At age 28, Rochelle Shoretz had already completed a clerkship at the Supreme Court under Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and had two children. She had big plans of going back to her law practice and shooting for partner in a major law firm.
Then, while changing into a bathing suit in 2001, she noticed that one of her breasts had an unfamiliar indentation.
A doctor’s visit confirmed that the young mother had breast cancer and Shoretz’s world was tipped upside down in an instant.
“I was floored by the diagnosis,” she tells ABC’s Good Morning America.
“It happens--having breast cancer in your 20s,” Shoretz, tweeted from her Twitter account last August. Now in her 40s and a two-time breast cancer survivor, Shoretz is founder of Sharsheret, a nonprofit support and education group for young Jewish women facing breast cancer nationwide.
Back in 2001, things were less clear.
Faced with life-altering decisions she never expected she would have to make, Shoretz felt overwhelmed.
When Shoretz was faced with the difficult decision between undergoing a lumpectomy or mastectomy, her stepmother suggested she seek genetic counseling so she would know whether she had a greater risk for developing more cancer down the road.
She followed that advice.
Shoretz learned a breast and ovarian cancer genetic mutation known as the BRCA mutation is 10 times more common in Ashkenazi Jewish women than other women and at increased rates over those of Norwegian, Dutch, and Icelandic descent.
She knew that both of her grandparents died of cancer, but she couldn't go back any farther because so many of her family members died during World War II.
Going into her genetic counseling appointment Shoretz was “feeling empowered in some way that we’re going to get to the bottom of this," she said in the ABC interview. But instead she found “a cloud fogging the clarity” that she thought she would take away from that meeting.
"Instead there was just more mystery," she said.
Lacking the information she was desperately seeking, Shoretz found herself facing another difficult decision that face many Ashkenazi Jewish women.