Monday, March 10, 2008

A letter From the Front

My wife and I are in St. Louis – the front in this war against Reuven’s cancer. We are here to help out in any way we can in this - a critical point in Reuven’s treatment. Tomorrow Reuven will begin a very strong chemotherapy.

As I have mentioned in the past, this is a dangerous treatment because it destroys his bone marrow. Stem cells from his bone marrow have been harvested and will be transplanted upon the completion of his treatment. His response to preliminary treatment has been very positive resulting in the reduction in the size of his tumors. Doctors are very encouraged by this and are therefore preceding full bore in the hope that this treatment will rid him of all traces of the disease.

The destruction of his bone marrow reduces his immune system to almost nil which increases his risk of infection. But that risk is being reduced by limiting visitation and by sterilizing virtually everything he comes into contact with. Very few visitors will be allowed and they will have to sterilize their hands before entering. In the event that he does get an infection he will immediately undergo an antibiotic IV.

The rebuilding of his immune system will begin with the transplant. He will remain in the hospital for a few weeks until it is built up enough and safe to go home. But even then his contact with the outside world will be very limited. No more school for the rest of the school year. It will take almost a full year for his immune system to be fully restored. Of course the primary goal is to restore him to complete health and this is his best route in doing so.

Reuven’s parents- my daughter Tovi and her husband Neil - have written a heartfelt message which expresses my own feelings. May God quickly send a complete recovery to Reuven ben Tova Chaya - a recovery of the soul and a recovery of the body - among the sick of Israel.

Here now is their letter:

Dear Friends

We feel so blessed to have the greatest group of family and friends that have supported us and continue to support us through Reuven’s illness.

Beginning tomorrow, and lasting anywhere from 4-6 weeks, Reuven will be in the hospital for some pretty heavy treatment. Of course our Tefillos and acts of Chessed are the key to his recovery. Please continue to daven, and strengthen your tefillos if possible on Reuven’s behalf.

Many people have asked what else they can do. The truth is that everything has been made so simple for us. Just knowing that everyone is thinking about us constantly is the greatest source of Chizuk that we could possibly ask for. (I have already told countless people the story of the boy that was sharing a room with Reuven when he was first diagnosed. The boy was having a particularly difficult day. His father, a very nice man – and devout Christian, was trying to give him courage. He said “you have to believe everything is going to be alright – you know, there must be 2,000 people praying for you”. At which point I proudly turned to Reuven and whispered “you know, there must be 20,000 people davening for you!”. Mi KeAmcha Yisroel! You are our Chizuk!)

Still, I would like to pass down an eitzah that was sent our way when Reuven was first diagnosed by Rabbi Menachem Nissel – a former teacher of Tovi’s from seminary. I believe he said it in the name of the Chofetz Chaim. One thing that we can all take upon ourselves very practically as a zchus for Reuven (and all other cholim!) is to focus/concentrate/have more kavana when saying two very special teffilos – Modim and Asher Yatzar. Both express how fragile life really is and how much of a neis it is that we physically function on a daily basis. Understanding these special tefillos and saying them with more appreciation will certainly be a zchus for Reuven and a chizuk for us. This may seem like a small request but it will surely go very far in shomayim.

I look forward to sharing good news with you all in a few weeks!

Thanks for being so special.

Neil and Tovi

*Updated photo