The Voices In My Head

The Voices In My Head

Alexis Berkowitz

My story begins with a routine mammogram that revealed several spots that needed to be biopsied. Simultaneously, I learned that my father’s health had taken a turn for the worse and I rushed to be with him for his final few days. My world was turned upside down and I struggled to keep the voices in my head quiet as I was filled with grief, and had to delay my biopsy. As fate would have it, my biopsy occurred on the day I got up from sitting shiva. 

Within 24 hours, I received the call that would shock my reality. In less than 3 minutes, with zero sensitivity or kindness, I was informed that I had breast cancer. I felt an immediate sense of panic and fear! Six years earlier, on my actual birthday, I learned I had a very serious autoimmune disease, “wasn’t that enough screamed the voice in my head.” I already have a life altering disease I couldn’t imagine tackling this new diagnosis. I felt profoundly betrayed by my body; my 45 year old body that I tried so hard to take care of.

During the initial days, post diagnosis, I remember driving alone in my car and saying aloud, “I have breast cancer” over and over until it became real and believable. I struggled to balance the competing voices in my head, those that feared the worse and those that tried to calm me offering a rational approach. Fortunately, in those early days after being diagnosed, I knew where to turn. My husband and mom were amazing, they embodied the calmer voices in my head, and Sharsheret was able to give me support, incredible resources and the gift of a Link, through their peer support program. In calling Sharsheret I became part of something much larger than myself, and my cancer. I was part of a network of Jewish women, both professional and volunteer, who understood and could prepare and support me through the craziness into which I had fallen. This support kept me sane, even when the voices of panic tried to prevail.

My story ends happily. I still live everyday with the voices in my head, those of fear and panic as well as those that are soothing and calm. Even today, a common health malady sends me reeling and fearing the worst. Because I feel betrayed by my body it’s hard to be hopeful and secure that I’ll be ok. Thankfully, I’ve come to know that I’m always better off with information rather than sitting with the anxiety I generate. I’ve conjured up some frightening diagnoses! It is an ongoing struggle to trust my body. My calm voice reminds me that I’m doing a great job of taking care of myself, even when there is constant combat with the crazy voices that run on fear. I exercise and eat well, see my doctors for routine care, and most importantly, I always try to listen to my body. I need my body, and though it is forever changed, I work hard to love my new shape and form. As for the competing voices in my head, they are all still there and I hear them all. With all my resolve, I strive to embrace the calm and rational ones as I celebrate my life.

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