Fighting A War on Two Fronts…And Winning

Fighting A War on Two Fronts…and Winning

Ilai’s mother was drained- emotionally and physically. Her six year old son was battling cancer and chemotherapy was not working. She thought she had used up every bit of energy. She thought she had cried out every tear. And then the unthinkable happened. Her 71 year old mother was stricken, too. Mommy watched in awe as Ilai and Grandma rallied together to strengthen each other. Each was told that a bone marrow transplant was their only chance and so they waited together while Ezer Mizion, the largest Jewish bone marrow registry in the world, searched. Each praying for the other, they held their breath.

Grandma’s joy was palpable when a donor was found for Ilai in Ezer Mizion’s Bone Marrow Registry and he underwent a successful transplant. But Ilai’s happiness was far from complete. The bond between him and his grandmother was strong-almost as if they were one person- and it felt as if he only received half a transplant. Three months later, a fully compatible donor was found for his grandmother as well. “We lived from transplant to transplant,” Mommy relates. “We went from hospital to hospital and from isolation to isolation for many, long months. Their immune systems were so weak that they could not go out among people at all.”

 “They shared that special brotherhood of fellow fighters,” Mommy explains. “Because of the illness, neither one had an appetite, and they both steadily lost weight. The only thing that persuaded Ilai to eat was his Grandma’s motto, ‘Every bite counts.’ He adopted the motto and resolutely finished the food on his plate.”

Once a week, when 6-year-old Ilai returns from follow-up tests at the hematological unit at Schneider Children’s Hospital and his Grandma Zelda Katz returns from tests at Sheba Tel Hashomer Hospital, the two meet for “Story Time”.  It’s not Curious George that the two share during their story time. It’s blood test results. “But only if it’s a good story,” they turn to each other with a grin. “Nothing is too tough for us to handle when we are in it together.”

 “Grandma was a real hero,” says Ilai. “It hurt me that she was so sick. I prayed for her to get well.” Grandma Zelda, on her part, relates that Ilai was the one who gave her the strength to prevail over the illness.

Now the two are waiting patiently for the moment that Zelda will conclude the required isolation period following the bone marrow transplant. “And then we celebrate,” shouts Ilai with a whoop that only a six year old can make. “All of us together!”

“If I had the opportunity to delete this entire year, I’m not sure I would want to,” Mommy confides. “We got to know such special people at Ezer Mizion who stood at our side and fought along with us. These are things you discover only when you are thrust into such a painful situation. And we found that nothing is too tough for us to handle when we are in it together.”

To share the anguish of a similar family whose child was diagnosed with cancer, click play and join them in  their tears of tears of joy as the life of their child is returned to them by an Ezer Mizion registrant.


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