I never thought I’d say, “Thank you, Hashem, for making my hands tingle.” Now, I say it with real joy. “Thank you, because the discomfort is what brought me to the doctor, which led to a test—which didn’t explain why my hands felt like someone was sticking pins into me. We never found out what caused the tingling sensation. Instead, the test showed something unrelated, something easily missed—often with deadly consequences.
In the beginning of 2019, I had trouble opening my mouth wide. I didn’t feel any pain, so it wasn’t a big deal. Except when I went to the dentist, he got frustrated with me. “I need you to open your mouth more.”
“I can’t. This is as big as I can open it,” I told him.
“You need to see an oral surgeon about this,” he told me.
I have young children, baruch Hashem, and my day-to-day life is extremely hectic, so I felt that not opening my mouth wide was something I could live with, and I didn’t follow up on it.
Then I started to feel pain in one of my eyes. I went for an eye exam. The ophthalmologist told me there was no pressure behind the eye, and everything looked okay. I went to another doctor. He prescribed bifocals and assured me that if I wore them the pain would go away. I wore the bifocals, but they didn’t help. Since the pain wasn’t constant or unbearable, I gave up and ignored it.
Hashem wanted to catch my attention. The tingling in my hands was so annoying that I couldn’t ignore it. I went to my general practitioner. He examined me and said, “I don’t see anything wrong. You’re young and healthy. There’s no reason for this, and there’s nothing I can do.”
I couldn’t accept that. “Can you do a scan on my hands to see what’s going on?” I asked. “Something isn’t right.”
“If you have nerve weakness or damage,” he said, “it won’t show up on an MRI of your hands. We have to do an MRI on your brain to see if the nerves are causing this.”
At the beginning of the summer, I went into the hospital for the MRI. When the doctor called my husband and me with the results, he said, “Your brain scan came back clean, and nothing is wrong with your hands. But there’s something else. The brain scan picked up a mass on your neck.”
“What does that mean?”
“We don’t know,” he said. “We have to do another scan, this time focusing on the neck, to get a better look at the mass.”
When I was three years old, I had a cyst on my neck. I don’t remember this, but my mother told me that the doctors watched it but didn’t treat it, and it disappeared on its own. They told her that it could reappear in 20 years. It happens. I told my husband that that’s what this is: The cyst has reappeared, and it will go away again, by itself, as it did last time. There was no need to worry. Besides, we had no time to worry. We were moving. We were very busy. Too busy to schedule a second MRI.
Weeks went by. One day, my husband realized that the MRI prescription was about to expire. I had no choice. I had to schedule it right away.
I went in for the second MRI a week before Rosh Hashanah, and my primary care doctor called with the results on the night before Erev Yom Kippur. I had a mass of nearly five centimeters, about two inches. He wanted me to call patient services at the hospital to get a medical referral for a surgeon.
We made calls on Erev Yom Kippur but didn’t get through to anyone. We didn’t tell my parents or any of our siblings or friends, and our children were too young to realize that anything was going on. My husband and I reassured each other that it was only a cyst, and we’d take care of it after Yom Kippur. I didn’t let myself worry. Not even a little bit.
The day after Yom Kippur, we made more phone calls, but we still couldn’t get a referral. That’s when we reached out to Refuah Helpline. I thought they’d give us the name of a doctor, we would say thank you, and that would be the end of our interaction. They listened to the story and asked for the medical files. When they called me back, they said, “If we can get you an appointment with a specialist for tomorrow, can you go?”
Tomorrow meant Erev Shabbos. And Sunday was Erev Sukkos. My house was a mess. We still hadn’t unpacked completely from the move. Yom Tov was coming. It was all too much.