CANCER!! The most hated word in the English language. Waves of fear and trembling wash over just about everyone who receives this diagnosis.
Rewind to winter 1994 in Ithaca, NY. I meet with tall, dark and handsome surgeon Dr. Ferrer about a matter that was quickly moved off the table when I inquired about a small hard lump just above my right collarbone. I had this for at least a year but always forgot to ask our family doctor about it.
“So Dr. Ferrer, what do you think this is?”
“I don’t know but whatever it is I don’t like it and would like that biopsied asap”.
We quickly set up a hospital appointment to find out more. Our son had an out of town hockey game and I insisted that John take him and I would follow up later. That never happened. In the O.R. I’m given a local anesthetic and the digout soon ensued. At first all was well but began to feel the scalpel and jerked when I felt it. They asked…”Are you feeling that?” “Yeah, can’t you tell by the body imprint I left on the ceiling?” The team was stunned and more anesthetic was given to complete the task.
In the recovery room Dr. Ferrer arrives with bad and good news.
“Mrs. Janovsky you have stage 2 papillary thyroid cancer…but the good news is that it is highly curable” I might have had a meltdown were it not for that “highly curable” prognosis. It stopped me from spiraling down into fears of ultimate death preceded by long periods of treatment. I’ve never been afraid of dying as much as just HOW I would die…in pain? pain-free? I was more worried about the reactions of my family, and in my mind composed a little speech I would give them to calm any fears. I couldn’t drive myself home so Dr. Ferrer’s assistant, who was a member of my church drove me home. Later John and I retrieved our car. The family accepted my news calmly.
D-Day arrived in late March. In the O.R., on the table I start to feel the anesthesia kick in. Slowly my body turned to lead, getting heavier and heavier every second. Except for my head, I did not feel my body at all. I was like a dismembered head on the table. It was so, so surreal. Like something out of a B horror movie “The Brain that Would not die”, as I saw my head in a bell jar with electrostatic waves emanating from my head.
The surgery over I breathed a sigh of relief, but there was more to come in my recovery.
The doctor came in to see me the next day. Remembering past surgeries and removals ….tonsils, appendix, uterus, ovary, etc. and when he reported they took the thyroid, some lymph nodes, part of a jugular vein I wanted to blurt out..”Stop…just draw up an inventory list of what’s left and have it on my desk in the morning, and is it possible to install a velcro strip for any future surgeries?”. The cancer had metastasized in the neck region so they had scraped and harvested as much diseased tissue as they could find. What should have taken 90 minutes went for 3 hours plus. The incision went far up the right side of my neck but stopped before getting too close to a major nerve. For several years, however there was a slightly diminished sense of feeling in the right shoulder.
Finally I was home and on thyroid medication I would be taking the rest of my life. Was so good to be with John and the kids again. In June ’94 my endocrinologist wanted to test scan for any remaining thyroid cells. Given a “special” pill to “light up” any thyroid tissue I went to Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester for the scan. There I met Egyptian Dr. Sayeed who explained what we would be doing. The scan revealed there were still thyroid cells and I was being admitted for a radioactive therapy. John and family kissed me so long and went home (2 hours away) but of course we talked on the phone often.
My room was prepped for easy decontamination with paper toweling taped to the floor, walls, chair and food table. The phone was covered in plastic as was the toilet seat. Why you ask? Because the radioactivity in my sweat and skin oils would contaminate these things. In my hospital gown and on my bed, Dr. Sayeed entered with one or two assistants. They rolled in a cart with an 18″ lead shield and vial of the killer drug. Placing the vial on my food table with the shield behind it (to protect them) they opened the vial and advised me to place the little straw in and draw up all the fluid without lifting the straw off the vial bottom. I complied. I was instructed to drink a lot of fluid as this would flush the poison from my body in a few days. Mylanta rid me of some mild nausea from the drug.
This was an isolation room. I had to stay there until I was “safe”. I was not allowed to roam the pristine halls or visit other patients. Visitors could visit me but only for 30 minutes lest they absorb some radiation. A few times a day someone would come in and take geiger counter readings to measure the decreasing radioactivity levels. So now I’m reduced to a lump of uranium? Yeah, I was one HOT mama you could say, with a distinctive GLOW about me. Who needs a night light with me around?
