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On Monday, April 2nd 2012, I had the privilege of being asked to speak at a Sharsheret Supports Breast Cancer Symposium at the Ruth Rales Jewish Family Service in Delray Beach, Florida. This one of a kind program was co-sponsored by 10 large companies and organizations, including our own, Sharsheret.
More than 150 community members attended the event and my breakout workshop on Sharsheret’s programs was well attended by women, young and old. I was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer in May of 2006, just 7 months after my mother passed away from breast cancer. As a motivational speaker and powerful advocate of personal empowerment before, during, and after illness, I believe that it is important to teach other women to grab hold of their courage, step out on faith, and be the best they can be when faced with a diagnosis of breast cancer. To be a Cancer Warrior.
Most of the women who attended this extraordinary program were breast cancer survivors. I was overwhelmed by their stories. In particular, one woman told us the story of her 23 year-old daughter who was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer and was BRCA Positive. Thanks to Sharsheret, this young girl does not have to face her diagnosis alone. She has an organization that can offer peer support, up to date information about her treatment, access to a genetic counselor, support for her caregivers, and a link to other healthcare professionals.
To say the least I am grateful for having won my battle, but also humbled and amazed at the fragility of life. I am awed by the women before me who have also won this battle. I celebrate the courage of those we have lost.
I now understand that when you are faced with a challenge in life, you have a choice: to find the hero within, or to give up. By choosing to uncover your own courage, strength, and determination, you become a role model for others.
It has been a great pleasure and distinct honor to be involved with Sharsheret for the past decade. I care for a large number of young Orthodox Jewish women with breast cancer. In the pre-Sharsheret era, many of my patients felt very isolated, frightened, and unable to connect with “experienced” patients who had already walked in their shoes. It seemed a paradox to me that despite their deep faith and dedication to Judaism, many women were unable to receive support from their community due to their concerns about stigmatization and confidentiality. There was a great deal of misinformation and lack of understanding particularly relating to the Askenazi “Jewish” breast cancer gene. With the birth of Sharsheret, I was able to witness, first hand, the enormous culturally sensitive support that my new patients could receive. They now can be fully supported by peers and receive medically correct information in a caring way. I have been pleased to be a member of the Sharsheret Medical Advisory Board since 2003. I am firmly committed to help expand the work and reach of this wonderful organization so as many patients as possible can be helped.
By: Sheldon Feldman, MD, Chief, Breast Surgery Section at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia, Sharsheret Medical Advisory Board Member
Today, I did something I have never done. Today, instead of running away, I ran towards something very special. Today, I felt like an important part of an incredible group of people. I have spent many months trying to convince myself that I am not part of this group. But I am and I am so lucky to be here. Today was my first Race for the Cure in NYC. I have been told by fellow survivors that the Race is a very meaningful experience and now I understand why. An estimated 20,000 people were involved today. How can I feel alone when that many people care?
I was joined today by my spectacular parents. They were by my side today like they are each and every day of my somewhat complicated and amusing life. I was also honored to have two of my closest and most important friends walk with us. To me, their participation represented all of the special people in my life who have been there for me and my family. Thank you all for your love and support. I need it now more than ever. I am focusing on the future. I am focusing on helping other women through this experience. And I am focusing on the New Year we are about to begin. May we all be blessed with health, happiness, and great things.
Today is a special day.
A Sharsheret Peer Supporter shares her first experience as a member of award-winning Team Sharsheret at Race for the Cure NYC.
I’m excited to introduce the newest addition to Sharsheret’s educational resource booklet series. Your Jewish Genes offers up-to-date information about inherited breast cancer and ovarian cancer today and answers the questions that are most commonly asked about this topic in a clear, concise way. The personal stories shared in the booklet touch on many of the aspects of genetic testing faced by women in their journey with cancer and these stories can help guide others during the search toward their own path. As a Genetic Counselor, I love the fact that Your Jewish Genes emphasizes the importance of knowing your family history and taking advantage of genetic counseling before making any decisions. After you read the booklet, I’ll be happy to speak with you and discuss your own concerns or connect you with one of the many peer supporters in Sharsheret’s national network who can share her experience with you. Our Genetics for Life program also provides other informational resources and transcripts of our national teleconferences and webinars, including Prophylactic Surgery For Breast And Ovarian Cancer: How Will It Affect Me? Call us today at 866-474-2774 or visit us online at http://www.sharsheret.org/ to order your free copy of Your Jewish Genes.
By: Niecee Schonberger, MS, CGC, Genetics for Life Program Coordinator
We're always assuring you - our Team Sharsheret athletes - that we're cheering you on to the finish line. This year, our cheers may sound a bit louder. Ellen, Elana and I will share a relay spot, and Rebecca of our staff will compete in the Triathlon this Sunday. Literally and figuratively, we are doing this together - raising awareness about breast cancer in the Jewish community and welcoming hundreds of new friends to the Sharsheret family. We are grateful that you've chosen to be a part of our Team, and even more grateful that you've chosen to be a part of our mission. On Sunday, when you look around and marvel at all that you've accomplished through training, I hope our thanks, and the gratitude of the thousands of women and families we are blessed to serve, gives you that added push to the finish line. We're cheering you on. And we're right there beside you.
With deep thanks,
Only 10 days until the New York City Triathlon and our staff members Rochelle, Elana, and Ellen are ready to take on the triathlon as a relay team if YOU can help us get 1,000 new Facebook fans! Tell your friends to "like" our page – www.facebook.com/sharsheret.org - and post your name on our wall as the person who referred them and not only will you and one lucky friend be eligible to win an iTunes gift card, but Elana will swim in the Hudson, Rochelle will ride her bike on the West Side Highway, and Ellen will lace up her sneakers and cross the finish line in Central Park next Sunday! We're ready to take on the 10-day challenge - are you?!?
