Happy Chanukah from the Women of Embrace
Twice a month, Sharsheret’s Embrace support group for women living with advanced breast cancer meets via teleconference. One group session is topic-driven and the second group session is social, where the members catch up with one another and share information. Last week, our group focused on the topic of drawing inspiration from the story of Chanukah. We would like to share our insights here with all of you as a special gift to the women of Sharsheret. Best wishes for a Happy Chanukah!
The theme of the Chanukah story is how the weak overcame the mighty. The Greek army was large, powerful, and certainly mighty. The Jewish army, the Maccabees, were much smaller in comparison and were certainly considered the weaker of the two forces. Yet, the Jews conquered their enemies and succeeded. This metaphor can also be applied to the fight against breast cancer. There are times when the cancer can feel mighty. Even cancer treatment can feel mighty and can weaken a person. Yet, treatment can also be considered an arsenal against the mighty cancer. When a woman is weakened by cancer or treatment, what resources, both internal and external, can she rely on to overcome the mighty?
We also discussed the She’hechyanu (who has given us life) prayer that is sung on the first night of Chanukah when the candles are lit. This prayer resonated differently with each woman as we reflected on what is happening in our individual lives at the moment. Some women felt grateful to have been given the life that they have, even though they were presented with a cancer diagnosis. Others connected with sustaining life and feeling grateful for the arsenal of treatment available to women facing breast cancer.
Finally, we discussed the light from the candles. Light is often synonymous with hope. The Maccabees were running out of light. Were there times they experienced hopelessness? We know from the story that they never gave up hope and were fortunate to experience a miracle. They were granted enough light to help them conquer the Greeks. Why did the light last for eight days? It would have seemed more natural for the light to have lasted for seven days. After all, seven is a number often seen in Jewish life – seven day of creation, seven days of the week. What can we make of the fact that the light lasted beyond the natural limits? We learn from this story that we are sometimes pushed beyond our limits, and we must therefore, push beyond our natural physical and spiritual limits in order to overcome the mighty.