Sunday, November 1, 2015

I Didn't Forget About Lech L'cha

Dear The Mums,

I hope you didn't think that I forgot about Lech L'cha last week. Of course not! I've been so busy going forth into new things, that I've barely had time to  think, let alone write.

Here are seven places to which I've gone forth in recent weeks and months:
  1. Last week, I went forth to Congregation B'nai Yisrael for the installation of this rabbi.

  2. Earlier that same day day, I went forth into TV land, to tape this show, which aired last Sunday. 

  3. This past Friday, I went forth to my own congregation for the installation of this rabbi.

  4. Back in July, I went forth into a new position -- as the editor of the URJ's Ten Minutes of Torah -- although I still have almost all of the responsibilities from my previous position, so I've been Lech L'cha-ing (read pedaling) as fast as I can, but it generally takes 10-12 hours a day just to stay afloat -- and forget about taking any time off.

  5. Also in July, right after I took over the Ten Minutes of Torah role, I went forth to Gambier, OH, home of Kenyon College for Beyond Walls: Spiritual Writing as Kenyon, a six-day writing seminar for clergy, seminarians, and others who write in religious organizations. Part of the Kenyon Institute, the seminar proved to be an incredible week of friendship, fellowship, thinking, and writing, and last night I submitted my application to return in 2016.

  6. On Tuesday, I'm going forth to Orlando for the URJ Biennial. A whole new team (and an outside company, too) is putting the convention together, and although I can't remember the details, I don't even think the Shabbat dinner options include chicken, fish, and veggie anymore. Whatever...  I'll be focusing on the social media and messaging aspects of the convention -- a whole new realm of work for me.

  7. In preparation for the trip, I'm currently going forth and back to the laundry room, watering the plants, stopping the paper, and preparing to pack for a spot that's going to 90 degrees when I arrive...and 72 and florescent in the place where I'll be spending the majority of my time. I know I'll see friends and colleagues of yours from the URJ board, which will, no doubt, bring to mind a bittersweet mix of memories from past Biennials...Minneapolis, Houston, San Diego, Toronto... and since you've been gone... Washington, DC, San Diego, and now Orlando. Even though you're always with me, I miss you more at these gatherings than at other times -- perhaps because I know how you loved them, or perhaps because "When we are weary and in need of strength; We remember them." Actually, I think it's both...
In any case, the timer just went off, reminding me to go forth, yet again, to the basement to put my clothes in the dryer.

~ Boo!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Four Key Reasons the American Cancer Society's New Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines Aren't Up to Snuff

Earlier this week, the American Cancer Society changed its guidelines about breast cancer screening for women. The ACS now recommends starting annual mammography at 45 instead of 40, and decreasing the screening to once every two years for women over 55. The organization also would have physicians forego clinical breast exams.

These recommendations are problematic for four key reasons:

  1. Among women who are at average risk of breast cancer, the biggest risk factor is age. Why, then, would you increase the age at which you begin screening for the disease? Indeed, the incidence of breast cancer increases among women in their 40s, accounting for one in six cases of the disease among women in this demographic.  Additionally, mammograms can be a tool for early detection, which studies have shown results in less invasive therapies, increased quality of life, increased years of life, better prognoses, and overall better outcomes.
  2. Although the ACS screening guidelines for women at high risk for cancer have not changed, the reality is that the vast majority of these women have no family history of breast cancer and as a result they are totally unaware that they are at increased risk. For this population especially, -- even if they don't know who they are -- annual screening beginning at age 40 is critically important
  3. Having so many different sets of screening guidelines from various cancer and medical organizations -- especially because they're not consistent with one another -- is confusing for both patients and their doctors. What's more, although none of the guidelines is binding, they can be used by insurance companies to restrict accessibility and coverage for mammography, erecting barriers where fewer existed before
  4. Clinical breast exams are quick, easy, and non-invasive, and there's no reason not to do them. In fact, for younger women and those in remote and rural parts of the country, they may be the only screening option readily available.
For these reasons and so many others it's important that women be strong advocates for their own health and avail themselves of resources and guidance to help them develop an individual breast cancer screening plan that works best for them.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

So Much Anger...

