iron infusions. My doctor had me do iron infusions, so they pumped Iron into me. The very first day after my first round of medication I felt different, it helped instantly in the same day. I noticed more color in my cheeks and I wasn’t as tired as I had been before.

I encourage all of you readers to ask questions, do more research, and share this information with your friends and family. This is a disorder that can be fixed, it can be fixed and stable before it does serious harm, it can even be dealt with before you have to worry about having low oxygen counts. You can make a difference by being educated and bring questions up to your doctors. I know this because I am now 26 years old and my health has improved immensely. Let’s all work together to find a way to make this disorder disappear.

Dec 01

Virtual Internship – Real Experience

learn online

When I tell others that my internship is online, I usually know what is coming next.  It most likely will be laughter followed by comments such as “That must be so easy” or “I wish I could go to work in my pajamas”.  Remarks such as these are made by those who may not be aware of the benefits of an online internship and the real world experience one can gain.

Virtual internships have grown in popularity in recent years for a variety of reasons such as family commitments, internship training sitelocation and flexibility.  This type of arrangement allows a student to gain real work experience in a remote work setting.  Students complete assignments from home and communicate on a regular basis with employers by telephone, instant messaging, email, Skype, webinar or social media.  

I reside in a rural area without many agencies that offer internships for graduate students.  I have to admit that I didn’t know what to expect when this all began in January but as my year comes to an end, I can truthfully say that I would not trade the experience.  The numerous opportunities provided to me as an intern with the SISGI Group have challenged me and pushed me completely outside of my comfort zone.  

The professional and personal growth I have made during this year has increased my confidence and provided me with real world skills in marketing, development and fundraising, event planning, research, grant writing, conflict resolution, leadership, cultural diversity, social media, networking, consulting and time management.   I am thankful for this unique learning experience and I would definitely want to pursue other virtual opportunities in my career.

Perhaps your agency might be willing to offer a distinct experience to students who are open to a virtual internship.  By structuring it in such a way there is regular one-on-one supervision, learning opportunities, individual and team assignments, it can be a win-win situation for both the organization and student.  Learn more about the Social Change Leadership Program at the SISGI Group and contribute today towards allowing more students, like me, to have this experience at www.sisgigroup.org/give.  


Nov 17

Best Practices for Grief – Parental Deployment


This series began with an introduction of multiple grief experiences of youth in foster care placement.  This series continues with a look at parental deployment and its impact on youth.

Multiple relocations.  Loss of friendships.  Loss of pets.  Parental deployment.  Death.  These are a few of the many grief experiences military children and teens in the United States may face today.


Out of the 5 million Americans  connected with the military family, 2 million are children.  On average military children will move 6-9 times between kindergarten and high school.

Studies continue to show heightened stress and pressure being put on families with increased deployments.  There is a need now more than ever before for increased understanding of military culture in non-military schools.  We need to help students with military connectedness get the support required for them to be successful both academically and emotionally.  It’s time for us to create more conversations around how to better serve this population of military children and teens.

Below is the second video in our video series highlighting best practices for teachers and other key players impacting the lives of grieving youth today.  I interviewed Benjamin Wilson, California Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) for this conversation about grief and loss experiences.  Wilson is a Certified FOCUS Trainer and FOCUS Site Director for Naval Base Ventura County (NBVC). Wilson offers best practices when working with children and teens experiencing parental deployment. He provides insight into the importance of recognizing each military connected child or teen as an individual and the importance of meeting them where they’re at in their grief.  This interview includes practical tools and helpful resources for parents, teachers, educators, and other adults working with military connected youth.

One of my favorite takeaways from this video is that we must not forget that although military connected youth may be impacted by multiple grief and loss experiences, they are highly resilient and have a strong ability to overcome adversity.  

November 19th, I will be hosting a twitter chat to discuss best practices when working with grieving youth.  Leading up to this twitter chat,  I will continue to post more information and highlight our campaign using the hashtag #Grief5.  You can see images from the hashtag campaign on Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram here.

In the meantime, use our hashtag #Grief5 to share our information, start your own conversation, and follow our campaign for updates.  You can find us on Facebook at The Alliance for Positive Youth Development and The SISGI Group.  On Twitter we are @NotEnoughGood and @Ideas4youth.  We are also @Youth4change on Instagram.

To see all the videos in the series please view the playlist on our ISC Youtube channel.


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