It’s Not a Microwave


So this was day one; thirty-nine more to go. Forty is a transitional number in the Bible. It rains forty days and nights in the Noah story; Jonah walks through the city of Nineveh for forty days warning the people to repent. The Israelites wander in the desert for forty years until they can cross over and enter the land of promise. Even Jesus gets in the act being tempted for forty days and nights before returning to the Galilee to preach. It seems in Biblical times one enters this time of forty and comes out the other side different, changed, ready, healed. I’m counting on it.

This was day one of my forty radiation treatments. I was diagnosed with prostate cancer back in the fall and today I laid myself down and let the machine begin the healing process. It didn’t hurt; I felt nothing; even the sounds coming out of the machine were much less intimidating than an MRI. It’s not the only protocol associated with my treatments but this was a moment of so many thoughts and so many associations.

It is hard hearing this cancer word even though people I love and respect have told me that I will be fine. I will not die from this. I just have to follow the rules, keep strong and stay positive. Everything in this process has been stepped, like those of Russia. Wide swaths of time waving in the wind silently speaking that this cannot be ignored (not the cancer nor the emotions). When my PSA numbers first began to climb the Doctors said it was time to check my blood every six months and then it was time to have an MRI and then it was time to have a biopsy and then – I don’t have to go through all the details….

But today was real. I found myself looking for meaning in everything, looking for signs. It is the evening of my mother’s birthday; the color of the red light against the backdrop of the water and the sky where I make the left is redder than usual. The arms of the machine against the blue of the plastic panes are embracing. It is good – twice good – to begin on a Tuesday since on that third day of creation, God said it was good, twice. It will be fine.

I guess what it all adds up to is my finitude is catching up. I’m going to let it for a while, maybe 39 more times, but then: Watch out – I am crossing out the lines on the bucket list.


16 thoughts on “It’s Not a Microwave

  1. Dear Howard, Thank you for sharing this with your your customary candor and clear-headed approach. Serious stuff, for sure, but you are in good hands and the prayers of many support you in these forty days. Alison and I send our love, Blessings, Tom


  2. Rabbi, I have no doubt you will get through this in a positive, strong way. Keep writing, as that will help us and you! I’m sending a hug as always.


  3. I know how strong you are. I know how strong Eileen and your family are. Know that you have a large group of friends here for you all. I am sure, as you have stated, that you will be fine.

    All my love and positive energy are going to you. Keep on writing, it’s good for you, and for us.


  4. A while ago, I gave my daughter a copy of the Yom Kippur speech you made about taking a walk. Friday she started repeating the speech to me, talking about climbing the hill on the Appalachian Trail, getting to the top, and seeing the next hill to be climbed. You have touched so many lives for the good. Everyone who knows you is with you, climbing this hill, knowing that you have many more to climb. We are all climbing with you.


    • You have wrapped your arm’s around me, giving me the strength to know I would be fine, and that you and Eileen would always be there for me. Know that I and hundreds of other arms are there for you. Know how much you mean to us. Know that you will be fine. Know that tons and tons of prayers are going out to you. We all love you.


  5. This is good…good writing, of course. But also good that you’ve put the word out. You’ll get lots of support…maybe too much, sometimes. But you’ll tolerate that graciously, I’m sure. And as always, I’m here in any way you need me to be. R

    Ronald Browne The Years Ahead 561-301-4131

    60 North Market St – #107 Asheville, NC 28801

    “That’s the thing about later. You don’t know what’s coming up. You don’t know about how all the loose ends are going to gather together.” – Sam Shepard



  6. Howard,

    Thank you for your honesty in sharing this part of your life with us, your readers. Sending you light, strength, and warmest wishes for a refuah sh’leimah!

    Jane Herman


  7. No, it is not a microwave, but it burns. So does the diagnosis. The 40 days/weeks/years — whatever it takes are not always easy. But those who get to the other side, like Joshua, are the courageous. You are one of them.


  8. Thank you for sharing, beautifully as you always do. Although I am not as eloquent, I hope that your health is restored and that your body is healed. You have such spiritual energy & inner strength, and for over the last half century have helped and counseled so many, including my family, I am sure the entire community is saying the Mi Shebeirach for you, and meaning it. I am.


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