She Opened My Heart

August 23, 2017

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The gentle, loving glance of a freshly-minted chasan to his kallah as they sit on their new couch together, sharing their innermost thoughts. A special moment made even more special by the newlyweds themselves – two young people born with Downs Syndrome.

 

Marriage? Impossible, the naysayers had said. How will she…? How can he…?

But with the right kind of assistance, it became possible and many have found the ultimate in fulfillment with several organizations in Israel holding their hand.

 

How many times did she cry to her mother, I want to marry and have a home like my sisters and brothers. How many times did he look longingly at couples who had a closeness found only in marriage. They both ached to achieve what seemed so out of reach until a phone call was made. And the impossible became not as impossible as their families had assumed.

 

Lets visit a bit and watch them on their first shopping trip together. Such joy. Such togetherness as they choose the appropriate items from the shelves. Home again. To their own home. Delight as they turn the key and unlock their front door.  They’re hungry and prepare supper. He slices the cucumbers. She slices the egg. The pot is washed clean. The counter sponged to perfection.

 

But marriage is not about clean counters, you question. Can they relate?

 

Watch. Watch as she pours the Kiddush wine for her new husband. Their joy is palpable. Watch as they laugh together over the wedding pictures, sharing their own private jokes.  “She worries about my health. She cares about me,” their devoted glance at each other says so much more than his words. He becomes sensitive to her needs and brings her the perfect present to make her happy. She speaks about her marriage and he cannot resist planting a tender kiss on her forehead. He captures the essence of their marriage with the fond words: She opened up my heart.

 

 

All parents dream of the day they will accompany their child to the chuppah and see him found a family of his own. But for many parents, bringing that dream to fruition can be a nightmare! When the young man or woman has a condition that casts a shadow on his or her matrimonial future, the path to the chuppah may be strewn, not with rose petals and confetti, but with tears and frustration.

A few years ago Ezer Mizion decided to take up the challenge of advancing matches between people with medical issues. Its tremendous success has led the division to undertake the next step: Special Marriages.

 

Many such marriages have already been made. The sensitive caring provided by several organizations in Eretz Yisroel have made them a remarkable success. These organizations care for the couple after marriage. They operate and supervise apartments for special needs and provide mentoring for the couples. While these organizations assist after the wedding, none of them deal with the matchmaking, from beginning to end of the process. Ezer Mizion’s Strike A Match Division has recently partnered with them in creating shidduchim between special people.

 

Penina Raziel directed a Special Ed school for many years and has recently retired. But full retirement was not for a capable, energetic person like Penina and she began looking for a volunteer opportunity that would dovetail with her experience.  She discovered the perfect ‘match’ in heading the Special Department of Ezer Mizion’s Strike A Match Division.

 

Under Mrs. Raziel’s direction, Ezer Mizion recently held two introductory events, in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak. The response was overwhelming.  Although the events were minimally advertised due to the high advertising cost, over 200  attended in Jerusalem and more than 250 in Bnei Brak, participants coming from all parts of the country.

 

We look forward to sharing many ‘mazel tov’s ‘ with you , our good friends, as the special kol sasson, kol simcha reverberates among the streets of Eretz Yisroel.

 

To share their joy:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n2MP76Nax40

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c_QaL2MJ16I

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MaOscSirXtc&spfreload=10

 

 

For further info: www.ezermizion.org    5225 New Utrecht Ave Bk NY 11219         718 853 8400

Opennn!

August 18, 2017

pr canc sup legoMaor Cohen is known at Ezer Mizion as the Lego Man. He runs a workshop for kids with cancer and their siblings using lego as a medium enabling them to cope with their fears and anxieties. For those children who are unable to attend the workshops he makes hospital visits.  Always smiling on the outside, one cannot imagine where he finds the strength to continue his mission of chessed. Read on to share his thoughts.

 

 

Adi is at a terrible stage of her development. Terrible for us.

She got to know Dora.

That annoying cartoon character, the bi-lingual Dora with the monkey and the pocketbook who teaches kids translations.

But she asks the kids to scream them out.

And they listen to Dora.

To us – not as much…

This week’s episode focused on the word “open,” which repeated itself  again, and again, and again.

“Abba,” Adi explained to me. “In order to get into the castle, you have to say ‘Open.’”

When she grows up, she’ll realize that it doesn’t always work.

