Fifteen days after Sharon Newman was diagnosed with breast cancer, she was a survivor crediting Women's College Hospital research with saving her life.
In 2010, Sharon participated in a WCH research study testing 2,000 Ontario Jewish women for the BRCA genetic mutation, which has been linked to increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
She received the news that she carried the mutation while trying to get her children out the door for an afterschool activity. "I picked up the phone and everything stopped. I was just blown away. I figured it was a mistake."
Following consultations with WCH’s genetic counsellors and further testing, her worst fear was confirmed: Sharon already had breast cancer.
"I'm not usually a very decisive person," Sharon says. "But in that moment it was so clear. I wanted a double mastectomy and reconstruction."
A month after the surgery, Sharon’s son, Tommy, asked if his mom was going to die. "I told him I was going to be okay," says Sharon. "He smiled and held my hand high in the air like a champion and said, 'Mommy beat cancer!' That's when I realized how truly lucky I am to be given the gift of life for a second time."
Sharon believes that without the BRCA finding, her cancer might have gone undiagnosed for some time – perhaps for too long – since she was too young to qualify for a mammogram.
In the summer of 2016, Sharon celebrated a major milestone: five years cancer-free. Over the past five years, she says that her experience has helped her understand the true power of her inner strength – a strength that she is now harnessing to make a difference for others.
Empowered with the knowledge that she can help save the lives of women around the world, Sharon established The Sharon Newman Family Fund to support hereditary breast and ovarian cancer research at Women’s College Hospital. In addition to fundraising within her community, she has also committed to donate a portion of the proceeds from her sales of Beautycounter products to her fund. Beautycounter is a line of cosmetic and personal products that is leading by example to advocate for better regulation of ingredients that pose health risks – including cancer.
“Making a difference at Women’s College Hospital through fundraising efforts and supporting a movement towards safer products have become my two passions,” Sharon says. “It is through this work that my journey makes sense, and I can continue moving forward while giving back.”
Support hereditary breast and ovarian cancer research at WCH by donating to The Sharon Newman Family Fund. If you would like to browse the Beautycounter product line, visit Sharon’s Beautycounter page at beautycounter.com/en-ca/newmanhealth. Your online purchase of any Beautycounter product will help the movement towards safer beauty while also helping to advance research at Women’s College Hospital.