As October and the month for Breast Cancer Awareness comes to a close, the month of pink now with a little blue, I am filled with so many emotions that my heart, my head and my tear ducts could all explode!!
In the middle of 2013 I remember clearly my first phone conversation with Alan Blassberg of First Prize Productions. Who is this guy and is he “for real”?! He wants to make a documentary about male breast cancer and its genetic diseases? And through his research he couldn’t find much information, and then he found HIS Breast Cancer Awareness. He found us…
We had several phone conversations, from my personal and challenging journey with several breast cancer diagnosis and testing positive for the BRCA2 genetic mutation to my brother Harvey’s journey with male breast and prostate cancers, also discovering he too carries the BRCA2 genetic mutation. I explained how our cancers and genetic history began with my mom, Libby who today is 90 and her sister, my Aunt Ruth who celebrated her 100th birthday this weekend along with those who have passed on my maternal side, my grandmother Minnie and my two uncles Herman and Isadore who Harvey is named after. We spoke about how Harvey and I co-founded HIS Breast Cancer because between us we have 5 sons and wanted to help them and other men with awareness and better education.
Alan shared some of his family’s journey with cancer, the people he has lost including his sister Sammy and how his sister Lisa and then he both tested positive with the BRCA genetic mutation. He wanted to learn more about it all, he wanted to help educate others and he wanted to do it all in a documentary- Pink and Blue: Colors of Hereditary Cancer. My brother and I were hooked, this was also our dream, our passion, the reason we founded our organization and the next 2+ years was an even greater journey!
February 2014, Alan, his assistant Marc Romeo, co-producer and their crew traveled from the west coast to Philadelphia so they could hear, record and chronicle all of our stories. They taped my mom and aunt talking about their journeys with cancer and all the cancer in their family. They heard from us directly our experiences as we relived our diagnosis, treatments, ups and downs and our challenges as survivors, both breast cancer as a woman and as a man and BRCA carriers. They taped my oldest son Sam’s experience as he began his journey with genetic counseling and testing with Dr. Susan Domchek at the Basser Research Center. Sam was ready to start his own family and needed to know if he also carried the mutation as he could possibly pass it on and at 32 years of age, the challenges of cancer he could be at a higher risk for. My emotions from the past, present and into the future were spinning.
This month, October awareness month, ALL the hard work of the past 2+ years came to fruition and the documentary was completed although it’s journey is just beginning! It began with the “pink and blue” carpet premier in Los Angeles. My husband Gary joined Harvey and I along with my nephews Matt and Jameson who live there. After hearing about or ‘talking’ with so many people who helped make this documentary, like the infamous Dr. Kristi Funk of the Pink Lotus Center (Angelina Jolie’s surgeon), Amy Byer Shainman the Executive Producer, Stephanie Swartz (girlfriend and photographer), Dan Abrams and the talented recording artist who contributed to the soundtrack and so many more, it was wonderful to finally meet them all. This was my first set of eyes on the completed film and I was star struck and wowed!
This past weekend Pink and Blue Movie premiered and was a part of the bright lights and signs on Times Square in New York! Amazing, thrilling and my heart was pounding with excitement!!!
Friday evening my emotions continued to whirl as now I had my family, my 3 sons and their wife’s and girlfriend along with my sister in law Donna (Harvey’s wife) who were all going to experience it for themselves. I was scared, proud, thankful, nervous, excited, and hopeful they would understand even more about my passion to help educate others and help save lives, including their own. That night was truly a “family experience” which most families will never have. And they were in awe of it all with pride, tears and love abound.
On Saturday Harvey and I chose a matinee to invite friends and family to NY to see the film. We are so happy and truly appreciative for those who were able to join us! Some who have had experienced cancer in their families, others who thankfully have not. There was representation from friends with the FORCE organization and Penn Medicine Basser Center and we felt so honored by everyone’s support. Marion Behr who compiled the lovely and beautiful book SurvivingCancer: Our Voices & Our Choices returning from a library conference late the night before and Sandy and Pamela from their genetic counselor’s conference all made it there in time to be with us! Our expectations were all over the place! And the end result was to say the least, incredible!! The Pink and Blue team captured it all, sharing the stories of the Blassberg and Singer family’s, Kelly Rothe, Mollie Smith, Stacey Sager, Kara Dioguardi, Marla Ruhana Moro, Steve Del Gardo, Ambrose Alkutya Kirkland and Trish Ackermann just to name a few. As well as Doctor’s Domchek, Giuliano and Funk who are helping to educate the world about the effects of breast cancer in women and men and genetic mutations. “Cancer affects so many people, but BRCA affects families".
That day was my third time viewing this film, and it was actually the most emotional of all!
The first time I was filled with unknown expectations, the second I was proud to share it with my children, but the third time being surrounded by so many personal supporters who know my history and what I do with HIS but now to “see the bigger picture” on the big screen with a better education of it all, it was surreal. My heart was fully exposed, my head was clear but spinning and my tear ducts flowed. And I was not alone as my husband Gary sitting next to me experienced the same!
I don’t believe any of us have just one purpose on this earth, it’s not just about your success with your profession or being a good parent or friend. Life itself includes many roads traveled and routes ahead that we have not yet experienced. It’s what we do with all of it! The cancer in my family like Alan’s and many others, although devastating, can have other meanings. We all find ways to hold on to the memories of those we’ve lost or who have suffered. This documentary will do just that but it will also help to save lives. All of us with Pink and Blue have chosen to help educate the world, “there is a test, you can learn and you can do something about it, you can prevent it”.
Pink and Blue:Colors of Hereditary Cancer is a story that needed to be told, and it’s a story that needs to be shared to save lives. You will laugh and you will cry or as I say “it’s happy-sappy”. You may not experience the same emotions as I have, you will have your own but most important you will learn.
Modah Ani- I Am Thankful
Editor: Vicki Singer Wolf, Co-founder