This week, I was called to hospitals on a few different occasions in my capacity as LegoMan.

“We need you,” I was told.

I didn’t want to be needed

I didn’t want there to be young children living in such a horrifying nightmare.

And those are the lucky ones.

Some are no longer living … anywhere.

And sometimes it happens to the nicest families.

About four years ago, I began a job and was a little stressed by the field, which was new to me. I called Asaf who had held the position before me.

He taught, explained, helped, took care of, did everything, as if he was still on the job.

He infused me with confidence.

“Call me whenever you need to,” he said,

Since then, we became friends.

A year ago, one Monday night, I was walking from the room of one child to another’s  in Schneider Children’s Medical Center.

Asaf came over and gave me a hug.

“What are you doing here?” I asked anxiously.

“My son,” he replied. No further words were necessary.

I was shocked.

We went into the room. His little boy,Lior, a baby, just a few months old, lay in the crib. His mother was stroking him.

What does a crib have to do with the Oncology Ward, dear G-d?

Yesterday, Lior ben Asaf, not yet a year and a half old, returned his soul to our Creator.

Lior is no more.

 

Last night, very late, I remembered that I’d promised a set of lego to a girl who’d finished treatments.I don’t know what made me think of it, but suddenly I remembered that the set was in the car. I sent her mother a message and she immediately got back to me, excited, to say that the girl was waiting for it and she’d be so happy.  This morning, I went to be menacheim aveilim, to console Asaf.  Suddenly, a message popped up from someone that the mother was in that same neighborhood.

I wasn’t prepared. This wasn’t supposed to happen. I couldn’t meet her, Not now. Not when I’m going to…

Something inside me pressed me. It will make her daughter so happy.  I called.

I gave her the Lego. She saw where I was coming from.

She took a deep breath.

I went back to Asaf, hugged him, and told him what had just transpired.

I went on my way, looked up to the skies,

and screamed, “Opennnn!!!”

“Open the gates of mercy and health!”

 

Ezer Mizion provides services to over 660,000 of Israel’s population annually in addition to its Bone Marrow Registry which saves the lives of Jewish cancer patients the world over.

For further info: www.ezermizion.org  5225 New Utrecht Ave Bk NY 11219     718  853 8400

 

 

 

 

August 9, 2017

pr pix bmr cells168_ne_photo_b90aaAt 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 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, …

Genetics is based on ethnicity and Jews will match other Jews. Ezer Mizion is the largest Jewish registry in the world and has saved over 2400 lives. But even the largest registry is not large enough and for too many, no match is found. Would there be one for Betzalel?

Many years before, Yoni H. had registered with Ezer Mizion’s International Jewish Bone Marrow Registry. He had been a young man, still in his late teens. Too young to fully realize what that registration meant. Now his cell phone rang. “This is Ezer Mizion calling. You have been found to be…” Yoni was a mature man now. He fully understood what was at stake. He had questions about the procedure, of course, but never for a moment did he entertain the possibility of saying no.

Yoni and Betzalel met recently at Ezer Mizion. Betzalel brought his children and grandchildren who all wanted to meet the angel who had saved the life of a person he didn’t even know. Perhaps their next meeting will be at the zoo, helping the little ones to feed the goats and sharing the joy of being alive.

Mordechai H. was only 70 when diagnosed with lymphoma. He was active, leading a full life, never thinking that it could come to an end very soon. His family was very worried but he himself didn’t allow his mind come near the truths that had devastated his family. He couldn’t think about it. He just couldn’t. He was paralyzed with fear.

His physicians were aggressive in their battle for Mordechai’s life. Chemo. Various treatments. Nothing helped. In a saga similar to that of Betzalel, with one last chance to survive, Mordechai’s life was saved when a successful bone marrow transplant took place, donated by David P., another Ezer Mizion hero. Two years later, Mordechai enveloped David in a giant bear hug, now allowing his mind to dwell on what could have been had David not taken the few minutes to register so many years before.

For further info: www.ezermizion.org              5225 New Utrecht Ave Bk NY 11219             718 853 8400

Giving with Vitamin P

August 2, 2017

pr general hel;ioong hand in darkTheir mother has cancer and is in a very precarious condition. Her situation is shaky. The family is shaky. And terrified. And numb. And overwhelmed. And beaten. And disoriented. All at once.

