“In Israel, the doctors have a new slang called ‘the Eylon effect,’ meaning women talk differently about their options since my story,” Eylon Nuphar said.
By Joseph Wolkin, World Israel News
Eylon Nuphar is a strong woman.
A well-known choreographer and co-founder of the famed Mayumana dance troupe, Nuphar is becoming an international icon for another reason – her decision to go public after opting out of reconstructive surgery following a double mastectomy.
Nuphar, her mother, grandmother and younger sister are each BRCA1 carriers. For Ashkenazi women across the world, the chances of breast cancer are high for BRCA1 or 2 carriers.
The surgery was six months ago. Nuphar is open about her journey in order to inspire others.
Nuphar recently spoke to World Israel News.
Q: When were you first diagnosed with cancer?
“When I was 45, I took preventative action and took my ovaries out. It’s something that a lot of women do in very early stages that they’re BRCA1 or 2 carriers. I did that and I wasn’t expecting to get sick again. I thought I did the best I could and it’s behind me. When I was diagnosed at 49, which is the same age my mom was diagnosed, it was back in the same breast and that’s unusual because it went through radiation and it’s not supposed to come back.
“This time, I had a hard time deciding what to do. I said there’s no way I’m going to commit myself to five or six operations later on to reconstruct my breasts. I said I’m going to get the double mastectomy without reconstruction, and it’s going to be great.”
Q: What’s your message for women getting this surgery and really everyone in general?
“I’m trying to figure out what the message of this is. But it has to do with the freedom to be authentic without being afraid that you’re losing something by choosing differently. Don’t be ashamed of accepting reality and yourselves. I’m not supposed to be happy that I have cancer, but I am relieved that it appeared and I’m going through this. There is some happiness in it because it woke me up. I’m not jaded. There’s a blessing in that, even though it’s really difficult.”
Q: How did you make this decision?
“It wasn’t an easy decision. None of my doctors offered to do a double mastectomy without reconstruction. It’s quite unusual to make this decision but there’s no way I’m going to commit myself to six operations later on to reconstruct my breasts. My doctor said going without breasts will mean you’ll have big scars. I said, ‘I’ll love them. You’ll see.’”
Q: How did you build up the courage to go public about your story as you were just discovering how to deal with the changes yourself?
“I believe we all matter. I believe that there is nothing to be ashamed of being a human being, and going through sickness, There is so much health inside me. All I really believe is that I’m going through cancer and not letting cancer define me. I have always been public. I’m an artist and this is how I share my experience and it’s been such a great ride until now.”
Q: What advice would you give a woman dealing with such challenges?
“I would say it is all very personal. No one can promise you anything. We are the ones who have to live with ourselves, so take time off and go to nature. Make decisions that are not based on fear, but based on love and compassion towards yourself. Never worry about what other people feel about your decision. If anything, they will be inspired by your peace.”
Q: What is your key to getting through all of this?
“Loving life, understanding things happen and trying to squeeze out the best in any situation. After my first shock and disappointment that cancer was back I managed to get excited about my decision. I chose to share it on TV a day before my operation in order to encourage women to see other options and attitudes towards difficult situations. Later on, it led me to call the editor of Laisha magazine and offer them to do this unusual cover of a woman showing her breast without breasts, only four weeks after the double mastectomy. I have been sharing my life with three documentary movies and a monthly column. I know this was important to share. I could carry my scars knowing this does not make me less a phenomenal woman, if anything more.”
Q: How do you stay positive?
“I’m just awake in that way that I understand it’s not obvious that I’m here. I want to bring something while I’m here and impact people to be as free as they can to enjoy their lives. Don’t be afraid that something will go wrong, because something will go wrong at some point. It’s interesting and it’s worth it.”
Q: What does it mean to have other women reach out to you for advice?
“I feel blessed having women all over the world write to me and share their stories. A 63-year-old woman wrote to me saying she was waiting for 25 years to tell her story and that I gave her the courage to come out. I love that. In Israel, the doctors have a new slang called ‘the Eylon effect,’ meaning women talk differently about their options since my story.”
Q: How has this experience connected you with Judaism?
“I pray in the morning and at night. I call it free improvisation prayer. What it does for me is it connects me to the little kid who left the states when she realized she was Jewish. Moving to Israel was confusing because everyone’s Jewish. When I was 12, I read the Torah and that’s unusual in Israel. The connection to Judaism is a connection to my core. I love it.”
Q: Since your story was published in 20 countries what are you doing now?
“I give lectures online called ‘Who needs a shirt at all?’ I talk about the courage to choose our own path through my life story. I have been modeling and I just finished walking and being covered in gold in the Israeli fashion week for the Ariel Toledano Collection. I have been chosen to be part of the Black Panthers exhibition in the Musrara Museum in Jerusalem as a woman who made social changes. I understand I created a big wave and totally accept this mission because it’s about liberation. It’s about freedom of choice. It’s about creating our own path and it’s about time.”