May 8, 2022, Israel
Today is Mother's Day in the USA (but not in Israel)
I spent the day in my mother's home, now nearly empty of her belongings; her furniture that she carefully picked out, her paintings that she and my father purchased together, everything that makes a house a home, now gone. I sat there with my cousin, chatting, talking about life. And I felt my mother was there with us. How she loved to have visitors, how she would have loved this visit.
As I sat in the living room, now nearly empty, I imagined her in the kitchen, or on the phone, when she was well enough to get around on her own. And I recall talking with her about a recent doctor's visit I had. As she was suffering from cancer and found it difficult to get out of the house I usually went to the doctor in her place, sometimes with my brother, and was a proxy for her appointment.
I recall coming home and telling her, Mom, Dr. Margolis said he is amazed at your resilience and recovery. He said that he was discussing this with his staff and they had all agreed, "if we were betting men, we would have lost a fortune on Mrs. Katz".
Oh how this made mom so happy. She told anyone who was wiling to listen. Sometimes she would say, "Moshie, what were the Doctors' exact words?" and she would continue, the doctor said no one expected such a recovery, if they were betting men they would have lost a fortune.
She felt so proud, to be a fighter, to have beaten the odds.
Cancer is a scary word, a scary concept and a scary disease, the "Big C" that no one wants to hear about. When we heard this horrible diagnosis, our reaction was, we will fight back, we have been through this before, we will beat his thing. We will not give up.
Many told us, she will have 3 months to live, if you are lucky. She fought back for nearly 23 months, and every day was precious. Every day was a gift. From early January 2020 to November 24, 2021 when she breathed her last on Mt. Scopus in Jerusalem and returned her soul to our Creator and left her tiny battle worn body behind, she fought a fierce battle. She wanted to live. When no one held out hope, she wanted to live. She wanted to continue chemotherapy treatment even when she was too weak to sit up. I asked her, Mom, do you want to skip it this week? "No! She replied, I want to get over with this as soon as possible, I don't want to miss any treatments".
She refused to accept the inevitability of death, she lived her life, she looked forward to the visits from her children and the expected birth of another great granddaughter.
We never accepted defeat.
They say Hope is a good thing, never accept Fate, always have Hope. and today as I was sitting in her house, having coffee with my dear cousin, I imagined her next to me, saying... the doctors said if they were betting men....and I thought of the classic Jean Claude Van Damme movie, Lion Heart, where he is lying on the floor, he is down and out and his manager tells him, stay down, don't get up, there is no need to fight. I bet against you on this one, stay down and we lose the fight but we win the bet. I put our money on the other guy, stay down, I bet for you to lose.
And the fighter is lying on the floor, bruised and bloodied but he lifts up his head and calmly says, Wrong Bet!
You bet against me, you bet that I was going to lose, well, Wrong Bet! because I am not giving up, I will continue to fight as long as I can.
My mother was advised a long time ago to discontinue the Chemo treatment. I was told, for this sort of aggressive treatment you need two things, to be young and to be a fighter, your mother is neither.
But my mother surprised them, wrong bet. Frail and weak at 86.5 years she never gave up the fight. She had hope. HOPE. and Hope is a good thing.
Krav Maga, martial arts, are about hope, and empowerment, it is about teaching people not to give up the fight, not to say, I am small, I am weak, I am old, I am handicapped, I cannot prevail over the aggressive attacker. We believe that each and everyone of us plays a part in our own defense, physical and spiritual. There is an untapped power inside of us. There are forces we do not fully yet comprehend. The inner spirit has beaten the doctors' expectations many times.
The patient must not be a passive recipient of the kindness of others, the patient must be a fighter; believe, have Hope, fight back from inside. Tell the world, if you betted against me, it was the Wrong Bet.
When we finally told my mother that she had cancer, that was considered terminal, incurable, hopeless cancer, she was calm. I told her, Mom, we will beat this thing.
In her memory, in her honor, let's fight back against cancer, in every way we can. We are all part of the team. Every member of the hospital staff is a member of the team, it is not only the oncologist. It is the cleaning lady who smiles and says, God bless you, you will pull through. It is the other patients, the exuberant Moshe Klein who said Mrs. Katz you will have a full recovery with God's help. It is the guy working at the coffee shop, who says, enjoy the drink in good health and tell your mom to enjoy the hot chocolate. It is the kind orderlies, the angelic nurses, the doctors, the consultants, the volunteers who visit the patients, the young men who come on Shabbat to provide religious services, the young people who come by and play music for the patients. ALL of them, all of us are part of the effort. Fight back, never give up the fight. Every moment of life is precious.