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How One Phone Call Can Change Your Life

By Sema Reich

On January 1, 2017 my husband turns to me as I am ready to go teach.

He says, ”the doctor wants us to come in this morning.”

I respond: "Okay, I will finish teaching and we will go in.”

“No honey, the doctor wants to see us NOW.”

On the same day, the diagnosis - Plasma Cell Leukemia (advanced aggressive stage of Multiple Myeloma) and the beginning of heavy duty steroids.

The next week, full drug protocol begins. Oh, so it’s not just a stubborn, lingering, awful case of sinusitis.

Fast forward, and Protocol 1—-Autonomous Bone Marrow Transplant—-Protocol 2—-Protocol 3 which began last week November 2019.           

I am a fighter, a fierce believer in G-d ,and so is my incredible husband. We have been blessed with exceptional children and beautiful grandchildren and devoted friends and family who adore Mordechai.   

And as a caregiver, I have had to learn and continue to struggle with so many things. Some BIG stuff - like how long will my husband live? How do we make the most of the time we have together when he spends so much time withdrawn because of the effects of the drugs and mostly because of pain? How do I “encourage “ him and not “push” him? Do I encourage him to go outside or let him rest in his lounging chair? Do I prepare healthy food or just give him what he wants?

Do we risk going to the USA (where he serves as Rabbi on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) or be cautious and “smart” and stay back? Do I visit with the grandchildren or keep him company? Do we invite the children and grandchildren over more often (who always seem to have colds) or play it safe? How can I share my backache from (voluntary) gardening when he is suffering from excruciating pain? Should I share my words of spiritual support or will they annoy him him at this time?                                     

So I am learning. I am learning that my happiness is not (only) connected to circumstances, to my husband’s illness. I am learning to feed myself, to give to myself, to individuate, to take things day by day, hour by hour as I try to be a better wife, a better mother, a better grandmother...a happier person. I am learning to recapture myself, to discover and rediscover my strengths, to separate, to give space not only to my husband but to me. I am learning to recapture myself through yoga, learning, friends, our children and grandchildren, and through Thrivacious (thank you!).       

I am learning to stop using my husband ‘s battle with cancer as an excuse to not live life to its fullest. I go to my chugim when I can. I do the things I love when I can. Thank G-d, I am only with people I love, even when I am home “caregiving.” I am learning not to resent when my husband sits with his cellphone for umpteen hours a day. I am learning to initiate Simcha and not waiting for it from others. I am learning to appreciate and love my husband and myself more and more and more. I am learning to appreciate and am in awe of his courage and determination and will to live and contribute so much to so many that he exhibits daily.                         

I am a slow learner. Even a very slow learner, but I do feel progress thank G-d. As my husband Mordechai Menashe Ben Henya Ruchama says over and over ”l do believe strongly in prayer even when in excruciating pain. I believe that, while this is a bitter and painful experience, it is all for my (his) ultimate good.”               

I, Sema, don’t understand it, but I do believe it.

- Sema Reich

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