But I Feel Fine

RH 19 interviews Eric Safire 3
Post transplant, thanks to Ezer Mizion

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

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Old at 23?

Birthday cake with number 23, celebration party symbol cartoon vector Illustration isolated on a white background
Cancer can make even a 23-year-old feel like an octogenerian

 

Can a girl be old at 23? Really old and weak with the aches and pains normally associated with an octogenarian? Well, it happened to me. I was a carefree student studying in Washington DC with the usual get-up-and-go of a young person. Late nights at the library, long walks around the campus. It was a fantastic time in my life – full of promise of a bright future. I was dating a wonderful young man. In fact, he had moved from Ohio, where both of our families lived, to DC so we can date more easily. An engagement was imminent. Continue reading Old at 23?

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Real Lives…Real People…Real Families

RH19 interviews Ron Klein
G-d was certainly watching over me…

“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. “

RH 19 interviews Paul Gould 1
We’re blood brothers now!

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.”

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Real Lives…Real Stories…Real Families Even Me by Sharone Guzman

 

stethoscope -- nurse
Even a nurse can be a victim of cancer

I’m a nurse. I wear a uniform. It puts me on the other side. ‘They’ are sick and I help ‘them’ get well.  I’ve been doing this for 20 years. But one day it was different. There was a diagnosis and the diagnosis was mine. “I have three kids. I’m a nurse. This can’t be true. It must be a mistake.” I was in complete denial. But denial can’t cure cancer and I was forced to come to terms with it.

My husband was the opposite of me. He had been a paramedic and a firefighter, also helping others.  But he reacted in exactly the opposite way of me. He was not in denial at all. In fact, he googled the disease and got a lot of information.. That was his way of coping. He was very aware of every negative aspect. I had AML, a very aggressive type of disease. Without the bone marrow transplant, I had a 23% of surviving. Continue reading Real Lives…Real Stories…Real Families Even Me by Sharone Guzman

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When Numbers Become People

numbers
Cancer patients: Not a number but real people!

Everyone knows that the number of cancer patients has skyrocketed. Studies give us numbers but it’s hard to empathize with a number. So let’s meet some of the people behind the numbers. Like J.G.. He’s young with two kids, aged 5 and 7. He works as a massage therapist and personal trainer. But for a long period, he wasn’t able to work at all. Actually that’s not true. He was working very hard to remain positive during his stint with chemo. “It was tough,” he says. “The hardest part was being away from my kids. They were living their lives and I couldn’t share it. I just ached for that hug around the knees when I would open the door. I thought that after chemo, I’d be done but the doctors told me I needed a bone marrow transplant. They were not too encouraging as I had an unusual chromosome and they felt it would be difficult to find me a genetic match. So here i was, a father of 2 small kids and being told that I probably will not be here to watch them grow up. Well, let me tell you, Ezer Mizion found me not one match but 4. I try to give back to others now but it can never be enough to pay back Ezer Mizion for what they did for me.”

RH 19 interviews - Rita Soyka
Formerly a cancer patient. Now doing just fine!

R.S. is a middle-aged, upbeat lady with a bouncy personality. “Who, me?” she thought to herself when her doctor sent her to a hematologist. She had come in for a routine physical and her blood count was a bit high. Her daughter-in-law, who is a physician, later said she never would have sent a patient to a hematologist for such a low count but Rita is eternally grateful that her doctor was the cautious type.

Things began to heat up at this point with test after test and each doctor looking more serious. It was lymphoma. Rita was devastated. “My heart was pounding as each test was done. I calmed down when the team presented a plan for me. It made me feel secure and they assured me that things looked good. Facing the unknown was so hard.  I made a conscious decision not to fall apart. I tried to think only about what I had to do, not get emotional over the future. I would tell anyone newly diagnosed- Stay focused, Take it one day at a time. Be proactive and check out a/t that looks questionable. If you live in a small town, don’t be satisfied with the medical care available. Seek out the best even if you have to relocate temporarily. And, above all, don’t give up.”

