Saturday, October 4, 2008

Passionately Pink for the Cure

My friend Vivian was 34 years old when she was first diagnosed with breast cancer. After having a radical mastectomy performed on her right breast and undergoing weeks of chemotherapy and radiation, she was pronounced cancer free. Then, seven years later, she got grim news. The cancer had returned in her lungs. She was very ill and traditional chemo and radiation would not work. She was given the chance to undergo a stem-cell replacement treatment, a procedure she would have a 50/50 chance of surviving. With no other options, she chose to do the treatment. Fortunately, she not only survived the treatment but beat the cancer. That was 10 years ago and she is healthy and active today.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. It is a time to remember those who have died with this disease and to celebrate those who are survivors. Many of us have been impacted by this disease, either personally or with someone we love. Some of us are currently dealing with mothers or sisters or aunts who are undergoing treatment. It is an insidious disease.
Every 2 minutes, someone is diagnosed with breast cancer in the U.S. Every 13 minutes, someone in the U.S. dies from breast cancer. This year 1.1 million people may be diagnosed with this disease worldwide.
While those numbers are grim there are encouraging numbers as well. For example, the five year survival rate of all people diagnosed with breast cancer is 89% . This year the Susan G. Komen foundation donated $100 million in grants to researchers worldwide who are actively seeking a cure. Progress has been made in treatment. If my friend, Vivian, had been diagnosed with that form of breast cancer even a couple years earlier, the stem cell replacement treatment would not have been available. Ten years later, more has been done in the chemotherapy and radiation treatments, as well as early detection.
Still there is work to be done. I encourage you this month to be passionately pink in efforts to help raise awareness of breast cancer. Check out for more information on ways you can be a part of the race to the cure, also go to to donate $5 one day in October, and be sure to wear pink.
If you are a woman, educate yourself on breast self-examinations, risk factors, and mammograms. If you are a man or woman, spend some time this month with someone who is dealing with this disease on some level, ask the women in your life if they've had a mammogram in the past year (recommended yearly for women over 40, or earlier with a family history of breast cancer), offer to take a woman to her mammogram appointment.
Together, we can make a difference! Together we can work for a day when this cancer has been eradicated. Until then we can be passionately pink, fierce in our activism and vigilant in our own healthcare.

L'Shana Tova -- Happy 5769

We are living in the Days of Awe, the high holy days that mark the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashana, and continue through Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.
Unlike the New Year's celebrations that occur throughout the world on December 31st of each year, Rosh Hashanah is a religious holiday. It marks a time of reflection, of looking back over the past year and forward to the coming one, it is a pause amidst the busyness of life to do a self-assessment and make course corrections if needed.
Then on the 10th day of the new year, Jews observe the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. On this day, people are encouraged to make amends for wrongs done to others, for promises that were broken, for any way in which they broke relationship with one another.
I like this focus on repairing relationships with one another, rather than just asking for a blanket amnesty from G-d. This causes us to take responsibility for our actions directly with the ones whom we have hurt. It also gives us an opportunity to be agents of grace with those who have hurt us or broken relationship with us.
Many religions provide opportunities for people to reflect on their broken relationships and give a chance for them to restore them. I think this is one of the most important things we can do as human beings. We cannot hope for the world to attain peace and harmony if we don't first start with seeking those things in our own lives.
So I encourage you, during these Days of Awe, regardless of your religious beliefs, to take some time to reflect on our lives, our actions over these past few weeks and months, to honestly and boldly evaluate your behaviors and to see if there is anyone with whom you need to restore a relationship. This could even be relationship you've broken with yourself by how you have talked to yourself, lies you have told yourself about who you are in the grand scheme of themes.
As the High Holy Days end on October 9 this year, at the last hour a service called "Ne'ila" (Neilah) offers a final opportunity for repentance. It is the only service of the year during which the doors to the Ark (where the Torah scrolls are stored) remain open from the beginning to end of the service, signifying that the gates of Heaven are open at this time.
And I believe that as we reflect, seek forgiveness from anyone with whom we have broken relationship, offer grace and forgiveness to those who have wronged us, that the gates of Heaven are opened, that we can exist in a moment of existential harmony.
In fact, I would encourage us to try to keep the gates of Heaven open throughout the year, not just during the High Holy Days but every day. So that, when we make a mistake, break a promise, hurt someone, we admit it immediately, seek grace, give grace. In so doing, I believe we can always be living in the Days of Awe.
Happy New Year!