Utter shock. That’s what I felt sitting there in the doctor’s office. It was a busy time for me. I’m a lawyer and I was in the middle of trying a complex murder case. But it was time for my annual physical and, feeling virtuous and responsible, I took time off to have it done even though I had zero symptoms. Then the doctor asked me to sit down. Something in his serious tone of voice told me I would not be getting back to my murder case too quickly. Continue reading But I Feel Fine
“It all started with a government contract in 2013 that required a complex background check, including detailed physical exam. I am the owner of commercial cleaning company”, says RK. “Of course, I wanted to dot every ‘i’ on this very lucrative deal. The physical was a bit of a problem since my doctor was not available. So I went to the sub who refused to fill out the form without an exam. I noticed the doctor becoming agitated as he listened to my heart. Well, there was good reason for his agitation. It turned out that I had a heart condition that required open heart surgery. Pretty scary to think this never would have been discovered if I hadn’t received that contract. Halfway through the post-surgery recovery period, I began feeling chest pains. My heart was checked and found to be fine but my blood was not. What’s going on, I thought to myself. In April the blood work had been fine, now in July suddenly not? So there in the midst of recovering from open heart surgery, I was found to have AML. Isn’t there some rule about not hitting a guy when he’s down? Later on, I was told that I probably had had leukemia for a while but it was held in check. The open heart surgery most likely caused it to develop and spread.
Only a stem cell transplant could save me. Thank G-d, Ezer Mizion found a match for me. The cells would be transported from Israel to my hospital in Chicago. Just one problem. There was a major snowstorm in Chicago at the time. If my cells didn’t get here within that small window of time, we’d have to start all over. You can imagine how much I prayed. Well, they made it and I’m fine now and hope to remain so for many years. After the transplant, my blood became AB positive, a type mosquitoes don’t like- a great side benefit. “
PG and his wife are two balls of energy, speaking in front of an audience of hundreds. It wasn’t long ago that there were no jokes, no smiles. P had visited his doctor regarding recurring sinus infections. They were easy to cure but the cancer that was discovered during the comprehensive physical was not. “I needed a bone marrow transplant to survive and things didn’t look good. Well, I have a new brother now. We met recently. It is Yoni’s blood that is now coursing through my veins. That makes him my blood brother, right? We’ve become very close even though he lives in Israel and I live in the US. We try to spend quality time with each other whenever possible. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for him. After all, he gave me my life.”
He was eight years old. Third grade is a time for small boys to learn multiplication tables in the classroom and how to pitch a ball in the schoolyard. But Naftali* had learned neither of these. Instead he learned about IV’s and scary hospital equipment, about hair falling out and about roommates who ‘disappeared’ never to return. Naftali had cancer. The medical staff called his parents in for a meeting. There was only one recourse left: a bone marrow transplant. It would save his life but a genetic match would have to be found soon or… it may be too late. Jews will genetically match other Jews and so Ezer Mizion was contacted. Ezer Mizion’s registry with close to a million potential donors is the largest Jewish registry in the world, but, for Naftali, it was not large enough. There was no match. Continue reading L’chaim! To Life
“Good morning. Is this Mr. Hyman? I’m calling from the bone marrow registry. You have been found to be a match for a cancer patient!”
I was sitting in my office when I received that call. I had been tested sometime around 1998 and had not thought about that day in years. Then, quite literally, out of the blue, I was asked if I would be willing to go through further testing to confirm that I was a match for “the patient.”
My response was simple: tell me what to do!! The caller from the registry went through some basic info and made sure to tell me that while the procedure for me as a potential stem cell donor, was safe, it was still my choice and “are you sure you want to go through this process?” Continue reading So You Got A Call To Be A Stem Cell Donor?
“His face lit up” – a phrase so often found in stories of someone who received something he never expected. What does it mean? How does a face light up? Surely it is the spirit inside him that is generating the electricity.
If that is the case, then joy would be the prescription to raise the spirits of those demoralized by serious illness. Rx: fun. Happiness and chemo working in tandem. Body and spirit together engaged in the battle for life.
