Presidents Message, winter 2023
On Friday, October 28th, Women Lawyers in Bergen hosted an event which to me was hugely important and fulfilling. It was our First Annual Rally Against Breast Cancer and it was held on the green outside the Bergen County Courthouse. It was a huge effort to effectuate, and our committee worked on it since July. I have great thanks to the committee of Erica Fields, Lynn Feldman, Sheila O’Shea, Simone Tsigounis, Kelly Castor, Amy McIsaac, Eileen Mulroy, Tamra Katcher, Kohar Boyadjian and the amazing members of my law frm.
This event was my brainchild because I have been Director of the Susan Lucianna Breast Cancer Fund for the past 14 years. Now that I am President of Women Lawyers in Bergen, I was able to coordinate Women Lawyers with my breast cancer charity as the fit seemed perfect.
The background behind my charity is as follows:
25 years ago, my beautiful sister and coworker Susan, at age 38, was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer. She was a paralegal for many years in my office and Nancy’s. She went through surgery, chemotherapy and radiation while working with us. She did well for six years but then it recurred in lungs, liver, and brain. At about that time I also was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer and was mother to a 5-year-old and a 7-year-old. I also went through major surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and later ovary removal. But as I said at the rally, this is not about me.
Susan was brave, optimistic, selfless, and when the recurrence occurred, got herself a beautiful King Charles Cavalier puppy, “Molly” to be her therapy dog. Molly came home to Susan sick with pneumonia and the pet shop was willing to refund her money and euthanize Molly. Instead, Susan spent a fortune curing Molly and then as good lawyers do, we sued the pet shop to recover the money. Susan fought for Molly and Molly provided love and support for Susan as only dogs can do. My sister Nancy and I helped Susan through more radiation, chemotherapy, and many indignities for three years until her death at age 48 in 2007. At that point, Molly became my family dog and continued her job as therapy dog for my sick husband.
I am a 19-year Breast Cancer survivor and thank God every day that I have lived to raise my children. 14 years ago, I created the Susan Luciana Breast Cancer Fund as we would meet various people in waiting rooms who not only had cancer but who could not pay their bills; double indignities.
I run this charity out of my law office, and it provides grants to breast cancer patients with quality-of-life needs. In the last 14 years we have paid out over $150,000 to approximately 100 women. That may not sound like much compared to the big national charities but to these 100 women it has enhanced their life.
Most importantly I do not have any overhead expenses, I take no salary, I have no rent, employees or overhead of any kind. I even file the yearly taxes myself as the charity is 501(C)(3) approved. We help women mainly from Englewood Hospital as their Patient Navigator has them fill out a form which she emails to me, and I send them the grant. I make it very easy for them and I know they are legitimately sick and in need.
When I became President of Women Lawyers in Bergen in June 2022, I said in my speech at the Annual Dinner it was my intention to have this event and I was lucky enough to attract the attention of two great people: Erica Fields and her mom Lynn Feldman. Lynn Feldman, I’ve known for many years as she was a criminal trial lawyer in the Bergen County Courthouse until she herself was afflicted with two primary cancers – breast cancer and lung cancer. She also has survived and is hugely grateful for that blessing. It is our intention to make this event a yearly event and to attract the people we know to come to it – the members of the Bergen County Courthouse and the legal community. I papered the courthouse with flyers, emails, word of mouth to get them to come to this event and purposely made it on a non-motion Friday lunch break. It is my wish that next year many of these people attend. I noticed the Bergen County Courthouse is not the bustling busy place it was pre COVID and I am hoping next year it is a different scenario.
Nevertheless, our event was beautiful and well attended. I am so grateful to everyone who participated. Thank you to New Jersey Senator Holly Schepisi who immediately agreed to participate, to New Jersey Assemblywoman Deanne Defuccio who eloquently spoke at our event, to Commissioners Mary Amoroso and Germaine Ortiz who without hesitation participated and spoke, and to Doctor Doug Holden and Doctor Jean Weng who participated and spoke. Jean has been my friend for over 20 years and is a breast cancer survivor. I would also like to thank the many sponsors who contributed money, food, giveaways, literature, and education and who spent hours at our event.
I am grateful that the officers and members of WLIB get the point that my little local charity and our organization are a natural fit to support each other. Many of the recipients of Susan’s charity showed up at the rally and one even told me that the help we gave her pulled her from a sense of despair to hope. That is the goal of this charity. By the way the event raised $9,535 for Susan’s charity and we can now support more of these women.