Tuesday, July 22, 2014

In Honor of My Mammoversary


Yesterday, I posted this update on Facebook:
Happy erev mammoversary to me! Three years and counting...on many more healthy ones. @facingourrisk #BRCA #grateful
Today, I posted this one:
Three years ago today, I slept through the entire day. Oh, right...I was saving my life. Thanks, Dr. G and Dr. M!
This evening, I wrote this post:  
I promise this will be the last mammoversary post until next year. 
In honor of the occasion, I just made a donation to FORCE: Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered, the amazing organization that empowered me to make the tough medical decisions that I believe saved my life...and has been with me every step of the way, providing information, resources and incredible support. FORCE's 2014 fundraising campaign is underway and I'm proud to pay it forward. I'd be grateful if you'd consider joining me.Thank you!
A link at the bottom of this last post takes you to my FirstGiving fundraising page, where you can read this message and donate:
Thank you for visiting my FORCE fundraising page!
Although asking friends and family to donate to a specific cause is not among my favorite things to do, I'm willing to do it to benefit FORCE:  Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered during the 2014 fundraising campaign.  I truly believe that I would not be where I am in my BRCA journey today without this incredible organization that is solely devoted to providing up-to-date information, resources, and support to the community of people who are at risk of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer (HBOC) syndrome.
Because I have been exceedingly open and forthcoming about my BRCA mutation and the steps I've taken in the last several years to reduce my personal risk, I'm not going to retell my story here.  If you want to read about it, there are plenty of details elsewhere on this blog. (Using the box in the upper left-hand corner of the page, search "BRCA" and then sort by date and you should be able to piece the story together fairly well.)
I will say, however, that I am proud and honored to give back to FORCE as one of two volunteer outreach coordinators in New York City. In this role, I work with my partner coordinator to schedule, organize and help facilitate peer-to-peer support meetings on topics of interest to the hereditary cancer commuity; provide one-on-one support to members dealing with emotional and physical impacts of their BRCA status; and manage regular communications to members of FORCE's NYC group.  I also speak and write frequently about BRCA gene mutations in an effort to raise awareness about their presence, particularly in the Ashkenazi Jewish community, where one in 40 individuals is a carrier, and most of these people are unaware of their status.
Indeed, until four years ago, when my sister (thankfully, she's negative) and I took the initiative to get tested after we lost our mom to exceedingly virulent  breast cancer, we, too, were unaware of the presence of a BRCA mutation in our family.  Although we'll never know how different our family's story might have been had we known about the mutation sooner, if my work with FORCE can prevent even one other family from enduring what we did because we didn't know, I believe some good will come from our experience and that my endeavors will contribute to the Jewish concept of tikkun olam -- repair of our world.
Because FORCE has been been -- and continues to be -- a tremendous blessing to me and to so many others, I would be exceedingly grateful for your support during this year's fundraising campaign.  (Donating through this FirstGiving page is simple, fast, and fully secure.)
Thank you...xoxo,
~ Jane.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Roses Not Rockets

Dear Penn Station Violin Player,

What a wonderful surprise to hear your beautiful rendition of Erev Shel Shoshanim amidst the crowds this morning as I made my way through the Long Island Railroad corridor up the escalator to New Jersey Transit.

How soothing to hear your sweet melody, even as rocket fire blasts shake our beloved Israel, fraying the nerves of her people, and sending them into shelters for cover.

May this be a true Shabbat shalom for those who need it most, and may the dulcet tones of peaceful music overpower the explosions -- in Israel and throughout the world.

Thanks again,
~ JanetheWriter.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

A Charming Keepsake of a Charmed Life

After reading Jenna Weissman Joselit's recent story in the Forward about charm bracelets, I unwrapped mine from the tissue paper in which, as she rightly points out, it "languish[es] in a drawer, [rather] than adorn[s] a wrist."


Nonetheless, my beloved keepsake remains as pristine and shiny as it was on my bat mitzvah day, when I received it, two charms already dangling from its sterling silver links.  The first, a small, flat disk, declares "A Date to Remember" above a small banner on which is engraved my birthday:  1-29-63. On the back are my initials, beautifully etched in the fanciest of scripts.  The bracelet's second charm, a mezuzah, is a small rectangular box adorned with both a Jewish star and the decalogue, engraved on the back with my bat mitzvah date:  2-6-76.  A third charm, a chai, was a gift from a friend whose name is engraved on one "leg" of the hey.  My name, engraved on the other "leg," with the date, 2-6-76, across the top rounds out the bracelet's "inaugural" charms.

