Art Therapy Joins with Chemotherapy

Cancer. It depletes the body’s strength but it does so much more. It invades the very soul. The terror and helplessness destroy the self-assurance of its victims, leaving them floundering like a shaky, fearful rag doll. The spirit, a vital partner with chemotherapy in healing, is weakened.

Ezer Mizion has many methods of invigorating that vulnerable spirit with positive vibes. Art Therapy is a favorite.  Each year the Cancer Support Division’s Art Workshop presents an exhibit for the public in which cancer patients have expressed their innermost thoughts via visual art. The program empowers the patient to create and regain the self-respect he has lost in the bewildering maze of fear and horror. Below is one of the submissions:

Cancer Support with Art Therapy

Life is full of choices! What’s inside is already too far inside. It’s called habit. The easy line of thought.

In the project, I chose an image of myself, the mainstay of the family, in a state of 360 degrees. Question marks hang on every thought. Did I make the right decision? Say it right? And I ask myself again and again, “When will I learn to choose right?”

And another:

Cancer Support with Art Therapy

The broken and cracked shells symbolize the long journey. Every piece has meaning like a wave and another wave coming to the shore. So one piece and then another piece of me came apart with pain and tears. And from this place I want to grow, to blossom anew. Now I am picking up the pieces, the cracks. One piece and another, I try to join together, to rehabilitate with self-love and compassion. To be in a whole place. Not perfect, but whole. Like the whole egg which seems to have been built anew from the broken pieces that enveloped it. 

We look forward to sharing more submissions with you next week. May Hashem bentsh each one of these women with refuas hanefesh, refuas haguf. 

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They’re Everywhere

Bunny Joins Ezer Mizion in Cancer Support

Many people can hardly say the word. It’s so scary. It’s a word that reminds us that we are mortal. That someday life will be over. If we do say the word, we often add the phrase, ‘You shouldn’t know from it.’ But what if they do know? What if they hear the word countless times a day said by medical personnel with very serious faces? What if they have crossed the road from ‘not knowing’ to that word taking over their lives? And what if they are facing the dread…the terror…the horror…all alone?

That’s where Ezer Mizion comes in. Trained staff and volunteers are there to hold their hands when all they want is to run away from the nightmare but can’t. Ezer Mizion is everywhere. They are in the hospital room with a warm hug while you cry and cry. They’re back again every day with a hot meal, attractively served, as you sit by the bedside of your precious child. They’re in your home doing homework with your other kids. They’re in the stationary store with your son who needs school supplies so he can be a kid like all the other kids, at least in school. Where else do you find them? They’re in the clothing store with your daughter who needs a new dress for a school function. They’re on the phone coordinating the Bar Mitzvah for your son who thought he might not have one. You’ll find them on the road driving family members to and from the hospital for shifts and you’ll find many of them at Oranit offering psychological therapy for those who find it so difficult to cope. Many are in Oranit’s Petting Zoo providing Animal Therapy, or the Music Room of the Crafts Room or organizing trips and birthday parties. Yes, they are really everywhere.

Roni and her family have met many of them. Roni was so disappointed when she was told that the upcoming trip to Dubai for a group of cancer patients was not going to include her. Her medical condition would not allow it. It was necessary for her to remain in Israel. Missing the trip?!  After everything she had gone through?! Roni was inconsolable…until an Ezer Mizion volunteer put a smile back on her face. “You’ll have your own trip, Roni. Right here in Israel. You didn’t think we’d allow you to be left out, did you?!” For two days, she was pampered with breakfast and dinner in restaurants, ATVs, horseback riding, ninja, climbing walls and lots and lots of love.

Ezer Mizion: We’re there when it hurts.

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I Love Her with All My Heart

A stem cell transplant saved my life! L-R Debra and Zohar

I hadn’t been feeling well and decided that a visit to my doctor was the right thing to do. Picking up the blood results was just one of the things on my long list of Things To Do that day. It would be a long, long time till I could get back to that list.

There I sat in the chair opposite him as he perused the first page of the blood work. “Hmmm. Looks ok….” Then he turned the page. His face changed color. His muscles tensed. “I can’t understand how you are sitting here in front of me! You belong in a hospital!” he fairly shouted. An ambulance was called. My list was forgotten and I found myself on a hospital bed receiving an emergency blood transfusion.

