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Race for the Cure

Posted Sep 13 2011 9:58pm
This Sunday, I will be walking with my family and friends in the NYC Race for the Cure, which supports breast cancer awareness and research. We will be walking in memory of Aviva's mother, Hindy, who passed away from breast cancer 9 years ago. My sister-in-law, Tova, who runs the team and is so dedicated to the cause wrote about her mother and what the race means to her as part of her outreach. I wanted to share with you her beautiful words and hope they mean as much to you as they meant to me.

Hindy's Helpers was founded in memory of my mother, Hindy Weinstock, who died from breast cancer 9 years ago. My mother was a speech pathologist who worked in a very poor neighborhood in the Bronx. She loved to devote time to volunteering in her community, helping her young patients and doing anything to make her husband and three children happy. She did all this with a smile on her face and was known for her laugh and amazing sense of humor. Like so many other women, her life was cut short at the age of 48 when her battle against breast cancer ended. Although she fought the cancer twice, the second time for over a year, she wasn't able to conquer it. It's hard to share my story about losing my mother at such a young age, but it's also a comforting way to keep her memory alive.
When I was in fourth grade, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer for the first time. I was pretty much kept in the dark for those few months and only have memories of words like "tumor," "radiation," and "chemotherapy." Those months are a blur of mysterious visits to the doctor and an understanding that "mommy was sick" covered in confusion about what exactly was wrong. I was introduced to the fact that parents aren't immortal beings who will always be there to take care of their children. Thankfully, she was able to chase away the cancer and went into remission.

But the remission only lasted so long and when I was in eighth grade, my mother battled with breast cancer for a second time, and this time it would take her life. Again, "chemotherapy," "radiation," and "tumor" were common words. Only this time, they had more significance. I understood the severity of these terms and for over a year, I watched my mother slowly be taken over by the cancer that spread from her breasts, to her lungs, and eventually her brain. This time, "chemotherapy" was replaced with "three months left to live," "there's nothing more to do," and "let's let nature take it's course from here." Although I had hope for a miracle, the passing of time made it clear that no miracle was coming and there was an inevitable end in sight. Dreadful. However, throughout the hardships, my mother always approached the struggles with a smile and positive attitude. It was that attitude and strength that pulled her through the initial months of chemo and steady decline. Her strong will to fight gave her the ability to push through and live longer than any doctor imagined was possible.

Towards the end of her life, my siblings, Yosef and Aviva, and I spent a lot of time cuddling up in bed with my mother to keep her company. Since the cancer eventually attacked her brain, it became harder and harder for her to speak, write and understand. But we would lay with her and tell her stories to remind her about past family vacations, special events we had all shared together, and the students that she was so devoted to and their progress. Even when she was exhausted from medicines and treatments, she would muster up the strength to give us a smile and kiss. The summer my mother died was incredibly difficult especially since all of my friends had gone to camp and I had decided that I would stay home. It was clear that her days were limited and I wanted to be able to spend every moment with her. Our home felt like Grand Central Station with visitors coming in and out all day long. Everyone wanted to accompany my mother in her last days. Nobody was ready to let go. My sister, her boyfriend (now husband) and I spent almost every evening bowling. It was a fun way for us get out of the house for a while and enjoy ourselves. One evening, before we left, we asked my mother how many strikes she wanted us to get that day. Since she was so heavily drugged at the time and formulating answers was hard in general, it was very hard for her to answer the question. But we kept insisting, "mommy, how many strikes should we try to get tonight?" Finally, we heard her say "eight." It took all of her ability to speak and come up with an answer, but she was able to do it for us, her children. I'll never forget these memories and my mother's last smiles and I will always feel so inspired by her strength and bravery. It took a few years before I, the team captain of Hindy's Helpers, felt ready to make a team in my mother's memory. Each year is still very hard, but racing as a team for her brings me so much joy and I know she's happy to see her "helpers" picking up where she left off and can no longer be. We have been working hard to raise money for the Komen Foundation and can't wait to deck out in pink this year!

Hindy's Helpers is usually made up of my close friends and my mother's friends who all knew Hindy very well and are so proud to be racing in her honor. Last year, we were joined by my twin niece and nephew who were born a few months before the race. I made sure to deck them out in appropriate attire and Em, a friend and teammate, helped me hand make pink shirts for them. My niece, Hindy (named after my mother) wore a "Stroll for the cure" shirt. Oscar, my nephew, wore a shirt proclaiming "I'm here for the boobies." Although they won't grow up knowing their grandmother, they will learn about the amazing traits she had and her devotion to society and those she loved. This year, I feel so touched that people who never even met my mother have signed up for the team. We currently have more team members than we have ever had and the number keeps growing! Team members are coming in from Connecticut, New Jersey and Philadelphia to join Hindy's Helpers. It will make me so proud to see the team all together on race day surrounded by others who have fought breast cancer, lost someone they loved, or just support the cause. Every year, the race excites me and is very emotional for me. But I know that my mother is so proud of us and with our effort, hopefully no more mothers, sisters, daughters, or friends will be lost because of breast cancer. Go Hindy's Helpers!

If you would like to support me, Tova, or anyone on Hindy's Helpers please visit our site at http://bit.ly/plKMTg


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