Nine years ago, on the fast of Tisha B’Av, 5770, on the saddest day of the Jewish year, I received news that paralleled the mood of the day. Out of the blue, I was newly diagnosed with breast cancer. My personal situation mirrored the historic catastrophes that occurred, repeatedly, to the Jewish nation, on this specific day of fasting and mourning.
Yet it is prophesied that 9 Av will be transformed, in the future, into a day of feasting and joy, of greater kindness and tolerance. Nine years later, thank God, I am fine and living life. In gratitude, each year I’ve tried to use the day as an opportunity to explore ways to better our human interactions. Perhaps this small effort can be part of our roadmap toward recreating the day and healing our divisions.
Most of us mean well in our interactions with others. However some situations are more challenging, such as how to deal with a person with a serious disease. I want to dedicate this Tisha B’Av to learning about how to improve on this. I am sharing the (very blunt) words of a patient with stage 4 cancer.
HOW TO REALLY HEAR AND HELP A PERSON WHO IS VERY ILL:
“I really appreciate all the support that I got…. when I shared about cancer and the dissolution of my marriage, a couple of weeks ago. It shocked me. It shocked me, because I am not used to it.
You have to understand that I don’t mind cancer. If you live with cancer, you have to have a relationship with it—it is part of you. I respect the disease. I have learned from it. I have become myself because of it. But it is a problem for my interactions with the world, because people are scared of cancer. People avoid what they fear.
I hate when people tell me they are sorry about my cancer, because I’m not sorry. And I feel it’s dismissive.
I would prefer if people asked me how I am.
It is a lonely disease.
After I got cancer, I was not the same.
I wanted to be.
I wanted my life to go back to what it was.
I was so lively. I was so lovely.
I was so busy. I was so social.
But I could not do it.
No surprise, I changed.
I was withdrawn during chemotherapy and my world became small. It contracted like starvation. It is hard to get back what is lost. It is more difficult still to begin anew. People visited at first. They sent flowers. The florists prospered.
I tried. So hard. I called. I emailed. I texted. I showed up.
You think people are nice about it? No. Cancer is misunderstood. Everyone says the wrong thing. Which is what they do so much anyway. Then I said the wrong thing back. I could not believe the stupid things people said in an effort to be nice. Telling me about something bad that happened to them that was not cancer, etc. I wanted everyone to just be normal.
I hate when people say, Let me know if there is anything I can do. If you mean it, you just do it. You just show up. You insist. You don’t send an email. You don’t suggest a date in three weeks. People with cancer live now. We only have Today. We have six jobs, because cancer is five. What are you so busy with? What is so big in your life? I may not be seeing you in three weeks.
The nicest thing anyone could do for me is to respond to a text promptly.
For all of my life, I did not have cancer and I did not feel like my colleagues were uncommunicative. But people kind of treat me like I am sick and insignificant now.
But I am not dead.
I don’t feel that way about myself. I feel healthy and strong. I feel good. I don’t understand why people expect something to be wrong. I don’t even know that cancer is what will kill me. If you know someone with cancer, just be there in person, IRL as they say. Cancer is chaos and displacement. I am sorry to be so honest. I hate it. I like myself better when I sound some other way. I sound this way. What can I do? Forgive me. Thank you.”
Despite the fact that the Lemonade Fund mission is to help needy breast cancer patients financially, there is plenty to learn about how to help the sick more sensitively, with words and deeds. Thanks for allowing me to share this with you.
Wishing everyone a meaningful 9th of Av and many years of health.
Shari Mendes, Founder and Director of the Israel Lemonade Fund
The Lemonade Fund is Israel’s only breast cancer emergency relief fund, helping indigent Israeli breast cancer patients with one-time grants to alleviate financial stress during treatment. We have expanded and need your donations more urgently than ever before.
To donate: www.lemonadefund.org/to-donate/
To read more about what we do: www.lemonadefund.org
To watch our short film: https://lemonadefund.org/movie-what-the-lemonade-fund-does/
I., a 46 yo mother of 4 and C., a 41 yo mom of 1, both breast cancer patients in financial crisis, have just received Lemonade Fund grants thanks to the work of one very special woman, Yael Friedbauer.
Yael, a breast cancer patient herself, is currently in treatment at Meir Hospital in Kfar Saba. In March, she held an event at her Zumba Studio in Raanana, (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Zxw0_HPyCs) on the International Day of the Woman. She donated all of the proceeds from this amazing event to breast cancer patients who are being treated at Meir Hospital. Her efforts have helped patients at Meir since April, and are proof of how one person with the will can help many. Yael just had a birthday so we are dedicating July’s profile in honor of and thanks to Yael. We wish her a speedy recovery and continued good health and good works! THANK YOU, YAEL!!!!
