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My Sharsheret Story is actually two stories that quickly entwined into one. I was diagnosed with stage two, invasive ductal carcinoma in February of this year. Although it was not a surprise, it was demoralizing. I had already been through a different cancer experience years earlier and although I knew I would, I often felt I could not “do it” again.
As I struggled, I naturally turned to the Jewish community which has been at the center of my entire life. I knew of Sharsheret. Years as a professional in the Jewish community had made me aware of its existence. I explored the website and ordered information. I made a call and spoke with a member of the support staff. I had a specific question, which she answered and then offered me additional support as needed.
I spent the next months recovering from several surgeries and then triumphantly ordered my Thriving Again survivorship kit. Again, I spoke with the support staff who called to follow up on my request. I thought the kit was enough, but as we spoke a bit more, we discovered there was something else they could help with.
Before my diagnosis I held two part-time jobs in a local synagogue. I took medical leave from one position and stepped down from the other. Now that I was through my treatment, I was looking for new employment and worried about disclosing my diagnosis to potential employers and managing follow-up care. Sharsheret supplied several wonderful resources and guidance about cancer and careers.
During my job search Sharsheret was looking for a Director of National Outreach and it almost felt bashert (destiny) to me. I had the professional skills and training and now I had the personal experience. I have always worked my passion. I heard another cancer survivor say “Make your mess your message.” Either way it felt like Sharsheret was the place I was meant to be. Thankfully, they felt the same way.
I did worry that immersing myself in the world of breast cancer might feel overwhelming. Sure, I anticipate difficult moments, but the word I would use to describe it now is not overwhelming, but empowering. I look forward to many year of empowerment!
“I was thrilled to receive your breast cancer survivor kit. It literally made my day. The cookbook is fantastic, and the information provided will definitely help me during my survivorship journey. I keep my kit in the great tote bag and refer to it often. It is usually the first thing I look at if a question occurs to me. You all do wonderful work and this was so supportive to me. I will share it with other survivors as well as those beginning their journey.”
- Joanne, Baton Rouge, LA
In September 2011, Sharsheret received a three-year grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to develop a comprehensive survivorship program for young Jewish breast cancer survivors like Joanne. Three years later, after distributing more than 1,300 survivorship kits, conducting nearly 750 care plan navigation sessions, and hosting 5 national teleconferences, Sharsheret’s survivorship program, Thriving Again, is doing just that – thriving.
Throughout the process of developing and implementing Thriving Again, Sharsheret conducted a series of evaluations on the needs and concerns of young Jewish breast cancer survivors. Sharsheret clinicians engaged in a comprehensive review of the literature regarding young adult cancer survivors and relevant support programs, surveyed more than 1,400 young breast cancer survivors to better understand their unique and unmet needs, and conducted four national focus groups of breast cancer survivors to collect feedback and identify priority concerns. Sharsheret presented this program development model and findings from the Thriving Again program at healthcare conferences across the country, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Business Meeting and the Academy of Oncology Nurse Navigators Annual Conference, where Sharsheret was presented with an award for our poster presentation in the “Original Research on Survivorship Programs” category. Through sharing our program model and data, Sharsheret advances survivorship care for all groups, and informs the development of new programs for survivors of breast and other cancers.
Looking toward the future, Sharsheret now offers consulting services and co-branding opportunities for healthcare professionals and those at medical centers nationwide who wish to develop similar culturally-relevant support programs for cancer survivors, and continues to provide survivorship kits and navigation services for the women of Sharsheret, like Joanne, who seek survivorship information and support.
To learn more about Sharsheret’s consulting and co-branding services, contact Support Program Coordinator Sharon Stahl, LMSW or call 866.474.2774.
An article published yesterday in the Wall Street Journal highlights cancer survivorship care programs, not only as an emerging trend in the medical field, but as an essential accreditation standard for U.S. cancer centers by 2015, according to the Commission on Cancer. With an increase of early detection and advances in treatment options, more and more people are living longer after a cancer diagnosis. As noted in the article, the National Cancer Institute indicates that there will be 18 million cancer survivors living in the United States by 2022.
This article reinforces our notion that women need support throughout their cancer journey, from before diagnosis, during treatment, and through survivorship. Recognizing the need for the development of survivorship care programs, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention awarded Sharsheret a grant in 2011 to launch Thriving Again, a comprehensive survivorship program for young Jewish breast cancer survivors. We were able to draw from over a decade of our experience working with young Jewish women facing breast cancer and develop a culturally-appropriate program that touches upon the entire spectrum of issues and concerns that cancer survivors can face, even years after treatment has ended. Sharsheret’s survivorship program offers free survivorship kits which address both the medical and psychosocial needs of cancer survivors through informational resources, and action-based tools such as a healthy living cookbook and fitness DVD.
The program also offers a customized survivorship care plan. In addition to the survivorship kit, members of our clinical staff work directly with each survivor to develop their own personalized survivorship care plan. As indicated in the article, after months of treatment, many survivors can feel overwhelmed and isolated during their transition into survivorship. Sharsheret’s care plans, designed to be completed with a health care professional, can be used as a tool to help organize each woman’s survivorship journey and allows them to focus on living a healthy, fulfilling life.
National Cancer Survivors Day is on Sunday! Survivors in Sharsheret’s National Peer Support Network have shared when they considered themselves survivors. Read their inspiring words below and join us in honoring all of the incredible women of Sharsheret. We would love to hear from you – tell us when you considered yourself a survivor in the comments section below. Click here to join our new survivorship program, Thriving Again, and order your free survivorship kit today!
“I can't pinpoint the exact time frame. But I do remember a shift in my outlook - rather than being one of the 70-80% who would experience recurrence within five years, why couldn't I be in the 20-30% who would not? After all, some of us had to be and I needed to be. It is now 3 years and 9 months post- treatment and I am optimistic about my future.” – Leslie, diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer
“The day I found the lump. I knew it was going to be cancer, but I also knew that I was going to fight and survive!” – Linda, diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer
“I’m never going to be rid of cancer, but around 2 years after my diagnosis I started to feel like a survivor. I’ve always felt like a warrior.” - Diana, diagnosed with advanced breast cancer
“The doctor said, ‘You have ovarian cancer’. Then looking at my daughter’s distraught face he added, ‘We’re going to take care of her’. That was the first time I considered myself a survivor. I felt a sense of relief that I could get on with it – life that is. Many sweet moments since have reinforced that feeling - getting married between chemo three and chemo four, dancing at my children’s weddings, the births of my delicious grandsons, and reading and listening to stories of hope from my ovarian cancer sisters.”
- Sharon, diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer
© 2015 Sharsheret: Your Jewish Community Facing Breast Cancer
Sharsheret is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization ID# 13-4198529
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