When 44-year-old Haifa resident Karin Bason was diagnosed with cancer, she could not imagine how her journey would end. Three years after being treated for cancer at Rambam Health Care Campus (Rambam), she is now a mentor with Halasartan ("Stop Cancer"), a project offering support to Israel's oncology patients aged 18-44.
Karin Bason, a mother of three who worked in marketing, was once a patient in the Joseph Fishman Oncology Center at Rambam. As a patient she participated in the OncoYoung program for young oncology patients. Established in 2019 in collaboration with the Halasartan ("Stop Cancer") project and the Israel Cancer Association, OncoYoung provides customized treatment and professional advice for the very specific age-related issues and requirements of young people diagnosed with cancer.
Three years ago Bason experienced pain while nursing her son. Although she was not concerned or anxious, her worried husband insisted she seek medical advice. Test results confirmed the presence of a dangerous and aggressive form of breast cancer. Over the next nine months, Bason underwent chemotherapy, surgery, and postoperative radiation therapy, follwed by many months of recuperation. It was a difficult time, but fortunately, Bason is now healthy and strong.
While participating in the OncoYoung program at Rambam, Bason met nursing coordinator, Svetlana Nemtsov, who works with patients on an individual and a medical system level. Nemtsov, who is also a moderator of the Halasartan Facebook group, suggested that Bason get involved with Halasartan – a community initiative and resource for young oncology patients. Halasartan was founded by Zohar and Yankele Yakobson in memory of their daughter Tal, who had been a medical student but had died of cancer when she was only 26 years old. Tal was also an activist concerned with community and environmental issues.
Bason relates, "It is difficult to explain the role of a Halasartan mentor. We hold the hand of every young person who comes through our doors. It is the most difficult time of their lives; their world has come apart. I provide emotional support and encouragement to these young men and women. No one wants to go through this alone."
A person who always looks for ways to help others, Bason is passionate about what she does. "Having recently experienced the very same thing they are experiencing, I understand and know how to approach a young patient. I can relate to them. Only someone who has been through this can understand what it means to be young and have cancer, and to realize that your life could end very soon. We call it 'friends-healing-friends’."
“There are moments when I succeed in encouraging patients and moments of joy and sadness. When a patient completes their treatment and is in recovery, it is good news for us, but it is difficult if their condition deteriorates. I must encourage them, but at the same time, I must not revisit my personal trauma. It is heartbreaking to lose a friend to cancer. Every day we have to make choices and navigate our way forward," she concludes.
World Cancer Day, an international awareness day, was observed on February 4. Its purpose is to raise awareness of cancer and to encourage its prevention, detection, and treatment.