Topless in the USA : Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Topless in the USA : Breast Cancer Awareness Month

This time last year I found myself laying topless on a bed with laser beams dancing across my breasts. How strange, I remember thinking, to so cavalierly take my shirt off for so many different people after being married for over 20 years.

I can’t say I’d ever been terribly modest about my breasts. My hippie parents never told me that I couldn’t run around topless as a child like my older brother. I only became aware of my chest by being teased at summer camp. The first day of swimming I showed up wearing only a bathing suit bottom. I was probably only 5 or 6 and remember being baffled but not terribly upset by being laughed at. I thought “who cares? There is nothing to hide”!  I don’t remember how the rest played out but I’m sure the next day I wore a top. Later on at camp I remember being called a pirate’s dream because of my sunken chest. It never bothered me, my breasts have always been small, and even once they had developed, I remained unselfconscious about them.

When I was young and perky I rarely wore a bra. (Looking back at photographs, I now really wish I had.)  I’ve gone topless on beaches and may have entered a wet t-shirt contest or two during college spring break. I admit I even relished showing off the cleavage that came with breast feeding each of our four babies. All this is to say is that I’d never perseverated on my relationship with my breasts. Until just over a year ago, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. 

I lost my mother to breast cancer on October 18th, 1998 when I was seven months pregnant with our first child. We rolled a mobile ultrasound machine in to her hospital room so that she could hear the baby’s heartbeat before she passed away. If I were ever diagnosed with breast cancer myself, I thought, I would definitely get a double mastectomy. She had treated her breast cancer with a lumpectomy and radiation and died 6 years later. When it came down to my own course of treatment, I realized that it was not so easy to let them go. As my surgeon had cautioned, I realized how deeply emotionally attached to my breasts I actually was. 

At 53 I was shocked by my diagnosis. I knew that I had to be diligent about my screening due to my mother’s history. She hadn’t been diagnosed until she was 69 years old. I thought I would have time before I really had to worry.

Three years ago my mammogram was normal. I called my physician when I received the letter afterwards stating that I had dense breast tissue, and that a breast MRI is a better way to detect breast cancer in dense breast tissue. She assured me not to worry. Our state had just passed a law where that letter had to be sent to all patients with dense breast tissue. Dense breasts are not uncommon in smaller breasted women like me. At my physical the following year I mentioned that once again I had received the same letter after my mammogram. We decided, that with my family history, I should get the MRI. 

My first MRI indicated the need for a follow up in 6 months to track two small spots of concern. One of the reasons breast MRI is not more widely recommended is because of a high false positive rate due to its sensitivity. I was not worried. It wasn’t until 8 months later that I remembered to make the appointment for the follow up MRI. Sure enough one of the spots had doubled in size requiring a biopsy. To our great relief that biopsy came back negative. It was all a big false alarm and we were breathing easy. I still needed the lumpectomy to remove the growth since it could keep growing but there was no rush since it was benign.

We scheduled the lumpectomy after our family summer vacation. We took a two-week whirlwind trip through Scandinavia, hiking peaks and cruising through fjords. Since she would be doing surgery my breast surgeon suggested an ultrasound biopsy of the second small spot on my MRI that had not changed. It was too small and did not show up on the ultrasound. We had to do an MRI biopsy on it. When I got the call with the results I was not nervous at all, so when the surgeon told me that that smaller unchanged spot actually was breast cancer I was stunned.

Because I did not have the BRCA gene a mastectomy was not recommended. I still had school aged kids at home so decided on the less radical treatment of lumpectomy and radiation. I am grateful that my breast cancer was caught early, and that my state had mandated the letter about dense breast tissue be sent out. The surgery successfully removed the cancer and I was fortunate to have the amazing support of my husband and friends.

Lying on the table topless with laser beams dancing over my breasts a year ago seems like a distant memory with all that has changed in the world since. I felt good through my radiation treatment and continue to feel good while taking Tamoxifen. I have confidence in the research and improvements in treatment since my mother went through breast cancer 22 years ago. According to cancer.net the survival rate due to early detection had increased by 40% between 1989 and 2007. The key is early detection! October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month in the USA. To me it is also the month I lost my mother to breast cancer, the month I underwent radiation therapy for my own breast cancer, and the month to spread the word, and remind women of the importance of routine screening. 

