Rabbi Rachel Cowan, diagnosed with brain cancer, has a message for Congress


(JTA) — Rabbi Rachel Cowan is no stranger to helping others who are ill or caring for sick loved ones. In 1990 she was one of the co-founders of the Jewish Healing Center, a pioneer in a Jewish healing movement that provides spiritual resources and wisdom to help people deal with the suffering that surrounds personal loss and serious illness.

As the longtime director of the Jewish Life and Values Program at the Nathan Cummings Foundation in New York, she helped direct grants for programs that addressed the spiritual dimensions of serious illness.

Now, at 76 and facing a serious illness of her own, she is focusing on the practical, policy side of healthcare. In a video posted on YouTube July 20,  the New Yorker, now a senior fellow at Auburn Theological Seminary, reveals that in February she was diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer. It is the same grim diagnosis Sen. John McCain received last month.

In the video, she appears to address members of Congress considering the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, former President Barack Obama’s signature health care legislation. She urges them to preserve Medicare, the federal health insurance program for the elderly and disabled that would be overhauled, and critics say diminished, under some Republican plans.

“I have received excellent, excellent treatment. ” Cowan explains in the two-minute video. “I have been very comfortable with all the services I have received from Medicare.”

But then she considers what she would have done without it:

Last week I was back in the hospital for another series of treatments and I woke in the middle of the night and I thought to myself, “Oh my goodness, there are people who want to take this away. I will die without it. There’s no possible way, I and [30,000] people who have glioblastoma, not to to mention the millions with all other kinds of cancer — prostate, breast, ovarian…. We all — our lives really depend on Medicare. So I urge you please to talk to your constituents, to hear what they feel about this, to see what their feelings are, why it matters so much. And step into the pictures. You have a huge possibility of helping us, and we are , you know, our lives are actually in your hand. So if you would pay attention I would be so grateful. And it would be wonderful thing for you to do.

On July 27, the Senate rejected a Republican plan to repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act. McCain joined Republicans Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska in casting the decisive vote. After President Trump demanded that the Senate try again in their years-long effort to repeal and replace ACA, Republican leaders defied him and moved on to other issues.

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