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Body image in a Foreign Body with the incredible women Esther Widroff of Incredifall
Esther’s husband is a clinical psychologist in the military, so her family moves every 2-3 years.
They now reside in Waterbury, Connecticut. Her husband is on active duty and there is no guarantee about what will happen next as he can be deployed at any time. He joined the military because he always cared about the underdog and making a difference in the lives of others. Members of the military go through severe trauma and suffer from PTSD and Esther’s husband wanted to help them carry on normal lives.
Before the military, Esther worked in the administrative field.
When they moved, she became a stay at home mom for a little bit and now she works as a preschool teacher. She wasn’t sure if she would be able to handle small children all day and then come home to her own small children, but she loves the field. It’s such a rewarding experience for her everyday.
One of Esther’s cousins was diagnosed with breast cancer and Esther had a feeling that more of her cousins were suffering from this because 4 of her 5 aunts suffered from breast cancer.
When Esther got married, her doctor told her not to get tested for breast cancer yet so that she could have kids naturally without having to remove her ovaries. 7 years later, Esther got tested for breast cancer, after she already had 2 children, and tested positive. In the Ashkenaz world, one in forty will carry the Brca gene mutation. Esther’s doctor told her there was a 95-98% chance of developing breast cancer in her lifetime. Since she was teaching, she knew she couldn’t have surgery in the middle of the school year. These risks become greater as you get older so it wasn’t so urgent for her to have surgery right away. Incredifal is a hat fall that Esther came up with. She is a crafty person and she needed something to take out all her nervous energy when her test came back positive. Esther’s idea for Incredifall started because she didn’t want to wear a sheital everyday as a Morah. She made a prototype and let her neighbors test it out. After positive feedback, Esther decided to begin selling them. She never advertises or promotes her items so she never imagined it would be such a success. She has heard incredible stories from women who were becoming frum and didn’t want to spend 2000 dollars on a sheital, so they purchased wigs from her instead. Being able to become a part of all of these womens’ journeys is incredible. Her prices are cheap with the most expensive being $250.
In regard to Braka, she was given multiple options.
One was surveillance, which involved going in for an MRA a few times a year and if the doctors find anything they act. Esther didn’t like this option because it felt like she would be waiting for something bad to happen. If she had to move again, this wouldn’t be ideal so she wanted to have the surgeries done right away. Esther had her natural breasts removed and used her abdominal tissue to create new ones. The surgery was very long. Esther was in the hospital for a week after the surgery and it was the worst kind of pain she ever could have experienced. After the surgery, she went from a 98% lifetime risk of breast cancer to a less than 2% risk. She has more surgeries ahead of her because the ovarian cancer risk comes later in life, but she doesn’t have to worry about that yet. One surgery will be to remove her fallopian tubes and one will be to take out her ovaries. These are the least invasive surgeries but emotionally will be the hardest.
Esther actually received the brca mutation from her father.
She had to educate herself out of fear because no one taught her about what was going to happen. She was too scared to talk about what was going on because of all the stigmas surrounding it. She wasn’t told to check her embryos when doing IVF to have children, so she felt very guilty that there is a possibility that she could have passed the brca mutation on to her children. Esther was scared of people looking at her differently and judging whether she looked the same after her surgeries. She decided to talk more openly about what she went through after hearing about a woman who died from Brka leaving behind 6 kids. Esther thought this was crazy because it’s preventable! The longer everyone is quiet, the more women are going to die! She wrote an article for Nashim magazine right before her second surgery. The second time around, was such a different experience because she had the support of her whole community behind her. The response was overwhelmingly positive.
Prior to the surgery, Esther had a positive body image.
She was always athletic growing up. Esther gained a lot of weight from the fertility treatments she underwent, but was able to lose it through a healthy lifestyle. She never imagined undergoing such drastic alterations to her body but didn’t feel like she had a choice. She didn’t want to wait to be diagnosed. After the surgeries, she felt like a stranger in her own body. She had a hard time looking in the mirror for a while. Now she feels more comfortable in her body and is a huge advocate for these informed choices.
Esther was very lucky to have amazing surgeons who were warm and supportive and loved what she was doing.
They asked her why these conversations are so frowned upon in the Jewish community. We stigmatize these issues and no one likes talking about it but we need to be speaking about these things because it’s not scary once you choose to take action. Breast cancer once caught early is very treatable. There are so many options and you don’t need to walk the path that Esther did. There are also Jewish organizations, like Sharsheret, who can give you guidance in how to treat yourself. Talk to your doctor about what preventative steps you can take. Knowing that she did this so her husband and kids would never have to see her fighting for her life, helped her get through it. Mentally knowing that nothing can change who she is, despite undergoing physical changes, helps her not get stuck on how much her body has changed. She started seeing her body as her lifesource and what connected her to her friends and family. Our body is just the case for our neshamah. In addition, Incredifall helped her not totally lose herself before and after her surgeries.
You can find Incredifall on Instagram at @incredifall
Gila Glassberg is a Master's level registered dietitian and a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor. As a teenager, she was faced with constant diet talk, body shaming and obsessive guilt around food. She struggled with disordered eating. This is what propelled her into the field of nutrition. She uses a non-diet, weight-neutral approach called Intuitive Eating. She helps growth oriented women break out of chronic dieting, and regain clarity into what is really important to them.
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