From the Beginning
By: Reva Borgen, Sharsheret Peer Supporter
After getting the dreaded diagnosis of breast cancer, “luck” was not part of my vocabulary. That all changed when I sat down at my computer in the middle of the night and sent a desperate message to a fledgling organization that was aimed at helping young Jewish women newly diagnosed with breast cancer. I had no idea who was going to read my email or who was going to respond. All I knew was that I was terrified and that I needed someone to talk to. The voice on the other end belonged to Sharsheret’s Founder Rochelle Shoretz. She told me about herself and the organization she started to help women like me. I was quickly connected with a Link, a Peer Supporter, a woman with the same diagnosis as mine. My Link calmly told me about her surgery and subsequent treatments. I was speaking to someone who had survived the nightmare that I was living. This conversation helped me to keep my fears in check as I confidently underwent my surgical procedure, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments.
Shortly after completing my treatment, Rochelle asked if I would participate in a CBS News segment in honor of Sharsheret’s 1-year anniversary. How exciting! Eight women celebrated not just the first anniversary of Sharsheret, but also feelings of unity, triumph, and admiration for one other. I will never forget when Rochelle shared a remarkable story about how Sharsheret was able to connect two Rebbetzins on opposite sides of the country – two women with similar diagnoses, both involved in their communities, who were able to provide support to one another. We were all amazed at the amount of phone calls that were coming in from all over the country and even a few from different countries.
When Rochelle asked me to become a Peer Supporter, I felt extremely grateful because I was finally in a position to give strength to someone else. What she didn’t know was how much strength I gained by helping other women facing a breast cancer diagnosis. At the time of my diagnosis, I had four children ranging in age from nursery school to high school. I was able to speak to women who had children similar ages to mine. “How did you tell them? What did you tell them? How much information is appropriate for my son/daughter?” These are the most common questions that I have been asked. I would like to think that when I say the words “You’re going to be okay and your kids will be too,” the women with whom I speak can exhale and believe that it is possible.
It’s amazing how much Sharsheret has grown over the last ten years. Instead of eight women, there are over 1,000 women in Sharsheret’s Peer Support Network, providing and receiving vital support during a difficult time in our lives. Sharsheret fills this need with the greatest of care, love, and compassion. I feel truly blessed and very lucky to be a part of this incredible organization.