Friday, June 11, 2010

What I Learned from Breast Cancer

What I've Learned From Cancer

Posted Jun 3, 2010 1:46pm

Leaving Ecstasy
By Tzvi Freeman

A favorite story of the Rebbe, central to his activist view of life:

Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the first rebbe of the Lubavitch dynasty, led the services for Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year. He stood wrapped in his prayer shawl, profoundly entranced in the cleaving of the soul to its source.

Every word of prayer he uttered was fire. His melody and fervor carried the entire community to the highest and deepest journey of the spirit.

And then he stopped. He turned, cast off his prayer shawl and left the synagogue. With a bewildered congregation chasing behind, he walked briskly to the outskirts of town, to a small dark house from where was heard the cry of a newborn infant. The rabbi entered the house, chopped some wood and lit a fire in the oven, boiled some soup and cared for the mother and child that lay helpless in bed.

Then he returned to the synagogue and to the ecstasy of his prayer.

The Rebbe added:
Note that the rabbi removed his prayer shawl. To help someone, you must leave your world, no matter how serene, to enter the place where that person lives.

By Tzvi Freeman
From the wisdom of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, of righteous memory; words and condensation by Tzvi Freeman. To order Tzvi's book, "Bringing Heaven Down to Earth, go here: Rabbi Freeman is available for public speaking and workshops. Read more on his bio page

Tzvi Freeman is one of those Yiddishe Kops that grew up in American culture and yet didn't go on to elucidate Buddhism, like so many other Yiddishe Kops (Stephen Levine, ad infinitum). I love him. And it's now ok for me to say that I mourn for our losses in America to Buddhism. It's ok for me to be proud of my heritage and even say out loud, "I think Judaism is the best religion!"

I could never have said that out loud before learning from Chabad. Jews post-Holocaust are afraid to claim chosenness or to show pride - makes us too visible. But I've learned that my heritage has sooooo much to be proud of. And it's totally fine to have a preference in religion! I prefer to learn about Judaism through Chabad, for example. I think it's the best and that's why I do it. Everyone has their own path that they consider "best", otherwise, why would they follow it?????? It's only the politically correct who have a problem with the notion of saying theirs is best...and Jews who have learned anti-Semitism from the culture think that claiming choseness is just embarrassing - but if they ever learned what being chosen really means, there's no question they'd believe in it...

Anyway, this morning I was thinking about how much I learned from my cancer and then read Tzvi's Daily Dose and it struck a cord on that theme.
It's important to make a fire with your prayers but when there's a mitzvah to do, you can/should also make a fire with your own hands - even on the Shabbos of all Shabboses, Yom Kippur, you can/should "work": build a fire, cut and carry wood, (if you don't know: those things are always forbidden on a day of rest).

There is fire in a mitzvah - even when it's not one of the mitzvot that obviously connect us to G-d through prayer or ritual or worship. Doing something loving for someone else is a way of connecting G-d to earth, just as powerful (and as full of fire) as praying on the holiest of all days. Even though Tzvi titled his Daily Dose, "Leaving Ecstasy", I find that doing a loving act for someone else brings with it that same ecstasy. And like the rebbe added, you take off your tallis (prayer shawl) to go into the trenches but I want to also add that when you go into the trenches, you transform everyone there into a holy tallit!!!

That's the main thing I've learned from this: love shared with family members, relatives, friends, co-workers, etc., is the best and most important/rewarding thing in life. Everything else pales in comparison. But especially doing loving acts with family is the highest of all ecstasies. The connections I've made with Aimee, Jason & Geoff in the past year have been the most "firey" and Divine.

Here are some other things that I have learned:
* frozen blueberries, soy milk, home-made granola, whey protein powder and ground flax seeds, make a delicious, healthy breakfast.
* cinnamon, cardamom, clove, coriander, nutmeg, turmeric, rosemary and other spices have anti-cancer properties and regulate the NF-kb (?) the master switch that controls turning on or off cancer (I think??? Anyway, I know it's an important thing but really don't know a lot about it).
* spices taste delicious with every meal.
* curry is delicious too and is something that has lots of turmeric in it.
* cabbage & lentils can be made into tons of different kinds of salads that can be eaten throughout the week.
* soy milk is fine, as long as I get the whole kind found on the refrigerator shelf.
* green tea comes in chai flavors, so I get a 2 for one punch.
* broccoli and tomatoes work together when cooked and pack a better punch than either alone and they taste great with garlic and thyme and a bit of Parmesan cheese.
* 3 brazil nuts a day can substitute for a cookie and give you your daily dose of selenium.
* organic apples can substitute for a cookie and are great with cinnamon on them which adds more cancer fighting in my sweet snack.
* even rainy days on your birthday are beautiful.
* when you're really wiped out, just sitting in bed watching one TV show can restore you.
* taking medicine when you're suffering is actually a good thing to do for your self-care.
* you don't need to suffer.
* you can enjoy wearing falsies if you don't want to be reminded of your cancer every time you look in the mirror - and getting a comfortable bra is possible.
* you don't need to work harder than you can handle emotionally.
* it's more important to not be tired from work than to make extra money because when you are not too emotionally exhausted, you can better deal with family work and stay close to family members.
* I can plan to go on a trip with just Jason and Aimee, leaving Geoff at home...he'll be ok taking care of his parents and Summer. I have the power to make fun plans for myself.
* I don't need to blame Geoff for all my problems or for giving me cancer and I don't have to blame myself either.
* I'm sure there are more things I've learned but that's all off the top of my head for now...

Blood test results coming soon - and we're saving $3K because I finally got my oncologist to say that there's probably a 1% chance we'd find anything in a scan right now. Phew! Putting that off for another 6 months is a relief in more ways than one.

Hope you are all doing well and enjoying the Spring!
BTW, I now have very curly hair!