And that was just the beginning. Next in line, in our battle against the monster named Cancer, was chemotherapy. My body had been weakened and there were some very scary moments there. My husband was terrified, my mother devastated. “For them! For them I have to get better! I just have to!” I cried inside myself.

The words of a highly insensitive nurse were not encouraging, to say the least: “I hope you have all your business affairs in order.”

“Why is she saying that to me?” I screamed in silence. “I’m not going anywhere!” 

Soon we were down to playing our last card. I was told that a stem cell transplant was my last chance to survive. Unlike medication, a transplant cannot be procured at the pharmacy. It must come from a genetically matching donor. And at that time, there was none…

But there was hope. The registries were searching. Perhaps soon one will be found. Before it’s too late. 

And then came the day that will live forever in my heart. The phone rang. I could hear the bubbling joy in the voice of the caller. A tiny flutter of hope began to well up within me. “I’m calling from Ezer Mizion Bone Marrow Registry. We found a match!”

Tears of joy streamed down my face. A match! Life! Who is this angel who is willing to do this for a stranger she has never met?!

Due to legalities, I had to wait at least a year to meet Zohar. The angel who gave me another chance at life. I lived in Florida and she lived in Israel and so we got to know each other via email. When she finished her stint in the Israeli army, she took a job as a guide in a zoo introducing children and adults to the wonders of the animal world. It was In Israel that she received the call from Ezer Mizion notifying her that she was the only one in the world that could save a life. My life. 

“Wow! This was the most exciting news I ever received. My cousin had gone through a bout with cancer. This was my chance to pay it back and save another person,” Zohar relives the moment of that exhilarating call.  

Then began the next phase of her life: moving to New Jersey and, shortly afterwards, marriage. New Jersey is closer than Israel to Florida but not close enough to actually meet. It wasn’t until a major Ezer Mizion event, the Fireworks concert of 2022, that the two met onstage in front of thousands of people. There were tears. There were hugs. And the walls of the theater trembled with emotion. “I love her with all my heart,” cries Debra.

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Because You Cared

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But I Feel Fine…

I felt fine but noticed a strange enlargement. I wasn’t worried. My brother had survived cancer and I knew what it was like. He had been sick. Really sick. And I felt fine.

I had a long list of things that any busy mother of five can relate to.    Trying to get it checked off my list so I can go on with life, I stopped by the doctor on my way to my other errands.  . One foot out the door, I waited for him to laugh and say it’s nothing. But he didn’t.  Instead he sent me for blood tests. I still thought it was nothing. After all, I felt fine. But when he saw the test results, I was quickly dispatched to the ER.I started to absorb the fact that this was serious. Until now, my life had been calm and routine. Suddenly, the earth was pulled out from beneath my feet.

Cancer is frightening!

. You can go crazy from the sense of helplessness, alone, with a million thoughts and fears. That’s when I made my first acquaintance with Ezer Mizion. A representative approached me and. gave me a clarity and an understanding of what was going on. I vividly remember the feeling that she gave me — how she cheered me up and encouraged me. She told me about Oranit, which eventually became a second home — the hotel-like accommodations, the clubs, the trips, the retreats. She said that we should be in touch and, I’ll enjoy everything that Oranit has to offer — and that is really what happened.”

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Wheels That Make Their World Go ‘Round

A few months ago, Yisrael Tayri, head of the Ambulance Division, received a call from an Ezer Mizion volunteer at a Jerusalem hospital. She had a special request: A young woman with cancer wants to get to the sea, and in her situation, there is no way of getting there without an ambulance, including medical equipment in case of emergency, and a medical staff accompanying the ride. “The time schedule at the Division is set each day for the next day. All of my ambulances were already taken. I told her to talk to me the next day. But the answer I got led me to understand that, in this case, there’s no guaranteeing that there would be a ‘next day’…

Giving on Wheels

So I got to work finding a solution.  For two hours I tried to juggle the time schedule so that it wouldn’t inconvenience the others, but would free up an ambulance for the girl in question.”

