As a family law attorney for 17 years and a partner with Fox Rothschild LLP in the Morristown office, Sandra Fava is used to fighting for others. More recently, she faced a much more personal battle.
“I was diagnosed with very aggressive breast cancer in September of 2020, and because of COVID, I couldn’t bring anyone with me to treatments and we weren’t allowing visitors at home,” she says. Fortunately, she didn’t have to go through her struggle alone.
“I’ve been married to Christopher for 13 years and we have three children. They would put on little shows for me and make me cards and pictures. There was a lot of special time with them, which I’ll forever cherish.”
Her mother also moved in to help. “My mom's a phenomenal cook,” says Sandra. “I joke that I'm a cancer patient who actually gained weight.”
Another family member who gave her a lot of love has four legs. “We have a 16-year-old dog named Penny who was a rescue from a puppy mill. She's my old lady and now I take care of her.”
Sandra also has a top notch medical team. “I received all of my treatment except for radiation at Morristown Medical Center, Carol G. Simon breast cancer center. My breast surgeon, Dr. Leah Gendler, was just phenomenal and so was my oncologist, Dr. Ellen Early. Their care was above and beyond what I had ever expected.”
While going through treatment, she continued to be there for her clients, even though it was difficult. “I had the support of my team and did try to take medical leave, but it's hard in my practice because people don't usually hire a family law and divorce attorney based on the firm they're with, but instead hire the person they feel a connection to,” says Sandra.
Until last October, she kept her medical situation private. “In my support group through the hospital, one woman, a retired executive, challenged me and asked, ‘Don't you think with your career you have the opportunity to be a proponent of awareness and letting people know that it's not just older women, or not just women, who get breast cancer?’ That really resonated with me.”
Since then, Sandra has done some speaking engagements and an annual breast cancer walk with her family. And since her diagnosis, she’s hosted an annual Pink Party fundraiser at her home. “All the money we raise goes to Play for P.I.N.K., which focuses its efforts on research, not only for a cure, but for treatments for people who are survivors.”
Sandra admits that she worries about the future and wants to be there for her family. “Even though you may ‘beat cancer,’ you’ll wonder for the rest of your life if it's going to come back or come back in a different way. People look at me and say I look great, but the treatment you receive can have long-term lasting unseen effects. I have severe neuropathy and some arthritis now. I have issues from radiation with my range of movement on my right side. Those are things that I have to work on daily in order to feel well.”
It’s important to stay positive, she says. “I had moments when I thought I couldn’t do another day, but somehow I did. It's hard to see yourself so differently. You think, I'm only 40 years old, but I feel like I'm 80. Keeping positive is something that helped me get through it all.”
Sandra always tries to find things to smile about, and being involved as a trustee of Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) is one. A nonprofit organization, CASA provide services for foster children and foster families to make sure they have whatever they need. This may be computers for school, backpacks with school supplies, funding for camp, or paying for extracurricular activities they’re interested in pursuing like sports or music. “It’s touched the lives of so many children,” she says. “The stories are beyond incredible about children who credit their life successes to CASA.”
Sandra is thankful for her family, friends, colleagues and team of doctors for helping her get through her cancer journey and for keeping her strong as a survivor. This allows her, in turn, to continue to help others.
To find out more about Sandra Fava and how she can help you and your family with your legal issues, go to FoxRothschild.com/SandraCFava; @AskSandraFava on Instagram; and @DivorceNJLaw on X.
Breast cancer resources:
Susan G. Komen Foundation
American Cancer Society
Play for P.I.N.K. (Prevention, Immediate diagnosis, New technology, Knowledge)