When a Jewish Mother Dies

When a Jewish Mother Dies

It was exactly a month ago this week.

My husband’s oldest friend joined us for Shabbat lunch. And during lunch he told us that his dear friend, Shmuel Weisfeld, had cancelled a trip they were supposed to take together because Shmuel had just found out that his wife had cancer. Not a teensy dot of cancer caught at a very early stage. Not optimistic “everything’s going to be fine after some chemo and radiation” cancer. But bad cancer. Cancer all over. Cancer of the brain, liver, breast, and bone.

Two months before her diagnosis, Shmuel’s wife, 40-year-old Ayala Pamela, started experiencing back pain. Ayala Pamela’s doctor misdiagnosed the malignant lump in her breast for a nursing-related blocked milk duct.

And this past Monday, Ayala Pamela, passed away. Leaving behind two young children named Shoham Adiel (age two) and Tehila Anael (eight months). As well as her husband of 3 years, Shmuel.

Just one month. Terrifying.

To go from a suspected breast infection, to being dead.

Which makes me remember. Last Elul, Ayala Pamela felt just as healthy as all of us.

She lived the past year, like all of us, thinking that she would live to marry off her children, that she would grow old with her husband. Why not? Who doesn’t think that?

Last January 5th Pamela joined my facebook group. She was a JewishMOM, like all of us. She moved from New Jersey to Israel 6 years ago.

Ayala Pamela with her daughter


What a jarring, terrifying reminder, that we could live for many more decades. But then again, G-d forbid, we might not.

Rabbi Avigdor Miller warns against spending too much time contemplating death. It could drive a person, G-d forbid, to depression. Destroying not only the Yetzer haRa but also the Yetzer haTov. Our joy for life.

But in the proper doses, at the right time of year, swallowing the bitter pill that death can come at any moment might be just what the Doctor ordered.

To open our eyes to our lives.

To ask ourselves today whether we are truly living the lives we most want to be living.

And if not, what we can do to start living that life we want and need to live.

May the soul-searching her death will spark provide a rising to the soul of this holy JewishMOM, Ayala Pamela bat Leah.

Click here to learn more about how you can help the bereaved Weisfeld family.

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14 comments

  1. BDE. May Hashem comfort the family and may Ayala Pamela bas Leah’s neshama have an aliyah. What a terrible loss first of all for her children and husband, but also for her wider family and friends. Such tragic news

  2. Caroline B.

    Baruch Dayan HaEmet. So so tragic and sad. This story really struck a chord with me because as you know (Chana), I lost my best friend Karen bat Tziporah a year ago in a very similar situation. She had breast cancer that when discovered had already spread to her brain, bones and liver (she also had back pain), and when she had gone to the doctor to ask about the strange lumpiness of her breasts, they told her it was hormonal and or clogged milk ducts since she was pregnant at the time. After giving birth she couldn’t breastfeed and again they said it was her milk ducts. By the time they discovered it it was too late and she passed away at the age of 35, 8 months after diagnosis, leaving behind her first child, not even a year old. After her passing I learned that breast cancer is surprisingly the most common cancer in pregnant women, and is often misdiagnosed. I’m attaching a link here to read more about it so that we can increase our awareness and maybe prevent future tragedies so we don’t lose anymore beautiful mothers:
    http://www.babble.com/pregnancy/pregnancy-health/breast-cancer-pregnancy/

  3. LISA Neuman

    It is appropriate to use the mother’s name, i.e. “bas Leah” while a person is ill and we are praying for their recovery. Once they have passed away, rachmona l’tzlan, it is appropriate to revert back to the father’s name. And so, dear poster,may I respectfully suggest that it would be appropriate for you to update this post with her name b’yisroel Ayala bas….z”l.

  4. A sad and important spiritual lesson. I hope that this case does not make women afraid for their health. Such cases are shocking, so the news spreads far. Thankfully they are rare, so there is no reason to fear them or even to get excessive testing. I am faculty in a medical school of the same age as these two women, and I have had a lump in my breast for the past 1 1/2 years. Having read the relevant medical literature, and knowing my grandmother’s history of having had many biopsies for nothing, I spoke with my doctor and we decided just to have periodic ultra-sounds of the lump. I decided against a biopsy because even a negative biopsy in this case is followed by invasive surgery, removing 1 cubic inch of breast tissue. In the past 1 1/2 years, it’s shrunk, and I’m happy with my decision.

