9th of Av 5783 (2023)

Rembrandt, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

I come here once a year to remember…

13 years ago, on July 20, 2010, (Tisha B’Av, 5770) I was diagnosed with breast cancer. The year that followed was rough.

Since then, thank God, I’ve been blessed with good health, a loving, expanding family, rewarding work, and wonderful friendships. I know that cancer can return, but I choose to live normally. I try to live a healthy life knowing that worrying would only rob me of time better spent. 

Why go back there, to a time that was traumatic and simply awful, even one day a year? Because remembering that time, with all of its horrors, keeps me humble and passionate.

The day before my diagnosis, I was a normal, sweaty Mom, visiting our daughter at summer camp. The next day, a few minutes into my annual routine mammogram, I was a cancer patient. (No symptoms, no family history – a reminder to readers that medical screening can save lives.) 

Suddenly, just like that. And it is simply terrifying to be very ill. While I was in treatment, my eyes were opened to a world that had, before that day, been invisible to me. (I regret this, but most of us choose not to really see unpleasant things.) I had, of course, known and empathized with others who were sick; but personally being on that cliff is a whole different story. Illness is many things – messy, painful, disfiguring, infuriating, unpredictable, and traumatizing. Above all, though, it is all-consuming. If survival is on the line, how can one think of anything else? Normal life disappears and is replaced by a parallel universe of fear.  

The lifeboat in all of this is HOPE. Hope for recovery and a return to normal life. Family, work, love and friendships.

I created the Israel Lemonade Fund in the summer of 2011 to give hope to Israeli breast cancer patients who are in a particularly bad situation; very ill AND very needy. Emergency financial grants during treatment allow the neediest breast cancer patients, among them, young families, widows, single mothers, etc., to breathe more easily, so that they can focus on recovery.  

And so I come here, to revisit and share memories of my illness, in order to hold onto humility. We must not look away from those invisible people, the OTHER, even if it is unpleasant. Once a year we can remind ourselves to restart that connection and feel as if we ourselves were in their situation…

And the Lemonade Fund has become a passion. We cannot yet cure cancer, but together, we can alleviate financial instability during treatment, a tremendous kindness. My diagnosis on 9 Av, a serious fast day in the Jewish calendar, has never seemed accidental and in fact has served as an inspiration to work on Tikun Olam, repairing a fractured world. Together, 12 years on, we are accomplishing this. Thank you.

“It is difficult for us to put into words our appreciation. In such a challenging time, the Lemonade Fund is a source of light and hope. Your generous grant raised my spirits and brought me, my husband and my family a glimmer of happiness and relief, which I know is helping the treatments to succeed.”
-Recent Lemonade Fund grant recipient

On this Tisha B’Av, wishing everyone peace and good health,