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Thursday
Apr202017

11-year-old cancer victim inspires 'Mustard Challenge' to raise money for pediatric cancer research

ajafoto/iStock/Thinkstock(PHILADELPHIA) -- An 11-year-old girl’s battle with cancer, and her wish to make sure no other child must fight the disease, has inspired a new, viral challenge involving mustard.

The “Mustard Challenge,” started by the No More Kids With Cancer charity, asks participants to eat a spoonful of mustard, share the moment on social media and challenge four friends to take the challenge within 24 hours or make a donation.

The challenge is the brainchild of the family of Naya Summy, who lost her battle with brain cancer in 2015 at age 11. Naya, who lived in the Philadelphia area, was diagnosed with high-risk medulloblastoma in 2013 and passed away just 22 months later.

“She was super smart and was going to conquer the world,” Naya’s mom, Amy Summy, told ABC News. “She stood out.”

Naya began raising tens of thousands of dollars for The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia while she was undergoing treatment there. She asked her family, including her dad, Hank Summy, and her 16-year-old brother, Zak, to keep up her fight against pediatric cancer.

“She was positive but every day was a difficult time so she really just wanted to end [cancer],” Amy Summy said. “She just didn’t believe that children should have cancer.”

The family started their charity, No More Kids With Cancer, after hearing Naya describe her dream of a future without pediatric cancer.

“We listened to her words and they were so clear,” Summy said.

The Mustard Challenge, which will end on Aug. 5 -- National Mustard Day -- is particularly aimed at raising awareness about the types of toxic drugs that children, including Naya, receive while undergoing cancer treatment.

Summy learned after Naya’s death that some of the drugs she was treated with were derived from the same chemicals as mustard gas.

“As a mom when I found that out, I couldn’t sleep that night and, still, it makes me so angry and sad,” she said. “We’re putting those same compounds in people and children.”

No More Kids With Cancer is focused on finding safer and more effective treatments for children with cancer, according to Summy. The charity is hoping to raise at least $6 million through the Mustard Challenge.

Dr. Michael Fisher, chief of the neuro-oncology division at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, described pediatric cancer research today as “at the dawn” of a new era but in need of more funding to unlock key areas, like precision medicine and immunotherapy.

“While we have been getting better over the years, there are still too many kids who die of cancer,” said Fisher, who treated Naya and is on the board of No More Kids With Cancer. “We’ve sort of reached the limit of where we’re going to get with therapies that were designed decades ago.”

Fisher recalled Naya as a “pretty amazing kid” who never let cancer hold her back, recalling one instance in which she asked her doctors' permission to swim with sharks.

“She was a wise beyond her years kid who was also very compassionate,” he said. “She was really wanting to raise money early on, not necessarily to help herself, but to help other kids with cancer.”

The Mustard Challenge is already getting attention from celebrities, including former NBA star David Robinson. Participants are sharing their videos using the hashtags #MustardChallenge and #NoMoreKidswithCancer.

For the Summy family, the focus is on fulfilling their "promise to Naya" of raising money and awareness for pediatric cancer. They also think Naya would get a kick out of watching others partake in the Mustard Challenge, and would have been the first to partake herself.

"She did the ice bucket challenge when she was in treatment," Summy said, referring to the viral challenge that raised money for Lou Gehrig’s disease. "I think she would just think this is funny."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Apr202017

7 years after Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Louisiana dolphins struggle to reproduce

Redders48/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Seven years ago today, an explosion occurred on the Deepwater Horizon oil platform, killing 11 workers and triggering the worst oil spill in U.S. history. It took 87 days to cap the well. During that time, approximately 3.19 million barrels of crude oil flowed into the Gulf of Mexico.

The spill had a huge impact on marine wildlife, including wild bottlenose dolphins living in Louisiana’s Barataria Bay. A study released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in April 2016 noted that the spill may have led to historically high death rates and impaired reproductive health for the group of dolphins.

Pregnant dolphins showed an 80 percent reproductive failure rate, either because the fetuses were exposed to oil spill-related compounds or because the mothers' health suffered from the exposure, according to NOAA Fisheries.

Dolphins exposed to the oil compounds who were not pregnant were more likely to have damaged lungs and adrenal glands, which regulate hormones, and many developed bacterial pneumonia.

Kathleen Colegrove, a Veterinary Pathologist from University of Illinois who specializes in marine mammal pathology, remembered evaluating one dolphin, Y12, who was emaciated. Y12 was found to have severe lung disease on a pulmonary ultrasound. She said it was "one of the most severe phenomena I had ever diagnosed." The dolphin died less than seven months after its initial evaluation.

