It was devastating. It meant the end of normal life for the young pre-teen. No longer would she feel the support of a loving mother as she grew to adulthood. At age twelve, Shoham had become an orphan. Frightened and alone, her young heart groped for an anchor. Something to hold on to. A goal.
Like any normal girl, her hair was precious to her. It was her hair that became her purpose. Her connection to her mother whom she could no longer see. She vowed not to cut her hair but to allow it to grow until it was long enough to donate to another who was suffering from the disease that stole her mother away. She would donate it to Ezer Mizion who does so much to ease the struggles of cancer patients and their families.
The family trauma took place four years ago, when Tali was in advanced pregnancy with Ilai, Tali’s husband, Yaakov recalls. “She complained all the time about back pains, but we both thought – and the doctors told us, too – that this was a very common complaint, and there was nothing to worry about.”
Towards the middle of the fifth month, Tali called him and said that she couldn’t feel her back at all. “I was in the middle of shopping and I said to her: ‘Tali, something doesn’t seem right to me. Let’s go to the hospital and check out what’s going on once and for all.” As soon as the first blood tests came back, they could see that something was not as it should be. An ultrasound enabled the doctor to locate the lump right under the fetus. “At this point, we already understood the situation more or less,” Yaakov says.
After another round of tests, which diagnosed the lump as sarcoma-type cancer, Tali was transferred to Ichilov Hospital. There, the doctors decided to continue with a type of chemotherapy treatments that would not affect the fetus. After a month and a half, they realized that the fetus was not growing. The doctors induced labor and Ilai was born at a weight of two kilos. Shortly afterwards, Tali’s condition deteriorated until her death.
Yaakov relates that the first year after her passing was the hardest. About a month after her death, he took his three children to the highest mountain in Switzerland, where he parted one final time from the mother of his children. “I wanted to feel that I was as close to her as you can get,” he says. Every year, on Tali’s birthday, the family lets helium balloons go flying heavenward in her memory.
It was not only Shoham’s hair that had to grow but her security, her acceptance of the new reality of orphanhood. Her hair represented her connection. Cutting it would mean making peace with life as it is. It took four years until she was ready. For the last few months, 16-year-old Shoham has been preoccupied with thoughts about the cycle she would soon be closing with her mother, four long years after seeing her for the last time.
A week ago, she understood that the time had come. She was ready to cut the long braid she had grown and cared for ever since her mother passed away and to donate the hair to women cancer patients who had lost their hair as a result of chemo.
“It’s a glorious feeling, a feeling of closure. For four years I’ve been thinking about it, growing my hair longer and longer. Today, a stone rolled off of my heart,” she says.
For years, both before and after the death, of Tali, z’l, Shoham and her family had been the recipients of many Ezer Mizion programs to help them deal with the nightmare that had entered their lives. Now Shoham walked into the Ezer Mizion building as a giver, donating her braid to produce a wig for women with cancer. The circle was closed.