A Time of Thanks!

It is really early in the morning and once again the phone alarm clock is ringing. It has been cold lately and your warm bed with fluffy pillows probably feel quite nice. You would love to snuggle deep under the covers and go back to sleep. Yet like many of us, you have to go to work!

Have you ever taken time to stop and consider how many lives the work you do really affect? Come on, pause for a minute and think about it!

As I prepared to write this post, I instinctively thought of Thanksgiving. No, I didn’t think of the meal I would eat or whether or not the Seattle Seahawks will beat the San Francisco 49ers this week! My mind drifted to the women we serve through Women’s Health Outreach at the YWCA!

Between July 2013 and June 2014, our team of three  provided 7,658 individuals – mostly women – with educational information and materials  regarding breast cancer and the importance of cancer screenings! Of this number, 445 women attended one of our monthly community mobile mammogram events in King County and had a mammogram. As a result of these mammogram events, breast cancer was found and treated in two women! Imagine the sighs of relief and the depths of appreciation from these women and their families.

Even though the people represented above entrusted Women’s Health Outreach with their health care and health education, we could never have done any of it without the Breast, Cervical, and Colon Health Program of Washington State, the Puget Sound Susan G. Komen Foundation, Swedish Medical Center, or the many donors who contribute dollars to help offset the cost of services provided.

In addition, we are grateful for the churches, schools, mosques, temples, stores, businesses and community centers that allow us to use space in their facilities to work with our patrons. And of course we can never forget our volunteers: Mrs. Etta, Mom Emma Guiterrez, Agnes, Gabby, Jenn and Letitia for supporting the cause, our work and the women we serve.

Finally, we would like to thank our co-workers at the YWCA,  friends, and families for everything done to give our careers a sense of purpose!

Although Women’s Health Outreach is a small program of Health Access within the YWCA of Seattle, we are grateful this Thanksgiving! Please take a few moments and share the things you are thankful for with us and others.

Happy Thanksgiving.


Winter Weather

winterweatherCan you believe it? It’s nearly wintertime. In the past, snowstorms and extreme weather have caught us off guard – and this year, we can all plan ahead to be better prepared.

To be safe on the roads, consult the Seattle Department of Transportation’s Winter Weather Response Map. The map will show you where snow plows have been and you can view road conditions via traffic cameras. For those of us who get around by bus, King County Metro will show you your planned Snow Route – just type in your bus route number in the search bar and click Enter on your keyboard. Learn more about what the Seattle Department of Transportation does to prepare for winter weather and who to contact for information by reading SDOT’s incredibly helpful Winter Weather 2013-2014 brochure. And if you’re concerned about other hazards and threats that might threaten your transportation – like flooding – sign up for an email or phone notification from the Regional Public Information & Notification emergency alert system.

On top of being safe while in transit, there are ways we can be safe in our homes. Thanks to Public Health of Seattle & King County for the tips below.

Be careful what you burn. Burning fuels like gasoline, propane, oil, kerosene, natural gas, coal or wood can let off carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide poisoning can be fatal. To be safe and prevent carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • Only use a generator outside and away from windows and vents
  • Don’t use a generator or portable propane heater indoors, in a garage or in a car port
  • Don’t cook or head indoors by using a charcoal or gas grill

Carbon monoxide poisoning can feel like a splitting headache, nausea and vomiting, and lethargy and fatigue. If you are experiencing these symptoms, get fresh air immediately and call for medical help from a neighbor’s home.

If you lose power, use different ways to stay warm. Try to stay with friends and family who still have power. Or, go to a city location set up for people without power. To find out where these locations are, visit www.kingcounty.gov/safety/prepare when there’s bad weather – they’ll have the location information listed. If you do stay at home, close all curtains and cover windows and doors with blankets. Everyone should stay together in one room with the door closed to warm each other and the room with body heat. Wear multiple layers of lightweight clothing rather than one layer of heavy clothing. And don’t forget to put on those hats and mittens!

And please do what you can to help others!

  • Check on elderly friends, family members, and neighbors to make sure they are alright.
  • Warn others about carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Invite friends and family over if you know they have lost power.

What other tips do you have on how to stay safe and warm this winter?

Breast Cancer Awareness Year-Round!

Another Breast Cancer Awareness Month has come and gone, now my questions as a health educator are these!

