I will never, ever, ever forget my first visit to the oncology ward. It was a traumatizing place to be for a young high school girl but how could I not have visited my little sister, Chevy! So I stared at all the children with bald heads. ‘That won’t happen to Chevy, will it?’ i whispered to myself, still blissfully unaware of what no young girl – or even adult – should know about. When I got home, I pulled out a picture of Chevy and, with my fingers, covered up her long, dark wavy hair, still pretending it will never happen but preparing myself just in case.
It happened. After the second treatment. Chevy said she feels as if she is carrying her hair. When I tried to brush it for her, big clumps came loose. We ended up with an immense pile of hair which Chevy thought was funny. ‘Lets make a funeral’, she giggled. ‘What should we use for a talis?’
Oh , Chevy, if you would only have known what is to come. But none of us did. The treatments ended. We were so happy. Chevy’s numbers were good and things looked bright. It had been such a difficult time for the whole family. Without Ezer Mizion, I don’t see how we could have made it through. They were everywhere. They gave us rides to the hospital, let us live in this really nice apartment that was near the treatment center so we couldn’t have to travel. There was therapy for all of us kids – such fun therapy with music, sand play, crafts, and even a petting zoo. There was psychological help, hot, delicious meals, parties and trips. And most of all they enveloped us with such love. They seemed as happy as we were that it was almost over.
“Think, everyone, think!” she cried out. “There has to be something! Something we can do even in the midst of corona.” We all sat there. We’re normally a creative bunch but the ideas were just not coming. Every year we hosted a retreat for families dealing with cancer. It was the highlight of the year for them, a time to bond with their family, good food, fun entertainment – a vacation from cancer. Away from hospitals and tests and treatments. Something to put a smile on faces that almost forgot how. It meant everything to the families whom, in addition to the medical situation, were suffering so much emotionally with many family relationships on the verge of collapse. Continue reading Think!
I went out today to distribute food. With lots of energy and good will, I came to collect the packages and got a list. Third floor, fourth floor, etc. No elevators. Ah, occasionally there was a ground floor…
How is Ezer Mizion’s Bone Marrow Registry managing? Corona created formidable obstacles. 60% of stem cells are normally transported by courier for life-saving transplants to countries outside of Israel. At first, foreign couriers who do not have an Israeli passport were denied entry into Israel. Israeli couriers were forced to wait a two week isolation period following their return into Israel. Continue reading Give Up? Not When It Means Saving A Life!
We all have learned the words way back in primary grades. We heard the stories. We know it’s true. We know whatever Hashem does is for our good. But do we really know it? Inside, where it counts? Miriam A’H really did. Miriam fought the battle with cancer for five years. During that time she developed unbearable sores in her mouth. She called them diamonds. “Imagine having diamonds in your mouth. They’re sharp. They hurt. But how precious they are!”
If a miracle is defined as something above nature, Miriam was a walking miracle. Her difficulties began at age 25 after the birth of her third child when she received the news. Her response? “If Hashem wants me to live, I’ll live.” All of life is His will.” The disease spread. The pain was beyond endurance yet Miriam did endure it, strengthened by her deep understanding: “The pain is a gift to cleanse me of my sins.”
Ezer Mizion was privileged to provide assistance to this incredible young woman. Her family vied to stay with her during her hospital stays and it was Ezer Mizion’s Transportation Division that drove family members to and from the hospital. The Food Division provided hot, nutritious meals for those staying with her to enable them to give their all to someone they loved with all their heart. Very gently, oh so respectfully, as befits this angelic human being, its Ambulance Division transported Miriam herself for treatments. Ezer Mizion’s Guest Home for the Family, where fun and smiles abound at every corner, provided Story Hour, crafts, music, even a petting zoo, all run by trained therapists, enabling the family to eliminate travel for treatments and garner much emotional support. Help with the children, help with the housework, trips, retreats and fun days to give strength to a young family whose lives had been turned upside down …all these were part of the package offered to help them win the battle against that monster named Cancer that had entered their home.
But we lost.
Three days before her passing, she was discussing Hashem’s ways with a close friend. Her friend said that here in this world, it often appears to us that something is bad, is painful… like stitches that must be done so that we may heal. Miriam, felt otherwise. “No, it’s not like stitches. It’s like a whipped cream cake. A delicious cake delivered by a loving Father.”
