Larissa, 64, died on Tuesday. Though this is very sad, the last months of her life were made sweeter through the efforts of an extraordinary group of people; volunteers who had never met her before she became very ill. Here is her story and their story.
Larissa applied to the Lemonade Fund after she was diagnosed with a recurrence of breast cancer that had advanced to Stage 4. She was a former English teacher who had fallen on hard times. To make matters worse, she lived alone in an apartment with her adult son who is schizophrenic, and they were growing desperately poor. Larissa was awarded a Lemonade Fund grant to help tide her over while she was getting treatments.
The Lemonade Fund is based in Raanana, a sleepy northern suburb of Tel Aviv, and we work closely with the Meir Hospital Breast Center in neighboring Kfar Sava. On occasion, social workers from the Breast Center have alerted us to patients who are so ill that they can use assistance with meal preparation. We spread the word and in no time an amazing group of volunteers, from Raanana and Netanya sign up to deliver home-cooked meals to patients every Friday. Larissa was such a patient for several months.
Several weeks ago, Larissa’s social worker phoned to say that her health had deteriorated. She said that Larissa had little local family or social support and that it was getting increasingly difficult for her to shop and cook for herself. The social worker meekly asked if there was any way that the amazing group of volunteers could provide meals more often than once a week for her. The group was asked and within one hour (!) volunteers pledged to prepare meals every day.
It’s important to note that delivering meals to Larissa was no easy task. She lived in a third floor walk-up, in a building undergoing massive renovations. Getting to the apartment meant finding parking between cement mixers, navigating muddy paths to a hidden entrance and climbing the three dark flights to Larissa’s not very tidy sick room.
But once there, visitors were greeted to a tiny smiling sprite in bed with eyes that sparkled and genuine wit. She preferred English to Hebrew (a nice break for many of the immigrant Anglo-Saxon volunteers) and she seemed as happy with the visits as with the food delivery. (She appreciated day-old copies of the Jerusalem Post, to practice her English, until she got as fed up with current events as the rest of us.) After a time, as harsh chemotherapy treatments impacted her appetite, Larissa politely asked for increasingly simple foods, until broth was all she wanted. And blueberries. Which don’t grow in Israel. Larissa never lost hope, and she had read that blueberries could help her. Our intrepid volunteers didn’t let fruit unavailability deter them. Larissa got frozen blueberries almost daily in those last few weeks.
The amazing volunteers didn’t just deliver food. They looked around and decided that Larissa needed more help, and they cleaned, washed dishes, did laundry, changed her sheets, transported her to and from treatments, and on and on. When walking became difficult, Larissa asked if there was a way to get her a walker. Word went out to the amazing volunteers and within a day, several were offered. Someone picked one up and delivered it. Larissa smiled brightly, newly mobile.
Larissa was hospitalized on Sunday, moved to hospice on Thursday, and she died this past Tuesday. Amazing volunteers visited her in the hospital and in hospice, as if they were family. Children of a volunteer drew pictures for her. One of Larissa’s most fervent wishes was to be at home as long as possible in order to be near her son. She was at home until the last week of her illness. This clearly would have been impossible without the assistance of her ‘staff’ of amazing volunteers.
How often, in life, do we get to impact the life of another person, a stranger yet, in such a powerful way? Not a single volunteer ever asked for thanks or recognition. Nor did they ever ask about Larissa’s background, her religion, her marital status, her politics, etc. But it wouldn’t have mattered. What the amazing volunteers saw was another human in need, and the call was answered.
Words fail. Instead of seeking appreciation, the volunteers expressed gratitude for having had the opportunity to help. And they are correct that we are made better for giving, and we are richer for having known Larissa, a woman full of grace.
But just the same, thanks are in order. Thank You.
F. is a 50 year old woman from central Israel who hasn’t had an easy life. For years, she’s been the family breadwinner as her husband is unemployed and her son is 100% disabled by schizophrenia. She cleaned offices, often working 13 hour days until recently, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Now, F. is unable to work while she is getting chemotherapy due to the side effects. She had suffered from depression, and the treatment, surgery and loss of hair have only increased her despondence. She is also under extreme financial pressure as her sick pay will soon run out and she and her family will have disability payments as their only source of income. A cushion to get through this difficult period can make all the difference and the Lemonade Fund awarded F. a grant. We wish her a speedy recovery.
To Donate: http://lemonadefund.org/to-donate/
- N., 34 years old, diagnosed with advanced breast cancer while pregnant with her third child. N. gave birth, but has been and will be hospitalized for while. Husband needs to hire a mitapelet (babysitter) to help him care for the infant and other two children so that he can work. Extended family and husband have used up all of their work vacation days and extra funds. N.’s Social Worker is appealing to the Lemonade Fund to help this family.
