Our Voices: A Blog by Links, Callers and Volunteers

Meet our Team Sharsheret ING NYC Marathon Athletes: Scott Bader and Jonathan Blinken

I had always told myself when I was deciding to run a marathon that I want it to be something more than a race, more than just training to run 26.2 miles.  I wanted to use this opportunity to help others.  By doing this it would give my running more meaning.  There are many reasons why I wanted to raise money for Sharsheret in particular.  Recently I ran my third ½ marathon with my friend Ethan Wasserman.  Ethan lost his first wife to breast cancer.  She was in her early thirties when she died not long after having her second child.  I will always remember how giving Michelle Daman Wasserman was.  I remember standing by her graveside and telling myself that it is important to keep a part of her character alive inside of me.  She had a way of touching the people around her.  October will be the seven year anniversary of her passing and I can think of no better way of celebrating who she was by raising money for an organization that was there for her.  The best part I am not alone.  I will be running the marathon side by side with Ethan as we both raise money for Sharsheret.
   
Another reason I want to raise money for Sharsheret is that I recognized how important it is to get support when you are a young Jewish woman fighting breast cancer.  One of my inspirations for running is my sister.  Often on long training runs when I feel like giving up, I think of how much will power she has demonstrated in her fight against breast cancer.  I have seen how having supportive people around her who she can turn to for help has made a big difference in her journey.  Luckily things have been going well, but it is still a struggle.

The last reason why I run and raise money is because I know too much.  Being a pediatrician I have seen how breast cancer can affect families, especially children.  With my medical background I understand what it means to have a family history of breast cancer.  I have four dear daughters and breast cancer runs in my family.  

I know I am not special.  Almost everyone has been touched by breast cancer, whether it is a family member, friend or co-worker.  Even though I may not be special, sometimes ordinary people can do amazing things.  So I hope to do two, run the New York City Marathon and raise money for Sharsheret.  It is my turn to give back.

 


In 2011, I had the privilege of participating in the NYC Triathlon for Team Sharsheret. The personal sense of physical accomplishment of this event, my first Olympic distance triathlon, was eclipsed by the knowledge that everyone on Team Sharsheret, and their generous sponsors contributed their time, resources, sweat and emotion to such a vital cause. In doing so, they made a lasting difference to so many people.

Sharsheret’s mission is to give support to women and their families who are facing breast and ovarian cancer. This year I decided to up the ante combine two grueling races to support the women and families Sharsheret helps. I will compete as part of Team Sharsheret on September 9th, in the Tough-Man Half Ironman race in Westchester,
NY and on November 4th I will run the ING NYC Marathon.

I look at it this way; what these mothers, daughters, grandmothers, granddaughters and sisters endure during their fight is way more than the pain of any race.

Every mile of both these races will be infused with the knowledge that we are all making a tangible difference. That we are giving comfort to a mother of young children, advice to a father whose wife is in physical and emotional pain, inspiration to family members and encouraging all who are affected by breast and ovarian cancer.

Please join me in making a difference to the husbands, children, parents, siblings and friends whose, mother, daughter, sister, or granddaughter is facing the fight of their life. Please join me in creating awareness so people know the great things Sharsheret does for so many. Please join me in the race so that we do not run in memory of but in honor of...

On behalf of the women and families that Sharsheret helps and my team mates, thank you
for your generous contribution.

In gratitude,
Jonathan

A Sponsor's Story

I was sitting shiva after the passing of my father a few months ago when a friend and fellow attorney, Jennifer, stopped by to give her condolences.  While we were catching up, Jennifer mentioned that she volunteers at Sharsheret and was helping to coordinate the organization's team at the Making Strides Walk in New York City on October 21st.  I had heard of Sharsheret and actually had seen a Sharsheret pen in the kitchen “pen drawer” that morning, but I didn't know what the organization did.  Jennifer went on to explain Sharsheret's mission of supporting Jewish women and families facing breast cancer.  I was truly moved by her words and Sharsheret's incredible programs and services and knew that I had to get involved with this amazing organization.  Part of Jennifer's job was to secure corporate sponsorships for Team Sharsheret.  I immediately jumped on board as a Team Champion sponsor.  I am proud to lead Team Sharsheret's 2012-2013 sponsors and look forward to a most successful event this Sunday. 

 

Team Sharsheret Sponsors

Team Champion

Bernstein Liebhard LLP

Team Guardians

Med-Pat,Inc.