How many women over 40 actually went to have a mammogram or scheduled an appointment this month?

How many actually perform self-breast exams?

How many encouraged other women to do these things?

How many talked with their teen daughter about the importance of regular mammography screenings once they’re 40?

How many women encourage the men in their lives to perform self-chest and testicular exams?

With the American Cancer Society predicting 232,670 new cases of invasive breast cancer this year and 40,000 of those findings ending in death, the fact remains there are risk factors that cannot be changed. Many YWCAs and other organizations across the country spend their time and talents educating women about the importance of being screened. Those of us working in YWCA Women’s Health Outreach in Seattle also encourage people to be screened and know your personal risk factors.

The American Cancer Society says,

A risk factor is anything that affects your chance of getting a disease, such as cancer.

Watch this video and see how one woman and her family are addressing their risk factors!

After you have learned what your personal risk factors are, take charge of your health, learn everything you can about the impact of the risk factor on your chance of getting breast cancer and become involve in finding a cure!

Volunteer with an organization working to eradicate the disease, participate in research, consider financial contributions, manage the risk factors you can control and communicate with others in your social networks on the topic of breast cancer – not just in October!  If you need to schedule a mammogram or connect with a speaker for your women’s group, book club, community event or church gathering – contact me at 206-461-4489. I can assist you throughout the year!

Enrolling in health insurance for 2015

Open Enrollment is on its way! Starting on Saturday, November 15th, we’ll be able to apply for, renew, or change our health insurance plans through the Washington state Health Benefit Exchange. This year, enrollment runs from November 15, 2014 – February 15, 2015. Here are some important dates to keep in mind:

  • November 15, 2014. This is your first day to apply for, keep, or change your coverage.
  • December 15, 2014. Enroll by the 15th if you want new coverage that begins on January 1, 2015. If your plan is changing or you want to change plans, enroll by December 15th to avoid a lapse in coverage.
  • December 31, 2014. The day all 2014 Marketplace [also known as Health Benefit Exchange] coverage ends, no matter when you enrolled. Coverage for 2015 plans can start as soon as January 1st.
  • February 15, 2015. The last day you can enroll in 2015 coverage before the end of Open Enrollment.

There will be double the number of plans available for 2015 coverage as there were for 2014 – so make sure to take some time to review the plans to find the best one for you and your family. If you signed up for a 2014 plan through the Exchange, you will most likely be eligible to automatically renew for 2015. However, it’s possible that your plan may be one of the few not available for 2015 – so best to double-check. Regardless of which plan you chose in 2014, you will be able to update your application and shop for new plan options.

If you want coverage from a new plan to start January 1, 2015, be sure to enroll by December 23, 2014, at 4:59pm. Also, keep an eye out for “Open Enrollment Renewal” notices from Washington HealthPlanFinder – this letter will give you more information about 2015 coverage, the renewal process, and any steps you might need to take.

Don’t forget that, if you’re eligible, you can enroll in Washington Apple Health (Medicaid) throughout the year. There is no enrollment period for this health coverage. If you are enrolled in Apple Health now, you will receive a notice 60 days before the month you enrolled or renewed your coverage last year.

If you would like any assistance at all during the enrollment period, please reach out to a certified Navigator in your area. You can do a search here. Navigators will assist you at no cost to you, and they are committed to helping you find, compare, and select a health plan that’s best for you and your family.

Breast Health Education & Teens!

Parents are a child’s first teachers! We spend countless hours assisting young people in acquiring skills that we hope will enable them to make wise decisions over the course of their lives. Yet many parents find it difficult to have conversations with their children about physical anatomy and human sexuality. Is it discomfort that keeps parents from addressing these topics? Perhaps it is because  many parents are not prepared, while still others simply fear having these vital conversations and believe this information will fuel the flame of curiosity.

Marilyn @ Naam 2012

Marilyn Calbert at a mobile screening event

This month is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and as a YWCA Wellness Advocate, I have been leading many conversations around breast health and supporting community mammography screening events. At one event in particular, I noticed a teen with her mother staring intently at the prosthetic teaching device as I demonstrated how to perform a breast self exam to the woman. The look on the teen’s face displayed mixed emotions. I could see fear as I talked about breast cancer, and I could see curiosity as she moved in closer to the model and crept her finger to the edge of it as she discretely tried to touch it. I also watched her mother squirm with discomfort as she watched her daughter. The mother shared that she brought her daughter to the event to teach her the importance of having a mammogram.

