In celebration of my 59th birthday, along with expressing my gratitude to you readers of this blog, I will exerpt from Opal:
When it comes to making medical decisions, I desperately want my children to become adults who appreciate the value of science-based information. So I've consistently pooh-poohed superstitions—theirs and others'—and have offered a strong model: “Pure magical thinking, Sweetie. I don't believe in such nonsense.”
They've also seen how, as a physician-survivor, I've worked hard to distinguish good science from junk and to encourage other patients to do the same. My zeal stems from my concerns about anything that gets in the way of obtaining good care.
This stand against superstition is rocked by an epiphany while I'm casually reading about opals, the birthstone for October. I learn that for centuries, from Romans to Asians, the opalescent silica has been treasured as a healing stone and powerful symbol of hope. “Wow,” the hairs on my forearms suddenly stand erect.
With my birthday—October 18—an identifying statistic that helps to define “me,” an excitement pulsates through my veins. You see, Hebrew letters represent numbers, and the Hebrew spelling for 18 is hey (eight) and yud (ten). This two-letter combination also spells “chai,” the Hebrew word for “life.”
“I was born on ‘the hope of life.’” The newfound symbolism adds oomph to the realistic hope of my science-based treatments, like a sprinkling of salt on a simmering stew. A pleasurable new calm takes me totally by surprise.
So am I superstitious now? Hardly. I still walk blithely under ladders and have no qualms if a black cat crosses my path. I remain a hard-core scientist, completely convinced that my “chai” birthday in no way affects the efficacy of my cancer treatments or confers an iota of advantage in the healing potential of my body. I just like that I was born on October 18, a day some people consider the “hope of life.” Fascinating.
[To read the entire essay, click here]