 

A day of fun, of pampering can work wonders for the spirit. I ask them what they would want. Unable to think past their dire situation, they say, “A trip to Teverya, to pray at the gravesite of Rabbi Meir Baal Hanes, to daaven for Ima to have a nes, a miracle…

Linked to Life is not staffed by mere people. It is staffed by angels. When there are angels along the way, things looks different… It starts with a phone call to Shmulik of Ezer Mizion’s Transport Division, who works on the logistics for the family trip to Teverya.

 

Family bonding. A vitamin called ‘Pleasure’ to strengthen the spirit. Vital ingredients for this Special Day. And so it gets better: First thing in the morning Yishai, the nicest volunteer driver in the world, reports at the door with a huge smile and takes them for a banana boat ride on the Kinneret, funding donated by SL from Teverya. Smiles are contagious and tentative replicas begin to appear on the faces of the family.

 

And even better: They continue on to a gourmet meal at the Caesar Hotel, funding donated by AAA from Caesarea. Long-forgotten feelings of happiness well up in them as they continue their day of pampering.

 

They reach the gravesites of Rabbi Meir Baal Hanes in Teverya and Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai in Meron and daven with every fiber of their being. Their arms around each other, they leave strengthened. They’re a family. They can cope.

 

More Vitamin P, shared together, empowering them for the difficult days ahead: a fantastic performance to suit their mood (funded by MH from Hadera) tops off the day.

 

Because that’s the way it is with Ezer Mizion’s Linked to Life, when there are people there who care about you, who are sensitive to your needs and want with all their heart to pamper you…

 

Ezer Mizion provides services to over 660,000 of Israel’s population annually in addition to its Bone Marrow Registry which saves the lives of Jewish cancer patients the world over.

 

For further info: www.ezermizion.org             5225 New Utrecht Ave Bk NY 11219             718 853 8400

 

July 26, 2017

pr canc sup lego kids - sLove at first sight, that’s what Maor Cohen felt when he got his first Lego set at age five. “My Mom came home from a visit in Tel Aviv, the ‘big city,’ with a humongous Lego set that must have cost half her monthly salary. You have to understand that back then, in the beginning of the 1980’s, this was no trivial matter. I was so excited that I went to sleep at night hugging the box and the next day I couldn’t wait to come back from preschool and play with it.”

“From that moment, which remains vivid in my heart more than thirty years later, I never stopped developing my hobby. Every birthday present was Lego, and every bit of money I saved up as a child remained in my piggy bank until enough accumulated to buy a new set. I lived at the time in Yavneh and I would ride my bicycle all the way to Rechovot in order to buy Lego and save the cost of a bus ticket.”

Throughout his youth, Cohen never abandoned his hobby. But, of course, as he matured, his focus turned to adult occupations. He served in the army, completed an officers’ course, and today, after finishing his academic studies through the army, is serving as a Major in the Manpower Department.

One day, he recalls, after realizing that he had accumulated in his home an unimaginable amount of Lego, worth hundreds of thousands of shekels, he decided that it was time to pass the pieces on to somebody else who would enjoy them. “I wanted to do something good with the Lego. I turned to my friend, Rabbi Eitan Eckstein, who suggested that I donate the collection to Oranit, Ezer Mizion’s Donald Berman Rehab Center for Support of Cancer Patients and their Families.pr canc sup lego

When I arrived at Oranit, my plans changed. Drastically. “I came there intending to simply donate the Lego and go my merry way. Oranit staff had a different idea. “Suppose you keep the Lego and use it for a club, showing the kids how to use it. You’ve got the skills. You’ve got the know-how. You could accomplish so much. You could put life into those kids (and maybe even adults). Dealing with cancer is frightening. It’s depressing. Having a project like Lego to look forward to would work wonders.”

“They were so convincing that I tried giving the workshop that very day. I recall hesitantly entering the playroom with a few pieces of Lego and three children and we started building. Well, it worked. The kids loved it. Every week, the number of kids increased, and today there are almost thirty children participating.

From that moment five years ago, Maor Cohen has been running the Lego Club in Oranit on a volunteer basis. With time, the project expanded. Others volunteered to assist him. Nir Solomon, who served as Cohen’s brigade commander in the past and is now retired uses his free time help Maor run the club. Four other volunteers also come regularly. Even Maor’s immense collection has its limits but many have been fascinated by the project and offered to help finance new Lego sets. Maor’s brother is one of these. “He was very excited by the idea and asked to donate money so that I could buy the kids Lego as a gift. That would enable them to have Lego not only during the club time but also at home and with them during their treatments.”

