I left work early the other day to see my doctor about a persistent cough. I anticipated that she would give me a prescription for an antibiotic. Instead she prescribed a mammogram and ultrasound. In the process of examining me, my doctor found a lump in my breast.
A couple of days later I dragged a miserable toddler with me to a radiology clinic for the two tests I needed. He had been sent home sick from daycare just hours before my scheduled appointment. Unable to find anyone to help me, I prayed the clinic would not force me to reschedule and took my chances. A compassionate nurse babysat while a technician in a cold room contorted my breast.
With work, kids, and normal daily chaos, it was hard to find a moment to even consider the implications of all of this. I couldn’t sleep. I was pissed. I was scared. And all of those feelings didn’t change the fact that I still needed to finish preparing my lesson for religious school, where I teach. Because even with the possibility of cancer looming, I have responsibilities and others who depend on me.
That week, my second graders and I were studying the weekly torah portion, Lekh-L’kha. We discussed Abram’s faith and how he did as God instructed and set out from his father’s house to a foreign land. We practiced saying the Shehechiyanu, the blessing we say on special occasions, and I illustrated examples of circumstances in our lives when we might recite this beautiful prayer—like when tasting a fruit for the first time this season, riding a bike without training wheels, when we finally learn how to tie our own shoes.
Or when we find the first lump in our breast.
Tried as I might to focus on the lesson, I just couldn’t. I don’t know if I can handle another battle. I have enough problems with my home in foreclosure, a son who is exhibiting behavior issues in daycare, and an ex-husband who refuses to accept that our marriage is over.
I know many women out there are facing the same news as I am today, and I am hardly unique. I am optimistic that a biopsy will determine that I am fine, but scheduling an appointment and finding a breast surgeon is proving a challenge in and of itself. It will be at least another week before I know anything.
So what do I do until then? Maybe I am supposed to be like Abram and trust that God will see me through this challenge, or perhaps I should just laugh like Sarah did when she learned of her pregnancy late in life.
When will I catch a break? What is the message I am supposed to be receiving? Why am I being punished further? And ultimately, did I bring this upon myself?
I have a rabbi friend who insists that we shouldn’t look to God for what happens to us in this life. Instead, we should look for God within ourselves and use that source of power and strength to help others. So what can I do? I write. I write because it is my therapy and the only way I can make sense out of what I don’t understand. But I also write so that hopefully I can reach others who might be struggling as I am. Maybe I can bring comfort to them, and along the way, to myself as well.
And of course, I will say Shehechiyanu because I need to believe in a God who hears prayers.
Thank you God for granting me life, sustaining me, and enabling me to reach this occasion.
At least my cough is clearing up.