משנכנס אדר מרבים בשמחה

“When one enters into Adar, we increase our joy” (Taanis 29A)

It is no secret that I love Purim and it seems befitting that my birthday coincides with the Jewish month of Adar (the 12th month on the Jewish calendar counting from Nisan) and the holiday of Purim. The themes of Purim have had a profound impact on me and my breast cancer journey these past few years. The Jewish holiday of Purim is about reversal of fortune, revealing your inner self and prevailing against the odds. Purim is a time when the hidden becomes revealed and VeNahafochu (“and it upturned upside down”), when negative divine action is transformed into the opposite, revealing positivity and goodness. On my birthday, March 1, 2018, I decided to take the plunge and push send on an email that shared what I had been going through privately that year before in hopes to “unmask” the hidden struggles I had faced and was continuing to face post a double mastectomy and with the ultimate goal to help others and enter the next phase in my journey and healing process, a journey that still continues. 

At the time of my diagnosis, I was very private and did not reach out to Sharsheret for any resources. I thought that after going through the physical process of a double mastectomy, tissue expanders, and reconstruction and knowing I was cured, I could just slip back into my regular day to day life. Was I mistaken! My brain had not yet processed what had just happened to me physically and I recognized that I needed to recover mentally and needed help. It seemed silly to me to then decide to reach out to Sharsheret, but quite the contrary. My Sharsheret clinician listened and counseled me and has become my life coach, cheerleader, motivator, and such a dear friend to me. She quickly realized I was struggling with keeping what I went through private, as I now felt different. I developed anxiety and struggled with thoughts and fears about my mortality, struggled with finding the meaning and my purpose from this experience, and struggled with the aftermath of rebuilding physically, trying to gain my strength back, and ability to physically feel good. 

Although I was left with emotional and physical scars, I was also blessed with the greatest gift, a clean bill of health and an ability to try and pay it forward, to use my experience to help others in conjunction with helping myself through the next part of my journey. My Rebetzin once said to me, “You can’t keep chasing who you were before and giving yourself such high expectations. There is the before and there is the after. You are not the same but different and that doesn’t mean worse. Once you accept the “New You,” you will see that you are a stronger you and new doors will open for you.” Queen Esther from the Purim story taught me that obstacles are a choice – a stumbling block or a stepping-stone. With the help of my Sharsheret mental health counselor, my husband, and my family, I decided that I needed to share my experience because I wanted to find meaning and purpose and be able to help even just one person. 

I have spent the last three years working hard on overcoming the challenges I still face. Speaking to others through Sharsheret who have gone through a similar experience have been instrumental in relating to my thoughts, offering guidance and encouragement, and helping me accept my new self.  

As I reflect on these past few years, I felt it was important to relay the ongoing journey women face post cancer and to bring awareness to Sharsheret, an amazing organization that is listening to women’s growing needs and recognizing new areas to help women and their families, such as their Best Face Forward 2.0 financial subsidies program that provides financial assistance to women who need wigs, cold capping, micropigmentation, areola tattooing, and other cosmetic needs that their insurance won’t cover. Just because the cancer is gone it doesn’t always mean that a person is completely “healed”. Medications that many women are put on can have side effects. Physical mobility may need to be rebuilt, hair may need to be regrown, tattoos may need to be placed, and so on, and Sharsheret’s Best Face Forward 2.0 financial subsidies program responds to this critical need.

I have been fortunate to be “linked” to many special women, “Heroines,” within Sharsheret and have been “linked” to other peers, who have been an integral part of helping me through my healing process. Sharsheret has “linked” me to other resources within Sharsheret, and the staff has provided me with opportunities to be present at various functions, all with the goal of being there for me wholeheartedly. Sharsheret has not left my side and I am so grateful. I want to end by giving hakarat ha’tov (gratitude) to Sharsheret for what they have done for me personally and for the amazing work that they are doing for others. 

Meshenichnas Adar Marbim B’Simcha (“When one enters into Adar, we increase our joy” (Taanis 29A)). Purim is a time when the hidden becomes revealed and VeNahafochu, when negative divine action is transformed into the opposite, revealing positivity and goodness. I hope to continue to grow and make a difference and connect more “links,” growing the chain longer and longer and see “new doors” opening for Sharsheret and myself. Like in the story of Megilat Esther, we are all heroes and heroines from this transformative experience. It has now given us the opportunity to “Unmask the Butterfly Within.” 

Wishing you and your families a very Happy Purim!

We should all share in good times and in good health!