Young woman ‘thinks pink’

by Ana Ceballos

Monica Linzmeier, Staff photographer

At 18 years of age, Laura Knoll’s life took an unexpected turn, which inspired her to start a healing legacy to improve women’s health.

Her mother, San Diego State alumna and emergency room nurse Helen Knoll, lost her second battle to breast cancer at the age of 43, leaving Laura and her 13- year-old sister Christina behind with a purpose: to educate young women about prevention and early cancer detection.

“I felt like something had to be done,” Laura said. “So, I decided to do something about it. Really, my dream was to not let another young person lose someone that they loved if they could prevent it.”

The legacy began at Helen’s funeral back in 2006. Instead of flowers, the family asked their loved ones to bring a small amount of money, which was then used as a fund to start the Helen Knoll Foundation. The foundation’s main purpose is to prevent breast cancer in young women through early detection.

According to the National Cancer Institute, one out of eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. However, there’s hope if the breast tumor is detected early. According to NCI, women have a 98 percent survival rate if the cancer is detected during the first stage. However, as it progresses, the survival rate decreases to 12 percent if diagnosed during the fourth stage.

Through these findings, Knoll differentiated her foundation from other breast cancer foundations by focusing on providing prevention options for young women. Knoll believes, even though it is absolutely essential to have organizations focusing their everything to breast cancer research and finding a cure, early detection through noninvasive screenings can help finding cancer on time and increasing the 98 percent chance of survival.

“When you have control over your body and you know what is going on, it stops being this big scary thing,” Knoll said. “If you find it on time, it is likely you are going to make it.”

Even though the Helen Knoll Foundation doesn’t discriminate based on age, it focuses primarily on women between the ages of 18 and 24. This is mainly because mammograms are recommended for women 40 and older, excluding younger women. Helen was one of the many that didn’t fall into that category when she was diagnosed at the age of 35.

“If my mom would’ve known about these early-detection screenings, I honestly believe she might still be here today,” Knoll said. “I don’t want what happened to her to happen to anyone else. You can check when you are young. People don’t know it can happen to them and what they can do to prevent it. All we want is to reach as many people as possible.”

From 5-7 p.m. on Thursday, the foundation’s focus on young women will be on display at a free breast-cancer health fair called Think Pink @ SDSU at the Parma Payne Goodall Alumni Center.

The event will educate young women on the available options for screening as well as subsidized screenings for attendees.

The health fair will also have professionals from various organizations informing attendees about living a healthy life style, including dietitians and counselors.

Keshia Baker, SDSU student and Olympic gold medalist, will be a guest speaker at the event. At 24 years old, Baker, like so many others, has known numerous victims of breast cancer.

“She is an inspiration to young women and a really great role model for someone who is caring about her health,” Knoll said.

Knoll believes the foundation’s motifs are part of a “big crazy dream,” but she considers her dream fulfilled if she gets to save lives.