Ezer Mizion’s Cancer Support Division incorporates this truism into its Battle Plan with fun days for mothers, trips for kids, birthday parties, make-a-wish outings and so much more.
Harel was a case-in-point. Close to his father, the two enjoyed doing things together. One of his father’s favorites was running. Feeling the wind, the rush of adrenalin, the flush of reaching the finish line. Pure joy. And sharing it together was the icing on the cake.
The Annual Petach Tikva Run was scheduled. His father was one of the first sign up. But this time, there’d be no young son beside him, sharing the elation. Harel longed to be there. Oh, how he longed to be there. But a monster had taken over his life in the form of an illness, curable only with a bone marrow transplant. The transplant had taken place recently and Harel was beginning to mend. But running? Out of the question!
Out of the question but feelings don’t ask questions. They just feel. And Harel was feeling miserable. An emotion not very conducive to strengthening his body.
Enter Yumi, one of the most beloved members of the Cancer Support team. Yumi never sees ‘no’. He just sees ‘how’. How can it be made possible for Harel to join the race together with his father? Nothing is simple when it comes to a transplant. But Yumi is used to that. He met with Harel’s father. Tossed out possible plans. Brought the plans to a meeting with physicians. Changed, refined, re-did. Met with the race organizers. Back to the physicians. And soon. There it was. A real plan. One that he hoped would work.
The day arrived and there is Yumi. As excited as Harel and his father. Video camera on hand, recording every moment. Cheering, cheering, cheering! The lanes are filled with runners. And there is Harel’s father also running, pushing a wheelchair in front of him. Grinning behind his face mask sits Harel absorbing the excitement in the air. They’re almost there. The finish line is in sight. They stop and Harel exits the wheelchair, stands behind it and begins to push. The wheelchair supports him. His father’s shouts support him. And Yumi’s continued cheering supports him. There he is crossing the finish line with the rest of them. Way to go, Harel!
Keep running, young man. Keep running until you reach the finish line, until you reach perfect health and can do all the things you long to do. We’re all behind you, cheering you on, Harel. Keep running!
She’s back. Our data processer is back in her usual seat, glued to her computer as usual. Entering the data of recent donations to Ezer Mizion’s Bone Marrow Registry. Doing her part to help save lives around the globe. As if everything were normal. As if she had not just now come back from Israel. As if she herself had not just donated her stem cells to save the life of a middle-aged woman with AML.
But there’s a difference. There’s a glow on her face. While her co-workers continue their varied tasks to benefit the Registry, she, a young girl, had experienced something that most people can only dream of. She had saved a life.
We’ll let her tell you her story. Continue reading What Was It Like?
It’s funny. We’re so happy to have our family members that when one of them has a birthday, we give him a gift. Shouldn’t we instead be giving a gift in gratitude to the One who gave us a family? Like Yaakov did? Continue reading Now That’s A Birthday Gift!
“Please come into my office and…and bring a friend.” That was my doctor on the line with the results of the blood work. We had just had a baby and I, the father, felt so weak. With our first, I helped out a lot. With #2, I felt too weak to even hold the baby. Something seemed very wrong. And now I was about to find out what. “Bring a friend,” she had said. It sounded ominous. And so there we sat, my friend and I, when, with tears in her eyes, my doctor said those words: You have leukemia.
How do I tell my wife? With a newborn at home. How do I tell my mother? My brother had recently battled a brain tumor…and lost. Now again?! Well, I was released from the hospital and went home, arriving very close to Shabbat. I felt that I couldn’t ruin my wife’s Shabbat so I kept quiet. After Shabbat, I told her. My wife and I cried together but we were determined. We just had to find a way to move forward. We were not going to collapse. We were not going to give up. We’d fight. We’d do our part and G-d would do His.
It wasn’t easy. That very Sunday was my sister’s wedding. I simply couldn’t ruin the wedding for my sister, for my mother who was finally seemed happy after my brother’s death. So I told everyone that I had hurt my back. The truth was that I simply had no energy, the leukemia coursing through my body, sapping me of all my strength. On the last day of the week of wedding celebrations, I told my mother the news. It was so hard for her to accept. But a lifetime of faith in G-d came to fore as she internalized and helped me to internalize, “We are all in the hands of G-d”.
