Some people my age are still kids but I was forced to grow up fast. It hasn’t been an easy life. Until fourteen, I was like everyone else. You know. Playing ball, studying for tests, doing pretty well in school except for math. I had a lot of friends and life was great. Until it wasn’t. Until I found myself alone in the hospital. My friends weren’t allowed to visit and even if they had been, they were probably too scared. I know I would have been if it had been someone else lying there attached to tubes and sick with a disease that people didn’t even like to mention. I got chemo treatment. I couldn’t even dream of a ballgame. Every time I pictured the ball flying through the air, I got more nauseous and had to grab that basin fast. But the chemo did the trick, at least for a while. And the cancer seemed to disappear. Then at nineteen, the monster was back again. This time there were no triumphant handshakes from the medical staff. No banter like “We never want to see you here again.” This time, they weren’t sure. I got a bone marrow transplant, the kind where they use your own cells. It was grueling and the ‘maybe it will work, maybe it won’t’ I was hearing was no comfort.
Everyone knows that the number of cancer patients has skyrocketed. Studies give us numbers but it’s hard to empathize with a number. So let’s meet some of the people behind the numbers. Like J.G.. He’s young with two kids, aged 5 and 7. He works as a massage therapist and personal trainer. But for a long period, he wasn’t able to work at all. Actually that’s not true. He was working very hard to remain positive during his stint with chemo. “It was tough,” he says. “The hardest part was being away from my kids. They were living their lives and I couldn’t share it. I just ached for that hug around the knees when I would open the door. I thought that after chemo, I’d be done but the doctors told me I needed a bone marrow transplant. They were not too encouraging as I had an unusual chromosome and they felt it would be difficult to find me a genetic match. So here i was, a father of 2 small kids and being told that I probably will not be here to watch them grow up. Well, let me tell you, Ezer Mizion found me not one match but 4. I try to give back to others now but it can never be enough to pay back Ezer Mizion for what they did for me.”
R.S. is a middle-aged, upbeat lady with a bouncy personality. “Who, me?” she thought to herself when her doctor sent her to a hematologist. She had come in for a routine physical and her blood count was a bit high. Her daughter-in-law, who is a physician, later said she never would have sent a patient to a hematologist for such a low count but Rita is eternally grateful that her doctor was the cautious type.
Things began to heat up at this point with test after test and each doctor looking more serious. It was lymphoma. Rita was devastated. “My heart was pounding as each test was done. I calmed down when the team presented a plan for me. It made me feel secure and they assured me that things looked good. Facing the unknown was so hard. I made a conscious decision not to fall apart. I tried to think only about what I had to do, not get emotional over the future. I would tell anyone newly diagnosed- Stay focused, Take it one day at a time. Be proactive and check out a/t that looks questionable. If you live in a small town, don’t be satisfied with the medical care available. Seek out the best even if you have to relocate temporarily. And, above all, don’t give up.”
S.P. was diagnosed in 1998 and given 10-15 years to live. He had three kids ranging from two to nine. Even the oldest was not told what is going on. They just knew that their father wasn’t feeling well sometimes. “Boy, was that an understatement. The side effects of the meds were horrendous, including depression and suicide tendencies. I found out later that most people on these meds take disability but I’m the type that doesn’t give up so I kept on working. This treatment wasn’t given until many years later, in 2014. By this time, I was newly remarried and my kids were adults, not getting along very well with their stepmother. There I was, lying there helpless and having to listen to the people I loved most argue with each other regarding my medical decisions. Not fun. But things are great now. I had my transplant. I’m much stronger and my family has gelled. We’re all on the same page.
I used to be very involved in sports. Those days are gone for now but I have a new hobby. I’ve discovered painting. I find creating watercolor designs to be very satisfying. And the results are quite good if I do say so myself.”
Three real people. Three real people who were floating through life until they reached a bump in the road. They could be your neighbors. Or your cousin’s neighbors. Stay tuned till next week when we will meet with more.