- K., 42, is a divorced mother of three children, a victim of domestic violence. Despite this, she had worked hard in the last few years since leaving her husband, to start a new life. She took out a loan to go back to school, but was then diagnosed with breast cancer and couldn’t work or stay in school through the treatments. She is the sole support for herself and her children and is now in severe financial distress. The Lemonade Fund will help her get through this difficult period.
- A., 32 years old, lives in a large village in the Galil, far from the hospital where she is being treated for stage 4 breast cancer. In addition, her young son was recently diagnosed with leukemia and he is being treated in a separate hospital. Though her husband and family are very supportive, the travel costs for her treatments are significant. The formerly solvent family is being pushed to the limit by the auxilliary costs of these serious illnesses. A.’s Social Worker submitted an application to the Lemonade Fund for help with transporation costs, NIS 2500.
Three examples of current need at the Lemonade Fund. Many others as well. All donations are tax deductible, in Israel or the US. Thank you.
(Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem, 1630, Rembrandt van Rijn)
Five years ago, on July 20, 2010, which coincided with the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av, the saddest day in the Jewish calendar, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. The day of fasting to remember collective tragedy became the anniversary of the day my life changed forever as well. My personal feelings of desolation and destruction mirrored the words of the scroll of Lamentations, read on Tisha B’Av,
“Your ruin is as vast as the sea; who can heal you?” (Jeremiah, 2:13)
At the time, my ruin felt as vast as the sea. And yet…here I am. Five years renders no guarantee, and none of us, not those of us who’ve traversed the fields of illness nor those who’ve been left unscathed, know the future. But five years is five years. Years of raising children to adulthood, of love and of professional and personal fulfillment. Five very full years during which time I’ve healed, and witnessed much growth and happiness. Reconstruction borne out of destruction, for which I am ever grateful.
In another fine twist of fate, I’m privileged to reach my fifth year of health during a Sabbatical, a Shmitta year, here in Israel, also a message of healing. The Sabbatical year is agricultural in practice (land must lie fallow once every seven years, to replenish itself,) but the philosophy is one of social justice. Land is deemed ownerless, debts are forgiven and everyone partakes freely of the bounty of the land. We are all only borrowers of the land, and once every seven years we relinquish control and all stand together, as equals. The medieval scholar, Maimonides, writes that the commandments of the Sabbatical year are ‘meant to lead to pity and promoting the well-being of all men, as the Torah states, “That the poor of your people may eat.” (Shemot 23:11)
One of the highlights of these last five years has been the creation and growth of the Lemonade Fund, www.lemonadefund.org, the Israel Breast Cancer Emergency Relief Fund. In less than four years, the Lemonade Fund has helped many impoverished Israeli breast cancer patients with emergency financial aid during their illness.
The world has rarely seemed so perilous from the outside. This Tisha B’Av, talk of complete destruction (the nuclear kind) is up close and personal here in Israel. Antisemitism is epidemic throughout the world. Yet Talmudic sources claim that the cause of the downfall of Jerusalem, and all subsequent tragedies, came from within. We were not caring, even worse, we were hateful to one another. We followed the letter of the law but we cared not for justice, fairness or kindness.
The joint lessons of Tisha B’Av and the Sabbatical year are that we must be worthy of this national home we are fortunate to have after 2000 years of exile. We must work to maintain a society that is just and kind. To be inclusive rather than rejecting; reaching out to others who are different than us. To listen. To be patient. To be kind. To help those who are more unfortunate in a way that preserves their dignity. To be concerned about the welfare of those living within our borders. To reduce socioeconomic disparity. To avoid humiliating others, to avoid senseless hatred. …There are limitless ways to build a better world.
Just as the body can heal, societies can be repaired. Jeremiah rings hopeful at the end.
“I will bring them back to this place and cause them to live in safety. They will be my people and I will be their God. I will give them one heart and one path, that they may always honor Me, and that all may go well with them and their children after them. I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing them good, and I will inspire them to be in awe of Me, never turning away from Me. I will rejoice in doing good for them; and will assuredly plant them in this land with all My heart and soul.” (Jeremiah, 32:37-41)
Wishing you all an easy fast and many years of health and happiness.
L., 26, was pregnant with her first child when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She began intensive chemotherapy treatments soon after giving birth in the 38th week of pregnancy. L. and her husband, an employee of a utility company, are facing many extra illness-related expenses. L. cannot care for her child due to side effects of chemotherapy so the young couple had to hire help to care for their newborn, and formula for the baby is expensive (L. can’t breastfeed.) In addition, L.’s husband accompanies his wife to her treatments and doctor appointments. Though his employer has been tolerant of the absences, L.’s husband’s paid sick leave days are running out. This young couple is enormously stressed about money and according to their social worker, a Lemonade Fund grant could be what it takes to help them over this hump. A grant was awarded to L. and we hope that she can now relax and focus on the important work of getting well.