Last Sunday, incredulous about something I'd seen, I put this post up on Facebook:
Ironic sight of the day: two medical professionals smoking across the street from NYU Langone Medical Center. Printed on the back of their sweatshirts? Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery. 
A friend suggested I re-post it on the hospital's website or Facebook page. It seemed like a good idea so I added a brief introduction and posted this:
This post is from my own FB timeline, but a friend suggested that I also post it here, so I have. It's not a reflection on the medical center, but rather an observation about two of its employees. Nothing more:
Ironic sight of the day: two medical professionals smoking across the street from NYU Langone Medical Center. Printed on the back of their sweatshirts? Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery.
The next day I received an email from Facebook that someone named Edward Leung had commented on the post. I don't know Edward Leung, but what a bitter, angry person he must be to have felt the need to write this:
Reflection of the employees? Just because a person smokes a cigarette, doesn't mean they're bad people. There's a lot more bad people who DON'T smoke. So... Why don't you take your idiotic sight of the day and blow a f***ing grip, b**ch.
Thankfully by the time I opened the email and clicked on the post, the hospital's social media staff had removed it, leaving only this other, now-meaningless post from Mr. Leung:
The ret**rd is strong with this one.
Thanks, Mr. Leung, for the poignant reminder of how unbecoming anger -- most especially unwarranted anger -- can be.  

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Why I Keep Telling My BRCA Story

Recently, I was invited to write about my BRCA journey for Invitae, a genetic information company, as part of a campaign to inform and inspire people to understand the impact of hereditary breast cancer. The hope is that these stories will jump-start a Facebook conversation about hereditary cancer.

In recognition of Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer (HBOC) Week, which bridges ovarian cancer awareness month in September with breast cancer awareness month in October, I am pleased to share the piece I wrote for Invitae.

Although I tell my BRCA story again and again, it never seems to get old. There are always new people to hear it, and its potential to change the trajectory of just one person’s life makes the telling and the retelling – and all the sharing – worth it.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

How a Single High Holiday Tweet May Lead Me to a New Bagel Shop

Last week, unlike most others, was a multi-bagel week for me.

The first was my usual Shabbos bagel, enjoyed, as it is each week, during Torah study.

The second was my annual break-the-fast bagel. Layered with cream cheese, lox, and a slice of home-grown tomato, and washed down with the steaming coffee I'd been dreaming about all day, it marked the perfect end to a long, exhausting, and spiritually fulfilling day.

And then there were the bagel tweets.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

#BlogElul 29: Return

Once again, we've returned to the brink of a new year.

Thanks to #BlogElul, I've spent the last 29 days (or most of them, anyway) thinking about and reflecting upon my actions and reactions during the last year.

Moving forward, there are situations to which I hope to return again and again and again.

Others, not so much.

Here's hoping that 5776 returns all of us to times of joy, laughter, and opportunities to act in ways that make us proud.

When it returns us to situations in which we've missed the mark or are less than proud of our past behaviors, it's as though life's granting us a "do over," a chance to remember the lessons of Elul, and an opportunity to be our better selves.

May you be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life for a good and sweet year.  Shana tova u'metuka.  

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima, this #BlogElul post is one in a series marking the days of the Hebrew month of Elul, which precedes the Jewish High Holidays and traditionally serves as a time of reflection and spiritual preparation for the new year. 

Friday, September 11, 2015

#BlogElul 28: Five Things to Give a Hoot About in 5776

  1. Identify an issue you care about -- hunger, poverty, voting rights, Alzheimer's, it doesn't really mater -- and get up on your soapbox every so often to give the cause your time, energy or expertise.
  1. Give someone a break: Buy a stranger or a homeless person a cup of coffee. Pay the toll for the driver behind you, swipe someone into the subway on your Metrocard.
  1. Give a donation. It doesn't have to be a big one, but, like it our not, money's what makes the world go around. There are countless worthy causes, all of which can use our support. Pick one and write a check or donate online.
  1. Give thanks for the good you can do: help a neighbor, call a friend, smile at someone in the elevator, make a batch of chicken soup for your colleague with the flu.
  1. Give yourself some slack: sleep in, read a book, leave the office before six, treat yourself to deli flowers. Be as good to yourself as you are to others.
Baruch ata Adonai Eloheinu melech haolam, for enabling me to give financially, emotionally and in all other ways -- to myself and to others. 

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima, this #BlogElul post is one in a series marking the days of the Hebrew month of Elul, which precedes the Jewish High Holidays and traditionally serves as a time of reflection and spiritual preparation for the new year.