Last May, a car full of Five Towns women headed to the Sharsheret benefit in Teaneck. They were a mix of breast cancer survivors and their family and friends. When they walked into that ballroom, the striking impact this organization has on its community was clear. During the car ride home, the women discussed what was missing in the Five Towns, and an idea was born.
One in 40 Ashkenazi Jews — both men and women — carries the BRCA gene mutation which greatly increases the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, as compared to 1 in 345 in the general population.
That means Jews are 10 times more likely to develop these hereditary diseases than the general public. And that is one of the reasons Sharsheret (Hebrew for “chain”) is a critical resource for our Jewish community.
Any family that faces a diagnosis of breast cancer knows the dread and anguish that arrives with it. A patient’s first question is typically, “What do I do next?”
Sharsheret’s new volunteer group in the Five Towns can field that first call, and connect cancer patients to confidential peer support, kits to help their children and families, and a kit to help them cosmetically.
The concerns of pre-menopausal women facing breast cancer are unique. Young women are dating, marrying, having children, and raising children. Their cancers tend to be more aggressive, yet breast cancer research studies often fail to include them.
Sharsheret, a national not-for-profit organization, supports Jewish women and families of all backgrounds, who face breast cancer and ovarian cancer. It has fielded over 45,000 inquiries, and have over 4,000 peer supporters in 48 states across the country, according to Elana Silber, director of operations.
The services offered are accessed by live chat, phone, online or mail, so busy patients with young families can easily access all programs. These services take into consideration the stage of diagnosis or treatment, and the connection to Judaism. Whether the concerns are about genetics, dating, fertility, parenting, career, managing side effects from treatment, or preparing for the holidays, Sharsheret support is available.