I called a friend who lived nearby and she agreed to visit me. She asked if I’d like her to bring anything. “Yes…bring me some colored markers”. I was so happy when I saw Sara Jo’s blonde hair and sparkly blue eyes and heard her voice. We had a nice visit and she prayed for me. Soon she left and my creative side kicked in as I made drawings on all the paper in my room, like blue waves on the papered walls. My favorite was my chair. On the backrest I drew a large circle and inside it a Star of David. On each armrest I drew three radioactive discs. This was now my throne..I was the Queen of Radioactivity.
Having mainly a television for company I truly felt isolated. Friends have often told me I am strong like a rock. But I didn’t want to be a rock now….Sometimes a bigger rock falls on another and smashes it. I was needy and felt no shame over that. Just wanted to curl up on someone’s lap and have him stroke my hair, humming songs to me. Tapping into my faith I remembered Yeshua (Jesus) told us “I will never leave you nor forsake you” This inspired a pencil drawing on a sheet of paper. It displayed me being comforted by Yeshua, with arms extended up onto his chest, smiling peacefully with my eyes closed. On the back of each hand I bore the radioactive signs. With one arm around me and the other raised, He too had these signs. It was His way of saying, “Yes…I came to be radioactive with you so you would not feel alone”. Behind the two of us was a sun-sized radioactive disc with waves emanating from it. This drawing brought me great comfort. I had nothing to fear…He was with me. I know it sounds a little child-like but Yeshua said we should come to Him as innocent children.
A final scan confirmed all thyroid cells destroyed, and I went home. Sara Jo drove me as she was going to Ithaca anyway and it saved John the drive up. Future scans spread over several years were done to insure no return of thyroid tissue and the scans finally stopped. That was 24 years ago but the memories are still with me…you don’t forget all that very easily.
I thank God that my journey through this was way easier than it could have been and I pray for all those who are on a much harder road than I was. Heal them all Father, Please heal them all.
In my early 20’s I left the church…went my own way; sex, drugs and rock and roll were the order of the day. Married 4 years and wanting to fill the nest, I went off birth control for a year plus, nothing happened. Facing the prospect of barrenness I was devastated. The sight of a pregnant woman often made me burst into tears. I begged and pleaded with God. I began thinking about adoption. A fertility drug kick-started my system and I was finally pregnant(1975)! I went to the moon and back, blossoming a bit more month by month, my belly mushroomed. I was into all things “baby”…maternity clothes, furnishings for the nursery, baby supplies, etc. When my May 10 1976 due date passed I became depressed. I wanted my much-loved pregnancy to end and it did on May 24 1976. Welcome Serena!!
Although we didn’t go to church, we thought to get Serena baptized into the Catholic Church (in which we were raised). We met with a priest at Immaculate Conception in Ithaca, NY who asked us if we were members or came to services. When we said no he asked why did we want our child baptized into a faith we weren’t practicing. It made sense and we agreed to come back to church. We baptized Serena and me and my mother-in-law Josie went to services every Sunday. I tapped into the liturgy I knew so well when I was a girl. I actually began to like it again. The Mass became a spiritual touchstone for me. In 1977 our son Jesse came along and in 1979 we welcomed Sara. Around that time a new priest came to the parish, Father Peter Clifford. His sermons often spoke of Jesus. The very sound of His name plucked my heartstrings.
I felt the dust and cobwebs go flying off my heart after so many years of not thinking of Him at all. Father Peter spoke passionately about the Saviour. He was a total inspiration. I rejoiced every time I saw him ascend to the pulpit with its beautiful wooden carvings. His homilies never disappointed me.
One Sunday he announced he was transferring to a different parish, St John The Evangelist in Greece NY. I listened in disbelief as my eyes quickly welled with tears…Oh no! Not Father Peter!! I later sensed Jesus saying “You thought you were mourning the loss of Father Peter but truly, you thought without him you would never hear about Me. Without realizing it, you wanted Me, not Father Peter. He was my representative, messenger, ambassador. He reawakened your love for Me”.
