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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Choose Life

Our lives are filled with choices.

Almost two years ago, when I learned about my diagnosis, I made a choice, a conscious choice, about how I would live my life.

I stumbled, by accident, on frightening survival statistics of women diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer: only 20% are still alive five years after their diagnosis.

I determined right then and there that I intended to be part of that 20%.

I wish I could remember which angel directed me to the fabulous article by Stephen J. Gould, "The Median is Not the Message". I think it might have been someone from Sharsheret, a wonderful Jewish American organization that provided me with tremendous support in those devastating initial weeks, before I found appropriate support here in Israel.

If you have not read it already, then I recommend doing so now. Go ahead. It will reshape the way you view the world.

I read "The Median is Not the Message" and realized that my determination to "beat the odds" is a rational possibility and not just "wishful thinking."

Meanwhile, Moshe was reading everything he could about my disease. My dear, loving, sensitive husband was devastated by the statistics.

I knew that Moshe, for whom logic and cold science are fundamental to how he views the world, needed to read the article.

That article was the greatest gift I could give him.

But I did not stop there. I had already begun formulating my 20-year-plan.

I figured that if I did end up living for another 20 years or more, it would be an aweful shame to live all that time worrying about dying tomorrow.

Besides, I joked, I "just need to live long enough for them to discover a cure."

There is so much research going on every day, who knows what new medicines and miracle cures might be just a few years down the road?

We do not know what the future will bring. So why live expecting the worst? What a waste of our valuable time and energy.

In the past, I loved the adage "expect the worst, hope for the best, and you will never be disappointed." Suddenly, this approach to life no longer served me well.

I shifted paradigms.

I chose to expect the best.

I chose to believe that I would live, that I would have a future.

In Parshat Nitzavim, which we read on Shabbat, just before Rosh HaShanah, during the time when Jews are focussed on self-evaluation and repentence, Moshe Rabeinu (our teacher; not my husband) addresses Am Yisrael (the Jewish People) and proclaims:

הַעִדֹתִי בָכֶם הַיּוֹם, אֶת-הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֶת-הָאָרֶץ, הַחַיִּים וְהַמָּוֶת נָתַתִּי לְפָנֶיךָ, הַבְּרָכָה וְהַקְּלָלָה; וּבָחַרְתָּ בַּחַיִּים, לְמַעַן תִּחְיֶה, אַתָּה וְזַרְעֶךָ
(דברים ל:יט)
I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before thee life and death, the blessing and the curse; therefore choose life, that thou mayest live, thou and thy seed (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,


Daria said...

I so agree ... if I have a certain amount of time left to live ... why waste it worrying if I`m going to die or not.

If I`m right or wrong ... in the end does it really matter.

Great post!

rickismom said...

Tremendous... and I think the only way to live!

Anonymous said...

Rivka, this post is a life changing read! Thank you for sharing your positive attitude. I do not need to pray for you - I need for you to pray for me to be able to embrace your attitude to life. Thank you dear friend - Ariela

Sarah said...

Thank you Rivka. I love you.
-Sarah... waiting for the results of my biopsy yesterday.

Anonymous said...

I am so inspired by you.

Baila said...


I am sorry I did not read this post earlier. It is one of the best posts you've ever written. Thank you.

Batya said...

Fantastic post!
Bezrat Hashem!

Underdogs Unite said...

This was beautiful. I think about this kind of thing all the time now (I call it wishing really really hard). Expecting the best isn't magic - but the results are often just as miraculous.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for writing this post.

zahava wolstein said...

wow! bh! thank you!
i was having a hard day.. going to telaviv for 2nd opinion surgeon and trying to be positive and then i read this... what a shift and what a bracha to have you as a friend!
may H continue to bless you with all that is good and with the emunah to handle everything else that we just are not on the level to comprehend...
i admire you and love you!

Anonymous said...

Wow. This post is inspiring.

My mother is also a survivor-and more than 5 years have definitely passed since then...in fact, she's almost hitting her 10 year mark since she got sick!! She is surely part of the 20% but you know what?! When a person trusts in Hashem that He can get them out of it, that faith is stronger than any doctors decisions and any statistics out there!!

May you continue to hold on strong!!

RivkA with a capital A said...

Daria, Ricki's Mom, Underdogs Unite -- so true.

Ariela -- I pray that you live your life the way you want, that you see all the wonders in the world and all the blessings in our lives!!

Sarah -- May we both be zocheh for a refuah shlaymah and to be free to dance with joy and abandon at each other's smachot!!

Anon (9:50), Muse -- thanks

Baila -- wow, thanks.

Ilana Davita -- you are welcome. glad you found it meaningful.

Golda Shaina (z) -- that's what I'm here for! so glad I could help you make that shift!

Anon (3:27) -- thank you so much for sharing!!

It is always encouraging to meet/hear about women who are really living their lives, despite their cancer. All the more so, when the woman has passed her five year mark and is nearing her tenth! (and still going strong! -- ad meah v'esrim!! (may she live to 120!))

Is your mother on line? If so, please have her email me at coffeeandchemo@gmail.com

julia moreton said...

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herbal man email was there. So I decided to contact the herbal man @ kokobiherbalremedycentre@gmail.com for my
younger sister to see if he can cure her from the ailment that has befallen her(breast cancer). I contacted him and told him
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can I receive the cure that I am in UK, he told me
That I will pay for the delivery service. The courier service can
transport it to me so he told me the amount I will pay, so my dad paid for
the delivery fee. two days later I receive the cure from the courier
service so I used it as the herbal man instructed me to, before the week runs out, my sister cancer was healed and it was like a dream to me not
knowing that it was physical I and my family were very happy about the
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grace said...

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