Posts Tagged ‘chemo’

Their Role/ Our Role

October 25, 2017

Womn Driving A CarI’ll admit it. I had a negative thought there for a moment. I picked up a woman at one of the major hospitals and drove her miles to the city in which she lived. For an instant, I couldn’t help wondering why she called for a volunteer. Couldn’t she have gone by bus?  She looked fine, spoke in an upbeat manner, even joked a bit. I’m happy to help people out. After all, that’s why I joined Ezer Mizion’s Linked to Life but from what I could see, I wondered if she really needed help.

 

That’s when I realized what was going on. It was an act. An act for her children and her husband who joined us for part of the trip, for her elderly mother who was waiting at the doorstep and perhaps… even for herself. It was an act she put on after every chemo session to convince those around her that everything was fine. She did it so well that she almost fooled even me. But I saw the in-between times. From my rear view mirror, I could see when she let down her guard, not realizing that anyone was there to see. I saw the fear in her eyes, I saw the tear that was immediately wiped away in the privacy of the back seat. I saw her clenched fists as she got ready to leave the car and I heard the catch in her voice as she brightly asked her mother how the babysitting had gone.  I heard her mother joke about little Moishe who ate everything but his peas which he used to paint the kitchen wall. For one tiny instant, her mother’s smile faltered but it was immediately put back in its place…that brave lady. Mother, daughter: each one trying to be strong for the other.

 

I’m told that her compromised immune system does not allow her to use public transportation but even if she could, she is far from healthy enough to do so, in spite of her wonderful act. We at Ezer Mizion’s Linked to Life can’t cure the cancer patients that we meet daily. But we can certainly make things easier for them and relieve their suffering at least a little bit. As we provide practical support, we also keep the conversation supportive, offering the proverbial shoulder to lean on. It gives them a feeling of being taken care of which strengthens their spirit and enables them to better fight the battles ahead. We get a lot of feedback about how cared for they feel when riding with us so I guess we’re doing a good job. And so, my dear fellow Linked to Life members, when we hear that beep on our phones, that’s our cue to join the drama and play our roles, offering our own strength and compassion, our arsenal of weapons in the war against a monster named Cancer.

 

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

 

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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

Behind the Wheel with Yisroel

November 16, 2016

car-driving-man-city-46591018They always say thank you but, in truth, I am the one who feels privileged, as an Ezer Mizion driver, to transport so many very special people who have been battling illness and often have gained a clear insight of Hashem’s loving hand. A family   had requested a ride to the kvarim to give thanks to Hashem upon their young son completing a set of treatments.

At 7:45 I met six-year-old Noam Chai and his parents, exuberant after a 5-month long hospital stay. Their story is amazing, a story of blazing faith, of pure love of Hashem.

They came to these shores not for happy reasons, but rather because of the disease that ravaged their son’s lean body. From their very first words, I could tell what a special family they were, their faith engraved in stone, resistant even to gale-force winds, and the mitzvah of loving their Creator above all, guiding their steps at every moment. I was jealous. Their tribulations did not deter them. On the contrary, they just empowered the parents and their sweet child to accept the heavenly judgment with love.

The first stop was at the gravesite of Shmuel Hanavi, where we poured out our prayers for the complete recovery of Noam Chai. Our next stop was breakfast. I derived special pleasure seeing the 6-year-old boy being careful in the laws of netilat yadayim, making the brocha on a whole roll, eating politely, like a grown boy. And so, we continued traveling, while hearing words of Torah and inspiration, until we reached the grave of Rabbi Meir Baal Hanes. In awe, the family poured out their prayers at the holy site.

From there we went on to the gravesite of Rachel, the wife of Rabbi Akiva, and then to the kvarim of the great Rambam and of the Shelah Hakadosh. Rivers of tears flowed. Near them, with the intensity characteristic of a grown yeshiva bachur, the young Noam Chai prayed tearfully and slowly, saying word after word as if he was counting golden coins. I am certain that the heavens shed tears and cleared the way for the prayer of this young child, fighting a cruel and terrible illness.

From there, we continued to a lighter experience – a boat ride. The boat owners had donated their time as a gift for the child who captured the heart of all who met him.

