This year, I cannot find the words.
On 9 Av 5770 (July 20, 2010,) out of the blue, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Thank God, I am fine. I remember in 2010 thinking about 2020 as if the number itself was a mirage, a miracle. And, here we are. I am very grateful.
Since then, over the years, I’ve written about getting shocking, potentially life-threatening news particularly on the saddest date of the Jewish calendar. I’ve tried to use the ‘anniversary’ to learn about overcoming destruction, (personal and national,) through healing (personal and national.)
In retrospect, those years seemed quite normal. This year I cannot find the words.
The Book of Lamentations by Jeremiah, read each year on 9 Av, will resonate this year, with its talk of desolation. Those who buried loved ones from afar on ZOOM have lived this word. Illness, uncertainty, fear, hunger, despair, anxiety….these are some of the words of the day.
As we pray for an end to this calamity we can only offer solace and help during this dark time.
When trains and buses shut down (or became too dangerous for immunocompromised patients,) the Lemonade Fund created an additional service, the TAXI RIDES FOR CANCER PATIENTS DURING CORONA PROGRAM. (Want good news for a change? Click here to read the story of a woman and her taxi.)
Since March, the Israel Lemonade Fund has arranged more than 2000 free taxi rides to chemotherapy for needy Israeli cancer patients who had no other way to get to treatment.
The Lemonade Fund core mission, to award financial assistance to needy Israeli breast cancer patients, is more important than ever with more Israeli citizens pushed into poverty due to the economic crisis. Read to learn more about how the Lemonade Fund is making an impact.
Please consider partnering with us. Your donation will go directly to a taxi grant or to our core Lemonade Fund mission, helping impoverished breast cancer patients so they can focus on recovery.
An average Lemonade Fund grant is NIS 2,100 ($615.) Your support of NIS 2,500 ($730) would pay for one emergency grant and 3 taxi rides (the average cost of a Corona Taxi ride is NIS 120 ($35.)
We may not know yet how to eradicate Covid-19, but Tisha B’Av can teach us about spreading compassion so that we can ease this difficult time for each other.
“You have turned my sorrow into dancing. You have removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, so that my soul may sing to you and not be silent. My God forever will I thank you.” -Psalm 30
Wishing all of you an easy and meaningful fast, and many years of peace, health and happiness. With many thanks,
Founder and Director, Israel Lemonade Fund
Here is the sunshine that was borne out of the darkness of this pandemic. Feel good, feel proud. What can happen when we all care for each other.
Based on an actual story.
It’s early February, 2020 and A., a 48 years old divorced mother of two, has been diagnosed with a fast-growing cancer. Her doctor informs her that she needs to start weekly treatments, immediately. She lives in the north, about an hour from Haifa, but there’s a direct bus she can take. Stories about the novel Covid 19 virus begin to appear on the evening news, but she’s distracted by her own worries.
To read more:
-A mother needed to visit her young son, immunocompromised and in isolation in a hospital leukemia ward. We are making it possible for this mother to see her son often even during Corona.
-Lung cancer patient needed transport from Kiryat Gat to Be’er Sheva to start radiation therapy. Done!
-Brought a woman from Shlomi (very far north,) to Rambam in Haifa today for breast cancer treatment. Daughter was overwhelmed with gratitude. Mother would have had no other way to get to the hospital without this.
-A patient from Eilat with pancreatic cancer is being treated in Be’er Sheva. He needed to go to the hospital once in April in order to get special pills that he can take instead of having repeated chemotherapy infusions. No flights. His social worker reached out to the Israel Lemonade Fund asking if it was even possible to arrange a taxi from Eilat to Be’er Sheva. (Thanks to GETT for offering more than fair taxi fees,) we offered to help this man reach the hospital for his April appointment.
-A Bedouin woman needed breast cancer treatment. Impossible feat without public transportation. GETT found a way to get her from her village and we got her to her treatments.
-From a social worker: “The service is critical especially for those coming to Ein Karen from outside central Jerusalem. Wish it would continue forever…”
Stories of cancer patients who got to the hospital thanks to the Israel Lemonade Fund/Inbar and Marius Nacht Foundation/Gett Taxi partnership…..THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The Israel Lemonade Fund is still helping needy patients with one time grants for non-medical expenses. Your donations are needed more than ever at this time. Thank you.