According to a report by the National Wildlife Federation, bottlenose dolphins along the U.S. gulf coast from the Florida panhandle to the Texas-Louisiana border had twice the historic death rates in 2014, but even higher where oil concentration was elevated.

"Places that received less oil did not have particularly elevated numbers of dolphin deaths in 2014," the report said, "while dolphins in heavily oiled Louisiana were found dead at four times historic rates."

The report added that this is the longest period of above-average death rates in more than two decades and was not attributed to other common causes of death like viruses or red tide.

Further study is being funded by the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI), which was established through a $500 million financial commitment from BP following the spill.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Apr202017

School rallies behind beloved crossing guard as she battles cancer

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- A Texas elementary school is showing their support for a beloved crossing guard after she was diagnosed with cancer.

Staff and students at the Rusk School in Houston have already raised $5,850 of their $10,000 goal on behalf of Sanjuana Torres, 59, who has worked at the school for 20 years.

"I was overwhelmed," Torres told ABC News Wednesday. "No one has ever done anything for me and I was happy. It's like our principal always said to me, 'Ms. Torres, we are your family we are going to take care of you.' They are my family."

Torres started working at Rusk in 1997. Since then, she has helped make sure all of the children safely reach their classrooms.

"I enjoy seeing the kids here and seeing their faces in the morning as well as in the afternoon," Torres said. "I watch over them and make sure they're OK."

All five of her own sons also attended the school.

Torres was diagnosed in March with uterine cancer and will undergo a hysterectomy today at Ben Taub Hospital in Houston, she said.

Senta Butler, the magnet school coordinator at Rusk, told ABC News that she created a GoFundMe page titled "Our Beloved Crossing Guard!" to help cover the cost of Torres' medical bills and living expenses while she's in recovery and out of work over the summer.

"When we found out about this, we just had to do something," Butler said. "She never lets it affect her. No one knew that it was something of a serious nature. She does so much for so many people around here and she touches everyone in a very special way."

Butler said the students adore Torres and treasure mornings with her as she high fives them on their way into school.

Jayden, an 11-year-old sixth grader at Rusk, said he's known Torres since the third grade.

"She's cool, she's a nice lady," he added. "I hope she could get better and defeat whatever she has."

Eighth grader Valeria, 13, agreed.

"She's one of the most incredible ladies I've ever met," Valeria said. "She's practically family to us here at Rusk. I hope she can get past all of this and do all of the things she aspires to do."

Torres said her family will be by her side during her surgery on Thursday. She plans to return to work at the school she loves in August, she added.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Apr192017

WHO: More effort needed to alleviate poverty in fight against tropical diseases

Bet_Noire/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The World Health Organization says efforts must be undertaken to alleviate poverty around the world if the progress made in battling tropical diseases is to continue.

In 2015 alone, the agency says that one billion people received treatment for neglected tropical diseases. WHO Director General Dr. Margaret Chan called the efforts part of the observed "record-breaking progress towards bringing ancient scourges like sleeping sickness and elephantiasis to their knees."

Millions of people, she added, have been saved from poverty and disability as a result of "one of the most effective global partnerships in modern public health."

A group of global partners agreed to fight neglected tropical diseases together in 2007. In that time, local and international partners have worked with ministries of health in affected countries to "deliver quality-assured medicines, and provide people with care and long-term management," WHO says.

Still, a report released Wednesday says more still must be done.

"Further gains in the fight against NTD's will depend on wider progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals," said Dr. Dirk Engels, Director of the Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases. The WHO says 2.4 billion people worldwide lack basic sanitation facilities and 660 million drink water from "unimproved sources."

Recent concern over diseases like the Zika virus and Chikungunya have re-energized the effort to fight tropical diseases.

The WHO notes that NTD's impact hundreds of millions of people in the poorest parts of the world. The formerly prevalent diseases are now restricted to tropical regions with unsafe water, poor hygiene and sanitation, and poor housing conditions.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Apr192017

Las Vegas now has vending machines to dispense clean needles for IV drug users 

Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock(LAS VEGAS) -- Las Vegas now has a new tool to fight HIV and hepatitis C: vending machines that dispense clean needles.