Tzefas was our next stop. We visited the special candle factory, and saw scribes at their work writing a miniature sefer Torah, and then resumed our travels to the gravesite of Rashbi in Meron, stopping first for a meal.

The child, who was now able to put real food in his mouth after being nourished for long, hard months by IV, was visibly thankful. When we went to wash netilat yadayim, he stood politely, his hands clasped behind refusing to wash before his elders would do so. You could see the marvelous middos cultivated by the upbringing of his mother, who is meticulous about everything, big and small.

I dropped off this special family, now recharged with holy energy, anxious to thank Ezer Mizion and the devoted volunteers who are at their side day and night, ready to meet all their needs. From rides like this to transportation to and from the clinic, from daily hot meals to detailed advocacy and medical advice. Whatever their needs, Ezer Mizion was there for them. Praised is your nation, Hashem where a Yid is never alone!

All that remains is to give our blessing to Noam Chai ben Chami, for a complete recovery among all the ill of Israel, and that his dear parents should enjoy much nachas from him, in good health and happiness, and merit to be oleh laregel with all the Jewish people in the holy land very soon.

And to you, the amazing Ezer Mizion family, who teaches us what real chessed is, I thank you for enabling me to be a small agent in this holy organization.

With the blessing of a Kohen,

Yisrael ben Reitcha Raitzel

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

 

On the Road to Life

October 21, 2015

pr amb row 1690_ne_related_content_a_pic_4dfbeEzer Mizion’s eighteen ambulances and vehicles for transport of the disabled cruise Israel’s roads and highways almost twenty-four hours a day, providing service to as many patients and mobility-impaired as possible. For each of the passengers, this service is as indispensable as the air they breathe. Most of them are oncology or dialysis out-patients who must come to the hospital a few times a week for treatment. Some are transported by car by our thousands of volunteer drivers. For others, their physical condition precludes travel by car, even with assistance. Yet, for these patients, frequent hospital trips are essential to life. Travel via ambulance is the only option but ambulance transport is not covered by Kupat Cholim. The cost of one trip by private ambulance begins at about NIS 400. When a few trips per week are required, the families simply cannot handle the staggering expense. What then is a family, who is already overburdened financially due to the medical crisis, do in such a case?
Ezer Mizion’s Ambulance Transport center provides a response for this vital need, with the help of ambulance drivers who are on call at all hours of the day to keep the wheels of chessed turning. Is it discounted trips that are offered by Ezer Mizion? In spite of the steep overhead involved in every ambulance trip, the passengers are not asked to pay a penny. Ezer Mizion, funded by all of you out there who support the organization so generously, is the one to cover all the ambulances’ running costs and maintenance expenses.
Over the last year, the ambulance network was significantly streamlined following the centralization of its calling centers. Now, anyone who needs an ambulance anywhere in the country calls one number, and all the trips are coordinated from that central headquarters. In addition, ambulance driver assistants in the center of the country have begun getting around on motor scooters, enabling one assistant to help out several ambulances within a short span of time by availing himself of this efficient and easy means of mobility.
Transport Center coordinators look back with great satisfaction at the tens of thousands of life-saving trips made this year in addition to special projects such as transporting the ill and disabled to summer retreats and day camps, to Meron for prayers on Lag Ba’omer or taking patients on outings and other activities in the framework of Ezer Mizion’s Make-a-Wish project.
On your next trip to Israel, you will find that every time an Ezer Mizion ambulance passes you on the road, you will feel a tremendous sense of fulfillment, knowing that you too have a part and a merit in this mitzvah transport!
For further info: http://www.ezermizion.org

