In 2009, I had a routine mammogram. As usual, I played a head game of, “If they haven’t called me by Thursday, I’m fine.” And then, “If they haven’t called me by Friday, I’m fine.” My call came the next Tuesday. “How are you, Sue?” “I think you are calling to tell me.” “Well, Sue, I’ve been talking with the breast radiologist and we think because of your ethnicity that we do additional testing. You should have a breast MRI.” “My ethnicity?” “Yes, Sue. Didn’t you know that Ashkenazi Jewish women (Eastern European descent) have a higher risk of certain breast cancers?” “No, I didn’t know. I’ll convert.” (And yes, I did tell my Rabbi I said that. He laughed.) “I don’t think that will work, Sue. It’s hereditary.” Further testing showed that I did indeed have breast cancer, and I had a double mastectomy. But it turned out I am negative for the BRCA gene. Who really knows if cancer is genetic, or something related to the environment, or simply the flying fickle finger of fate? All I know is that through the genetic testing and learning about the link with other Jewish women, I feel more connected with my Jewish heritage. I’ve never been observant but I feel a kinship with the beleaguered generations that came before me. This experience made me think about Fiddler on the Roof, when the worn-down Tevye looks up at the sky and says to G-d, "I know. We are your chosen people. But once in a while can't you choose someone else?" I was chosen. If you are reading this then you probably were, too. One of the great strengths of the Jewish people over history has been our sense of humor. You couldn't find a better time to make use of yours. Cancer is too serious not to laugh. - Susan, Wisconsin
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