Posts Tagged ‘cancer’

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

When Cancer Necessitates Saying Goodbye

June 14, 2017

pr canc sup Maor Cohen says goodbye to Ophir
When Cancer Necessitates Saying Goodbye

Maor Cohen is a highly sensitive man who is known at Ezer Mizion as Mr. Lego. He raises the spirits of both children and adults battling life-threatening diseases with his Lego Workshop in addition to his hospital visits to those who cannot attend the workshop. Many have asked how he manages to create deep relationships that are too often broken when his ‘lego-friends’ leave this world. Share his thoughts below.

On Sunday, you were beginning treatment.

We arranged that I would come.

An event that I’m responsible for is stretching out longer than expected, and I’m thinking of you.

It’s already 10:30 PM.

I send a text message to your mother: “Does it still make sense for me to come?”

She replies that she thinks it would be better tomorrow.

A minute goes by, and she calls. “Maor, come now. Ophir wants you.”

11:30 PM. I’m sitting next to you. You ask me to tell you what’s in the Lego kit I brought you.

You plan how you’ll build it, and I enjoy planning it with you. Making plans implies a future.

Today, your soul departed and went to Heaven.

I am left here, to miss

your engaging smile,

your wise look,

your soft voice,

your desire to create,

your enthusiasm as we build together,

the special way you entered my heart,

the phone calls before each treatment,

your very special Ima and Abba,

who became like family to me.

Ophir, you went through days that were not at all simple.

And all you wanted was to live.

The moments I spent with you are engraved in my heart

and will stay with me forever.

No words can bring solace,

but there is great comfort in having known you.

You will always remain in my heart.

Watch over me from up there, please.

Rest, little sister, rest.

Compassion Makes the Wheels Go ‘Round

May 10, 2017

When staff really cares. When it’s not just a job…punch in/punch out. When the CEO gives out his cell number to recently orphaned children telling them to call anytime (and they do). When volunteers are inspired to drop what thepr general hel;ioong hand in darky are doing, time and time again, to help out a someone in need… this is compassion at its best.

Sometimes it requires the utmost sensitivity. Like the kallah (bride) whose chassan (groom) was discovered shortly before the wedding to have leukemia. The wedding was rescheduled and the newlywed couple tried to build a home, albeit in a different way than planned, together. Ezer Mizion supported them in every way. The nightmare is over now. Please look over our shoulder, dear reader and supporter, as we read together the letter sent to the Ezer Mizion office. It is your gifts that enable Ezer Mizion to continue being the strong, dependable pillar for so many to lean on.

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An grateful thank you letter from our files

To the Fantastic, Special Organization: Ezer Mizion!

First of all, we want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your boundless giving and support, which helped us and gave us the tools we needed to get through a most difficult period, physically strong and emotionally healthy.

About two years ago, we got engaged, b’sha’ah tovah u’mutzlachat. The engagement period passed by pleasantly, filled with many hopes and dreams about the home that we would build together and the happy life we would share.

We do not know Hashem’s (G-d’s) calculations, but we do know that everything He does is for the best. And so, a month before our wedding, my husband was diagnosed with leukemia.

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Ezer Mizion, Israel

Suddenly, everything looked different… The wedding was pushed up to take place a few days later, and immediately afterwards, we began treatment. The physical and emotional pain and the challenges involved in these treatments are too complex to describe…

Amid all the agony and frustration, the Ezer Mizion team – a marvelous organization unmatched in its unfaltering assistance and support – appeared on the scene, truly loyal messengers. They helped us in countless ways, both practical and emotional. They were always there, even before we realized we needed something.

Ezer Mizion wisely and gently set us up with an expert therapist, which, in our sensitive situation, was truly a lifesaver!! She listened, supported, encouraged, and counseled us. She baruch Hashem (thank G-d) helped us in this very delicate situation, not to break down, but to remain happy, strong, optimistic, and full of emunah (faith), using our challenge to grow and form an even closer bond.

Again, we feel eternally grateful to those who were behind all this outpouring of chessed- those who helped, those whose financial support enabled this help…

We give you our heartfelt blessings that you should always be on the giving end, in good health, joy and happiness, and may Divine assistance accompany you in all your endeavors.

With our greatest appreciation,

Moshe and Chedvah

 

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Cancer Support via What’s App

 Compassion…Sometimes it requires the flexibility of changing plans at the drop of a hat. A family with three small children recently emigrated to Israel from France. Resettling was hard enough but became overwhelming when the wife was suddenly diagnosed with cancer. Rides to the clinic, professional emotional support, regular meals, child care assistance, medical advocacy would all be theirs in a short time.  But right now, this morning when Ezer Mizion became aware of their plight, they needed lunch. Food strengthens the body. Food invigorates the soul. Food enables the family to handle the crisis suddenly thrust upon them. And no lunch was yet on schedule.  A call went out to volunteers: I know it’s very short notice but can anyone provide a hot lunch for five people today and for the next two days? In 1.5 minutes, that’s ninety seconds (!), one of our angels responded. A delicious, attractively served lunch was prepared by one volunteer, delivered by another to the family on time as if it were weeks in the preparation.

