CSUN fraternities and sororities share stories of personal experience with breast cancer

Jerrid Mckenna (top, fourth from right), business management senior and president of Tau Omega Rho, is pictured with his family members including his aunt who battled with breast cancer. Mckenna chose breast cancer awareness as his fraternity’s philanthropy work. Courtesy of Jerrid Mckenna

Rachel Costahaude

Jerrid Mckenna (top, fourth from right), business management senior and president of Tau Omega Rho, is pictured with his family members including his aunt who battled with breast cancer. Mckenna chose breast cancer awareness as his fraternity's philanthropy work. Courtesy of Jerrid Mckenna

It is estimated that more than 288,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, according to the National Cancer Institute. With such a high rate of occurrence, it has become common for most people to have a family member or friend who has or had breast cancer.

October has been named Breast Cancer Awareness Month and foundations, such as Susan G. Komen for the Cure, take these 31 days to go full force on bringing awareness to the community.

CSUN fraternities and sororities have also joined the cause and work year-round to bring awareness to students and faculty.


Stephanie Cortes, sophomore- undecided

Stephanie Cortes, member of Sigma Lambda Gamma, a sorority with breast cancer awareness as its core philanthropy, watched her grandmother battle breast cancer for a year before the cancer won.

“Since my grandma passed away from breast cancer I thought it would be good to join an organization that will support breast cancer awareness,” Cortes said.

She recalled that the hardest part of witnessing her grandmother’s fight was watching her mother cry. Her family grew closer from the experience and, she said, they created lasting memories.

“When she was diagnosed with breast cancer, our family would try to have more family gatherings,” she said. “We got together on every holiday when we usually didn’t, we took her to the zoo because she had never been to the L.A. Zoo, we took her to Chuck E. Cheese’s because she had never been there.”

Cortes, who is now concerned that her mom may be diagnosed, wears her breast cancer pin while participating in cupcake and horchata sales and step competitions to raise money for the cause.

Karen Aguilar, fourth year- psychology

“I always check my twins to make sure they’re OK,” said Karen Aguilar, who knows her fair share of people diagnosed with breast cancer.

Ten years ago, Aguilar’s aunt was diagnosed and is now a survivor along with Aguilar’s 24-year-old friend, Darlene.

“People don’t really think about it,” Aguilar said. “They think, ‘Oh, it’ll never happen to me.’”

Aguilar joined Sigma Lambda Gamma for the connections she formed with other members, and for the opportunity to educate others on a topic that has affected her for the past 10 years.

“One way or another we’ve all been affected by someone with breast cancer,” she said. “I really try to bring more awareness to it.”

Aguilar uses her sorority and the month of October to accomplish this by talking to people and learning how breast cancer has affected the lives of others.

“Hearing other people’s stories is really impactful,” said Aguilar. “As a girl, you want to make sure you’re healthy.”

Jerrid McKenna, senior- business management

Jerrid McKenna, president of Tau Omega Rho, chose breast cancer awareness as the fraternity’s philanthropy with his aunt, a stage-four breast cancer survivor, in mind.

“I vividly remember going to the hospital and she had no hair. I was a kid and it was my first experience seeing anybody have cancer,” McKenna said.  “It kind of hits you because you are so young and you realize, ‘Wow, this is bad.”

Other members of McKenna’s fraternity began coming out with their own breast cancer experience stories, he said.

The fraternity chose to pair breast cancer awareness with sports for philanthropy that could appeal to both sexes.

“All the professional teams wear the pink. It’s cool, guys helping out women and supporting something that’s a serious thing,” he said. “We went out to the softball game last semester and I brought 30 guys out there. We were all in pink shirts screaming and cheering.”

Sporting and special events, organized by McKenna and his fraternity, are prime opportunities to spread awareness and learn people’s stories.

“When you see a family member with it, you’re able to connect with it and see the impact directly. Almost every person has had family member who’s had it,” said McKenna, who advocates getting involved wherever possible. “If you are able to help, you should be doing things that don’t necessarily benefit you, but will help others.”

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