By Karen Forman
Sometimes even those who love to help others need help themselves. When Maria Zuccala-Burke--mother of three, Girl Scout leader for 20 years, PTA president of Commack elementary school Wood Park, vice president of a major breast cancer foundation--turned 42 in 2004, she found a lump in her breast.
She was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. In 2007, after being in remission, she had a recurrence of the breast cancer, which was now stage 4 and had metastasized to her bones.
After undergoing many grueling rounds of chemotherapy, Zuccala-Burke’s brother, Nicholas Zuccala, a chiropractor in Smithtown (http://www.advancedalternativehealthcare.net), pointed her toward alternative therapy. After considerable research and a visit, Burke decided to get treatment from the Century Wellness Clinic in Reno, Nevada, under the care of Dr. James Forsythe (http://drforsythe.com/). They have many studies, and combine low-dose chemo and nutrition to treat the cancer. Unfortunately, most of her treatment was not covered by insurance.
“When Maria came back from Reno at the end of October, in 2010,” close friend Lisa Loretz said, “she looked so improved, we wanted to start a fundraiser to help cover alternative treatment that isn’t paid for by insurance.”
Another good friend, Ellen Kurzrok added, “We asked Maria’s sister, Rita, if she would help us to start a charity and of course she said yes. We wanted to honor Maria and do something that she could also be a part of. I think it’s done a world of good for her to see how many wonderful people there are who are willing to help.”
Rita Zuccala-Mahoney said, “Maria loves to help people. She was in the hospital these past few weeks, getting a shunt put in her brain to drain the fluid on her brain, which was giving her tremendous headaches…So here she is in the hospital, in pain every day, and she finds out that another Commack mom of three, Maureen Flynn, age 49, had just died of breast cancer. From her hospital bed she started sending out texts, trying to help collect money for Maureen’s family.”
Now the three friends, Loretz, Kurzrok and Zuccala-Mahoney, have formed a 501C3 charitable organization, Maria’Z Hope Foundation (http://mariazhopefoundation.org), to raise money for anyone who needs help paying for alternative treatments, including Maria.
“We are the first foundation to do this,” Zuccala-Mahoney said. “No one is doing this. Even doctors are starting to realize that people want to go down a different route and try holistic medicine. It’s starting to become more accepted—from acupuncture, chiropractic, therapeutic massage, organic eating, vitamin therapy, yoga, Reiki…If it makes someone feel better, even for a day, it’s worth it. Anyone who seeks out our help, we will try to help them.”
They have a downloadable form on their website for anyone looking for help.
The organization is having its first major fundraising event, on Sunday, November 4 at Insignia Prime Steak and Sushi Restaurant from 2 to 6 pm. There will be hors d’oeuvres, raffles, dessert and coffee, a cash bar, the NY Giants versus Steelers game on LI’s largest TV, musical entertainment and special guest Ms. NY International. The first 250 guests to respond will receive an exclusive swag bag.
Tickets cost $50 and need to be purchased in advance on the foundation’s website, http://mariazhopefoundation.org/purchase_tickets.html.
They are still looking for sponsors and raffle basket donations.
“It will be lots of fun for a good cause,” Zuccala-Mahoney said.