Amy Rappaport
‏אמונה חיה

The importance of having regular medical check ups

I feel a sigh of relief when I sit down to write. There is the whirlwind of life that is all around me and that is inside of me. It feels good to be still and to write. It is one of the many blessings of my life.

I am writing on the laptop, but the screen is being reflected on a monitor. I like the idea of a monitor. I so appreciate my husband’s suggestion of a computer monitor. It makes me feel like I have a wide-open expansive space like the landscape in the Southwest, USA.

Coming back to where my focus is for today: being told that I have uterine cancer. Denial is a wonderful creation in part as it gives the soul, psyche, and body time to process. I had a GYN exam and a colposcopy. The results did not show any signs of malignancy. I was very grateful and relieved. The ultrasound did show that polyps were growing inside of me, but I was told that I simply needed to have a follow-up exam and that probably I am fine. I saw another gynecologist who has expertise in sexual difficulties, and she said that I should go back in about three to six months for a follow-up ultrasound. So, I went back and had a vaginal ultrasound after about four months after my initial exam. The nurse doing the ultra-sound had a difficult time getting a clear picture of my womb in the exam. I know that she was trying to do the best that she could and at the point that the exam became painful, she stopped the exam. She, fortunately, wrote down a lot and compassionately felt frustrated that she did not get an accurate ultrasound and told me that I needed to come back to do another exam.

The ultrasound nurse spoke to me in English. I am always thankful when people speak English in my current homeland of Israel. To be having this whole experience in a land where the native language of Hebrew has made it even more challenging. I did think of getting on a plane and returning to America. I am certainly slowly learning Hebrew but for those of us who find learning languages difficult, Hebrew is up there with challenging languages to learn. Je parle français, mais l’hébreu est une toute autre histoire! Mind you, it is a miraculous feeling to be able to read and understand Hebrew whilst in a shul; or when someone is speaking, and I can understand most of what they are saying (if they are willing to speak slowly). I feel that God translates what people are saying to me sometimes because I don’t understand all the words. I feel overwhelmed, confused, frightened, and lost (sometimes more sometimes less) when people are speaking to me in Hebrew as I do not understand. I love my courage for living through this experience. I am grateful for all of the miracles that have happened along the way.

So, I went in for the follow-up exam with the extraordinary Professor Asher Shushan. Everything looked good and he said that I should come back in a year. Again, I had a huge feeling of relief. I went home and started to bleed after the ultrasound. I made another appointment with Prof. Shushan. He said that it was probably the result of the ultrasound, as bleeding sometimes results. He said to keep him posted.

Because I was bleeding, I looked for American-style maxi-pads that were naturally made. I remember cotton pads that I think were called moon pads that I used to wear. They are probably in Jerusalem somewhere! Just another part of the adjustment to making my home in Israel….but that is a story for another day, God willing. My blessed husband, my blessed cousin, and my blessed friends were all reassuring and said I will be fine. My blessed ACA sponsor reminded me that God will be with me no matter what happened.

Then I started bleeding again. I felt so frightened but still hopeful. I have post-traumatic stress disorder from childhood. I live with fear and anxiety that are overwhelming at times. It is not easy for my husband and me to live with my fear and anxiety. It can be dominating and overwhelming. As they say in 12 steps, “one day at a time”. Sometimes, especially lately, it is more like one moment at a time.
I came back to see Professor Shushan because I was bleeding again. This time I was the one who asked if we needed to do an exam to see what was going on. Due to my history of trauma, gynecological exams are uncomfortable and sometimes painful. In his reassuring and calm manner, Prof. Shushan said that he needed to do an exam and try possibly try to remove the polyps. At first, Prof Shushan told me to go to the hospital to schedule a colposcopy. I went upstairs to make an appointment with the hospital and my intuition felt strongly to ask my husband to go back downstairs to tell Professor Shushan if at all possible I would love to see him rather than go to the hospital and how long exactly would I be able to wait to see him. Thank God he is a man of deep compassion, he looked at his schedule and said I could see him in an hour.

God blessed Professor Shushan with a magnificent mind and he decided to take a biopsy. He showed me the tube with a concerned look at the sample from my uterus. He told me that he wrote the word דחוף which means urgent, on the bag of the sample. This is one of the many actions that Prof. Shushan did which reveal his true compassion and wisdom.

I was a clinical social worker for twenty-five years. At the beginning of my working years, I was told that I had too much compassion and love for my clients by some people. Other people told me that they loved how I felt genuine love for my clients. The people who said that I loved too much thought that I would “burn out” after a year or so. In fact, it was the opposite. I was able to work as a social worker for many years because God blessed me with the ability to love. My first husband was drawn to me because of the way I loved him, which says everything about him.

About one week later, Professor Shushan called me up and asked me to come into the office. He at first left me a voicemail early in the morning. I did not want to answer the phone. He called back a second time. He is indeed a man of compassion. He wanted to make sure he reached me. I felt surreal. I was not ready to think about the reality that if he is calling me into his office that something must not be right. I asked him if I needed to make an appointment. He said I did not and that I should just come in.

My husband and I came into his office and he made time and space for me. I did not feel at all rushed. He told me that the results of the biopsy came back and showed that I have uterine cancer. He explained that I needed a CT scan to know for sure but that if cancer did not spread that I could have a laparoscopy. We are souls in physical bodies.

I was so frighted about the surgery. I continue to bring myself back to God and continue to try to think positive thoughts. It was not easy to stay connected to God, but I continued to pray. Being surrounded by love and being told to focus on the positive. Some dear friends gave me the advice to try alternative healing. Yes, there is part of me that would love to have the miracle of having cancer inside of me just disappear, and not do surgery. Like all of us, we have the God-given ability to make decisions. Though I am chose the path of surgery and trusting my doctor and learning to accept that there is a lot that I have no control over “Let Go and Let God”, I certainly believe in the importance of prayer, deepening one’s spiritual life, changing one’s diet (I took the advice of a naturopath I saw: no sugar, fresh fruits, and vegetables, one liter of water per day, no red meat, no dairy (right after we bought delicious tasting goat cheese which is one of my favorites), trusting my intuition, exercise, reading, and being positive.

One of the main reasons why I am writing this is to share with you my experience and to encourage people to see the doctor for regular check-ups. In Israel, we are blessed to have magnificent medical coverage. I encourage you that if you or a loved one is in the same situation of being told you have uterine cancer, to know that my experience, strength, and hope (as is taught by ACA) is to trust the Divine Intuition God gives us. Yes, because I am so prone and susceptible to my fear, to my thinking “what if”….to be filled with swarming “what ifs” that every time I think this that I pray. I pray and ask God to heal me, help me cope, to strengthen my faith. My understanding from what I have learned from my Jewish faith is that God wants us to reach out to God.

To be continued….but one quick update, if one has to go for pre-surgery, be prepared….rest and bring food and water…..more about Yad L’Olim, the kind Arabic man on the bus, having two notebooks of medical folders and more …God willing, next time.

I welcome your comments.

About the Author
Amy Rappaport made Aliyah in September of 2018. Her grandparents always dreamed of coming to Israel so Amy wanted to make Aliyah in honour of them. She's been a Zionist since she was a teenager. Though there are many aspects of living in Israel that are difficult for her (it takes her a long time to learn a new language), she loves it here and has chosen to make Israel her home.
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