At that time I wasn’t yet ready to leap into a truly committed faith in Jesus. The Lord was gracious and patient. He knew I would become His again soon, even if I didn’t. As I realize this, I see the bigger picture; the work of His invisible hand. The pregnancy issues, crying out to God, children, returning to church, and the Teshuva dream trilogy some years earlier in which He beckoned to me. It all makes perfect sense now.
Throughout my life my feet touched on many spiritual paths such as Catholicism, Eastern Religions, Spiritualism, Astral Projection and Biblical Christianity. In 1981 I defined myself as a “born again Christian”, a label I enthusiastically applied to myself. True, my spirit was “born again” into a way deeper commitment to God. Along that path I spoke “Christianese” salting my speech with “Hallelujahs” and “Praise the Lord”. Was that wrong? No but not when you say it every other word. If some church lady referred to the Lord “tarrying” before His return, I would envision her in a bonnet and long skirt, sitting and stirring a butter churn because of that archaic word. I was a stranger in a strange land. I wanted to belong, and fell into lockstep with the others. It took years to get out of lockstep and feel OK to believe and worship as I wanted to, as long as it was Biblical, which it was. I rejected cookie cutter Christianity. I thought for myself but not in rebellion against Biblical truths. I later abandoned the “born again” title as too many of my brethren said/did things they should not have and didn’t want others judging me because of them. They were not perfect, and I do still love my Christian brothers and sisters.
A Jewish descendant, I was thrilled to learn there were Jews that believed in Yeshua and found a little local fellowship of Messianic Jews. I visited a few times but never felt led to stop going to a Christian church. All that changed in 1985. My nephew Adam was being bar mitzvahed. My sister married a Jewish man and the kids were raised in the usual traditions. In an orthodox synagogue I perched in the women’s balcony (men were on the ground level). I tried to follow along with the siddur (prayer book), wrestling with the Hebrew transliterations with help from Wendy, my sister’s niece while listening to the Cantor belt out the Sh’ma (Jewish confession of faith). Once again, I was a stranger in a strange land….I was lost in a sea of Hebrew words, prayers and songs. I needed a “Judaism for Dummies” book. I thought how could I be Jewish yet feel so disconnected from my ethnic/religious family. I learned some things about Judaism from my mom (she converted to marry dad) but there was so much more I didn’t know. An aching hunger to know more began to grow within me. When I returned to our home in Ithaca, I called a lady from the fellowship. We met many times so I could learn more. We later resurrected the little fellowship B’rit Olam meeting for several years. I also visited with a friend who was studying Hebrew with an orthodox rabbi. She invited me to join. Rabbi Silberstein thought I should have a Jewish name and together we came up with Tovah. For awhile my Judaism felt like I was putting on a “jewish” coat and did not feel it on an internal level. That sense of Jewish identity evolved over time.
In 2000 me and another lady started a new fellowship Ahavat Yahshua. I was there for 5 years before moving to Vegas (big mistake there). From that point, I never again was a member of a church. Here in Florida I go to a similar congregation and feel a great peace in my inner being. I also learned some Hebrew and can read and write it.
When I am asked “what faith are you?”. I often respond, “I am a disciple of Yeshua (aka Jesus) and emulate Him in every way I can, with a desire to obey the commandments of the Holy Bible.” They respond, “Oh I see, then you are a Christian right?” Whoa Nellie, not exactly. “I do not subscribe to many things that Christians do. Most Christians don’t believe in obeying the Torah and have their own special holidays, Christmas and Easter. For my husband’s sake I get a little involved in Christmas (reluctantly) but not Easter at all. I happily observe the Biblical feasts like Passover, Shavuot (Pentecost), and Tabernacles.” “Oh”, they respond, “then you are Jewish, right?” Again there are issues with this. My DNA test revealed I am 46.9% Ashkanazi Jew..my mom, grandparents and great grandparents were Jews, so I already knew that. Most Jews do not believe Yeshua is the Messiah so I am at odds with most Jews, except for those Jews that DO believe. They are called Messianic Jews and many outsiders feel these folks are confused about their identities. Check out my post “No Respect” where I liken being a Messianic Jew to Rodney Dangerfield who “gets no respect”. Thing is in the early congregations, Jews dominated this branch of Judaism known as The Way. It had a very Jewish flavor until the gentiles flooded in and radically changed things.
