Breast Cancer

Lilith Magazine explores this topic of singular feminist and Jewish interest with care and nuance. This curated collection of Lilith articles looks at breast cancer through the eyes of the survivor, the peace activist, the epidemiologist, the physician, the student, the teenager, and the friends and family of those diagnosed with breast cancer. 

This project was made possible with the generous support of the Sherril Ann Siegel Memorial Fund, under the auspices of the Alpha Omega Foundation, initiated by Lily and Neil Starr.

The Other Jewish Women’s Cancer

Winter 2019-2020

Elizabeth Michaelson Monaghan

An important signal for ovarian cancer may be lurking in those BRCA gene mutations.


Mythic Under the Radiation’s Red Eye

Winter 2019-2020

Beth Kanell

If I’m Andromeda bound on the cliff and Perseus is coming to stop the monster, I wish he’d get a move on.


Across the Barrier

Winter 2019-2020

Ruth Ebenstein

What I learned from Palestinian breast cancer survivors about how to survive “surviving”


A Twist on Doctor-Patient Confidentiality

The Lilith Blog, 2019

by Yona Zeldis McDonough

Joyce’s story was inspired by the thousands of breast cancer patients I’ve had the honor of caring for. I used my observations to make Joyce’s journey as authentic and emotionally resonant as possible.


Scenes From a Mastectomy

Fall 2019

Alicia Ostriker

Looking back at the surgery decades later, the noted poet confesses her survivor’s glee — and guilt.


Bonding: Intimacy During — and After — My Cancer

Fall 2019

Ali Walensky

She chose “kink” sex, for pain she herself could control. 


That Was Not My Plan!

Fall 2019

Elizabeth S. Bennett

New job, new city, new baby, new role as a rabbi’s wife. But the diagnosis outdid the rest.


Information, Support, Restorative Relaxation

Fall 2019


Jewish Women. Breast Cancer.

Susan Weidman Schneider

Fall 2019

“Which one of us is it going to be?” Susan Schnur asked the eight women who were sitting around the Lilith editorial table a few years ago. 


Planned Parenthood Saved My Life. But the Story Doesn’t End There.

by Ali Walensky

The Lilith Blog, 2017

It’s impossible for me to overstate how much Planned Parenthood has helped me.


What Six Words on a Necklace Meant During My Recovery from Breast Cancer

The Lilith Blog, 2016

by Pamela Rafalow Grossman

It was the beginning of 2009. I had recently finished active treatment for breast cancer; I had also recently reconnected with a dear friend from college, Marla Wallerstein.


Link Roundup: The Susan G Komen Backlash and Workplace Discrimination

The Lilith Blog, 2016

by Jill Finkelstein

On Tuesday, Susan G. Komen for the Cure announced that it would no longer be funding Planned Parenthood’s breast cancer screening program due to its new policy that blocks organizations under investigation from receiving grants.


She Didn’t Want Jewish Women to Feel Alone with Breast Cancer: Remembering Rochelle Shoretz

Idit Klein

Winter 2015-2016

At age 28, Rochelle Shoretz was serving as a clerk for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and was married with two young boys. She had also been diagnosed with breast cancer. While undergoing chemotherapy, she founded Sharsheret.


I Am A Cancer Previvor

Laurie H. Rubel

Summer 2015

The killer sweeping through generations of women in her family turns out to be lurking in her own genes too, a revelation with deeply consequential decisions for getting tenure, bearing children and staying alive. 


Beyond Pinktober

by Rebecca Halff

The Lilith Blog, 2014

The world (or in other words, journalists and the blogosphere) is officially disenchanted with Pinktober.


Four (Same-Sex, Half-Jewish) Weddings and a Funeral

by Susan Goldberg

Winter 2009-2010

The author’s unconventional wedding plans get less conventional as she lets her mother, fighting breast cancer, take over the planning. 


Strangled by a Pink Ribbon, or: Breast Reconstruction Surgery 101

by Liz Lawler 

Lilith Blog, 2010 

You have a couple of basic options: implants, or self-harvested reconstruction. The word “harvest” has positive connotations, it conjures up notions of bountiful soil, spilling over and nourishing the farmer. Yum, who doesn’t like a nice harvest? And implants, well, celebrities get those, don’t they? 


Breast Cancer Advice Refusenik

By Judith Beth Cohen

The Lilith Blog, 2010

In the wake of the recent controversy and confusion over proposed new guidelines cutting down on how often one should have a mammogram to screen for breast cancer, “Be Vigilant!” seems to be the rallying cry for women. Here, in a Lilith web exclusive, is one contrarian view of some commonly held wisdom.


In case you thought all Jews were safely in the pro-choice camp…

The Lilith Blog, 2010

by Susan Weidman Schneider

In Shifra’s Arms puts out inaccurate information about abortion risks, including reiterating the utterly disproven hypothesis that abortion increases a woman’s risk of breast cancer.