Back to School

September 17, 2014

Netanel and Aviel’s parents are neighbors-just a two minute walk from each other. They are good friends but their boys are four years apart and, up until recently didn’t have much in common. Now they do. What can a ten-year-old have in common with a six –year-old, you ask. The answer is chilling.
Cancer.
Last year they each watched from the window as their friends mounted the school bus. Their knapsacks remained forlorn in a corner while their owners spent grueling days receiving chemo.
It was a difficult year. A frightening year. An agonizing year. As the chemo did its job on their bodies, their spirits often fell to the lowest point. That’s where Ezer Mizion would come in.pr canc sup Back to School Netanel and Aviel OK 10378197_358273767658899_1275031744684346639_n
Play therapy in many forms helped them to cope with the nightmare that had taken over their lives. Their favorite was Animal Therapy when they got to care for cuddly pets who became their best friends.
As is well-known in medical science, a happy spirit becomes a powerful partner in helping the body fight its battles. Towards that goal, there were birthday parties, trips, fun days, retreats. The highlight is always Ezer Mizion’s Summer Camp for Cancer Patients and their Families. Behind the scenes, all medical needs are taken care of with the utmost precision enabling the families to enjoy a vacation from cancer-every moment filled with fun, fun, fun. What a change from IV poles and hospital walls to, for instance, a surprise visit by the Border Police. (more…)

