Years ago I did a bit of stumbling through all that New Age stuff, and momentarily landed on the term synchronicity. Oh, how it rolled off my tongue. It made me sound so cool, so knowing and spiritually knowledgeable. Simply stated, synchronicity was defined as meeting the person we needed to meet at the right moment, being directed to the place that we needed to be at the right time, and finding a book that was essential to our wellbeing when we needed it. It was as if we were controlled by some giant magnet.

Now that I’m 65, and at least half a blip higher on the wisdom scale, I realize that that bit of New Age lingo was nothing more than Old Age Judaism. Synchronicity, you see, translates very nicely into divine providence. All of that universal energy that New Agers talk about is nothing more than G‑d, our G‑d, the One who sets up appointments and pushes us until we keep them, the One whose parenting skills exceed our own.

I did a bit of stumbling through all that New Age stuff, and momentarily landed on the term “synchronicity”I have always believed this, no matter the term I used. And I could certainly see examples of it scattered throughout my past. But it was five months ago that divine providence, or what secular folk would call “coincidence” and, of course, the New Agers “synchronicity,” began to emerge once again . . . big time.

It had started out simply enough, a trip with my husband and a friend to Jasper National Park in Alberta. We had been looking forward to it, but the good times that I had anticipated soured quickly when my husband began exhibiting troubling symptoms. When we returned home, I found a letter from my doctor’s office notifying me that it was time for a physical. Yeah, like I wanted that, right? But on the other hand, I realized that it would give me an opportunity to discuss with my doctor the concerns that I had for my husband. This opportunity must be a G‑d thing, I thought, the clinic notifying me of the need to have an exam when in fact all that I needed was to discuss the much more important stuff. I smiled. G‑d was working, so I made the appointment. Would never have done so otherwise. I’m really good at postponing those kinds of exams.

The doctor, a remarkable young man, listened to my concerns, agreed with my assessment and told me that he would help in any way. What a relief. G‑d is indeed good, showing me the way to get some help. And then he proceeded with the physical. When the first part was completed, he asked if I wanted a breast exam. I shrugged. Why not? I told him that they had been tracking something for several years, but last March I had been assured that all was well. I needed only a mammogram once a year now.

The doctor did the exam, and then told me that something didn’t feel right. No lump, but something wasn’t right. So he ordered an ultrasound.

I wasn’t concerned. Not to worry, I thought. No lump. No problem. I knew what the outcome would be. No cancer.

Two days after the ultrasound, I had a call from my doctor. It wasn’t good. He had set me up for a mammogram as well as a consultation with a surgeon, a specialist in breast cancer. I became brain-numb. The news was absolutely contradictory to the truth that I knew and wanted to believe. I knew my body. I did all the right stuff: vegetarian, low fat, plenty of exercise, healthy weight on the BMI scale (without fudging too much), no smoking or drinking. I was the poster senior for healthy living. And because of this solid evidence in my favour, I became an expert in denial, telling family that it was nothing, just a mistake. After all, the cancer surgeon could feel nothing.

The mammogram turned up nothing, and soon the needle biopsy done in conjunction with another ultrasound gave me the proof that justified my denial. There was no cancer. See how smart I was. The specialist then gave me the option of having the area removed, or waiting for two months to have another ultrasound. Well, easy decision on my part. I had no desire to explore the inner workings of our hospital’s operating room, so I opted for yet another ultrasound.

Two days later, the surgeon called me. It had to come out. She scheduled me for a biopsyThe ultrasound was scheduled for early December. Again, no concern on my part. This test would prove that the first one had been nothing more than a shadow. I sighed with relief when it was over. Now I could get back to normal.

Two days later, the surgeon called me. It had to come out. She scheduled me for a biopsy. The area would be surgically removed and sent out to the lab. I would be given a general anaesthetic—put to sleep. I didn’t like that at all. The only time I’d been in the hospital was to have my children, some 37 years ago. My stomach tied into a knot or two, but I agreed to the procedure. I had no choice, did I? Besides, it would be no problem, right? There was no cancer. Couldn’t be.

On the day of the biopsy, I was nervous. Had no idea what to expect. I put on a good front, but my inexperience with illness, hospitals and anesthesia gnawed at my insides. When I was admitted and changed into a gown, I was given a blanket. I gratefully grabbed it, wanting it for cover-up as well as protection from the cold that was enveloping me. As I sat in the day surgery, waiting for my name to be called, I glanced at the blanket and noticed that the edges were bordered with two blue stripes. It’s like a tallit (prayer shawl), I thought. And I felt comforted. I was now enveloped in G‑d’s love. I was reminded of the importance of prayer. And so I prayed as I lay on the gurney, wrapped in the hospital-issued “tallit.” I felt comforted, and my fears almost evaporated.

