Tag Archives: breast cancer

Serena Tirado Needs Our Help

Serena Tirado is a beloved Staples High School science teacher.

Students and parents praise her for nurturing a love for biology — and for her caring, mentoring and inspiration.

A student from 2011 says, “As much as she loves bio — and she really does — she loves every student even more. Her kindness and passion spread to us like molecules going down a concentration gradient. I still look back on that class with a smile. When she was no longer my teacher, and I struggled with personal problems, she was the only teacher I felt comfortable confiding in.”

Another student — never in accelerated classes — says that Ms. Tirado was the first teacher who told her she was smart enough to do whatever she wanted. In 6 months, she will earn her veterinary degree.

Serena Tirado

Those sentiments — and many more — are expressed on a GoFundMe page. For over a year, Serena Tirado has undergone treatment for breast cancer.

She’s battling the disease — but it’s taken a toll on her and her family. Even with insurance, she needs help.

“Every day she taught, Serena gave all she had to her students and our community,” the page says.

Now, “it is our turn to give back to her. Please do what you can for this special teacher, who is beautiful both inside and out.”

Click here to see all the tributes — and to contribute yourself.

Kathryn Cavallaro’s Marathon Year

Running a marathon is impressive.

Running a marathon in 4 hours, 15 minutes is outstanding.

Running one when you’re Kathryn Cavallaro is miraculous.

Last month, when Kathryn — the daughter of Westporter Fiona Hodgson — crossed the finish line of the New England Green River Marathon, from Vermont into Massachusetts, she was just out of treatment for breast cancer.

In fact, she’s still doing chemo.

But the 38-year-old busy professional — and mother of 3 — did not let her year of hell (including 2 very extensive surgeries) slow her down.

Literally.

Kathryn Cavallaro

For Kathryn, running is a relaxing chance to be part of the natural world. At 5 a.m., she says, she’s alone — except for other runners, and deer.

“I see the sunrise. I run with snowflakes on my eyelashes. I watch the seasons change, and I’m grateful to be part of this beautiful world.”

Kathryn trains in many places. Among her favorites: Westport, particularly Compo Beach.

When she was diagnosed with cancer, many people told Kathryn that her life would never be the same. “Get used to the ‘new normal,'” they said.

Yet despite major surgery in June, she began training for August’s marathon.

Now she wants to help others push through cancer’s “new normal” barrier. She hopes to start a blog for “runners who are cancer survivors, and cancer survivors who want to be runners.”

Also on the (26.2 mile) horizon: running the St. Jude’s Marathon in December.

It’s a fundraiser for children’s cancer research.

(Kathryn Cavallaro helps many others. But her own medical bills are steep. To help her, click here.)

Fiona Hodgson and her daughter, Kathryn Cavallaro.

Kate Pollock Makes Waves Against Cancer

In 2015, Westport resident Kate Pollock was diagnosed with invasive ductal breast cancer. She was not yet 40 years old. Her children were 4 years old, and 5 months.

Just a few months earlier, her twin sister Eliza had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Twenty-five years before that, it was their mother. None have the BCRA gene.

Kate underwent 4 biopsies, 1 lumpectomy and 33 rounds of radiation. For the next 5 to 10 years, she’ll take medication to help prevent metastasis. She practices integrative cancer care, and balances nutrition, exercise and mindfulness to prevent a recurrence.

In 2017 — a year out of radiation — she was hit with full body, debilitating joint pain. She could not walk or hold her toddler. After months of blood work and specialists, she was found to have an autoimmune disease — separate from cancer.

Recovery — through medication and holistic care — has been an uphill climb.

Eliza (left) and Kate Pollock

Kate believes the hard part is over. She feels stronger now, in every way. The unconditional love of friends and family — especially her husband — have helped immeasurably.

Kate’s twin Eliza has endured multiple surgeries, treatments and a recurrence. She is now experiencing complications from radiation.

Next Saturday (June 23), Kate tells those stories — and more — to over 300 swimmers, 100 volunteers and hundreds of spectators, at the Swim Across America Greenwich-Stamford Swim. The Long Island Sound event, with 1/2-mile, 1.5-mile and 3-mile options, is open to all.

