I felt light as I walked in the dark towards the Mikvah last night. It’s rare for me to not feel physically heavy when I move, my feet and legs are not strong enough to carry my weight and haven’t been for years. I often wonder what it must feel like for thinner people to move around. But last night, I didn’t need the gust of wind to push me up the block towards the Mikvah.
So much has happened this summer and these past two weeks have felt like a year. Back to school plus taking care of the kids full time while working full time, preparing for Rosh Hashanah next week and the Kiddush we are sponsoring in shul this Shabbat to thank the community for all their help this past year, has taken it’s toll. I’m physically, emotionally and mentally spent.
I looked up at the stars and see the bright orange one. In Katzrin, my brother-in-law G’dalya told us that it’s actually Mars, and I’m impressed with that knowledge. There’s a new, high gate at the entrance to the Mikvah but the door is ajar. I walked through and half close the gate behind me since I’m unsure if they want the gate closed or opened. A gray and white stray cat crossed my path but maintains eye contact and meows; I have no food so she walks away and I continue to the Mikvah doors.
In late July, I got my period unexpectedly. It was a shock since I had said goodbye to the Mikvah and buried deep inside any pains about infertility. A quick SMS with Dr. Yanai revealed that it’s a good thing my period came back for multiple hormonal reasons but she cautioned any excitement over fertility. Chances are, I’m still infertile. At first, I was so angry about the injustice of it all. A messy monthly reminder of what was taken from me during treatment. I allowed myself to feel the anger and then I worked on focusing on the positive. I was given a second chance at the Mitzvah of Mikvah (more on this in another post).
I felt heavier as I left the Mikvah, like the waters had somehow saturated my body. I was a sponge desperate to be wrung out. I trudge home slowly, appreciative of the darkness that enveloped me during the walk back home. For weeks, I have been preoccupied. Someone close to me called me ungrateful and I haven’t been able to get the word out of my mind. I’ve been ruminating on it for weeks as it goes off in my mind like a bomb, eviscerating every other thought in its wake.
Crying to Gaby one night, I asked him if I am ungrateful. If we have been ungrateful and if we have, then how do we fix it? How do we show everyone who has sacrificed a little bit of themselves this past year to help our family through cancer treatment, that we are so very, very grateful?
I think about my yellow notebook. It’s a no-frills spiral notebook that’s wide ruled and thin enough for me to toss into my handbag. I’ve been walking around with this notebook in my handbag for weeks; at night, it is the last thing I look at before I close my eyes and in the morning, I take it out and flip through the pages. I have filled this notebook with my Rosh Hashanah menu, fruit and vegetable shopping list, a weekly Aruchat 10 menu for each child, a wish list of foods they want to eat (i.e. fruit salad with whipped cream and pancakes), recipes that repurposes all the simanim (symbols) we will be eating P”G during the first night of Rosh Hashanah.
And in this notebook, are pages and pages with people’s names. I call them my gratitude pages for they represent the people who have helped us through this year.
Shiko, who with shaky fingers cut off my braids so I could donate my hair to Zichron Menachem and then cut it short so that it wouldn’t be such a shock when it started to fall out post-chemo. After my first round, he shaved the rest of it off when my hair follicles swelled and it became unbearable to put my head down on the pillow. And after my last round, he shaved the baby fine chemo hairs away to make way for thick, new, post-cancer hair to grow in. And each time, he refused to accept payment. How do I thank him?
Orit, a woman at Meuchedet whom I have never met, but who handed Gaby an envelope of money from an anonymous donor and made herself available to him whenever we needed a hafnayah or a hitchayvut. Because of her, Gaby was able to get thousands of shekels worth of essential medication for me without cutting through a ton of red tape. How do we thank her?
Bernice, Meital, Yael, Michoel, Yanna, Rav Ephraim, Corrine, Caroline, Katya, Orit – our children’s teachers, educators, gannenot, instructors who helped hold our children together during treatment. Who were there for them when Gaby and I just couldn’t be. How do we thank them?
The people who cooked meals for us!
The women who donated hats for me to wear and Leigh who organized the Beanie Drop.
My walkers, the men and women who came or offered to come and walk with me around the block so I could get some exercise during treatment.
Hani, Esther, Yonit, Abby, Ilana C., Shaindel, Tamar B., – the Evelina group of Moms who did so much, from multiple play dates for Sivan, to cooking meals and driving carpool and just keeping me in the loop as Sivan made it through first grade.
