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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BECAUSE OF YOU!

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The Other Side part three

Recap: They were there. They lay in the hospital beds, or sat next to family members for long hospitalizations. They know exactly what it feels like — the paralyzing fear, the loneliness, and the helplessness.

Hospital patients and their families become volunteers

They know the importance of a sister’s outstretched hand, accompanied by a genuine sense of partnership and the knowledge that even though you walk in the darkness — you are not walking alone.

We turned to five volunteers who had been on the other side, on the dark, painful side, and who promised that the moment they were able to, they’d help others — and then carried out their promise.

Riva Levi, 39, married, with five children

Riva got to know Ezer Mizion through her father’s  hospitalization. Every day, the Ezer Mizion volunteers would bring her and her family tea, coffee, and pastries “I had no idea how significant this help is. And then, suddenly, I was in that position myself, on the receiving end. That’s when I decided to join to help people who were going through what we went through with my father.” When Riva’s father passed away, she decided to take upon herself to help others, l’iluy nishmato (for the merit of his soul). “I help bring clothing for ironing, drive patients to their doctor, and bring hospitalized patients things that they needs. “Sometimes, when you are in a situation of distress, the only thing you need is to know that you’re not alone.”

Batya Amsel, 35, mother of five sons and a nurse by profession

Batya came to know Ezer Mizion during her husband’s illness. Since neither she nor her husband had a driver’s license, they benefited on a regular basis from the Transportation Division who helped them get to the hospital and back. “It is hard for me to describe the relief and the heartwarming feeling given by the volunteers after a draining stay at the hospital,” she shared.

Over the years, she prayed to be on the giving end.  She learned how to drive and her first trips were for others, via Ezer Mizion. She’s been volunteering for over a year, with a sense of mission. “You cannot take away the pain of the hospital from patients and their families, but you definitely can ease and sweeten the experience.”

Ido Bennett, 25, from Raanana

Ido met up with Ezer Mizion eight years ago, when he was stricken with cancer

He calls Ezer Mizion “my second family.  During treatments, the volunteers were there with him at every given moment. During one of the summer vacations, he joined Ezer Mizion’s retreat, together with his family. “On the last day, Rabbi Chollak got on stage. He told us that his dream is to see us, the patients, coming to the retreat one day as volunteers.. “This sentence buzzed in my head like a bug. I decided that I was going to recover and go over to the other side and volunteer.”

Today Ido volunteers for Ezer Mizion. And this year, he joined the staff and volunteered in the summer retreat, precisely where he’d gone as a patient. His dream had come true. “I joined Ezer Mizion because I know that nothing else interests them beyond doing good. And I knew that through them, I’d be able to give to others, precisely as they gave to me. To know that you have the power to help others — there’s no better feeling than that.”

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The Other Side     part two

A volunteer makes sure each child has a great time, wheelchair or not!

Recap: They were there. They lay in the hospital beds, or sat next to family members for long hospitalizations. They know exactly what it feels like — the paralyzing fear, the loneliness, and the helplessness.

They know the importance of a sister’s outstretched hand, accompanied by a genuine sense of partnership and the knowledge that even though you walk in the darkness — you are not walking alone.

We turned to five volunteers who had been on the other side, on the dark, painful side, and who promised that the moment they were able to, they’d help others — and then carried out their promise.

S. Tovi, 21, had cancer four years ago.

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Chessed in Jerusalem

Organization and caring: a perfect recipe for maximum chessed. Throughout Israel, Ezer Mizion’s Linked to Life (an immense whatsapp network) provides rides to hospitals, delivery of essential meds and so much more for Jews dealing with old age, disabilities and illness. Jerusalem is a challenge. The sheer size of the city and the number of major hospitals located there, have created broad-scope needs for those from around the country who are hospitalized in Israel’s capital. Tele-receptionists man the line most of the day and part of the night, with thousands of volunteers.

Consequently, the hands – and cars – of Linked to Life volunteers at the Jerusalem branch are full of unabated chessed work.

Many residents are in need of service outside the city. A father is taking over for his wife at the bedside of their three-year-old at Schneider’s Hospital in Petach Tikva and needs a ride. An elderly man visiting his daughter in Jerusalem forgot his hearing aid at his home up north. All these fall under the standard umbrella Linked to Life network.

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Saluting our Linked to Life Members

Would you mind picking up…?

They’re on the way from here to there and suddenly receive a request to detour. “Can you pick up something, or perhaps someone, from ‘not too far from here’  and bring it to ‘not too far from there’? Let’s be honest. What is the reaction of the average person? Annoyance? Resentment? But our Linked to Life volunteers are special. Some of them do this every day. And some of them, whenever possible, make the trip even when they had not intended to go. Just to help out another person. It may be a family member of a cancer patient who needs a ride to the hospital. Or perhaps some specialized medical equipment urgently needed or test tubes that must reach the lab asap.

Linked to Life is a whatsapp network run by Ezer Mizion where those dealing with illness can always call for help. Just like they would call a family member. Because we’re all family. Often a response arrives within seconds and our volunteers will bend over backwards to do it right…with kindness, with creativity and with a warm smile.

Yoni is just one of the Linked to Life members. He and his wife originally planned a vacation for this summer but when they weighed the enjoyment they would have touring vacation sites against the deep joy and satisfaction of their Linked to Life activities, the latter won by a mile. During the year, their time is limited but vacation days are completely free. And so the Linked to Life vacation became a reality. Each morning, Yoni used his vacation money to purchase gas and then it was Ready, Set, Go. Their days were filled with driving family members to and from hospitals, picking up urgently needed meds. Requests kept pouring in and Yoni with his wife were there to fill them smiling at each other, their hearts filled with joy.   Yoni is just one of our devoted Linked to Life members.

And that is why we at Ezer Mizion decided that an Evening of Recognition is so well deserved. It was a fantastic evening that included swimming, games and great food. The camaraderie was tangible as hundreds shared an evening of fun.

And the highlight? The icing on the cake of this very special evening was the opportunity to join the Ezer Mizion Bone Marrow Registry. Their data will remain on the database for decades available for any cancer patient in need of a stem cell transplant and someday they will hear those electrifying words: You have saved a life!

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