At the age of 62, Tali Ayal, a retired educator, active volunteer and grandmother, was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer. Now, eight years after treatment, she shares how blessed she feels to be on the other side of the helping hand that got her through the hardest four years of her life.
“I was an active, healthy woman with a zest for life. After retiring from teaching I volunteered at community centers, worked in my garden, traveled and had a nice social life. I never imagined that a routine exam would lead to a call that felt like the sky had fallen down on me. I was told that I had advanced breast cancer and that survival chances were slim, especially at my age.”
“The treatments were incredibly draining, especially when I was in radiation therapy. I went from enjoying nights out at the theater to barely being able to keep my eyes open long enough to watch a television show.”
“The trips to the hospital were daily for nearly several weeks; those were the hardest weeks of my four years in treatment. Luckily I had the support of the Israel Cancer Support Network (ICSN)’s caring volunteer drivers who took the weight off of worrying about traveling to and from the hospital by taxi—some of which I’m sure would have been drivers with little patience for an old lady and the sensitive needs of someone in such rigorous treatment. The ICSN volunteers were empathetic, kind and really understood what a taxing time this was in my life and the lives of my travel companions who were also going through cancer treatment.”
“My radiation therapy ended eight years ago. Since then I have gone back to doing the things I love with even more zest than I had pre-cancer, including my volunteer work. Today I volunteer for ICSN at their comfort corners, which are located in several oncology units, where along with warm drinks and fresh pastries we serve as a supportive nook for patients, family members and the staff who spend days, if not months and years in.”
“There is not a day since that I don’t recognize how blessed I am to be alive and cancer-free today. Sometimes I look at my six grandchildren who come with my children to Jerusalem every Friday night to have Shabbat dinner with me and pinch myself to make sure that spending this time with them isn’t a dream. I think they’re happy I survived too.”
Help support the life-changing work of the Israel Cancer Support Network at http://www.icsn.org.
By Tovi Vider