Conquering Illness: A Jewish Mom's Secret Weapon

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This is a letter I just received from Racheli Muchnik, a mother of 5 children and Chabad emissary in California, who was diagnosed several weeks ago with thyroid cancer. This inspiring letter is such convincing testimony of the power of Racheli’s “secret weapon”–positive thinking and faith. Thank you, Racheli, for sharing this letter of inspiration and courage with us!

Thursday, February 25, 2010
Adar 11, 5770

Dear Friends and Family,
Thank God! My heart and soul is overflowing with thanks to God… I am alive! I can walk! I can talk! I can laugh! I can write you this letter.

I write to you from Cedar Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, where I have been granted the opportunity to truly value the life that God has given me.

As many of you know, a bit over two months ago I was diagnosed with Papillary Thyroid Cancer. I had a growth on my thyroid, central compartment, about the size of a ping-pong ball! It seemed to have also spread to the surrounding lymph nodes as well. The cure? Total Thyroidectamy (removal of the thyroid) and neck dissection, followed up with a treatment of radiation.

You can imagine the shock. Me? I had just entered my ninth month of pregnancy! I am a healthy woman! I am busy raising a family! I am about to have a baby…I want to nurse for as long as she wants…

And so began my journey to develop my trust in God. Everything will be okay, I knew, but now I need to really believe that. I was afraid. I was angry. Why is God ‘wasting my time’ with this? He is giving me the most precious gift of a new baby… How can He now give me an illness that may prevent me from nursing her as she rightfully deserves…? So my mantra became: “Think Good and it will Be Good,” as we are taught in Chassidic Philosophy. G-d has done miracles in my life, giving me a loving and caring husband and five beautiful children… He can “pull this one off” for me too.

But as surgery date approached, so did my deepest fears.

Being in the month of Adar – the month of joy, I knew the best medicine would be laughter and joy. So together with my old classmates and friends in LA, we organized an “Adar Dance Party.” This past Saturday night, I drove down and we danced and danced. We all decided we were going to “dance the night away” – chasing away all negativity, all challenges and difficulties.

Looking around at my circle of friends, as we danced and sang together, I thought about how each of us has our own share of fears, our own worries and problems. Yet tonight, I was sure – we could break the spiritual boundaries, and draw down goodness and blessings. So we rejoiced in the miracles that we were confident would be coming our way… and boy did we dance! I got home after 1am.

Arriving at the hospital on Tuesday morning, my heart was racing. The biggest medical procedure I have ever had in my life up until that point was … hmmm… let’s see – my wisdom tooth pulled? (!!) I squirm every time I need a simple blood test!!

The nurse brought me to the Pre-Op Room, and they began pricking and poking me, and telling me to put on funny looking blue shoes, a hat and gown. The room was cold. And that fear was tugging away at my heart. They are about to put me to sleep. I have never gone under general anesthesia, and to me at the moment, it felt like they were going to be taking my life away (God forbid)!

So I closed my eyes and spoke to myself the calming words I had been repeating over and over the past few weeks… God loves me. He is taking care of me. The same God who has sent me this challenge, will support me through it. He is literally ‘carrying’ me now, holding me in a tight embrace. Soon I will be sleeping. My healing powers will be activated. I will wake up a completely healthy person. Not a foreign cell in my body. The doctors are a tool in God’s ‘Hand’, they are here to help me, to save my life.
That helped.

But I was still so afraid.

I clutched onto the silver dollar I had received from the Rebbe. It was attached to a chain and I was wearing it as a bracelet. And closing my eyes again, I began to sing a song in my mind. It was a victory marching song.

Every year, the Lubavitcher Rebbe would stand up, his prayer shawl over his face, singing this lively and cheerful song to signify our confidence in having been written, signed and sealed for a sweet new year… And every year, my husband Rabbi Dov, representing the Rebbe here in Oxnard, does the same!

So the image of Dov, standing up on his chair singing that Chassidic melody, popped into my head. And the song filled my heart with confidence. It drove away any ounce of fear. I was ready to march towards success and healing. This year, on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, we WERE sealed for a year of life, health, happiness and blessings. It was already decided, no doubt!

The next the thing I know, I see the surgeon’s smiling face telling me that surgery is over! It was a wonderful success! He said he experienced many miracles while operating. The tumor had been very close, but never ‘stuck’ to anything important, like wind pipe, nerves, voice box… enabling him to do a very ‘clean job’.

All I could think was “Thank G-d! Thank G-d! This is all now BEHIND ME! We can celebrate!”

The best news came when the Endocrinologist came by to let us know that although the pathology shows that the tumor was definitely malignant… he is confident that I can nurse my baby peacefully, and delay radiation, as long as I continue to be monitored. He says we may even be able to delay radiation – permanently!

The doctors and nurses are so pleased and surprised with my rapid recovery, considering the very ‘involved’ surgery that I had… But I am not surprised! I have my baby, Menucha, waiting for me at home, and her four older siblings… I have the strongest will to heal and get back.

Thank you G-d! Thank you for a husband like Rabbi Dov who has been so patient, kind and loving all along. Thank you G-d for returning my health to me!

I want to pay G-d back now, with even more vigor and strength than ever. I want to do Your Will. I want to do all that is in my power to transform this world into the world You intended it to be – a place of love, peace, spirituality, and full of the light of Torah and Mitzvot. A world of Moshiach and Redemption!

Our family has experienced a modern day “Purim Story”. The miracle of Purim continues to take place in our lives. G-d is intimately involved in every detail of our lives, especially in challenging moments.

Any extra mitzvah that is done in our merit, will have made this all worth it!

Thank you all for being like family to me.

Thank you for inundating the Heavens with your prayers for me. It worked!

I miss you all and look forward to seeing you very soon.

With love,

I have just been notified by the nurse that my blood work looks good and that the doctor has signed the discharge papers. I’m going home to my family a day early!


  1. בס”ד

    לרחלי היקרה,
    רפואה שלימה. חזקי ואמצי. כל טוב לבעלך ולך ולכל המשפחה המורחבת. המון נחת מהקינדרלעך.


  2. dvorah wagner

    this is a beautiful and inspiring story. i am forwarding it to my friends as a matter of “pirsum hanes”
    thank you dearest for sharing this with us

    shabbat shalom

  3. Mirele Rosenberger

    Thank you, Rachelli, for sharing your life with us. I thank Hashem for His miracles of refua for you. May you and your entire family only have good health and simcha from now on, and may many Yiddin be moved to add on Mitzvohs from the inspiration of yours words.
    Mirele from Crown Heights

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