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Mar 20 2014

Girl With Cancer Virtually Celebrates Purim With Help From Her Rabbi, A Robot & Google Glass

By at 2:58 pm

google-glass

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

How Do I Talk to My Son About Religion When I Don’t Know What His Religion Is?

By at 4:03 pm

checklist

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

When Mommy Has Cancer & You Go to Disneyworld

By at 6:08 pm

magic kingdom haunted mansion

“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

Superman Sam & The Power of Social Media

By at 1:55 pm

smiling-sammy

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

Rest in Peace, Superman Sam

By at 10:35 am

sam sommer "superman sam"

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

36 Rabbis Are Shaving Their Heads For Pediatric Cancer Research

By at 3:16 pm

superman sam 36 rabbis shave for the brave

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

News Roundup: Kids Today Expect Everything On Demand

By at 2:40 pm

 All the parenting news you probably didn’t have time to read this week.

tvkid

- 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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Oct 31 2013

It’s Time to Get Aware of Pregnancy-Induced Breast Cancer

By at 2:00 pm

shutterstock_92336032

“I’m a word person, but for this I have no words.” That’s how I started an e-mail to a good friend the day I found out she was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer. It took me a full hour to process the news, and I spent the next several in tears. That was four weeks ago. Three weeks ago she told me what caused the cancer: her second pregnancy.

Today I’ve found my words again. Chalk it up to going through the steps of grieving–grieving over her diagnosis–but ever since she told me that because she created life, she’s now fighting for her own, I have been angry. Not angry at my friend, who wishes to remain nameless–“The message is the most important aspect,” she said–but angry that after having two kids myself and knowing a very fair share of other moms and having an OB/GYN in my family, I had never heard of pregnancy-induced breast cancer.

My friend never heard about it either, so when she noticed a lump in her left breast, she figured it was a clogged milk duct. She had no genetic history of breast cancer and felt fine. In September, when her second child was 10 months old, she sought treatment for a cough and pain in her chest, back, and shoulders. The doctor diagnosed pneumonia. At a recheck a week later, he found the antibiotics had done nothing. He sent her for further testing, and on September 27th, she was diagnosed with stage four (metastatic) breast cancer.

About 1 in 3,000 pregnant women will get it, according to the American Cancer Society, and it’s the most common type of cancer found during pregnancy or within the year after delivery. Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 22 2013

I May Not Be Jewish But I Want to Sit Shiva

By at 4:07 pm


shiva

This past week, my 85–year-old grandmother passed away rather suddenly. She was the only grandparent I ever met, and for a couple of years when I lived with her, she was more like a parent figure. My “Grams,” as we called her, was tough as nails. She raised four kids after her husband died at 45 years old, and she was left with nothing. She didn’t even have a driver’s license.

Grams worked 40 hours a week at a six pack store up until about two months before she passed. She always said she wanted to die by “getting hit in the a** by a mac truck.” Well, cancer was her mac truck and it happened rather quickly. Grams was checked into the hospital on a Wednesday, diagnosed on Friday with stage IV cancer, and died Saturday afternoon after the whole family got to say goodbye. Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 23 2013

Rosh Hashanah Resolutions: My Cancer New Year

By at 12:03 pm

rebecca faulkner branum rosh hashanah resolutionWhen we asked our readers to send in their Rosh Hashanah Resolutions, we certainly weren’t expecting anything like the following, sent to us from Rebecca Faulkner Branum of Edmond, Oklahoma.

A New Year sometimes sneaks into a life, changing a family’s calendar forever. Five years ago I was unable to eat apples or honey because I was neutropenic from cancer chemotherapy. The bacteria from uncooked food could have sickened or even killed me, so the Rosh Hashanah that snuck into my life that fall might have been hard to recognize, but it was there all the same.

Cancer appeared as a terrible phone call in September, one week after my only child’s 1st birthday, a day that became Day #1 of a new life. The year that followed was one of loss. Of course the usual cancer losses–my breasts, my hair, and a lot of lost lunches–but I also lost my job as a health care provider (because I couldn’t work with ill patients). Then I lost my savings, my car, my house, and finally my husband, who walked away from the stress. Read the rest of this entry →

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