September 25, 2012: Cancer Roller Coaster

I got one thing wrong last year.

I thought that the whole cancer experience was like a long, dark night. We had to just focus on “reaching the dawn,” waiting for the sun to finally rise and restore our lives to what they were before cancer blotted out the light.

But now I know it’s a bit more complicated. You see within the cancer nightmare, there were still times when we felt on top of the world. When we heard news like the cancer markers falling or that the operation was going to happen, our heads were in the clouds. No feeling could ever match those times when we felt we were soaring above the Earth.

And, of course, there were too many times when we were plunged down into the depths. The nightmarish times when the terror threatened to destroy the tiny glimmer of hope. These were times of depression mixed with panic and topped off a bit of rage. There is nothing that could have brought me lower than these times. King David was spot on when he cried to G-d “from the depths.”

So it really has been a roller coaster of highs and lows, not just a long night.

The other part I didn’t quite understand was that the roller coaster may slow down, but it never really ends. Every time Stella goes for a scan, blood test, or exam, my stomach is in my mouth as I wait for results. And when the results come back showing there is nothing to worry about, I again feel the rush of climbing back to the sky. And if the results ever come back showing there IS something to worry about…… well I guess we can worry about it then.

There are a few things in life that I really hate. I hate beets. I don’t like their taste, their color, their smell, even their shape. If I’m coming over, please put the beets away until I leave. I think “Borsht” is actually a curse.

I hate going to the dentist. (Funny considering where Stella works.) Throw me in an ultra-marathon in the hot sun, I’m fine. Put your hands in my mouth and start poking around with sharp objects and you will hear some very colorful mumbled words.

But most of all, I HATE feeling helpless. I hate feeling that there is nothing I can do to really help Stella battle this disease. That is why last year, I rode my bike around the Gush for 12 hours and raised 100,000 shekels for the Gush health fund. This fund-raiser was not just symbolic, it helped us pay for Stella’s operation. And the outpouring of love that we felt was the best medicine Stella ever got.

So you know what?

We’re going to do something even crazier now.

On November 9th, I’m going to get on my bike on the top of the Hermon Mountain, Israel’s highest elevation, at around two in the morning. With friends in a support car, I’m going to ride down to the Dead Sea, about 200 kilometers. That’s the lowest elevation in the world. Then, I’m going to turn right. And with the sun shining, I’m going to climb back up the roller coaster. Up to Jerusalem and on to Neve Daniel, Israel’s second highest elevation. I hope to finish in about 12 or 13 hours, after riding 260 kilometers.

Why would I do this? Because I hope that I can get people to sponsor the ride by donating to the Shaare Zedek Oncology Department. Here’s the link. Every single dollar or shekel donated goes to them. I cover all my own expenses (ok, basically lots of Gatorade, Hammer Gels, and snacks for the support crew.)

We have to go to Share Zedek a lot. And I am sick of seeing people with cancer who have to sit in the hall because there are not enough comfortable chairs for them to sit in while the chemo poison is pumped into their veins. One time when Stella was out there, I got so mad I wanted to punch someone. But it’s not the hospital’s fault. Unfortunately, “business is booming” in the cancer ward. That’s just one example of the kind of challenges they have that can be addressed with more resources.

So here’s the deal. I’m going to cross every red line and push myself beyond every limit I have. And if you want to see me suffer, you can follow the ride on Facebook and Twitter. But please — for Stella and all the other brave souls locked into battle with cancer, make a donation to support the ride. Even if you can only give a few dollars or shekels, I will feel that you are there with me.

I really don’t know what the new year will bring for us. I am hopeful that we can stick to the “highs” and not have to worry about any lows that are deeper than the Dead Sea. But if we do have to deal with them, we will. And just as I am confident that I can make the climb up to Jerusalem, I am confident that we can fight and defeat this sickness whenever we need to.

People have asked me if they should keep Stella, Tzuriya Kochevet, in their prayers. The answer is that we would greatly appreciate it. Especially with Yom Kippur coming up, couldn’t hurt, right? She should remain on any lists for at least a couple years.

Thank you and Stella and I wish all the “Army” a new year filled with health, perhaps the sweetest blessing there is.


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