June 16th, 2013

The Shehecheyanu blessing (Hebrew: שהחינו‎, “Who has given us life”) is a common Jewish prayer said to celebrate special occasions. It is said to be thankful for new and unusual experiences.[1] The blessing has been recited by Jews for nearly 2000 years. It comes from the Talmud. — from Wikipedia

During the six months in between my diagnosis in September 2009 and the day I got re-staged after my mastectomies in March 2010, I pondered my mortality on an almost daily basis. My oncologist was never less than honest with me, so I knew the facts on the ground.

If the chemo didn’t work, my stage III aggressive cancer gave me a 10% chance of being alive in 5 years. We wouldn’t know how well it worked until they surgically removed the cancerous breast and did a pathology study of it.

When she gave me this dire news, one of the first dates I calculated was my eldest daughter’s bat mitzvah, about 3 1/2 years out.

I needed the chemo to work. If it didn’t, I very likely would not live to see that day. If, despite failed chemo, I managed to hit the outside range of the life expectancy and make it to that day, I would very likely be seriously ill: the mom doing a hora in a wheelchair.

When I suffered side effects, when I really felt like I could not continue after the allergic reaction in the 4th dose, when I thought I could not endure any more assaults to my poor system, I would think about these odds and how much I needed to change them, and I would climb back in the chemo chair and subject myself to another round of hell.

When my pathology report came back, I was re-staged as Stage I, dramatically changing my prognosis. My 6 cm tumor had melted away to less than 1 cm, giving me a 90% chance of living 5 years.


Last weekend, I got to see the day that frequently preoccupied my heartbroken ponderings of my mortality and inspired me to persevere.

The prayer referred to at the start of this post, the shehecheyanu, is one that we say any time we feel gratitude for a moment, particularly for firsts.

I had been told by other parents that I would not believe the unbridled joy and pride of seeing my daughter through this first rite of passage.


They were right. In addition to my awe for the young woman she is becoming, I felt like the day was one enormous shehecheyanu. I did not take my presence for granted. Alongside the joy and pride I felt in my daughter, my heart was overfull with gratitude. Throughout the weekend, the prayer would play like a soundtrack in my mind, bringing tears to my eyes.

Blessed are you, Lord our G-d, who has granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this occasion.

And to this I say, Amen.



This entry was posted on Sunday, June 16th, 2013 at 12:41 pm and is filed under Survivorship. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

12 Responses to “Shehecheyanu”

  1. June 16, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    In Polish there is a traditional song that is sung for very special events like weddings celebrations, birthdays etc. I am leaving you the words Wishing you love of family..XX
    It goes like this…..

    Sto lat, sto lat,
    Niech żyje, żyje nam.
    Sto lat, sto lat,
    Niech żyje, żyje nam,
    Jeszcze raz, jeszcze raz, niech żyje, żyje nam,
    Niech żyje nam!


    A hundred years, a hundred years
    may he/ she live, live for us.
    A hundred years, a hundred years,
    may he/she live, live for us.
    One more time, one more time, may he/she live, live for us
    may he/she live for us!

    It’s short in words but the words sincere….
    Long life to your whole family. May your daughter Be Blessed .
    Love Alli…..
    (formerly Life In Transition)

  2. June 16, 2013 at 4:58 pm

    Amen indeed!!! She is the very best of both of you. May you all be blessed abundantly.
    Sending lovelovelove,

  3. June 16, 2013 at 9:20 pm

    Mazel tov to the entire mispachah. I’m so glad you got to experience this.

  4. Melissa
    June 17, 2013 at 5:18 am

    Mazel tov! I am 9 years out from a stage IIIC diagnosis — amazingly, disease-free! — and 1.5 years from the Bar Mitzvah of my eldest. I can relate.

  5. June 17, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    Such joy:)

    It’s hard to describe gratitude without sounding like a Hallmark card. But you’ve done so. This is a post and day to cherish.


  6. June 17, 2013 at 3:00 pm

    I’m all goosebumps. What a wonderful moment.

  7. June 17, 2013 at 4:24 pm

    Your family is beautiful and the joy on your face jumps right through! THIS thrills me.


  8. June 18, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    I love your words in this post. I love the photos too. Your family is just beautiful. I’m so happy for you. Thank you so much for sharing this treasure with us.

  9. John Paul
    August 19, 2013 at 10:47 am

    Great article! I’m interested in learning how to help people in my town receiving cancer treatment or who have family members going through it.

    What are your big fears or frustrations? What have you tried that hasn’t worked? What do you need help with?

    Please email me at or

  10. September 5, 2013 at 2:44 pm

    Great post!

    At less than thirty-years old, I was just diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer. With an 8 month child, I often find myself asking will I live to see her go to graduate pre-school? Your story is so encouraging; thank you for sharing. I’ve recently started a blog as a simply way to express how I feel; I hope it will also have the power to heal another “sister” of ours.

    I look forward to learning more from you as I read through the rest of your entries. :)

  11. Yolem
    November 24, 2013 at 10:26 pm

    Hi! Courage and hope are too critical attitudes we should all have as human beings. Cancer is desease that kill a lot of people in America these days. The best way to treat this bad desease is to acknowledge it by going to the doctor and getting informations . The second step is to follow a treatment and if chirugie is required do it as early as possible. The earlier you deal with the treatment and the chirugie the better.

  12. February 26, 2014 at 11:58 pm

    Sure early detection is not a cure by any stretch, but it sure can save your life
    Read More Here

Leave a Reply

Allowed tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>