Rx: Fun


We drove up a country road. So quiet. A chipmunk flitted across the path, the leaves gently danced in the breeze. What a contrast to the scene as I alighted from my car. Children were jumping up and down in excitement. Young parents were grabbing their children’s hands and running towards the field. Toddlers were shrieking with joy, having no idea of what the excitement was about but delighted to join in the medley of happy shouts. And what was the excitement about? It could have been so many things—a popular singer coming to entertain, the annual hands-on police demonstration of how criminals are caught, a sing-a-thon exuding camaraderie, crafts time, story hour. Today it was balloons. Each child would write his prayer on a helium balloon and, as the countdown hit zero, a myriad of colorful balloons would make their way toward the heavens.

I sat and watched. It was impossible to hold back the tears. Each of these families was battling cancer. A father, a mother, a child. It made no difference. The nightmarish trauma they faced was the same. While their friends continued their mundane lives, these heroes fought to remain alive. Every minute was filled with fear, with tension. They were bewildered, having been thrust into a world of horror, a dark tunnel that seemed to have no way out. They craved a bit of relief from the tension, a vacation from cancer, a time to recharge and strengthen their spirit. And that’s why they came.

Patients arrived at Ezer Mizion’s Summer Camp for Families with Cancer in search of the vitamin pill that will enable their spirit to become a better partner to its body in their battle for life. Their families came yearning for respite, for quality time together that will comfort the longing for the normal family life that they once new and enjoyed together.

They gathered around me, anxious to express their gratitude. “My 7 year old daughter has been sick for the past 5 years. She never smiles anymore.” His voice broke. For several moments, he couldn’t speak. With tears streaming down his face, he continued, “Yesterday she smiled!” He could not stop telling me how enveloped with caring he and his wife and the other children feel at camp. “It’s like someone wrapped us in a soft blanket, and is gently stroking us and healing our emotional wounds.”

“Ezer Mizion does not miss a beat!” said another. “Non-stop activities and fun with everything looked after down to the last detail”. He went on to describe how, when the families loaded up on to buses to leave for their trip, volunteers got on each bus and gave every family a huge bag of refreshments and goodies, individual water bottles for every person, sun hats, shirts and sun screen for each camper! “The food and service was like a top resort.”

And another. “My wife and family have been through very hard times and we are not spoiled. In normal life, we don’t need the extras. But lately, we have not been living a normal life. The pampering that Ezer Mizion provides so lovingly has enabled us to let go, to relax and enjoy our children and each other. We are able to see beyond the sickness and the pain. You have given us the gift of renewed strength and hope. How can we ever thank you enough?”

A mother sat, with two healthy daughters who did not stop hugging her at each side, trying to convey to me what their lives have been like. “This is the third summer since Tamary became ill. For the past two summers, Tamary was too sick for us to attend camp. I told the Ezer Mizion staff that this year Tamary must be well enough for us to join camp! She just has to. Our family so desperately needed to experience this healing time together.

“Until you live through it you can never understand what it means to stay in the hospital for a year and two months with a very sick child. Her terrible physical pain is only surpassed by the emotional pain she, and all of us, endured, having to face what no family ever wants to even think about. This sickness has ripped us apart: no home, no food, no job, no mother, no father, no husband, no wife. Now that she is out of the hospital and at home, I am at a loss. I don’t even know how to begin putting it all together again.

“Tamary is baruch Hashem doing better but she still has a long way to go. More treatments , more rehab. But at least we are at home, all together. Ezer Mizion has been at our side all along. Volunteers to do the housework, others to take the kids shopping for new clothes and school supplies, still others to do homework with the kids, delicious, attractively arranged meals, rides to and from the hospital and unbelievable emotional support even when we didn’t realize how much we needed it. And now this unforgettable camp! This experience is giving me hope that someday we will be normal again…”

There I stood amid the atmosphere of irrepressible “campy” excitement coupled with the underlying deep sense of calm. I felt both proud and humbled to have had a part in its creation.

For further info: http://www.ezermizion.org

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