Oct 20 2014
Cancer runs in my family. About nine years ago, when my aunt was suffering from ovarian cancer, after having battled breast cancer, doctors identified a mutation in her BRCA1 gene. Sure enough, this mutation is associated with increased risks of breast and ovarian cancer. My father tested himself and found that his DNA had the same mutation. This genetic mutation is either inherited from a parent or, with equal chances, is not.
I decided to get tested, and I learned that I, too, have a BRCA1 mutation known as 185delAG. This mutation, a missing piece in the 185th position of a very long strand of DNA, has been a part of my cells from the very start. News but not new; the newness was in knowing about it. This mutation is what is known as a “founder mutation,” which means that it’s thought to have originated from a single individual. Because this mutation has been found among Sephardic Jews as well as Ashkenazic Jews, some estimate that the mutation predates the dispersion of Jews after the destruction of the second temple in 70 CE. Read the rest of this entry →
Sep 30 2014
I recently decided to take my kids out of school and go on a camping trip–one week after school started. I grabbed my kids, packed up the camper, and explained to their teachers that this was necessary, and truth be told, it was.
Five years ago–one month before my daughter’s 1st birthday–I was diagnosed with Leukemia and later Lymphoma. My life became a roller coaster of doctor visits and horrific cancer treatments that I do not wish on my worst enemy.
Miraculously, three years ago, my body healed, and I went into the remission that we were all praying for. Little did I know what remission really means. For some reason, I thought the concept of surviving cancer would be similar to a Lifetime after-school special. Once the cancer left the building, everything would go back to rainbows and sunshine. Read the rest of this entry →
Aug 14 2014
“He needs some TLC and gentle handling,” says the assistant head nurse as she hands me the chart of a new patient. “He’s young, he’s a career soldier, and his wife just gave birth to their first child two weeks ago.”
I look at his chart. All that goes through my head is that he is seven years younger than me and has Stage 3 colon cancer. Yet again, I find myself standing there and wishing there was no cancer in this world, even if that meant, as an oncology nurse, that I would need to find a new career. I go look for my new patient in the waiting room. Read the rest of this entry →
Mar 20 2014
What do Google Glass, a robot, and Purim have in common with one another?
Normally nothing, but this year, they came together in order to create a vibrant and engaging project that enabled a little girl from White Plains, NY to be a part of the communal celebrations.
Hebrew Institute of White Plains is home to around 300 families with many children. Purim is a time that the community comes together and celebrates. We host a carnival, a children’s megillah reading, a beautiful night time megillah reading where adults and children pack our main sanctuary to the brim all decked out in costumes.
Unfortunately this year, one of the children in our community was unable to attend as she is undergoing treatment for cancer. She is a bubbly, bright, fun and outgoing child, who unfortunately has been unable to join us at Sabbath services, and was unable to join us for Purim celebrations. Her family would like to remain anonymous during this trying time, so for continuity of this article she will be called Amy. Read the rest of this entry →
Feb 5 2014
Ty (age 7): “Mom, am I a Joe?”
Me: “Nope, silly-pants, you are a Ty.”
Ty: “No, Mom, my friend at school asked if I am a Joe, but I wasn’t sure. Are we Joes?”
Me: “What does that mean?”
Ty: “Remember that bad guy was trying to kill Queen Esther and her family because they were Joes?”
Me: “Oh, you mean Jews.”
Ty: “Ahhhh close. Anyway, my friend wants to know, are we Jews?”
Sigh. That is a question I don’t have an easy answer for. We cannot, either by birth, heritage, or conversion, claim to be Jews, and yet as a family we are certainly becoming more Jewish every day. Read the rest of this entry →
Jan 21 2014
“Are you sure this isn’t too scary for him?”
I clutch our 16-month-old son, seated on my husband’s lap beside me, and draw one hand up toward his forehead, lingering just above his eyes.
“Don’t worry about covering his eyes–they say this ride is for all ages,” my husband whispers, “even if it is called the Haunted Mansion.”
As the ride lurches us forward into a dark, cavernous room, I try to remind myself that he doesn’t understand enough to be scared of this. He is too young to “get it.” Right?