Your Rod and Your Staff

May 28, 2014

Condensed from Hapeles – Mussaf
April 2014
by: E. Leibowitz
A Family in Crisis
The clinic was busy as usual, filled with people of all ages. The silence was interrupted from time to time by murmured grumbling over the long wait. Yehuda would have preferred to remain ensconced in the Yeshiva, but the stomachache that had been bothering him for months compelled him to take the step. “At first I thought it was appendicitis,” Mrs. Blum riffles through the pages of her memory from five years back. “When that was eliminated and the stomach pains persisted, we decided he should go to the doctor for a more thorough examination.”
Yehuda received the shattering information alone, without any emotional preparation. “I didn’t think it was necessary to come with him for the ultrasound. After all, he was a mature 19-year-old who could go to the clinic himself.” For some reason, the hospital technician thought he was a mature adult who could handle such information – or more likely, she did not think at all. She looked at the screen and told him exactly what she saw, not giving a moment’s consideration to how you tell a patient he has a cancerous tumor in a gentler, more tactful way.
From their home in Beit Shemesh, the Blum family talks about that period – so difficult and painful, yet so full of belief in G-d.
Balance of Terror
After “the bomb dropped,” Yehuda promptly called his father. All he said was one word: come. Suddenly, the story that always happened to “somebody else” was on their own doorstep. The first days were very difficult. “For days, I sat and cried without a stop,” Mrs. Blum describes. “I refused to accept the facts. The emotions flooded me. As far as I was concerned, the world stopped at that point.
“On top of everything, Yehuda was just a step away from pre-marriage age. The thought of ‘What people will say’ was daunting. But in spite of that, we decided right from the beginning not to keep it a secret. He received unbelievable support from his friends. If you hide things,” Blum opines, “all your energy is channeled to the task of keeping the secret. How will you have enough strength to deal with the problem itself? Concealing just makes life harder. Besides, Hagaon Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky told us that if Yehuda is in a situation that requires prayers, on the contrary, we should let people know about it. Otherwise, how will they pray for him?”
The father Reb Binyamin, contacted one of the medical counseling experts involved in this area and came to him together with Yehuda for initial guidance. Even before giving names of doctors and treatment options, the advisor encouraged them to keep up routine as much as possible and make sure that the home would remain happy. “When they came home with his recommendations, I looked at them in disbelief. ‘Does he realize what we are talking about?’ I fumed. ‘How can we keep up our routine?”
Routine and Happiness
Slowly but surely, we got on track – a different track, one with a sick family member, but a track nonetheless. “The minute we got into routine, which we decided to maintain at any cost, it was easier. I can’t explain it, but reality just took shape. When there is a problem, Hashem helps – I don’t know how. Routine sets in, school keeps going, the home functions and life goes on. It wasn’t easy navigating between the home, the hospital, and work, but don’t forget – we are talking about a 19-year-old boy who can be alone part of the time.”
And… yes. Happiness wasn’t lacking in the home, despite all.
“How can you create a happy atmosphere under such circumstances?” we asked Reb Binyamin. “Rav Shach zt”l said in the name of his uncle Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer zt”l: ‘In th e23rd Psalm, it says, “Your rod and your staff shall comfort me.” How can the punitive rod give comfort? Rav Isser Zalman said that it is like a flock of sheep grazing in the field when suddenly a lion appears and threatens to devour them. When the sheep feel the shepherd’s stick slapping them, they are relieved and happy, even though the blow hurts, because it means that the shepherd is looking out for them and striking them for their own benefit, so they will run to safety. When a person receives a “blow” from Above, it hurts. But comfort lies in the knowledge of Who is striking them…
When we choose to see the picture from this vantage point, everything looks different, and we are able to put our trust in Hashem and be happy.
Flowers at the Side of the Road
“When Hashem gives a blow, he prepares the ‘flowers’ at its side. We saw this all the way through,” Blum explains. Not always were the flowers obvious. Sometimes they hid behind a shrub at the side of the road, sometimes we had to dig a bit to reveal them. And sometimes, we just had to make sure not to close our eyes.
The Blums got proof of this the day they received the first definite lab results. To confirm the findings and eliminate other possibilities, a biopsy was done. During those trying moments, their first granddaughter was born. “The conflicting feelings of choking tension side by side with the angelic infant created a contrasting picture of pain and boundless gratitude at the very same moment. Later on, when the new parents came to our home with the baby, it impacted the atmosphere in the entire house.
“Another ray of light was that Yehuda was hospitalized in the Pediatric Ward, not with the adults, in spite of his age, because the growth he had fit the specialization of pediatric oncology. The pediatric ward is a lot more upbeat, with medical clowns and such radiating a positive atmosphere. It may sound ludicrous, but these technical details can make a difference. The state of mind is very important in these situations.
“In the midst of this difficult period, we found the things we could draw encouragement from and focused on them,” Reb Binyamin shares “Every small thing was cause for gratitude. Of course, the positive effect of the treatment on Yehuda’s condition also contributed a lot.”
The whole story took a calendar year, though it seemed like light years. Everything went by the book and the timetable followed the protocol to a tee – another spark of light in the darkness surrounding them.
