At Ezer Mizion’s Cancer Support Division, we hear too often about the increase in patients at the oncology wards in all the Central Israel major hospitals – Sheba Tel Hashomer, Ichilov, Asuta, and Schneider, as well as in Shaarei Tzedek and Hadassah in Jerusalem.
Not long ago, there was a terrible case in Bnei Brak of a 5-year-old boy who was diagnosed with the disease. When the mother heard this, she was immobilized by her anguish. She looked into the eyes of her precious child and could not resume managing her household, where there were another five children who needed her. Ezer Mizion’s assistance throughout the stages of dealing with the situation is what helped her get back on her feet and cope with the heavy burden that crashed down on them without warning. Thank G-d, we draw a lot of satisfaction from providing the cushion, helping out the patient and the family with everything that is needed.
Are there stories that manage to shock even you, in spite of your vast experience with patients and with cancer?
“Unfortunately, there are plenty. A terrible story took place not long ago: After being married for several years, a couple had twin boys. A few months before their bar mitzvah, one of the twins was diagnosed with the dreaded disease and the anguished mother did not leave his bedside. A few days later, I received a call from the concerned mother. She told me that she hadn’t been feeling well and she too went for tests. Today, she received the results – she has a very serious case of cancer. She cried to me and asked, ‘What can I say to the boy who so much wants me to sit with him? How can I tell him this news in his condition?’
“It wasn’t easy to answer such a tough question. For a week, she managed to evade the son, but then the problem was resolved, albeit in a chilling way: A cardiac arrest brought the boy to the world of truth where he, no doubt, now knows about his mother’s condition and is praying for her in the heavenly spheres. The family was traumatized. Their emotional strength level was down to nil. Unfortunately, Ezer Mizion has much experience in helping such families and we set them up with an array of practical assistance plus psychological help to enable them to begin the long journey learning to live with tragedy.
“In recent times, we saw a number of tragic incidents in which the disease occurred twice within the same family. For example, a woman passed away seven years ago, leaving four children. A few months ago, the father was diagnosed with the illness. He died, leaving the four children alone, with neither father nor mother.
Just a few days ago, a teacher told me that a student in his class was stricken with cancer and one of the fourth graders asked if it’s contagious…
“A very common phenomenon is concealment. For a number of reasons, many families prefer to keep the fact that a family member has cancer under wraps. The problem is that in general, this secretiveness takes a high toll and makes an already difficult situation even harder. The concealment complicates matters to an unbelievable degree and erodes physical and emotional energy that is no desperately needed for coping with the disease itself. In an extreme case, the children in one family did not know their sibling was sick and only discovered it two days before he passed away. Imagine what these children must go through all that time that the house is enveloped in secretiveness and is only half-functioning – or less. Think of the terrible shock they feel when just two days later, they have to cope not only with newfound knowledge of the illness but also with their sibling’s death and everything that involves.
“We have even encountered people who changed their family name before checking into the hospital so that nobody would identify them. Much of the concealment is motivated by an irrational fear of the disease, which people avoid even mentioning by name. Many times, this fear stems from misinformation, and that is one of the areas where we see our role: to bring people real statistics from the field about the thousands of cancer patients who were cured, about the many families who withstood the storm and resumed blessed routine, about the abundant help we can give them in every area. When we speak with families we tell them: We are here to enable you to focus all your attention on your sick relative. Your role? Try to transfer everything else weighing on you to our care: who will care for the children at home, who will do the laundry, who will cook, who will do homework with the children…
“We have a lot of help to offer in regard to the patient himself as well: A family that always watched its pennies and avoided using taxis suddenly discovers that the sick child is not allowed to use public transportation. ‘Don’t worry,’ we tell them. ‘Our volunteer driver network is intended just for that purpose. The volunteers will drive you to treatments and take you home afterwards. Any medical counseling you need, you can get right here, from Rabbi Shimon Rogovay, Ezer Mizion’s medical advisor. His staff can help push up appointments, get hold of doctors, and assist in anything you need from this aspect.’ In this way, slowly but surely, the people find that Ezer Mizion enwraps them in a caring cushion of assistance, calming their fears and enabling them to focus on their primary role – caring for the patient.