When you're 22 years old, you have your whole life ahead of you. You're planning on enjoying parties in college, summer travels and meeting new people, or getting experience that may be useful to you in the future. But when Kateřina Vacková was 22, doctors discovered that she had a malignant tumor on one of her ovaries. For many, that'd mean their world falling apart and throwing away their plans and dreams. But Katka decided to get the most out of her illness and help other people through it. As a student at the First Faculty of Medicine at Charles University and a future doctor, she founded the non-profit organisation Loono, which has the goal of propagating cancer prevention. As of today, almost 50 people have managed to discover the life-threatening disease in time thanks to the individual campaigns.
"When something similar happens to you at such a young age, you ask yourself, 'Why me, I'm so young...'. But since I was already in my fourth year of medicine studies, the first thing that came up on my mind was that I don't want something like this to happen to other young people,"
Katka, who founded Loono after having one of her ovaries removed, remembers her beginnings. The early discovery of the disease saved Katka's life, and she realized how important health and prevention are. Thanks to not keeping her life story to herself, she found out a piece of information that shocked her.
"I also found out at the time that many of my peers and friends don't even have an idea what preventative check-ups they should be undergoing. That alarmed me. Because none of them actually visited a doctor with the same symptoms I'd had,"
Everything started off with the I touch them every month campaign - #boobsandballs, which teaches how to regularly and correctly examine breasts and testicles and discover cancer in its early stages.
"We train people on special rubber models inside which we've concealed lumps. So that everyone can try and feel what cancer actually feels like,"
As a part of the second campaign, Your heart for life, Loono teaches how to prevent and also identify a heart attack or a stroke in time, and how to best help a person that ends up in such a situation. Kateřina kicked off a third campaign with her team this year, titled All good down there, which teaches how to prevent and detect sexually transmitted diseases.
As of today, the Loono organization has helped 47 people discover cancer or a different serious illness in an early stage.
"This drives us forward. These people gradually became the answer to my question "Why?" - it was simply supposed to happen, so that I could then help save other people's lives and create a platform where medical students can get experience, self-confidence and can become better, more emphatic doctors that will guide their patients towards prevention,"
"Cancer is often underestimated, especially by young people. Because many of them think cancer is "an old people issue", that it doesn't concern them at this age. But especially with testicular cancer the average age of sufferers is between 15 and 35 years,"
Three hundred women under 30 are diagnosed with breast cancer in the Czech Republic every year. You can find out how to correctly perform the self-examination of breasts and testicles, or care for your heart or "down there" at the website www.loono.cz, or by clicking through the social media hashtags #boobsandballs, or #yourheartforlife / #doledobry. So find a five minute time window once a month to examine yourself or your partner. It can save your life! So c'mon!