If you’d like to celebrate an event (a birthday, bar/bat mitzvah, anniversary, etc.) by dedicating gifts to a targeted group of Lemonade Fund recipients, we would be happy to help you donate in so significant a way. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, to make arrangements. Thank you.
“WOW! How wonderful, how emotional! Thank you so very much! These grants literally save these women…” From a Social Worker in response to grant awards for her patients.
!וואו! איזה יופי! מאוד מרגש”
“.תודה רבה רבה, זה פשוט מציל את הנשים האלה.
מעובדת סוציאלית בתגובה לשימוע על מענקי המטופלים שלה-
Hard stories this month…
K. is a 42 year old single mother of 5 currently living with her father on a moshav near Jerusalem. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015 but she refused chemotherapy at the time due to the trauma of seeing her brother die from stomach cancer after grueling treatments. By 2017 her cancer had metastasized and it is now Stage IV. It is in her bones, liver and possibly brain and she is having difficulty walking. Her ex cannot or will not help her financially as he is bankrupt and deeply in debt. We received a letter from the Chief of Palliative Care at her hospital asking us to please help her and her family. (This is highly unusual; we normally get letters from the patients’ social workers only.) We awarded K. a Lemonade Fund grant which we hope will at least alleviate some of her financial pressure during this difficult time.
W. is a young widow who made aliyah from Ethiopia. She supports her two sons, 16 and 21, in any way that she can, having worked as a cleaner, a cook, a babysitter, etc. Her younger son is in boarding school and her older son is in prison. She was diagnosed in 2015 with breast cancer which has spread and is now Stage IV. She cannot work due to her illness and has used up all of her savings. She is consumed with worry about how she will pay tuition for her younger son, who helps her on weekends when he is at home. She has become very depressed and in need of support from any direction. Thankfully the Lemonade Fund was able to send her a grant this month.
If you would like to send additional help to these two recipients who are in especially difficult situations, please make a donation and send us an accompanying email asking us to earmark your donations to K. or W. from May 2019.
Thanks for your support for our work helping Israeli breast cancer patients in financial crisis due to their illness.
TO DONATE: https://lemonadefund.org/to-donate/
- A donor has come forward and offered to cover half of the costs of our expansion, NIS 25,000 ($7,000,) challenging us to match his grant, shekel for shekel, dollar for dollar, to raise the other half.
- Your donations will be matched by this donor. You can be part of this incredible initiative, helping indigent Israeli breast cancer patients in financial crisis due to illness!
- Please consider a donation of an average grant, NIS 2,100 ($590,) or for ANY AMOUNT towards our goal of NIS 25,000 ($7,000,)
Typical story. Last week the Lemonade Fund received an urgent request from a city Social Worker to pay the utility bills of a breast cancer patient who is also a victim of domestic violence. Single mother with 4 children. We did…
The Lemonade Fund is the only Breast Cancer Emergency Relief charity in Israel, and over the last year we have doubled the amount of money we are giving due to the pressing need.
To donate: https://lemonadefund.org/to-donate/
Profiles of breast cancer patients who were awarded grants, in time for Passover:
Y., a young mother of twin girls (5) and an infant, was deserted by her husband when she was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer. He left Y. with a mountain of debt as well. Her family cannot help as her father is very ill with leukemia. Y. will have surgery after she completes intensive chemotherapy (to shrink her tumor.) She needs assistance with basic cost of living expenses as well as childcare and household help. Lemonade Fund grant awarded.
A. is a 64 year old artist from the south who continued to work despite being challenged by mental illness. She was recently diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer which has spread to her bones. Her husband has had to return from his job abroad to help care for her and the family is struggling, currently living on National Insurance Institute (Bituach Leumi) subsidies alone. Lemonade Fund grant awarded.
S., 55, requested help (through her social worker,) with moving costs to move out of her small basement apartment. She had uterine cancer in 2008 and was just diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. The apartment is dank and tiny and she feels that moving to a brighter apartment will help her immensely. Outlook can be everything when faced with a serious disease. Lemonade Fund grant awarded.
Still time to help before Passover, to donate:
Thank you, and sending out wishes for happy holidays!
A thank you note we received: (English follows Hebrew)
שלום לך , מלאך …
איני יודעת את שמך , ואולי גם לא אדע מעולם . אבל כנראה שלפעמים גם אין צורך להכיר כדי לדעת שהנשמה טהורה .
תודה לך .
תודה לך שגרמת לי להבין שיש עוד אנשים טובים באמצע הדרך ,
להבין שיש עוד אנשים שאכפת להם ,
גם אם לא מכירים ,
אולי כי הם עברו את אותה הדרך ,
אולי כי הם רואים רק את הטוב .
