The Chronicle asked Elizabeth “Betsy” Brenner and Ellen Friebert Schupper, do your Jewish values connect you with your work in support of those facing breast cancer and its aftermath? Brenner is the vice president of the board for ABCD: After Breast Cancer Diagnosis and the recently retired publisher of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Ellen Friebert Schupper is the organization’s executive director. They are helping to lead the organization through a time of transformational change (see “Challenge grant could transform breast cancer nonprofit“). This is what they had to say.
Here are the facts: as of March 2017, there are more than 3.1 million women with a history of breast cancer in the United States. This includes women currently being treated and women who have finished treatment. Over a lifetime, one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, including about 4,000 women here in Wisconsin. In the U.S., breast cancer risk is slightly higher among Jewish women than among other women, and a woman’s risk of breast cancer nearly doubles if she has a first-degree relative who has been diagnosed with breast cancer.
More facts: We are both Jewish women living in Wisconsin. Betsy has a family history of breast cancer and is living with metastatic breast cancer; Ellen does not. However, our deep commitment to tikkun olam, repairing the world, brought us together at ABCD: After Breast Cancer Diagnosis, a special organization launched by Melodie Wilson Oldenburg in 1999 to provide free, personalized information and one-to-one support to patients, families and friends affected by breast cancer, from the newly diagnosed to those in treatment and on into survivorship.
As our working relationship evolves, it’s become clear that some primary Jewish values or experiences are core to the mission and vision of ABCD.
B’yachad: Together. We believe that a connected life is an empowered, healthier life. Decades of research indicate that patients who take advantage of non-clinical support like ABCD’s are more likely to finish treatment, have improved “survival” rates, show a reduced risk of recurrence, and report experiencing less distress, healthier social relationships and an improved quality of life.
Shidduch: Matchmaking. Our services focus on emotional and holistic support to complement medical care. We connect people in need of support (“participants”) to professionally trained survivors and co-survivors (“mentors”) based on who they are as people – their values, life stage, interests and concerns – as well as their specific diagnosis and treatment plan. Each match is carefully created to ensure a meaningful connection between a mentor and participant that meets the needs of the participant and can last as long as needed; sometimes it’s a few phone calls during the treatment decision-making process and other times, matches develop into lifelong friendships.
K’hilah: Community. We are passionate about building connections to create a caring community of people who really understand what it’s like to have breast cancer or to support someone who does. A breast cancer diagnosis changes everything, forever. It can also be a lonely, overwhelming experience. ABCD understands these feelings and believes that no one needs to feel alone after hearing the words “you have breast cancer.”
Mi Sheberach: Healing. With compassion, honesty and service excellence, ABCD makes connections that make a difference by nurturing hope and restoring confidence in all those affected by breast cancer.
Tzedakah: Helping those in need. By 2020, our goal is that every woman or man who is diagnosed or living with breast cancer knows about ABCD and has access to our critical services, starting in Southeastern Wisconsin and building to the national level. We will accomplish this goal by deepening and expanding relationships with healthcare facilities, making a significant investment in marketing and outreach initiatives, and expanding services to underserved patient populations and those patients diagnosed with less common forms of breast cancers.
Finally, l’chaim, to life!
For more information about ABCD, visit AbcdBreastCancerSupport.org or call 414-977-1780.