RH 19 interviews - Steve Pomerantz - art only
Positive, cheery, upbeat–that’s me, these days. The cancer is history.

S.P. was diagnosed in 1998 and given 10-15 years to live. He had three kids ranging from two to nine. Even the oldest was not told what is going on. They just knew that their father wasn’t feeling well sometimes.   “Boy, was that an understatement. The side effects of the meds were horrendous, including depression and suicide tendencies. I found out later that most people on these meds take disability but I’m the type that doesn’t give up so I kept on working.  This treatment wasn’t given until many years later, in 2014. By this time, I was newly remarried and my kids were adults, not getting along very well with their stepmother. There I was, lying there helpless and having to listen to the people I loved most argue with each other regarding my medical decisions.  Not fun. But things are great now. I had my transplant.  I’m much stronger and my family has gelled.  We’re all on the same page.

I used to be very involved in sports. Those days are gone for now but I have a new hobby. I’ve discovered painting. I find creating watercolor designs to be very satisfying. And the results are quite good if I do say so myself.”

Three real people. Three real people who were floating through life until they reached a bump in the road. They could be your neighbors. Or your cousin’s neighbors. Stay tuned till next week when we will meet with more.

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Because of You!

pr bmr cell bag

October 2019BONE MARROW DONOR REGISTRY ACTIVITY SUMMARY
Milestone this month!

999,268 Members of the Registry. 559,854 of those who joined registry via the IDF

33 transplants, 27 of these from donor pools
3,362 total transplants   (of these 2,078 joined the registry as part of their induction to the IDF)

Transplant Countries
Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Poland,
Portugal, Spain, Turkey, UK, USA

Donor Pool Countries
Canada, Israel, Mexico, UK, USA

 

Donor Pool Name October 2019 Transplants Total Transplants
ABS Settlement 1 15
Blood Brothers 1 8
René & Susanne Braginsky 1 6
Brazil Community 2 178
Damaghi Family 1 72
Englewood Community 1 1
Erotex Ltd. 1 1
David & Sara Farajun 2 129
Florida 1 9
Hole In One 1 53
Don Marcos & Sra. Adina Katz 1 73
Joe & Carmella Klein 1 17
Andy & Bassy Lowinger 1 4
Modiin Youth 1 1
David Monderer 1 1
Nitzan Community 2 6
George & Pamela Rohr 3 74
Dan & Gloria Schusterman 1 19
Moshe Mordechai & Rivka Dalia Shoob 1 1
Stu’s 1 3
Avi & Shoshi Weinroth 1 4
Maurice & Vivienne Wohl Philan. Fndn. 1 27
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Our Holocaust Heroes

kosel
90 Holocaust Heroes come ‘home’.

In a powerful Ezer Mizion event, in collaboration with the Kotel Heritage Foundation, ninety holocaust survivors, together with their families, were brought to the kosel, some for the very first time.   They were welcomed by the ceremonial salute by a platoon of soldiers followed by an inspiring musical performance. The event included a visit to the “Chain of Generations” display after which each survivor approached the wall in heartfelt gratitude and prayer. Each participant deeply felt his connection as part of the ‘chain of generations’ so grateful to have been given the opportunity to rebuild their lives.

 

holocaust - yellow star
A void never filled in the soul of a holocaust survivor

The group then parted with the kosel and made its way to Aish Hatorah Yeshiva where a festive celebration for the ‘Bas Mitzvah girls’ took place. One may rightly question the existence of a group of Bas Mitzvah girls within an assemblage of .  The answer is both sad yet uplifting. You see, for so many of these survivors, there had been no childhood. They missed out on all the milestones that our generation takes for granted. Many holocaust survivors have built anew and are now successful heads of multi-generational families. But there in the recesses of their being lies the childhood that never was. They don’t speak about it. An adult would feel foolish expressing her regret over never having had the opportunity to play with dolls. But it’s there. Or rather, it is not there. A void that cannot be filled. Among themselves, the sorrow may come up in conversation. And at one other place: an Ezer Mizion Social Club for Holocaust Survivors. It was there that an idea was born.