Team Sponsors

Campmor Inc.
EMCO Plumbing
Englewood Hospital and Medical Center & The Leslie Simon Breast Care and Cytodiagnosis Center
Geller and Company
Glatt Express Supermarket/Lazy Bean
Shari and Nathan Lindenbaum
Teaneck Radiology Center, LLC

Team Supporters

Lisa Altman Foundation
Marble Dental LLC
Debbie and Michael Blumenthal
Hillel International – Hunter College, Brooklyn College, Baruch College
Michael Strauss Silversmiths
Pediatric Occupational Therapy Services
The Rocking Chair,  A Women's Wellness Center
The Sixteenth Street Synagogue
Yeshiva University, Stern College for Women

It’s All In The Genes

Cancer has been a cloud over my family for a long time.  I lost my mother to breast cancer when I was 30, and years later, I lost my sister to the same disease.  My aunt and another sister were also diagnosed with breast cancer and one of my brothers was diagnosed with colon cancer in his 40’s.  When my brother discussed his symptoms with our older brother, he was shocked to find out that he had been having similar symptoms for some time, but fear kept him from checking it out with a doctor.  On my younger brother’s insistence, he went to the doctor and had surgery to remove a malignant piece of colon.  However, my older brother was reluctant to inform the rest of the family and only after much prodding by my younger brother did he agree to inform our sisters.  This genetic information was of the utmost importance for our family members to be made aware of so that proper screening could be done.  I had my first colonoscopy in my mid-30’s only because of my family history - screening recommendation for the general population is at age 50.  Waiting until then could literally mean the difference between life and death.

My family and I belong to the Orthodox Jewish community.  Privacy in matters of health is the norm.  Cancer has touched the lives of so many people, and most people know of someone, whether friend or family, who has been affected by this disease.  It is time for us to replace the secrecy with open dialogue between families, friends, and community so that we can help each other through this difficult ordeal with encouragement, support, information, and friendship.  Everyone needs a shoulder to lean on and the Jewish religion is built on gemilut chasadim (reaching out to others in need).  We need to arm ourselves with an open dialogue about family cancer genetics so that we can inform and protect ourselves and our families.

I reached out to Sharsheret to try and figure out what I need to do to be proactive with my health and the health of my children.  Sharsheret is extremely supportive and its staff responds so quickly. I spoke with Sharsheret’s genetic counselor who offered to set up a family conference call for me and my siblings so we can all hear the same recommendations and also have a chance to ask our individual questions.  I believe this is the beginning of an open dialogue for my family that will lead us to dealing with our genetic predisposition in a more productive manner.

Prevention and support are challenging without communication.  We need to help each other with encouragement, education, and sharing our personal experiences so our friends, families, and the community we live in can benefit and hopefully beat this disease.  There is so much to be gained by connecting with others in a similar situation who can understand the rollercoaster of emotions you are feeling.

I know that privacy within the family or within the community is a deeply personal decision.  The beauty of Sharsheret is that it honors each woman’s decisions, and will tailor their support accordingly.  Sharsheret is breaking down the “Walls of Silence” through family conference calls with its genetic counselor, the national Peer Support Network which matches women with others who share their diagnoses and experiences, an online family tree tool, and providing resources, information, strength, and support.   In my opinion, Sharsheret stands at the forefront of the mission to educate Jewish women and families about the increased risk for breast cancer and ovarian cancer in our community. Thank you for being there!

Reflections For The New Year

I remember sitting in the synagogue on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur as a child, watching the clock and counting how many pages of prayer were left in the service. I wanted to run out when the Rabbi began speaking. And the silent prayer – well, that just went on forever. “Oh my goodness, will this ever end?”

As an adult, I now appreciate the High Holiday services. I love the melodies that unite the congregation into one harmonious voice. The Rabbi’s message gives me much to contemplate. That silent prayer, though, is still a challenge. Occasionally, my private thoughts are comforting and invigorating but sometimes, the silence is too much to bear. Either way, it is in this stillness of my mind that I have learned the most about myself.

My true journey takes place in the quietude. All the events that happen in my life are just the junctures - first steps, graduations, jobs, weddings, children, or illness – are all merely points in time. It is in the quiet reflection that I ascribe the meaning.

When facing ovarian cancer or breast cancer, life may seem to swirl around you – doctors’ visits, scans, treatments, and follow-ups, while maintaining jobs and families. These things impact your family life, your financial well-being, and your emotional and physical health. I suspect that at one time or another you may have thought, “Oh my goodness, will this ever end?”  As Sharsheret Peer Supporter Beverly Levy shared in her National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month blog post, “I’ve decided cancer is like Whack-A-Mole, the arcade game where you whack a little critter over the head and another one pops up where you don’t expect it.  But just like in the arcade, there are good times along the way.  You don’t know how many moles you will have to clobber, how long it will take, and how you’ll do it – but you will. I can’t enjoy today if all I can think about is tomorrow and I can’t do anything about it anyway so head up, smile on face, and enjoy all the great things life has to offer.”