This is an original post written for World Moms Network by Elizabeth Atalay.

Elizabeth Atalay

Elizabeth Atalay is a Digital Media Producer, Managing Editor at World Moms Network, and a Social Media Manager. She was a 2015 United Nations Foundation Social Good Fellow, and traveled to Ethiopia as an International Reporting Project New Media Fellow to report on newborn health in 2014. On her personal blog, Documama.org, she uses digital media as a new medium for her background as a documentarian. After having worked on Feature Films and Television series for FOX, NBC, MGM, Columbia Pictures, Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox, and Castle Rock Pictures, she studied documentary filmmaking and anthropology earning a Masters degree in Media Studies from The New School in New York. Since becoming a Digital Media Producer she has worked on social media campaigns for non-profits such as Save The Children, WaterAid, ONE.org, UNICEF, United Nations Foundation, Edesia, World Pulse, American Heart Association, and The Gates Foundation. Her writing has also been featured on ONE.org, Johnson & Johnson’s BabyCenter.com, EnoughProject.org, GaviAlliance.org, and Worldmomsnetwork.com. Elizabeth has traveled to 70 countries around the world, most recently to Haiti with Artisan Business Network to visit artisans in partnership with Macy’s Heart of Haiti line, which provides sustainable income to Haitian artisans. Elizabeth lives in New England with her husband and four children.

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Save the Children’s 2019 Global Childhood Report

There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats it’s children. – Nelson Mandela

Photo Credit Save the Children


In the past couple of years there have been moments, after hearing yet another horrific news story, that I have wondered out loud to my husband if there might be a safer country where we could move for the sake of our children. According to a new report released yesterday by Save the Children, there are 35 countries that do a better job for their children overall than the USA. All parents wish for a safe place in which their kids can grow up, and the good news is that globally, the lives of children have improved greatly over the past 18 years. Save the Children’s 3rd annual Global Childhood Report, entitled Changing Lives in Our Lifetime, has come out just in time for International Children’s Day on June 1st. The 2019 report also commemorates Save the Children’s 100th anniversary.

Photo credit: Save the Children Mexico

Changing Lives in Our Life time ranks 175 countries on how children fare against what are referred to as “childhood enders”. These include displacement by conflict and extreme violence, the mortality rate of children under 5, adolescent birth rates, child marriage, child labor, school dropout rates, and malnutrition. The report also maps out what countries can do better to protect their children. The children of the world are the future of our planet, and as adults, it is our responsibility to put their welfare at the very forefront of our concerns.

Photo credit: Victoria Zegler, Hpa An, Myanmar

Save the Children CEO, Carolyn Miles, noted during a debriefing call about the Global Childhood Report, that the data making up the heart of these findings spans 18 years, perfectly correlating with the length of what we consider the span of childhood. For still too many children in the world, childhood ends early, but the new report highlights a success story of progress. Since the year 2000 deaths of children under the age of 5 have dropped by nearly half. More children are growing up healthy and in school, and fewer are forced in to child labor or marriages.

Carolyn Miles points out that the numbers prove that progress is possible. The lives of children around the world have improved in almost every metric but one. She says, “We have to do more about kids stuck in conflict.”

More children are displaced by violence or conflict, and over half of the world’s refugees are children. The Global Childhood Report puts a spotlight on the impact on children living in conflict zones. It is evident that those are the places where progress is stalled or halted. Education for Syrian children has dropped by 60%, and malnutrition has risen by 42% due to the conflict in Venezuela. There has been an 80% rise in families needing to flee due to violence since the year 2000, and the children are the ones who suffer most.

In the case of the USA, John Farden, Associate VP of Save the Children US Programs, says, “Poor and rural children are the ones we see being left behind the most. Public investment and the voting demographic have lowered senior poverty, while child poverty has stayed the same. It is worst for the rural poor.” The USA has seen dramatic improvement in certain areas, such as a significant drop in teen births, the number of malnourished children has nearly halved and many more kids are in school. Though the USA has improved it has done so at half the pace of both Russia and China.

Childhood in the USA vs. Singapore, which is ranked the safest country in the world for children.