  5. Leslie Nagy - Pamela's mother

    Some corrections please. Pamela experienced back pain 6 months prior to diagnosis but it was mistakenly thought of as being caused by 2 pregnancies so close together. She was misdiagnosed but too exhausted all the time to do anything about it. Also, the baby just turned 8 months and Pamela had only been married 3 1/2 years. Either way it is still a great shock to her grieving parents, sister and brother-in-law.

  6. Why are these doctors so inept in diagnosing breast cancer?

  7. BDE
    So devastating to read her story, praying her family & friends find comfort and may she have peace where she is, hopefully seeing the Geula & Tehiyat HaMeisim are soon to come :'(
    There’s no way we can know now when it all started & why, but PLEASE know I learned under a well known professor here in Israel as to the most common sources of the machala HERE in Israel & they CAN be avoided. I give consultations & classes to help inform others, we can protect ourselves a lot. Here’s the kitzur, some of the pesticides used here are carcinogenic & used in too large quantities, BUY ORGANIC PRODUCE & FOOD – also dairy products, the antibiotics in dairy can create breast tumors! Check miklots & ground floor apts for RADON GAS; use the right water filters (water has carcinogens) reverse osmosis but there is only 1 brand that is effective (contact me for info); cover up from the sun & WEAR HATS (radiation is so strong, 2 of my dear friends died from the machala from the sun); don’t use ecinomica – it is also carcinogenic. I have more info but these are the basics! I’d love to help protect others, please spread this info around!

  8. Here is a new Israeli device to help with the machala of the breast in a painless less invasive way! SPREAD THIS AROUND!!! http://israel21c.org/health/israeli-ice-device-destroys-breast-tumors/

  9. I think all the comment are very true. BUT the point of the post was to concentrate on living life to its fullest because we never know when it ends. When someone passes away it is a decree from shamayim, not neglegence that causes it (I’m not saying people shouldn’t do their best to be careful and healthy, but Hashem doesn’t let someone die because of the Dr misdiagnosis, that is just the WAY it happened)
    Lets concentrate and put our efforts into reaching our potential as an eved Hashem ad be mindful of our health as we do so, not the other way around.

  10. Please please, don’t forget, before she was a wife and mother, she was a daughter and sister. Her parents and sister are completely distraught.

  11. i am sharing this so that lives may be saved & the zchut should go to pamela ayala z”l

    2012 National Previvor Day happens to be on Yom Kippur this year…September 26th.

    A previvor is someone who has a very high risk for cancer but does not have the disease. National Previvor Day is a wonderful opportunity to spread HBOC awareness (Hereditary Breast & Ovarian Cancer) in the hope is it will encourage others to understand HBOC signs & spread awareness to others/look for clues in their own families.

    Most cancers aren’t hereditary but 1 in 40 Ashkenazi Jews carries a genetic mutation called brca that puts them at higher risk for certain cancers.

    I see an opportunity here for you to stress the importance of “SAVING LIVES” –such an important tenet in Judaism. I believe that is a beautiful way to atone .

    One can inherit a mutation from their mother OR father. Many do not know this. Knowledge is power. I got tested for the gene after a cousin, a beautiful young mum like pamela, passed away from breast cancer. I chose to use the gift of this knowledge and had a preventative mastectomy which has reduced my risk from 97% to 1% baruch hashem. it is not as drastic or brave as it sounds. I received an amazing bracha to save my own life

    Signs of HBOC in a family include:

    A family member with:
    Breast cancer at age 50 or younger
    Ovarian or fallopian tube cancer at any age
    Cancer in both breasts
    Male breast cancer

    Two or more family members with:
    Breast cancer
    Ovarian or fallopian tube cancer
    Prostate Cancer
    Pancreatic Cancer

    Also pay attention if you have melanoma.
    Another sign of the possibility of hereditary cancer.

    The best first step is a genetics expert or contact BRACHA:
    info@bracha.org.il

    Warm Regards & Thank you.
    yehi zichra baruch

    • JewishMom

      thanks so much gabi for posting this, it was wonderful seeing you last year at the minyan in talpiot!

  12. My understanding of the BRCA one or two mutation is that any woman who has the mutation has a 60 to 80% chance, depending on age of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer and that removal of the breasts still leaves a 3% to 10% chance of developing breast cancer due to the amount of residual breast tissue left. At this point, the current recommendation for those with the BRCA mutation is to have a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy and oopherectomy in the late thirties, early forties age range. Usually breast reconstruction is begun at the time that the breasts are removed.
    I also have learned that unfortunately, most ob-gyns and primary care physicians know very little about breast cancer and it is commonly misdiagnosed. A needle biopsy of a lump, done in a surgeon’s office, is not terribly invasive and is the only real way to determine if there are cancer cells in the lump.

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