I write this as I travel on my way back from a weekend in St Louis with my daughter, son in Law and grandchildren. My grandson Reuven was relesed from the hospital on Erev Shabbos after receiving his first chemotherapy treatment, and this is the first Shabbos they had spent at home since they found out about Reuven’s cancer diagnosis.
So I had an opportunity to witness my daughter and her husband embark on the unbelievable change in the way they lead their lives. Nothing was normal, although we tried our best to make it so… and in some sense it was. But, my grandson who is usually running around with his smiling face making everyone smile in return was not his usual smiling self. He was in pain a good deal of the time, and he didn’t even know why. He had no clue what his illness is or how serious. He was just in pain… a “tummy ache” he said. This was probably nausea induced by the first round of chemo. And even in his “up” periods he was lethargic.
On Shabbos day in the middle of the meal, a home heath care nurse came in to show my daughter how to administer all the required medications she would have to give to Reuven, including a daily injection. I watched as she explained the complex procedure and the precautions that she would have to take. Numerous medications have to be administered: anti-nausea meds, meds to increase white blood cell count and many others. The daily chemo meds had to be handled by gloves. That’s because contact with healthy skin can itself cause skin cancer! This was going to be her daily task.
The treatment is to last one whole year. It includes a three day per week outpatient chemo treatment at the hospital for two weeks in a row followed by a hospital stay every third week. On alternative three week periods Reuven will require hospital stays where he will receive chemotherapy for six and three days. One year of this. No exceptions. My daughter has had to give up her teaching position as this is now her full time job. And in addition to this she still has to be a mother to her other two children. They cannot be ignored and have to be given the full measure of parenting they deserve. I don’t know how my daughter and her husband going to do it. My wife will be going into St Louis for the extended 6 day chemo every six weeks to help with the other two children as my daughter will be in the hospital with Reuven the entire time. My son in law will be at work.
Everything is topsy turvy. Until two weeks ago they were living normal lives with normal worries and pleasures. Now my daughter and her husband’s world is not the same. There nis some measure of comfort taken in the fact that her two other Children are too young to understand the significance of the change but they too will be affected. However, it will be relatively minor compared to what their parents and grandparents are going through.
As was the case from the very moment we found out the definitive diagnosis, we are all hopeful. His disease is very rare. There were only about 200 cases reported in all of 2005. What were the odds that Reuven would be inflicted with this disease? We are not looking at survival odds because they are based on too small a population base. We are focused on the moment and the task at hand… and the fact that massive amounts of people are Daveinig, learning, and dedicating other Zechusim toward Reuven.
I would be remiss if I did not once again acknowledge and express my appreciation for the tremendous support from the Jewish community of St. Louis, both practical and spiritual. These include: offers of financial help, daily meals, people volunteering their time to watch the kids or offering to take them on family outings, Tehhilim groups specially formed, special programs by the principal of the day school there (Torah Prep), The girls from the local Beis Yaakov showed up every two hours or so on Shabbos to see if my daughter could use their help in any way. This offer is in effect for the duration of the illness. The general warmth and caring of that community really helps. The people of St. Louis are something special… as a group and as individuals.
I want to again thank everyone who is Davening or in any way doing whatever they can for Reuven, even if it just having him in your heart. I can’t believe that all this outpouring of Teffilah will not find its target in “God’s “heart”, and affect Reuven’s future for the better. May God listen to all of our Teffilos as we enter the Yamim Noraim, and tear up the terrible Gezeirah.