Tzippy’s Choice: I was a Cancer Orphan, but IY”H My Child won’t Be

Tzippy’s Choice: I was a Cancer Orphan, but IY”H My Child won’t Be

Don’t miss this powerful video about Tzippy, a JewishMOM of 7 who tested positive for the genetic mutation associated with breast cancer. Determined that her own children should not grow up as orphans like she did, Tzippy chose to undergo difficult surgery to have her breasts and ovaries and other reproductive organs removed.

The New York Times’ Roni Caryn Rabin reports: …Tziporah, 38, a Canadian-born Orthodox mother of seven who now lives in Israel, talks openly about her experience because she wants to reach other religious women. Tziporah, who goes by her nickname, Tzippy, asked that her last name not be used to protect the privacy of her extended family members, who also may carry the gene. Her mother died of breast cancer at 42, when she was 5, and when Tzippy was pregnant with her last child a few years ago, she tested positive for a BRCA1 mutation.

She sought advice from several rabbis about whether she should go forward with risk-reducing surgeries. They reassured her that preserving life is one of the supreme values of Judaism.

So three years ago, after her youngest child was born, she had her breasts and ovaries removed. The operations were grueling, but she said she wanted to make sure her children would not suffer the same loss she had. And she said she felt she had a mission to encourage other women to be tested.

“You know why God did this to me?” she said. “Because I’ve got a really big mouth.”

So she is spreading the word within the Orthodox community that genetic screening can save lives.

“Women don’t have to be dying on their kids,” she said


  1. wow, she’s so brave. Thank you for sharing!

  2. I understand and respect her decision, considering her family background and constant worry about her own future and her children’s futures.

    I do wonder about her strong statement about bchira, though. “If God didn’t want us to have this information, than we wouldn’t.” I just wonder if that’s really true. This has nothing to do with the information she got on the breast-cancer test, but isn’t it true that there is some information out there that we have but we shouldn’t?

  3. At what point should a person investigate this testing? She already had seven children, but what about finding this out before any children? Or one? Most people would not want to eliminate the possibility of having children of their own. Even if we have that gene does not mean we have the disease! I would think that more vigilance in mammograms, or other tests would be in order rather than such drastic measures. Once one shows signs of the disease then we could take extreme measures to be sure it doesn’t fully spread or take hold.
    This is not in the same category as the genetic testing done before shiduchim where by not marrying someone with a certain gene we prevent tay-sachs or cystic fibrosis. Chevra Dor Yishorim is private and helps to make sure we are compatible without compromising our privacy.

  4. To the above posters:

    One word in the title says it all. CHOICE. We should all have the information we need to make choices that are right for us. What works for one person may not work for another, but I don’t think we have the right to question whether Tzippy did the right thing or not. Others may feel differently about it, but at the end of the day, we must respect her decision to do what she felt was best for her health and her family.

    If someone chooses not to have the surgery, not to take the test, or anything else, they have that right and should be respected too. I’m sure that if you were facing something that was potentially life threatening, you wouldn’t want anyone second guessing you, either.

    Just some food for thought. We should all know nothing but simchas, live to 120 in health, happiness, Torah and mitzvot.

  5. Yocheved, that is the problem. When we believe strongly that our way is right, which we all do — that is why we do it — out of ahavas yisroel, we want to show Our Way to others, and that leads to not respecting others’ choices so much. Look – the author above “felt she had a mission to encourage other women” to do as she did. Those who feel the opposite also feel they have a mission.

    • Thank you for your perspective. I do understand this on a certain level. I dealt with infertility for 20 years, before I could adopt my precious daughter. Whenever I hear of a woman getting a heter to abort because the baby “might” have an issue, or because they can’t afford another one, or the mother can’t handle the stress, I struggle so badly with it. I want to scream “Give me that baby! or at least give it to one of my friends!”

      From my point of view, they are wrong, but then – it’s their choice, so how do I feel about that? I try to come from a place of respect and love, but it’s so hard, you know?

  6. right now this idea of removing body parts that are genetically likely to get cancer is new

    we don’t know yet what will happen 10, 20, 30 years down the road

    will the women with that gene get cancer anyway, only now in parts that cannot be removed?

    or will they have beat the system, which is obv. the goal

    • my father works in cancer research, so I asked him about this video and Tzippy’s choice. He said that right now the recommendation of oncologists is that women with the BRCA mutation should have children early and then have at-risk organs removed as soon as they are done childbearing. In the future, though, the goal of researchers like my dad is to figure out why not all women with the BRCA mutation develop cancer. If they can figure out the additional variable that causes only SOME women with BRCA to develop cancer, then not ALL women with BRCA would have to take such drastic and difficult steps to protect themselves.

  7. Chana Jenny, your father must know the answer to my question, then.

    Has removing parts “worked” in the past, that is, has it prevented any cancer from developing, or just cancer in the removed part (where it obviously cannot develop)?

    Has this been studied at all?

  8. First let me say that what I did was not to convince anyone of anything one way or the other, but to educate people on the options available and not to be scared to find out the facts.

    The fact is my doctors told me it was not if but when I would get cancer based on my family history. That of course does not mean it is the same for everyone. There are plenty of people who choose the monitoring route and I respect that. Keep in mind though after you do your research you will find that the BRCA1 gene is an aggressive cancer and more likely than not can’t be treated once diagnosed.

    Again my story and my decisions were right for me as I didn’t want my family to go through what I went through as a child. Does that mean I won’t get cancer? ABSOLUTELY not, however the truth is my chances of developing cancer are now at the same rate as any woman on the street, so by doing the preventive surgeries I can always tell myself, my husband, and my children I did everything in my power to stay healthy.

    Again there will always be different opinions and I would be more then happy to have an open and candid conversation with anyone on the subject and my decisions as I did a tremendous amount of investigation on this and doctors before I made my decision, so I feel I am pretty well versed in this subject.

    Finally I wish everyone healthy and happy 120 years and you should never have to worry about it, but chad vshalom you have a family history I hope you will at minimum check to see if you are a carrier and then talk to support groups, family and friends on what you should do next.

    If I can answer any questions please feel free to contact me.

  9. Chemo is not the way to go, ladies please get informed :

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