Rav Rudman, Shana S., Pesha, Naomi from the Eden Center – my spiritual/religious support network during treatment.
Natalie, Shuli, Yael C., Michal, Clare, Shoshi – the Chug Orit group of friends who were there for us and Yarden emotionally and physically.
Every single parent from Gan Horim. Every last one of them did something to help us through, from cooking meals, to hosting play dates for Tani, to driving car pool and sending me encouraging messages. We are beyond overwhelmed with gratitude towards this amazing group of people.
Shulamit, Debra, Eta, Aviva, Marnina, Dina, Cara, Aura, Melissa, Susie – my childhood and NY friends who came to Israel to visit me, or tried to visit, or called and WhatsApped me throughout treatment.
Friends I haven’t spoken to in years from YCQ, Central, Camp (Morasha, Moshava, Hillel, Mesorah), Michlalah – thank you for reaching out to me, for davening for me, for helping me.
My new cancer friends and my friends who had cancer, I’m not naming you for privacy reasons but you know who you are and I could not have done this without your support.
Julie, Kay, JuJu, Jeorjie, Julie W., Scott, Karen, Dori, Jenny, Michelle, Fab, Christina, Rachel, etc. – My Dan Klores, MWW Group, Mohawk and Mobile Marketing families – thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Yael BK – for organizing all our meals, being my medical go to person when I couldn’t get to my doctors and Dr. Google was making me scared, who SMSed me late at night or early in the morning and never skimped on encouraging words. How do I thank you for your friendship?
My medical team, all of the Dr.’s involved in my care, from the radiologists who performed my biopsies to the Hemo-oncology nurses who hooked me up to bags upon bags of chemo. Dr. Ashkenazi and the entire staff on the 6th and 7th floors of Shaare Tzedek Medical Center.
Dr. Ram Shapira for agreeing to do the gastric bypass surgery and the ultrasound technician at Misgav LaDach who saw the spots on my liver. Dr. Seygal and Dr. Wygoda for holding my hand for a month as we went through test after grueling test to get some answers.
Simone, Gila, Ayelet R., Malka H, Susi, Sarah, Randi, and Tami – I could not have done this without you.
Dr. Rubinstein – for reading my PET CT scans on her home computer.
Gaby’s siblings, Aunts, Uncles and cousins – you visited, made meals, took our kids, called us, helped us, folded our laundry, organized the kitchen, surprised us with treats and gifts and love. Thank you.
Esther & Lee, Suchie & Raizy – friends who are family who care like family. Thank you.
Larry & Yaffa, Meir, Dvid & Margo, Neil & Esti, Matt & Tova and their families – G-d blessed me with five fabulous first cousins and I am so very thankful for you all.
Aunt Amy, Aunt Eileen & Uncle Moshe – for the pep talks, the tefillot, the sponsoring of learning, and crying with me. Thank you.
The extended Steinberg family – you reached out to me on Facebook and it meant the world.
My sisters, brothers in law and families – no words.
Our parents. Our parents. Our parents. How do we thank our parents?
Gaby – how could I ever thank you, my love? I look forward to the day when we are old and wrinkly and our teeth float in a glass of water next to our beds and I can reach over the table with a cloth napkin to wipe your chin, or hold you up when we go for a walk around the block, and like my Grandmother did for my Grandfather, close the volume on your hearing aid when the noises from the Grandchildren become just a little too much.
And I know there are so many more of you out there who are reading this and who have helped us and if your name isn’t here in this blog post, I apologize if it upset you. Please know that it’s in my yellow notebook and I read through the list and I say thank you. I say it aloud and I say it to Gaby and I tell our children and I pray in my heart with so much gratitude to both Hashem for letting me live and to you all for helping us get through.
I am having a hard time verbalizing how I feel emotionally as we prepare for Rosh Hashanah, for the Days of Awe. Where once again, the Book of Life will be opened and my prayers for each and every one of you is that your names should be inscribed and you all be blessed with a year full of good health, happiness and celebration. I think about my tehillim list of names, about Ahava Emunah bat Chava Ehta and Miriam Bat Chaya who are still going through their battle and about Rivkah Bat Esther Leah who is just starting hers. I pray that Hashem will heal the sick this year just as I pray that I will not be counted among them.
With the utmost gratitude to you all,