Neither sun, nor rain, nor the security situation can deter the energetic Lego man. “The club is now in its fifth year, and it takes place once a week, no matter what. At most, I push it off a day, because I know that the child and his family are waiting for me. In addition to the club, I also make the rounds in the Oncology wards of the hospitals 3-4 times a week and build with the hospitalized children.”pr canc sup lego s-f

Why Lego? “First of all, Lego is great fun. I also think that it is especially important for these kids, because with Lego, there is a feeling of continuity. All that planning gives them a sense of a future.

Dr. Bracha Zisser, Director of Oranit, explains that Oranit was founded in order to relieve patients and their families during the difficult period of treatments. “We operate as a guest house that enables families to sleep over in the Center of the country near treatment centers to avoid the long, grueling hours of traveling. We also organize trips and social activities. In addition, we provide many forms of therapy for both patient and his family. We are constantly expanding our activities in order to enable every person, the patient or his family member, to connect with activities that speak to him.

Maor has got to know Oranit and its staff over the years. “Oranit is an amazing place. They provide support in the most difficult moments, both to children who are sick and to children with a sick parent, and actually to the entire family, in the knowledge that the family is the circle surrounding the child.”

For further info: www.ezermizion.org              5225 New Utrecht Ave Bk NY 11219             718 853 8400 Ezer Mizion provides services to over 660,000 of Israel’s population annually in addition to its Bone Marrow Registry which saves the lives of Jewish cancer patients the world over.

What Would You Have Done?

July 17, 2017

pr special sunWhat would you do? What would you do if a fellow Jew stood there in tears begging you for help? If her situation was so difficult that you knew you yourself couldn’t handle it? If your heart ached to offer at least some relief? What would you do? Wouldn’t you say yes? Of course, you would! We’re Jews. Known for our compassion. And so that’s what we did. We said yes. We said yes to the mother of a special needs child who had already used up her allotted respite hours and called the office about Ezer Mizion’s Summer Camp for Children with Special Needs. The father had passed away a few months ago. The mother was left alone to care for the family including a difficult special child. She knew she had no more respite hours left and would have to pay for the service.  She began giving over her credit card info but before she reached the last digit, her voice choked up into sobs and she could not continue.  The camp was essential for this most difficult child. And no less essential was the break it afforded the whole family who would be able to enjoy the healing time of togetherness without the continual, relentless turmoil created by a child who was incapable of joining the family

unit.

The Real Thing
CP young man experiencing the ocean for the first time in his life

Camp was crucial but so was food for her family. Basic food. Credit cards have to be paid at the end of the month and there was hardly any money. The heart-rending tears flowed and so we said yes. Yes, we will accept her child at no cost. Wouldn’t you have done the same?

 

And we said yes to the family that has not one but two special needs children. As if that is not enough, another family member suffers from severe emotional disturbances. She, too, had no allotted hours remaining but could we say no?

 

We said yes because we were confident that you, our friends and supporters, would do the same and your generous donations would cover the cost.

 

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Jeeping trip for cancer patients and their families

Every year, Ezer Mizion’s Summer Camps include camps for Special Needs Children, camps for Cancer Patients and their Families enabling the whole family to enjoy a rejuvenating vacation from cancer in a fun atmosphere geared for their needs and, beginning this year, camps for the Mentally Challenged and their Families.

 

Some excerpts from one of the many thank you letters received:

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High functioning special kids visiting the kosel

Survival mode. That’s the only way to describe it. When my daughter was out of the house, we lived normally. When she was home, it was all about getting from one minute to the next with the house, her siblings and my sanity usually less than more intact. Pandemonium reigned. Every day. My children hardly knew what it was like to live in a normal home. Invite friends over to study for a test? Absurd. Have a quiet talk with a child? There was no quiet. We had no end to look forward to in the foreseeable future. My eight year old dreamed of getting married and living in a calm house. Ezer Mizion came through over and over again with a variety of support, then with the biggest surprise of all – a summer camp geared just for kids like her. My children couldn’t believe it when I suggested a trip to the zoo during vacation.  Such a simple pastime but so out of reach with a special child at home. Ezer Mizion, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. May you all be blessed.