Link Roundup: Breast Cancer Awareness

by Jill Finkelstein

The Lilith Blog, 2010

Everyday, we come across interesting articles and wonderful resources for Jewish feminists. Now we are bringing them directly to you in a new feature of the Lilith blog, our weekly Link Roundup.


Strangled by a Pink Ribbon Or: Breast Reconstruction Surgery 101

by Liz Lawler

The Lilith Blog, 2010

I recently took a teacher training program to learn to teach yoga to cancer survivors (if you are so inclined, this is the one to take, IMHO). Tari devoted a large portion of the program to the challenges posed by the “reconstructive surgery” process. It turns out that, in an effort to return women to “femininity” and “normalcy” (not my words), we end up limiting their range of motion.


From Gossip Girl to the Real World

by Gabrielle Birkner

Fall 2008

Consider the prophylactic mastectomy.


TV’s “I Wore Lipstick to My Mastectomy” 

by Melanie Weiss

Winter 2006-2007

The Lifetime movie “Why I Wore Lipstick to My Mastectomy,” based on the autobiographical Geralyn Lucas book by the same name, may be on its way to remaking the genre of the “breast cancer movie.”


Genetics & Breast Cancer

by Shala Erlich

Winter 2004-2005

Erlich, a physician, introduces us to “pre-vivors,” young women wrestling with a family legacy they never expected. 


A Blessing for Your Breasts

by Rachel Kranson

Fall 2001

Like many women, Bonnie Zaben, a 42-year-old doctoral student at the Jewish Theological Seminary, examines her breasts each month. But unlike many, she has managed to transform this anxiety-provoking routine from an unpleasant necessity into a spiritual occasion.


Cancer Bitch: A Journal

by S.L. Wisenberg

Fall 2008

Wisenberg’s known for her fiction. Here, reality, with frank journal entries on hair loss, her mother, her mastectomy camisole, and the secret behind nervous laughter. 


One in Eight: Breast Cancer Roulette

by Eleanor J. Bader

Winter 2006-2007

When long-time Middle East peace activist Janice Fine was diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer at age 32, she started asking questions. For one, why has the incidence of breast cancer grown by approximately one percent a year since the 1940s? Is it simply that we have better detectors, or is something in the environment causing this groundswell?


Jewish Women and Breast Cancer: An Update

by Alice Sparberg Alexiou

Winter 2003-2004

A study recently published in the journal Science indicates that women who carry one of the two BRCA mutations have a high risk of developing breast cancer even if they have no family history of the disease. This finding negates a previous assumption that women with the mutation but no family history were not high-risk. The study also says that women with the mutations have a 20 to 50 per cent lifetime risk of developing ovarian cancer.


Staying Alive

Fall 2002

by Ann Jackowitz

In 1995, a bilateral prophylactic mastectomy (having both healthy breasts removed) was psychologist Janet Reibstein’s choice for survival. Staying Alive (Bloomsbury, $24.95) is Reibstein’s family memoir, told as both a personal journey and a history of current breast-cancer knowledge, treatments and women’s attitudes. In this book we learn how and why she arrived at her dramatic decision.


Breasts—Check Them Out

by Susannah Jaffe

Fall 1999

Teenage girls are the unlikely target audience of the Hadassah Check It Out program. Every discussion is staffed by a volunteer speaker from Hadassah, a breast cancer survivor, and at least one registered nurse. The idea goes beyond breast cancer prevention: the survivors provide a powerful incentive for girls to take care of themselves.


Jewish Women and Breast Cancer —We’re in “a Purgatorial Period”

by Susan Weidman Schneider

Summer 1996

Everything worth knowing about the Commission for Women’s Equality’s “First Leadership Conference on Jewish Women’s Health Issues,” a stellar day-long gathering on “Understanding the Genetics of Breast Cancer: Implications for Treatment, Policy and Advocacy.” 


Breast Cancer: The Tough Cure for Racism?

by Amy Stone

Summer 1996

Sisterhood is powerful, but not always powerful enough to unite women across race and class lines. The life threatening reality of breast cancer may be bringing women together in a way that no other issue has.


Mastectomy: Twelve Months After Surgery

by Jerilyn Goodman

Fall 1995

The author commemorates the first anniversary of her mastectomy with a mikveh immersion ceremony. (Ceremony included.) 


Breast Cancer

by Yael Green

Spring 1994

Epidemiologists look at breast cancer; Jewish demographers look at statistics about Jewish women… but who’s putting both sets of facts together? Only LILITH.


Blessing Shields

by Leslie Margulies

Fall 1993

Artist Leah Lynn Rosen of “Yetzirah Pottery” thought, after losing a dear friend to breast cancer, “about areas that need our blessings and protection.” The breast plates memorialize the struggle against AIDS, homophobia and breast cancer.


Orthodox Nurses Teach Breast Exam

Spring 1987

by JTA

The Nurses Section of the Association of Orthodox Jewish Scientists (AOJS) has initiated a campaign to teach Jewish women the technique of breast self-examination.