People share helpful tips for keeping kids safe after U.K. abduction attempt caught on tape
Photo by David Clarke on Unsplash

Most of us like to pretend we live in a world where kidnappings only happen in the movies, but a video of an attempted abduction and alleged sexual assault of a school girl in the U.K. reminds us that it can and does happen in real life. The woman who thwarted the attempt has been praised for noticing something amiss and having the courage to confront the would-be kidnapper. Though abductions by strangers is rare, attacks and assaults do happen, and it's important that people know some ways to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe.

A Reddit thread discussing the U.K. incident contains helpful tips for doing just that. There are some standard self-defense preparations, such as carrying pepper spray or taking self-defense classes. But there are other less obvious things you can do to lessen the chances of abduction or attack.

One tip is to have a password for anyone who is sent to pick up your kids. Kids should know never to go with a stranger, but if there were ever a situation where someone they don't know or don't know well told them they needed to go with them because there was an emergency, kids need to be prepared for how to handle it.


"Create a password with your kids. Tell them that if someone comes to pick them up or tries to make them accompany them, this person must know the 'password.' If they don't, don't go with them. Change the password every time one has been used.

Example: growing up, we had a password: 'Pinocchio.' My siblings and I always got home from school about 40 minutes earlier than my parents did from work and so, we were home alone for this amount of time.

It was almost summer so for the 40 minutes, we played in the backyard of our house. Our neighbour, an elderly man who was always so nice to us and we had known for him years now, told my younger sister that my mom had called and asked if he could 'feed us a snack' as she was running late. He was trying to get her to come inside and help him grab some sandwiches. She asked him the password and he was confused. She kept persisting and he eventually said something along the lines of, 'oh yeah, your mom told me it but I can't remember. I'm so old!' But my sister still refused.

Eventually he gave up and my mom came home on time. We told her what had happened and she marched over there basically asking him 'wtf.' He said my sister got mixed up, he was simply asking us if we wanted a snack—never admitting to saying she had apparently called him and leaving out the fact that he was trying no to get her inside.

About 6 months later, he was arrested for possession of child pornography, including old photos of his own kids when they were young and some shots of other neighbourhood kids that appeared to have been taken from a window.

We truly think this password system saved my sister from being another victim of his."

It's important to trust our intuition and teach our children to do the same. If something doesn't feel right, there's a chance something isn't right, and we should honor that gut feeling. Teach kids to talk to a trusted adult if something feels off, and to leave situations in which they feel uncomfortable.

Along similar lines, having a code phrase for kids to use when they call or text you from a friend's or relative's house can help them get out of uncomfortable situations where they might not have the power to just leave. Another Reddit user shared a helpful tip for sleepovers:

"When your child is at a sleepover, give them a special phrase. One that they can say over the phone or through text that will alert you to come pick them up immediately, no questions asked. Ours is something silly like 'How's grandma's dog?' I'll reply something along the lines of 'not good. I'm on my way.' Then I call the parent hosting the sleepover, let him/her know that there's a situation with my family and I need my daughter to gather her things so I can pick her up. I usually wait to make the call until about ten minutes before I get there to avoid her awkwardly sitting around having to be grilled by the parents. My daughter has proof on her phone that she didn't call to go home (even though she did) and she avoids having to explain she wants to leave. And she isn't required to tell me why she wanted to come home. I will definitely ask her and offer comfort, but I don't force her to talk about it until she is ready."

Another parent said they did something similar.

"We used the password situation the other way too—it was a way for my daughter to call us from say a party, date or whatever that she wanted to leave but couldn't say out loud. This has gotten easier with texting but there are still times it helps.

Our code word was muffin bc it was a word that could be easily used either way. She called us from a sleep over that she didn't want to be at anymore and said she'd like muffins for breakfast. I immediately called the mom of the girl hosting and said we had a family emergency so I needed to pick her up. Worked like a charm. Turns out the girls 16 year old brother was being skeevy and offering the girls booze and weed, and asking "how far they had gone" ... the girls were 11 and 12."

One Reddit user shared a story of what a young relative did when she suspected a car was following her:

"My aunt's daughter was just in her car driving to her mom's house... a few days ago. She was getting off main roads and into developments and felt like this car was following her. She called her mom, who told her to start making weird turns and not come home. She did... the guy followed. Her mom called the cops and they were all there waiting when she pulled up. They couldn't arrest the man, he claimed he was looking at the leaves changing.

He was just arrested for attempting to abduct another woman at knifepoint. Two good samaritans saved her and held him down.

Trust your gut."

A couple of people added tips for physically fending off an attacker, even if you don't have specific self-defense training:

"Another good tip is to have them actually physically practice what to do if someone snatches them...dead weight, back on the ground, kick like hell, scream stranger! Dr. Phil had a guy on who described the technique as chiwawa [sic] crazy—flip out and cause a scene. And actually physically practice to help them not freeze in the moment," wrote one user.

"Also this!" added another. "My dad, now an ex-cop, made us practice about once a month. It's seems a bit much but honestly, I became pretty confident in my skills and was even able to remember one of those moves years later when I was 23 and someone tried to snatch my purse in a mall parking lot!"

KidsHealth.org offers other child-specific tips for keeping your kids safe in public, and Brown University offers a helpful list of ways for anyone to protect themselves from potential danger.

Though we all hope we'll never been faced with a situation like the one we saw in the U.K., it's good to be prepared for anything and always better to be safe than sorry.

Everyone can all use a little lift at the end of the week, and we've collected some of this week's best stories to provide just such a pick-me-up. Here are 10 things we want to share, just because they made us so darn happy.

1. Introducing Lila, the U.S. Capitol Police's first emotional support dog.

After the traumatic experiences of January 6th, Capitol Police officers could definitely use some extra support. Lila, a two-year-old black lab, will now serve as the department's first full-time emotional support dog. Look at that sweet face!

2. Speaking of the Capitol, take a look at this week's gorgeous solar eclipse behind the dome.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson shared the stunning "ring of fire" image on Twitter. Always a treat when nature gives us a great show.


3. Colorado sees its first wild wolf pups in six decades.

In the 1940s, the gray wolf was eradicated in Colorado by trappers and hunters, with the support of the federal government. Whoops. This week, Colorado Parks and Wildlife has announced the first evidence of wild wolf breeding in the state, a sign of hope for the endangered species. Read more about the discovery here.

Photo by M L on Unsplash


4. 30-year-old singer with terminal cancer amazed and inspired with her performance on America's Got Talent.

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Everyone can all use a little lift at the end of the week, and we've collected some of this week's best stories to provide just such a pick-me-up. Here are 10 things we want to share, just because they made us so darn happy.

1. Introducing Lila, the U.S. Capitol Police's first emotional support dog.

After the traumatic experiences of January 6th, Capitol Police officers could definitely use some extra support. Lila, a two-year-old black lab, will now serve as the department's first full-time emotional support dog. Look at that sweet face!

2. Speaking of the Capitol, take a look at this week's gorgeous solar eclipse behind the dome.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson shared the stunning "ring of fire" image on Twitter. Always a treat when nature gives us a great show.


3. Colorado sees its first wild wolf pups in six decades.

In the 1940s, the gray wolf was eradicated in Colorado by trappers and hunters, with the support of the federal government. Whoops. This week, Colorado Parks and Wildlife has announced the first evidence of wild wolf breeding in the state, a sign of hope for the endangered species. Read more about the discovery here.

Photo by M L on Unsplash


4. 30-year-old singer with terminal cancer amazed and inspired with her performance on America's Got Talent.

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True

Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."