July 26, 2012: No Way to Treat Heroes

Let me paint a picture for you.

You have cancer. You go for a chemo treatment. You know that the chemo can kill the disease, but it won’t be easy.

You arrive at the treatment center in the morning. First you line up for a blood test. You need to pass this test before they let you have the chemo. You nervously let them try and find a vein to take your blood. Since this is not your first time, the technician has to go through several attempts to find a vein. He keeps apologizing as he pricks you.

While waiting for the results to come back, you sit in one of the nice recliners. Maybe you pull the footrest lever so you can raise your legs and get comfortable. You turn on your laptop, check your e-mail, and try to smile politely at the other patients waiting for chemo.

You know that many will not make it.

You wonder if you will.

The chemo comes and the nurse first has you say your ID number out loud so that there are no mistakes. Chemo is toxic. The only reason you are taking it is that the cancer inside you is even more toxic.

You settle in and watch as the chemo slowly drips from the IV, down the tube, into your arm.

You start to feel sick, really sick.

You will probably get nauseous and after awhile, you cannot look at the laptop or read your book. You can no longer talk with your friends who came with you. You close your eyes and pray that the hours go by quickly.

They don’t. They never do.

When at last the treatment is over, they unhook you and your friends help you home. You crawl into bed and may not feel well enough to come out for over a week.

Just when you are feeling good again, you realize it’s time for your next chemo treatment.

And you wait until that longed for day when the scan is clear and you can say good-bye to chemo and reclaim your life.

That — unfortunately — is what it’s like for chemo patients the world over.

It is bitter medicine indeed, but also essential.

But let me replay the above scene, with one difference.

When you arrive at the chemo ward, there are no recliners left because there are so many patients. You have nowhere to sit with even minimal privacy.

So you and the rest of the patients who were not fortunate enough to get chairs, must sit outside in the hall. You sit on metal benches while all day, people walk back and forth.


Those undergoing chemo are the bravest of the brave. They are the heroes. Almost all will feel — at some point — that the treatment is worse than the disease. They may feel like giving up. BUT MOST DON’T. Even when that means spending all day getting sick on a metal bench on display.

WE — as a society — can — MUST — do better.

You or I may not be able to come up with a cure for cancer. We’ll leave that to the doctors and scientists.

BUT — we CAN do things to help those who have cancer get the best possible treatment.

This is just one example of things in the cancer treatment system that we — YOU and I — can address.

Because no matter how happy — elated — ecstatic — that I am for Stella’s recovery, both of us are constantly reminded of all those who are right now grappling with the disease, and some friends who did not make it.

Our joy is tempered by the sobering reality that cancer is far more common than most of us believe. But we do not have to sit back while others struggle.

November 8, we are planning something that we hope will be very, very big. We hope that the result will help provide the resources so that our chemo heroes will receive better care.

We are still putting the details together and not quite ready to make it public. But don’t worry, you’ll hear about it.

The event will have two sides. The first is to make a meaningful difference in specific ways that will help cancer patients at Shaare Zedek Hospital in Jerusalem. With the cancer “business booming,” there simply are great unaddressed needs. And whether we end up raising one thousand or one million shekels/dollars, every little bit will go directly to helping those with cancer. Every dime/shekel.

The second side of the event is simply to send a message to all those who right now face this difficult and at times overwhelming battle.

The message is that no matter how much it hurts:


And one day, you will put all this behind you and continue your life.

Believing the above 100% will help it come true.

For every one of us who has seen a parent, spouse, child, or friend fighting this evil disease, we will be able to do something positive to help them stand up and fight.

To be continued…

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