(crossposted and edited from Coffee and Chemo)
Our lives are filled with choices.
Almost two years ago, when I learned about my diagnosis, I made a choice, a conscious choice, about how I would live my life.
I stumbled, by accident, on frightening survival statistics of women diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer: only 20% are still alive five years after their diagnosis.
I determined right then and there that I intended to be part of that 20%.
I wish I could remember which angel directed me to the fabulous article by Stephen J. Gould, “The Median is Not the Message”. I think it might have been someone from Sharsheret, a wonderful Jewish American organization that provided me with tremendous support in those devastating initial weeks, before I found appropriate support here in Israel.
If you have not read it already, then I recommend doing so now. Go ahead. It will reshape the way you view the world.
I read “The Median is Not the Message” and realized that my determination to “beat the odds” is a rational possibility and not just “wishful thinking.”
Meanwhile, Moshe (my husband) was reading everything he could about my disease. My dear, loving, sensitive husband was devastated by the statistics.
I knew that Moshe, for whom logic and cold science are fundamental to how he views the world, needed to read the article.
That article was the greatest gift I could give him.
But I did not stop there. I had already begun formulating my 20-year-plan.
I figured that if I did end up living for another 20 years or more, it would be an aweful shame to live all that time worrying about dying tomorrow.
Besides, I joked, I “just need to live long enough for them to discover a cure.”
There is so much research going on every day, who knows what new medicines and miracle cures might be just a few years down the road?
We do not know what the future will bring. So why live expecting the worst? What a waste of our valuable time and energy.
In the past, I loved the adage “expect the worst, hope for the best, and you will never be disappointed.” Suddenly, this approach to life no longer served me well.
I shifted paradigms.
I chose to expect the best.
I chose to believe that I would live, that I would have a future.
In Parshat Nitzavim (the Biblical passages of Deuteronomy 29:9–30:20) which we read on Shabbat (the Sabbath), just before Rosh HaShanah (the Jewish new year), during the time when Jews are focussed on self-evaluation and repentence, Moshe Rabeinu (Moses, our teacher; not my husband) addresses Am Yisrael (the Jewish People) and proclaims:
הַעִדֹתִי בָכֶם הַיּוֹם, אֶת-הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֶת-הָאָרֶץ, הַחַיִּים וְהַמָּוֶת נָתַתִּי לְפָנֶיךָ, הַבְּרָכָה וְהַקְּלָלָה; וּבָחַרְתָּ בַּחַיִּים, לְמַעַן תִּחְיֶה, אַתָּה וְזַרְעֶךָ
I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before thee life and death, the blessing and the curse; therefore choose life, that thou mayest live, thou and thy seed (Deuteronomy 30:19)