Dr Judith Guedalia

A Life Lesson And My New Reality
 In the spring of 1998, Shaare Zedek's New York-based Women's Division, under the watchful direction of Lee Weinbach, chose me as the recipient of the Maimonides  Award. I knew it was not only for my work at Shaare Zedek but also as a first of many future recognitions of my late father's dreams and aspirations for this wonderful institution.

I saw that honor as an opportunity to share a life lesson, which I did as follows: 
What unites us as the Shaare Zedek family -- and that includes thousands of us the world over as well as the entire staff at the medical center -- is that we each could, in Candide's words, have "tended our own garden" or taken care of our own lives. Instead, we have been fortunate to have had the choice and opportunity to use the vector, the energy of those feelings, for others.
I personally feel blessed that G-d has given me the gift of waking up each morning and running to work for a full day.
            My work as a neuropsychologist involves what I call a search for the healthy part of the individual.
Most if not all of the children, adolescents and adults I see have been referred as a result of some form of disability that affects their brain/behavior relationship. That is the definition of the field of neuropsychology: the study of the brain behavior relationship in order to diagnose, analyze and develop rehabilitation means for circumventing the area of the brain affected, and the behaviors compromised. In so doing, we endeavor to help our patients maximize their potential.
These might be the disabilities that one can see -- physical malformations or those that are not obvious to the eye. They may be brought about by injuries sustained at birth, genetically transmitted, head trauma as a result of car accidents, brain malformations, cancer, or serious learning disabilities with no known cause. In any event, these realities prevent a person from being who she or he otherwise might have been or previously was.
In my work and in my years supervising resident psychologists, I try to communicate to the patient and the family that, yes, you have a disability  but no, you are not the sum total of your disabilities. You are whole.
What most of you don't know, though, is that I was, and to some extent am, that child.
I was born with a physical malformation that became life threatening. My parents -- I was the first of seven children -- were in their young twenties at the time, and they were told to leave me in the hospital, as I would be dead in three days.
I was blessed with parents who would not accept no for an answer. They took me home and fought for my life.
That fighting spirit is what I now try to convey to my patients and their families.
I married soon after I graduated high school. With a great deal of support from my children, and especially my husband, I pursued my studies throughout my marriage and the raising of our children.
            My BA took 11 years and studying over three continents to complete. My masters took "only" four years and two coasts. I finally earned my doctorate in 1990; by then I was a grandmother.
Indeed, I am thanking G-d and many individuals through my work at Shaare Zedek Medical Center. That, dear readers, was then. In this article I want to bring to you a new reality for me.
Today not only am I a Shaare Zedek employee with twenty years of seniority, but as I stepped over the threshold last week, I was a "new entity" -- an oncology patient beginning chemotherapy. 
My serious cancer came as a surprise? I had no symptoms, and though I was in a six-month follow-up of blood tests for my previous cancer (15 years ago), nothing showed up.  
In hindsight, regular gynecological check-ups, which I neglected for the past many years, may have found this endometrial cancer earlier, according to the surgeon who operated on me. But maybe not. In any case I hope and pray that even one person gets diagnosed sooner because of my situation.
I am realistic but at the same time optimistic. I wouldn't be me if I didn't see the funny/odd side of things. For example, many people have sent me e-mails (the form of communication I prefer so that I can read them "whenever") telling me how I must envision the chemo attacking and killing the cancer buggers wherever they are hiding.  Think of the drugs coming through your veins as "Pacmen" gobbling up the "nasties."
             Try as I might, I can't do it. Instead, my mind is full of many ideas for articles and essays. So I'm begging your patience and hope you'll follow me on my road to health and recovery as I write about it in these pages.

Best wishes and prayers for a Shanah Tovah u'Briah, a good year, one of health, happiness and living life to the fullest from me -- Judith Sandra Bendheim Guedalia, also known as Sara Zipora bat Rivka v'HeChaver Chaim HaKohen z"l.


Dr. Judith Guedalia is director of the Neuropsychology Unit and chief medical psychologist at Shaare Zedek Medical Center; a licensed psychologist; supervisor and specialist in Medical, Rehabilitation, and Developmental Psychology; EMDR Level II; co-chair Nefesh Israel. She can be contacted through her website www.drjudithguedalia.com.