 

Ezer Mizion provides services to over 660,000 of Israel’s population annually in addition to its Bone Marrow Registry which saves the lives of Jewish cancer patients the world over.

 

For further info:   http://www.ezermizion.org            5225 New Utrecht Ave Bk NY 11219             718 853 8400

The Other End of the World?

July 12, 2017

people helping people around globe“But he’s at the other end of the world!”

“No problem,” said the experienced Ezer Mizion staff member. “Just watch.”

Here’s the story. A woman with cancer was in need of a bone marrow transplant to save her life. She needed it asap. Now! Not in a few months. Eldad had been identified by the Ezer Mizion Bone Marrow Registry as a genetic match but further testing was needed. Simple. A few tubes of blood and the test will be done. But what if the potential donor is happily vacationing in Cancun, Mexico? Do we wait till he returns? And take a chance on the patient’s condition changing for the worse? Do we take a chance on another person’s life?!

The Registry staff member contacted another Ezer Mizion division, Linked to Life which operates a What’s App program around the globe. Lights flashed. Cell phones buzzed. A Linked to Life member responded that he is in Cancun and planning to travel for New York that day. The blood was drawn by a local lab and transported to NY by the L2L member. Now, Ronit , office manager for the CEO of El Al in New York and another Linked to Life volunteer, came on the scene. Ronit contacted Yoram, director of El Al representatives in the U.S. Yoram got the head of the station at Kennedy Airport, and security officer Tal involved in the operation. On Thursday, after receiving the test tubes from Mexico via the first L2L volunteer, El Al representatives in N.Y. traveled to Israel and handed over the precious test tubes to Ezer Mizion.

The other side of the world? No problem when good-hearted Jews around the globe are linked together.

Based in Israel, L2L receives hundreds of calls daily. Come join us at the dispatch center. A call just came in. A grandmother, accompanied by her daughter, needs ride to the clinic.  The volunteer that responded later contacted the Ezer Mizion office to say thank you “These are real mentschen. They didn’t stop apologizing for taking my time. They were so grateful. .The grandmother is past the age of 90. At the time of the Holocaust, she was 17 years old. She had been through Auschwitz, work camps and Bergen-Belsen. She told me about her mother and little sister who were murdered in Auschwitz. ‘When I close my eyes, I don’t ‘just remember’ things; I literally see them happening.’ This tiny lady didn’t give up. She went on to establish a family which now consists of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren and continues to give and give. “I broke my arm recently and for a period, I couldn’t bake cakes for my grandchildren’s families. It made me sad but I’m back ‘in business’ now. As they opened the car door at the clinic amid a flurry of humble thank-you’s to me, I thanked Hashem for the zchus of having such a diamond in my car.

 

Another buzz at 1:30 AM. This one an emergency. A woman was unable to breathe and required immediate assistance. An ambulance had arrived and determined that hospital treatment was needed. But getting her there was impossible due to her wide girth. A large stretcher was needed. Ezer Mizion was contacted.  Does anyone in your Linked to Life Group have one? In moments I was wide awake and dressed. Together with the paramedics, we lifted the patient onto my stretcher and transported her to the hospital in time to receive the treatment she needed.

Alone? Never! No Jew is ever alone when his fellow Jews are Linked to Life.

Like to join? SMS: 011 972 52 580 8936

For further info: www.ezermizionusa.org       5225 New Utrecht Ave Bk NY 11219                               718 853 8400

What the Kids Have Discovered

July 6, 2017

helping handssSome say that the new generation is steeped in materialism and can’t see past their ipod screens. Is it true? A recent event in Israel honoring junior volunteers yielded some surprises.

Last summer, M, a sixth grader, noticed something strange going on in her neighbor’s home. “There are two children living there, and I understood that their mother had cancer. She was undergoing treatments, and some of the time, was even hospitalized. And those kids were home alone.” M. decided to help. She invited the kids to her house, which turned into a regular practice. “They come every day after school, eat lunch, do their homework with me and play games. They go home only when a relative arrives to be with them.” M. didn’t see anything extraordinary about what she had been doing but the organizers at the event thought differently and she was singled out for an award.

S joined M on stage also unsure of why she was there. “We have an elderly neighbor with no children or family, and also, almost no money. I think that he doesn’t always even have what to eat. I come to him almost every day with food, sit with him a bit and speak to him. It’s just regular. Anyone would do it.”

