Boston Bakes 2020 is dedicated to the memory of Eva Brownman, mother of Carol Brownman Sneider who started The Eva Brownman Breast Cancer Fund at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in 1990 and the nonprofit Bakes for Breast Cancer in 1999.
What can I say that, when I was 16 years old, I lost my best friend – my mother – to breast cancer when she was 44 years old in 1973. My mother was born in Brooklyn, a graduate of Hunter College, a blouse buyer for B Gertz, department store. She married my father, a sickly man, who passed away in 1966 leaving her with two young children to raise and a business to oversee. My mother never dated after losing my father. Unselfishly, she gave everything she had to raising her daughters. She was always there for us. My mother was a strong woman who ran a business, loved to travel, cook and bake. Seven years later, my younger sister and I would lose her to breast cancer. She kept her battle with breast cancer a secret from us, and only a few knew about her condition. I believe she kept her secret from us for us to live life as we had always done and not have us worrying about her. How she kept this from us must have taken enormous strength and courage. Honestly, I did not know the word cancer then. It was not in my vocabulary.
In the late 60’s, breast cancer was a subject no one talked about. We were accustomed to long hospital stays for our parents because at that time that was the ways patients were treated. Never did a parent’s mortality ever enter our minds because they always came home until the one time they didn’t. Our mother’s breast cancer was a well-guarded secret for she wanted us to have a normal family environment filled even with disagreements. We only found out about her breast cancer a month before she died. After a long hospital stay, my mother was home one week before she passed away in her bedroom. Listening to her that night has stayed with me forever. She was suffering and I am sure she was scared, I do not know for sure. I stayed in my room as I knew she would not want me to see her like that. The only thing I could do was to get her nurse, who was asleep, so she would not be alone. The next morning, she was gone.
Growing up, I thought by the time I was an adult, science would have all the answers and breast cancer would no longer exist. That did not happen. After the family business was sold, along with my sister, some friends, and family, we entered into the world of fundraising to raise money for breast cancer research. We felt that it was research that would save lives. In the end, I wanted to make sure I saw my daughter grow up – something my mother did not get a chance to see for herself with her daughters. It is our goal that no mother should lose a child, no child a mother, no spouse a spouse, and no friend a friend to this indiscriminate disease called breast cancer.