The mother also told me how her daughter had been asking her about the purpose behind the pink ribbon campaign. She had asked, “Do you get mammograms, Mom?”  The mother had replied yes, had explained the process of a mammogram to her daughter, and had asked if she would like to come with her to the appointment. Having come to the mammography event together, they both looked at me with smiles of relief as I continued sharing information about breast health with both of them!

Since that interaction, I have looked more closely at information on the importance of explaining mammograms and gynecological exams to teens:

Helping teens gain this awareness is giving them a boost up to being healthy adults. Every teenage girl should have had at least one pelvic exam by the time she graduates from high school. This exam should come sooner if she is sexually active. During the visit for the pelvic exam, the doctor will also perform a clinical breast exam, palpitating both breasts and under the arms to check for lumps and other signs (such as dimpling of the skin and unusual discharge from the nipple) of breast cancer.

As Breast Cancer Awareness Month continues and I continue educating women and their families about the importance of mammograms, I am reminded of this teen and her mom. I am also reminded of my very first mammogram at the age of 18. My mom hadn’t talked to me about self breast exams, nor had she taken me to a mammogram appointment with her  – even though she went to them faithfully. And I don’t remember there being such wide-spread media coverage or public information in my community about breast health and breast cancer.

At 18 years old, I discovered a lump! I immediately told my mom and we made an appointment to have things checked out. After having a clinical breast exam by the doctor, I had my very first mammogram. I remember being afraid, crying and praying! Many thoughts went through my mind and I didn’t understand what was going on with my body. For the next few days, I read everything I could on the breast and breast cancer.

At that time – in the 1970s – the recommendation was to have surgery and have the lump removed. These days, doctors often perform an ultrasound or biopsy to learn more about what’s going before talking about surgery. After my surgery, I awoke in recovery and the first thing I did was touch my breast. I cannot began to tell you the relief and joy I felt when it was just a benign cyst! Everything was ok.

From that day till this one, I have always examined my breasts, had mammograms, and encouraged others to do monthly self breast exams on the 7th day after their cycle starts or on the date of their birth if they are no longer having menstrual cycles.

If you don’t have health insurance or are in need of a mammogram, call  206-461-4489 and I can assist you!

Health Fair @ KeyArena – Free Dental, Medical, Vision Care

The Seattle Center Foundation is hosting a free dental, vision and medical care health fair – and YOU are invited! The health fair will go take place on October 23-26 at the Seattle Center. See below for the flyer and very important logistical information. For additional information, visit the health fair’s website.



How Do I Get Into the Clinic?

  • No registration necessary – first come, first served!
  • Both the parking garage (1st Ave N) and the building (NW Rooms) where people line up to get admission numbers open at 12 Midnight each day (Click here for map)
  • Limited admission numbers, for that day only, will be distributed starting at 3:30am.
  • The first patients will be admitted to the clinic by number starting at 5:30am.

How Should I Prepare for the Clinic?
Please be advised that this will be a long day and you are responsible for your needs.

  • ALL WELCOME. Patients DO NOT need identification or proof of citizenship.
  • Bring some food and beverages including breakfast, lunch, snacks and water.
  • Wear comfortable clothing.
  • Minors need to be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.
  • When your number is called and you enter KeyArena, you will stay inside until you have received all the services you are seeking for the day. If you leave KeyArena, you cannot return that day. Be prepared for a long day at the clinic.

Will Someone Speak My Language?

  • Interpretation services will be available to assist patients throughout the clinic.

What Happens Once I Enter the Clinic?

  • Because of the large number of patients, you can only seek care in either vision or dental, in addition to medical care, in one day.
  • Patients can wait in line for an admission number on another day for additional services.
  • We will collect basic personal information including name, age, height, weight, and medical history.
  • In each service area (dental, vision, or medical) you will wait your turn in line and will be seen on a first come, first served basis.

What Not to Bring:

  • No drugs, alcohol, or weapons are allowed on the premises.
  • Pets, except service animals.

NOTE: Narcotics will not be used or prescribed. Authorization for medical marijuana will not be provided.

Find out more in Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Patient Parking & Admission Line Map

Violence: Learn more, Do more

Where have you experienced or witnessed violence in your life?

