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Oh dating! People say it's fun, but is it really? The butterflies, bad dates, labels, unreturned phone calls. I would call it hard, to say the least. When you've tested positive for the BRCA gene at 24, dating is even more challenging. I kept asking myself, who would want to date me with my increased risk for developing cancer? This is where I was about two years ago.
I met Dovid on a blind date and entered the experience with a ton of preconceived notions. I assumed no guy would want to date a BRCA positive girl. It took me almost 3 months to tell him about it. I built it up to be this undefeatable and overwhelming situation that he had every right to walk away from.
Boy was I was wrong! He took everything in stride. He told me about how he lost his mom to breast cancer, and how he thought I was making good decisions. He tackled every aspect with me, together, and made me laugh along the way. He was there with me and pushed me to strive for better doctors and better outcomes. He helped me remember all the other things that make up who I am; sarcasm, Harry Potter, brightly colored sneakers, and Scrabble, not just BRCA. Things that make me Amy.
Dovid showed me that he loved all of me, even the parts that I assumed he wouldn't. I learned an important lesson: Don't assume - it really gets your nowhere. Accept BRCA as a part of your life, but don't let it define you. There is so much more to life that's in store. At the age of 27, the night before the second surgery of my prophylactic mastectomy, Dovid proposed. I got my fairytale. I was fortunate to find Dovid, who supported me through my experience, and I’m excited to join Sharsheret’s national Peer Support Network so I can give back and support other Jewish women dealing with BRCA.
On Monday, April 2nd 2012, I had the privilege of being asked to speak at a Sharsheret Supports Breast Cancer Symposium at the Ruth Rales Jewish Family Service in Delray Beach, Florida. This one of a kind program was co-sponsored by 10 large companies and organizations, including our own, Sharsheret.
More than 150 community members attended the event and my breakout workshop on Sharsheret’s programs was well attended by women, young and old. I was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer in May of 2006, just 7 months after my mother passed away from breast cancer. As a motivational speaker and powerful advocate of personal empowerment before, during, and after illness, I believe that it is important to teach other women to grab hold of their courage, step out on faith, and be the best they can be when faced with a diagnosis of breast cancer. To be a Cancer Warrior.
Most of the women who attended this extraordinary program were breast cancer survivors. I was overwhelmed by their stories. In particular, one woman told us the story of her 23 year-old daughter who was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer and was BRCA Positive. Thanks to Sharsheret, this young girl does not have to face her diagnosis alone. She has an organization that can offer peer support, up to date information about her treatment, access to a genetic counselor, support for her caregivers, and a link to other healthcare professionals.
To say the least I am grateful for having won my battle, but also humbled and amazed at the fragility of life. I am awed by the women before me who have also won this battle. I celebrate the courage of those we have lost.
I now understand that when you are faced with a challenge in life, you have a choice: to find the hero within, or to give up. By choosing to uncover your own courage, strength, and determination, you become a role model for others.
It has been a great pleasure and distinct honor to be involved with Sharsheret for the past decade. I care for a large number of young Orthodox Jewish women with breast cancer. In the pre-Sharsheret era, many of my patients felt very isolated, frightened, and unable to connect with “experienced” patients who had already walked in their shoes. It seemed a paradox to me that despite their deep faith and dedication to Judaism, many women were unable to receive support from their community due to their concerns about stigmatization and confidentiality. There was a great deal of misinformation and lack of understanding particularly relating to the Askenazi “Jewish” breast cancer gene. With the birth of Sharsheret, I was able to witness, first hand, the enormous culturally sensitive support that my new patients could receive. They now can be fully supported by peers and receive medically correct information in a caring way. I have been pleased to be a member of the Sharsheret Medical Advisory Board since 2003. I am firmly committed to help expand the work and reach of this wonderful organization so as many patients as possible can be helped.
By: Sheldon Feldman, MD, Chief, Breast Surgery Section at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia, Sharsheret Medical Advisory Board Member
Today, I did something I have never done. Today, instead of running away, I ran towards something very special. Today, I felt like an important part of an incredible group of people. I have spent many months trying to convince myself that I am not part of this group. But I am and I am so lucky to be here. Today was my first Race for the Cure in NYC. I have been told by fellow survivors that the Race is a very meaningful experience and now I understand why. An estimated 20,000 people were involved today. How can I feel alone when that many people care?
I was joined today by my spectacular parents. They were by my side today like they are each and every day of my somewhat complicated and amusing life. I was also honored to have two of my closest and most important friends walk with us. To me, their participation represented all of the special people in my life who have been there for me and my family. Thank you all for your love and support. I need it now more than ever. I am focusing on the future. I am focusing on helping other women through this experience. And I am focusing on the New Year we are about to begin. May we all be blessed with health, happiness, and great things.
Today is a special day.
A Sharsheret Peer Supporter shares her first experience as a member of award-winning Team Sharsheret at Race for the Cure NYC.
