“Am I going to die?” This is usually a patient’s initial response after learning of his or her cancer diagnosis.

As cancer becomes an increasingly prevalent epidemic, awareness and a cure for cancer have become necessities. University Students Against Cancer, formed in 1996, kicked off Cancer Awareness Week yesterday to fight cancer and support cancer research for a cure.

Engineering sophomore and CAW co-chair said the group has been planning this year’s program of events since last April because of the lack of knowledge about USAC and CAW on campus.

“We always use Dance Marathon as an example,” Janelle Penisten said. “Everyone seems to know about DM, and if you ask someone for money for DM, they’re willing to give. However, when I ask for money for CAW, people don’t usually know what it is, and I find myself explaining what CAW is, then people are more willing.”

Both on campus and in the Ann Arbor community, USAC is involved with events that raise money for cancer research and patients, raise awareness in the community about cancer and provide support to those who are affected by cancer.

“Our goal is to let people know who we are, what we’re doing, and why we’re doing it,” Penisten added.

“We want to increase students’ recognition of USAC and CAW. We want people to know that we’re out there and we’re working for a great cause that we care so much about.”

The second goal of CAW is to involve the larger Ann Arbor community outside the University, Penisten said. Organization leaders have been soliciting donations from off-campus businesses to publicize CAW. The choice of the charities for CAW is a crucial aspect that helps to involve the Ann Arbor community, Penisten added.

“This year, selecting the (University of Michigan) Comprehensive Cancer Center as one of our charities has been essential in involving the community in CAW,” Penisten said.

“Ann Arbor businesses and residents are much happier to see their donations going toward a charity here in town – their money is staying right here in Ann Arbor.”

With the recent discovery of a new stem cell by the cancer center in the past week, organizers said such progress in cancer research on campus will help CAW to gain more contributors.

“The participants and donors for our events can really see that their money is helping to promote such amazing research,” Penisten said.

Events planned for CAW include a bar night to raise funds and an art exhibit featuring works from Art School students and children USAC has worked with.

Much of the artwork deals with “say no to cigarettes” and other cancer-awareness themes. English majors will also contribute poetry and short essays on cancer-related topics.

The annual bone marrow drive will focus on targeting minorities due to the lack of minorities on the bone marrow registry compared to non-minorities, Penisten said.

Julie Maltzman, co-chair for CAW and School of Education junior, said she was inspired by the death of her brother’s friend who had bone cancer, and her mother’s breast cancer, to become involved with USAC and CAW.

“I was inspired by the battle she fought and her eagerness to always be helping others,” Maltzman said, referring her brother’s friend.

“My mom, too, showed a ton of courage during her fight with cancer. It has been just about two years since she finished her last chemotherapy treatment and she is free and clear of cancer.”

Additional events include a candle light vigil, a fashion show and a CCRB night.

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