Agency will bring together experts, survivors Sept. 17
By Deb Silverthorn
The heart of teal and pink — of the tackle against ovarian and breast cancers — will come together for a community-wide event at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 17, at the home of Lizzy and Dr. Jules Greif.
Dallas City Council Member Cara Mendelsohn will moderate a panel of experts on the topic. The panel will consist of Sharsheret Executive Director Elana Silber, Board-Certified Cancer Genetics Counselor Stacy “Sam” Utay and ovarian cancer survivor and co-founder of Be The Difference Foundation Julie Shrell. Simcha Catering and Event Design donated wine and cheese for the evening.
“It’s as simple as wanting to keep people alive,” said Lizzy Greif, whose sisters Margot and Sheri, of blessed memory, lost valiant fights against breast cancer. “The more we can educate, the more we can support patients and their families, before diagnosis and in the midst of the fight, the more we can help. Understanding these diseases doesn’t cure, but it provides an exhale in the throes of crisis.”
Greif, co-chairing the event with her husband Jules, Elaine Pearlman, Beri and Joel Schwitzer, Jacquie and Myron Schwitzer and Marc and Wendy Stanley, serves on Sharsheret’s national board.
Silber is chair of the Federal Advisory Committee on Breast Cancer in Young Women, and has brought Sharsheret programs to Dallas for many years. The organization offers personalized support and educational outreach, as well as between 300 and 400 programs annually. Silber said the organization changes, and saves, lives through personal connections.
“The connections we make in person, that last as we help people who can benefit from our services, are invaluable,” she said. “Our team of social workers and other professionals are available to teach the Jewish, and greater, communities what we can do today to protect our future.”
And Joel Schwitzer isn’t just talking the talk but walking the walk — actually running the run — on Team Sharsheret in November’s TCS New York City Marathon. Having completed eight half-marathons in the last year, he’s dedicating his first full marathon in memory of his mother Marsha, who died in 2011, just one week after being diagnosed with Stage 4 ovarian cancer. His wife Beri, and sister Eve, both ran with Team Sharsheret in 2013.
“Mom would’ve been my greatest cheerleader,” said Schwitzer, who was first introduced to Sharsheret while Hillel director at the University of Illinois, when two students’ mothers passed away from ovarian cancer.
“I’ve lost a considerable amount of weight and started running, something neither my mom nor I would have believed possible. I’m honored, through Sharsheret, to do a mitzvah and raise money and awareness for those grappling with this horrible disease.”
With one in 40 Ashkenazi Jewish men and women carrying a BRCA gene mutation, compared to one in 500 in the general population, the risks are significantly increased for hereditary breast and ovarian cancers, as well as melanoma, pancreatic, prostate and male breast cancers.
“We want to scream about the disease that whispers,” said cancer-survivor Shrell. The organization she co-founded, Be The Difference Foundation, funds research, provides awareness and supports those fighting against ovarian cancer. “We must educate, we must be aware, and we help the community understand more about the disease,” Shrell said. “We’re truly honored to work with Sharsheret.”
For Mendelsohn, the Dallas city council member, the proactive and reactive benefits of Sharsheret are vital. As former president of Jewish Family Service of Greater Dallas, she worked with the organization on many occasions to help initiate connections with Jewish Family Service’s clients.
“Every one of us has or somehow will be affected by these diseases, whether it is personally or through someone we care about,” said Mendelsohn, who was adopted as an infant. With no medical history available, she underwent a genetic testing series that ruled out 132 possible issues. Cleared, she is grateful to now understand what is, or what won’t be, on the horizon. “We can’t be blind, and we can’t ignore the information that is so readily available to us,” Mendelsohn said. “Learning is power and both Sharsheret and Be The Difference Foundation allow us all to be more powerful.”
To register for the community event, or donate to Schwitzer’s race, visit tinyurl.com/Sharsheret-Dallas-9-17. For more information about the event, including the Greifs’ address, email firstname.lastname@example.org.