Futures_Share_Graphic_650px-3Futures Without Violence has found that about 1 in 3 teenagers report some kind of abuse – including emotional and verbal abuse – in a romantic relationship.

Every day, an average of 483 women are raped or sexually assaulted in the United States.

In the past year, more than 5 million children were exposed to physical intimate partner violence – 6.6% of children in our country. Of these children, 1 in 3 reported being physically abused themselves.

With statistics like these, we could say that we have all been exposed to violence somewhere and at some point in our lives – whether we’ve experienced it ourselves or someone close to us has. We see the consequences to exposure to violence all around us. Violence leads to more violence and our exposure to it impacts our health and the health of our loved ones. For example:

  • Women victimized by abuse are more likely to be diagnosed with serious health problems including depression, panic attacks, high risk behaviors such as tobacco and substance abuse and sexual risk taking, as well as migraines, chronic pain, arthritis, high blood pressure, gastrointestinal problems, inconsistent use of birth control, and delayed entry into prenatal care.

  • Pregnant women are frequent targets of abuse and, as a result, are placed at risk for low birth weight babies, pre-term labor — pregnant and parenting teens are especially vulnerable.

  • Abused children and those exposed to adult violence in their homes may have short and long term physical, emotional and learning problems, including: increased aggression, decreased responsiveness to adults, failure to thrive, posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, hyper vigilance and hyperactivity, eating and sleeping problems, and developmental delays.

It’s one thing to know more about violence in our communities and in our country – and another to be able to do something about it. When I stop and think – Ok, how, then, do we stop violence? – I get stuck. It’s such a BIG issue and incredibly complex. But it seems a few groups of people have some ideas. Here are a few ideas from the Coalition to End Violence Against Women in Sudbury, Canada:

  1. Recognize that it’s a men’s issue: Violence against women is not just a woman’s issue, it’s also a men’s issue that involves men of all ages, socioeconomic, racial and ethnic backgrounds.
  2. Break the silence: When you are ready, tell others your stories about survival; this can help others share their stories thus reducing the shame associated with abuse.
  3. Listen to women: When a woman discloses about violence in her life, listen and believe her.Futures_Share_Graphic_650px-1
  4. Heal the violence in your own life: Many of us are survivors of abuse in some way and many of us fear becoming a victim of violence.  If you are emotionally, psychologically, physically or sexually abused, get help. Get counselling or join a support groupIf you are abusive to women, in any way, get help now.
  5. Make violence your business: Some of us tend to have this belief that violence is a private thing and we should not be asking questions about other people’s business or relationships – especially when there is trouble. If you suspect violence in a home or if someone is being abused, ask them. Looking the other way will not help end violence against women. They may not tell you right away but your concern may show them you are someone they can trust. If you need extra support in support someone who is being abused, call your local women’s shelter or crisis line.
  6. Raise non-violent children: Talk to your children about abuse and violence. Help them find non-violent ways to solve conflicts and encourage co-operative and non-violent play. Don’t use violence as punishments.
  7. Support initiatives that promote women’s equality: Women make up the majority of victims of abuse. Get involved in your community’s rallies or awareness campaigns on ending violence. Help raise money so we can continue to our prevention work or volunteer in an organization working to end violence against women.
  8. Challenge sexism: Media often portray women as sexual objects and often use images of violence against women to sell products.  Websites, music, movies, even books often describe and portray women in a sexual degrading or abusive manner. This is not OK. Challenge those statements by talking about the realities of women. Challenge gender roles.

Next week is the YWCA’s Week without Violence – a signature initiative created by YWCA USA nearly 20 years ago to mobilize people in communities across the United States to take action against all forms of violence, wherever it occurs. What will you do to take a stand, interrupt violence, and promote peace, health and wellness? What will you do to get involved?

Hate begets hate; violence begets violence; toughness begets a greater toughness. We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love.

-Martin Luther King, Jr. 


For support around domestic violence, contact Doris O’Neal in Seattle at 206.280.9961 or JoJo Goan in South King County at 425.226.1266, ext.1017 or rgaon@ywcaworks.org. Learn more about YWCA services available for individuals and families experiencing domestic violence. To speak with a counselor to talk through something you’re experiencing, call us at 425.922.6192.