Ezer Mizion: where caring and compassion provides the electricity that makes the wheels go ‘round.

Would you like to join the ‘wheel of compassion’?

 

Many of You Have Asked…

May 4, 2017

Does Ezer Mizion provide transplants to Israel residents only?

 

people helping people around globeEzer Mizion receives Search requests form oncology clinics around the globe. DNA matching is based on ethnics. As the largest Jewish Registry in the world, Ezer Mizion is the natural address for an oncology clinic working with a Jewish patient in Europe, Russia, South Africa, South America, Australia, Canada and the US.

 

In April 2017, 14 of 31 transplants were done for Israeli residents and 17 for countries around the world including 6 in US and Canada.

 

Did the partnership with the IDF create any significant change in the success of finding DNA matches?

 

idf-celebration-2016-aDue to IDF recruits being young and healthy, they remain on the database for decades, thus greatly increasing the chances of eventually being found to be a match for a patient. In addition, they come from highly varied backgrounds resulting in much increased representation among minority ethnic groups.

 

In April 2017, 18 of the 21 transplants funded by donor pools are IDF recruits, some having been inducted and joined the registry just a; few months ago.

 

How long, on the average, does it take for a new Bone Marrow Donor Pool to receive the at long awaited letter: You have saved a life!

 

There can, of course, be no guarantees. In April of 2017, 4 of the 21 transplants funded by donor pools were opened within the last half year.

The See-Saw Remains on Up

April 26, 2017

DNA 3Everyone dreams about it. Very few ever have the opportunity. I was one of those very few. True, I didn’t jump into the ocean and save a child from drowning or dash into a burning building to save a baby but I did save a life. A forty-year-old cancer patient had only one chance to survive—a bone marrow transplant. A genetic match is vital for success and I was that genetic match. An Ezer Mizion staff member asked me if I would do it. Would I do it???! How could I not do it?! How could I live the rest of my life knowing that because of a little discomfort, a little inconvenience, a young woman was prevented from living the rest of hers?

Thus said N.D. a law student residing in Israel.

Plans were made. Appointments were set. I was given a run-down of what to expect and all was set to go until I received the phone call. Ezer Mizion thanked me for agreeing to donate but was cancelling the procedure. The woman’s condition had taken a turn for the worse and she was not in any condition to receive the transplant.

I was crushed. By this time, I was identifying with this anonymous person as if she were a close member of my family. And she would be. It would be my blood that would be coursing through her veins. And now it was not to be. I pictured her lying on her death bed with her family gathered around her. I wanted to be there with them. I wanted to hug her and tell her I’m so sorry. Instead I just stood there, still holding the phone. Numb. I read the obituaries for weeks after that, wondering at each entry, “Was that her?”

I was very involved in my university courses at the law school. It was in the middle of major exams when Ezer Mizion appeared once again on my display screen. “Your patient’s condition has improved. She can handle a transplant now but it must be done immediately. Are you available to begin the prep?”

The test I had studied all night for. The notes I had just copied for next week’s test. Grades. Reports… All meaningless now. All I wanted to know is what time I should be there.

My mother was even more excited than I was. She had had cancer at a similar age and is healthy now. She felt that by her daughter donating marrow, she would have a chance to ‘give back’.

At Schneider’s Hospital, I was told I would need 4-5 days of injections to increase the stem cells in my body. On the big day, my blood would be drawn, the stem cells separated from it, then returned to my body. This would continue all day until enough stem cells had accumulated. Then the little ‘bag of life’ would be infused into my ‘blood-sister’. We would be in the same hospital but we would not meet due to international law. Oh, how I longed to hold her hand during the procedure! But I would have to be patient. If all goes well, we’d be allowed to meet in two years.

I can’t deny that the injection period was uncomfortable but every ache was erased   when I watched them bring that little bag to its destination.

I was told that we were a 100% DNA match. Very unusual, they said. Now I lie in bed wondering who my DNA twin is. An unknown cousin perhaps? In one year, I am allowed to ask about her condition. Just knowing that she is healthy will be enough for me. And, if she is willing, in two years, I may meet the person who is alive because I didn’t say no.