A Year of Battle
“We called a family meeting. To the younger children, we explained that Yehuda was sick, without going into details. We told them he would have to undergo treatments that would cause his hair to fall out. They knew what to expect, and that helped them cope. Keeping up the household routine was no easy matter. The fact that he was a young man who didn’t need someone there every minute helped. On the other hand, he was still a person and needed our support at difficult moments.” Much pain is woven through Mrs. Blum’s words as she relives those days. “When he would come back from a treatment, he would call me and ask me to sit with him on the couch after the exhausting hours of treatment. Usually he was there as an outpatient, only on occasion was he hospitalized for a few days. Not always were the side effects immediate. In one form of treatment, the blood count dips only a week later. During those days, he had to be in absolutely sterile isolation at home, so as not to catch any illness. On the other hand, having him home is what enabled us to keep up the routine as much as possible.
“We split the work. My husband basically took charge of the hospitalizations and I remained at home to cope with everything else. I didn’t visit the hospital even once, other than for the operation. Somebody had to keep the house functioning for when they came home from the hospital.”
At first, Yehuda underwent a half year of tiring, torturous chemotherapy sessions, with all the attendant side effects. Fortunately, there were no unusual incidents, but even the standard nausea, mouth sores, and other “fringe benefits” are enough to knock you out.
“The first hospitalization concluded on a Sunday,” Reb Blum relates. “When we were released, they gave us a list of medicines which we had to buy as follow-up to the treatment. I went into the local Kupat Cholim branch to take care of it. The druggist glanced at the prescription and said that one of the items was an injection that had to be given 24 hours after the treatment, and costs 7,000 NIS. In order to subsidize the cost, we needed a special authorization from the head of the Kupah, which required several days’ time to arrange. Now it was too late to get the authorization – what should we do?
In a remarkable show of Divine detailed oversight, just then one of the medical advisors walked into the drugstore and gave me the telephone number of someone who could cut through the red tape. First thing Monday morning, I called and explained the urgency of the matter. I was told to go to the Kupat Cholim immediately and submit the medical papers. “When the material will be in the system,” they claimed, “we will be able to speed the process. I got to the Kupat Cholim, but my branch was closed on Monday. Now I had to rush to the next neighborhood, quite a distance away, and give in the paperwork there. The race was on, and I felt the frustration enveloping me.
“‘What does G-d want from me now?’ I mused. I got to the branch and went over to the first receptionist I saw. She took my papers, asked a question or two, paused thoughtfully for a moment, and then confided in me that she was diagnosed with precisely the same growth when she was sixteen. ‘Today I am happily married, with children,’ she said with a smile. Her words gave me the strength I so badly needed at that moment. Who knows, maybe it was for this very reason that G-d sent me to the faraway branch, to that particular receptionist. Indeed, the authorization was arranged promptly and that afternoon, we had the injection in hand.”
Order in the Mind
Having clear information about what is going to happen is very helpful. Knowledge is strength. When you know what to expect and where you are headed – the protocol, as it is called in medical lingo – it puts your mind in order.
“The minute there is a crisis, you feel lost in a sea of feelings, thoughts and question marks. The unknown future casts a shadow of fear and the uncertainty doubles the stress. The minute there is a protocol clarifying what is going to happen at every stage under natural (though we nothing is natural…) conditions, everything is clearer and less threatening. Order in the mind affects the whole process.”
Little Sand Dunes
The Blums deliberated a great deal about how to cope with their new situation in the optimal manner. They decided to take it one day at a time and cope with that day alone, not to think what will be six months from now or when Yehuda gets to marriage preparations. If they would lift their eyes and see the mountain in its full height, they would be afraid to begin the trail and would give up before taking the first step. They decided to break the mountain into little sand dunes, which are easier to climb and less frightening. It is a bit like the belief experienced by the Jews in the wilderness who received their mannah each day, for just one day. “
It’s all Part of the Circle
Another policy the Blums decided to adopt compelled them to reexamine the facts and reach new conclusions. “Until then, we never took help from others. But in the emergency situation in which we found ourselves, we preferred to invest our energy in the really important things.” They feel it is important to convey the message: “When there is a problem there is nothing heroic about carrying the burden alone if there are others who can and want to help you. You may find it uncomfortable, even difficult to be on the side of the takers. It takes a lot of work on yourself to change your way of thinking. But knowing that this is the right thing to do no – to accept help when you need it – is true greatness and courage. When the story is over, with Hashem’s help, you can be a giver again, and close the circle.”
Ezer Mizion at the Side of the Road
Ezer Mizion is not just an organization. Yes, it is housed in a large, impressive building. Yes, it is run by myriads of computers. But what is it really? It is people. People who deeply understand. People who really care. People who will search every nook and cranny to find that certain something to make your situation easier. People whose greatest joy is to see you smile. And they really know how to do it.
