Sunday, September 09, 2007

Preparing for the Holidays

My usual day is Thursday, but I’ll be busy—shana tova!

Today, I dragged my ever patient son and husband on a very important pre-High Holiday “errand”. Every year this seems to be scheduled on a very inconvenient Sunday just before the Yamim Noraim, when I should be doing a thousand other things.

Our work for the morning was a short walk in the Susan Komen Race for the Cure (only 5K, not much more difficult than a Sunday walk in the park, which it was). I have walked in the Race for six years…and in the last four, pregnant, with a baby strapped to my chest, and with my son in a stroller. So many of our mothers, sisters, grandmothers, aunts, cousins and friends are touched by breast cancer, and the Race for the Cure is a big, pink celebration of their fight, and a living memorial to those who did not win their battles.

Every year, I walk in honor of two very important women in my life. My paternal grandmother is 30 year survivor. I remember as a kid wondering what that jelly like thing was in her bathroom (her prosthesis) and why she only had one breast under her pajamas. My only, amazing and strong aunt is currently in treatment, after a double mastectomy and five years cancer-free. In spite of an initial awful prognosis, and due to incredible emotional and physical courage as well as the support of her very loving family, she is stronger every day and looking forward to my cousin’s bar mitzvah on her birthday in two years.

And every year, I look around me and try not to cry. The women in the pink shirts are survivors. How do they have the stamina to walk? Where does the sheer physical strength come from? And then there are those whose shirts and placards are in memory of their loved ones. How do they have the courage to walk and not do it in tears?

This year is a particularly tough year for me to walk. At the end of June, I discovered a lump in my breast. It comes as no surprise that I was terrified. And I had to live with it for a month before I could book an appointment for my very first mammogram (as I’m under 40, my health insurance wouldn’t cover a routine one). Thank God, and I do, I have an unusual lymph node near a vein that is not typical but not abnormal, and not cancerous. Putting yourself in the line of fire, even for a few hours, days or weeks, helps put everything into perspective.

I am always in awe of the children, young and old, who walk in celebration of or in memory of their mothers. To lose a mother is a devastating thing, but to be surrounded by and in the company of other people who know exactly what they’ve experienced seems to me to heighten the sadness. Every year as I walk, I am overwhelmed by the sense of joy mixed with the weight of the memories in the minds of each walker. This year, there were estimates of 25,000 participants, a lot of memories and a lot of women afflicted by breast cancer. And I don’t want my son, or anyone else’s child, to have to lose a mother or someone they love because of this disease.

A special thank you goes to my husband, who should have been home working—this is his busy season—but came with us in spite of the time commitment. Just like he faithfully accompanied me to visit my aunt while she was hospitalized and undergoing treatment, so too he shared this with me, and it was much appreciated.

At the end, I thoroughly enjoyed taking pictures of my son, who wore a number in the walk, to honor his participation. Although he is only 2 and ¾, and has no idea what he is doing, I’m very proud to have done it with him.

There is something profoundly spiritually cleansing about this little ritual that I’ve created for myself. Ostensibly, it is a public declaration of my support for women (and men) who have breast cancer. Inside, it is a call to myself to remember that this time of year, I really do believe God will write us in the book of Life for another year, but that it is important to obliterate disease just in case.

In case you'd like to give tzedakah this year before the holidays, please consider the Komen Foundation .


therapydoc said...

Shana tova, Ima Shalom

Anonymous said...

Shana tova to you as well!