Before I was wheeled into the operating room, my surgeon told me that she hoped that the procedure would prove that the radiologist was just being hysterical. And the doubts began to set in. The radiologist had been insistent from the beginning. I had sneaked a peek at the original report, from a different facility. Urgent had appeared several times. And that was back in September. “But if the mammogram didn’t pick it up, and if you couldn’t feel it, then it would be an easy cure, right?” I asked her.

She nodded and patted my hand, then signaled for the nurse to wheel me to the operating room.

A week later, my daughter and I were back in her office. It was ductal cancer, just 1.1 centimeter in size. I could opt for a lumpectomy with radiation, which I would have to have in Vancouver, B.C., 500 miles to the south; or a mastectomy without radiation. There would be a possibility of chemo for both options. I chose a mastectomy, feeling that it was the correct decision for me. Get rid of it entirely, and if I needed chemo to clean up any leftover cells, so be it.

I chose a mastectomy, feeling that it was the correct decision for meBefore I left her office I was given a plethora of information, pamphlets, a book that told it all, informing me about chemo and side effects, wigs and reconstructive surgery. Every conceivable kind of breast cancer was explained, as well as resources where I could obtain whatever I needed. I didn’t read any of it. It terrified me. I was numb, and felt that I had lost control of my life.

The week before my surgery, I had to drive into town, some 20 miles away. I needed to do a big shopping trip. I had no idea how long I would be restricted from driving. My husband didn’t drive anymore, and I didn’t want to depend on anyone else to do my shopping, kosher symbols being important to me. So I started out on our narrow country road. The roads had been a skating rink throughout much of the winter, and I had handled them before without much trouble. But on that day, my mind had skipped ahead to the impending mastectomy and the accompanying fear; then I blinked and saw a car heading for me. I was startled. Someone was on my road, and so I tapped on the brake and immediately spun out of control, going into a surreal tailspin that sent me into the ditch. I had narrowly missed the woman in the other car, and thankfully she had backed up to see if I was okay. I nodded, still not quite understanding what had happened. She offered me a ride home. It was -25 °C, and I thought that it would be prudent to accept.

I felt that I was spiraling out of controlLater that evening, after I’d had the car towed, undamaged, from the ditch, I sat in front of the fire and thought about the similarities between my experience that morning and everything else that was going on in my life. I felt that I was spiraling out of control. I was on a road that I didn’t want to be on, encountering experiences that I didn’t want to experience. And as my foggy brain tried to find meaning in everything that had happened, I suddenly realized that maybe, just maybe, G‑d was sending me a message with my spinning car. Maybe He was telling me that no matter the circumstances, He was in control. No matter how close the encounter with the other vehicle, I had walked away from the accident, no dents, no injuries.

And I would do the same with the cancer.

Yes, that’s what I wanted to believe. Then my mind skipped back to the beginning, when I’d had concerns for my husband. I recalled the visit to the doctor for reasons other than the checkup, the very same doctor whom I had begged to take me on when my regular doctor had closed her practice the previous month; this very remarkable young doctor who had a “gut feeling” and insisted that I have an ultrasound, regardless of past tests. Then there was the radiologist whose report was peppered with the descriptive word urgent, not to mention the hospital-issued “tallit” that gave me great comfort when I had my biopsy. I could see G‑d’s fingerprints everywhere. Perhaps it was all divine providence. I had smiled then, and was suddenly awash in peace. I truly felt blessed. G‑d was in control.

The remaining days before my surgery found me reading material that seemed directed only to me. A friend with Chabad in Richmond, B.C., writes Torah insights for women. I was on her mailing list. Her interpretations were exactly what I needed to help me through the days ahead. She also wrote me, telling me that my surgery was scheduled on Rosh Chodesh, a day of strength. I also received an e‑mail from a Chabad rabbi in the Okanogan Valley, and that comforted me. G‑d was breaking out all over, and I realized that the experience before me would be for my own good, not only physically but also spiritually. For whatever reason, it was all part of G‑d’s plan. Not what I had anticipated or wanted in my life, but hopefully I would learn from it and grow. Was the fear and dread removed completely? Of course not. But all the G‑d stuff cushioned it and made it manageable. It gave me a very hefty anchor.

Divine providence is an equal-opportunity occurrence. G‑d guides each of us. He speaks to us in nuanced whispers, or claps of thunder, or spinning cars. He leads us through the good times, nudging us when we need to be nudged, setting up roadblocks when we need to climb higher and holding our hand when the pain is overwhelming. He works through people and events, and takes us to the place that we need to be, whether we want to go or not.