Jewish people help one another like no other. Meet an organization that not only helps cancer patients, but assists those around them with professional and personal help many often don’t think about.
As we end summer and start our fall routines, it’s a great time for women to go visit their physicians for annual mammograms.
Sharsheret, a national non-profit organization, improves the lives of Jewish women and families living with or at increased genetic risk for breast or ovarian cancer through personalized support and saves lives through educational outreach. Sharsheret has offices in California, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey and New York.
Their expertise is in helping young women and Jewish families as related to breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Sharsheret programs serve all women and men.
Sharsheret recognizes and embraces the full spectrum of diversity within our communities. Sharsheret’s leadership, staff and volunteers invite all voices to be heard, and treat respectfully all who reach out to Sharsheret regardless of economic or social status and do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, creed, religion, political belief, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, or age.
Last month, I attended a unique event combining Torah learning and cancer awareness.
Tisha B’Av, the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av, commemorates the destruction of both the first and second temples in Jerusalem, as well as many other tragedies that have affected the Jewish people. The nine days before Tisha B’Av are traditionally observed as an extended period of mourning and contemplation. During these days, it is customary to host a siyyum, a celebration to mark the completion of the study of a tractate of the Talmud.
Sharsheret, Hebrew for chain, improves the lives of Jewish women and families living with or at increased genetic risk for breast or ovarian cancer through personalized support and saves lives through educational outreach.
Sharsheret’s annual Long Island BBQ and Siyyum, held this year on August 6th, brings together hundreds of people to raise awareness about breast and ovarian cancer in the Jewish community, and about how communities can support the women and families personally affected by these diseases.
Guest Speaker Riva Goldschmiedt shared her personal story and said:
Well if i can impart any wisdom from my life experience over the past year it would be the following- my 8 cancer keys to success:
1) Be diligent about body checks and manmograms- ”feel for lumps and save your bumps”-it is so important- if you dont check yourself, you must start. If you need a mammogram and have been pushing it off, call for an appointment tomorrow.
2) Know your family’s medical history and if you dont know it, ask questions to learn more about it- i had no idea about my family’s history. Knowledge is power, so do some research and become educated.
3) Most people think- men dont get breast cancer, dont have the BRCA MUTATION, and dont need mammos- this is a huge misconception.
It does happen, men have a 50% chance of having the brca mutation just like women and if they have it, they do need mammograms.
4) It’s also vital to get a few opinions- dont rely on just one doctors opinion- when it came time to discuss my treatment, if any – I was told by one doctor that I needed chemotherapy- the type of chemo I needed and how many times I needed it. I didnt stop at one opinion- I went to 2 more hospitals and met with reputable doctors to get additional opinions. Thankfully, they all agreed on the type of chemotherapy that I had needed and the regimens were identical amongst all three opinions- that put me in a great position- to choose who I felt most confident in and comfortable with to oversee my care.
5) Have a close support system – I was so fortunate- my support system was tremendous and gave me alot of strength- family, friends, all of my new breasties- you know who you are- the outpouring of love was overwhelming and im so appreciative and cant thank you enough for all of your prayers, tehillim, love and support.
6) Research ways to make your treatment easier and less traumatizing. as billy crystal used to say- “its better to look good than to feel good” – so if it is an option, as it was for me, look into things like scalp cooling also known as cold caps- this is a special cap that registers at 37 degrees and that goes on your head an hour before chemo, stays on while the chemo is being administered and remains on the head for an hour and a half after the chemo is complete- it freezes the hair follicles so that you dont lose your hair. Although it didnt work 100% for me, it saved about 40% of my hair, and left me feeling less depressed than I may have been had I lost all of it.
Having spoken to Elana Silbet about the cold caps and my experience, Sharsheret hopes to create a program which takes care of the financials and enables women and men to utilize these cold caps while undergoing treatment.
7) Read articles, go to cancer awareness lectures and reach out to sharsheret for support. at the start of my journey with breast cancer- I put a call into sharsheret and received a call back from a social worker almost immediately- I asked her questions about doctors, and the different types of chemo and also asked if I could be connected to someone who was going through what I was going through and within a day or so, a woman from across the country reached out to me and we discussed our cases- she was helpful and offered me words of encouragement.
8) Stay positive and have hope and faith
Event Co-Sponsor Suzanne Gurvitch, together with her husband Barry, stated “Sharsheret is a great organization and I wish it had been around when my mother and mother in law were fighting breast cancer.”
My first personal encounter with Sharsheret was ten years ago, when my sister in law, Jamie Gurvitch was diagnosed with breast cancer. I reached out to Sharsheret and they sprang into action with support, everything from simply sending her a pillow to feel comfortable after surgery, to introducing her to a social worker to help guide her through this difficult time. They were a godsend for her. As a result, Jamie has become a representative for Sharsheret in Flordia. Since then, our children too have become involved in Sharsheret fund raisers, including Pink Day at HAFTR, baking and selling pies for thanksgiving in Florida, organizing a Pink day at the University of Hartford college campus, as well as walking with team Sharsheret in the Making Strides race in Central Park.
Next event next week:
Register here to order your t-shirt and join Team Sharsheret at the Race for the Cure Walk in NYC on Sunday, September 8th.