Link to apply for free taxi rides for cancer patients: https://lemonadefund.org/%d7%a7%d7%95%d7%a8%d7%95%d7%a0%d7%94-taxi-2/
M., 33, has 2 young children, ages 3 and 5, and a new diagnosis of breast cancer. Hers is a good example of how a serious illness can propel a middle class family into financial crisis. Both she and her spouse had good jobs and were able to make payments on their mortgage and keep up with expenses. Until recently…Now M. cannot work during treatment and she has used up all of her sick leave. Her spouse is also losing income due to time off from work to care for his wife and children. Debts are piling up and they are consumed with worry. M. was given a Lemonade Fund grant to alleviate financial pressure so that she can focus on recovery.
G., 49, a Bedouin woman from the south, is the second wife of a man who is 20 years her senior and the mother of several children. She has been diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer. She is in significant pain and is unable to care for herself or her family. This is terribly depressing to her. The social workers at Soroka Hospital submitted an application to the Lemonade Fund on her behalf asking for assistance with childcare and household help as well as transportation to treatments. A Lemonade Fund grant was awarded to help G. through this difficult time.
25% more Lemonade Fund grants were given in 2019 than in 2018. Breast cancer often hits young families in the middle of life. The Lemonade Fund is the only emergency financial relief fund in Israel. Please donate.
Thank you! (Grants are available to qualified Israeli citizens within one year of diagnosis. Applications are available through social workers at breast centers in Israeli hospitals.)
Two recent grants:
A. is an elderly holocaust survivor, a widow, who lost a daughter recently, is undergoing treatment for breast cancer in a hospital that is quite a distance from her home. She lives in public housing on a small pension (NIS 3200/month.) She has one remaining daughter who was A.’s main caretaker, but now the daughter, too, is unwell. The Lemonade Fund awarded A. a grant which will help A. with transportation and supplement her small pension while she is having treatment.
L. is a 47 year old divorced mother of 2 children. She lives with her parents and receives no alimony from her ex-husband. She has a history of depression and fibromyalgia, and she’s had a stroke. She used to be an accountant at a factory, but since her breast cancer diagnosis (and long treatment plan,) she hasn’t been able to work. The family already is NIS 10,000 in debt and the pressure is mounting. The Lemonade Fund gave L. a grant to alleviate her financial pressure so she can focus on recovery.
The Lemonade Fund is the only Breast Cancer Emergency Relief Fund in Israel, helping needy Israeli citizens with one-time grants while they are in treatment. Please join us in helping them. THANK YOU!
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/
C, a 20 year old soldier from the center of the country, was weeks away from completing her army service when she felt a lump in her breast. While her friends were planning post-army trips or applying to university, C. was preparing for chemotherapy. C. turned to the Lemonade Fund for financial help because she had expenses caused by her illness and her family is destitute and couldn’t help her. During her army service, C. had permission to work part time outside of the army so that she could contribute income to her family. Now, in addition to being unable to work and help her family, C. needs help herself. The Lemonade Fund grant will provide C. with money to cover transportation to treatment costs, specialty clothing and most importantly to a such a young woman, a wig that matches her real hair. We wish C. a full recovery and a return to the normal life of a young adult.
R., a retired teacher, originally from the former Soviet Union, has experienced two tragedies in the last few years. Four years ago her daughter died of ovarian cancer, and then her husband died suddenly on the day of her diagnosis with breast cancer. To make matters worse, she is responsible for the care of her surviving son who has mental health problems and lives with her. R. is still reeling from the losses she has suffered, and she is also finding it hard to manage on her small pension and her son’s disability benefits. R.’s social worker submitted an application to the Lemonade Fund on R.’s behalf, and we hope that her Lemonade Fund grant sends her a message of our support, financially as well as emotionally.
These are the stories of two of the applicants from September. This past month we had a steep increase in the number of applications and we appreciate your continued support so that we can keep helping Israeli breast cancer patients who are in financial distress.
To donate: https://lemonadefund.org/to-donate/
A reminder that October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Here is a lemony graphic to help you be alert to the possible signs of breast cancer. Early diagnosis can help save lives.
NO more having to take 2 busses, in the heat, to chemo in Beer Sheva! L., a 66 year old divorcee from Arad, a retired cleaner, was recently diagnosed with invasive breast carcinoma. She lives on a 1300 NIS/month pension and her National Insurance Institute payments. She doesn’t have a car and has been taking public transportation, in the heat, by herself, for the last few months. Her social worker applied to the Lemonade Fund for an emergency grant for help with cost of living expenses and transportation to treatment. Grant awarded!
L. is just one of the August applicants who received emergency financial assistance from the Lemonade Fund; emergency grants were given to breast cancer patients from hospitals all over Israel. Lemonade Fund grants alleviate financial pressure so breast cancer patients can focus on recovery.
To donate to the ESRA Lemonade Fund: