Around three years’ ago, a largish sun spot suddenly appeared on my lower lip. I am not a sun-lover, and I try to avoid it as much as possible, but still, three years’ ago, the suspect mole appeared, and because I used to read all the health columns in the newspapers and so on, I went to get it checked out.
It took me a month to see someone, and the someone I saw was fairly blasé about the whole thing. “If you notice it’s growing, come back in three months. If you don’t see any change, come back in six months.”
Like I said, that was three years ago. Lots of things happened in the meantime, and to be honest, I completely forgot about it. I have an intense dislike of everything ‘medical’ anyway, and I couldn’t see that the mole was doing anything particularly worrying, so I left it.
Then about six months ago, I saw another mole on my stomach, and because the last year, Hashem has really been sensitising me to just how fragile life is, I freaked out. Again, I went to a (different) doctor, who referred me to a skin specialist – but more for the mole on my lip, which she’d noticed, but I’d forgotten all about.
As it turned out, the mole on my stomach was nothing; nada; zip. But the mole on my lip had grown two millimetres in three years, and the lovely, professional, genuinely concerned doctor advised me to have it off.
She made it sound so easy. They would kind of skim it off my lip, and then it would sit in a bottle somewhere.
I was so reassured at how ‘easy’ and ‘simple’ the whole thing sounded, I didn’t bother to run it all past my Rav. It sounded about as difficult as having a facial, or a deep-tissue massage.
But of course, it wasn’t.
Yesterday, I showed up to the plastic surgeon’s office in Jerusalem. I took the bus in, and I was so nonchalant about what the whole thing would entail, I made pizza for supper and planned to do a bit of quick shopping after the procedure, before taking the bus back.
No-one told me what was happening. The plastic surgeon stuck a couple of big needles in my lip – which hurt a fair bit – and I, in my naivete, came out of his office and texted my husband that I’d already had the procedure, and was just waiting to get discharged home.
But of course, ‘it’ hadn’t been done yet. The needles was just the anaesthetic. About an hour later, I was lying down with a blue thing over my face, blood pouring down my neck and my lip flapping away.
In medical parlance, it was a ‘minor medical procedure’ – and an extremely minor one at that, thank G-d. But it didn’t feel ‘minor’ to me at all. In the middle of it all, once I realised that there was no cute little ‘mole vacuum cleaner’ being used, but a pair of scissors (or whatever), I felt extremely upset that I hadn’t been given the full picture of what was going to happen.
If I’d been told what it really entailed, I would have definitely asked my Rav a shaila before I agreed to the operation. But by the time I realised what was going on, it was too late to back out.
I have a friend who had a very painful knee. The doctors explained that her cartilage had worn away, and said that she needed an operation. She had it – and she still has a very painful knee. Except now, it’s even more painful than before and she needs to go for expensive injections every six weeks to try to ‘manage’ the increased discomfort.
Another friend’s mother got diagnosed with ‘terminal’ cancer, a few months ago. She had an op to try to get to the tumour, but it had already spread into so many different vital organs, they simply couldn’t take it out.
Four months ago, they gave her a couple of months to live. Last week, the doctors x-rayed my friend’s mum – and couldn’t find the tumour. It’s gone.
Hashem was very kind to me. He made sure that I’d listened to Rav Brody’s shiur on ‘tiny tribulations’ a couple of weeks’ ago, so that I could cope with my ‘minor medical procedure’ yesterday and accept it with love. Thank G-d, it was a great kapara for speaking (or writing) lashon hara, and I realised He did me a enormous favour, and gave me a 5000% discount on what I really deserved.
Thank G-d, He’s also helping me to heal very quickly. The doctor said that the day after the op, today, would be excruciatingly painful. Thanks to Hashem’s kindness, it’s fine. I’m having to drink all my meals through a straw, thanks to the six stitches in my lip, but Baruch Hashem, it’s fine.
But can you imagine if it was something more serious, G-d forbid? And I know for a fact that so many doctors play even the serious stuff down, and make it sound light and fluffy, and nothing to worry about.
It’s really given me a big pause for thought about the medical profession.
Rav Nachman doesn’t pull his punches when he talks about doctors. He warns his followers time and time again to deal direct with G-d; to believe in the healing power of the Psalms; to pray for good health – and to avoid doctors like the plague.
To modern ears, this can sound so extreme and backwards (although you should know that even today in the Ukraine, visitors are advised to avoid going to doctors unless absolutely necessary. Why? Because so many of the ‘doctors’ have no medical training whatsoever, and simply bribed someone to give them their medical degrees…)
But in the West? In Israel, where we have some of the best-trained, most conscientious, finest doctors in the world?
All I can tell you is that if I have anything more than ‘minor’ in the future, G-d forbid a million times, I won’t do anything before I ask my Rav. Because even ‘minor’ procedures aren’t, really, and I’m not letting someone cut me open again unless I know, halachically that G-d is 100% behind the decision.