There are 10 driving factors of change that have worked to improve the lives of children around the world detailed in this year’s report. They are, the Millennium Development Goals, governmental commitment, social investment and economic growth, improved planning and implementation, reducing inequities, development assistance, empowering women and girls, women’s leadership, new technologies, and yes, even social media. Carolyn Miles, CEO of Save the Children, said, the improvements made in the lives of children since the year 2000 prove that progress is possible. Instead of moving our families to Singapore, not that we would all fit, as mothers and citizens we need to keep our governments accountable for the highest possible standards of living for our children.

Save the Children, 2019 Global Childhood Report

To read the full report and to see where your country ranks in the 2019 Global Childhood Report Changing Lives in Our Lifetime

This is an original post written for World Moms Network by Elizabeth Atalay

Elizabeth Atalay

Elizabeth Atalay is a Digital Media Producer, Managing Editor at World Moms Network, and a Social Media Manager. She was a 2015 United Nations Foundation Social Good Fellow, and traveled to Ethiopia as an International Reporting Project New Media Fellow to report on newborn health in 2014. On her personal blog, Documama.org, she uses digital media as a new medium for her background as a documentarian. After having worked on Feature Films and Television series for FOX, NBC, MGM, Columbia Pictures, Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox, and Castle Rock Pictures, she studied documentary filmmaking and anthropology earning a Masters degree in Media Studies from The New School in New York. Since becoming a Digital Media Producer she has worked on social media campaigns for non-profits such as Save The Children, WaterAid, ONE.org, UNICEF, United Nations Foundation, Edesia, World Pulse, American Heart Association, and The Gates Foundation. Her writing has also been featured on ONE.org, Johnson & Johnson’s BabyCenter.com, EnoughProject.org, GaviAlliance.org, and Worldmomsnetwork.com. Elizabeth has traveled to 70 countries around the world, most recently to Haiti with Artisan Business Network to visit artisans in partnership with Macy’s Heart of Haiti line, which provides sustainable income to Haitian artisans. Elizabeth lives in New England with her husband and four children.

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Travel: The Amazon Spheres

Travel: The Amazon Spheres


Seattle, Washington, USA

We know that nature has a positive impact on our mental and physical well being, and I felt the effect immediately upon entering The Amazon Spheres. Surrounded by nearly 800 species of plants, the bustle of the urban, outside world, dropped away. I had to remind myself that we were in central downtown Seattle. The topography of Seattle, Washington, has been transformed throughout the growth of Amazon. Office buildings and towers that have popped up over the years are laced with public green spaces. But the addition of The Spheres to this urban landscape might be the most dramatic alteration yet. Ever the industry disruptor, Amazon has re-written the rules of commercial architecture by adding The Spheres to the corporate urban landscape.

The structures bubble below the Amazon Day 1 Headquarters tower, where we met up with our guide, Mackenzie, for our tour. The humidity of the verdant interior cloud forest environment took me back decades to when I visited the real Amazon jungle in South America. I recalled how it felt to be immersed in nature so deeply as to lose oneself, yet here I stood feeling that similar sensation in the heart of downtown Seattle. The geodesic biodomes of The Amazon Spheres opened in late January of 2018 as a “nature immersion” work, meeting, and lounge space for Amazonians (as Amazon employees are affectionately referred to).

“Originality is returning to the origin”

-Gaudi

The whole concept made me think of the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi who lived over a hundred years ago and said: ” Originality is returning to the origin.” By “origin”, Gaudi was referring to the natural world which he explored widely and elements of which he incorporated throughout his designs.

Today one of the largest and most innovative tech companies in the world is echoing this sentiment by bringing nature to its urban campus as a way to inspire further innovation and creativity. What is old is new again, or as Gaudi suggested, nature is our greatest source of inspiration. The Spheres are comprised of 3 connected spherical glass domes made up of pentagonal hexecontahedron Catalan solids. Each dome is four stories tall, and together they span an entire city block.

The Understory is a public information space located under the domes where one station explains that The Spheres “..were the result of innovative thinking about what is missing from urban offices – a direct link to nature.” More than 40,000 plants and nearly 800 species populate the interior of the connected geodesic domes where the temperature is set to an average of 72 degrees Fahrenheit to mimic the plant’s middle-elevation cloud forest environment.

