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What Six Words on a Necklace Meant During My Recovery from Breast Cancer

Sometimes, if we’re very fortunate, we find when we’re young friends whose goodness and inspiration will take permanent root in our lives. Marla and I were 17 when we met. Amid the accomplishments and the dramas of college life, the all-nighters and lessons learned (in and out of classrooms), we developed a bond and an understanding of each other that hasn’t faded. Not to diminish anything I learned in school, but this quote from the Talmud comes to mind: “I have learned much from my teachers, but from my friends more than my teachers.” 

When I wear my necklace from Marla, I get lots of comments on its beauty. But perhaps my favorite view of it came from a 4-year-old who pointed to the subtly shining circle and said, “You got a medal!” Yes; in a way I did. Now, I give pieces designed by Marla for birthdays, graduations, Bat Mitzvahs, and other occasions for which a “medal” would be in order.

June 30th will mark eight years since I finished chemotherapy. And some of the days in those years have been very difficult—in my life and in the world at large—and others have been wondrous.   

Right now, the mood in this country is somber, for good reason. We are contemplating the darkness of the Orlando shooting. We are thinking of young lives lost; of grieving families; of why this keeps happening in the United States, and of what we can do that will truly turn the tide. 

Darker days, though painful, can teach us a great deal about ourselves, our communities, and the future we want to work toward. Brighter days strengthen our joy and our very commitment to life. In return for all our days, we have to do all we can to make sure that the world is kinder, healthier, and more peaceful for our presence. My “medal” from Marla reminds me of all of this. Light before darkness; darkness before light.


Visit Marla Wallerstein’s website here. And here is the necklace that appeared at my door.