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Fundraiser to support young women with breast cancer

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PYNK: Breast Cancer Program for Young Women was the first organization in Canada to offer a comprehensive package of optimal care, support and cutting edge research specifically for women 40 and under with breast cancer.

“Young women diagnosed with breast cancer face challenges that women of other age groups do not face,” says Alexandra Landsberg, a survivor of breast cancer when she was 27.

PYNK and Na’amat Canada Toronto have formed a partnership to raise money at a Cabaret For Caring on Oct. 25, at 7 p.m at Shaarei Shomayim Congregation.

Na’amat supports women and children in many areas of daily life in Canada and Israel including education and counselling in a unique community centre in northern Israel. It offers treatment and educational opportunities to at risk children and teens, as well as shelters for vulnerable women and children who are victims of abuse. Na’amat touches approximately 40,000 lives each year, notes Lori Nusbaum, senior fundraising and development officer at Na’amat.

Both organizations are supported entirely by private donations.

The evening will pay tribute to the memory of two women, Rickey Fitzerman, the founding member and driving force behind PYNK, and Rivka Shaffir, a past national president of Na’amat Canada, whose passion for educating and counselling women in Canada and Israel has made a difference in many lives.

“It is just under 20 years since my breast cancer diagnosis, says Landsberg, a co-chair of the event, “and I am therefore proudly co-chairing this event in memory of my friend Rickey Fitzerman.” Na’amat co-chairs are Doris Wexler-Charow and Celina Fenster.

Dr. Ellen Warner, a medical oncologist at Sunnybrook Health Science Centre introduced Landsberg to Fitzerman in 2007. Fitzerman was the motivation for starting PYNK and inspired a group of young breast cancer survivors to fundraise to establish the organization.

Since 1993, Warner has been a staff medical oncologist at the Sunnybrook Odette Cancer Centre.  She is a professor of medicine at the University of Toronto and director of PYNK.

The PYNK program began in 2008. To date, 250 young women aged 17 to 40, their partners and their families have benefited from PYNK’s services, Warner says. The young women receive a continuum of care from the time of diagnosis through treatment and long-term follow-up.

“Women diagnosed with breast cancer before age 40 generally have more aggressive disease and more treatment side effects than older women,” Warner says.

She says that patients are fast tracked to the right specialists. The nurse navigates them through the maze of tests and treatments and continues to support them and their family as long as necessary after active treatment has ended.

“Even years after treatment is complete, young women have greater physical and psychological distress than older women, due to issues such as breast loss or deformity, infertility, premature menopause, sexual dysfunction and fear of recurrence before their children have grown up.”

Cabaret For Caring will feature Aelita: The Queen of Cabaret, big band music, singing, dancing, a wine bar and desserts.