Thank Gd, it was so much "better" than I expected.
I knew from our last visit to the oncology ward that all of the patients receiving chemo sit in one room together and get their treatments at the same time. And I was worried that this was going to feel very invasive for Stella.
When I arrived, Yarden and Stella were lounging and surfing the web and checking email. They had already taken Stella's blood to the 4th floor to get it evaluated before she was able to start chemo today. And, as Yarden recounted, in typical "Stella fashion," she had forced him to use the stairs rather than the elevator. (Side note: on the day of Stella's diagnosis we had to go to a number of different floors in the hospital to book appointments. While Yarden, Josh and I all groaned and whined, Stella kept racing up and down the stairs and dragging us along. We kept cracking up as she zoomed past us and we must have yelled, "Wait" and "Where is she?" at least a few times each. Yep...the sick leading the lazy as you will.)
As they waited for the results to come back today so that Stella could start her first round of chemo, a charming woman came into the room and asked Stella if she wanted reflexology or a massage. They have a room next door where the patients can enjoy such nurturing activities and Stella bopped off for a bit of pampering (with only a slight need for coercion).
While Yarden and I were talking, a woman came by with a cart, offering all sorts of delicious foods to the patients. When we both deferred, explaining that we weren't the cancer patient (in our pathetic and broken Hebrew), she said, "We will all be healthy at some point. Everyone in the room will be healthy. We all deserve the food. Please take something."
It was such a stunningly beautiful way to describe the experience and such a positive spin on the events taking place.
Eventually, Stella started the chemo and we settled in to read humorous emails friends were sending, to chat and to relax. Yarden met the older man getting treated next to us, and six degrees of separation became one as he explained that he had taught a good friend of ours in the community.
I pointed out to Stella that the room wasn't filled with the images that I expected at all. Every single patient in the room looked healthy. I actually said at one point that I thought maybe they had created a Hollywood set for us. Each patient had his or her hair; each seemed to have nice coloring and to be in good spirits. And, of course, it was striking to see the cross-section of society here. The older Rabbi sat next to the young Arab woman, who was sitting near the 35 year old Moroccan woman, who was seated with the Japanese convert, who was positioned near the 60 year old Hassidic man.
The harpist came and went, delivering a beautiful, soothing performance. The room was chatty at times, quieter at others.
But there was always a feeling of hope.
In the afternoon, I took the boys to a fair that is held every year for a special-needs school in Alon Shvut. While sitting on a grassy hill, listening to a military band, Amichai and Eliav started dancing with me. What began as a quiet, sweet dance soon turned into a frenzied, wild display and we danced and giggled.
And as we swirled in circles and put our heads back in laughter, I felt guilt mixed with hope. Guilt that I should be enjoying the beautiful evening on the day when Stella started such a difficult process; but hope, knowing that Stella loves my children and that, of course, she would want us to be having fun for all of us today.
And as we danced and twirled, I prayed that the sounds of their joy and the hope in their young voices would open up the heavens and remind HaShem of the precious nature of life.
Of Stella's life and of all of ours as we pray and hope for a full and speedy recovery.