By: Ruthie Arbit, Sema Heller Netivot Shalom Summer Intern
After 10 weeks of interning at Sharsheret, I can safely say that I went from a state of bewilderment from when I initially heard about Sharsheret in April to a state of admiration. Then, I was struck by the cause; I didn’t know that breast cancer and ovarian cancer were Jewish issues and I wondered what Sharsheret was doing to help Jewish women facing these illnesses. Now, I am in awe as I think about the callers, the peer supporters, and the volunteers who help us at Sharsheret do what we do.
The Sharsheret office is an incredible place. On any given day there is a string of devoted volunteers popping in and out, Team Sharsheret athletes coming in to meet with the staff, and the daily visit by the postman who picks up packages filled with hundreds of breast cancer and ovarian cancer brochures to be delivered to women and families, health care professionals, conferences, and Jewish organizations nationwide. Add all of this to the hard work that the dedicated staff at Sharsheret puts in – providing emotional support to women living with cancer and their families, answering countless questions from health care professionals about the unique needs of their Jewish patients, planning outreach events to spread the word about Sharsheret’s programs and services, coordinating medical symposia, and processing generous contributions from donors. It’s no surprise then that after only 10 years since its inception, Sharsheret has become an esteemed national organization with 11 programs, more than 1,200 peer supporters, and thousands of volunteers and supporters.
However, what impresses me most about Sharsheret are the women. The women who call Sharsheret for support as they ponder the potentially life-changing decision of whether or not to undergo genetic testing, the women who have just finished their final round of chemo and are already volunteering to be peer supporters, and those who are living with metastatic cancer and finding value in every day moments.
All of these women amaze me.
So, as I near the end of my internship, I want to say thank you to the women whose strength fuels the energy of Sharsheret. I am sure that this won’t be the last time I will be surprised by the amazing work of Sharsheret, its staff, and its women. Although my internship is ending, my connection to Sharsheret will remain strong. I look forward to joining Sharsheret’s volunteer force and contributing my time and skills to this wonderful organization.
We are excited to introduce Team Sharsheret’s 10 athletes who will compete in the Nautica/NYC Triathlon on August 7, 2011. Our athletes have been training hard for this Olympic Distance Race that includes a 1500m swim, a 40k bike, and a 10k run! Please join us in supporting their athletic and fundraising efforts as they take on this incredible challenge.
Whether you’re an experienced athlete or a beginner, Team Sharsheret has lots of exciting opportunities to help you stay in shape and challenge your athletic abilities. Check out these events and competitions and let us know which one you want to sign up for!
By: Rochelle Shoretz, Founder and Executive Director
Each year, thousands of clinicians and researchers convene at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting. Sprinkled among them are patient advocates and patients, like me, who attend sessions so that they can share the latest research with others. This year, I was fortunate to attend the ASCO Annual Meeting in Chicago with a patient advocate scholarship from the Conquer Cancer Foundation of ASCO, and I’m delighted to be able to share research in both breast cancer and ovarian cancer with you.
But first, I need to share a conversation I had with a cab driver on my way to a local outreach event we coordinated for cancer survivors and professionals.
“Let me ask you a question,” the driver began. “There are thousands of researchers and doctors attending this cancer conference, but there is still no cure for cancer. Isn’t this a waste of time and money?”
I’ve heard this question many times before, and I’ve answered it many times before. But this time, I was en route to meet some of our Sharsheret callers living in Chicago, and survivors interested in learning more about our national programs – and the answer seemed more urgent. As I explained to the driver, the research presented at ASCO may not, itself, be the cure for the cancer, but it certainly includes critical pieces to the larger puzzle. And even though that research may not offer the cure today, it is giving most of us living with cancer better quality of life and, some of us, longer lives to live.
I hopped out of the cab and headed into “Cocktails and Conversation”, an opportunity for me to meet with our Sharsheret callers and new women welcomed by our partner organizations in Chicago – Bright Pink, Cancer Legal Resource Center, FORCE, Gilda’s Club Chicago, MyLifeLine.org, and Y-Me. Everyone was buzzing about the conference and the research to be presented that weekend.
For those of us facing breast cancer, the big ASCO news stemmed from a study that showed that post-menopausal women who have a high risk of breast cancer were less likely to develop the disease when they received an aromatase inhibitor called exemestane (Aromasin). That news is important for many of our Sharsheret callers, as 1 in 40 Jews of Ashkenazi descent is at high risk of developing breast cancer (and ovarian cancer) because of a mutation they carry in what is commonly referred to as the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes. You can read more about the study at http://bit.ly/iLSZuj.
For those of us facing ovarian cancer, scientists at ASCO presented promising research findings from two studies that examined the drug bevacizumab (Avastin) to treat recurrent and newly-diagnosed ovarian cancer. You can read more about those studies at http://bit.ly/iqlc4a.
You can call Sharsheret to speak with a genetic counselor or one of our clinical staff with any questions about these research studies.
As we exhibit and attend breast cancer and ovarian cancer conferences across the country, all of the staff at Sharsheret look forward to sharing our findings with you. Whether our perspectives are gleaned in the cab or the conference hall, we’re proud to be your source of support and information on this journey.
© 2014 Sharsheret: Your Jewish Community Facing Breast Cancer
Sharsheret is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization ID# 13-4198529
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