The Other Kind of Battle


When cancer knocks on the door, it comes as a package deal bringing with it a sharp role switch from giver to receiver, from helping to being helped, from supporter to object of support.
It isn’t an easy switch. Slowly but surely, we are learning the ropes and beginning to understand that just as giving is a great privilege – so too receiving is a privilege that enables the abundance of good in the world to reach its destination.
For now – temporarily, please G-d – we are enjoying this abundpr balloons 2ance, this time on the receiving end.
We’re used to battles. My husband, is a reservist, a regiment commander. Out on the field he is known as Lieutenant Colonel Yigal Spielman. In the second Lebanon War and in Operation Protective Edge, it was the elite battalion of Golani soldiers that he led. Back at home, he is known simply as Abba, the one we all leaned on. On the field, he had a battalion to fight with him. Here at home, he also has a battalion: myself, our eight kids and Ezer Mizion.
From the beginning, we decided not to keep the cancer a secret from the kids and keep to routine as normal as much as possible. Our little girl, Rachel, asked one evening at the supper table: ‘Abba, tell me, this doesn’t have anything to do with dying, right?’ We answered her as best as we could, being honest yet assuring.
It’s a quiet, calm morning. Yigal sits on the couch in the living room. Our young son comes over to him with a whoop, a chessboard in his hand. He sits on the arm of the couch and consults with his father about the next move. Yigal’s eyes beam with pleasure and pride. And then, in the midst of all the joy and light, he holds his stomach and tries to not let anyone notice the pain he is in.
On a normal day, when not on reserve duty, Yigal wakes up at four-thirty in the morning, learns Gemara, prays, and then at six in the morning, goes to work at Kibbutz Ein Hanatziv.
With the support of our battalion, we’re managing. Our kids are great and Ezer Mizion offers everything we can think of and plenty that we didn’t. Psychological support. A home away from home for the kids to engage in such fun activities as playing with a rabbit or joining a band. They call is Music Therapy and Animal Therapy. Our kids call it fun. Someone brings us meals at home and for me when I’m staying with Yigal at the hospital. Another angelic someone drives Yigal in for treatments and still another helps me with the millions of things I need to do in raising a family like homework with the kids, buying them school supplies etc etc etc. And then there are the programs purely to lift our spirits like birthday parties, trips and retreats.
This afternoon, with brimming heart (no, not brimming – overflowing!), we returned home from Ezer Mizion’s retreat for cancer patients and their families.
At the retreat, we met another 100 families who are more or less going through the same thing we are. Sick children, sick mothers or fathers. The families are different but so similar. Looking at the people around us, I see that everyone is doing his trek with strength, courage, and nobility and simply doing what has become a lot more complex: living!
Joining this journey with their generous spirit, joyful and spreading cheer, are the people at Ezer Mizion. United together, all they want is to make us feel good.
Doing good is contagious. It echoes. It pulls you along, it smiles. Almost automatically, the good sticks to you and expands your heart and soul.
What strength there is in 150 people who come from all corners of the country, each one with his jeep, and take hundreds of people jeeping! Anyone who hasn’t seen this sight will find it hard to believe. And dozens of people from all over the country who came on a purely volunteer basis on the hottest day of the year to give hundreds of children a ride on parachute gliders over the sea.
There is Kobi Peretz, the tzaddik whom I got to know for the first time and was astounded by his greatness and his huge, warm, and loving heart that touches every one of the people sitting there. And Moshe Lahav who got things happy and lively, and Dudu Aharon who was so moving, and more and more performers and dozens of volunteers who ran about back and forth smiling and goodhearted, eager to do everything we asked for. Together we sang, laughed, were suffused with joy, and were moved to tears.
These days, when the feeling is that you don’t hear the voice of love enough, those days reminded me again that this is the way we Jews are: loving, mutually responsible, brothers.
Nechama Spielman, wife of Lieutenant Colonel Yigal Spielman
For further info: http://www.ezermizion.org

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