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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Boogie Nights

In 2008, at 45 years old, Fetherolf was diagnosed with Stage IIIC inflammatory breast cancer, a rare form of the disease that affects roughly 1 percent of breast cancer patients in the United States. Immediately after receiving the diagnosis, Fetherolf went into hiding, but not for long.
"It took me a week or a week and a half to collect myself and make the call," she said. "It all started with one phone call to a woman in Sheffield. She made a fermented soy beverage that was known to help with cancer patients. After meeting with her, I got three more phone numbers. I called every single number I was given."

Each contact that Fetherolf made was yet another resource for her to pursue in battling her cancer. Six months after her diagnosis, with the help of chemotherapy and a rigorous nutrition regimen, the cancer "disappeared."

"I had a 7 1/2-centimeter tumor in my breast and four satellite tumors in my lymph glands," she said. "In six months, they were gone. I remember at my last chemo treatment, I was sitting between two women, one who was there for her first treatment and one who was going on eight years of treatment. I told the new girl about how I was on a macrobiotic diet and she just turned to me and said, ‘We can't afford organic food.' Just shut down.

It was this ambivalence and even fear that inspired Fetherolf and her ad hoc "Girls' Night Out" committee to coordinate Berkshire Boogie Nights, a fundraiser/dance party to support the Women's Integrative Network, a worldwide network of resources (mostly alternative) for people living with cancer. The idea behind WIN, according to Fetherolf, is to empower cancer patients to advocate for their own health.

"It's an attitude. It's about empowering yourself," she said. "When you get cancer, you feel completely victimized. Your own body is working against you. But if we can get women to do something proactive, there will be an attitude shift."

While the need to change attitudes and treatments is foremost on Fetherolf's mind, she has had no problem convincing the local community to support WIN's mission: Most of the event's components, including the DJs, the food, the venues and even advertising, have been donated by area businesses.

The outpouring of generosity is a no-brainer, according to Susan Witt, co-founder of Berkshares, which is handling ticket sales as well as sponsoring the event. She said Berkshire Boogie Nights is exactly the kind of event she and other board members want to promote.

"Berkshares is a local currency to support local business and cultural events," she said. "We want to encourage people not just to shop locally but to donate locally. The money goes much further then. Five dollars can easily turn into $500."

The monetary benefit of handling a nonprofit event is not the only incentive for Witt. In addition to fundraising, she hopes the event will move Berkshares' presence northward into Pittsfield, Williamstown and North Adams.

"There is a great pattern of collaboration amongst nonprofits," she said. "Berkshares has been primarily a South County venture, but we want to have that same ‘on the street' familiarity throughout the county. This event has really touched a heartbeat; it's something different."

There will be plenty of opportunities for residents from any direction to come out and dance. Fetherolf and her crew have selected three different dates, themes and venues for the fundraiser, and she hopes this year's turnout will warrant transforming Berkshire Boogie Nights into a yearly event.

"The event is not that complicated, and everyone I've talked to has been really excited," she said. "We had a Girls' Night Out event last year at Crissey Farm, and we sold out a week in advance. I think we're going to have a huge response to this; we just have to stay consistent with the message."

The message, of course, is good health, which inevitably involves good food. Fetherolf said that even the hors d'oeuvres at each event will embody the holistic approach. There to assist will be Katherine Miller, head chef and proprietor of the Kosmic Kitchen, a whole foods catering and consulting outfit in Lenox. According to Miller, anything healthy, especially food, is more available than people think.

"I teach people to be able to use very simple techniques to cook with whole foods," she said. "It's not something that you have to buy in specialty stores or in Japan. You can go into Price Chopper and get good food. It's not an esoteric art."

"We need to educate people, all people, so that they can see that these things aren't far away," she said. "There's no magic bullet; it takes effort to change your life."

Berkshire Boogie Nights will be held Saturday, Jan. 15, at 8 p.m. at Jae's Spice in Pittsfield; Friday, March 4, at 8 p.m. at Crissey Farm in Great Barrington; and Friday, April 8, at 8 p.m. at Shakespeare & Company's Bernstein Theatre in Lenox. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit or call 413-637-4663.

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