A Silent Disease

Breast cancer month. Give your support.

The month of October stands for breast cancer month. During this period, many individuals wear a pink ribbon on their coat, dress, hat, bag, etc. which symbolizes awareness, sympathy, and support to families and friends who have lost or have a loved one with breast cancer. Have you lost a relative or friend because of the silent disease?

According to a statistical report by the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in women and is the second cause of death after lung cancer for women in the United States of America. The report states that during 2012-2016 breast cancer increased slightly by  0.3% per year; however, the death rate has decreased. 

Yojaira in Solentiname/ Kimmo Lehtonen

Each woman’s body reacts differently to the disease; thus, for some women it develops fast and for others it is slow. In the case of Yojaira, my friend, who I lost 10 years ago to breast cancer, it was very fast. I remember her telling me about her diagnosis,  years after she was gone. Her cancer was invasive and aggressive to her body and mind. 

The news of her death was devastating. I remember when I got the phone call I was in the middle of documentary production, but at that moment everything shifted. I sat and cried. Hours later, I traveled to Managua (the capital) to be with her family and friends. I thought that I had cried during the flight so I wouldn’t cry anymore, but that was not the case, I continued for days and still today, I cry for her. 

Months after Yojaira’s death I found out that another friend named Alesseter also had breast cancer. I remember that I didn’t want to listen to her explanation about the stage of the disease because I was in a state of refusing and denying. Therefore, I didn’t want to listen anymore about this silent sickness. It is not that I didn’t care about Alesseter, no way. I was overwhelmed and still mourning the death of Yojaira. Aleseter had an aggressive breast cancer and was strong to overcome it. Today, she is free of cancer and I am lucky to still have her as my friend.

A selfie of Alesseter and I

One of the therapies or ways to overcome the death of Yojaira was to talk about her. I had other friends that listened to me and supported me. But what happens when relatives or friends don’t support the person who is living with the illness? This is cruel and shouldn’t be that way. From her experience, Alesseter recommends the following.

Aleseter voice

I found myself taking care of Yojaira at night, going with her to chemotherapy, and talking to her by phone even when she just listened to me. While being with her,  I was strong and never cried, but as soon as I got home, I broke down. Luckily I had the support of my spouse.

I am glad for each moment I spent with Yojaira. We traveled, danced, laughed, studied, discussed topics, etc. She is just one of the many stories of women who struggled with breast cancer. So as Aleseter mentioned, check yourself and remember that the silence disease doesn’t attack only women of age.

Photo by Dainis Graveris on Unsplash

Six Colour Flag

Who created the rainbow flag?

In many countries, June is marked as the month of pride celebration. In countries where LGBTQ+ rights are not forbidden, you can see flags displayed on the streets, parliament houses, companies, balconies of houses, etc. They can also be seen in demonstrations, parades, and other events that take place during the whole month. But have you stopped to think by whom and why the rainbow flag was created? I was curious myself, so I thought that it would be interesting to learn together.

Gilbert Baker is the creator of the rainbow flag. Barker was a vexillographer (flag maker), a political activist, a drag queen, and a designer. Besides, he enjoyed watching movies, dancing, loving fashion, and other leisures he practiced with his friend Artie and Cleve.

He was talented in designing banners for anti-war and pro-gay protests; thus, many friends and colleagues including Harvey Milk, who was the first gay politician elected in San Francisco motivated him to create a symbol for the gay community.

Baker knew that the symbol needed to be something new and beautiful. He wanted to strip off the painful stigma that was created by the Nazi in the concentration camp, where gay men were marked out by wearing a pink triangle that was tagged on their clothes.

One night, he was out at Winterland Ballroom dancing with Cleve. Both were moving their hips, snapping their fingers, and dancing to the music. Everything and everyone that surrounded them were flashing, glittering, and colourful. At this point, Baker knew he had the main idea, the rainbow flat emerged. So, on the 25th of June, 1978, Baker raised the flag for the first time at the United Nations Plaza in San Francisco to commemorate Gay Freedom Day Parade.

