Living With Breast Cancer: The Healing Power of Mikvah

Living With Breast Cancer: The Healing Power of Mikvah

Rosalie, a woman from Indiana living with metastatic breast cancer, heard about the idea of the mikvah’s spiritually cleansing waters. She had never been to a mikvah before, yet she felt compelled to connect with the spiritual power of this unique mitzvah. She felt a strong desire to tap into the strength of Jewish women, throughout history, who have immersed in these waters.

Rosalie spoke with a rabbi, a mikvah attendant, and Shera Dubitsky, Sharsheret’s Clinical Supervisor. She asked that Shera be her guide for this new experience and flew to New Jersey within weeks of making this decision.

Her body bore the brunt of her illness; she had scars from the multiple surgeries that left her without a breast and she was visibly weak. As Rosalie prepared for immersion, Shera, too, needed to prepare spiritually and emotionally for the experience. Rosalie emerged from the room ready for immersion. Shera held Rosalie’s robe above her eyes so that she could immerse with dignity and privacy. Rosalie dipped her entire body beneath the waters and stayed submerged for several moments.

When she emerged, she began to sing Yedid Nefesh (Beloved of the Soul). Rosalie was an opera singer; a soprano. Hearing Rosalie’s voice reverberating off the mikvah walls was one of the most magnificent sounds Shera had ever heard. Rosalie asked Shera to sing with her and as they sang together, Shera felt the light of Rosalie’s soul shine brightly in the room. Shera often wonders how the other women preparing for mikvah at that time were touched and changed by hearing Rosalie’s voice. Once again, she held the robe above her eyes as Rosalie ascended the steps from the mikvah. She hugged Shera and as she did, Shera felt Rosalie’s renewed energy. Rosalie was grateful for this experience. As they both cried, she whispered in Shera’s ear, “For the first time in months, I feel hopeful. There is a plan.”

Sharsheret is a national organization that supports young Jewish women and families facing breast and ovarian cancer at every stage- before, during and after diagnosis.  Our name, Sharsheret, means “chain” in Hebrew and represents the strong nurturing connections we build to support Jewish women and their families at every stage of breast cancer and ovarian cancer. We help women and families connect to our community in the way that feels most comfortable, taking into consideration their stage of life, diagnosis, or treatment, as well as their connection to Judaism.  We also provide educational resources and create programs for women and families to improve their quality of life.  Sharsheret is a growing community of women and families. Together, we are creating a chain of strong links that reaches across the country so that no woman or family of Jewish descent needs to face the challenges of breast cancer or ovarian cancer alone.

 

We understand that young Jewish women have unique concerns when it comes to breast cancer and ovarian cancer, and we are the only organization that specializes in serving them.  Our 11 programs are free and easy to access, from Boston to Burbank, from Milwaukee to Miami, Sharsheret is there. Among the services Sharsheret offers are a peer support program, the opportunity to speak with a genetic counselor about breast cancer gene mutation concerns, and an educational booklet series about breast cancer and ovarian cancer including Breast Cancer and the Ritual Bath: A Guide for Mikvah Attendants, and Facing Breast Cancer as a Jewish Woman.

Rosalie’s mikvah experience is one of many stories from Sharsheret’s community.  Whether returning to the mikvah after breast cancer surgery or using it for the first time, women often experience a range of emotions.  How a mikvah attendant responds to a woman who has faced breast cancer will often make the difference in how comfortable she feels.  Visit www.sharsheret.org, e-mail us at info@sharsheret.org or call us at 866.474.2774 to learn more about our national programs and order our educational booklets for your mikvah.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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