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This is my third year attending Sharsheret’s annual Benefit. The loving, accepting atmosphere envelops me as I walk in to the room. It feels so familiar even though I only know a handful of people.
I think back to May of 2011. I was undergoing chemo. The weather was getting nice outside, but I was stuck in an endless winter. I wished I could put on a pretty dress, go the Benefit, and celebrate with the Sharsheret women who were giving me strength, but I couldn’t drag myself out of bed. Chemo had zapped me of my energy. What a difference three years can make! My hair, while still not as long as it had been pre-chemo, falls respectably past my shoulders. My muscles still feel relaxed from my early morning yoga session. And I feel content knowing that I am here as a supporter of Sharsheret. I am having a “full circle” moment.
I walk in and see Rochelle Shoretz and the Sharsheret staff smiling and greeting their guests. The greetings are so warm it’s as if everyone is family. But that is what it feels like at Sharsheret. You are family. I make my way through the crowd of people kissing hello to those I know and smiling hello to those I don’t. I walk in to the main ballroom and take a moment to take in the beautiful décor. This year’s Benefit video highlights the Sharsheret B’nai Mitzvah program. It was perfectly fitting as this year Sharsheret celebrates its Bat Mitzvah year. What sticks with me the most is something that was said by a 13-year-old boy in the video who lost his mother and then his grandmother to breast cancer. He said, “It’s not hard to have an impact on other people.”
I think about my own daughter, 3 weeks shy of her Bat Mitzvah. I remember her tiny fingers, and can’t believe that she is the same person who stands beside me today. She is a beautiful young lady – mature, caring, and confident. Much like Sharsheret, she supports me as I support her. I look across the table at another link in my own Sharsheret (chain, in Hebrew), my mother. I am so glad that she is here with me this morning. As strong as I am – or think I am – it is comforting to have my mother next to me, especially while I watch the video presentation. I know from years past that I cry my way through them. This year is no different.
As I make my way around the room saying my goodbyes, I notice that the room is still full. No one is rushing to leave. This is a safe place where everyone feels supported and accepted. The wonderful women of Sharsheret should take pride in this beautiful organization and I am happy to be a part of it.
When I was 20, my parents came to see me unexpectedly at college. They told me that my mom had stage 2 breast cancer and was going to be having a mastectomy and chemotherapy in the coming months. I was scared for her and I was scared of losing her. My mom, my rock, was sick. She was the one who was always there for me, taking care of me, and now I had to watch her go through the process of surgery and treatment. The fighter that she is, she made it through with flying colors! Twenty years later, my mom is healthy and cancer free.
At the age of 20, you don’t really think cancer can happen to you but it was always in the back of my mind and I found myself constantly wondering, “what if?” So when I turned 35 I started going to a special program for women who are at increased risk for breast cancer. Imagine my surprise when 2 years later I was diagnosed with DCIS. Now my mom would have to watch me go through the same surgery, the emotional and physical pain of having a mastectomy. I opted for a double mastectomy with immediate reconstruction. My husband and I wouldn’t have been able to get through it without the love and support of my mom. She was there for me, taking care of my 3 kids, getting them ready for camp, driving them to their activities, cooking, and cleaning. At the same time, she made sure that I was comfortable and was a shoulder to cry on when I needed her support. She also told me about Sharsheret and the Link Program. I connected with Sharsheret and was able to speak to other women who had been through my same situation and they helped me during this difficult time in my life. They were able to guide me in speaking about my cancer with my kids. And of course, I will never forget the day I received my Busy Box and beautiful neck roll pillow from Sharsheret. I cried because I was so happy that people who had not even met me in person would care so much about me!
My mom is and will always be my rock. I would like to wish her and all of those other special moms a very happy Mother’s Day!
© 2014 Sharsheret: Your Jewish Community Facing Breast Cancer
Sharsheret is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization ID# 13-4198529
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