The Worry Wart

The Worry Wart

The infectious disease specialist reviewing my test results was extremely concerned.

“According to your blood test,” Doctor M. explained with a furrowed brow, “there is a .5% chance that you’ve been infected. And if you’ve been infected, then there’s a 5% chance that the effects could be devastating.”

The doctor, who was hands-down the friendliest, champion bedside-manner-est doctor I’d ever met, was also a whole lot better at math than me. But still, I tried to argue with him, “I don’t really understand why you are so concerned. There’s only a 1 in 200 chance that I’ve been infected. And even if I’ve been infected, then the chances are only 1 in 20 that anything really bad is going to happen. Isn’t that, like, a chance of 1 in 4000 that something serious will go wrong?”

“No,” the doctor insisted, “Because you are 40 and because the test results are unclear, it could be somewhat more than 1 in 4000. But nobody can tell you how much more…”

Doctor M. highly recommended I perform another test, which is usually totally harmless, except in the 1 out of 200 cases when it’s not, and is accompanied by devastating, unalterable side effects of its own…

“Why would I perform a test whose risk is 20 times higher than the infection itself?”…

And he said…and I said…and he said….

I left Dr. M.’s office in a good mood, not concerned in the least…

Since, if we are talking about a risk of approximately 1 in 3000, which sounded like the worst case scenario, then there were a whole slew of other more likely dangers to get anxious about.

Like the 1 in 3 chance of developing cardiovascular disease, the #1 cause of death.

Or the 1 in 8 chance of developing breast cancer.

In fact, my risk of developing Dr. M.’s dreaded disease was closer to the lifetime risk of getting hit by lightning: 1 in 5000.

Nope, nothing to worry about.

And I didn’t worry about it, at all.

Until later that night, when the seed of worry planted by the doctor became, in this worry wart’s imagination, Jack’s bean stalk.

And since then, my imagination’s been flirting unrelentingly with the worst case scenario. Congratulations! Chana Jenny Weisberg is our unlucky loser! She’s our 1 in 3000 freak disease recipient…

Anyway, this morning I spoke with a rabbi who specializes in medical issues, and he ordered me, unequivocally, to immediately forget about the whole thing.

And I’m trying to forget about it, I really am…

But my venture into this surreal corner of the Land of Worry has gotten me thinking about the nature of worry.

I am a person who, for as long as I can remember, has always been worried about something or other. If I’m not worrying about Dr. M.’s beanstalk, than I’m worrying about Iran or Nachlaot pedophiles or a troubling issue with one of my children, etc, etc.

And I guess that this most recent worry is SO silly and “lacking in logic” as the rabbi put it, that it has gotten me thinking about how silly worrying is, in general.

The Netivot Shalom teaches that the multitude of nisyonot (tests) we experience in life are actually ONE single life-long nisayon: the nisayon of Emuna…

Making your reasonable effort to cope with a nisayon, and then to let go and let God–rather than letting yourself follow me down into the merciless whirlpool of worry.

The challenge of believing, when life is flinging you around like the battered ball in a pinball machine, that there is Somebody charting your path. That everything is orchestrated from above, and everything, somehow, is for the best. No matter whether you earn a million points, or slip silently down through the loser’s chute.

This week I read a tremendous quotation from Rabbi Eliyahu Ki Tov in Mishpacha Magazine…Rabbi Ki Tov taught his children, “In this world, that which a person doesn’t own is his greatest asset, as this lack endows a person with the greatest possible potential—the potential for aspiration, for yearning to turn what he doesn’t own into his own.”

So I guess that my worry wart’s lack of emuna is actually my most priceless possession; the emuna I lack gives me something to aspire to, to yearn for, until it is my own, IY”H…I hope sometime real soon.


  1. May we all aspire to have the emuna to not need to worry all the time! I’m a prepare for the worst, pray for the best kind of person. It can be extremely difficult not to worry at times. I’m sure that our 1 in 3 chance of getting cardiovascular disease would be lowered if we were all calm, unworried people who didn’t raise our own blood pressure worrying about something that is in Hashem’s hands.

  2. Daniella

    I have a hunch what this may be about because the statistics sound familiar to me, but I’ll leave it to your discretion. Either way, I want to say that in certain areas, the medical establishment in Israel is very pushy and over-interventive and has a habit of scaring people half to death over nothing. I second the rabbi’s opinion. If my hunch is correct, it’s not like there’s anything you can do about it anyway and the riskier test will only give you more statistics, it’s not 100% accuracy. All they can do is follow up more closely and stress you out a whole lot. You can probably choose to do the less risky follow ups without the riskier test just to make sure there has been no serious damage. (If you have no idea what I’m talking about I’m probably guessing wrong, so just ignore the last three sentences.)

    Wishing you lots of emuna and strength. As someone who fell on the wrong side of a 1:10,000 statistic, I truly believe that if Hashem went SO FAR OUT OF HIS WAY to give me a child with this condition, He must truly know that I am up to the task!!!

  3. dear chana, read “the path to tranquility” by Rabbi Lazer Brody….
    and again Tehilim…

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