At the hospital, I missed my family terribly. One day my daughter came to visit me. But when she started coughing, she had to leave for fear that I would catch her cold.
I have to tell you, my wife is truly amazing. She gave me the best gift – a poster with pictures of my children. I just burst into tears at the sight of that simple but powerful gift.
Meanwhile, the hospital began swabbing my siblings for the bone marrow transplant. Two of my sisters were good matches but one had just given birth and the other was expecting.
Then Ezer Mizion came into my life with a perfect match!!! It was incredible how fast Ezer Mizion worked. I received the round of chemo to completely destroy my immune system in preparation for the transplant. Some people lose their minds from this mega-dose of chemo. I decided to keep my focus by studying Talmud .
The day of my transplant, I woke up to find my room decorated with signs wishing me a happy birthday. My wife! Sure, it was an extremely scary day for us all, but it was also a day of celebration – I was getting my life back, being born again, my family was getting our lives back. What a powerful moment.
The transplant was a success and a month later I was released from the hospital, having finished the section of the Talmud I had chosen just 2 days before.
When I met my donor, he shared with me that the same month he donated his bone marrow, that very same month, his wife conceived. He gave a life and he got a life.
I want to thank him and Ezer Mizion’s Bone Marrow Registry who facilitated my transplant for not only saving my life, but for saving my entire family.
To My Dear One
You don’t know me and I don’t know you, but that is what makes everything so much more amazing.
Some time ago, I received the most thrilling phone call, informing me that I was found to be a match for a stem cell donation to someone who needed my cells to live. I was beyond words, in the clouds.
Two years ago, I had received a similar call to save the life of a 23 year old man. But unfortunately, the patient weakened and he was in no condition to undergo the transplant. I had been devastated. “This cannot be!” I thought to myself.
To my great joy, I received another call and this time it was about you. Today, I had the opportunity to donate my stem cells to you. For this privilege, I am forever grateful!!!
Throughout this process, I didn’t stop thinking about you for a moment.
I thought all the time: How are you feeling? Are you happy that a matching donor was found for you? Are you optimistic, in spite of the great difficulty involved in such a daunting challenge?
When, occasionally, there was pain or fears at some stage of the process, I immediately thought of you and instantly knew that I had no right to complain, when it was you who are fighting for your life. It had been insanely important to me, and I stubbornly had insisted that they pass on to you and your family that you should not be worried about the donation; I was willing to donate, no matter what would be involved.
To everyone involved, I want to send you tons of “likes” for the ability to accept and deal with this, each in his own way, and to embrace me with a big hug from afar.
I intentionally chose to write to you by hand, so that you could become familiar with at least one personal aspect of me in this long and discreet process.
I pray and hope that my stem cells will be absorbed in your body in the best possible way and that, with G-d’s help, you should recover and regain your strength so that you will once more stand on your own two feet, raise your head, and, above all, be proud of yourself for emerging victorious, in a big way.
Your anonymous donor
The letter writer is just one of over three thousand caring Jews who cannot believe their good fortune to have been chosen to save a life. In a year or two, donor and patient will be permitted to meet. Can you imagine the joy as they embrace…brothers in blood, their souls entwined!
There are close to a million potential donors in Ezer Mizion’s International Bone Marrow Registry, the largest Jewish registry in the world. But even the largest is not large enough. Our goal is to expand so that virtually every request is met with the exhilarating words: Yes! We have a match!
Ezer Mizion, the largest Jewish registry in the world, has recently celebrated a major milestone. Because of you, our good friends and supporters, we have passed the THREE-THOUSAND mark of transplants. That’s three thousand patients whose lives were saved! Three thousand families who remained whole! Three thousand grandmas and grandpas, Mommies and Daddies and so many tiny, frightened children traveled in one fateful moment from agony to joy, fueled by the electrifying words: We have a genetic match! Continue reading Because of You!!!