Local health officials announced this month they have started a needle exchange program in an effort to prevent an outbreak of blood borne diseases, a potential occurrence among intravenous drug users. In Clark County, where Las Vegas is located, approximately nine percent of HIV cases are found in people who use drugs intravenously, according to the Southern Nevada Health District. To combat a rise in HIV infections and other diseases, the Southern Nevada Health District and Trac-B Exchange, in collaboration with the Nevada AIDS Research and Education Society (NARES), launched the initiative earlier this month.

“It starts with providing a clean needle and syringe to one person," Dr. Joe Iser, chief health officer of the Southern Nevada Health District, said in a statement last Wednesday. "However, we know one in 10 HIV diagnoses occur in people who inject drugs. Providing clean needles and supplies is a proven method for limiting disease transmission in a community."

Officials have been concerned about the risk of a disease outbreak as heroin use has spiked in the U.S. in recent years, according to to the Southern Nevada Health District.

During the pilot program, people will have to register with the Trac-B Exchange Harm Reduction Center before accessing the vending machines. Individuals will be allotted two boxes with sterile needles and syringes to reduce the risk of infection. The center, where the vending machines are located, also conducts HIV and hepatitis C testing.

"In addition to providing supplies to individual clients, the goal of our program is to improve the health and well-being of people affected by drug use by increasing their access to health care, providing them with education, and reducing the risk of harm to others in our community,” said Iser.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that annual HIV diagnoses among black and Hispanic or Latino intravenous drug users dropped by approximately 50 percent between 2008 to 2014 and that the drop was likely due to increased access to sterile syringes.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Apr192017

Waitress gets big tip to help pay for hearing aids

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- For waitress Keri Marie Carlson, service that leaves customers smiling is part of the job at GW Carson’s Restaurant in Branford, Connecticut, but the tables were turned last week when a customer left her feeling grateful and in tears.

She was walking the customer to his table when he noticed that Carlson had trouble hearing him.

Carlson explained that one of her two hearing aids was broken and in need of repair.

“I didn’t say I needed the money or anything,” Carlson said to ABC station WTNH.

 The customer, who wished to remain anonymous, surprised Carlson by handing her $500.

“I cried for a minute in his arms,” the appreciative waitress said.

The kind gesture has had a pay-it-forward effect.

The owner of GW Carson’s, Jim Kirtopoulos, has decided to donate a portion of the proceeds from the restaurant’s T-shirt sales to the American Society for Deaf Children.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Apr192017

How a food writer struggling with mental illness found comfort through cooking

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- When David Leite was a young boy, his mother used to write notes all over a banana every morning and leave them at his seat at the breakfast table. She called him "banana head" for fun, he said, and every day, there would be a new message from her.

“One end of the banana would say, ‘God bless,’ the other side would say, ‘We love you,'” and then the middle part, which was the big real estate, was anything going on that day, 'Have a good day,' 'Break a leg' if it was school drama club, 'Do well on geometry test,' whatever was going on that day,” Leite said. “It was kind of a way to kind of lift my spirits and I call it the 1960s version of Snapchat. It’s there, you eat it, it’s gone.”

Leite, a Portuguese-American food writer, drew from his mother's morning ritual for the title of his new book, “Notes on a Banana: A Memoir of Food, Love and Manic Depression.” Although his memoir is steeped in humor, Leite writes at length about his lifelong struggle with mental illness. He shared his story during a live taping of ABC News' Dan Harris’ “10% Happier” podcast in New York City.

“I had a lot of anxiety,” Leite said. “I had a panic attack starting at 11 years old, I mean, true, full-blown panic attacks, and then I would also have these periods where I was -- just dark, bleak, punitive thoughts going through my head. I couldn’t lift myself up.”

 By the time he was a teenager, Leite said his depression because so severe that he went to his mother and asked for help.

“I told my mother, ‘If you do not let me see a psychiatrist, I will kill myself,’” Leite said. “And I knew that I wouldn’t kill myself but I knew it was the only way that I could, as a 13-and-a-half-year-old, explain to an adult how desperate this was and I was in a doctor’s office in a matter of weeks.”

The first diagnosis he received was for generalized anxiety disorder. He said one doctor recommended Valium, but he and his parents didn’t want him to take it. Leite tried changing his diet and exercise routine, but eventually he turned to writing as an outlet.

After years of trying to sort out his feelings, Leite said he came to believe he was suffering from manic depression and went to see a doctor, who then gave him a diagnosis of bipolar II disorder and got him on proper medication after some trial and error.

“When that happened, I felt as if all this armor that I had been carrying around since I was 11 just fell off me in pieces,” Leite said. “I was no longer fighting this invisible enemy, and that’s why I feel that was kind of like a second birthday for me.”