Funds raised will support the Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy.

In her speech, Kate will inspire the crowd before they jump in the water. Her message is: “Make waves in the fight against cancer.”

To make your own waves — as a swimmer, or boat, kayak, paddle board or land volunteer — click here. For more information, email greenwich@swimacrossamerica.org, or call 203-570-9195.

Can You Take The Scoops Challenge?

The other day I posted a story about Mike Greenberg’s new book, “MVP: Most Valuable Puppy.” The children’s tale honors the memory of Heidi Armitage, a beloved Westporter. She died in 2009, after battling breast cancer.

Heidi Armitage and Walker Green

Heidi’s son Walker Green was a young boy when his mom died. Now — a couple of weeks before graduating from Staples High School — he’s working with Staples Pink Aid and the Cancer Couch Foundation on a fundraiser for metastatic breast cancer.

And — in keeping with his mother’s personality — the “fun” part of “fundraiser” is important.

The Scoops Challenge is really an old-fashioned ice cream-eating contest. Teams of 4 eat as many scoops as they can, in 3 minutes. Winners earn trophies.

Teams can also win by raising the most money. Each team must raise at least $100 to enter.

Action from last year’s Fairfield contest.

Westport’s first-ever Scoops Challenge is set for the Staples courtyard on Thursday, June 14 at 5 p.m., for high school students. Middle and elementary school students have their own challenge on Friday, June 15 (4 p.m., at Saugatuck Sweets).

Saugatuck Sweets is donating all the ice cream. Owner Al DiGuido started the event in Fairfield, and has raised $20,000. Staples is the first high school to do it.

To register, click here for the high school challenge; click here for the middle and elementary school challenge. Then share your team page via social media with everyone you know.

The Scoops Challenge is a great idea, for an excellent cause.

PS: Don’t forget to practice!

(From left) Organizers Alex Laudico, Walker Green, Rohan Goswami (MC of the event) and Pink Aid head Bianca Bicalho prepare for the Scoops Challenge, at Saugatuck Sweets.

Flash Mob Dancin’

You may have heard of flash mobs. They’re sudden gatherings of large groups of people who do wacky things, like spontaneously dancing together to music on crowded city streets.

That doesn’t sound very Westport — we’re not real spontaneous, and our streets are uncrowded — but a flash mob comes to town this Saturday (May 11, 9:50 a.m.).

Not the Westport flash mob.

Not the Westport flash mob.

A group called Flash Mob America — yes, flash mobs have gone corporate — is organizing the event. The good news is that FMA is a group “whose sole purpose is to create Joy thru Surprise.” (At least, that’s what their website says — odd capitalization, poor spelling and all.)

They add:

By surprising an unsuspecting audience and capturing it all on camera, we celebrate, honor, and bring awareness to artists, charities, campaigns, and social causes. By creating a joyful community, we hope to inspire the world to come together as ONE.

Saturday’s flash mob is a “breast cancer fun run, to honor breast cancer survivors and raise awareness for treatment and prevention.”

Organizers are recruiting as many people as possible to join the “very simple” dance. Everyone is welcome. 

Interested flash mobbers can click here to register. You’ll receive an email with instructional dance videos and rehearsal times. 

Spread the word about the event. But keep the details private.

Surprise!

In Honor Of Phyllis

In 2006 Phyllis Steinbrecher — revered college consultant, involved citizen and long-time cancer survivor — founded the Breast Cancer Emergency Aid Foundation.

Like its founder, BCEAF is unique.

Unlike many outstanding organizations that conduct research to find a cure, Phyllis’s group focuses on individual people.  The fund addresses the immediate, staggering financial consequences that result from a diagnosis of breast cancer.

Suddenly, some women can’t afford food for their children.  They can’t pay their bills.  Unable to work during treatment, some even lack medical insurance.

BCEAF offsets some of the expenses other human services charities might not consider.  For the past 4 years it has offered grants for expenses such as rent, utilities, specialty bras, babysitting and transportation to doctors’ appointments.