I forget, if only for an instant, that I had been repeating this same quip every day for one month and 27 days: “Thank God he is too young to understand, or remember, any of this.”
It has been one month and 27 days since I dropped my son off at daycare and reassured my husband that of course it was fine if he went to his big meeting and skipped just.this.one doctor’s visit of all the dozens he had been to with me in the last two years. Read the rest of this entry →
Dec 19 2013
A child has died.
A sweet, brave, smiling, bald 8-year-old boy named Samuel Sommer died from acute myeloid lukemia on December 14th. This is such bad news, I can barely type it out without getting furious. There is no calm way to understand this. An absolutely terrible thing.
And yet children die all the time. According to the World Health Organization, whose website I just clicked over to, millions of children die every year. But the millions of other poor dead children don’t move me the way Sam’s death does.
Why do I care so much about this one kid? Why do I know so much about this one kid? Read the rest of this entry →
Dec 16 2013
It is with heavy hearts that we share the news that 8-year-old “Superman Sam” Sommer, inspiration for 36 Rabbis Shave for the Brave, died this past Saturday morning.
Sam suffered from acute myelogenous leukemia, and captured many people’s hearts as his mother, Rabbi Phyllis Sommer, blogged about his experience on her blog Superman Sam. Kveller contributer Rebecca Schorr, who is the organizer behind 36 Rabbis Shave for the Brave–a fundraising campgain to raise $180,000 for pediatric cancer research–shared these touching words about Sam on her blog.
To learn more about Superman Sam and how you can contribute to the 36 Rabbis campaign, click here.
Baruch Dayan HaEmet. May his memory be for a blessing.
Dec 12 2013
The above mustachioed young man is Samuel Sommer, and he’s inspired over 36 rabbis to reach for their clippers. In a bold effort to support pediatric cancer research, 36 Rabbis Shave for the Brave is a fundraising campaign in which a group of rabbis will shave their heads this coming March in coordination with the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a charity committed to funding the most promising research to find cures for childhood cancers.
The fundraising campaign is spearheaded by Kveller contributor Rabbi Rebecca Schorr in honor of her colleague’s son, “Superman Sam,” an 8-year-old Chicago-area boy who suffers from refractory acute myeloid leukemia. As explained on the “36 Rabbis” donation page:
At the end of October, Rabbis Phyllis Sommer and Rebecca Schorr had a crazy idea: what if thirty-six Reform rabbis would shave their heads to bring attention to the fact that only 4% of United States federal funding for cancer research is earmarked for all childhood cancers as well as raise $180,000 for this essential research. Two weeks after this conversation, Phyllis and her husband, Michael, learned that their son, Sam, had relapsed with AML (acute myelogenous leukemia) and that there are no other treatment options for him.
Schorr has already recruited 44 registered shavees, including eight women and one rabbinical student, along with 10 additional rabbis who are fundraising in order to reach the goal of at least $180,000 in sponsorship donations toward research grant funding. Most of the rabbis are gathering in Chicago on March 31, 2014 to do the actual shave.
In just two weeks, their efforts have already raised over $81,000. To learn more about the cause and donate to “36 Rabbis Shave for the Brave,” click here.
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Nov 11 2013
All the parenting news you probably didn’t have time to read this week.
- The Internet, Netflix, fast food, and other forms of “instant gratification” are changing the way today’s kids view time and demands. This New York Times piece sheds light on the competitive nature of television networks and its effect on today’s “on demand” children. (NY Times)
- One in three women has an abortion by the age of 45, but how many people actually talk about it? New York Magazine features 26 women with 26 different experiences. (NY Mag)
- A recent study from the University of Pittsburg shows that the negative impact of “harsh verbal discipline” (even occasionally) on adolescents is comparable to the effects of physical discipline. (NY Times)
- When Larry’s wife was diagnosed with breast cancer, the family received unending amounts of food and comfort from family and friends. A decade later, their daughter Maggie was admitted to a psychiatric hospital and diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and received no such care packages. (Slate)
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