M. is a 44-year-old single mother of 4 children, from Azerbaijan. The children range in age from 22-9. Though she was a professional before making aliya, M. has worked as an office cleaner since arriving in Israel, and the job offers no benefits or sick leave. When M. was diagnosed with breast cancer in January, she had to stop working and the small family lost their main source of income. In addition, M. had complications from surgery that caused her to have a lengthy hospital stay. During this time, the family slid into debt. Fortunately, M. is doing better and hopes to go back to work so that she can pay off the debt and once again support her family. In the meantime though, she and her social worker submitted an application to the Lemonade Fund, asking for assistance with living expenses to tide them over this difficult period. The Lemonade Fund was glad to help M. and we wish her a speedy recovery.
To donate: http://lemonadefund.org/to-donate/
Thanks to all who participated in/helped out at the Lemonade Fund Women’s Health Awareness Evening on May 4th. The event was fun and informative. Some amazing people donated their services and shared their expertise. Worth getting to know them!
Non-profit organization run completely by volunteers
raising awareness about hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer.
A supportive community for BRCA gene carriers.
Discover the blessing of BRCA.
Dr. Batya Ludman
Dr. Batya.L. Ludman, Psy. D., F.T, Licensed Clinical Psychologist
I work with individuals couples and families and author of ‘Life’s’.
Reflexology, logotherapy, (meaning centred counselling), & massage
Naturopathic expert with experience in helping to improve health and lifestyle on the physical, emotional and spiritual level
Reflexology and more…
Lectures, workshops and reflexology treatments
Life Coaching Andi Saitowitz
*Individual coaching, group workshops and team facilitation.
*Personality portraits and personal development planning.
Massage, accupuncture, aromatherapy, Shiazo, Thai Massage.
The Calming Coach
Life coaching through stress management, fear, overwhelming, giving tools and skills to teach dreams and goals.
www. the calmingcoach.com
Medicope Mapping Project
MediCope is a mobile digital companion for chronic and serious illness patients.
Medicope Mapping Project
Manufacturer and market for special post-mastectomy clothes and market prostheses, bras and swimsuits.
Organic fruit and vegetable delivery service in Raanana
Saidel Artisan Baking Institute
Boutique health Bakery
*Training – workshops courses and lectures
Super Juice –
Super nutritious and delicious juice delivered directly to you
For all your culinary needs, private cooking lessons, group lessons, parties, Bar and Bat mitzvah groups, workshops and demonstrations at every level.
Sarah Raanan Photography
Sarah Raanan is a boutique family portrait photographer based in Raanana.
sarah Raanan Photography
Sally Halon, Marion Lebor, Maddy Levine
Short video production for non-profits or corporations
Gabi Ladenheim & Avital Ladenheim
(Possible to form your own class with your friends.)
1.Gabi’s Pilates and yoga
Physical Therapist/Personal Trainer
Teenage training 11-18 years
Personal training, group fitness, running, walking, water aerobics
Ergonomic (work &home) consultation, pain management, hand therapy and safety advice for seniors in their home.
Irma van de Vison
Happy Feet Clinic – Kfar Saba Chiropodist
Professional foot treatments with advanced European technology, for men and women.
Order in the House
Professional Home Organiser,
– calming the chaos
Decor and Fruit sponsors:
Flower Donated by:
Flowers were very kindly donated to the lemonade fund on the night of the event.
Fruit Donated by:
Hameshek, Givat Chen
Fruit and lemons were kindly donated by Hameshek to the lemonade fund on the night of the event.
A., a 53 years old divorcee, from the former Soviet Union, lives with her two daughters, and two grandchildren, in a small town along the northern coast. One daughter is 15 and the other is in her early 20’s, herself a divorcee with two young children. A. and her older daughter support the family by working as office cleaners; they receive no alimony or child support. A. was diagnosed with breast cancer in October and is currently getting chemotherapy treatments and is too weak to work. Her sick leave has run out and the family of five is struggling to make ends meet on the older daughter’s small salary. In addition, the hospital is more than an hour away, and traveling on several buses after treatments is very difficult for A. The Lemonade Fund awarded A. a grant to help her with transportation and living costs during this critical time. We wish her a speedy recovery.
C., is a 67 year old retiree from the south. She is divorced and living alone on a pension of less than NIS 3000 per month. Her breast cancer recurred after almost 20 years and is now stage IV, metastatic, having spread throughout her body. She is weak and needs extra help in many ways. Her social workers turned to the Lemonade Fund to ask for financial assistance for C. and a grant was awarded.
Thank you for helping us help these patients.
To donate: http://lemonadefund.org/to-donate/