Ezer Mizion volunteers in Jerusalem and friends of the girl decorated the ambulance with a red carpet and colorful balloons and left the hospital with the girl, medical staff, and the girl’s family. When they got to the beach, they found more relatives there, who had come especially to make her happy, and also — yes — to say goodbye. The sick girl spent an entire thrilling afternoon at the sea, on the beach and in the water, surrounded by people who love her.

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“She told me that she returned to the hospital so happy,” Tayri shares. “And the next day, at nine in the morning, they called to tell me that she was gone…”

Yigal is an Israeli entertainer. Let’s make that past tense. He was an Israeli entertainer before he was afflicted with the disease that did not allow him to walk even a few steps and  transfer from bed to wheelchair was done with a lift. Life, as he knew it was over and Yigal was slowly crawling into a deep, black, black hole to await the end. After a year and a half, his natural positivity rallied and he began to crawl out from under. It was not long before he was filming again and his first film was about himself. His story and that there is ‘life after emotional death’. But filming is complex and cannot be done from a ‘black hole’. How did he get from his home to the studio? “I couldn’t have done it without Ezer Mizion,” he says.

At Ezer Mizion’s Ambulance Division, skilled drivers with an EMT certificate, work around the clock. 21 ambulances do about 4,000 trips a month. All of the vehicles are equipped with vital medical and mobility equipment, and the drivers assist with a smile, an attitude of respect and lots of energy – not only driving the passenger to their destination, but also helping them get from the house to the ambulance and back. The goal? How can we make the patient feel valued? How can we add some cheer to his day? Transport by Ezer Mizion’s ambulance network ensures more than a safe ride; it provides a pleasant and unique experience that often serves as a ray of light in the midst of a complex period of struggle.

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But He’s So Young…

Dementia. So painful. Having to part with the essence of an elderly parent while physically he is still there.

The anguish is great but multiplied a thousand- fold when the parent is not elderly. When he is an active father, working at a professional job, there for his kids for everything from putting the little ones to bed to giving advice to the teens. How does a child feel when he finally gains the courage to discuss the bullying that is going on at school with his father and, instead of sympathy, a feeling of  validation and some good, solid advice, the response is meaningless, maybe even anger? And how does the father himself feel when, after rising to the top in his field, he finds himself at loss as to what is expected of him?

When dementia hits the young
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

    When Meir started staying at work for extra hours and still coming home with a feeling of major frustration after not having completed his assignments, and when the boss started finding fault with him on a daily basis, the red light lit up for Shuly. “The truth is that it’s hard to put a finger on when it started. It was about three years ago,” she shares. “I heard from him about his difficult feelings due to a lack of accomplishment. I felt that he was working without getting anywhere. Meir had worked for years as a senior accountant in a big company. He was a man of numbers, formulas, and calculations, and suddenly — everything was wiped out. He couldn’t remember skills he’d worked on for years. In the family realm, too, I felt that he wasn’t an active partner in the home, as I’d been used to. We were preparing for the Bar Mitzvah of our youngest son. Meir was responsible for the audio-visual presentation and he couldn’t get it done. It was very uncharacteristic of him and the experience was very frustrating. We’d been married over 35 years. I knew my husband. I immediately felt that something was awry. Since I come from the field of special education, I tested him all day and checked his cognitive level. It made him feel very miserable and, of course, lowered his self-confidence even more. We set off on a long and comprehensive round of tests that included a neurologist, psychiatrist, brain-mapping, CT, lumbar puncture… until, after close to two years, we got the final diagnosis: dementia.

  . “I was transferred to a clerical position, since I was unable to do the accounting work anymore,” Meir relates.  “It was really very embarrassing and unpleasant.  Eventually I got to the point where I was compelled to leave my job. With time, I understood that I have to find myself occupation. There is a big vacuum, because society really doesn’t have any solutions for me and that’s where Ezer Mizion’s clubs for young dementia patients came in. There is something amazing in giving a person a group where he feels he belongs.  In Israel today, there are 6,000 people under the age of 64 suffering from dementia, many with enough cognition ‘to know that they do not know’. The need is so great that a young man who participated in the club was driven by his wife twice a week from Gush Etzion to Petach Tikvah,

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BECAUSE OF YOU!

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