Delicious, attractively – prepared meals delivered to the home during the hard times. Hot, reviving meals for my husband at the hospital. Retreats for the family where we had fun—yes, fun!— and could connect with others going through the same nightmare. Outings for the kids—it’s easy to forget about the other children when you’re focused on one but Ezer Mizion does not forget. There were rides to the hospital to save our energy, always given by a driver who had absorbed the Ezer Mizion ambience of empathy and was able to strengthen us for the ordeal to come. There were trained psychologists to help us get through maze of emotions that we hardly understood ourselves. There was Oranit at The Donald Berman Rehab Center with its musical band, stories, games, crafts and even a petting zoo, all under the guidance of trained therapists to help the younger ones deal with their nightmare. There were volunteers to help with all the sundry tasks that were beyond us at the time. Sometimes it was homework or buying school supplies or shoes for the kids. Maybe it was cleaning the house for Pesach or staying with the kids while my husband and I took a much-needed breather. In the summer, it was camp—a world of strengthening fun, fun fun for the whole family. And always, from the receptionists to the professionals, it was understanding, compassion and love.
Private individuals also gave of themselves, to complete the picture. Since Yehuda was learning in an out-of-town Yeshiva, he was barely able to attend during the entire period of his illness. One of the advisors arranged a learning partner for him that literally kept him afloat. They learned together in the hospital, and on the difficult days following a treatment, he would come to our house and learn with him there, for as long as Yehuda had the strength. Beyond the learning experience, the company of the young man made the entire period more pleasant. Though he couldn’t go to Yeshiva because of the distance and the need to stay close to the hospital, his friends came from time to time to boost his spirits. They organized singing and came after Shabbat with guitars… Without the support of the community, we would not have made it through the same way.
A Year of Growth
“It was a very unconventional year, but when I look back, it was also a special year, strange as it may sound. I can’t say it was a sweet year, but anyone who is in the midst of such a battle and knows how to draw his hidden strengths out as a result will understand what I’m saying. It was a year of elevation and of closeness to G-d. The children do not recall it as a black, harsh year. It was difficult, but the feeling of closeness to G-d overshadowed all the difficulties.
There were gifts throughout the year. Yes, it was tough, and more than once, we were afraid that the end loomed around the bend. But if we just opened our eyes, we saw glimmers of light illuminating our way. When you get on track, you can open your eyes and be thankful for what there is – and there is a lot.
“Keeping up your optimism is not an easy task,” Reb Blum adds. “It was a constant, day by day, hour by hour challenge.”
When Yehuda lost his hair, it was very hard, both on him and on the rest of the family, though it may seem like a lighter, more technical and temporary aspect of the picture. Nevertheless, it was like proof of the illness. On the physical plane too, when the hair falls out, it is itchy and uncomfortable. “Then there are all the pitiful glances.” Mrs. Blum recalls Yehuda’s stunned look when he came home from the synagogue after one thoughtless person reproved him that his haircut was contrary to Jewish law. “Apparently, he was not aware of the situation,” Blum says, “but it hurt.” The children knew in advance that he would lose his hair and were not taken by surprise, but it still was not easy for any of them. But thanks to the massive support from those around him, and to the solid advice of the advisor, happiness prevailed in the house and gave them all the strength to stand up to the challenge.
During the course of the year, Yehuda lost a few friends from the ward. Sadly, they could have opened their own yeshiva during that time, since quite a number of Yeshiva boys were there and they naturally formed close friendships. Each loss of one of the boys in the group was another hardship. “I remember when one of the boys whom Yehuda had become particularly close with passed away. I didn’t want to tell him. I closed all the windows so he wouldn’t hear the announcement, even though it wasn’t logical. I wanted to spare him this pain. Every incident like this automatically put him in the same boat and could have led to despair, G-d forbid.
Six months after beginning treatments, Yehuda underwent surgery to remove the growth, followed by another half year of less grueling chemotherapy treatments and radiation. After Pesach he was left with just two or three treatments and in the summer, a year after he was diagnosed, this chapter of their life came to a close.
Non-Routine Routine
When the period was over, it was a strange feeling. The routine that held us together was no longer supporting us. It took Yehuda some time until he achieved full recovery both physically and emotionally and resumed his normal appearance . It took us, as a family, even longer to resume our normal ‘before’ routine, a routine I hope I will never take for granted.
Our lives in the world of oncology will always remain part of us. Today, we are like one family, all those who battled alongside of us. Some came out of it, some are still fighting, and some are no longer with us. But the bond between each family is strong – a bond of people joined in pain and battle. When we worked on the invitations for Yehuda’s wedding (Yes, to our great joy and gratitude, he is now married!), the number was significantly increased by these new “family members,” and they also organized one of the week-long celebrations.
There is something very elevating in this story, in the challenges that a person goes through. “Today, when I complain, it is proof to me that we have returned to normal life… but a minute later, a signal comes up in my mind reminding me that I have nothing to complain about. The difficulty is a gift in itself and it is actually the ‘tuition’ we pay for all the wisdom we gained.”

