East Wake Middle dedicates day to breast cancer awareness

mhankerson@newsobserver.comNovember 8, 2013 

— Last Wednesday, math classes at East Wake Middle School made 1,000 paper cranes. Students in language arts wrote encouraging haikus.

In social studies, students learned about Japan. In science, they drew life-size models of themselves and labeled which body parts could be affected by chemotherapy and radiation.

It was all part of the school’s first PinkOut, an event eighth-grader Kyra Best came up with to honor her mother, a breast cancer survivor.

In the morning, students who donated more than five scarves in October got to walk around the track. Later, each grade level formed a breast cancer ribbon on the field.

Each class that day focused on understanding cancer and its treatment. The school read “Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes,” which tells the story of a young Japanese girl who lived through the bombing of Hiroshima. Sadkao was diagnosed with leukemia when she was 12, a result of her exposure to radiation, and set to making 1,000 paper cranes.

“In Japanese culture, (they) believe the 1,000 paper cranes can heal you and make you better,” math teacher Emily Hooks told her eighth-graders. “Our goal here at East Wake today is for every single teacher and student to make a crane.”

With about 950 students and more than 50 faculty and staff members, the school accomplished its goal.

Scarves as a comfort

Radiation used in cancer treatment is not the same radiation released from atomic bombs, as students learned in science class, but both types can attack healthy cells.

For cancer patients like Kyra Best’s mother, Keowanna Best, radiation and chemotherapy took a huge emotional and physical toll.

In addition to the physical side effects, Keowanna Best said she struggled emotionally, especially between the second and third rounds of treatment, when she lost her hair. She began wearing scarves so her hair loss would go unnoticed.

Seeing how comfortable the scarves made her mother prompted Kyra Best to suggest the idea as service project for the East Wake chapter of National Junior Honor Society.

Keowanna Best has been cancer-free for about three years, but Kyra Best knows other cancer patients might be looking for the comfort her mother found in scarves.

“(Cancer patients) hide it, and we depend heavily on the scarves, hats and wigs,” said Keowanna Best. “The scarves made me feel better. I don’t know why.”

For more than patients

Kyra Best’s idea for East Wake’s PinkOut started with collecting scarves for patients going through treatment. With the support of the school’s administration and the honor society’s adviser, Mary Hardison, it turned into an all-day awareness event.

Students were encouraged to wear pink. Some came to school with pink paint in their hair; others wore pink tutus. Members of the National Junior Honor Society painted pink ribbons on students’ faces.

The school ended up with three tubs of scarves to donate. Kyra Best said the honor society might deliver them as part of a field trip.

The haikus students wrote will be attached to the scarves.

Kyra Best said she was happy with the donations and glad to see her peers excited about the day.

Hardison, whose grandmother had breast cancer, said PinkOut could do more than honor cancer patients and survivors. It could be a way to offer support to students with family members who have cancer.

“I don’t think a lot of people realize how widespread cancer is,” Hardison said before the PinkOut. “A lot of students in middle school keep it to themselves because they just don’t want people to know.

“(The PinkOut is) is just bringing that awareness to let them know it’s OK and it’s something we can get through.”

Hankerson: 919-829-4826; Twitter: @easternwakenews

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