the schmooze

Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe
Syosset, New York

Stress in humans results from interactions between persons and their environment that are perceived as straining or exceeding their adaptive capacities.  People who are dependent on others (e.g., "der kinder"-- the children--and the elderly) are at greater risk of developing stress-related illnesses.

I was reading Diahann Carroll's 2008 book titled, "The Legs Are The Last To Go - Aging, Acting, Marrying and Other Things I Learned The Hard Way."

Diahann Carroll, the legendary singer, TV, and film actress shares her fascinating life, with "khokhme" (wisdom) that only aging gracefully can bestow.

Chapter Five ("Sickness and Health") talks about her finding a spot on her mammogram.  "Der dokter" said, "It was nothing."  There was "gut nayes" (good news) and "shlekht nayes" (bad news):  She had cancer ("rak"), but the tumor was less than a centimeter in size.

Carroll questioned, "I mean what gives one cancer?  Who knows?  Thin, nonsmoking nutrition nuts get it.  It seems to me that other than smoking and genetics you can't blame cancer on anything specific.  It is too often blamed on stress.  Stress!  When I was a girl, we didn't know the word stress.  Life is always fraught and difficult.  And if it isn't, you aren't really alive.  (Note:  the Yiddish word for alive is "lebedik.")  So I didn't look to blame my cancer on anything."

Ms. Carroll was "mazldik" (fortunate).  She only needed radiation--a nine-week program.  In the middle of her radiation treatment, she got chicken pox!  She felt overwhelmed.  Chicken pox potentially all over her face and body while struggling with cancer!  She fussed and fumed, but she writes that a voice inside of her said, "Oh, be quiet, Diahann.  You're going to handle this.  You don't have a choice."  And so she did.

This Yiddish proverb seems quite appropriate at this time:  "Tsores zeinen shtarkeh tropens, es toig nit a sach mit a mol"  (Trouble is like strong medicine--too much at a time is harmful.)

Why my interest in cancer?  Roni Caryn Rabin (The New York Times, 12/29/09) and had articles about Israeli Jews who survived World War Two in Europe and who have a significantly higher risk for cancer than other Jews.  This is possibly a result of hardships endured in the Holocaust.

A study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, suggests that stress or other factors such as extreme deprivation may play a role in triggering cancer.

Dr. Micah Bracha, director of the National Cancer Registry in the Health Ministry and a senior lecturer at the School of Public Health at the Univ. of Haifa said:  "As we know, life in the ghetto and the concen- tration camps in Europe during the time of the Holocaust was characterized mainly by serious crowding, general poverty, difficult surrounding environment, ongoing hunger, general malnutrition, a lack of different kinds of food, cold, fatigue and mental stress.  The difficult conditions and mostly the caloric limitations and lack of nutritional components, which the Holocaust survivors suffered from during the war years, are likely to among the main causes of the findings."

THE FINDINGS:  The percentage of survival from cancer among Holocaust survivors was lower (by 5% - 13%) in comparison to the survival rate among those of European origin who immigrated BEFORE the war.

Nami Vine Raviv added:  "The study findings suggest that those who were in WWII at a young age--who were children between 1940 and 1945--were at a HIGHER RISK for becoming sick with cancer.  The exposure to hunger and the lack of nutrition during CHILDHOOD GROWTH and ADOLESCENCE, forces the body into a process of hastened growth, which exposes it to increased risk of development of cancer

Dr. Bonnie A. McGregor said, "The people who were older at the time of exposure were less vulnerable later on."  By contrast, she said, those exposed to severe psychological and physical stressors in infancy and early childhood received less nurturing and were less equipped to deal with the stress, and would "be living with it and re-experiencing it for a greater percentage of their life."

Roni Caryn Rabin reported ("Israelis' Cancer Is Linked to Holocaust"): "Women  born in the early 1940s, during the worst conditions, had breast cancer rates 2-4 times higher than women their age who immigrated to what is now Israel during the war.  And men born in the late 1930s had colorectal cancer rates 1.75 times higher than their counterparts who migrated earlier."

"Der sof"?  (The conclusion?)  Early life experiences and exposures, including pre- natal conditions, may have a long-term impact on growth patterns and the endoctrine system, as well as on behavioral responses that could increase susceptibility to some diseases, says Dr. Barhana and his co-authors.

An intern in the external relations department of the University of Haifa, Schwab, says that health care and home-care workers should be on guard and encourage Holocaust survivors to take advantage of the different prevention programs available.

Keinan-Boker L, Vin-Raviv N,  Liphshitz I, et al.  Cancer incidence in Israeli Jewish survivors of World War II.  Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 2009; 101:1-12.


Search for Stories Beginning with the Letter
N O P Q R S T U V W   Y Z
Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe is the author of
two books:
yiddish for dog and cat loversbook
"Yiddish for Dog & Cat Lovers" and
"Are Yentas, Kibitzers, & Tummlers Weapons of Mass Instruction?  Yiddish
Trivia."  To order a copy, go to her

NU, what are you waiting for?  Order the book!

Yiddish Stuff
Jewish Humor
Schmooze News
More Majorie Wolfe
Jewish Stories
All Things Jewish
Jewish Communities of the World
Site Designed and Maintained by
Haruth Communications