The humidity of a cloud forest environment in the natural world would usually come from direct contact with clouds rather than rain. For The Spheres in downtown Seattle, a series of mist sprinklers powered by reclaimed “waste heat” and energy derived from the adjacent Westin building maintain the cloud forest atmosphere. District energy is a highly efficient system that also provides a sustainable way to power the specialized environment within The Spheres.

The Architect Antoni Gaudi was also influenced by the shape of the Catalan solid and its recurrence in nature. A Belgian mathematician named Eugene Catalan gave his name to geometric Catalan solids in 1865, which would have been a few years before, but just in time, to influence the young Gaudi in his studies of geometry and engeneering. The shapes are also known as Archemedean solids, first described by Archimedes. The design of The Spheres was meant to reflect patterns found in nature. So Seattles’ new and innovative modern architectural wonder, built for one of the most cutting edge, high tech companies, did so by looking to the geometric building blocks of the natural world.

Our Amazonian tour guide, Mackenzie, explained that The Amazon Spheres were built to provide an inspiring environment for Amazon employees based on the same concept, that nature inspires creativity. ” You think differently when you are surrounded by nature, it sparks creativity in different ways.” said Mackenzie “At Amazon, you are working among very smart people, we build the future together.”


“The Nest” Meeting Space

The creative meeting spaces found throughout the interior, like the nest pictured above, provide prime opportunities to spark collaborative genius. Innovation is moving at a rapid pace these days and it seems some of the most inspiring methods to tap into cutting edge enterprise are going back to the origins. To unplug and immerse in nature.

The Spheres are open to the public 10am to 6pm the first and third Saturdays each month through reservations. Be sure to book in advance as the dates fill up quickly! The Understory is an interactive information center about the Spheres that is free and open to the public seven days a week.

This is an original post written for World Moms Network by Elizabeth Atalay.

Elizabeth Atalay

Elizabeth Atalay is a Digital Media Producer, Managing Editor at World Moms Network, and a Social Media Manager. She was a 2015 United Nations Foundation Social Good Fellow, and traveled to Ethiopia as an International Reporting Project New Media Fellow to report on newborn health in 2014. On her personal blog, Documama.org, she uses digital media as a new medium for her background as a documentarian. After having worked on Feature Films and Television series for FOX, NBC, MGM, Columbia Pictures, Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox, and Castle Rock Pictures, she studied documentary filmmaking and anthropology earning a Masters degree in Media Studies from The New School in New York. Since becoming a Digital Media Producer she has worked on social media campaigns for non-profits such as Save The Children, WaterAid, ONE.org, UNICEF, United Nations Foundation, Edesia, World Pulse, American Heart Association, and The Gates Foundation. Her writing has also been featured on ONE.org, Johnson & Johnson’s BabyCenter.com, EnoughProject.org, GaviAlliance.org, and Worldmomsnetwork.com. Elizabeth has traveled to 70 countries around the world, most recently to Haiti with Artisan Business Network to visit artisans in partnership with Macy’s Heart of Haiti line, which provides sustainable income to Haitian artisans. Elizabeth lives in New England with her husband and four children.

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International Women’s Day

Photo Credit Elizabeth Atalay

Every day at World Moms Network is International Women’s Day. March 8th happens to be the day the rest of the world celebrates as well.

We are incredibly grateful to all of the amazing women from more than 30 countries around the world that contribute to this site and make this a community.

We have found that despite our varied backgrounds we have more in common as women than we have differences. When we work together, open our hearts and minds, incredible things tend to happen.

Wishing a Happy International Women’s Day to all the women of the world!

Elizabeth Atalay

Elizabeth Atalay is a Digital Media Producer, Managing Editor at World Moms Network, and a Social Media Manager. She was a 2015 United Nations Foundation Social Good Fellow, and traveled to Ethiopia as an International Reporting Project New Media Fellow to report on newborn health in 2014. On her personal blog, Documama.org, she uses digital media as a new medium for her background as a documentarian. After having worked on Feature Films and Television series for FOX, NBC, MGM, Columbia Pictures, Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox, and Castle Rock Pictures, she studied documentary filmmaking and anthropology earning a Masters degree in Media Studies from The New School in New York. Since becoming a Digital Media Producer she has worked on social media campaigns for non-profits such as Save The Children, WaterAid, ONE.org, UNICEF, United Nations Foundation, Edesia, World Pulse, American Heart Association, and The Gates Foundation. Her writing has also been featured on ONE.org, Johnson & Johnson’s BabyCenter.com, EnoughProject.org, GaviAlliance.org, and Worldmomsnetwork.com. Elizabeth has traveled to 70 countries around the world, most recently to Haiti with Artisan Business Network to visit artisans in partnership with Macy’s Heart of Haiti line, which provides sustainable income to Haitian artisans. Elizabeth lives in New England with her husband and four children.

