Sarah Zadok

Thanks for the Mammaries

When you're having that medical test, the one where you find out if you're gonna die, at which point do you call your mother?
(illustrative image via Shutterstock)
(illustrative image via Shutterstock)

I’m on my way to get an ultrasound.

Of my boobs.

I am trying to stay cool and collected, and remember the doc’s emphasis about this being a “precautionary measure just to confirm that everything is fine,” but my heart has gone rogue and abandoned rationale in favor of palpitation and shortness of breath.

I believe this is what the experts call anxiety.

My heart feels thin – like it’s been pressed between two slabs of steel. I’m jumpy and edgy, and I have a constant, high pitched ringing in my ears.

I’m like a she-wolf on all-night security detail; hyper-acute, tingling with anticipation and readiness.  Ready for what exactly, I’m not totally sure. But, to be certain, I am ready to move from the place I have been for the last six days since the general surgeon felt me up in his office.

I strive to keep stress and anxiety to a minimum in my life. It ain’t easy, but I practice a lot. I eat pretty well, try to smile enough, sweat enough, and sleep enough. I love and am loved by a lot of wonderful people, ever-ready to talk me down from whatever mental ledge I may be straddling.

And, when I need to bring in the Big Guns, I call my Mom.

It’s a Big Gun day.

But today, I hesitate, because I have reached the unfortunate maturity level that allows me to understand that calling my Mom without hard data to share, and exposing her heart to the steel slabs of vulnerability, hovers slightly north of down-right cruel.

So, I cowgirl up, and decide to call when this is over and tell her about how it was, rather than how it is. I make this choice because I am a Mom. I know what it is like to choke on my own heart. The relatively mild fear I have for myself now is like a deep-tissue massage next to the pain and fear that would surely rip through my heart if I was feeling this level of anxiety for my daughter.

Plus, she lives in New Jersey, I live in the Golan Heights. If we lived close to each other, she’d be in on it all, supporting me like the rock she is and has always been. Heck, she’d be driving me to the appointment. But our long distance delay allows me to offer her this small kindness, a gift voucher to not worry about me today. Happy Mother’s Day Mom!

No. I’m not calling.

I’ll call after the doctor tells me everything is fine. In the meantime, I’ll avoid her phone calls, because if she asks me, “Hey honey, how are you?” I will lose it.  And that is not an option I’m willing to indulge right now.

I try to pray and connect to something greater than myself. It takes the strength of both of my hands to push away the darkness that is bleeding all over my perspective. My prayer feels hallow and unattached. I try to connect myself to the beautiful view of the Galilee outside my car window, but all I see is G-d showing off with His perfect blue skies and His rolling green hills. And it makes me feel smaller than I care to feel.

And then, I’m here, waiting for my turn in a dowdy hospital clinic just outside of Tiberias.


I sit, fidgety, on a blue plastic chair. I smell cigarette smoke in the distance and wonder about the door with the yellow and black “Radioactive” sticker. That can’t be good feng shui.

The technician is honey sweet. Her name translates from Hebrew to “My Light.” She has an unhurried smile. She makes me feel a little bigger.

She turns around while I undress and asks about where I’m from as she presses the cold gel on the ultrasound wand deep into my skin. I tell her this summer will be my 14th year in Israel. I tell her I have five children, and yes, I breastfed them all.

Then, without regard for transitions, I say, “So, um, are you allowed to tell me what you see?”

“No, the doctor will tell you when I’ve finished and he’s read the results. But, I don’t think you should worry at all.”


There it is: raw, accessible Hope.

Grab it Sarah! Own that! Run away with it! I want her words to be enough to lift the steel from my chest.

It’s almost enough.

What’s really enough, of course, is the doc’s news later that day, that confirms that “there are no unusual findings.” It’s like he closes the release valve on my heart. I wonder if he could hear my heart begin to inflate? Did my cheeks get pinker? My blood pressure more stable?


I am happy. I am relieved. I am grateful. And now, in the absence of fear, my prayer finds some gravity.

And so, with all the strength that I own and some that I’ve borrowed, I pray for women worldwide in the waiting place. I pray for their children, I pray for their parents, their husbands and lovers. Find your Big Guns, I whisper. Use them often and indiscriminately. Please G-d, I pray, let us all find our rise, and may we all know only revealed kindness and mercy at every turn.

Then I call my Mom.

About the Author
Sarah Zadok is a Jewish educator and lecturer, and a freelance writer. See more of her work at She lives in the Golan Heights with her husband and five children. Her life’s playlist includes Shlomo Katz, Mumford and Sons and Janis Joplin (she finds no conflict in that).