In this holiday season, I encourage you to take advantage of the stillness, whether in prayer, meditation, or just finding a quiet time to reflect on how this past year has unfolded, what meaning it has held for you, and what your hopes, dreams, and aspirations are as you move forward.  All of us at Sharsheret hope that you will find strength, renewal, and meaning as you celebrate this upcoming New Year.

Celebrating National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

Cancer is huge (enormous, actually). It’s an adventure I wish I never had to take, but I’m living it in real time. Slowly, slowly, reality has set in. I have a chronic illness - ovarian cancer - that began in my fallopian tubes. I’ll be on and off chemo for the rest of my life. There. I said it. It’s my story. I own it.

Everyone has “stuff” and this is mine. I’m certainly not alone in this adventure. My family and friends have provided incredible support. Sharsheret, with its caring clinical staff, helpful website, and monthly group calls, reminds me that there are a lot of women out there just like me – taking this adventure, sharing stories, and providing comfort when some of us need it the most. I know that I can be connected to a peer supporter if I want one and I’ve volunteered to be one for other women. We’re all in this great big club that we’d rather not belong to, but we got “recruited” with the words, “You’ve got cancer.”

I’m doing all I can to find everything positive in this adventure. Laughing at what cancer offers up is actually therapeutic. Picking out hats, taking long naps, appreciating the kindness of friends and medical staff, figuring out how to make it look like I really do have eyebrows, and stuffing down hamburgers while justifying it because I’m anemic.  All part of the journey. 

I’ve decided cancer is like Whack-A-Mole, the arcade game where you whack a little critter over the head and another one pops up where you don’t expect it. Having a hysterectomy nearly two years ago was like putting the coin in the slot to start the game. The calliope music started and I was full of hope and optimism. I’m gonna beat this thing! Just like those little cynically grinning animals in the game, my cancer came out of nowhere. Whacked that first “critter” with a whole lot of chemo. Just like the game, another “mole” popped up – this time, a little one on my liver. Tried to whack it with chemo – oops – missed. Surgery for this guy – then we’ll whack it with more chemo.  Whew – this game is exhausting. 

But just like in the arcade, there are good times along the way. I’ve had stretches of great times – feeling wonderful and staying really active (more than ever and appreciating it more). What really matters is the present. How do I feel today? Great? Pretty good? Not lousy? Then I remind myself to enjoy the moment. You don’t know how many moles you will have to clobber, how long it will take, and how you’ll do it – but you will.

I can’t enjoy today if all I can think about is tomorrow and I can’t do anything about it anyway, so head up, smile on face, and enjoy all the great things life has to offer!

We Did It!

 
Erica Berthou
13:37:01
Deborah Greenstein
14:29:14
Joel Matalon
15:15:01

Congratulations to Team Sharsheret's first Ironman athletes, who took on an enormous challenge last weekend at the U.S. Ironman Championship NY/NJ. Our amazing athletes completed a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, and 26.2 mile run!  We are so proud of their personal accomplishments and grateful for their incredible efforts in raising awareness about Sharsheret's programs and services.

Do you or someone you know want to swim, bike, and run with Team Sharsheret? We have slots for the Aquaphor NYC Triathlon on July 14, 2013! Join us for a 1,500 meter swim in the Hudson River, 40k bike ride on the West Side Highway, and 10k run through Central Park to the finish line. E-mail athletes@sharsheret.org for more information and to get your slot today.

Biking and Blessings For Cancer Survivors

Just returned from a 90th birthday celebration bike ride from Boston to Newport (Rochelle Shoretz's 40th and my 50th). The cycling group was organized by a friend, Richard Shuster, who has as large a personality as Rochelle's. It was not a charity ride. Instead, these annual Shuster rides are all about pure joy and being mindful of life's blessings. In our group of 40 bikers, there were three cancer survivors and a woman whose daughter is BRCA positive, as well as Andy Seidman, a renowned breast cancer oncologist at Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

The first day had its share of a few treacherous roads but then we navigated on to a beautiful bike path. As I biked alongside Rochelle, she was drafting behind Andy and looked at me and said how surreal it was to be riding on Andy's tail. Just as we pulled into the Biltmore Hotel in Providence, Rhode Island, having clocked 52 miles, the sky opened up and there was a torrential downpour. We considered ourselves blessed simply by the fact that we managed to stay dry.

