Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Lessons Learned from a Long Summer

As I took a walk this morning, I started to reflect on the summer. It's certainly been a difficult one for us in many ways, but, as I realized during my reverie, it's also been quite a productive one for the children. Here are some of the things we've learned in the last two months.

Yakir has learned that when he bites us with those 8 little teeth, we scream. And he laughs.

Zeli has learned that a toilet won't swallow you up, and that maybe it's cool to flush away that stuff and move on. (And that, in itself, is a HUGE and exciting achievement for a Sussman boy of his age. Yeah!)

Eliav has learned that sometimes it's cool to be the oldest Sussman boy, although it sure is fun to wrestle again when the big boys get home.

Amichai, Yehuda and Matan have learned that they can fly halfway around the world by themselves and have an amazing time (even if sometimes you do have to barf over the security barrier at the airport out of fear before you leave). They've also learned about every Nerf gun that's ever existed, how to reload them, and where to shoot them for the most impact.

Amichai has learned to swim. He has not, however, learned to go anywhere near his two wheel bike. His mother is learning to let go, and to accept that each child will learn a skill when he is ready to do so.

I have learned about flexibility and endurance, cancelling our major vacation out of necessity, cancelling our minor vacation due to bombs, and regrouping in less than 24 hours to have a desperately-needed and wonderfully-enjoyed vacation at the Dead Sea.

And, of course, I've learned that health isn't something we can take for granted, and that life sends us curve balls that sometimes feel insurmountable.

Let's hope that the children will continue to grow and prosper during the school year ahead, and that Josh and I will learn to deal with the challenges ahead, and to surmount them as they come.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Ignoring the Big C for an Evening

Many people over the last two months have asked us what they can do for Stella. We've tried to answer, as best we can, when we have ideas.

Others, however, haven't asked - they've simply done. And these interactions have truly been amazing.

A number of weeks ago, I was walking in the yishuv when I bumped into someone. She commented that I looked awful (you know you're a good friend when...) and asked if I was alright. Nothing new, I explained; just, well, you know.

That night, while I was showering and about to jump into bed (yes, it was 8:45), we got a phone call.

"Be outside in ten minutes," said the husband of this woman from the morning. "We're going out to dinner."

It was such a strikingly lovely gesture. They swooped down, picked us up, and took us out to an amazing restaurant in town. We had a chance to get dressed up a bit, to get some fresh air and a change of scenery, and to talk to another couple about what was going on in our lives (and also to talk about fun things).

Similarly, a woman called me awhile back to say that she would be coming to my home the next day with a sizable amount of cash. The cash, she explained, was to use on Stella. "Um...." I stammered. "What does that mean? What do you want me to do?"

Her conditions were as follows. Stella and Yarden were not to know who it was, and the money was to be used to nurture Stella in some way.


Tucking the money away, we set about thinking of something that would be worthy of this woman's request. The woman, by the way, is someone who I don't know well and who Stella probably only interacts with periodically.

We finally devised a plan, and executed it last night, to the delight of everyone involved.

Our good friends who live in Givat Shmuel, Ronit and Itay Zeman, would join us at Stella and Yarden's house as a surprise. We would hire their brother-in-law, a personal chef, to create a night of gastro-enjoyment.

It was simply divine. While we gorged on sushi rolls,

fancy fish,

amazing chicken, and some type of mystery mint ice dessert, we tucked that big "C" word away for a night and enjoyed ourselves.

We all ate more than our fair share, and we giggled and gobbled the night away.

As I wrote to the benefactor after, in thanks, every shekel was worth it for this:

and this:

and this:

Truly, nights to remember, offered up by some of the most unlikely of people.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

It's Not About the Bread

After Stella was diagnosed, I found a banana bread in the freezer.

And I wanted to cry.

See, banana bread is Stella's trademark food for our family. Sure, she makes a million other things and has many specialties that her family loves. Yarden even blogged about it tonight.

But, for us, it's always been banana bread. I don't remember a time when Stella wasn't making us banana bread - I think she even delivered it to my door every once in a while in Potomac.

My family loves the bread (especially Yehuda) and I love the sentiment. Anytime that a banana bread gets made in the Frankl house, a second one gets made for the Sussmans.

It's just the way it works.

So, when I saw this banana bread in the freezer, it gave me pause.

Should we eat it? Should I save it? Would Stella feel well enough to bring me another banana bread anytime soon?

If I've learned nothing so far from this situation, I've learned to seize the moment.

And so, we defrosted that banana bread and watched as it was devoured, as usual, in a split second by the hungry lot of them.

And I haven't given any more thought to the banana bread since that day, knowing that we probably wouldn't have any more for a long time, and just praying each day that Stella continues to feel well.

I don't know much about chemo, and I can't predict anything about what's coming, but Stella is looking damn good these days for a woman who's just been through round 1. She has much of her energy, her vibrant smile and her kick, and I'm relishing in watching her go.

So today, when I went to pick my son up at her house from his play date, Stella told me to hang on a second.

And out she ran...with a banana bread in hand.

I tried to protest. I told her that I couldn't believe SHE was cooking for ME. But there she was, with the warm, delicious bread in her hand, and a coy smile on her lips.

She mumbled something about having extra bananas in the house...

But I knew that the bread she was giving me represented so much more.

And I thanked her for every ounce of hope and slice of nourishment she was giving me.

P.S. - Stella - if you read this, please don't think you have to make us banana bread every week from now until kingdom come!