I will never, ever, ever forget my first visit to the oncology ward. It was a traumatizing place to be for a young high school girl but how could I not have visited my little sister, Chevy! So I stared at all the children with bald heads. ‘That won’t happen to Chevy, will it?’ i whispered to myself, still blissfully unaware of what no young girl – or even adult – should know about. When I got home, I pulled out a picture of Chevy and, with my fingers, covered up her long, dark wavy hair, still pretending it will never happen but preparing myself just in case.
It happened. After the second treatment. Chevy said she feels as if she is carrying her hair. When I tried to brush it for her, big clumps came loose. We ended up with an immense pile of hair which Chevy thought was funny. ‘Lets make a funeral’, she giggled. ‘What should we use for a talis?’
Oh , Chevy, if you would only have known what is to come. But none of us did. The treatments ended. We were so happy. Chevy’s numbers were good and things looked bright. It had been such a difficult time for the whole family. Without Ezer Mizion, I don’t see how we could have made it through. They were everywhere. They gave us rides to the hospital, let us live in this really nice apartment that was near the treatment center so we couldn’t have to travel. There was therapy for all of us kids – such fun therapy with music, sand play, crafts, and even a petting zoo. There was psychological help, hot, delicious meals, parties and trips. And most of all they enveloped us with such love. They seemed as happy as we were that it was almost over.
Our family celebrated at the park. Chevy loved the trampoline. I can still picture her laughing as she jumped higher and higher.
It was shortly before her Bas Mitzvah that she got sick. She began vomiting and suddenly fainted. We called an ambulance. Her blood pressure went down to 24.l it was so scary. My heart was beating so hard. I could hear it thumping. I was paralyzed with fear but as the oldest in the family, I felt it was my job to keep the kids calm. I took them into the kitchen and gave them each a lollipop, telling them to make the blessing the merit of Chevy.
Chevy was so weak but she managed to say thank you to everyone who helped – the ambulance driver, the doctors and nurses – my mother told me..
My mother stood with her at the hospital while I babysat. Suddenly I saw my mother’s number on the caller ID. And I knew. I knew what I didn’t want to know. My mother was screaming into the phone, ‘Go to the shul (synagogue) and call out your father. Ask him to drive to the hospital with ten men…’. I knew what that meant. I ran out, not caring if my hair was combed or what i was wearing. Running. Running. Running. Running away from … I saw a few of my friends on the block and said to myself, ‘In a few hours they will be going to a funeral and they don’t even know it.’
For three days, the family stood around my sister’s bedside. We couldn’t take our eyes off her. My grandparents, my aunts and uncles. All of us. And Ezer Mizion was there right beside us supporting us in so many ways. Everyone was crying. Even the doctor. My mother was screaming to Chevy, ‘ Chevy! Chevy! Wake up! You have to wake up! You have to!’ Then my mother fainted. The family sent her home to rest but she felt the need to prepare the house for shiva first. Shiva! It was really happening.
We all tried talking to Chevy .We begged her to wake up. “Chevy, we love you! P lease! Please! Chevy, you can’t leave us! Your Bas Mitzvah, Chevy! Your new dress! You love your dress! Chevy, Chevy! Chevy, don’t leave us! No!. No! No! Please, Hashem, please!‘
There was no response.
I thought of another idea. I played her favorite song on the cd player, putting it right near her ear. Was I imagining it? Could it be real? Slowly, slowly, I saw what seemed like a smile. It was real! And her lips were moving. Just a little but they were moving. Yes!!! She was singing along!!! Grandma, look! Chevy is singing!!! Chevy remembers that time. She felt so weak. She wanted to tell everyone that she was ok and she’d soon be celebrating her Bas Mitzvah but she didn’t have the strength to talk. Afterwards, everyone treated her like a queen. Chevy didn’t know what to make of it.
Yes, she celebrated her Bas Mitzvah in a way that she hadn’t even dreamed of. Ezer Mizion had held our hands when things were looking good and then again when things were looking so bad Several months later on stage at the Ezer Mizion Chinese Auction, in front of thousands of women and girls, Ezer Mizion once again held our hands –literally- as we danced and danced with the Bas Mitzvah girl in joy and thanksgiving to the Creator who had saved our Chevy.