Know Your Body

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the time of year when we all strengthen our focus on breast health for women and men. If you don’t know how to examine your own breasts, take a moment to learn. If you haven’t had your mammogram yet this year, take a moment to schedule that appointment. And if you want to talk to someone about joining one of our mobile screening events, call Ingrid Berkhout at 206.461.4493, Marilyn Calbert at 206.461.4489, or Karly Garcia at 425.226.1266 x1006.


Living well with HIV

What is HIV?

To start, it is the abbreviation for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. HIV is a virus that can only infect people and that weakens the immune system. Unlike other viruses, HIV does not clear out of the body – there is currently no cure for HIV.

According to AIDS.gov,

We know that HIV can hide for long periods of time in the cells of your body and that it attacks a key part of your immune system – your T-cells or CD4 cells. Your body has to have these cells to fight infections and disease, but HIV invades them, uses them to make more copies of itself, and then destroys them.

Over time, HIV can destroy so many of your CD4 cells that your body can’t fight infections and diseases anymore. When that happens, HIV infection can lead to AIDS, the final stage of HIV infection.

It used to be said that HIV was a “death sentence” – but nowadays, there are many options for treatment and medication, and programs throughout the United States to help patients afford medication.

Around the world, there are about 35 million people living with HIV. There are about 1.2 million people living with HIV in the United States, 12,300 living in Washington state, and about 7,300 in King County. In the United States, 16% of those living with HIV don’t know they are – which means they haven’t been tested and aren’t receiving the medical treatment that will help them be healthy in the long-term. What to get tested? Click here for more info on local testing sites.

For those living with HIV, medical treatment isn’t the only way to stay healthy. Having a good relationship with a doctor, and honestly and openly discussing your health is an important part of taking care of your health. And, there are additional ways to live well.

  • Manage your mental health – talk to a counselor if you’re experiencing major stress or just need to talk through some things.
  • Avoid using substances like drugs and alcohol in a way that harms your health.
  • Consider quitting smoking cigarettes and other tobacco products. Smoking isn’t healthy for anyone, but it also can increase your risk of co-infections if you’re living with HIV. Learn more here.
  • Follow a healthy diet – talk to your doctor or a nutritionist about learning how to improve your diet. Are you getting enough veggies? What about protein?
  • Keep moving! Exercise increases your strength, endurance and fitness. It helps your immune system work better to fight infections.
  • Talk about family planning options with your health care provider – there are lots of options for birth control and ways to plan for having children.
  • Learn about how to prepare to travel abroad.

These are just some ideas. What do you need to be healthy and live well? Make sure to talk about your goals with your doctor, and find support to help you be successful!

If you are a woman living with HIV, consider giving us a call at BABES Network-YWCA at 206.720.5566. BABES is here to support women living with HIV and their families. We’re happy to connect with you on the phone or via email. Or, you can join us at a support group or upcoming retreat. We’d love to get to know you and have you join the sisterhood!


Make a Plan. Be Prepared.

NPM_logo_CMYKNo matter where we live, there is always the possibility of a man-made or natural disaster.

September is Disaster Preparedness Month. This is a great time to make a plan and practice it with your family so that if there is a disaster – like an earthquake, wildfire or flood – you’ll be able to be safe and prepared together.

It only takes a few steps to become more prepared.

For example – you can build an emergency supply kit that includes:

  • First aid kit
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Food, at least a 3-day supply of non-perishable food
  • Water, one gallon of water per person per day, for at least 3 days, for drinking and sanitation
  • Can opener for food
  • Local maps

Some additional items to consider adding to your emergency kit are:

  • Prescription medications and glasses
  • Infant formula and diapers
  • Matches in a waterproof container
  • Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items
  • Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person

FEMA has a full checklist available that can help you put together a solid emergency supply kit. Go through it with a family member and start setting items aside now.

And if you or a family member is living with a disability or is a senior, learn about how to enhance your plan. For example, consider how to care for any service animals or pets; talk to friends, neighbors or coworkers in case you would be in need of assistance; and include important documents in your emergency kit like copies of your social security card, medical records, and bank account information. Read more about some of these specialized tips at FEMA’s Make a Plan website.

Take the steps now to protect yourself and your family in the event of a disaster.

Visit www.ready.gov to learn more and access resources – o visita www.ready.gov/es si habla español.



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