תודה שעזרת בסתר , בשקט ובלי לשאול שאלות .
זה כל כך לא מובן מאליו וזה כל כך ראוי להערכה .
תודה שהעלית לי חיוך רחב בכל המערבולת הזאת של חיי .
תודה לך מלאך .
Hello, my angel
I do not know your name, maybe I will never know.
But sometimes it seems there is no know, just need to know that there are pure souls.
And thank you for making me understand that there are other good people out there…
That there are other people who care…
Even if you don’t know them.
Maybe because they’ve been through the same thing,
Maybe because they only see the good,
Thank you for helping anonymously, quietly and without asking questions…
It’s something that is not taken for granted and so deserving of appreciation
Thanking you for bringing a wide smile to my face in this vortex that is my life.
Thank you my angel,
Focusing this month on how young parents juggle chemo and holidays. Purim is a happy time, and parents don’t want their illness to impact the joy of the day for their children.
T., from Sderot, is 43 with 7 children, ages 2-15. Her husband drove a bus until a mental crisis forced him to stop. T. worked part-time at a low level job and the couple was slowly paying off debts and getting back on their feet. And then T. was diagnosed with breast cancer and now needs lengthy treatment. The Lemonade Fund sent them an emergency grant. In addition, they were sent a special young mother supplemental food grant, sponsored by Myisrael, one of our wonderful partners, from the UK.
L., 43, from Tel Aviv, has an autistic 4 year old, and a new diagnosis of breast cancer. She is awaiting further tests to assess whether or not it has metastasized. Her husband words in warehouse, but he has had to lose time from work to help his wife and child. The family is in financial crises. They were also sent an emergency grant from the Lemonade Fund and Myisrael.
Helping the poor is as much a part of Purim as costumes and candy. Your donation will get to needy breast cancer patients in financial crises. Thank you!
Record number of applications. A snapshot of a few:
- I., 42, diagnosed from the start with Stage 4 breast cancer. Upon diagnosis, husband abandons her with 3 small children, no support. She had a decent job prior to her diagnosis, but now can no longer work full time, and any savings are going to upkeep and legal fees. Sent her a Lemonade Fund grant as well as a supplemental grocery money grant designated by Myisrael for our applicants with young children.
- S., a retiree living on a small pension, with a history of colon cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure and depression, needs money for transport to chemo treatments.
- A., applicant from the Armenian section of Jerusalem, N.,(breast cancer + lung disease, very poor, needs supplement for basic living expenses.)
- A., 53, from Uzbekistan, lives with her mother (just dx with melanoma,) daughter (just divorced,) and infant granddaughter. Stage 3 diagnosis. Family needs help until National Health Insurance payments come in.
The Lemonade Fund is now helping Israeli breast cancer patients across the land. Our average grant is NIS 2,100 ($580.) This amount can make all the difference to a patient while they are going through treatment.
TO DONATE: https://lemonadefund.org/to-donate/
(Online tax deductible donations can be made from Israel, US, Canada, UK, Australia, etc.)
25/2/2019 THANK YOU LETTER
To the Lemonade Fund,
I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart on behalf of me and my daughters,
for your generous donation.
In dealing with this illness economic difficulties can put a dark cloud over one’s feeling of repose.
Keep on your blessed way,
המשיכו בדרכם הברוכה!
M. is a 48 year old MAN with Stage 4 breast cancer. (1% of all breast cancers are in men. It is often found at later stages since men are not routinely screened.) M. is a married father of 9 children, (1 soldier, 1 married, the rest live at home,) who can no longer work due to the side effects of treatment for cancer that has spread to his lungs and bones. His wife works in eldercare, but she is overwhelmed with caring for her ill husband and young children. The family is now deeply in debt and is in crisis. The Lemonade Fund awarded them a grant to alleviate some of their financial pressure during this difficult time.
V., 37, has been in and out of psychiatric hospitals since she was a young adult, her mental health issues possibly compounded by sexual abuse she endured as a child. V. has had addiction problems as well (drugs and alcohol.) She was trying to get her life back on track (she recently began studying graphic arts and had coaching which was really helping her.) And then she was diagnosed with breast cancer. The diagnosis caused a suicide attempt and V. is in a very bad place. Her partner, with whom she lives, is recovering from back surgery and is unable to work. They are beginning to take on debt and need help. The Lemonade Fund grant will help sustain them until they can get back on their feet.
To help needy breast cancer patients while they are in treatment:
The Lemonade Fund is the only Breast Cancer Emergency Relief Fund in Israel, helping all Israeli citizens.