By Deb Silverthorn
An online fashion show and fundraiser, “The Latest Trends in Genes,” features designer denim and cleverly shines the spotlight on education and awareness of genetic testing and screenings, at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 7.
Sharsheret’s fourth annual event will feature a conversation on genetic testing, a fashion show of Dallas boutiques’ best and a silent auction.
“Education and awareness are more critical than ever, with cancer diagnoses numbers on the rise and found at later stages. Throughout the pandemic, Sharsheret has not stopped getting the word out and offering support,” said Elana Silber, CEO of Sharsheret, a Jewish-sponsored breast cancer organization, noting many patients have postponed appointments out of fear of COVID-19. “This event is for women, for men, for anyone because every family is touched by breast and ovarian cancer and there is an increased risk for hereditary cancers in the Jewish community.”
Sharsheret reports that one in 40 Ashkenazi Jews — men and women — carries a BRCA gene mutation, making Jewish families at 10 times greater risk than the general population for related hereditary cancers including breast, ovarian, pancreatic, prostate, melanoma and male breast cancers.
In early 2019, before an elective procedure, Kim Korenvaes Stein’s doctor required she have a mammogram. The wife of Dr. Jaryd Stein and mother of Dylan, Jake and Sophie, complied. Two days later she received a positive diagnosis.
After numerous surgeries and other treatments, she is now cancer free and spreading the word of Sharsharet. The organization was introduced locally by Lizzy Rosenberg Greif who dedicates her commitment to the memory of her sisters Margot and Sheri. Both Stein and Greif serve on the organization’s national board.
“My diagnosis rocked my world, in the very worst way. I thought I was educated. I wasn’t. Thank God I’m okay, but this disease is awful and whatever you can do to get ahead of it, you must,” said Stein, who leads the event committee that includes her husband; Morgan Aaron; Lizzy and Dr. Jules Greif; Elaine and Trevor Pearlman; Lizzy and Dr. Ira Savetsky; Mimi and Ben Slater; Nicole Small; Jody and Kyle Stein and Sarah Wiewel. “Sharsheret’s team walked me through. My heart goes out to anyone with a positive diagnosis, and I’m here to help.”
The evening, sponsored by the Alliance for Reconstructive Surgery and the M.B. and Edna Zale Foundation, will feature Sharsheret Genetics Program Coordinator Peggy Cottrell and breast cancer patient Ondene Forrest sharing her personal story.
A J.J. Pearce graduate and the daughter of Dr. Diane Mendelsohn and Brian Stein, Forrest is the sister-in-law of Kim Stein. She was 36 when she had a normal baseline mammogram. At 40, when Forrest would have scheduled a mammogram, she postponed it due to COVID-19. Then, after being vaccinated for COVID-19 she had to delay again six weeks as recommended since enlarged lymph nodes have appeared under the arms of many patients, post-vaccine, that may not be cancerous, but can be confused as signs of breast cancer.
“I waited, not a good thing, but I felt confident, and I wasn’t worried. Then my mammogram returned positive,” said Forrest, who now lives in Westin, Florida with her husband Daniel and sons Jackson and Harrison. “I remembered Kim’s experience and I was petrified.”
Forrest, who is undergoing treatment, says it hasn’t been determined whether her delay affected her condition, but she urges everyone not to delay any appointments saying, “this has been a very loud wake-up call.”
Elaine Pearlman, who weathered her own breast cancer experience four years ago says: “Sharsheret saved my life as I had no idea my path once I got my diagnosis. I had so much going on and they literally carried me through. I can’t ever thank them enough.”
During the Zoom event, participants will have the opportunity to bid on denim pants, dresses, shirts, jackets and boots, all donated to the cause and modeled by Pearlman as well as Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban; “Real Housewives of Dallas” cast members Kary Brittingham, Cary Deuber and Kameron Westcott; Dallas influencer Lizzy Savetsky, her husband and their children Stella, Juliet and Ollie;
Caroline Anderson; Jarrod Beck; Kailee Cawley; Ellie Feldman; Brian Glaser; Lisa Goldberg; Lian Hahn; Sumana Kethu; Sal La Mastra; Kathryn Miles; Campbell Scheer; Skylar Smith; Taylor Walker; and Katie Zweig.
Donations to the event support robes for patients, healthy living, nutrition and fitness packages, family consultations with a genetics counselor, toys for children whose mothers are living with cancer, caregiver counseling and more.
Forrest, Stein and Pearlman all report that their own diagnoses inspired friends and family members to be tested, with a number getting positive diagnoses. They all say the urgency to follow through on whatever screenings or appointments one is due for, is essential. They and others involved in the Dallas’ Sharsheret community, said CEO Silber, are no doubt saving lives.
“This committee and the Dallas community are unbelievable, and it is an honor to partner with them,” she said. “As Jews, this time of year we are absorbed in ‘who shall live and who shall die’ and we at Sharsheret are dedicated to bringing hope when patients and their families need it most.’”
For more information, or to register, visit tinyurl.com/10-7-Dallas-Sharsheret-Event