By easing some of the burdens that accompany breast cancer, BCEAF enables patients to focus on the more important challenge of getting well.

Nurses and social workers at over 20 hospitals and cancer centers in the Northeast refer patients with financial needs to BCEAF.  A grant committee reviews requests, with evaluations based on need and the availability of funds.  Grants are paid directly to the provider, not the patient.

Phyllis Steinbrecher

So far, over 400 women (and men) have been helped by BCEAF.  With the economy in rough shape, they hope to expand their reach even further this year.

Organizers hold no social events.  They appeal directly to the public — families that have been touched by cancer before, those who simply want to help, and Phyllis’ many friends.

Phyllis lost her long battle with cancer a year ago this month.  In her honor BCEAF is making this appeal, now.

It’s as special and important now as Phyllis Steinbrecher always was.

(For more information, or to make a gift, click on www.bceaf.org.  The address is PO Box 616, Westport, CT 06881; the email address is email@bceaf.org, and the phone number is 203-505-5796.)

Remembering Phyllis Steinbrecher

“Mensch” is a Yiddish word.  A great compliment, it refers to a person with admirable qualities:  integrity, honor, responsibility, goodness.  A mensch helps many people, in many ways, and in so doing enriches the world.

Phyllis Steinbrecher

Phyllis Steinbrecher

I’ve  only heard mensch applied to men — but if a woman can be a mensch, Phyllis Steinbrecher certainly was.

She was known for years as an educational consultant, working with teenagers (and their parents) in a wide variety of situations.  Wearing many different hats — instructor, guide, parent, therapist, friend, nag, cheerleader — she helped thousands of young people find the right place for college, and their future.

Phyllis never said simply, “Yale, Harvard, Brown” or “Bates, Bowdoin, Colby.”  She understood teenagers’ heads — and their parents.  A good part of her work consisted of telling moms and dads:  “Forget Princeton.  Your kid will love Colgate a lot more.”  And they did.

Another portion of her work involved finding therapeutic programs for kids who would never get to college, because they couldn’t graduate from high school.  Once she got them straightened out, then she got them into college.  It was always the right one for them.

I know all this because for two decades years I worked on educational projects with Phyllis.  One involved ghostwriting — with several psychologists — a book called You CAN Say No To Your Teenager. That was a terrible title — it really was about saying the right thing to your teenager, at the right time — but it was also one of my most enjoyable jobs ever.

For nearly a year the professionals and I met at Phyllis’s Weston home.  While eating wonderful food, they told stories of their clients; I then put their stories on paper.  What I remember most about those nights are Phyllis’s tremendous insights about teenagers; her excitement about every youngster she worked with, and her superb sense of humor.

A colleague in her Westport firm, Steinbrecher Consulting, said:

She has been my mentor, my advisor, my confidant and my dear, dear friend.  She was a remarkably accomplished woman who made everyone she met feel special.  I watched her touch hundreds of lives, and impact each one for the better.  Her gut instincts were spot on and she never minced words — but at the same time did so with grace.

Phyllis made her mark in educational consulting.  But she was devoted to many other causes — particularly breast cancer.  Since 2006 the Breast Cancer Emergency Aid Foundation — her creation — has helped hundreds of women by providing funds for important non-medical needs like rent, utilities, transportation, specialty bras, even baby-sitting during chemo treatments.  It’s a wonderful concept — one only a mensch could dream of, and make true.

Phyllis was interested in breast cancer because for decades she suffered from it.  She beat it a couple of times — along with several other health issues — but in the end it got her.  Phyllis died yesterday afternoon.

It’s a cliche to call someone a “quiet hero.”  I won’t say that about Phyllis, because she was not quiet.  She wasn’t loud, mind you — but you knew whenever she was around, and whenever she had her hand in something.  She was a mensch — and a presence.

I miss her presence already.

(Phyllis Steinbrecher’s life will be celebrated with a service tomorrow [Friday] at 12:30 p.m., at the Conservative Synagogue on Hillspoint Road.  Contributions in her honor may be made to:  Breast Cancer Emergency Aid Foundation, PO Box 616, Westport, CT 06881.)