Sort of by accident, Leite also found some healing through cooking. He said fell into it after leaving Carnegie Mellon University and taking a job as a family cook for a professor.

“I knew nothing about cooking,” Leite said. “[The professor] says, ‘So you’ve cooked before?’ and, I like, ‘Yes, of course, I have,’ which was technically true. And he said, ‘You cooked for others?’ and I’m like, ‘Yes,’ which was technically true, I had cooked for other people.”

But Leite was hired and cooked for the professor’s family for three hours a day, five days a week. Through prepping the family’s meals, Leite realized how soothing it was for him.

“It was that rhythmic, ‘tock, tock, tock,’ of the knife, just chopping through herbs or doing something that just slowed me down,” he said. “Time became very elastic ... time stretched so much that there were these breaks in time where just a little bit of happiness come through. And that was the first step.

“I talk in the book about how just watching a pat of butter heat and start to melt and just slump to the side of the cast iron skillet was just comforting to me,” Leite continued. “It slowed me and made me feel grounded.”

In his book, Leite also talks about navigating relationships and coming to terms with being gay as a young adult. He credits his partner, whom he refers to as “The One,” for helping him through some of the “major times” when he said his life “fell apart” and for encouraging his food writing career. Leite is the publisher of the website Leite’s Culinaria, which has won two James Beard awards.

Leite decided to write this memoir, he said, to share with others the inner war he has long waged with himself.

“I just thought I have nothing to lose by telling the story,” he said. “I cannot battle myself back to ... being straight. ... I can't battle myself to not having mental illness. I cannot battle myself to being blonde hair, blue-eyed and be adopted by Samantha Stephens and Darren Stephens of ‘Bewitched.’ I cannot do that. But that's what the whole book's about. It's me trying.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Apr182017

Beauty queen uses platform to bring attention to rare genetic disorder

Courtesy Victoria Graham(MANCHESTER, Md.) -- For the first time in more than two years, beauty queen Victoria Graham didn't have to spend her birthday in the hospital.

Since 2014, Graham, who has Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, said she has undergone 10 surgeries. EDS is a rare genetic disorder that can weaken blood vessels, cause extreme elasticity of the skin and make joints so flexible that they are unstable and prone to dislocation.

Graham, who turned 23 on Tuesday, said the condition has been "always an adventure" since she was first diagnosed 10 years ago.

"I was an ex-athlete. I was living my dream. I was going to school and playing, at that point, two different sports: soccer and lacrosse," Graham told the BBC in an interview, "and suddenly I was having brain and spinal surgeries and I had to leave."

Graham attended Eastern University in Pennsylvania. At one point, she said she had to wear a neck brace to hold her brain steady. Her spine has also been fused. The surgeries left her with a 25-inch scar down her back. But Graham wanted to cross being in a beauty pageant off her bucket list, so she decided to compete for the title of Miss Frostburg 2017.

Although she knew her scars would be seen by everyone when she wore backless gowns, she said other competitors considered her "resilient."

"When I'm on stage, I'm not the handicapped girl. I'm not the disabled girl. I'm not the sick girl," Graham said. "It's almost like I'm free."

She said entering the contest wasn't about winning, but she took home the title anyway.

EDS has made some parts of her life unpredictable: Graham said she did not know whether she would need more surgeries in the future. For now, she said she takes dozens of medications each day to help her stay strong and healthy.

And she's using her newfound fame to help raise awareness: visiting children in local hospitals and sharing her story. She also started a support group for people with EDS called the Zebra Network.

In June, she will compete for the title of Miss Maryland.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Apr182017

Veteran who lost leg in Afghanistan carries friend across Boston Marathon finish line

ABCNews.com(BOSTON) -- Inspiring footage of an army veteran with a prosthetic leg carrying his friend over the Boston Marathon finish line was captured during Monday's race.

"My goal was to do it in six-and-a-half, seven hours," Earl Granville told ABC News on Tuesday. "We were 50 feet away and I told Andi, 'I'm going to carry you.'"

Granville, 33, of Scranton, Pennsylvania, lost his left leg through the knee in 2008 after his vehicle hit a roadside bomb while he was on patrol in Afghanistan. His comrades, Spc. Derek Holland of Wind Gap, Pennsylvania, and Maj. Scott Hagerty of Stillwater, Oklahoma, were killed in the blast.

