David, a healthy, energetic young man, sat in the doctor's office and found it hard to digest what the doctor was telling him: “The growth appears to be a benign tumor, but if we let it grow, in time it could turn cancerous.”
Several months before, David first felt a small lump behind his ear. At first he paid no attention to it, but when it persisted for a few months, his wife urged him to see a doctor. David was by nature not a worrier, and was in no hurry to see the doctor. But when the opportunity arose, when he was accompanying another family member to the doctor, he asked the doctor to check out the growth.
The doctor examined the area, and after palpating the lump, he quickly sent David for a round of tests. The swift pace of events left David overwhelmed and confused. He went immediately to the HaEmek Medical Center in Afula, Israel, near his home, and went through extensive testing. The doctors reported that while the growth was not malignant as of yet, it could become so if not treated.
The doctor warned David that the tumor was lying close to the facial nerve, and if they would operate there was a chance that half his face would be left paralyzed. But it was clear that the tumor needed to be removed as soon as possible.
The head of ear-nose-throat surgery at Haemek explained to David that the surgery was quite complicated. “However,” he reassured him, “I am prepared to operate on you. You can rely on me to perform the surgery to the degree of expertise required.”
The doctor sounded quite confident, but David had strong misgivings. He preferred to have the surgery done at a larger medical center with more expert doctors.
David went to the Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem and was seen by a specialist, who informed him that the tumor was worse than what the doctors at HaEmek had told him. “If you plan to remain here for treatment,” said the doctor, “I will perform extensive tests to precisely identify the location and condition of the tumor. Here you will have the best surgeons operating on you.”
David was not sure how to proceed. Should he be hospitalized in Jerusalem, a great distance from his home, or rely on the assurances of the doctor at HaEmek? He knew that the slightest slip by the surgeon could cause irreversible damage. The difficult choice before him gave him no peace.
David relates, “I decided to write to the Lubavitcher Rebbe and insert my letter at random into Igrot Kodesh, the Rebbe's published letters. I prayed that the letter on the page would shed some light on this difficult decision.
“Happily, I found the direction I was looking for. The answer on the page was written to a man who wanted to move, and the Rebbe asked him in surprise why he was considering a move when he already had what he needed in his current location. I understood from this that it would be best for me to be operated on close to home and not in Jerusalem. I went to the hospital in Afula with my heart at peace, trusting in the Rebbe's blessing that the surgery would go well.”
On the day of the surgery, David was brought into the operating room while his family anxiously waited outside. A team of surgeons, led by the department head, performed the delicate operation, carefully avoiding any damage to his nerve. The operation dragged on and on, because the doctors discovered secondary growths surrounding the nerve, which also had to be removed. After six tense hours, David's face was stitched up and he was brought to the recovery room. A sample of the tumor was sent to a lab to determine exactly what kind of growth it was.
Two weeks passed, and David returned for a follow-up visit. The doctor greeted him with a somber face. “We are very sorry to tell you that the tests show that the tumor was not completely removed. Unfortunately, the growth is malignant and you will have to undergo a course of chemotherapy to remove it completely.”
The optimism that David had held on to all this time suddenly escaped him. He realized that he was seriously ill, and was afraid for the future.
After returning home, David wasted no time and wrote to the Rebbe once more. Inserting the letter into a volume of Igrot, he found a letter of blessing for “health and success in his work in spreading Jewish tradition.”
David worked as a teacher in a Jewish school for children with non-religious backgrounds, instilling them with the fundamentals of Judaism. The Rebbe's blessing strengthened and reassured him. Even after he was considerably weakened from chemotherapy and radiation, he continued to work in the school part-time, to hold on to the Rebbe's blessing.
The treatments were carried out over a lengthy period of time, and the Rebbe's blessing carried him through. Each time David needed strength or reassurance, he opened a volume of Igrot and read the Rebbe's blessings for health and strength, to continue in his role as husband, father and teacher, and not to lose his joy and optimism.
After the treatment was over, David received the news he was waiting for: the tumor was completely gone.
Six months later, at one of his follow up appointments, David took a blood test, and the doctor reading the results could not hide his amazement: “Not only are you no longer ill, but your body is very strong. The results of this test are similar to an athlete's...”