Mom, Buttons and Me circa 1960
I purposely avoid these labels as they set off bells and whistles in the minds of others. Their minds work like steel traps as they conjure up their pet beliefs about what those labels mean to them. We are all WAY MORE complex than simple labels. Labels are short cuts that requires little thinking so people can comfortably jump to conclusions without digging any deeper. They found the correct pigeon-hole to shove you into. It may take a bit longer to explain to others how I walk out my faith and I really appreciate those who take the time to listen. My desire is to be light and salt in a world that is dark and flavorless. …to follow the much admired Christ-like prayer of St. Francis..
“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, unity; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy. “O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love; for it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.” But wasn’t he a Catholic you ask??? Yes but there are many gems to be mined from those well spoken words, Amen? OK we be in church now.
If we live our lives as He did, people will be attracted to that and inquire of you. How you live your life will speak way more volumes to others, than your quoting the Scriptures (although the Scriptures are very important). Yeshua said in the Gospels “If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto me”. This is my heart’s desire no matter what I call myself.
48 years is almost half a life time…..and when you are married that long sometimes it feels that way, honestly. You really do get to know someone inside out. You can instantly tell what he will do or say over certain things. For example I put on a TV show I know he would not want to watch while he is outside doing something. I think to myself….”When he comes back in he is going to say “Who put this crap on?” He returns later looks at the TV and says “Who put this crap on?” After 48 years not only is the honeymoon over, I now put those memories in the ancient history category.
You know the honeymoon is over when in bed he throws the covers over your head and holds it down tight, then lets one rip as you gasp struggling to breathe again.
Here are some other ways you know the honeymoon is over:
When you fart in a chair and he asks you to get up to see how big the hole is; or tells you you kind of lifted off a bit with that one……or if it happens while you are walking, he says “Wow..the jet propulsion there pushed you forward a bit, didn’t it?”
Talking dirty in bed means shouting obscenities when he hogs the blanket
You used to walk hand in hand, now you run to keep up.
When he “lends” you 5 bucks, he expects it back.
Saying “I’ll take care of bedtime” is foreplay.
PMS lasts all month.
Your jumbo box of absorbent Maxi pads is on open display.
He yawns when you bitch about that guy at work hitting on you.
You’d rather spend quality time with your vibrator.
Regarding sex, your get up and go got up and left and you realize it’s time to unfasten the handlebars from the headboard.
Dinner and a movie is now Netflix and takeout.
Your husband no longer jokes about having extra people join you in bed.
He trims his nose hairs as you clip your toenails and neither of you thinks it’s weird.
Candles are lit only when the power is out or when he’s polluted the bathroom.
Clothing optional days now only apply to the toddler in your home.
Besides the list of how to know honeymoon is over, here is a list of signs you’ve been with someone for too long:
When you watch your beautiful wife turn into her mother.
You wake up with messy hair and stinky breath without feeling awkward.
At anniversary times you celebrate still being alive rather than your wedding.
You walk around the house braless and sometimes even at the stores.
Because he doesn’t get out a lot, you sit through his telling his life story to every new person we meet. I keep asking him to spare me and get a bio typed up to hand out to people. Hasn’t happened yet.
You can fart whenever you want without feeling embarrassed.
You leave the door open while peeing.
You finish each other’s sentences.
You can pick your nose in front of your partner.
When your wife requests a golf cart for her birthday instead of jewelry.
When your husband shushes you because the cat is eating and your talking might disturb her……and he pets the cat more than you.
when “In the mood” means …we’re getting brownies
I guess this isn’t the most exciting picture of long-term marriage; but the very things that seem ordinary or even boring can also be comforting through their familiarity. Why would I want to leave him only to be forced to break in a new guy all over again?? That’s a lot of work and we’ve already put in our share. Besides that, he is very good to me and shows me love in many thoughtful ways, so I’m going to keep him til death do us part. Many older marrieds mourn the passing of the days of passion, but love changes, it morphs into a different kind of love, but it is love nonetheless. Many divorce seeking that fresh excitement with someone new and many find someone else. Thing is after being married to Mr. Wonderful for awhile they realize they are right back to where they were with spouse #1. See what I’m saying?
