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Mother-Daughter Team Fight for Breast Cancer Cure

Every mother dreads her child getting seriously sick, so when Rita Worth’s daughter Kim Goldenberg was diagnosed in February 2004 with a very aggressive form of breast cancer at the age of only 33, she was devastated. She desperately wanted to help her daughter get better but felt helpless. Then she got a call to action.

“Right after Kim was diagnosed with breast cancer a good friend called and asked me to be on the board of the St Louis Breast Cancer Coalition (SLBCC). It was a very difficult time for me, and I knew I wanted to help fight for a cure,” remembers Worth, who refused to surrender to despair while her beautiful, vivacious daughter was sick and suffered through surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.

Worth, who has five grandchildren, never imagined that five years later, she and her cancer-free daughter would be working tirelessly as co-presidents of SLBCC, and they would share a lot more in common than their pretty smiles and big brown eyes.

Since their involvement in the SLBCC, which is an affiliate of the National Breast Cancer Coalition (NBCC), they have embarked on an amazing journey together that has led them to lobby successfully for breast cancer research in Washington D.C. and join an ally of powerful women who play a key role in trying to eradicate breast cancer and reforming health care. While directly helping her daughter, Worth also has brought hope to the approximately three million women in the United States who are living with breast cancer.

“I love working with my mom. She is awesome, and I couldn’t do this without her,” says Goldenberg. “We definitely have our own roles that we play, and we make a great team. She is the perfectionist and detail person when it comes to organizing daily stuff like membership, meetings, and follow-up on all emails and phone calls. As for me, I like to focus on the education and advocacy by staying updated on the science and health care issues on a daily basis,” adds Goldenberg, who has a degree in physical therapy from Washington University and works part-time as a physical therapist at West County Sports Fitness and Rehabilitation Center.

“I’m really proud of my mom because she took on a huge challenge. As co-president of the SLBCC, this is really out of the box for my mom. When we go to our annual advocacy training in Washington D.C. every year, we sit in a huge conference ballroom for three days of educational sessions and learn everything from cutting edge research on cancer treatments to alternative medicine. We also network with hundreds of other breast cancer advocates from all over the country, including researchers from the National Institute of Health, policy makers, and legislators.”

“When we go to D.C., we are 10 to 12 St. Louis women, but we represent the population in Missouri and all women. We feel empowered there, like we have a true voice that defends the moral right for everyone to have guaranteed access to quality health care,” says Goldenberg, who credits the entire SLBCC board and past presidents for playing such a pivotal role in the whole process. “Without them we could not do our job.”

As a result of NBCC’s advocacy and strong bipartisan leadership on Capitol Hill, more than $2 billion has been invested in the creation of the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program, which has changed the world of breast cancer research.

“What makes this program so unique is that it’s the educated consumer advocates and the breast cancer patients themselves along with the medical professionals who are making decisions about research and health care.”

In fact, this grassroots program brings scientists and consumers together every step of the way, which has led to groundbreaking scientific research. A significant example is the research that led to the understanding of the gene, HER2/neu, which is involved in the progression of some breast cancers. This research ultimately led to the development of the drug Herceptin®, a medication that has extended the lives of many women with HER2/neu-positive breast cancer, including Goldenberg herself.

“When my mom and I were at the annual conference in Washington D.C., we got to meet the doctor, Dennis Slamon, who developed the miracle drug Herceptin. When he walked into the room, we all stood up and started clapping. This doctor saved my life, and I got to thank him in person,” says Goldenberg.

“While breast cancer is widely publicized and so much research is being done, it’s mainly a women’s disease and there’s still much more to do. Because Congress is male dominated, we’ve had to fight for every single dollar. Everyone benefits from our efforts because a lot of the drugs that have come out of breast cancer chemotherapies also are used in ovarian, colon and rectal, and lung cancers among others,” points out Goldenberg, whose dedication of time and energy has contributed to Congress approving another $150 million to the research program this year.

