Twelve years ago, on an otherwise normal, hot July day in Israel, I received a diagnosis of breast cancer. As a child of a holocaust survivor with a miraculous story of survival, I learned early to notice connections. (“Try not to miss the miracles,” my mother would say…) July 20, 2010, also happened to fall on Tisha B’Av, the annual day of fasting and mourning for tragedies throughout Jewish history.
Each year since, I have come here to write about my connection with this particular day, its impact on my life and work.
Thank God, I am fine now, with a Bat Mitzvah amount of years of good living with family and friends…years past that dark scary day of diagnosis in 2010. It is even becoming possible to allow it to become hazy. And coming out of a pandemic, I think the world is in this mindset as well. Wanting to focus on anything but illness. Naturally, we all want to move on…
Yet, people are still getting cancer and other serious illnesses, as always. Many are likely frightened, alone. I would never have thought deeply about them if I hadn’t been hanging around hospitals myself, as a patient. This was a world that had previously had nothing to do with me; it was invisible to me. Until it wasn’t. What I learned is that we must always let the sick know that they are not alone – it is ALWAYS very frightening to be very sick. A year after my diagnosis, the Lemonade Fund was born, in 2011, to lend emergency financial support to needy breast cancer patients while they are in treatment.
The most primal scream in the Hebrew Bible is:
“PLEASE GOD, HEAL HER NOW!”
Moses cries, when his sister is suddenly taken ill. In Hebrew it is monosyllabic, and one can imagine, guttural sounding, “EL NA, REFA NA LA!” One can hear the emotion in Moses’ cry.
The terror that accompanies illness hasn’t changed. We can help.
Several world events have caused 2021-2022 to be the Lemonade Fund’s busiest year yet. The number of applications has increased by more than double over the previous year. The Lemonade Fund is Israel’s only breast cancer emergency financial aid charity. We have become the national address for emergency support so these patients and their families are not alone. (Like S…., single mother of 4 teenagers, self-supporting until breast cancer. Now can’t work, in debt, trouble paying rent. Sent by her hospital social worker.)
The Jewish Sages tell us that internal disunity and discord within the Jewish people was the catalyst for all of the tragedies that befell the Jewish nation on 9 Av. However, almost implausibly, the day ends with hope! By studying the harm caused by baseless hatred and by doing the opposite, the day itself can be transformed from a fast day into a holiday of healing and future celebration. I see my personal recovery as a parallel, linked to this day. And through it, to the healing and recovery of all those whom the Lemonade Fund has helped, and those whom it still needs to reach.
Thank you, and until next year, God willing, wishing everyone an easy fast and a good year.