Contributed By: Yonatan Rouache
The sixth anniversary of my mom’s death is coming up soon on September 2. I use each anniversary as a time for reflection, so I wanted to consider all that happened and to share my story, my mom’s story.
I was only 15 years old when my parents sat my brothers and me down around our kitchen table for a family meeting. Although she looked and seemed totally fine, it turned out that my mom’s moderate, but persistent, stomach pain was colorectal cancer.
My older brother and I had some understanding of a cancer diagnosis’ implications. My two younger brothers were only 11 and 9 and didn’t really have an idea of what it meant.
At the time, she was only 40 years old and had a stage IV diagnosis, with a prognosis of 6 months to live.
When my parents immigrated to America from Israel, they started a bagel factory and worked together for many years. Thankfully, their business enabled my mom to stop working every day at the factory following her diagnosis. Instead, she was able to focus exclusively on her care–physical, mental, social, and emotional.
After going through a number of traditional treatment options, my mom managed to find and participate in experimental treatment after experimental treatment. Each cycle seemed to help her for a few months, or sometimes a year at a time, but she never felt comfortable in her remission. Despite the setbacks, she took advantage of every opportunity.
She began to read books on life, philosophy, theology, and morality. She became a source of wisdom and understanding for many friends. Members of our community have come forward sharing how they sought out her perspective and how helpful it was for making major life decisions. I still remember parenting advice she gave to a friend years ago and even used it with my own son recently.
In addition to surrounding herself with our family and providing ongoing support to all of us, she found the Alliance’s Blue Hope Nation and built a strong community that supported her and provided helpful treatment ideas throughout her colorectal cancer journey. All of these carried my mom through 15 more precious years.
In 2016, the cancer moved to her brain–inoperable–and she knew that the only thing for her to do was spend her remaining time with family and friends.
And, boy did we! My older brother and his fiancé moved back home from California. My uncle visited for those last two months. We spent evenings and weekends together. Since my brothers and I all swam competitively growing up, the Olympics had always been something our family loved to watch and we got to watch it together with my mom one final time. We were fortunate to be able to ask her all of our questions knowing that we wouldn’t have her support, wisdom, and kindness in the years to come. We swallowed up that time with a thirst that could not be satisfied.
During those final two months, I learned about the Colorectal Cancer Alliance from my mom. I knew, following her death, I wanted to donate in her memory to organizations she prioritized so I asked her where I should direct my philanthropy. I thought she was going to recommend very large organizations or ones that focused more generally on cancer. But, no.
She wanted me to give to the Alliance. She credited it with a supportive community that helped her throughout her 15-year battle with colorectal cancer. She found comfort in its members and loved being able to, in turn, support others. She learned about trials and treatments that helped prolong her life. My wife and I were specifically fortunate since it helped her live long enough to celebrate our wedding.
Since my first gifts to the Alliance, I have come to see the wisdom in giving to a cancer organization laser-focused on colorectal cancer.
I donate to the Alliance every April in honor of my mom, Orit. It lines up with her birthday, with the Jewish holiday of Passover (which was around the time our parents told us of her diagnosis), and the anniversary of a horrific car accident that I walked away from unscathed at the age of 23. All of them remind me of life, of how important it is and how tentative it can be.
I am in the fortunate position to enjoy life and support an organization that I believe brings life to many battling a disease that can feel like a death sentence. I hope my gift helps others avoid this awful disease and find a cure so that others can have outcomes different than my mother’s.
I am so proud that I support the Alliance. It provided so much to my mother during her colorectal cancer journey and I am so grateful to be able to help others going through a similarly difficult situation. My contributions mean so much to me. I give in my mother’s memory, to honor the values she taught me and lived by, and to continue her legacy for my three children: my two sons and my baby daughter, Orit.
To join Yonatan in his support of the Alliance, donate here.
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