“Breast cancer is definitely a priority for me. I am doing this for the future generation. I have a passion for it. I don’t want my children’s generation to live in a world of breast cancer. I think about my daughter Carlye all the time,” says Goldenberg.

Goldenberg and her husband Steve are parents of 10-year-old twins Carlye and Max and six-year-old Justin. When it comes to passions and priorities, family is number one, and that means keeping them healthy and active. Goldenberg, a vegetarian, says her daughter chose to follow the same diet, and the family tries to eat mostly organic and hormone-free foods.

Perhaps her greatest accomplishment thus far is eating dinner together as a family almost every night, despite their hectic schedules.

“I always include vegetables and fruits on our table. None of us can control who gets cancer, but eating healthy and exercising are things I can control and help reduce the risks of diseases,” she says.

For the Goldenberg family, exercise is a fun way to be spend quality time together. “My husband Steve is really supportive when it comes to making exercise an important part of our lives. We like to play football and soccer together in the backyard, and we enjoy swimming, tennis, and riding bikes.”

Obviously, Goldenberg is busy at work and play, and she has no plans of slowing down any time soon. In addition to being active in her children’s schools, this incredible young woman has been recognized numerous times for her philanthropic contributions to the St. Louis community. As a JCC Associates Mitzvah Star, Goldenberg participates in the education and fundraising efforts of the Young Women’s Breast Cancer Program at the Siteman Cancer Center at Washington University. She also raises more than $10,000 every year for the Komen Breast Cancer 3-Day, which involves walking 20 miles a day for a total of 60 miles in one weekend at a different city each year.

Her leadership role in the St. Louis Jewish community has led her to another huge opportunity—her first trip to Israel. Goldenberg is one of 10 people, ages 27 to 40 years, who are invited on a 10-day journey to their homeland later this month through the Rubin Israel Experience, which is funded by Entrepreneur Ron Rubin, Minister of Tea of The Republic of Tea, and his wife Pam.

“I hope this trip to Israel is going to fulfill a circle for me. In addition to always working with the SLBCC, I feel like the spiritual part of this journey will be complete.”

“Mishegas of Motherhood” is the creation of Ellie S. Grossman, a St. Louis freelance writer and stay-at-home-mom who never stays home. To find out how you can make a difference in breast cancer research, visit the SLBCC website at www.slbcc.org.

SLBCC Hosts 2009 House Tour

Founded in 1992, the St Louis Breast Cancer Coalition (SLBCC) is a not-for-profit organization committed to eradicating breast cancer by promoting increased funding for research into the causes, prevention, early detection, and cure of the most commonly diagnosed cancer (excluding skin cancer) among women in the United States.

One way that SLBCC spreads the word about breast cancer is hosting exciting events throughout the year, including the upcoming 2009 House Tour that you don’t want to miss. Here’s your chance to check out the epitome of sophisticated living in St. Louis. This colorful, contemporary condominium rises dramatically above the fashionable streets of downtown Clayton, and the outside view is as stunning as the inside. A huge balcony overlooks downtown St Louis and the Arch, while etched glass doors lead from the impressionable foyer to the state-of-the-art kitchen.

Surround yourself in fabulous artwork, modern sculptures, soaring ceilings, hardwood floors, a gleaming grand piano, custom area rugs, and abundant granite and glass. This stylish event also includes a cocktail buffet on the rooftop terrace and an informative discussion led by guest speaker, Jason D. Weber, Ph.D., of the Washington University Department of Medicine, who will highlight his research on cell growth networks and tumor suppression.

The event is co-chaired by Gail Lang, Barb Silver, and Judy Zafft, in addition to honorary co-chair Barbara Monsees, MD, chief of Breast Imaging Section at Washington University School of Medicine.

For more information about the 2009 House Tour and the SLBCC, contact 314-989-1111 or visit their website at www.slbcc.org.