‘NJ BreastFest’ to rock in memory of cancer surgeon, Oct. 14 in Morristown

Musicians Lauren 'LoLo' Gaffney, left, and Karen Rosen have organized NJBreastFest, a benefit concert to help cancer patients. Both women are cancer survivors. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Musicians Lauren 'LoLo' Gaffney, left, and Karen Rosen have organized NJBreastFest, a benefit concert to help cancer patients. Both women are cancer survivors. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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Karen Rosen has been wanting to honor the surgeon who helped her conquer breast cancer ever since the doctor’s tragic death last year.

Rosen will get her chance in Morristown this Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018.

Karen Rosen of Big Radio at Morristown Onstage Media Day 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin, Jan.7, 2017.

Karen Rosen performing in 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin.

NJBreastFest will feature Rosen’s band, the Thingama Jigs, along with Bobby Syvarth, the Spare Tire Band, and Soular Bone.

It runs from 2 pm to 8 pm in the Raven Room at the Horseshoe Tavern at 36 Speedwell Ave. Tickets are $25 in advance, $30 at the door, with proceeds benefiting the I Love You More Fund, created in memory of Dr. Jan Huston-Pryor.

The breast cancer specialist and mother of 12 was fatally struck by a vehicle while walking her dog one morning last year in Essex Fells. Huston was 66.  The fund helps provide services for patients who cannot afford diagnosis and treatment of breast disease in the tri-state area.

“I had this idea, and everyone jumped on it,” said Rosen, who was treated successfully by Huston-Pryor 12 years ago.

NJBreastFest poster

“She came into my life at a time when I heard those words no one ever wants to hear: ‘You have cancer.’  I was 35 years old with a 2-year-old and a 2-month-old… I lost my mother to breast cancer when I was just 15 years old, and I was petrified,” recounted Rosen, an art therapist.

“Dr. Huston-Pryor showed me strength, love and professionalism that is indescribable.”

A native of Scotland, Rosen performed in last year’s Morristown Onstage competition as lead singer for Big Radio. For eight years, she participated in the New York Avon Walk, a cancer fundraiser that has ended. She had no trouble recruiting performers for NJ BreastFest.

Karen Rosen of Morristown has helped plan a concert to honor her late cancer surgeon, Dr. Jan Huston-Pryor. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Karen Rosen of Morristown has helped plan a concert to honor her late cancer surgeon, Dr. Jan Huston-Pryor. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

“The love and support are unbelievable. Breast cancer is so prevalent. It’s affected almost everyone,” Rosen said.

Just how prevalent was driven home when Rosen bounced her concert idea off Lauren “LoLo” Gaffney at an open mic night a few weeks ago.

Gaffney, who sings in Soular Bone, revealed that she, too, is a breast cancer survivor, diagnosed at 35 with a young child at home.

Gaffney’s son Spencer now is a sophomore at Randolph High School. Rosen’s oldest, Aiden, 14, attends Morristown High; her daughter Leah, now 12, who was just 2 months old when the diagnosis came.

In a rare case, Gaffney’s father was afflicted with breast cancer.

The singers promise Sunday’s tone will be upbeat.

“It’s really a celebration, of survivors,” Gaffney said between Soular Bone sets at Maxfield’s in Boonton last week.

Lauren 'LoLo' Gaffney, far left, performing with Soular Bone in Boonton. The band will play at NJ BreastFest on Oct. 14, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Lauren ‘LoLo’ Gaffney, far left, performing with Soular Bone in Boonton. The band will play at NJ BreastFest on Oct. 14, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Obituaries described Huston as caring and compassionate, professionally and privately. She and her husband adopted 10 of their children from troubled countries. Honoring the doctor is “very meaningful for me,” said Gaffney, who works as a clinical research manager. “I’ve raised thousands of dollars for the American Cancer Society, and I wanted to do this.”

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. One in eight women in the United States will be diagnosed in their lifetime with the illness, according to the National Breast Cancer Foundation. It’s the second-leading cause of cancer deaths among women in New Jersey, the state health department reports.

Staying optimistic is crucial for cancer patients, Gaffney said.

“People facing it definitely must have all the positive attitude you can muster. We both had small children. We couldn’t wallow in it. Attitude is so much of recovery.”

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