I’m excited to introduce the newest addition to Sharsheret’s educational resource booklet series. Your Jewish Genes offers up-to-date information about inherited breast cancer and ovarian cancer today and answers the questions that are most commonly asked about this topic in a clear, concise way. The personal stories shared in the booklet touch on many of the aspects of genetic testing faced by women in their journey with cancer and these stories can help guide others during the search toward their own path. As a Genetic Counselor, I love the fact that Your Jewish Genes emphasizes the importance of knowing your family history and taking advantage of genetic counseling before making any decisions. After you read the booklet, I’ll be happy to speak with you and discuss your own concerns or connect you with one of the many peer supporters in Sharsheret’s national network who can share her experience with you. Our Genetics for Life program also provides other informational resources and transcripts of our national teleconferences and webinars, including Prophylactic Surgery For Breast And Ovarian Cancer: How Will It Affect Me? Call us today at 866-474-2774 or visit us online at http://www.sharsheret.org/ to order your free copy of Your Jewish Genes.
By: Niecee Schonberger, MS, CGC, Genetics for Life Program Coordinator
We're always assuring you - our Team Sharsheret athletes - that we're cheering you on to the finish line. This year, our cheers may sound a bit louder. Ellen, Elana and I will share a relay spot, and Rebecca of our staff will compete in the Triathlon this Sunday. Literally and figuratively, we are doing this together - raising awareness about breast cancer in the Jewish community and welcoming hundreds of new friends to the Sharsheret family. We are grateful that you've chosen to be a part of our Team, and even more grateful that you've chosen to be a part of our mission. On Sunday, when you look around and marvel at all that you've accomplished through training, I hope our thanks, and the gratitude of the thousands of women and families we are blessed to serve, gives you that added push to the finish line. We're cheering you on. And we're right there beside you.
With deep thanks,
Only 10 days until the New York City Triathlon and our staff members Rochelle, Elana, and Ellen are ready to take on the triathlon as a relay team if YOU can help us get 1,000 new Facebook fans! Tell your friends to "like" our page – www.facebook.com/sharsheret.org - and post your name on our wall as the person who referred them and not only will you and one lucky friend be eligible to win an iTunes gift card, but Elana will swim in the Hudson, Rochelle will ride her bike on the West Side Highway, and Ellen will lace up her sneakers and cross the finish line in Central Park next Sunday! We're ready to take on the 10-day challenge - are you?!?
By: Ruthie Arbit, Sema Heller Netivot Shalom Summer Intern
After 10 weeks of interning at Sharsheret, I can safely say that I went from a state of bewilderment from when I initially heard about Sharsheret in April to a state of admiration. Then, I was struck by the cause; I didn’t know that breast cancer and ovarian cancer were Jewish issues and I wondered what Sharsheret was doing to help Jewish women facing these illnesses. Now, I am in awe as I think about the callers, the peer supporters, and the volunteers who help us at Sharsheret do what we do.
The Sharsheret office is an incredible place. On any given day there is a string of devoted volunteers popping in and out, Team Sharsheret athletes coming in to meet with the staff, and the daily visit by the postman who picks up packages filled with hundreds of breast cancer and ovarian cancer brochures to be delivered to women and families, health care professionals, conferences, and Jewish organizations nationwide. Add all of this to the hard work that the dedicated staff at Sharsheret puts in – providing emotional support to women living with cancer and their families, answering countless questions from health care professionals about the unique needs of their Jewish patients, planning outreach events to spread the word about Sharsheret’s programs and services, coordinating medical symposia, and processing generous contributions from donors. It’s no surprise then that after only 10 years since its inception, Sharsheret has become an esteemed national organization with 11 programs, more than 1,200 peer supporters, and thousands of volunteers and supporters.
However, what impresses me most about Sharsheret are the women. The women who call Sharsheret for support as they ponder the potentially life-changing decision of whether or not to undergo genetic testing, the women who have just finished their final round of chemo and are already volunteering to be peer supporters, and those who are living with metastatic cancer and finding value in every day moments.
All of these women amaze me.
So, as I near the end of my internship, I want to say thank you to the women whose strength fuels the energy of Sharsheret. I am sure that this won’t be the last time I will be surprised by the amazing work of Sharsheret, its staff, and its women. Although my internship is ending, my connection to Sharsheret will remain strong. I look forward to joining Sharsheret’s volunteer force and contributing my time and skills to this wonderful organization.
We are excited to introduce Team Sharsheret’s 10 athletes who will compete in the Nautica/NYC Triathlon on August 7, 2011. Our athletes have been training hard for this Olympic Distance Race that includes a 1500m swim, a 40k bike, and a 10k run! Please join us in supporting their athletic and fundraising efforts as they take on this incredible challenge.
Whether you’re an experienced athlete or a beginner, Team Sharsheret has lots of exciting opportunities to help you stay in shape and challenge your athletic abilities. Check out these events and competitions and let us know which one you want to sign up for!
© 2014 Sharsheret: Your Jewish Community Facing Breast Cancer
Sharsheret is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization ID# 13-4198529
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