It wasn’t easy. Acceptance never is. My children would grow up, marry. There would be grandchildren… And I wouldn’t be there. A small grandchild would have a part in the school Chanukah play. “Invite your grandmother, too,” her teacher would say. My little granddaughter’s face would cloud up,” She’s in heaven. She can’t come.” Continue reading He Was Only Young Boy
Cancer is hard. A child whose worst complaint should be ‘too much homework’ is suddenly confronted with what no child should ever know. He finds himself in strange surroundings with his body doing strange things. He hears whispered fragments of his parents’ conversations. He witnesses children who shared the chemo experience with him suddenly disappearing and no one wants to tell him where they went. He’s scared. Confused. Anxious about the future. Will he have a future? He tries to block such thoughts but late at night, in the dark, they come creeping out of their hiding places.
And his siblings do not have it much better. A bedtime talk with Mommy when the hidden questions can safely be asked is a thing of the past. Mommy is always at the hospital or talking nervously to doctors on the phone. Suppers arrive from strangers. No one is home to help with homework. And worst of all is the terror – that dark shadow that permeates every corner of their home. Continue reading Flying High
I’ll admit it. I had a negative thought there for a moment. I picked up a woman at one of the major hospitals and drove her miles to the city in which she lived. For an instant, I couldn’t help wondering why she called for a volunteer. Couldn’t she have gone by bus? She looked fine, spoke in an upbeat manner, even joked a bit. I’m happy to help people out. After all, that’s why I joined Ezer Mizion’s Linked to Life but from what I could see, I wondered if she really needed help. Continue reading Their Role/ Our Role
Rivi has spent the last two hours in her kitchen running from sink to counter, fridge to oven. The smells are mouth-watering. Roast chicken, potato kugel…just like you and me. What’s different, you ask. The difference is the interruptions. Her cell phone seems attached to her ear. A cancer patient calls and is desperate for a ride to the clinic. Her planned transportation fell through and missing her appointment is not an option. She’s crying. Can Rivi help? Chicken breast in one hand, Transportation Roster in the other, she scrolls down, makes first call. Negative. Second. Third. Bingo. A volunteer is able to drop everything and make the trip. Back to the schnitzel. But only until the next call. Mrs. D. was recently diagnosed with cancer. The family is falling apart. There’s no food for Shabbos. The father had planned on eating cheese with challa for the seudos. More than that he couldn’t handle. Can anything be done? Schnitzel waits patiently on the counter while another roster – this time of volunteers to prepare meals – is consulted. Continue reading Cancer Support: Being on the Giving End
They always say thank you but, in truth, I am the one who feels privileged, as an Ezer Mizion driver, to transport so many very special people who have been battling illness and often have gained a clear insight of Hashem’s loving hand. A family had requested a ride to the kvarim (gravesites) to give thanks to Hashem upon their young son completing a set of treatments.
Ezer Mizion’s eighteen ambulances and vehicles for transport of the disabled cruise Israel’s roads and highways almost twenty-four hours a day, providing service to as many patients and mobility-impaired as possible. For each of the passengers, this service is as indispensable as the air they breathe. Most of them are oncology or dialysis out-patients who must come to the hospital a few times a week for treatment. Some are transported by car by our thousands of volunteer drivers. For others, their physical condition precludes travel by car, even with assistance. Yet, for these patients, frequent hospital trips are essential to life. Travel via ambulance is the only option but ambulance transport is not covered by Kupat Cholim. The cost of one trip by private ambulance begins at about NIS 400. Continue reading On the Road to Life
In a special, personal column, Hadas Rosental, mother of 3-year old Moriah, speaks about her everyday struggle with cancer in the oncology ward of the Schneider Hospital in PetachTikvah, about the challenges and the new life routine.
We’re starting the chemotherapy. What, now? Yes, yes, now. But we just got to the ward, and just did a biopsy, and she’s still weak. Continue reading Chemo Kills but…