Special guest post by Rebecca Schwartz, Director of Community Engagement, Sharsheret: Your Jewish Community Facing Breast Cancer
The first thought that comes to mind when I think about October, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, is pink. It’s all about the pink – pink shoes, pink t-shirts, pink sports bras, pink watches, all sold to “raise breast cancer awareness.” And that’s really what NBCAM is all about – raising awareness about breast cancer, encouraging women to take care of their health, and empowering women to make informed decisions.
In the Jewish community, women play so many central roles - daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend, volunteer, caregiver. The list goes on. We are so busy taking care of others that we often neglect to take care of ourselves. I have no problem remembering to schedule doctor’s appointments for my kids, but scheduling my own appointments somehow always slips my mind. Taking care of my health is just as, if not more, important because my kids need me to be healthy so I can keep up with them.
As Jewish women, safeguarding our health is of particular significance since 1 in 40 Ashkenazi Jews carries a breast cancer gene (BRCA) mutation, nearly 10 times the rate of the general population, making Jewish families significantly more susceptible to hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. Sharsheret: Your Jewish Community Facing Breast Cancer was founded to give Jewish women a voice in the cancer community. Sharsheret provides free support for Jewish women and families facing breast cancer or at increased genetic risk and educates communities nationwide about the increased risk for hereditary cancer in Jewish families. It’s a safe, confidential place where Jewish women can turn to discuss their concerns about breast cancer. If you have questions about your family history, you can speak with Sharsheret’s certified genetic counselor free of charge. If you are living with breast cancer, Sharsheret can connect you with another woman who has been on the same journey. I encourage you to get involved in Sharsheret – as a participant in one of our 12 national programs, as a volunteer, or as a supporter. It’s the perfect opportunity to connect with and empower Jewish women nationwide.
So, what does any of this have to do with pink? When it comes to breast cancer awareness, pink is more than just a color. It’s a reminder of our responsibility as women to take care of ourselves. Before you click “add to cart” and buy that cute pink bracelet this October, take some time to learn your family history, schedule your annual check-up, and do a self-exam. Look past the pink and think about what it represents - the power we have, as women, to take control of our health.