Many of these children have discovered Ezer Mizion as the place where there is always a need for chessed. Z has been volunteering for Ezer Mizion since she was seven years old. She just walked in to Ezer Mizion and asked to volunteer. “They didn’t understand what I wanted. After all, I was just a little kid. They smiled and gave me a few jobs, thinking I’d soon get tired and go home. It’s been five years since then, and I’m still there. Twice a week (“Before Yom Tov, every day, and during vacation, all day”)

I come straight from school, put down my book bag in a corner, and get to work. I arrange meal trays, pack up vegetables, and give food to anyone who comes with a note. Sometimes, I go to the preschools and pick up non-perishable leftovers from lunch. Sometimes, I deliver food packages to people’s homes, and other times, I make order in the storeroom, depending on what needs to be done.”

Don’t you ever feel that your volunteering comes at the expense of other fun things, like music or art lessons, or spending time with friends?

“It gives me a good feeling to volunteer, and I also enjoy it. If I have a lesson or club, or if I make up to meet with a friend, I go there after I finish at Ezer Mizion. Before Yom Tov, I was there every day and I helped pack up food packages. I think that helping people who are in need is more important than all the other stuff. It also makes you feel good, in your heart. It leaves you with a taste for more.   I am the youngest volunteer they’ve ever had.”

D has found a different venue for helping others. One can’t help noticing her lovely hair. That hair is now on several other heads in addition to hers. D is grateful for her beautiful hair and feels it’s proper to ‘give back’ by donating it to Ezer Mizion. “When I was five, I saw a picture of a girl who was bald. My mother explained to me that the girl is sick and that part of the treatment for her illness made her hair fall out. To me, that was awful, and I knew that I wanted to help. I said I would give her some of my hair. It’s funny. Usually little kids have ideas that don’t really make much sense. Little did I know that my idea about giving my hair was a real possibility and done by many people. My mother said that I was too small. She assumed I’d forget about it. But I couldn’t. Every time I thought of that girl being so embarrassed walking around with no hair, I wanted to help. Finally, when I got to second grade, my mother agreed.

Did you have any regrets?

“No. I knew that I had plenty of hair and that it would grow back. I actually waited for my hair to grow in enough so that I could donate it again. This year, my braid reached the right length, so I went to have it cut and donated it. I had a lot of hair this time. They might even be able to make two wigs from it.”

D.relates that the day of her haircut was a happy day for her, “because it meant that there would be a girl somewhere who would look in the mirror and forget about her sickness, at least for a few minutes. I try to convince my friends to donate to Ezer Mizion, too, even though each one of them loves her hair and finds it really hard to part with it.”

The stage was soon filled with youngsters who had discovered what many adults do not know. What do you think? Will Ezer Mizion have any problem filling its volunteer slots next generation?

Ezer Mizion provides services to over 660,000 of Israel’s population annually in addition to its Bone Marrow Registry which saves the lives of Jewish cancer patients the world over.

For further info: www.ezermizion.org              5225 New Utrecht Ave Bk NY 11219             718 853 8400

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cancer on Its Way Out! Happy Two-Year Birthday to Me!

June 28, 2017

Numbers are funny things. They look nice and neat, march in straight rows. They create groups (3 of these and 5 of those) and somehow make us feel that everything is under control. Until one personally finds herself in one of those groups – the wrong one.  The one that people don’t like to mention. You know,   the C word.  Cancer.

That was me. The C monster opened its mouth and grabbed me right before my trip to South America. I had been planning it for months but it wasn’t going to be. I gave myself a compensation prize of some amazing tours in different countries but in between, I toured hospitals.

When cancer ruined my plans…

It was on the big trip to New Zealand, exactly a year ago. Right in the middle of a fantastic trek, when, dressed in a sunhat and attempting to conquer some mountain, I fell apart. I could barely do the last part of the trail, because my body started to weaken. They started doing all kinds of tests. It seemed that my liver, lungs, mouth, nose, skin were all affected but I was still going. The Ezer Mizion staff was there with me every step of the way, holding my hand, offering professional advice and helping out in countless practical ways. I started taking steroids and began to look like a balloon, and then things calmed down a little.