There is a favorite saying I share with engaged couples, newlyweds, and long time married couples: “Whenever you have one of those moments where you ask what ever possessed me to marry this person…remember he/she thinks the same about you.” Kind of gives you a fresh perspective, Si? No?
On July 25 2017 I was worshipping with other believers at faith sister Donna’s home. We always have a paper and pen ready for recording visions or impressions the Lord downloads into us.
As we sang out our songs of love and worship this is what I received from the Lord:
“Prepare yourself My precious bride. Put on your pure white gleaming bridal gown. Sully it not with any imperfection for I desire a perfect bride. You are so beautiful and I love you so much. Our wedding day is soon coming, so keep yourself pure. I come with rings and a crown of gold and diamonds. I love to lavish the costliest gifts upon you, for you are my beloved forever. Be faithful and wait for me……It won’t be much longer before we are joined together eternally! ”
So let us now ask ourselves…Are we ready? Will we not be ashamed at His coming? If we are not ready, no time like the present to get ready. Are we repenting of our “pet” sins?? Repent of them NOW!!! If we love Him as we profess, He will help us to do that. May HaShem lead us all into all holiness and righteousness.
If you read the description of this blog, you saw that I described myself as a Messianic Jew. Whenever I tell someone this, in my mind I see quizzical facial expressions, or a large question mark blinking on and off on the forehead of the befuddled person. Ninety percent of the time, that’s what happens.
To elucidate, a Messianic Jew is a Jew who follows a Messiah who has already come. You could
say that all Jews that believe in the Messiah (whether he has come or not) are Messianic Jews, but most Jews do not identify themselves in this way because there is a spectrum of beliefs as to: 1) Is there a Messiah? 2) Is the Messiah a physical person? 3) Is it a Messianic era that we are waiting for rather than a man? Messianic Jews today believe that Yeshua (aka Jesus) is the Messiah as prophesied in the Hebrew scriptures.
In my opinion, Messianic Judaism is like the Rodney Dangerfield of all religions….We don’t get no respect! Because we do not exclusively call ourselves Jews nor Christians creates an unsettling effect on those two groups and many others. People like to put labels on you so they know what pigeonhole to put you in. It makes them feel safe and comfortable. To proclaim yourself as a Messianic Jew is akin to trying to put a square peg in a round hole.
We’ve heard all the usual arguments…..”If you believe in Jesus, then aren’t you a Christian?” We reply, “No, because we identify with the very first believers who were Jews”. We observe the biblical Sabbath and the moedim (appointed times, feasts)…..Christians do not. We take our cues from the Jewish believers of 2000 years ago who remained true to their Jewish roots and also accepted Yeshua as the promised Messiah. We are not deterred from this faith position by the opinions and lack of acceptance of others. Therefore, we say to our detractors “Get Over It – We’re Here to Stay”.
I have a dream………..I dream of a future day when the mistrust and negative feelings towards us will be relegated to a museum exhibit. I can see it all now…..within the diorama will stand figures of Messianic Jews, huddled together in the center holding their Bibles over their heads to form a collective shield. A group of Jews at one far side and Christians on the other are frowning at them and throwing an array of objects on/towards them. Those looking at the exhibit will say…..remember when it used to be like that for the Messianic Jews….thank G-d it’s no longer that way.