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A Global Day of Giving! #GivingTuesday

A Global Day of Giving! #GivingTuesday

Giving Tuesday was created to transform how people think about, talk about and participate in the giving season. It has become an international movement around the holidays dedicated to giving, in the same way that Black Friday and Cyber Monday are now synonymous with holiday shopping.

After the frenzied commercialism of Black Friday sales (that now last through the weekend) and the inundation of Cyber Monday e-mails, Giving Tuesday provides a way to make sure we give as good as we get.

Giving Tuesday has become an international phenomenon, and for North Americans it’s an opportunity to harness all of the grateful energy amassed over Thanksgiving and transform it directly into the spirit of helping others.  It feels like this year more than ever we are reminded that family, good health, a place to call home, security, access to clean water, and food to eat are not things to be taken for granted.  If you are reading this chances are that you have the good fortune to live in a place where food security, education, and housing are the norm. It is basic humanity to extend a hand if we can and there are so many positive ways to give back, and celebrate the true meaning of “The Giving Season”.

Here are a few organizations doubling donations today and working to make the world a better place on #GivingTuesday:

Heifer Project International

What We Do – Heifer International from Heifer International on Vimeo.

African Wildlife Foundation

The African Wildlife Foundation is having a GivingTwos-day! Donations will be doubled today and these animals need our help!

Shot@Life

Shot At Life – UNF, Honduras, Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2012. Photo Credit: Stuart Ramson

One of the greatest investments we can make in global health is to vaccinate children against vaccine preventable diseases. The impact is undeniable as demonstrated in this Impact Report by Shot@life.

MAM, has agreed to match all donations dollar-for-dollar to shot@life this #GivingTuesday and Facebook and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have teamed up to match up to $2 million in funds for nonprofits. To have your donation to Shot@Life matched, donate through Shot@Life’s Facebook Page.

WaterAid

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Atalay

Water is life, plain and simple. This #GivingTuesday is an opportunity to double your impact an provide clean water to families and villages around the world who do not have something most of us take for granted. Clean water.

Save The Children

Children are our future and often the innocent victims in man-made conflicts and natural disasters alike.

Photo Credit: Save The Children/ Victoria Zegler

Happy Giving! What other organizations you are supporting this Giving Tuesday? Please let us know!

This is an original post written for World Moms Network by Elizabeth Atalay.

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Elizabeth Atalay

Elizabeth Atalay is a Digital Media Producer, Managing Editor at World Moms Network, and a Social Media Manager. She was a 2015 United Nations Foundation Social Good Fellow, and traveled to Ethiopia as an International Reporting Project New Media Fellow to report on newborn health in 2014. On her personal blog, Documama.org, she uses digital media as a new medium for her background as a documentarian. After having worked on Feature Films and Television series for FOX, NBC, MGM, Columbia Pictures, Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox, and Castle Rock Pictures, she studied documentary filmmaking and anthropology earning a Masters degree in Media Studies from The New School in New York. Since becoming a Digital Media Producer she has worked on social media campaigns for non-profits such as Save The Children, WaterAid, ONE.org, UNICEF, United Nations Foundation, Edesia, World Pulse, American Heart Association, and The Gates Foundation. Her writing has also been featured on ONE.org, Johnson & Johnson’s BabyCenter.com, EnoughProject.org, GaviAlliance.org, and Worldmomsnetwork.com. Elizabeth has traveled to 70 countries around the world, most recently to Haiti with Artisan Business Network to visit artisans in partnership with Macy’s Heart of Haiti line, which provides sustainable income to Haitian artisans. Elizabeth lives in New England with her husband and four children.

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