Monday, June 23, 2008

A Prayer for a Complete Recovery

His hair has begun to grow back. Again. My grandson Reuven has completed his second set of chemotherapy treatment. One we had hoped he wouldn’t need. After the first set of chemo he was declared ‘in remission’. But his cancer soon returned.

We were all of course very disappointed. But not discouraged. Doctors became more aggressive in the second set of chemotherapy - increasing his dosage to near life threatening levels. The dosage of toxic chemicals was so strong that his bone marrow was destroyed. Knowing this in advance, doctors removed his healthy marrow before the chemotherapy so that it could be transplanted after. That happened and was successful. Reuven then also had radiation added to his protocol. This is all completed now. But his immune system was substantially weakened. Reuven was required to be in near isolation at home for a while until his immune system was built up somewhat.

It has been about 2 and 1/2 months since there has been any treatment. His immune system is quickly being restored. And Reuven has been allowed by his doctors to have limited contact with other people. We had the pleasure of his company along with the rest of his family for Shavuos. He was a joy to behold.

He is the happiest 5 year old one can imagine. One smile from him literally melts your heart. One would never know he has gone through his ordeal if not for his bald head. This is a real tribute to those who love him and were with him throughout - his parents and his medical caregivers inside the hospital and out - and the support of the many friends and extended family.

Short version: The doctors are very pleased with his results. I wish it could end there. But it doesn’t. Tomorrow, Tuesday June 24th Reuven is scheduled to take an MRI on his left arm - the humorous bone - where he first contracted his cancer, Ewing’s Sarcoma. He is also taking a full body bone scan. On Wednesday he will have a cat-scan on his lungs. This will tell us whether he remains cancer free. And though we are all hopeful we are also of course very nervous.

One thing that I am firmly convinced about is that prayer has helped in his recovery and continues to do so. There are countless numbers of people – well into the thousands or perhaps even tens of thousands - who have Reuven in their prayers or are actively doing Mitzvos such as learning Torah in his Zechus – building merit in the eyes of God for Reuven’s sake. One of my daughter’s close friends has been baking bread every single week since Reuven got diagnosed in large enough size to perform the Mitzvah of ‘taking Chala’ in Reuven’s Zechus.

Before Reuven takes his first MRI and scan, I would ask that those who are saying prayers for him to continue doing so. We are all very grateful.

There is a universal prayer for the sick that can be said which asks God directly for help for a Refuah Shelaima – a complete recovery for specific individuals. It is in Hebrew, very short, and to the point. In Reuven’s case it would read - in translation - as follows:

May it be the will before you O lord, God, - God of my fathers that you send quickly a complete recovery (Refuah Shelaima) from heaven - a recovery of both spirit and body – for the sick person, Reuven ben Tova Chaya - among the sick of Israel.

It is inserted in the Refoenu HaShem- ‘Heal us O Lord’ section of the Shemoneh Esreh. The Shemonah Esreh prayer is said by men 3 times a day and by many women twice a day.

I have never asked people to specifically say any prayer. I have only asked in a general way and - as I said - am grateful to the many who have done so on their own. I would now ask that if at all possible that this specific prayer be inserted whenever one Davens Shemonah Esreh this week. With an emphasis on the word Shelaima – complete! This is a key moment in Reuven’s recovery and we truly need God’s help to make a complete recovery happen.