Monday, May 16, 2016

That Time When Uncle Irv Came to Torah Study

I think it might have been the ripe, red strawberries on Cantor Dubinsky's milestone birthday cake that brought Uncle Irv to Torah study last Shabbat.

During minyan, she'd chanted from Kedoshim, beginning with verse 23:
When you enter the land and plant any tree for food, you shall regard its fruit as forbidden. Three years it shall be forbidden for you, not to be eaten. In the fourth year all its fruit shall be set aside for jubilation before the Eternal; and only in the fifth  year may you use its fruit -- that its yield to you may be increased. I the Eternal am your God.
After we'd all enjoyed the cake and the celebration, our Torah study conversation started with a discussion of trees and fruit -- and the difference between letting ripe fruit drop to the ground versus not letting it grow in the first place. All of a sudden, it was as though Uncle Irv was sitting next to me in that already crowded classroom. I remembered the bed of strawberries Amy and I planted and watered under his firm tutelage -- with a row of alternating marigolds and bachelor buttons in front, one way organic gardeners keep the bunnies away.

How excited we were when green shoots, followed by vines and then small white flowers finally appeared. And, oh how disappointed when he instructed us to nip off every last one of the delicate, yellow-centered flowers.

"Why??" we whined, less than thrilled by the whole gardening thing he was trying to teach us. According to Uncle Irv, it would ensure a bountiful crop of sweet berries in a few years.

Who knew we were learning Torah right there in the backyard?

Sunday, May 1, 2016

How You Can Help Me Give Back to the BRCA Community

I’ve been telling and re-telling my family’s BRCA story for nearly six years now, and with each re-telling there are new pieces and evolving elements to incorporate into the narrative.
However, there are three parts of the account that never change:
  1. Diagnosed as a BRCA mutation carrier at age 47, I am thankful each and every day that even at that age, I was able to become a “previvor.” By taking action to protect my health, I prevented my genetic predisposition to cancer from determining my destiny.
  2. As a result of my experience, BRCA awareness, particularly in families like mine where the presence of a cancer-causing hereditary mutation may not be blatant, has become my “soapbox issue.” I will talk about it with anyone and everyone because you just never know when you might change the trajectory of someone’s life or that of their family.
  3. None of this important and, yes, sacred work would be possible without the incredible support I received from FORCE: Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered, a national not-for-profit organization that provides support, evidence-based resources, and a community of people who have been affected by hereditary cancer.
I’m proud to be giving back to the organization that has given me so much. Currently, i volunteer as one of two Peer Support Group Leaders for the NYC FORCE group, and as a Research Advocate, which means I’ve been specially trained to engage in research advocacy on behalf of the hereditary breast and ovarian cancer community.
In addition to sharing my time, energy, and experience as a BRCA mutation carrier, I support FORCE financially. Although asking my family and friends for an annual donation is not among my favorite activities, I know you appreciate how important this organization and this work are – not just to me, but to all of us in the hereditary cancer community. With your help – at whatever level you choose – I can reach my goal of $500, which will help FORCE continue to provide vital support and myriad resources to individuals and families affected by hereditary cancer.
Thank you. I am grateful for your friendship and for your support of this important cause in my life.