May that day come soon…………..Amen
How do you share your faith with your drug dealing neighbor? Very carefully. Continuing in our commuter marriage for a bit longer, me and two of our kids were living in Endicott, NY (home of Big Blue-IBM) as I worked for the utility company in a great paying position. Endicott and Binghamton are kind of post-industrial cities. Many jobs were lost when shoe company Endicott Johnson left. Like many cities, Endicott struggled over the years as evidenced by the ghost-town like Washington Avenue with its many languishing empty storefronts and tumbleweed-like paper debris blowing around. Here is a picture of Endicott in better times
Scaling down expenses, we moved to a smaller apt. in a little 2-building complex on Oak Hill Ave. Talking to a neighbor I learned that a cocaine drug dealer lived in the building next door. We often saw people coming and going to his apartment. Rey Torres was a small-framed but muscular young hispanic man who lived with a girlfriend. He wore a cap cocked to one side and drove an expensive car. Once we crossed paths on the sidewalk. He was heading in with some friends holding a few pizza boxes. He had a spring in his step and when we passed each other he smiled and said “We’re having a pizza party because my mom is visiting”. His childlike demeanor really touched me – a mother-loving drug dealer. I concluded he couldn’t be all bad.
I wanted to share my faith with him so he might repent but was unsure how. Many were the times on some evenings I stood beneath his apartment window, looked up at it with one arm raised heavenward, and prayed for his eternal soul. I used to keep paperback new testaments around and gave them away to people as the spririt led. Once I picked up a young married man hitchhiker and he spilled some of his issues to me, especially about his failing marriage. Pulling over later to let him out, I gave him the New Testament to read, telling him God loves marriages including his and wants restoration and healing for him. He smiled, got out and started leafing through it as he walked away. I wanted to bring Reynaldo a New Testament but I punked out. I thought perhaps he would take offense, get mad, curse me, throw it at me, kick me out, so those fears restrained me. This response is what the Bible calls “the fear of man”….fearing negative reactions from others that paralyzes our intentions. It can be very hard to overcome this fear. Reminds me of a popular saying “The trouble with Christians today is no one wants to kill them anymore” (for the message they bear).
In the spring of ’98 the word on the street reached me that soon there would be a city-wide drug bust that included Rey (Operation Golden Road). The day came and the bust went down all over Binghamton and Endicott. I walked out into a sun-rich spring morning to go to work and police were everywhere. The trunk of Rey’s car was open and they were fishing around in it.
Later I learned he was out on bail. It was now or never I thought regarding the New Testament. I worked up my courage and went to his apartment one evening to see him but only his girlfriend Melissa was there. No hoochie mama that girl – more like the girl next door. She was a pretty young woman with long chestnut hair and blue eyes. I told her I brought this book for Rey and to please give it to him. She agreed. I wrote a note to him on the inside cover that went something like this: Dear Reynaldo…..I so wanted to bring this New Testament to you but feared your reaction. Please forgive me for being such a gutless wonder. I wanted you to read it and be reminded of the things you learned at your mother’s knee as a little boy. Can’t remember the rest..probably said I would pray for him, etc.
Rey went to jail and a friend who worked there told me he had to tell Rey about his mother’s passing back in Puerto Rico. I remembered the happy day of the pizza party and thought this news had to hit him hard. My friend confirmed that it did. Was all this God’s plan and timing after all?….my initial cowardice? ….giving him the NT after the bust went down?, his being brought low first by the incarceration and later by his mother’s death? Only God knows. I don’t know where Rey is now or if he ever came to faith but will look for him in the life to come. By faith I believe I will find him in that good place.
Stockholm syndrome, or capture-bonding, is a psychological phenomenon described in 1973 in which hostages express empathy and sympathy and have positive feelings toward their captors, sometimes to the point of defending and identifying with the captors.
Historically victims of Stockholm syndrome have been abused or intimidated into developing a relationship with their captors; a kind of survival reflex. In my case, this was not true. Yeshua (Jesus) took me totally captive by His love, forgiveness, mercy, compassion, and acceptance. I was so taken with Him that after He captivated me, the thought of ever leaving Him was unimaginable. Like the apostle Paul, I became a willing prisoner of Messiah Yeshua and like Paul, I kiss my chains.
I now wear a bracelet of little connected handcuffs so I can share this story with others who initially might recoil at the thought of any kind of “imprisonment”. Being “chained” to Yeshua has brought me nothing but love, peace and total joy. I can only pray that others may grasp the metaphorical meaning of this message I impart to you today.
[ God’s Marvelous Plan for the Gentiles ] For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—