I had my bilateral mastectomy (BMX, for all you people who have never played in Cancerland) with reconstruction on August 2, 2011. After blogging prodigiously before the surgery, afterward, I found myself blocked. At a loss. Without words. My surgery removed my nipples (the plastic surgeon said since they were pointing downward anyway due to gravity, I’d get a much better visual result if I let them go. A better cancer surgery, too, as nipple cancer is a reality!), and to me, my new boobies–sorry–my DH says fake ones are called ‘hooters’–my new hooters look like a mouth sewn up, as to not share the secrets of my BMX.
However, the sermon (or D’var Torah) my rabbi gave this past Shabbat, Shabbat Tshuvah–the Sabbath of Repentence–made me realize I need to remove the sutures on my mouth and get back to my discussions and ramblings on Breast Cancer. The theme of the moment was ‘finding your one true purpose’ in order to serve G-d. Rabbi spoke of using our ‘kol’ voice. That hit me. I realized I have to be the voice for all the women out there withe Breast Cancer who felt they had none. A diagnosis of Breast Cancer hits all women differently (I know some men also get breast cancer, but I’m focusing on women in today’s post). Some of my warrior sisters become mute–like I have been for the last two months–and that is absolutely an acceptable response to the fear that accompanies Breast Cancer. However, what spoke to me in that Holy Sanctuary was that *I* needed to be the voice of women that had lost theirs. Funny thing–after *that* Shabbat, when I went back to my regular routine of emails and Facebook posts, I found an email from a woman newly diagnosed. I didn’t know her from Adam–she sought me out after reading some of my posts and wanted to thank me for giving her a chuckle about such a scary topic. I wont discuss any particulars, lest I reveal her identity, G-d Forbid!, but the email made me realize that I COULD be a voice for women who felt they had none, for whatever reason.
When I’m not playing in CancerLand, I teach young men and women to speak professionally. I also teach them how to conduct themselves in a business setting. Both these endeavors involve sharing the tools these people need to communicate their ideas to a larger audience. I always tell them, and truly believe, they have an important message to share. Sometimes they doubt my sincerity, but all of them, at some point in their lives, will have to use their voice (KOL in Hebrew) to make a difference. Perhaps it is because I know what it is like to not be able to use my voice that I am so adamant about using it now. Communication apprehension was my constant companion up until my junior year in college, when I decided I was tired of being silent. I took all the communication courses my school offered and joined the award-winning forensics team (go Hurons! Yeah, Hurons, I said it), until I realized I WAS A COMMUNICATION MAJOR! Not only that, I could make a difference with my voice, my ‘kol.’ Fast forward to 5772 (that’s 2011 for some of you:)), and here I am, davening on Shabbat, and receiving an answer. Use your kol for kol ha nashim (kol, voice, in Hebrew, sounds the same as kol, all, in Hebrew, so there is a play on words that I understand isn’t funny if you have to explain it. Nashim is women in Hebrew). To cement the deal, I had that email from a newly diagnosed sister. She told me my outlook helped her cope. OUT OF THE CLEAR BLUE SKY!!! There are more similarities that I can’t share as they might identify the person, but they were enough to know I had my answer. I had to go back to writing, nipples or no nipples.
Yes, I will post more mundane comments on my BMX–how did it go (fine), was it painful (not at first), are you happy with the results (not yet, but will be!), but for right now, I want to say thank you to The Holy Blessed Be He for giving me this sign. The last time it happened, on a Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur many years ago, I left everything in the US and moved to Israel, knowing I’d find my b’sheret there. Heh. That worked really well, and even got a mini-me out of the deal! For now, I’m trying to find a new normal–how do I speak, share my thoughts, without the nutritive power of my nipples? The words still come, but they have to find a new route to be expressed. Such is the same with a diagnosis of Breast Cancer. There WILL be a new normal. It wont ever be the same, but it will be normal.