I am new to Long Island, having moved here this past July.
This week, I learned a difficult statistic: the breast cancer incidence rate on Long Island is approximately 18% higher than the statewide average.
Even after a $30 million multi-year study showed that environmental factors don’t contribute to this increased cancer rate, the statistics don’t make sense. Some postulate that perhaps Long Island has a higher percentage of Ashkenazi , Jewish, affluent, female residents: a population known to have a higher rate of breast cancer than other populations. There are still no answers.
More funds are needed for more research: research not just for “why”, but research for a cure, so women can be healed and lead full, healthy and long lives.
For the past 21 years, the community in Stony Brook has been coming together to raise funds and awareness for breast cancer research through its annual Ward Melville Heritage Organization “Walk for Beauty”. During this time, this walk has raised over $1.275 million for Stony Brook Hospital Breast Cancer Research, plus donated thousands of wigs and prostheses to those in need.
This past weekend, many of my congregants from Temple Isaiah (Stony Brook) and I participated in this “Walk for Beauty”.
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel stated, when he marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr, in Selma for voting rights in 1965, that he felt as if his legs were praying. He believed his march for social justice was a day of sanctification, filled with spiritual significance.
We, too, felt as if our communal “Walk for Beauty” was a day of sanctification. We felt the spiritual significance of coming together for this particular cause:
- We walked with friends and family who were in the middle of treatment;
- We walked with friends and family who finished treatment and who were “survivors”;
- We walked with loved ones in our hearts, with names on our backs, on our arms, on our chests – of those who now live on only in our hearts and minds and memories;
- We walked as one community: babies, children, teens, young adults, middle-aged and seniors, men and women;
- We walked in silence at times, we walked in laughter, we walked in tears, we walked in joy;
- We all walked together- our feet praying for a cure, praying for healing and wholeness and strength;
As we prayed with our feet, my heart was offering this prayer, for the health care workers, the researchers, those who are ill and their loved ones:
Heal Us Now
(Music and English Text: Leon Sher, 2002 Hebrew Text: Healing Liturgy, Numbers 12:13, Pslams:145:18, 85:10)
R’faeinu Adonai v’neirafeh, hoshi-einu v’nivasheah. El karov, l’chol korav, ach karov, li-reav, yishoh.
Heal us Adonai, and we shall be healed. Save us and we shall be saved. God is close to all who call out to God. Surely, help is near to all who call out to God.
We pray for healing of the body. We pray for healing of the soul. For strength of flesh and mind and spirit. We pray to once again be whole.
El na, r’fa na lah, r’fuat hanefesh, u’r’fuat ha-guf, r’fua sh’leimah.
Oh God, please heal us now; healing of the soul and healing of the body, a complete healing.