The next night, she read her precious children a story, said Shma (bedtime prayer) with them and tucked them in for the last time. Her condition deteriorated after that and the doctor recommended sedation. “How long will the sedation last,” she asked. “Maybe forever,” she was told. In complete control, she asked forgiveness of her father over the phone since he, a Kohen, was unable to be with her in the hospital. She wrote letters to her children, asking her daughter to always dress in a modest manner, her sons to continue to learn Torah with all their heart and to always know that she loves them and is watching over them all. She wrote a list of items she had borrowed that had to be returned to neighbors and then, like a daughter whose job was done, she said Shma and vidui (confession), asked her husband to be sure she is covered properly after she falls asleep and to sing together with her ‘V’ani b’chasdecha batachti, …’ (a song of belief in Hashem)
It all began with a video. I don’t believe too many positive stories begin this way, but I’m proud to say this one does. This was an Ezer Mizion video of IDF Major Maor Cohen’s special mission for nine years: to help children with cancer escape into the world of Lego. His message spoke to me immediately. In the video, one mother explains “Cancer broke my family apart and Lego rebuilt it anew.”
My son always made a beeline to the Lego area at Mommy and Me each week. For his second birthday, I decided to buy him a big builders’ box of Lego. He got croup shortly before his birthday so I decided to give him the present a little early. I remember the miraculous sound of clicking and clacking and the total absence of the scary cough he had beforehand. While STEM educational models point to the mathematical and engineering benefits of Lego, I had forgotten the mindfulness aspect of it until seeing this video.
I contacted Ezer Mizion to see how we could be a part of it for Michael’s bar mitzvah project. Hadassah Somosi, an incredibly warm, caring, devoted, and capable director of Resource Development at Ezer Mizion, connected all the dots for me and we had our date set and plans in place of which Lego sets to bring for our Israel trip.
Can there be a more appropriate location for Ezer Mizion’s Oranit cancer patient guest home and center for its cancer support services than Petach Tikvah—defined as “opening of hope?” Built in 1996, with the generous assistance of the Bracha & Motti Zisser Foundation and the Rosinger Family, Oranit is located amidst three major hospitals that treat pediatric cancer and provides them with an oasis while enduring difficult treatments. The Andrew and Margaret Rosinger Residential Wing provides housing for children and families for short-term stays as well as endless options for recreation at the Donald Berman Rehabilitation Center—the Rinat Bakshi Wildlife Pavilion, the cleanest petting zoo around, arts-and-crafts including a full ceramics studio, music therapy including a recording studio, a movie theater, snacks, slushies and meals, indoor and outdoor spotlessly clean Malka Lazarus playgrounds, and, of course, what drew us there: the Lego room. As Hadassah explained on our tour, “We want to make them happy in the hope it will help make them well.
Thanks to import taxes, in Israel Lego can cost triple the price as in the United States, so many children do not have any Lego sets. At Ezer Mizion – Oranit, they have weekly Lego workshops and their projects are stored while under construction and displayed once completed. Families usually do the projects and escape into this alternate world together, letting the cancer suffering vanish for a precious hour or two. Maor writes about his personal connection to family illness: “Ever since I was five, my father, may he live and be well, has been a heart patient. I never had the security of knowing that just because I saw my father at breakfast would he be there at supper … Through the years, Abba got better and then was sick again, and that cycle kept repeating itself. As a family, we learned to live with this reality.”
As my family took it all in, Hadassah had more special plans for us. As some of the children actually walked in to join the Lego workshop, Michael had the rare opportunity to give a set to a few children in person. They exchanged hugs and warm words. The only dry eyes in the house were on the Lego figures.
I can’t daven (pray) now without thinking of these special families and hoping for a refuah sheleimah (complete recovery) for everyone. I hope to continue supporting Ezer Mizion and I encourage our readers to do the same.
Flying 35,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean is not an easy job! Ofer had already spent 17 years as a fighter pilot in the IDF. In 2003 he left the reserves and joined El-Al full time. “Most people don’t realize that being a pilot is a very dangerous profession. When you know it is dangerous, you are safe but when you think it is easy, when you’re a cowboy, you are unsafe! A pilot’s job is to always be alert in case something happens.” Ofer always remained alert with hundreds of travelers under his wing, quite literally!Continue reading Flying High
“My two sons are adults but they took it real hard. I think they were afraid they were going to lose their father.” A.S. recalls those horrific days when he learned that he would be battling cancer for the second time. “My wife is a librarian. She did what comes naturally to her and researched the disease. And panicked. There were so many possible outcomes and a lot of them …not good. But she was there at my side, terror and all. Continue reading Never Give Up Hope
Can a girl be old at 23? Really old and weak with the aches and pains normally associated with an octogenarian? Well, it happened to me. I was a carefree student studying in Washington DC with the usual get-up-and-go of a young person. Late nights at the library, long walks around the campus. It was a fantastic time in my life – full of promise of a bright future. I was dating a wonderful young man. In fact, he had moved from Ohio, where both of our families lived, to DC so we can date more easily. An engagement was imminent. Continue reading Old at 23?