Excuse me, do you know what month it is? December, you say? Actually, it’s Decembeaver — at least according to actress/comedienne Sarah Cooper and her friends.
You’re not familiar with Decembeaver? Neither were we until this video started making the social media rounds a few days ago. It’s basically a spoof on the whole Movember thing — you know, the prostate and testicular cancer fundraising gimmick whereby men grow moustaches for the entire month of November.
Well, if men can toss their razors for a month for the sake of Cancer prevention and research, then why shouldn’t women toss theirs, as well? And just as Movember focuses on letting one particular type of hair grow wild and free, so does Decembeaver. You can probably guess from the initiative’s name what we’re talking about here: pubic hair.
A look back at breast cancer news from the past year reveals that a lot of what we thought we knew about the disease and the advocacy work surrounding it has been wrong.
First an ASME-nominted story by Lea Goldman in Marie Claire pointed out that, despite the roughly $6 billion raised annually for breast cancer research through pink cashmere sweater sets and 5k walks, there has been essentially no progress made.
Goldman writes: “Yet what many in the breast cancer community are loathe to admit, despite all these lifesaving developments, is that, in fact, we are really no closer to a cure today than we were two decades ago. In 1991, 119 women in the U.S. died of breast cancer every day. Today, that figure is 110 — a victory no one is bragging about. Breast cancer remains the leading cancer killer among women ages 20 to 59; more than 1.4 million new cases are diagnosed annually worldwide. Roughly 5 percent, or 70,000, breast cancer patients are diagnosed at a late stage, after the cancer has metastasized — that rate hasn’t budged since 1975, despite all the medical advances and awareness campaigns.”
Then there was the Susan G. Komen kerfuffle. The prominent breast cancer research and advocacy organization committed reputational suicide when it announced this past January that it was cutting off funding to Planned Parenthood. Komen, after an explosive social media-fueled backlash, ended up reversing course four days later, but the damage was done. Many previous supporters can’t move past the foundation’s politicization of breast cancer.
And now we have the latest news in the category of “you thought you knew breast cancer but…” This time, though, there is a little hope.
The Babble parenting website has come out with its list of “100 Moms Who Are Changing The World” list, and as might be expected, there are Jewish women on it. After all, Jewish mothers can be quite formidable.
Jewish women did not make an appearance in all 10 categories on the list - activism, charity, creative, education, entrepreneurial, executive, green, health/science, inspirational, and politics – but they are disproportionately represented when taking into consideration the number of Jewish women in the general population. Perhaps we should even take it as a sign that the tribe was represented by exactly 12 Jews.
Fashion designer Donna Karan was on the list for her philanthropic work for cancer treatment through her Urban Zen Foundation, emergency housing in Haiti through Shelterbox, and cancer research and HIV/AIDS awareness through Seventh on Sale and Super Saturday.
Haley Tanner’s debut novel, “Vaclav & Lena” (Dial Press), is about love without questions, hesitation or limits. This love flourishes between two Russian-Jewish immigrant children in the Brighton Beach section of Brooklyn: Vaclav dreams of becoming a magician, like Houdini, and casting the fragile Lena as his assistant. Tragedy temporarily unhinges this plan, and when the two children become teenagers, they are forced to reconcile their pasts and decide how they’ll embark on a future together. Tanner intimately knows the love and struggle that Vaclav and Lena share: She wrote this book while living with the man who would become her husband and, soon after, die of melanoma. Tanner says that the loveliness and lightness in the novel is his. She spoke recently with the Forward.
Allison Gaudet Yarrow: What was your Jewish upbringing like?
Haley Tanner: We had a terrible time in the Conservative synagogue that we belonged to, where we were products of intermarriage, which didn’t make sense to us, because we were a Jewish family. Rosh Hashanah was the first holiday that we ditched synagogue. We went camping in the woods, [with] silver candlesticks, a white tablecloth, brisket and apples and honey. It became the most meaningful holiday.
Sitting around the table — four young women, all of us had lost one of our parents — we told the stories that we always tell or never tell: when we knew it was inevitable (cancer was the cause of death in every situation), where we were when we had to drop everything and come home, the worst and the silliest things people have said to us, the mysterious inability to account for the time between death and the funeral.
We waved our hands and talked faster and passed around second and third helpings of squash casserole. Some of us cried. I thought about what it meant to share these things, our moments of vulnerability and terror and grief, and how, in spite of feeling connected, the very unique texture of our losses would always separate us.
Twelve years after my mother’s death, I’m still forgiving her. Trust me when I say there’s enough work to be done that it takes the whole year, every year, and not just the month of Elul or the 26 hours of Yom Kippur. This is what no one tells you about — how big the task is of mourning an entire person.