West Hempstead Walkers hope to battle breast cancer


The West Hempstead Walkers team will join the thousands of people who will take part in the 25th annual American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk at Jones Beach State Park on Oct. 21. The group has been a part of this walk for five years, and they hope that more residents will join them in the fight against breast cancer.

“I don’t want anybody’s daughters, mothers, nieces, granddaughters, or sisters to deal with this disease,” said Joseph Varon, one of the chairmen for the West Hempstead Walkers.

Varon said that his sister-in-law, Elaine Lowenstein, was diagnosed with breast cancer around 1990. She fought the disease for six years until she died at 49.

“All she wanted to do was celebrate her 50th birthday party, but she couldn’t make it,” Varon said. “My two boys were the love of her life, and she was the love of theirs. We watched her courageously battle this disease.”

Even as Lowenstein suffered, Varon said, she made it her goal to fight for a cure. She got involved with SHARE, a nonprofit organization in Manhattan that supports, educates, and empowers women affected by breast or ovarian cancer. Lowenstein was president of the organization at the time of her death. Varon’s family has taken part in breast cancer walks ever since. This year, his group hopes to raise $4,000 to support the cause.

“If it’s one person or 25 people that donate, whatever money we get goes to help finding a cure, and help those who have breast cancer,” Varon said. “That’s what really matters.”

Phyllis Marks, one of the owners of Bagel Town in West Hempstead, joined the West Hempstead Walkers last year. “I was diagnosed with breast cancer about six years ago,” she said, “so events like this mean to a lot to me.” She added that joining other walkers — whether they are survivors like her, a family member of a survivor or people who have died from this disease — is an overwhelming experience.

“It takes your breath away because you cannot believe how many people are participating,” Marks said. “It’s a special feeling. You have to go out there to really feel it.”

Of the more than 200 Making Strides walks across the country, the Jones Beach walk is the largest. It is held each year in October, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

“There’s literally a sea of people dressed in pink,” Varon said. “When I see thousands of kids marching, they’re the people that’s going to make America great again.”

Researchers have made big strides in understanding the origins of cancer and developing treatments for it — the breast cancer death rate, for example, dropped 39 percent between 1989 and 2015, according to the American Cancer Society.

“I believe that one day, we will be able to beat this disease,” Varon said. “I just want to do it in my lifetime.”