On June 18th, I got a call from my boyfriend, Zvi, just as I was walking in the door from a day of Shatil Fellowship programming. He was calling from the doctor’s office; that much I knew. I had been worried all day about this doctor’s appointment, the worry had gnawed at my stomach throughout the day’s meetings, speakers and activities. I kept telling myself “Betty, he doesn’t have cancer. Doesn’t have cancer. Does. Not. Have. Cancer”. After all, I am a hypochondriac; anyone who knows me knows that I always think the slightest cough is pneumonia, the smallest stomach pain is food poisoning. All day, I told myself to just breathe; after all, all we knew then was that there was a small irregularity in an ultrasound following a muscle tear.
Later, after I was already at his house, tears running down my face, he would tell me he hadn’t been crying on the phone when he called, that sobs hadn’t garbled his words, that there was still a chance we didn’t need to panic-a referral to an oncologist still didn’t have to mean cancer.
That day, June 18, is the day I remember as the end of all normalcy. The last day before we spent endless days in hospitals, the last day before every moment together felt like both never ending hours and brief seconds, the last day before waking up every morning felt like the day was falling apart before I had even gotten out of bed.
In the month since that fateful day, Zvi has officially been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer of the adrenal gland, a rare type of hormonal cancer that has already spread to his lungs and liver. Very quickly, his treatment began. On July 11th, following a consultation with Professor. Klausner, he had the main tumor removed through an intensive operation at Ichilov Hospital. Following the operation, the doctors told us that the tumor had grown unnoticed for years, and when it was removed, it weighed in at two kilograms, the size of two large grapefruits. Since then, Zvi has been recuperating in the post-surgery ward, awaiting to be released and to be informed about the upcoming chemotherapy treatment.
It’s been exactly 16 days since we checked into the hospital (but nobody’s counting, right?), and there have been endless soul-wrenching aspects of this experience. I’ve watched the normalcy of our lives disintegrate like a sandcastle in a rainstorm. I’ve felt how hard it is to fall asleep at night, how much it hurts everytime my body looks to intertwine itself with his, but comes up empty handed. I’ve shivered every time I enter the hospital, feeling as if the AC is attempting to slow everyone’s heart rate to the bare rhythm of hibernation. And most of all, I’ve felt the endless exhaustion of hoping for hope itself, of confronting the sheer vulnerability of every minute of life, of feeling a hundred years older in my soul than in my bones.
It’s been exactly 16 days since we checked into the hospital, and there have also been really beautiful, heart-warming aspects of this experience. The awe I feel at how the Israeli and the global Jewish community has showed up for us is bountiful- I find myself beyond words in trying to express my gratitude. I’ve watched people from all over Zvi’s life show up during this difficult time-friends from his Garin, his work, army, and reserves unit. I’ve heard that prayers for his healing are being read in synagogues from Australia to Tennessee, from Bnei Brak to Tel Aviv. I’ve smiled as long lost relatives have showed up in his hospital room, ready to make amends in this time of need. I’ve been amazed by how many people have reached out-sometimes even total strangers, people who have either heard our story or heard of Zvi-and have send their love.
We originally created a small GoFundMe page in order to share Zvi’s story and help cover the costs of his medical treatment. In less than 48 hours, our GoFundMe reached its goal-we couldn’t believe our eyes. Afterwards, we also had several people reach out asking to run marathons in his name and offering to host various fundraising events. For that reason, we will be leaving the GoFundMe page open for the time being.
Although my world maybe broken into shards right now, I’ve found so much love and support in the communities around us. Along with Zvi’s never ending optimism and goofy smile, the prayers, love, and kind words we have received are what brings us the hope that we need, and we can’t thank you enough.
GoFundMe Link: https://www.gofundme.com/yhq75-help-zvi-fight-cancer
Marathon Link: https://www.facebook.com/events/479610852800179/
For prayers, Zvi’s Hebrew name: Zvi Eliezer Muller ben Rachel