October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October 7, 2013

By Jennifer Ziegler, Teva Wellness Director

I’d like to share two stories.  They are the stories of daughters and sisters, sons and brothers, mothers and grandmothers much like us who have been touched by cancer and moved to make a difference.

Throughout my life, I had always aimed high and dreamed big. I graduated from Barnard College, the prestigious women’s liberal arts college in New York City, in 1995, and just a year later earned my law degree from Columbia Law School. By 1998, at age 25, I was serving in Washington, D.C., as a law clerk for a U.S. Supreme Court justice. All the pieces of what I had envisioned for my life were falling perfectly in to place.

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001, at the age of 28. I had recently completed my clerkship with the U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and was on a path to legal prominence. I had been married for nine years and was the mother of two young sons, ages 3 and 5. I was healthy, fit, active. Stage II breast cancer just didn’t fit into the picture.

Hours after my diagnosis, I began to organize, calling family and friends to my home. Even though I had my family by my side, I felt the need to connect with other young Jewish women who, like me, were experiencing breast cancer through the lens of Judaism. When I couldn’t find them, I set a new goal. Here I was with a scarf on my little bald head in the midst of chemotherapy and I decided I had to start an organization because I knew there were other young women out there like me.  I began asking my friends if they knew of other young Jewish women living with breast cancer. Within a few weeks, I met Lauryn, a 31-year-old survivor who helped guide me through chemotherapy and radiation. Before long, we became connected to another young breast cancer survivor, Naomi, who became the next “link” in our chain. Together, we founded Sharsheret, which means chain in Hebrew.

-Rochelle Shoretz, Sharsheret Founder

My first experience with cancer was with my son.  He was diagnosed with brain cancer at the age of 10 and passed away 10 years later.  Then, at the age of 61, I began my own personal battle with breast cancer.  It was during this battle that I recognized that the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual balance of the entire family is disturbed when one of its members is diagnosed with cancer.  It became my mission to start an organization that gives support such that no person affected by cancer will feel alone in their journey.  I decided to start a support group, which now has expanded to serve persons with cancer and those that love them.  The purpose is to nurture, support and encourage healing of the whole person; mind, body and spirit.  There are opportunities to share common experiences, coping skills and make life changes to promote wellness.

- Mary Soergel, Stillwaters Cancer Support Services Founder

The CDC estimates that over 230,000 women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer this year alone; breast cancer in women under age 30 is rare. If you’re 20, your risk of having breast cancer is 1 in 1,760. At 30, it’s 1 in 229; and at 40 it’s 1 in 69. A woman’s lifetime risk is 1 in 8.

Opportunities to make a difference here at our JCC:

      1. Wear Pink on Wednesdays –don’t just wear it…talk about WHY you’re wearing it!
      2. Explore your JCC and take a peek at our doors and workspaces decorated in PINK for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
      3. Explore our JCC cancer support resources.  To learn more about Sharsheret and Stillwaters Cancert Support Services contact Mona Cohen at (414)-967-8249 or mcohen@jccmilwaukee.org.
      4. Participate in the Iron Man –Pink Edition- on the JCC Fitness Floor.  Contact Amy Kimball, HR&F intern, at akimball@jccmilwaukee.org  for more information.