My Cancer Journey Led Me To Sharsheret
Among my many identities, I am a Jew and I am a cancer survivor. The intersection of these two roles inspired me to get involved with Sharsheret.
Two summers ago, my routine pap smear showed misplaced and mysterious cells. Follow-up biopsies and, ultimately a full hysterectomy, showed that I had cancer in my ovaries. So, I got the “spa treatment” at Smilow Cancer Hospital – my words for what was really a four-month chemotherapy regimen. I lost my hair, 30 pounds, most of my strength and energy, and learned more about myself and life than I ever thought possible.
Cancer for me was an opportunity to really get to know myself and see my family and friends through entirely different eyes. What I didn’t do was let cancer get me down. I found an inner strength I never knew I had. I found the ability to laugh at my side effects. I found that my husband really did know how to do dishes (and much more) and care for me in the most loving and supportive way. I expected to be providing emotional support to my daughter and elderly mother, when, in fact, they are the ones who helped me find my strengths and gave me just the right amount of support, without making me feel that I needed it.
During my recovery, I went to a Jewish Federation of New Haven event where Rochelle Shoretz, Sharsheret’s Founder, was the keynote speaker. I didn’t want to think about cancer and I recall telling her before she spoke, “if this gets too cancer-y, I’m outta here”. It wasn’t, and I stayed. I had been thinking for some time that I wanted to give back, appreciative of the great care and attention I had been given. But, I didn’t know how until I learned about Sharsheret.
That night, I contacted Sharsheret to say I wanted to spread the word about this marvelous organization and become a peer supporter. I learned so many positive things through my cancer experience and I want to help others who have my diagnosis. I learned what it’s like to be on the receiving end of support, to have someone to talk to who can only understand based on a shared experience, and someone who will just let me talk without comment or judging. That’s what I want to do as part of Sharsheret’s peer support program.
After nine months of being cancer-free, my cancer returned and I’m back in chemotherapy. Different cocktail and a different experience. But, once again, my body is fighting as hard as it can to be cancer-free. Some things haven’t changed the second time around. I want to enjoy life every day – the little joys and the big ones. And, with those around me and through Sharsheret, I plan to be there for others for a long time to come.