Sonia Kashuk was in a London hotel room when her phone buzzed. It was a text message from Jenny Fine at WWD. As a maven of the makeup industry, Sonia had developed a professional relationship with Jenny over the years. But this message wasn’t about business.
“Jenny asked if I had time to talk,” remembers Sonia. “I said, “Absolutely, call me.”
Jenny’s doctor had felt a suspicious lump on her breast and was recommending additional screening. While nothing had been confirmed, Jenny immediately thought of Sonia. Just a month earlier, Jenny was struck by a speech Sonia gave recounting her own experience as a breast cancer survivor. Whatever the next step was, Jenny felt Sonia was the right person to help lead her through it.
“I needed a spirit guide,” Jenny said. “I decided Sonia was going to be that person. My gut told me she wouldn’t hesitate to assume that role – and she didn’t.”
Soon after, Jenny was diagnosed with triple positive breast cancer. Next came chemotherapy, surgery and then radiation. Sonia, who had been down this road a decade earlier, became a crucial member of Jenny’s support team.
“I tried my best to be there for her every step of the way,” Sonia said.
And she was. At the upcoming New York Hot Pink Party on May 15, Jenny will present Sonia with The Roslyn and Leslie Goldstein Unsung Hero Award to recognize Sonia’s unflagging support during her challenging course of cancer treatment.
Sonia modeled her caregiving approach after her mother, who was a 25-year breast cancer survivor when Sonia was diagnosed in 2006. Sonia’s mother not only supported her during treatment, but she also gave her hope for a future beyond her disease.
“I had such a great role model in my mother. I wanted to be that person for Jenny,” Sonia said.
Throughout Jenny’s treatment, no topic was off limits. Over phone calls, lunch dates and text messages, they discussed everything from clothing suggestions for Jenny’s double mastectomy recovery (“tops with buttons on the front”) to explaining what surgical drains were.
“Nothing was off the table. Sonia shared all of the nitty gritty,” said Jenny.
As mothers to young daughters, the women also shared how to handle the diagnosis with their families.
“How do you deal with it at school? Do you tell the other moms?” said Jenny, recalling the questions she asked Sonia.
Most importantly, “What’s the ongoing conversation you have with your daughter about breast cancer?”
Sonia was well-suited to answer that question.
For Sonia, developing breast cancer was not a matter of an “if” but a “when.” Her grandmother passed away from breast cancer, and her mother is a breast cancer survivor. To mitigate her risk, Sonia received regular screenings, waiting for the moment when disease would strike. When an MRI detected early stage breast cancer, Sonia opted for a double mastectomy.
As Sonia looks to her daughter, Sadye, she relies on research to unlock clues to help families like hers manage their breast cancer risk.
“Everyone impacted by breast cancer is in search of answers for themselves or a loved one,” Sonia said. “Research discoveries pave the path forward.”
Jenny feels the same way.
“Breast cancer research saved my life,” Jenny said. “Not only does it aim to eradicate this disease, it has far-reaching implications for other kinds of cancer too.”
Jenny has been a fervent supporter of research, yet her breast cancer diagnosis has remained relatively private. One hint of her experience lies in her current hairstyle – something that Sonia endorsed after Jenny went wigless for the first time.
“She said, ‘You have to keep it,’” Jenny said recalling the moment. “Just when I was feeling self-conscious, Sonia gave me that boost.”
Jenny hopes by sharing her story publicly, she will inspire other young mothers to monitor their breast health and support research.
“Despite everything, there have been some silver linings to this breast cancer experience,” Jenny said. “Being able to share with others the profound impact Sonia had on my life is one of them.”
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