Chemo Kills but…

January 29, 2014

Chemo Kills but...

It’s Over Now

In a special, personal column, Hadas Rosental, mother of 3-year old Moriah, speaks about her everyday struggle with cancer in the oncology ward of the Schneider Hospital in Petach
Tikvah, about the challenges and the new life routine.
We’re starting the chemotherapy. What, now? Yes, yes, now. But we just got to the ward, and just did a biopsy, and she’s still weak. True, but there is a tumor inside that is growing bigger every day. If we give it more and more time, it will keep growing. That’s why we are starting, and starting now. ..
Moriah’s treatment protocol is one of the longest there is. Unlike leukemia or lymphoma, a neuroblastoma requires treatment with almost every possible technique that cancer can be treated.
Every round of chemo requires four days of full hospitalization and another ten days of recuperation at home. But you are not really home. You come to the ward for check-ups every Monday and Thursday, and if the temperature goes up, you are hospitalized, and the only thing going through your head is that one more day has gone by and we are getting closer and closer to the next chemotherapy.
I cannot imagine the thoughts that go through Moriah’s mind and the feelings in her heart, but just the thought of going to the hospital, of being connected to a stand with bags of chemo, makes me feel nauseous and like I have a ten-ton load on my heart. To our good fortune, and that of all the patients in the ward, there are the Ezer Mizion volunteers, who make the stay at the ward a little easier, more pleasant, and a lot more tolerable.
Throughout the treatment period, we considered Ezer Mizion our second home. The Donald Berman Rehabilitation Center offered everything from music classes to sand therapy. From professional support for the whole family to a petting zoo which Moriah would have wanted to spend every waking hour ‘talking’ to a cuddly bunny or frolicking with an adorable puppy Most of all, there were the people who really understood what we were going through and took care of our every need.
Our first night in the ward, we were told that only one parent can sleep over. Since I was in my fifth month of pregnancy at the time, and couldn’t change Moriah’s diapers when she was getting chemo, it was clear that my husband would be the one to stay. My eyes glistened with tears, and I thought to myself: I am about to leave my little girl here, attached to this bag of poison. I said good-bye to Moriah, promised her that I would be back at the ward before she woke up (which I indeed was) and with a heavy heart, strode towards the car. I don’t know how I got back to my mother’s house, because all the tremendous pressure that was choking me drained out in the form of copious tears.
Chemotherapy kills. It kills cancer cells, reduces tumors, minimizes the illness and (in most cases) cleanses the body. Chemotherapy also destroys the immune system: the neutrophils drop, the hemoglobin level sinks and the thromobocytes touch rock bottom. Every time Moriah went through a round of chemotherapy, I took her home and watched her like a hawk. I wouldn’t allow any outsiders into the home and we ourselves didn’t leave the house. We followed the big book of instructions for parents of a sick child to the tee, and hoped that the immune system would restore itself quickly and that Moriah would not be exposed to bacteria that could harm her
Chemotherapy kills the appetite. The tongue loses the ability to distinguish between tastes and everything tastes bad. Moriah rapidly went down from 14 kilos to 12 kilos, and later, during the transplant period, she lost even more weight. All the shows, songs, dances and other performances we did for Moriah just to get her to take another bite of food would not have shamed the theater.
Chemotherapy kills the hair follicles. The most tangible and characteristic symptom of a cancer patient is the bald head. When I first sat down with our social worker, she asked if we would like to make a wig for Moriah. I didn’t have to think twice; I immediately answered in the negative. We will wear her baldness with pride. We won’t be ashamed of it and won’t hide it. But it wasn’t easy.
At a later stage of the treatments, when I had already learned to identify signs of a fall or rise in the immune system, and when I knew that Moriah was not neutropenic, I would take her with me for a trip to the “outside world,” for brief outings.
The minute we would walk into a store, everything would stop. People froze in their place and gazed in our direction. The butcher at the supermarket took his curiosity a step further and asked me, in front of the girl, “Why is she bald?” I gave him a look of “Do you really want or expect me to answer you?”
On another occasion, I was at a birthday party in Ezer Mizion’s Oranit cancer patient guest home for a boy whose parent was sick. Some of the boys’ classmates were at the party and they very naturally were curious about Moriah’s bald head. Two children who passed by us giggled and said, “Look, that girl is bald.” I wanted to scream at them, to call their parents and insist that they teach their children how to behave. I wanted them to apologize to Moriah. Someone, who saw the fire in my eyes and the storm within, took my hand and said to them, “Bald is beautiful.”
Well, we made it through with Ezer Mizion at our side. The bone marrow transplant, all the psychological help, the practical assistance, the fun days, parties and trips to keep up our spirits, an open door at Oranit… We couldn’t have done it without them.
Chemotherapy kills, but it saved my little girl.
For more info: http://www.ezermizion.org