When Cancer brought me to the Emergency Room

But not for long. One day, I felt really strong pains in my leg, like I’d never felt before. We went directly to the Emergency Room to check out what it was. It turned out that… I’d broken my hip. Yes, it sounds strange, but it had broken, without my falling, without anything. They explained to me that this is one of the side effects of steroids. Those numbers again. I was “privileged” to be one of the “lucky few” for whom steroids cause fractures. Since then, there were a few other breaks in places that you can’t put a cast on. If I were a car, you would just replace those parts. But, guess what, I’m not a car. My body is not built for new replacement parts. It prefers to keep the ones it has.  So now, I can’t run, dance, walk, hike, and some other things like I used to…

The cancer did not stop me from living, though. I switched from hiking to taking some courses that I had always dreamed of.  It also brought many new things into my life, some good ones like meeting the unbelievably caring people at Ezer Mizion and some not so good like blood radiations that I had to do every two weeks and million new pills of all colors and sizes that decorated my kitchen counter.

Cancer Cancelled

But not forever. I’m celebrating a birthday this month. It’s the two-year birthday of my replacement. I did get a replacement of sorts. A bone marrow replacement. My friends at Ezer Mizion set it up for me.  They had to find a DNA match. I was very lucky, they said. From the over 856,000 people on their database, there was one match. His name is E. and he was happy to donate his marrow. Even though he didn’t even know me. I’m on my way to full recovery now.

So, happy two-year birthday to my body! Some birthday wishes…

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Happy Birthday to the End of Cancer

I wish me that I should soon stop going to hospitals, taking pills, and getting stabbed with needles.

That I should continue growing and flourishing in my new career (remember those courses?).

That I should soon have the strength to begin paying back and joining the thousands of Ezer Mizion volunteers in helping others like me.

Thank you, E. for donating bone marrow to me without even knowing me!!! You are a part of me now, whether you like it or not…

 

Being on the Giving End

June 21, 2017

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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.

“How do you do it,” we ask. “How can you manage your own home while dealing with all these major problems?”

“I have strength. I can walk. I am capable of running my home. I’m so thankful. These people that call are not able to do so.”

Rivi Kossover is Assistant director at Ezer Mizion’s Jerusalem branch. She laughs when we ask what her hours are. “Sometimes I leave at three. Sometimes at six. It depends on what’s going on.” It’s quite obvious that Rivi’s work hours do not end when she arrives home. Like all Ezer Mizion staff, she doesn’t know the meaning of regular work hours. “Work is over when no one needs me,” she feels. “How can I relax with a magazine if a cancer patient is in tears a few blocks away?”

Rivi takes a lemon cake out of the oven and puts it on the cooling rack to await its lemon icing. Maybe it will get iced. Maybe not. It depends on the interruptions. Some weeks the cake is “iced” with chessed.  But it’s always yummy.

“I can put my housework on some kind of schedule but I never know what will be needed at Ezer Mizion. People go through crises and we try to be there for them. Like the call I got from a neighbor the other day. Five kids, two in their teens and three even younger, were taking care of their cancer-stricken mother. They were wonderful, putting their own lives on hold and giving everything they had to the mother they so loved.  But they’re only human and those kids desperately needed a break. Could I arrange something? Well, I have a picture of those kids waving from a boat, looking as if they don’t have care in the world. They had a wonderful day, just being kids and it gave them strength to go on. it’s called Vitamin Fun. They’ll need another shot of vitamins every so often. Ezer Mizion will make sure they get it.”

A little boy in one family is doing poorly in school. His father used to review with him every night but now Abba is either at the hospital or recuperating from chemo. The young child, forced to grow up too soon, tiptoes through his house, afraid to disturb. He doesn’t even mention his 40 in the last quiz. That’s all history now. Ezer Mizion has taken over with a volunteer to help him. He’s raising his hand in class with the best of them.

Meals. Rides. Help with the kids. Medical advice. A place to stay during treatment. Emotional Therapy when it becomes too difficult to deal with the fears. Rivi’s phone never rests and neither, it seems, does she but, as she says, “I’m just thankful that I can be on the giving side.”

Ezer Mizion provides services to over 660,000 of Israel’s population annually in addition to its Bone Marrow Registry which saves the lives of Jewish cancer patients the world over.

For further info: www.ezermizion.org    5225 New Utrecht Ave Bk NY 11219    718 853 8400