The mikvah was small and crowded, and she recalls the process of being “checked” by the mikvah attendant to make sure the immersion was , following the strictest interpretation of Jewish law.“She was a stickler, looking at each one of my fingernails and just poking and prodding me,” Goldberg says.Either way, for many Orthodox women in the United States, monthly mikvah is a part of life. Is her decades-long relationship with mikvah suddenly over? For many women, Goldberg included, chemotherapy for breast cancer means the end of their period.Ashkenazi Jewish women are at unusually high risk for breast and ovarian cancer.According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Ashkenazi Jews on the whole carry the BRCA gene mutation, which leads to both these cancers, at a rate ten times that of the general population.At traditional mikvaot, the spotlight is on a woman’s fertility and sexuality.
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There was little dignity in being examined with such brusque efficiency.
These issues become more pronounced while a woman is being treated for breast cancer, or after she has finished treatment. As she combs her hair to get rid of tangles, as per the custom, it may fall out.
Others see monthly mikvah as a powerful way to mark a transition between two states of being.
In fact, the mikvah waters are often kept at body temperature and can feel womb-like, like a spiritual rebirth.