The second day began with an "official" toast to the "most inspirational rider", who briefly spoke about Sharsheret as I stood beside her clad in my Sharsheret cycling gear. After riding along a 17-mile bike path along the water, the day ended in Newport as we biked into a park bordering the Atlantic Ocean with kids flying kites across the sky. Spectacular!

As I biked alongside my daughter Kayla, who will be college-bound by the end of the upcoming school year, I was reminded of how unsuccessful we were at flying kites when she was younger. I felt blessed not just because kites flew in the sky rather than the threatening showers that were predicted earlier in the morning, but also for celebrating my 50th birthday, biking next to her.

Birthdays take on a more special meaning after a breast cancer diagnosis. It did not surprise me that Rochelle had the physical stamina for the 100-mile bike journey. It was the first time I witnessed how she had the stamina to keep retelling the Sharsheret story. The wheels of joy and embracing life's blessings kept us going. Next year, we will clock the extra one mile to get us to a century!! The year after that we will aim for 120!

Meet Team Sharsheret US Ironman Championship Athlete Joel Matalon

Tammy Bryk, a beloved client and friend told me about Sharsheret, an organization supporting young Jewish women and their families of all backgrounds, facing breast cancer.  This year Sharsheret offered coveted spots for the first ever 2012 Ironman US Championship NY/NJ race.  Instead of securing my own slot, I have chosen to join Team Sharsheret and make what I love to do more meaningful - RACING while raising money to help others.  I listened to Tammy, a committed Sharsheret volunteer, because she is a constant inspiration to me.  Together, Tammy and I successfully completed the 2010 ING Miami Marathon.  When I think of her energy and enthusiasm I am motivated to keep pushing even harder. 

Over the past 16 years I have primarily raced outside of NY.  I've done the 2010 Ironman in Canada, 2008 Ironman Kentucky, and 7 other triathlons.  I've ran 17 marathons in the United States, Canada,South America  and Europe.  I plan on competing in marathons in Detroit, Michigan, in Hamburg, Germany, and Tel Aviv, Israel.  I'm most interested in the Ironman US Championship NY/NJ so that my supporters can come out and watch me race and put Chi Running, the running method that I teach to clients all around the world to practice, for all to see.

Please support me by adopting at least a mile of the swimming, biking and running that I must complete for the 2012 Ironman US Championship NY/NJ.  Help me reach each of  the 140.6 miles and reach my personal goal of raising $14,060 to support Sharsheret’s programs and services that they provide at no cost to thousands reaching out to Sharsheret for support.  Any and all donations are much appreciated.

Meet Team Sharsheret US Ironman Championship Athlete Erica Berthou

It is an absolute honor to be a part of Team Sharsheret.  Rochelle Shoretz is a former colleague, friend, and truly inspirational person.  Sharsheret’s selfless commitment to helping those in need is amazing and I couldn’t think of a better organization to race for!

Every year I make challenges not resolutions.  This was the year that the ironman adventure became a reality.  Ever since my brother competed in his first ironman in China in 2009, I have wanted to emulate his example.  We normally compete together as a team and we spur each other on.  However, this year he will be cheering me on from the sidelines.  I’m so excited even though this will not be easy, but challenges are not suppose to be easy, right?

In the last two years I have done 3 marathons, 1 100K ultra marathon, 1 tough mudder competition and other adventure races.  This competition will bring a new chapter in my extreme sports experience.

Being raised in the northern part of Sweden I was never taught how to swim freestyle.  So to improve, I have been taking crash courses in swimming.  Added to that I spent most of my childhood riding horses and competeing in show jumping.  The learning curve has been steep thus far.

I look forward to competing in Team Sharsheret’s colors.  Please support my efforts to get to the finish and contribute to Sharsheret’s programs and services.

 

Meet Team Sharsheret US Ironman Championship Athlete Deborah Greenstein

I am a granddaughter of a woman with breast-cancer, a friend of women with breast-cancer, a step-daughter of a woman who died from ovarian cancer, and a woman with her own history of biopsies and breast-cancer scares. Women's cancers have touched so many people in my life.  This year, with the help of Team Sharsheret and in honor of all of those women, I will take on one of the greatest challenges of my life.

I competed in my first triathlon over 20 years ago.  Since then, I've competed in sprint and Olympic-distance triathlons, as well as everything from 5k's to trail races on snow, to half-marathons, to bike road races, and everything in between. This summer, I am undertaking my next great challenge to compete in my first US Ironman Championship and on behalf of Team Sharsheret.  Training, preparing and completing the race as part of Team Sharsheret makes this endeavor a significantly more meaningful experience.

I hope you will join me in supporting Sharsheret in honor of both the women you love, as well as the women you don't even know, but who are touched by Sharsheret's vital programs.