The misty fog is going in and out; I am fighting to see above it. I know somewhere that it is partially drug and pain induced, post-surgery. That much is good. Clutching at straws, I try to glue the hazy snippets together so that at least the pieces can be the beginnings of a ladder up and out, a way to make some sense in this foggy world.

What in my experiential memory can help me understand what is being said to me and some of the wound beyond the bandages I see? The pain of a wound change shakes me out of a degree of fogginess. I have two wounds on my stomach! Am I seeing double?


No they are side by side, their boundaries, though are separate.

I went in for surgery, my seventh “open belly” incision including the four caesarian sections. The last three, this included, were to help me finesse the malignant tumors that have taken up residence in my pelvic area.

Okay, but what is this alien second, side-by-side interloping wound? How, why, where and when did it come into being?

A nurse is speaking to me, explaining “it.” I fade out again seeing only a one-eyed monster staring at me from my middle.

Again fighting to understand. What in my “memory bank” can explain this? Oh, right, Odysseus from Greek mythology and literature fame, in Homer’s The Iliad, went on a voyage –“Odd-Essy” and found weird – and strange powerful creatures. One was the Cyclops, living on an island of one-eyed monsters with its leader being the son of the Greek mythical god Poseidon. Poseidon is one of the twelve gods in Greek mythology.  His main domain is the ocean and he is called the “God of the Sea.” Additionally, he is referred to as “Earth-Shaker” due to his role in causing earthquakes; he has also been called the “tamer of horses.”

My association was not far off; I was indeed “at sea” and my earth/world had been shaken.

There is much violence and fear in Odysseus’ journey to the unknown. Clearly or fuzzily, I think I too must be on some journey to the unknown and the violence and fear are those that have been meted out on me. What aggression have I encountered to be left with not one but two holes on my body? What did I do to deserve this?!

A cloud of rationality floats by trying to either humor or console me, as I might murmur to my patients who are wont to say the same. “It is nothing you did, you are not in control of this, whatever ‘this’ is.”

I keep floating in and out, trying to capture a sense of reality. I cannot be in a Greek play! I am in a hospital and not at sea.

Wait, I am at sea trying to understand and navigate this alien environment.

I have been swallowed up by a mystical creature, at sea? Maybe Jonah’s whale. According to Rabbinic literature, Jonah, though swallowed by the whale, could “see the underworld” through the whale’s eyes. He saw reeds, the reeds that the Children of Israel crossed as they fled the Egyptians in the miraculous parting of the Red Sea. Their journey would culminate at the building of the Holy Tabernacle.

How unlike Odysseus’ journey which left violence and debauchery in its wake.

But where was I, and on what new journey was I? Confusion, fear and pain were my travel partners.

Slowly I was weaned of pain-killer medication and became more aware of my new reality – or I should say old reality as I had been diagnosed as Stage IV B Uterine cancer five years ago, and treated during that time with surgeries, chemotherapy and interventional radiation treatment. This operation was just another fissure on my cancer topography. New holes, new pre-scars on the outside of me and Hashem only knew what they left, in their effort to “repair” me, on my psyche and that of my family and loved ones.

I have always been a fighter. At birth the doctors told my folks to leave me in the hospital and I’d be dead in three days, but they and I refused to accept the easy way out. Since pre-nursery, my teachers found me to be a challenging student – mostly challenging what anyone told me to do. My oncologists today would say not much has changed in 65 years plus.

So I guess my message to all is: Don’t let anyone rule you. Ultimately Hashem is our “Journey’s Guide” and the doctors’ as well! Do your research, let your challenged mind process your bodily ills and Hashem will let your soul soar to new heights of understanding, even when many of your pieces are no longer inside of you and have turned from your friends to your mortal enemies.


Previous articleGaza Rocket Hits Sderot Just After Shabbat Begins
Next articleEight Stages, Two Paths: Erik Erikson’s Psychosocial Stages Of Development
Dr. Judith S. B. Guedalia has been Chief Psychologist and Director of Neuropsychology at Shaare Zedek Medical Center, Jerusalem, for close to thirty years. She is a member of the MCE (Mass Casualty Events) Team, as well as a licensed psychologist. She is also a Nefesh International Board Member and the co-founder and co-chair of Atem-Nefesh Israel.