Watching the Grandchildren Grow Up…Together: A DNA Success Story

April 5, 2017

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How does one say ‘Thank You’ for saving a life?!

her early sixties, Chava was a young grandmother to seven grandchildren. She was looking forward to many milestones in the future until she discovered that her future was very uncertain indeed. Twelve years ago, she had been diagnosed with lymphoma. A self-transplant of stem cells resulted in a cure and the nightmare seemed to be over until several years later the disease returned.  Would there be a cure this time? Only if a transplant can be performed using the stem cells of a genetically matching donor. The procedure was not difficult but finding this mysterious donor whose DNA corresponded to hers seemed to be nothing short of miraculous. He could be any place where Jews of her ethnic group have settled…South America, Canada, US, Australia, Europe. Anywhere. The first step was to contact Ezer Mizion, the largest Jewish registry in the world with its database of over 800,000 potential donors.  And, lo and behold, there he was, right there in Israel.

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Will a life saving DNA match be found?

Meir Pulver (43) spends his days protecting Israel’s population. He is Chief Superintendent of Israel’s Police Force. But that was not enough for this caring father of three. He wanted to do more. When he came across a request to join Ezer Mizion’s International Jewish Bone Marrow Registry, he didn’t hesitate. An opportunity to save a life? Of course. Who would not want to join? It would just take a little bit of his time. And so a few minutes filling out paperwork, a painless cheek swab and he was on his way.  Little did he realize that in only a short while, he would receive the momentous phone call: You have a chance to save a life!

There was further testing. In one home in Israel the air was electric. Would Meir truly be able to save a Jewish life? And in the other home, tensions ran high. Would a matching donor ever be found? And then the phone rang. In two homes. Almost simultaneously. Yes! Yes! An excellent DNA match.

Now things began to move quickly and it was not long before Meir’s cells were circulating in Chava’s veins. “Two days before my birthday, I found out that the stem cell donation I’d received had been accepted and my body had started producing its own cells,” she relates. “I felt as if I was reborn.” Chava’s husband is thrilled to have his wife back once again healthy and in great spirits after the very agonizing period they both went through. Together they look forward to watching their grandchildren grow up.  Meir’s father had recently passed away and he felt doubly blessed at being able to both save a life and provide merit for his father’s soul during the first year of mourning.

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Ezer Mizion: Where cancer is being eradicated- one life at a time

International law does not allow donor and recipient to meet until after one year and so the two families waited, counting the days and yearning to express themselves. The meeting took place a few weeks ago in the Ezer Mizion Cancer Support Building. Chava’s family gathered and began watching the door. Soon it opened. The two groups were drawn to each other like magnets. How could it be otherwise when the blood of one flows through the other. “We met an amazing person. A humble, noble young man,” said Chava’s family.

Ezer Mizion’s International Bone Marrow Donor Registry was established about 20 years ago  and today, includes 841,356 potential donors. Thanks to the Registry, 2,350 lifesaving transplants have already taken place. We’re one family with Jews around the world contributing funds to do the DNA testing, enabling every person to be a partner in saving human lives. This is our essence – each Jew responsible for his neighbor.

A Bone Marrow Registry Nightmare: He Said No!

March 29, 2017

Two Men DebatingAvigayil has successfully trained many in public speaking as head of TED, a worldwide organization whose website attracts viewers that number into the millions. She is passionate about her profession and believes anyone can speak publicly if he is excited about his topic. One would assume that if Avigayil were to take the podium herself, Public Speaking would be her focus. But she says otherwise. “There is something I am even more enthusiastic about. In fact, if it were not for that subject, I would not be here today. What is it? It’s leukemia.

Uninvited, leukemia visited me twice. The second time, the doctors didn’t hold out much hope. In fact, the only possibility of survival depended on a bone marrow transplant. And the chances of finding a genetic match, so vital for success, weren’t that great. I became quite depressed. Who wouldn’t be under such conditions? But then the sun shone again. A match was found. I began to make plans again. Things were looking up.

It never occurred to me that there would be a hitch at this stage. But there was. This DNA match, the only one in the world that we knew about at the time, the only person who could save my life…changed his mind. Thud! My spirits plummeted from Euphoria to Gloom.

My one and only chance to live had said no. I couldn’t fathom it. But Ezer Mizion didn’t waste any time being upset. They just said, “Ok. Back to the computers. We’ll find you another one.” I didn’t have much hope. Two miracles? Isn’t that too much to hope for? At Ezer Mizion, miracles seem to happen often. They did find a second one.   But he was on vacation in Tiberias with his wife. Of course, everyone expected him to say no. After all, a lot of effort and money goes into planning a vacation.

“Where should I report? What time?” was the response.

I’m healthy now. I have a long life to look forward to. A year after the transplant, I met my savior. We spoke for hours but the most important thing I was not able to say. How does one say thank you for saving a life?

If I were to take the podium, this is what I would speak about: Ezer Mizion, the largest Jewish registry in the world with over 800,000 registrants, an organization that just doesn’t give up!

