It was my birthday and I knew just what I wanted. When I was a little kid, I had some birthday requests that were so out of line that even i understood they were just dreams. Like the time I wanted a horse (We were living in an apartment building.) Now as an adult about to turn 40, my birthday dream seemed just as unattainable. What was it? : A gift of giving, It’s what Ezer Mizion calls a Personalized Donor Pool – a group of potential bone marrow registrants who stand ready to save the lives of cancer patients. My own group whose genetic testing I would be responsible for. Whenever one of them would be found to be a match for a cancer patient and donate his stem cells, I would receive a call with the electrifying words: You have saved a life. What a gift! Every month, I would read the list of names of those whose pools had saved one, sometimes two, lives and I’d think, “Why not me?!”
And so I began working on my birthday gift. I drove everyone crazy. There were hundreds of messages on my facebook page focusing only on this. My whole family was caught up. Even my kids were involved answering phones all night. It was a matter of raising a large sum of money and some of my friends teased me with comments like, ‘Dream on…’ but some of my friends responded more encouragingly and joined in to help me. And as the numbers climbed up, more and more changed their minds and decided to join what seemed to be a winning team. The final numbers (for this year- remember,I have another birthday coming up next year…):
728 people who donated a total of $40,000+ that sponsored 716 new registry members!
Recently our donor pool was launched. My husband and I came for a tour of Ezer Mizion’s cancer support facility in Petah Tikvah. We got home an hour ago and the tears don’t stop flowing. If I only could show all of you what this place looks like! It’s an entire world of chessed, What they do for the patients! To walk into the Registry and see a soldier who was found to be a match for a patient sitting there, waiting to donate, to give life to another human being. Many of them. All spending hours of their time just so someone they never met could have a future.
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.
I’m a nurse. I wear a uniform. It puts me on the other side. ‘They’ are sick and I help ‘them’ get well. I’ve been doing this for 20 years. But one day it was different. There was a diagnosis and the diagnosis was mine. “I have three kids. I’m a nurse. This can’t be true. It must be a mistake.” I was in complete denial. But denial can’t cure cancer and I was forced to come to terms with it.
My husband was the opposite of me. He had been a paramedic and a firefighter, also helping others. But he reacted in exactly the opposite way of me. He was not in denial at all. In fact, he googled the disease and got a lot of information.. That was his way of coping. He was very aware of every negative aspect. I had AML, a very aggressive type of disease. Without the bone marrow transplant, I had a 23% of surviving. Continue reading Real Lives…Real Stories…Real Families Even Me by Sharone Guzman
At 61, Betzalel N. was just beginning grandfatherhood. He had three children and several tiny grandchildren. His drawer was filled with lollipops and his mind was filled with future plans: trips to the zoo with Grandpa, graduations, dancing at their weddings…until the day it all came crashing down. Leukemia. There would be no holding the hand of a grandchild as she gingerly feeds a baby goat at the zoo. Weddings would take place but there would be no glowing Zeidy (grandfather) to dance with the chassan (groom). It was over. He’d be gone. The doctors had tried everything and there was only one procedure left. A bone marrow transplant. If a genetically matching donor could be found somewhere in the world, he’d have a chance. If not, … Continue reading Two Grandpas: Their Sole Chance of Survival Was a Bone Marrow Transplant