As these heroes attend their grandchildren’s Bas and Bar Mitzvahs, their hearts are filled with pride. Yet there lurks that germ of regret. “I missed mine.”

A formal celebration during the Golden Years has been found to serve as closure for the childhood celebrations lost in the wisps of crematoria smoke. Call it a Bas Mitzvah. Call it a closure of sorts. It helps to put to rest, once and for all, a few of the demons that still invade in their souls.

And so the long awaited day came to an end.  It was a stirring and powerful event for the hundreds gathered there, an event greatly enhanced by the moving words of Ezer Mizion’s Founder and International Chairman, Rav Chananya Chollak. It was a day made possible by the cooperation of so many Ezer Mizion Transportation Division and Geriatric Division staff members whose dedication ensured that every detail be perfect. It was a day in which we, the younger generation, were given the opportunity to show honor and respect to our holocaust heroes.

 

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Letters to Brothers

bmr 8 19
Our heroes as they donated their stem cells to save a life

A young man sits in a chair for hours. He is attached to a machine that is filtering stem cells from his blood.  It’s a comfortable chair and his every need is met. But there is a yearning within him that cannot be satisfied. Soon a little bag of his stem cells will be brought to a different floor where someone is waiting. He has never met that someone. He knows no more than the gender and age of the someone but he feels a deep connection. He knows the someone is feeling  tremendous tension at this moment and he longs to reassure him and tell him that it is going fine and he will soon be receiving that little bag of life.  He so much would want to be there at that moment when the bag arrives and life – his life – is transplanted into the someone. He wants to hold hands during the moments when they will be becoming blood brothers.

But he can’t. It’s not allowed. Something about international law. They will not be allowed to meet for at least a year. His yearning is strong. It must be satisfied at last partially. So he does the next best thing. He communicates. He writes a note.

 How are you?

pr bmr machine w bags 1489_ne_photo_stories2_e8667
Stem cells being separated from blood to be transplanted in cancer patient

I’m A., from the bone marrow donation.

I thought that perhaps I’d tell you a little bit about myself, so we could begin to get acquainted with each other — only if you want to, of course.

I’m 24, married to R. and waiting, at this very time, for our first birth, G-d willing. I am studying at Yeshivat Ohr Etzion and my wife is a ninth grade homeroom teacher at the Ulpanah.

I served in the army in the paratroopers’ unit. It was in the army that what brought us together took place — the donation.

Let me tell you a bit of how it was on my part.

One Sunday, I got a call from Ezer Mizion, asking me to get back to them. Already then, I started getting excited: Maybe I was lucky enough to have been found to be a match for a donation?

Indeed, they informed me on the phone that an initial match was found between us for a donation. I felt as if I’d won the lottery, and even more; it was such a great privilege.

Of course, I did the entire process, which you probably are more familiar with than I am, and the whole thing is going smoothly and easily.

Wishing you robust health and much happiness!

There are many donations taking place in Ezer Mizion’s new state of the art Harvesting Center. Next door another note is being written.

Dear patient,

I am sure that you have gone through tough things. First of all, I want you to know that you are a real hero! To fight this cursed illness and not to give up is not something that is self-understood.

I hope that the stem cell transplant will help you carry on an easy, free, and normal life. I hope that you recover as fast as possible and that you will be able to return to your family, children, and grandchildren (if you have any).

May you know only happiness, good health, joy, success, and, most important, optimism. Enjoy life and utilize it well, because who knows better than you do that we only have one life to live.

I hope that, one day, I’ll be able to meet you and get to know you.

With great love to you whom I have never met but already feel to be a brother ,

 

Your donor

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Why Home?

 

pr golden - 1 wish - Dora and daughter -beach trip-4
A day of memories for 2 holocaust survivors

They’re locked in their own world, unable to express themselves. Unable to benefit from daily communication with those around them, their ability to look upon themselves as individuals begins to fade and slowly dissipates. Their unique personalities become only a memory in the minds of those who knew them well.  Continue reading Why Home?

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