Thursday, June 24, 2004

Today we had graduation from the Interseminary Institute (I got the name wrong in the last post) at City of Hope hospital in Duarte, CA. We're going back tomorrow for something special they won't tell us about, but the learning portion is done. Also, tomorrow, we have time to go visit patients one last time; I have to say "thank you" to a couple who have taught me a great deal about life in the bone marrow transplant unit, and even more about love.

I learned a lot of things this past two weeks. I learned that nearly every cancer patient is not a single individual but lives in an "ecology" of friends and family that also live with cancer, albeit not in their own bodies. I learned that bone marrow transplants are a last-ditch solution that sometimes actually cures. If you are interested in learning how you can give someone a new lease on life, check out the National Marrow Donor Program. And don't let old news stories you've read about marrow donation scare you; these days, all it takes to put you in the registry is a blood sample, and if you are a match with someone who needs a donation, it's done in much the same way as a blood transfusion. No surgery, very little inconvenience, even.

The rabbis tell us that when you save a life, you save a whole world. This is a big mitzvah that costs you nothing and is easy to do! (So click the link, already, and find out how you can be a part of this mitzvah!)

I learned how to be helpful to sick people and their families, and I'm looking forward to learning more, and teaching it, too.

For me, this program was a big scary risk. Like a lot of people, I have lost many family members and good friends to cancer. I have friends who are cancer survivors, and I know that some of them went through a very dark place in order to survive. I was scared silly of cancer, and the main reason I signed up for the program was that it frightened the daylights out of me to even think about two weeks at City of Hope.

I'm more comfortable with my discomfort, now. I'm not over being scared of cancer: one time this week I realized, as I was holding the hand of a woman who was drifting in and out of sleep, but who wanted me to stay with her and pray for a while, that drops of sweat were running down my face and my back, and splashing to the floor. I learned, though, that it is enormously satisfying to face my fears and be with people who are fighting for their lives. I learned so much from them, and from the people who take care of them, and my life is never going to be quite the same.

After graduation, our carpool ("the three little rabbis," one of our mentors called us)went to donate blood and be registered in the bone marrow registry. I left a pint at City of Hope today, along with a piece of my heart.

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