An assortment of additional charms marks the milestones of my teenage years: my sweet 16, confirmation, and induction into the National Honor Society.  In between are souvenirs from family vacations:  a lobster cage from a week in Boothbay Harbor, ME, a beach shanty from a trip to Rockport, MA, and a Mickey Mouse charm from my sole visit to Disneyland.

More than milestone markers or souvenirs, though, the charms -- individually and collectively -- serve to remind me of the charmed life, overflowing with warmth, well-being, and love that my parents worked so hard to ensure for my sister and me.  Lucky for me, memories of that charmed life live in my heart, too, relieving me of the need to wear the bracelet on my wrist, where it only would "get in the way of...nonstop texting and tapping."

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Today Was My Lucky Day


Today was a fairly typical day.  Until lunchtime.

That's when I received an email with this subject line:  Rhodia Drive ME Journal Giveaway Winners.

Included in the email was a link to this post on the Rhodia Drive blog.

How exciting to see my name listed as a winner...today truly was my lucky day!

I have some idea about how the Multimedia Enhanced "ME" Journal works, but I can hardly wait for mine to arrive so I can try it out.

Stay tuned for a full review...

Friday, June 27, 2014

Small, Small Jewish World

This afternoon I spent time wandering leisurely through the Mel Bochner: Strong Language exhibit at The Jewish Museum. Bochner's word art spoke to me.  The bright colors, the straight lines the perfectly painted letters, the messy lines, the slanted, paint-dripping-from-them letters, the Yiddishisms, the blah, blah, blah, blah, blahs...I loved each piece more than the one before it.

On my way out, I stopped to browse in the small gift shop, where I couldn't help overhearing this conversation among three Canadians who previously had discovered their shared nationality:  an older couple from Montreal and the young Torontonian saleswoman who was helping them:
Couple:  "How do you like living in New York?"
Saleswoman:  "I love it!"
Couple:  "Do you know Holy Blossom Temple?"
Saleswoman:  "Yes."
Couple:  "Is Elyse Goldstein still the rabbi there?"
Saleswoman: "No, I don't think so.  It's Yael Splansky now, I think."
As I walked past them on my way out, I considered chiming in to tell her that she was correct, but it didn't seem worth the effort.  I'm neither a Torontonian nor a Montrealer, and, heck, I'm not even Canadian.  There would just be too much explaining to do.  Instead, I walked out of the shop and out of the building.

Small, small Jewish world.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Where's JanetheWriter?

Today, I'm blogging over here, where I've put myself "out there" in an intensely personal way.  I'm a tad nervous about what may get posted in the comments section of the piece, but hopeful, too, that people will be respectful of the tough choices faced by those of us affected by hereditary breast and ovarian cancer (HBOC) -- and the decisions we make to preserve our health and save our own lives.

As I always say, if the post raises awareness about BRCA mutations in even one family where they weren't considered before, my "out-there-ness" will have been worth the effort.  For more information about these genetic defects, visit the FORCE website or be in touch with me directly.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Divine Wink

Last Thursday, I received an email from a colleague/friend, the subject line of which said, "I'm sweet talking you..."

The message itself said this:
I was just asked to speak at Rabbi Ploni's good-bye Shabbat tomorrow night.  I’d love to have a letter from the president with me.  Is this at all possible? If I knew the date earlier, I would have asked. Thanks for considering it, Your friend
After a bit of back and forth about some details for the content of the letter, I was able to get it written and arrange to have the final version sent to her the next day, when I'd be out of the office.  She was grateful and our conversation continued:
My friend:  Jane, thank you so much! Enjoy your day off tomorrow.
Me:  Thanks.  It’s my mom’s yahrzeit…and I’ve got lots of odds and ends to do around the house.  Not a great day, but a vacation day, nonetheless.
My friend:  I’ll be thinking of you tomorrow.  Yahrzeits are a tough, sometimes lonely affair.
Me:  Thanks…it’s been a tough few weeks, and I will be glad when the actual day is past…until next year.
And then on Monday, how touched I was to receive this message from my friend:
How was the weekend (especially Friday)?
Me:  It was surprisingly lovely.  I had an unexpected visit from a friend who was in town from Florida for 36 hours and because I was home with not much on the agenda, she and the friend she was traveling with were able to come and hang out for a few hours.  Ironically, the last time I saw her was during shiva for my mom when she also was in town for a wedding.  Bashert!  Thanks for checking in…hope you had a good weekend!
My friend:  Jane, I am happy to hear this!  What a nice divine wink.
I love the idea that God can wink at us...and that God winked at me last week. Thanks, God.

I'll be looking for Your next one, and I hope I catch it when it happens.