“Are you of Ashkenazi Jewish Descent?” It’s one of the first things asked of a new cancer patient. If you live somewhere without a strong Jewish community, this can make you feel extra different and lonely. That’s how I felt and why I was so comforted to find Sharsheret, especially since I’m on this journey alone.
I was first diagnosed with DCIS in 2011 at age 41. It was a rough year – my mom was losing her 20-year battle with 4 cancers and she died in the few days between my first and second surgeries. I froze my eggs before starting Tamoxifen in a desperate attempt to hold onto the dream of meeting “a nice Jewish boy” and having a family, but I was never the same afterwards and lost my dating confidence, energy, and mojo.
After six years in remission my cancer came back with a vengeance in at age 47 – stage 4, metastasized to bone, and in the lymph nodes and possible spleen and lung. Still alone, between jobs, and having to support myself, I had to juggle dealing with all of it while looking for a job in an ageist, fast-paced job market in the most expensive city in the country. Sometimes I had to turn down jobs, extra hours, and even a bonus because unless they offered good health coverage, I had to keep my income impossibly low to stay on the free state health plan. Even when finally getting a full-time job with a health plan, I had massive medical bills and paperwork. Thankfully, my treatments have kept my condition under control, but the side effects are a constant daily struggle.
Though it’s been so overwhelming, finding Sharsheret has made me feel less lonely by giving me a way to connect to both my tribes; my Jewish one and my cancer one which buoys my strength to persist!