A resource for young Jewish women & me
Posted September 22, 2009on:
Age is such a funny thing. As I like to say, “I used to be younger.” And I also say, the alternative to birthdays “ain’t pretty.”
Growing up with an October birthday, I was always the youngest in my class all the way through school. When I started at age 21 at the La Crosse Tribune as a reporter, I was the youngest. Everyone else in the newsroom seemed very old then – but were a decade or so younger than I am today at 56.
We spend half our life wanting to be older and then one day flip a switch and we wish we were younger. Are we humans never satisfied?
I am connected with a wonderful breast cancer survivor organization for young Jewish women and their families. Sharsheret (www.sharsheret.org) recognizes that we “chosen people” have special needs.
That’s because we also have been chosen for breast and ovarian cancer at higher rates than the general population. We are, that is, if we are Ashkenazic (of eastern and central European Jewish descent). However, only 5 to 8 percent of breast cancer is inherited. It’s the genetic predisposition for breast cancer that is more common in Jewish women.
And it is interesting for me as a personal historian, someone who helps to preserve the history of individuals, families, etc., how little I know about our family’s history, including medical history. So it wasn’t clear to me if anyone in my family had breast cancer prior to me.
My maternal grandmother died of something listed on her death certificate “lymphosarcoma.” My mother called it a women’s cancer. Lymphosarcoma, no longer used today, could have been lymphoma or breast cancer that spread to the lymph nodes (like mine).
Message: Everyone should know his or her family history – including illnesses and causes of death of family members.
Sharsheret posted my essay, “I Stand with Tevye,” about being Jewish and having breast cancer on the Sharsheret blog, http://www.sharsheret.blogspot.com.
Sharsheret, Hebrew for chain, goes back to 2001. After Rochelle Shoretz, a former Law Clerk to United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, was diagnosed at age 28, she recognized the need for a breast cancer organization that would provide culturally sensitive support for Jewish women. Today Sharsheret offers:
- Links between newly diagnosed or at high risk of developing breast cancer women with others with similar diagnoses and experiences.
- Education and Outreach Programs, including community outreach events in private homes and health care symposia addressing the concerns of Jewish women facing breast cancer.
- Quality of Life Programs assisting young mothers, those with advanced cancer and with cosmetic challenges of treatments.
- A genetics program focusing on issues related to hereditary breast cancer and offering resources, information, and individualized genetic counseling support to Jewish women diagnosed with breast cancer and for those at risk due to their strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer.
- Sharsheret Forum, an online message board for Jewish women facing breast cancer, their family members, and caregivers.
- Family Focus, a program offering resource materials and the “Ask Sharsheret” phone line to guide family members and caregivers through treatment and beyond.
- Sharsheret Booklet Series, designed to raise awareness about issues many Jewish women face in their fight against breast cancer.
- Sharsheret Supports, a national model for local support groups offering facilitator training and resources to assist in beginning and sustaining a culturally-sensitive breast cancer support group.
- Health Information about breast health and the genetic risks of breast and ovarian cancer for Jewish women.
- Resource Information.
I am no longer a young Jewish woman – defined as before menopause. But I was not “carded” when I contacted Sharsheret to ensure I was young enough for the organization.
In fact, a Jewish woman with a similar diagnosis to mine has been called about speaking with me. I will contact her soon. There is a genuine desire at Sharsheret to provide support to Jewish women with breast cancer and their families, regardless of our ages or circumstances.
Thank you, Sharsheret, for your support.