Mastectomy Sabbath

I’ve already admitted that I’m thinking way too much about my own sabbath (vs. seeing to it that my fallow land benefits someone else, as the jubilee scriptures taught).  Guilty as charged.

That out of the way, I have to confess that the only time in my life I have felt entirely justified in doing nothing, in having a major sabbath, was when I had my breast removed.  And that’s a little sick.

I had breast cancer when I was 34.  My kids were 3, 5 and 8.  I spent almost a week in the hospital (a rarity these days, it seems when women are supposed to endure mastectomies like splinter-removals).  

And I loved it.  I bought a new night-gown and robe (crisp linen, bold stripes), I put on make-up for visitors and held court. I read what I wanted to all day long.  I enjoyed hospital mystery meat and jello in their own compartments on the tray, because I mostly ate it alone with my husband.   I parented for about 30 minutes a day when the kids visited. It was lovely.

Let me hasten to add that my diagnosis was quite mild in terms of cancer.  I knew early on that my prognosis was good.  I want to leave no cancer patients aghast at my cavalier attitude, for truly my cancer was not as serious as yours, whoever you are.  Thus I’m not trying to minimize the horrors and fear inherent in a cancer diagnosis.  My cancer was truly “minor” and also I was a bit “off” in my reaction to cancer.  I minimized and denied and compartmentalized.  But that’s another story.

The story here is that I had such a hard time saying no to things in those days that I was relieved to have a good excuse. Believe me, there is nothing that stops a PTA lady in her tracks like hearing, “No, I can’t bake brownies for the bake sale; I’m having a mastectomy that day.”  It works, people.  Just try it.  No reply of “Not even one batch?” will await you.

You will be home free.  As was I.

I’ve learned better how to say “no” when I mean it and “yes” when I mean it (something to do with that verse, Proverbs 29:25 which reads “Fear of man will prove to be a snare but he who trusts in the Lord will be kept safe.”).  Yet never since that mastectomy has there been a time when I felt truly, completely, entirely and utterly free to enjoy sabbath time.

And that makes me sad.

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