 

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

 

The Beeps Keep Coming

March 22, 2017

helping-handsWe all remember what Purim was like. That special electricity in the air as we rush from house to house sharing shalach monos and Purim joy. A gorilla dancing with a rabbit to a lively Shoshanos Yaakov right there on Avenue J. Nearby a miniature Mordechai is gleefully riding a pony while “Haman” leads it, shouting “Thus shall be done…”

But for some, especially those who are members of Ezer Mizion’s Linked to Life Group, Purim had an added dimension this year with the special Purim joy multiplied a hundredfold. It was almost a beep a minute at Linked to Life and each request was answered, some within seconds. Come take a peek at what was behind each beep.

  • A little boy wants to be a fireman but his mother has cancer and has no strength to buy him a costume. Who can help?
  • We have 150 special kids who learned about shalach manos but won’t be receiving any? Can someone donate them?
  • A small boy with leukemia is dreaming of a special costume. No one can find it anywhere. Any volunteer to custom sew it for him?
  • There’s a patient at the oncology ward who is so depressed that she is missing Purim. We need lots of volunteers to bring shalach manos and smiles.
  • We’re on duty here at the firehouse all day. Can someone come to read the megillah for us?
  • There’s a large group of patients at Shaar Menashe Hospital with not a sign of Purim. Can anyone arrange a lebedike party? Who can provide food? Music? Costumed dancers?
  • A cancer patient has no family. I have a list of all her favorites but I’m out of town. Can someone put together a ‘personalized’ shalach monos?

Purim is over. The beeps are less frequent but still coming in.

  • To New York branch of Linked to Life:Baruch is a 5-year – old cancer patient who is arriving from Israel and landing in Newark at 6:00 PM. He is able to eat only cooked white rice and, what with all the paraphernalia needed for this medical trip, his parents forgot his container of white rice. Can someone meet them at Newark airport with a meal for this child who will have had nothing to eat for so many hours?
  • Urgent! Urgent! Urgent! Looking for a volunteer to bring a prosthetic hand from London to Israel today! The prosthesis can be brought to any location in London and picked up from any place in Israel…If you know of someone flying today from London to Israel, please call Zevulun ASAP

Ezer Mizion’s Linked to Life…where no Jew is ever alone.

Like to join Linked to Life from any country around the world? SMS: 011 972 52 580 8936

For further info: www.ezermizion.org              5225 New Utrecht Ave Bk NY 11219             718 853 8500

The Bat Mitzvah That Almost Wasn’t

March 2, 2017

pr-whats-app-bas-mitzvah-cakeIf you’re like most people, your mental wastebasket is filled with great ideas that didn’t happen. You meant to get to it. You really did. But ‘life’ got in the way. Things were busy that month and it fizzled and died. Maybe someone else could have done it but offhand you didn’t know anyone to ask. And so it joined the many other ideas waiting for ‘someday’.

But this one couldn’t wait. It had to be done now. A young girl was turning twelve. A big milestone, to say the least. A celebration was certainly in order. Each family has its own way of marking this special birthday but not to mark it at all?! To allow the day to pass with not a word? Nothing? That is exactly what will be happening to Malky Cohen*. Why? Because a heavy, dark cloud hung over the Cohen home that did not allow even a ray of sunshine to penetrate. Malky’s mother was terminally ill. Cancer. Rivky*, their next door neighbor, yearned to create a semblance of festivity for Malky, perhaps a cake, but her four pre-schoolers kept her busy every moment of the day. She spoke to another neighbor who loved the idea but whose baking skills didn’t get past chocolate chip cookies.

“We need someone who has the time and is a talented baker.”

“But how do we find such a person?”

“I have a great idea. How about Ezer Mizion’s Linked to Life program?”

“I thought the program is for getting emergency rides for patients or delivering medication or medical equipment from here to there?”

“They do a lot of that, it’s true. But they do so much more. Like the time they helped out a man whose car was stuck or the story of the Purim costume.”

“What happened with the Purim costume?”

“That was really amazing. A 7-year-old Hadera boy with cancer especially wanted to be a tiger for Purim. He had very specific ideas. An Ezer Mizion volunteer was determined to get him the costume but couldn’t find what he wanted anywhere. She tried Linked to Life who sent the request to Netanya. Zilch. Then Tel Aviv. Nothing. Hundreds of people were involved but what he wanted could not be found. Another request went out and a volunteer responded that she would sew it. Beep! Beep! A volunteer was needed who lived in his area and could take measurements. A response came in within seconds. Ezer Mizion couldn’t cure the cancer but, through their Linked to Life program, they managed to make a little boy very, very happy.”

“That’s some story. I hope they are as successful with Malky’s cake.”

Several days later, the Cohen family gasped in shock when Rivky rang their bell. And via the tray bearing a magnificent Bas Mitzvah cake produced by Sara A., there entered into their home, for the first time in months, a package of smiles.

Linked to Life. We’re all connected. No one is ever alone.