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Breast cancer survivor raises funds for patient comfort kits

Posted By Karen Young On July 21, 2009 @ 12:10 am In Featured,Features,My Daily Find | 1 Comment

amandatraxler110x110BY AMANDA TRAXLER

Janet Halbert knows how to find a silver lining–no small task when the storm cloud at hand is breast cancer.

“One of my doctors said something good would come from all of this, and she was right,” said Halbert, the founder of Hurdle Jumpers, a 501©3 organization that provides free comfort kits to cancer patients undergoing either chemotherapy or radiation. According to Halbert, the charity has distributed about 3,000 kits to patients. Two types are available, one for chemotherapy, and one for radiation.

Each kit, which comes in a convenient tote bag, contains a welcome card, survivor tips that have been approved by the organization’s health-care advisory board, trial-size products to help deal with the side effects of chemotherapy or radiation, a guided imagery CD, and a humor book.

For a patient in the middle of cancer treatment, the kits can be godsends.

Breast cancer survivor Janet Halpert uses her experience with cancer to help others by providing free comfort kits to cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy or radiation. Photo: Bill Aron

Breast cancer survivor Janet Halbert uses her experience with cancer to help others by providing free comfort kits to cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy or radiation. Photo: Bill Aron

“It’s the simple things,” said Jeannie Alan, who was recently declared cancer-free after 10 years of battling the disease, “and unless you’ve gone through it, you don’t even know what those simple things are, and you can’t even imagine.”

Alan, who is co-hosting a July 26 fundraiser for Hurdle Jumpers along with Deborah Shames and David Booth, views the kits as “a toolkit to get through the awful days, because they’re not all awful.”

Also a silent auction, the fundraiser will be at a private residence. Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door. “One hundred percent of the proceeds will go to Hurdle Jumpers,” Alan said.

For those who can’t attend but who would like to bid on a silent-auction item (listed below), Alan said that organizers can bid in their place if they RSVP and request to bid.

Local merchants such as Woodland Hills Wine Company, Harry’s Smokehouse in Lomita, International Events, and J W Goldstein Catering are donating food and beverage to the fundraiser. Beyond those contributing to the event, hundreds of volunteers–many of whom are students–are responsible for helping the charity thrive.

“We couldn’t do our important work without so many people donating their time, resources, and talent,” Halbert said. “We’re so enormously grateful. Because of all these people, we’re going to make a difference in a cancer patient’s day.”

Private and public companies such as Novartis, Amgen, and Allergen, donate the kits’ products, which help relieve the symptoms resulting when treatment kills not just fast-growing malignant cells, but also fast-growing healthy cells. Commonly affected areas include the digestive tract, mouth and gums, as well as the eyes, skin and hair.

“Each patient is their own chemistry experiment,” Halbert said, “I may have been constipated, but another may have diarrhea.”

With an intimate understanding of how brutal the side effects of treatment can be, Halbert is passionate about providing others with tools to help.

“During my treatment, I was enormously frustrated. I spent so much of my dwindling energy tracking items down,” she said, “I felt like every challenge I had was a hurdle to jump over during treatment. And I was not on the track team in high-school.”

Volunteers

Hundreds of volunteers, many of whom are students, are responsible for helping the charity thrive.

If Halbert could have her way, Hurdle Jumpers would distribute a kit for every patient who will undergo either chemotherapy or radiation this year. According to Halbert, that’s at least 500,000 individuals in the United States,  and at least 70,000 in California.

The only thing standing in the way of that volume of distribution, says Halbert, is funding. “We have the volunteers, and we have the products, but it’s not enough.” Still, Halbert doesn’t let that discourage her. In fact, quite the opposite. “I know that my life is better, because I’m making someone else’s life better,” she said.

As one who needed eye drops to help deal with the common side effect of dry eyes, a small irony exists in that she is often moved to tears by the messages of gratitude from those who have received Hurdle Jumpers kits.

To find out more about Hurdle Jumpers, visit www.HurdleJumpers.org or email  info@hurdlejumpers.org. To attend the fundraiser, RSVP to (818)225-7991 or email Deborah Shames: dshames@eloqui.biz

Silent Auction List

  • $25 gift certificate at Riviera restaurant and bar in Calabasas
  • Weekend in Tahoe for 10 (value $1,500)
  • Weekend at Beach house: Mandalay Shores Five
  • Yoga classes at Inner Power Studio and one off-site at office
  • Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Bottle of Justin 2001
  • Isosceles Reserve from Paso Robles Bottle of Wine
  • Andy Goodman Color Consultation with Interior Designer: Andrew Graham
  • Two baskets from Medispa in Westlake Village
  • Signed script and CD of Weeds
  • Tax consulting services: From Karen Block, 1.5 hours and valued at $450
  • Two Dodger tickets and parking pass
  • Night at the Westlake Village Inn and dinner at Mediterraneo
  • Two 50 minute sessions with a private fitness trainer at Sports Club/LA
  • Golf for three at the Calabasas Country Club including lunch with member Tim
    Demshki
  • Pharmacopia skin care products
  • The Sports Club/LA, six-month membership
  • 16 x 20 B&W Photograph from photographer Bernie Lewinsky
  • A round of golf for three at Rolling Hills Country Club
  • Bottle of Chateau Montelena Napa Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Round of golf for two at El Cabellero Country Club, Tarzana
  • A bottle of Dom Perignon

Amanda Traxler is an L.A.-born writer with degrees in journalism from the University of Kansas and creative writing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She has  been rediscovering her roots since she returned to the area three years ago from the wintry Midwest.

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