UF Hillel Celebrates Pink Day
On Feb. 7, Morgan Bailin pushed her sorority to raise money and awareness around campus to celebrate Sharsheret’s 10th annual Pink Day.
Bailin is the Vice President of Philanthropy for Alpha Epsilon Phi at the University of Florida, and in this role, she carries out “mitzvahs” day after day for Sharsheret, in addition to the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.
As the philanthropy chair, she definitely feels her job is connected by a series of mitzvahs. “I want to be able to contribute toward something greater than myself,” she said. “I wanted to be able to promote giving back to our community and to others through my sorority and encourage others to do the same.”
Mitzvah also means that one is connected to God. Bailin said although she may not necessarily feel more connected to God, she feels more connected to UF’s community, especially the Jewish community on campus.
Sharsheret is an American breast cancer not-for-profit organization intended to raise awareness and fundraise money for Jewish people with breast cancer. It offers free support and education to men and women nationwide.
Pink Day gives the nation an opportunity to honor, recognize and celebrate someone special in your life who has had breast cancer beyond Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
One person who was honoring a special person in their life was Rachel Smith. Smith was at the mall with her mom the summer before she started her sophomore year at UF.
“My mom had a routine mammogram. She asked if I minded running across the street with her to her appointment. She said it’d be super fast and it only takes five minutes,” she said.
After her exam, the doctor told her to come back to her office, Smith said. “They found an abnormal growth so she had to go back for more testing. I kept it a secret from my brothers for a week until we got the results,” she said.
During her first week back at school, she received a call from her parents that her mom had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
Smith was a mess. She said she calmed down because it was only stage two, but she couldn’t bear the thought of her parents going through this stressful time while she was at school.
“I felt bad I wasn’t there. I also didn’t really know what was going on because they didn’t tell me anything. They didn’t want me to worry,” she said. “I was also nervous because my grandmother died from breast cancer when my mom was 15-years-old.”
Smith’s mother underwent a double mastectomy, reconstruction and chemotherapy for about four months, she said.
In the beginning of Smith’s second semester of sophomore year, she received another call from her parents. Luckily, it was a happy one.
“They told me my mom was cancer free, and I was obviously happy, but now she’s actually more paranoid than happy because she doesn’t want it to come back,” she said.
Smith said she’ll have to start getting mammograms on the earlier side because of her maternal family history.
The other purpose of Pink Day is to raise awareness and educate about cancer genetics and possible predispositions, like the BRCA gene mutations. There are two BRCA genes, BRCA 1 and BRCA 2. Everyone has these genes, but the mutation in this gene causes a higher risk of getting certain cancers, such as breast cancer.
As Rabbi Adam Grossman, CEO of UF Hillel, expressed, “It is vital for Jews of Ashkenazi descent to be aware of BRCA 1 and 2 mutations. It can affect both men and women, as well as their children.”
One in forty Ashkenazi Jews, both men and women, carry a BRCA gene mutation.
This worldwide celebration can make a difference. This movement encourages individuals, schools, organizations and companies to wear pink as a way to generate conversation about people who have been affected and how it can help others to get tested.
By raising awareness about breast cancer and the BRCA genes, more people will be aware of the increased risks and will make better informed decisions about their health care.
Rabbi Adam said, “As someone with a BRCA mutation, Pink Day affords us the opportunity to ensure more than just providing information and sharing stories. It challenges us to inspire more individuals to take action by learning about their ancestry, getting checked periodically, and educating others so they too have the tools for early detection.”