Coffee & Chemo, A Mother with Cancer

pink ribbon for breast cancer

For my Bubby & RivkA

I want to dedicate today’s blog post to RivkA, blogger at Coffee and Chemo, who is “fighting the good fight” at Shaarei Tzedek Hospital. If you haven’t ever read her blog, I encourage you to do so. It has been one of my go-to reads for a number of years. I think I’ve actually been a reader since she started the blog in 2007, when I myself was blogging over at HolylandHipster.

Today is the inaugural Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Israel. This year’s race is here, in Jerusalem, and will start at 12:30 Israel time at Gan Sacher. You can still sign up if you want to attend. Unfortunately, I will not be going this year. Today’s weather is supposed to be unseasonably hot and, being 5 months pregnant thank g-d, my husband doesn’t think walking  3.8K race would be a good idea. He’s right, but I am very disappointed that I cannot go. I participated in this race a number of times when I lived in Manhattan, and the cause is very dear to my heart.

Cancer has struck my family multiple times. My Grandmother (A”H) had breast cancer, melanoma and then metastatic cancer from both the breast cancer and melanoma. She passed away when I was less than a year old. I have no memories of her other than the ones told to me by my parents and Aunts. (My brother-in-law is a testicular cancer survivor, and my Father survived prostate cancer. My husband’s Grandmother also passed away from Cancer)

My Mother has had a number of suspicious tumors removed from both her breast and thyroid. Thank G-d, none were cancerous.

I think about my Bubby all the time. I look at her picture from my parents wedding, standing on the mantle in our dinning room, and wonder about her. I get sad thinking that I never had a conversation with her. How I don’t remember her kissing me, what her perfumed smelled like, what he hands looked like, the style of clothing she liked to wear. And then, I think about my Mother, and how hard it must have been for her to raise four children without her own Mother to turn to. I think about how hard it must have been for my Mother, who was in high school when my Grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer, to be the only child at home to help take on the responsibility of running the household, taking care of my Grandmother after she went through rounds of surgeries and chemotherapies, while going to school and dealing with all the difficulties of teenage life.

And that’s really what drew me to RivkA’s blog. I was fascinated by her insight, by her amazing attitude about life with cancer, about her determination to live every moment to the fullest. At times, her blog posts have made me laugh, and other times they have made me cry. I marvel at the way she approached her children with her disease, and I feel awe of her support network when she needed them. It’s amazing that she has all these people – from her wonderful husband and three terrific children – to the friends she can call on to help her whether it be with errands, the children, cooking for Shabbos/Yom Tov, etc. I thought what a wonderful woman this must be, to have so many people who love and care about her, who are available to stop their own lives to help her with her own.

I’ve never met RivkA in person, though I feel like I know her so well. I feel like I could just be that friend to keep her company during a Chemo session with a cup of coffee, and hours ahead of us to just chat and catch up. For the most part, I never really commented on her blog. There were times, here and there, where I would say something but that was a number of years ago. After a while, I stopped commenting, but I really never stopped reading.

So, when I read the blog posts from October 18th until now, and heard that her situation has deteriorated and that she was in the hospital, and her friends were looking for people to help, I signed up. I offered to make food, to come visit, to run errands, anything. For me, RivkA is a friend. She is a person I’m connected to. She is a fellow blogger who has touched my life so deeply.

Yesterday, RivkA’s friend posted that she was looking for visitors and sandwiches. I wrote to the friend and volunteered, then took out my notebook and started writing down what I wanted to buy: 2 loafs of bread, eggs for egg salad, tuna for tuna salad, peanut butter and jelly, lettuce, tomato and pickle, mayo, some bags of chips, couple of bottle of soda, cups. I was deep into my planning when my husband walked into the room and asked what I was doing. I told him the story and explained what I was planning to do.

He looked slightly horrified and said: “but you don’t know her! You don’t know her family! You can’t just show up, with bags of food, to her hospital room. They’re going to think you’re some crazy person!”

That made me pause.

What would they say if I showed up, bag of food in hand, eager to help? Would they think that I’m this crazy person, some blogger stalker?

I had told RivkA’s friend that I would come, so I made a commitment and couldn’t back out now.

DH kept on “I don’t know about them, but I don’t think I would just take food from a stranger. Would you?”

I honestly didn’t know what I would do. I’ve never thought about it. Please g-d, I hope I never have to.

And then I thought about all of her other friends who are coming to visit her, and I didn’t want to take up a slot in her limited visitation (she’s very tired and so not everyone gets to spend time with her) if she really has legitimate friends there to see her!

I started to agonize over this situation. What to do?

So, I wrote back to RivkA’s friend and disclosed that I’ve never personally met her but feel connected to her through her blog. I asked her if she thought it best that I basically stay away and just continue to say my Tehillim (prayers) for RivkA and leave the active helping to her friends.

And then, I cried myself to sleep. I cried thinking about RivkA and her children, I cried thinking about Jenny Morhaim (a beautiful 27 years old, Mother of 3, who died tragically this week from a brain bleed. Her daughters are 18 months, 2 and 5 years old) and her children, and I cried thinking about my Mother and my Grandmother.

This morning, I made the decision not to go visit RivkA after reading the latest update post. She is very weak, tired, and surrounded by her family and good friends. Now is just not the time for me to go and introduce myself, it’s also not the right place.

I regret not reaching out to RivkA sooner, even just to introduce myself and let her know how much her blogging means to me. I hope G-d will perform a miracle and she will come home, rebound, and I’ll get that opportunity. I will continue to say my prayers for RivkA’s recovery.

I don’t know what the blogger’s etiquette is in situations like this. I read so many people’s blogs, I feel connected to so many different people, I get touched on a daily basis by their words. If there is a blogger code of ethics, I don’t know what it is. All I know if that, if you’ve touched my life and you need something, I want to help you. I’m not a crazy person, I’m just someone who cares.

I’d hope that if you’re reading my blog, you care about me to.

Please pray for RivkA bat Tirtzel, and visit her blog at Coffee and Chemo

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4 Responses to Coffee & Chemo, A Mother with Cancer

  1. this is such a heartfelt, emotional, raw and honest post. thank you for all of the soul that you put into this. you (literally) left me tearful and, of course, sending good thoughts.

  2. a) baruch dayan emet – blessed is the True Judge – Gd has taken rivkA’s soul back, and she is no longer in pain. am on my way in a few minutes to her funeral. she will be remembered for the blessing she is.

    b) regarding komen…..oy. sorry to mix this in, but you need to know: komen is a $300,000,000 a year organization with over $50,000,000 in
    fundraising and admin expenses; and over $120,000,000 net assets. once
    again, over $120,000,000 in net assets.

    their ceo makes over $500,000 a year. 12 employees earn over $200,000 a year, and 30+ earn over $100,000 a year.

    they gave out about $75,000,000 in grants. yep, just $75,000,000.

    • holylandhipstermom says:

      I didn’t know that about Komen. I actually decided to donate in RivkA’s memory to the cancer support group here in Israel called Beit Natan. I thought that was a better way to support the cause since it was a place close to her heart.

  3. I don’t always agree with you (thank God, that would be boring), but I have to tell you you are a great writer.

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