By Ilene Bloch-Levy

Blessings for another day

As I prepare for another lengthy day of consultations, blood tests, and back-to-back treatments at the hospital I thought I’d spend some time counting my blessings.

Here goes… thank you for…

Returning my soul to me. Each morning, as I struggle to wake up, I say the “Modah Ani” prayer…”Thank you God… for returning my soul to me.” It is not easy to wake up each day with the thought, “I have cancer.” Yet, since my soul has been returned to me for another day, I am profoundly grateful and look forward to deriving the greatest satisfaction and pleasure from this day.

My smartphone. In spite of the fact that our smartphones have become virtual supplementary limbs on our bodies, oftentimes intrusive and even annoying, my smartphone has become my main communication tool with children, grandchildren, friends and family regardless of the time zone they are living in. We talk, SMS, email and what’s app…keeping in touch and providing ongoing encouragement, advice, photos and anecdotes about our lives. All of these fill my head and heart with wonderful, funny, entertaining and loving thoughts during my lengthy treatments and my exhausting trips home from the hospital.

My home fax/printer/scanner. Yes, I am grateful that I can print out and copy all of my paperwork from the hospital, doctor and health fund so that when an important document nosedives into the ‘Bermuda Triangle’ — which invariably happens — I can count on my handy home scanner/printer to regurgitate another copy. I always carry extra copies, saving me mucho time and mucho aggravation.

My nerves of steel. This is a helpful attribute when you are combating a serious illness, and have to navigate multiple channels, which while in theory are there to ‘work on your behalf’ are not always ‘working’ and not always ‘on your behalf.’ Such as the hospital’s oncology/hematology department social worker who gives you the 5-page form you have to fill out for the National Insurance Institute, which you spend days completing and months later it is returned to you because you should have filled out the 16-page form. Or the time you report to the hospital for a treatment and your file has vanished. Of course you know that is impossible, so you offer to help the clerks look for the file, which they view as outrageous. Not sure why. When you volunteer to scour the archives (forbidden territory for us mere mortals) lo and behold the file reappears. True magic at work.

My curious intellect. This is a double-edged sword, because sometimes you can become overly saturated with information, while at other times your understanding of your body and what it is undergoing can mean that you become an active, involved and engaged participant in all aspects of your treatment. You may even have ideas your physician has not thought of… or in my case, so far, she has thought of, but it’s nice to know you are both on the same page. Curiosity also plays to my benefit during my frequent trips to the emergency room. Cancer severely compromises the immune system, making you susceptible to just about any and all viruses floating around. Sneezes, coughs, sniffles and fevers hovering nearby eventually make a bee-line to me. So, figuring out how exactly the ER room works and how I can best manipulate it to my benefit, has been a time, energy and nerve saver.

My manageable-sized file. Each patient at the hematology/oncology unit where I am treated has a dull brown, six-paneled file secured by an elastic band. It carries results and information on all of your blood tests, bone marrow biopsies, protocols, medications, hospitalizations, bone marrow transplants, doctors letters. Everything. I remember when mine was new and crisp and I pitied those whose files were thick and worn. After two years in the unit, mine is worn, and while its waist continually expands I can still manage to carry it with one hand.

A better perspective on life. As a result of one of the drugs I receive intravenously, I am required to undergo all dental treatments at the hospital’s in-house dental clinic. Waiting for my, oftentimes, simple procedures I look around the waiting room and am eternally grateful that I only have to cope with the challenge of cancer. How many parents I see whose daily challenges include simple tasks such as helping their children dress, eat, stay clean. These are tasks which are still easy, natural and quick for me, while for these parents, they are all so time-consuming, debilitating and discouraging.

Ilene Bloch-Levy was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma in March 2012. She grew up in New York and made aliyah in 1986. She has 6 married children, and her husband has 3 married children. They both enormously enjoy a gaggle of grandchildren. A freelance copywriter, Ilene lives in the Shomron. According to her, “One of the joys of working in Israel is that Israelis get the important things in life; during my treatments and hospitalization, all of my clients patiently waited for me to return to work.”

[Editor’s note: We are grateful to Ilene for sharing some of her personal experiences with the SPP community, and are confident that her thoughts will help strengthen and enlighten the readers. Her views are her own and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Shira Pransky Project. If you would like to contribute to our blog with your own thoughts or experiences related to the Israeli healthcare system, let us know: info@shirapranskyproject.org.

8 thoughts on “A cancer patient counts her blessings in the Israeli healthcare system

  1. lOVE YOUR BLESSINGS AND LOVE YOU!! Great piece as always Ilene. Gives us all aonther perpective and food for thought. Thank you!!!!

  2. REFUAH SH’LE’MA ILENE. YOU ARE REALLY A TRUE GIBORAT YISRAEL
    AND A TRUE UNBELIEVABLY GREAT INSPIRATION TO ALL OF US AND TO
    ALL OF YOUR FAMILY, ALL YOUR LOVED ONES, AND ALL OF YOUR FRIENDS WHETHER THEY ARE NEAR OR VERY FAR AWAY. YOUR UNBELIEVABLE
    BRAVERY AND GREAT FIGHTING SPIRIT AND GREAT SPIRITUAL SUPER
    STRENGTH ARE A VERY VERY GREAT INSPIRATION TO ALL OF US..
    KOL TUV AND VERY SPEEDY REFUAH SHLEMA BEKAROV AMEN VE’AMEN !

  3. Ilene,

    You have always been an inspiration – from your days as community leader, your making aliya with your young family, your devotion to your family and Eretz Yisrael. You continue to inspire as you battle your illness. You are always on our tefillot for a refu’ah shleima.

  4. You are very lucky. I am a senior citizen with cancer and no close family in Israel. I am being treated in Meir Hospital, but have none of the help or support you are receiving. I never had the opportunity to learn Hebrew in an Ulpan, the result of which is that I can’t read the multitude of paperwork sent to me or get support. There is no manageable size file for me. I have called office after office, social worker after social worker, the cancer association, every phone number I can think of. I get very polite answers that they will return my calls. No one ever does. I find it difficult to fight the cancer and the bureaucracy with no help from anyone. My experience undergoing surgery at Meir was a nightmare. I am a member of Clalit and even with my very limited income I pay for the extra insurances. However, I when I asked to receive services with someone who could speak enough English to help me understand what was happening to me, I was told in all of the Sharon area they did not have anyone capable of helping me in English. I agree with many of the things you say. I try to keep a sense of humor and be grateful, but it is a hard battle to fight when I don’t even understand enough to know what help (like dental care) is available. I wish you good health and a long life and much joy despite the cancer.

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