Last week I wrote an article on the challenges in the breast cancer world, specifically around the issue of "pink-washing" and how Breast Cancer Awareness Month can be a month where the cause can sometimes be lost in a sea of pink and products. What should be highlighted is the endless number of inspirational stories that relate to this disease, none more than a group of families in Northern New Jersey that my family and I have had the pleasure of working with.
In 2006 when most 4-year-olds were concerning themselves with baby dolls and Elmo, a group of pre-kindergarteners could explain, in their own way, the pathology behind a rare and aggressive form of breast cancer known as triple negative (TNBC). Their moms became obsessed with researching every detail about this disease. Cold calling world-renowned doctors and researchers, investigating clinical trials, talking to patients, survivors and family members; desperate for anyone who could give them a shred of hopeful information to contradict the dismal and sparse statistics they found on the internet, all in an effort to save their friend and fellow mommy, Nancy Block-Zenna. Despite their efforts, Nancy passed away the following year leaving behind her own precious daughter, Jolie.
Stunned by Nancy's disease, the tight-knit, and prosperous Bergen County, NJ community, to which they all belonged, came together to provide the funds that started the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation. Unsure of what they were getting into, the determined and well-educated group of moms, armed with degrees in law and finance, began the arduous process of giving birth to a new non-profit organization dedicated to funding research and providing hopeful support to TNBC patients and families.
Working countless hours without pay, often using their own money for travel and office supplies, the founding moms refused to give up on the fledgling organization that quickly became a beacon of hope for everyone affected by this disease. Their young girls watching every step of the way.
Flash forward eight years and the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation has now raised over two million dollars for research and programs to support triple negative patients, helping women around the world come to grips with a TNBC diagnosis and funding promising research projects aimed at a cure. The group of little girls, now young ladies, are preparing for their Bat Mitzvahs, the Jewish coming-of-age ceremony that is often accompanied by a service project. There was never a question in these girl's minds what the focus of their Mitzvah projects would be. Joining forces, as their moms did years ago, the girls have created a website, TNBC Mitzvah Girls, selling products to benefit TNBC Foundation and inviting friends and family to join Team Nancy in a walk this week. This next generation group of advocates includes Jolie Zenna, whose mom Nancy inspired them all.