The Doctors Say I'm Dying! Health Concerns
By Sarah Zadok
I received some very upsetting news this week. A few years ago I was diagnosed with a terminal illness but was told that I had at least another twenty years to live. Last week at my appointment, I was told that things had changed and I had at best another year or two left. I am only twenty years old! I don’t know how I can have faith or believe in G‑d when this is happening to me. I feel like He has forgotten me. I am not even scared of death, I am scared of not knowing what to do with the time I have left. I just feel so lost and don’t know how to stay positive. Please help.
Los Angeles, CA
Thank you so much for writing. I was very touched by your letter, and find myself humbled to be responding. You mention above that you are beginning to think that G‑d has forgotten you… my feeling is, with all that you have had to deal with in the last few years, the challenges that He has given you, He so clearly remembers and has chosen you as worthy of victory. Challenges that arise in our lives are like a workout for our soul. G‑d has given you some heavy spiritual weight lifting to do (and some profound physical weight to bare as well). He obviously sees you as fit for the test. He chose this for you. And while this is anything but easy, living your life to its fullest is not only possible, it is essential.
There is a beautiful allusion regarding the tests that we go through in our lives. In Hebrew, the word for test is nisayon. At the root of this word is the word nes which is “miracle.” What this is teaching us is that at the core of every test is the potential for a miracle. The miraculous possibility is already there, hidden, but there. As difficult as things are, you are alive. That is itself a blessing. And every minute that each of us is granted is a minute in which things can change instantaneously. This same way you suddenly received such terrible news, you can just as quickly have everything change again.
There is no question that you received some very harsh news this past week, yet I want to share a few ideas with you about your prognosis. We say every day in our prayers “R’faianu, Hashem, V’narafey.” “Heal us G‑d, and we will be healed.” We have to know that this is not just lip service… it is the truth. Our Creator is our healer; not our doctors, not the medicine we take. Trusting that G‑d is all knowing, all powerful and entirely capable of providing health and well being to anyone at anytime is an integral part of the healing process.
A doctor is only an instrument of healing. G‑d uses doctors as His messengers in this world to help facilitate health. A doctor cannot predict, cannot cure and cannot heal with his own power; only G‑d himself can provide the cure.
There is a famous physician and author named Bernie Segal who has a remarkable quote about faith and hope; he says, “It is better to give false hope than it is to give false ‘no hope.’” It sounds to me that you received an overwhelming dose of what very well may be ‘false no hope.’ We cannot possibly know what kind of healing or medical miracles G‑d has in store for you.
Positive thought creates an environment that is conducive for healing. In modern lingo it is called the psychosomatic relationship. Focus on that relationship between your mind and your body and plug in positive-hopeful messages.
In response to a letter he received about a certain doctor’s prognosis, the Lubavitcher Rebbe responded, “With regard to a particular situation – it is impossible to know clearly and with certainty [about the eventual outcome]. Clearly, the pronouncement of the doctor that the situation is hopeless is definitely out of place. At the very most he can say – and indeed all that a human being is capable of saying- that he does not take responsibility for the future, but he can say no more than that.” (Igrot Hakodesh, Vol. XX,p.183.)
Ultimately, we all have a time limit for our time in this world. Our job is to accomplish as much as possible in the time that we do have. As mentioned above, no one can tell you when that time is up. So, the challenge becomes sanctifying each day, and living each day to its fullest. This can only be accomplished through bitachon – trust in G‑d. You don’t need to focus on dying; you need to focus on living. I encourage you to find things to do each day that bring you (and others) joy and meaning.
G‑d has not and cannot forget you. You are His daughter, His creation. Your soul is an actual piece of G‑d. He is with you. Talk to Him, connect with Him, and cry to Him. Demand healing from Him.
I send you blessings for a complete and speedy recovery. And may G‑d give you the strength to find Him everywhere, and may you merit true and revealed miracles.