Since then, Granville has competed in the Detroit, Chicago, New York and Marine Corps Marathons. This is the fourth year Granville has participated in the Boston Marathon, but it was his first time running it without a handbike, he said.

In the midst of this year's excitement, Granville said he made it to the end before lifting up his friend and marathon guide, Andi Piscopo, 38, of Attleboro, Massachusetts.

"I'm a public figure for mental health awareness in society and I always say, 'You never have to carry that weight alone yourself,'" Granville said.

Granville is also a Combat Infantryman Badge and Purple Heart recipient. He speaks publicly about the importance of veterans seeking help for mental distress since the death of his twin brother, Staff Sgt. Joseph Granville, who took his own life in December 2010.

Footage from yesterday's race showed Granville holding Piscopo over his shoulders while she gripped a large, American flag.

The video, posted by ABC affiliate WCVB-TV in Boston, has been viewed over 7 million times on Facebook.

"It was a spur of the moment kind of thing," Andi Piscopo told ABC News. "There's electricity in the crowd throughout the entire 26 miles but when you make those last two turns, you just get goosebumps. It is surreal. It's such a feel-good moment. It was an awesome moment, an awesome experience. I had said this morning that this was my favorite Boston Marathon."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Apr172017

First woman to officially run Boston Marathon finishes race again at 70

John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images(BOSTON) -- Fifty years after becoming the first woman to officially finish the Boston Marathon, Kathrine Switzer has done it again.

"I'm exhilarated," she told ABC News after finishing the 26.2-mile race on Monday. "All the way along the route, people had heard my story, saw my bib, and they were holding signs up that read '261 Fearless' and 'Go, Kathrine!' They were screaming and going crazy. It was amazing, especially the little girls who were there with their moms. They were just jumping up and down."

Behind pioneering female runner's return to Boston Marathon 50 years later

Switzer, 70, crossed the finish line with an unofficial time of 4:44:31, just 24 minutes slower than her time as a 20-year-old. She said it has always been her dream to return to the streets of Boston after making history there in 1967.

"It's just an enormous sense of gratitude for the city of Boston, the streets of Boston, which changed my life and helped pave the way for what is nothing less than a social revolution in women's running," she said. "When I crossed the finish line — to celebrate 50 years of looking back and seeing the huge progress and changes that have been made — I can only say that I'm extremely grateful for the experience."

Switzer signed up for the 1967 Boston Marathon, which until that point was predominantly run by men, as K.V. Switzer. While women were not officially barred from the course, people did not believe women were capable of running such a distance. A woman previously ran the race without a bib number. Race officials did not know that Switzer was running until she entered the second mile of the race. That's when race official Jock Semple ran up behind her and tried to rip off her bib in order to disqualify her. She was able to break free of his grasp, and her boyfriend shoved him to the ground. She kept running, becoming a symbol of girl power in sports.

Switzer said she was thinking of Semple, who later became her friend, as she passed that spot in the race Monday. Semple died in 1988.

"I just blew him a big kiss. I said, 'There you go, Jock,'" she said. "This was the guy who, for better or worse, changed my life. As it turned out, it was for better. At the time, it was a terrible experience, but in the fullness of time, it was the best thing that ever happened to me."

Switzer donned her original bib number, 261, for the 2017 race. This time around, she was accompanied by 125 runners raising money for her charity, 261 Fearless, which helps empower women and girls through running. After she crossed the finish line, the Boston Athletic Association retired her bib number.

Having fought sexism when she ran Boston the first time, she said she already knows the next boundary she has to break through: ageism.

"People are saying about old people in sports what they used to say about women — 'You shouldn't push yourself, you're too weak, you're too fragile, you might break, don't push it,'" Switzer said. "I don't think there's any limit for aging, and I think this is the next new frontier."

Kenyan policewoman Edna Kiplagat wins Boston Marathon in unofficial time of 2 hours, 21 minutes, 53 seconds

After finishing the race, she said, she wanted a "cup of coffee and a piece of chocolate." She plans to celebrate with a Boston-brewed draft beer over dinner with her husband and friends tonight. She said she has no intention of making this her last marathon: She hopes to compete in the New York Marathon in the future.

Her goal is for her story to inspire women of all ages to be active, strong and confident in themselves, she said. For her, that strength was on display down to the smallest detail.

"I had a choice of what to wear today — capris or shorts. At 70, my legs are not gorgeous like they were when I was 28. And I said, 'I'm wearing the shorts,'" Switzer said. "I've got 70-year-old legs, and they deserve to look gnarly. But I don't care, because I just want to run and run well."

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