TEL HASHOMER, Israel—As I sit here, on a hard wooden bench in the waiting room at the Tel Hashomer MRI Institute, catching my breath after the latest, maddening phlegm attack that overcame me on my way from the car to the C.T. scan, the whole thing seems like a distant, faraway dream, not something real and tangible.
Just five days ago, I got back from abroad, from London, from a luxury trip, from an unforgettable experience, from an island of enormous pleasure that fell in my lap right in the middle of the tragic insanity that has possessed my life for the last year and a half. Just five days ago, I landed in Israel with another twenty four courageous women, each coping in her own way and on her own special path with the dreaded illness - cancer. So ended an enchanting adventure, full of light and hope, that we enjoyed thanks to the efforts of Ezer Mizion and under their close supervision. It was the most beautiful gift I received in my entire life.
When Rachel, the social worker of the oncology ward in Tel Hashomer, called to tell me that soon a group of women with cancer would be organized for a trip abroad, and that I was going to be among them, I was more than a bit surprised. My life experience in recent times has taught me that most telephone conversations are bitter, damp with tears, bringing depressing news, or dealing with enervating, endless bureaucracy. And here, all of a sudden - a glimmer of happiness, of hope and sweet anticipation, right in the middle of an ordinary spring day.
Before long, in answer to my curiosity, the captivating details began to arrive, suffusing me with real, invigorating excitement. I learned that Ezer Mizion (an organization that exists since 1979, its raison d'etre - to ease the physical and emotional pain of people suffering from serious illness) has been organizing trips abroad for groups of children with cancer for the last several years, and recently began implementing the idea of organizing a similar trip for women.
This time, in 2009, there would be two groups, one consisting of young teens and the second adult women, most of them mothers, with the common thread being that they all have cancer. Some are newcomers to the disease, while others have been ill for years - but all are fighting a fierce, draining battle, full of heroism and courage, against this stubborn enemy.
The trip is organized by the amazing Ezer Mizion staff here in Israel - Dr. Bracha Zisser, director of the Oranit Center, Rivka Friedman, Ezer Mizion coordinator of care for mothers with cancer, Edit Ever, Yomi Dzialovsky, Brach Meir, Cookie and Amalia. With the exception of Bracha Zisser - who was with us spiritually and virtually, if not physically - all the rest joined us on the trip, appearing each day like heavenly angels, full of an inconceivable and interminable capacity to give. And believe me, even when one of us (yes, yes, I plead guilty...) stretched their patience to the limit with somewhat self-centered behavior - it was all received with a smile, understanding, and endless love and warmth.
Where did we go? It doesn't really make that much of a difference. It was the dynamics, everyone's unending energies, the genuine desire for life and pleasure that determined the trip's success, and according to these parameters, it was a lot more than just amazing. But, in any case, we can certainly mention that we stayed at a dream hotel called "Victoria Plaza," ate at luxurious restaurants, and visited an assortment of tourist spots and entertainment centers, such as - the huge wheel called the London Eye that gives a panoramic view of the city, the Madame Tussaud Wax Museum, the special, rib-tickling Duck Tour - an old, yellow, creaking bus that turns into a boat when it slides into the Thames River, manned by a sweet British fellow, with a great sense of humor, who made a special effort to give us a good time.
As befits proper London tourists, we watched the Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace, only after visiting the House of Representatives and House of Lords in an exciting, well-planned tour led by Lord Janner, an awe-inspiring, congenial Jew in his
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eighties. We also strolled down the streets of London, emerging at the queen's second palace - Windsor castle. And all this is just a small sampling of all the wonderful sites we visited.|
Uri Geller, with his traditional hospitality, hosted us in his breathtaking estate, as if we were members of his household, no less. Thank you Uri, and thanks in our name to your wife Chana too.
It's hard to pinpoint what exactly was the high point of the trip - Was it the enthusiastic dancing at the theater, to the songs of the Ababa group in a sweet musical presentation, Mama Mia, that nobody missed, no matter how tired or worn out she was? Or perhaps the spontaneous evening in the hotel lobby that went late into the night, with each of us opening up and telling personal things about our lives and our very complex feelings regarding cancer in particular, and life in general?
It could well be that the prize for "most memorable moment" should go to the "no holds barred" shopping spree that we had on Oxford Street, when we spent the lavish "pocket money" that we got from Ezer Mizion - a real festival of giggles and unbridled fun
One event that any of the women would certainly point at as an incomparably beautiful and emotional experience was the dinner to which we were invited, that took place at the home of the Monheit family in the Golders Green neighborhood. The hosts, Sylvia and David Monheit, together with their daughters and the rest of the London Jewish community, under the able direction of Shoshana Maurer, organized, donated, and did everything - and I mean everything - so that our stay in this marvelous city would be especially wonderful and unforgettable. Shoshana tirelessly joined us from early morning until the wee hours of the night - taking care of all the details and organization with a humble smile and all her soul. Gentle, friendly Vered also linked up with us for two of the days.
We met all of them that evening at the lovely Monheit family home, where we were royally served an elaborate, particularly tasty meal, full of culinary delights and tempting delicacies that were lovingly prepared with great effort by the women of community. Beforehand, and certainly afterwards, we all burst into lively dance together with our hosts to the accompaniment of Jewish melodies and songs whose words full of hope and faith simply could not leave you apathetic, no matter how weak or pained you felt. For a time, we forgot everything and really felt, with all our hearts, that we were very, very, very happy.
When we loaded the suitcases on the bus that would take us to Heathrow airport at the end of intoxicating days (luggage that weighed twice as much as what we had brought with us due to the shopping, presents and other items that were added), I noticed for the first time the collapsed wheelchairs that were stuffed into the bus with great difficulty. It seems that the Ezer Mizion staff, ready for the worst case scenario, had brought the wheelchairs along for the trip, along with Dr. Elana Telman, who came along as a volunteer, leaving at home a husband and small children, just to make sure that we were all feeling good and receiving any medical support we might need. Fortunately, nobody had need for the wheelchairs, the medication, nor even the services of Dr. Telman; we simply enjoyed her very pleasant company.
So, a great big thank you to all those who helped, organized, gave of themselves, donated and did on our behalf. A full length article would never suffice to capture in words all that you gave us. This trip was a rare kindness and a pure pleasure. Allow me to express the hope that nobody - ourselves included - should ever know sadness or illness, and that we should meet again soon, strong and happy, for a celebration trip, a trip for people who are healthy. Just a plain trip, a plain, ordinary trip.
Yours forever in deepest appreciation,
P.S. Are you a frequent flier with ElAl? Donate your Matmid points to Ezer Mizion to allow more cancer patients to partake in this vacation of joy.
Preceding distributed by Ezer Mizion