“We were all in a swirl of colour and light. It was like a rainbow. A Rainbow flag was a conscious choice, natural and necessary. The rainbow came from earliest recorded history as a symbol of hope,” describes Baker on his website.  

The rainbow flag that is raised today has six bans from top to bottom:

Red represents life

Orange stands for healing

Yellow means sunlight

Green nature

Blue meaning serenity

Purple spirit

However, when it was created it had eight colours.  Pink represents sexuality and turquoise magic.

Even though there is a dispute about the right of the rainbow flag from different parts, Baker was clear before he passed away in 2017 that the flag is public and free to use by anyone. It is a gift for everyone since it was created with that purpose.

Today as we raise and see the rainbow flag, let’s have in mind that the LGBTQ+ are part of our community, thus remember that inclusion is our duty. 




Working Market: An Inequal place for Women

Have you experience inequality in the labour market as a woman?

In some countries, the 1st of May was the celebration of Labor Day. Globally, men and women have different experiences in the labour market. Today, employed women are still under-representation since they receive less pay, some work more hours, few hold key positions, and there is a gap regarding social and retirement benefits.

According to a report from the European Commission gender, the gap in employment between men and women is 11.3%. A total of 66.8% of women is currently in employment, whereas men’s employment rate stands at 78.1%.

A friend, who is a mechanical engineer experienced a gender wage differential. While she was working at a company, a male engineer was hired and received a higher salary even though he had less work than her. I am sure that my friend’s case is something that happens regularly. Have you experienced something similar?

What should be done to stop these disparities? I think we should:

  • Speak out. Don’t stay silent.
  • Report any inequality to your union.
  • Promote re-structuring of labour laws and increase political pressures.

What else will you add to this list?

We need changes!

Photo by Jens Maes on Unsplash

25th of November

Gender-based violence is a pandemic.

Photo: Julie Schroell

Today as we take the streets or social media platforms on International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women let our voice be loud saying: this pandemic needs to stop.

I am proud to present this interview to Susanna Viljanmaa produced by PlusCollective. The production team was composed of Gloria De Felice, Susanna Viljanmaa, and Shirlene Green Newball.

Breast Cancer

“My advice to the ladies is to check yourselves, examine yourselves, know your body. If you discover something that is not normal, look for professional help” Aleseter

October is the month of breast cancer awareness. I loss a close friend 9 years ago who I still miss. Thus, I would like you to be aware of this illness that is around us.

For this edition I would like to share the story if my friend Aleseter, who is a strong individual a met years ago while working with a journalism project. She is tall, strong, likes to joke, friendly, a baseball lover, and sincere. We became friends and still maintain our relationship.

Aleseter voice

“ In 2012, I discovered a small lump on my left breast. I am from a  small island which had only a small health center in those days; so, I had to wait for some specialist to arrive. They did an ultrasound on my breast, then recommended a biopsy which I got done in Managua (the capital). The result was negative. I flew back home, but deep in my mind I knew something was wrong. A week later, I did a second biopsy and waited 12 days for the result. It was positive. The third biopsy also was positive. 

The doctor told me, “it’s not good news”. I said to him, “anything can kill me except this cancer, because with the help of God, I will overcome it”. I remember he looked at me and said, “those are the words of a warrior”. 

My cancer was stage 1 when it was discovered. A  surgery was done to remove the malignant cells, and then I started my chemotherapy in May. However, when I was on my third chemo session, they discovered more spots in the same place, so I underwent a second surgery and continued my treatment. It was then December, but things didn’t improve, so in January, I had a mastectomy done. 

At the beginning, I didn’t mention it to my son nor the rest of the family, because we grew up thinking that cancer is a taboo. Nevertheless, I told one of my brothers. He said to me:,”cancer is not your sickness, it’s our sickness; you need the moral support from the family”. 

During my chemo treatment, I heard a lot of comments about what would happen to me, but the reality was another, since everyone has their own experience; what is good for you, can be bad for me. For example, I saw a lot of women vomiting during the treatment, I didn’t. The doctor told me that I will lose my hair. Indeed, 16 days after the treatment, I lost it. My brother helped shave the rest. It was a ball of hair”. 

Photo by Gabriel Aguirre on Unsplash