Ina Sachar, battled multiple cancers for more than 20 years

Ina Leigh Sachar

BY ROBERT A. COHN, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus

Ina Sachar, a former marketing and sales professional who battled multiple bouts of cancer for over 20 years, lost her long and courageous battle with the disease on Thursday, March 20.  She was 67.

Mrs. Sachar was the subject of a moving article headlined “Multiple cancers fail to deflate woman’s spirit,” by Patricia Corrigan, which appeared in the Sept. 21, 2011 edition of the St. Louis Jewish Light.  Corrigan wrote, “For 19 years, Sachar has been fighting cancer of one kind or another. In 1992, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Six years later she received her first diagnosis of ovarian cancer. Three years later, the ovarian cancer recurred. Three years after that, Sachar learned she had colon cancer. Earlier this year, at age 64, she had a second recurrence of ovarian cancer.

“Some women would hide in their homes at this point, feeling fed up and defeated.  Not Sachar.  ‘ I want to do this interview to say that people need to live their lives, take ownership and be proactive of their health.  I am a private person, but I want to live in the real world, the well world. I am sick, but if I surround myself with just that, then the sickness becomes my whole life.  I have to balance that.’”

Genetic testing revealed that Mrs. Sachar, who is of Ashkenazi descent, carried the DNA mutation known as the BRCA gene.  It is estimated that one out of every 50 Ashkenazi Jews carries a mutant copy of either BRCA1 or BRCA2,  which puts them  at a higher risk for breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

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In a two-decade period, Mrs. Sachar had a hysterectomy, a lumpectomy and a re-section for the colon cancer.  “I’m kind of bionic,” she laughingly told Corrigan. She added, “I’ve also had chemotherapy four times, radiation and lymphedema.  But remember, in the past 19 years, I’ve had eight years of remission.”

Mrs. Sachar’s story was inspirational to many readers of the Light who were living with cancer. Her good humor and courage served as examples of how people can live as fully as possible even while facing multiple health challenges.

Ina Leigh Savan Sachar was born Nov. 16, 1946 in St. Louis and grew up in University City, the oldest of five children. She was a 1964 graduate of University City High School, and a graduate of Webster University with a degree in English literature.  Her father, the late Joseph Savan, was a physical therapist and her mother, the late Edythe Breadman Savan, was a nurse.  She recalled, in the 2011 interview, “Health was always part of our growing up.  I had polio and I had allergies, so I wasn’t as strong as my siblings.”

For years, Mrs. Sachar enjoyed a successful career in marketing and sales.  When she first got breast cancer, her husband, Byron Sachar was diagnosed with lymphoma. The couple went to chemotherapy treatments together.  He died 21 years ago. When Mrs. Sachar was diagnosed with ovarian cancer the second time, she quit her job to become a yoga teacher.

Mrs. Sachar also took up what she called “missions” to help others, serving on the boards of cancer support groups such as Gilda’s Club and the Ovarian Cancer Awareness organization. She gave a speech in April 2011 at the SLOCA dinner and auction.  Beth Hudson, president of the organization at the time, told the Light, “Ina’s poignant talk about her 19-year experience with colon, breast and ovarian cancer was deeply touching and held the audience at rapt attention.” 

A memorial service will be held at Central Reform Congregation, 5020 Waterman Boulevard, at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 30, following visitation at 1 p.m.

Survivors include her husband-partner of 16 years, John Goffstein; a son, Adam Steinberg (Cecilia) and daughter, Emily Goble (Don); a stepson, Adam Goffstein (Katie), all of metropolitan St. Louis, and a stepdaughter, Ann Settimi (Joe), of Evanston, Ill. and nine grandchildren. She is also survived by three sisters; Terry Savan, Jakki Savan and Ricki Tischler (Ben), and a brother, Jay Savan (Karen).

Memorial contributions in her memory may be made to the Siteman Cancer Center/Ovarian Cancer, Campus Box 1204, 7425 Forsyth Boulevard, St. Louis, Mo. 63105, or to St. Louis Cancer Awareness, 12015 Manchester Road, Suite 130, St. Louis, Mo. 63131.