Nashoba Valley Hadassah and Emerson Hospital celebrated 20 years of partnering on Hadassah's Check it Out program on April 26. This program has reached 17,000 students in local high schools, teaching them how to perform breast and testicular self-exams. Their celebration for key stakeholders in the program was a time to reflect and power up for another year of lifesaving health education.
Hadassah has reached over 1 million teens since this program started in the 1990s, with chapters in communities nationwide creating similar educational Check It Out programs in local high schools, and beyond.
At the Nashoba Valley event, a mix of doctors, nurses, survivors, a school administrator (and member), and five members of the Patient and Family Advisory Council attended. Linda Lischer told her personal story of being diagnosed with breast cancer at age 30, when she barely knew about self-exams. After a year of treatment, she wanted to do something for others. She founded the Hadassah Check It Out program, which she brought to Nashoba Valley. Amy Degen took over the program after two years and has since survived breast cancer. Amy said that she believes if she had attended this program in high school, her own mother might not have died of breast cancer. Rhonda Saunders, Hadassah Northern New England President, gave an overview of Hadassah and appreciation to Nashoba Valley and Emerson Hospital. Bonnie Goldsmith, Sr. Director of Marketing and Public Affairs at Emerson Hospital, gave a heartfelt thank you to all of us.
Bonnie Goldsmith, a 20-year supporter of Check It Out, was honored with a beautiful certificate with hand-drawn calligraphy created by member Rachel Diamond-Calow. Bonnie was extremely touched by her gift of Hadassah life membership. She looked to the ceiling, and said, "My mother would have been so proud. She was a strong woman. She even told us what she wanted her obituary to say. It had to say she was a life-member of Hadassah! My grandmother was a life-member as well."
Several survivors and doctors spoke powerfully. Dr. Hoenig said that when he does these presentations with other groups, he gets eight boys, but when he works with Hadassah, he gets 45 boys, broken into smaller groups. He said almost every year, after he speaks at Check It Out, a boy comes to his office with a lump and he has caught five or six cases of testicular cancer in his patients alone because they have learned about TSE from Hadassah.
Dr. Debbie Simon, a pediatrician in the largest practice in the area, said she bought breast models for the office, after learning about them in our program. All the pediatricians at Acton Medical now use these with their female patients before they go to college so the girls can actually feel a lump and know what to look for in the future. Survivors Linda Lischer, Jeff Bergart, and Janet Dubner talked about the importance of sharing their stories and being more open about being survivors so that people feel comfortable asking questions and learning about their bodies.
Phyllis Bloom, a nurse and co-president of Nashoba Valley Hadassah, closed the evening with a message of pride and thanks. Carole Greenfield, Resource Chair of Hadassah Northeast said, "I learned how we are impacting many more people's lives than I even could have imagined through this program. I am so proud to belong to an organization that provides this service to our communities."
Hadassah is powered by areas across the country whose consistent and expert devotion to their communities has been saving lives for over two decades.
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