Fighting Cancer: The Wrong and Right Ways

Posted on August 8th, 2011

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On Sunday, I had a work meeting downtown. After the meeting, I got on the bus to go home. It was hot and a whole crowd of people were pushing to get on, knowing that most would not get a seat.

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An older woman avoided the crowd by getting on the bus from the side exit and sitting in a free seat. I happened to be one of the first ones on through the regular entrance. As I was moving back, she handed me her ticket and asked if I would give it to the driver so he would know she had paid.

I took her ticket and tried to make my way back to the driver. This was difficult because people were getting on who were intent on getting a seat. I said “excuse me” in my nicest Hebrew and explained that I needed a second to get up the the driver. But there was one guy who just didn’t care. Rather than letting me through, he pushed me and yelled “move!”

Something in me snapped. I have been walking around with a lot on anger lately. Usually, I can get it out when I run. That’s why some people have said they see me snarling when I go by. But on Sunday I woke up too late for a run.

So without thinking I pushed right back and yelled “F…. You,” right in this guy’s face. He responded by punching me in the chest.

I started losing control and pulled my fist back and for a second wanted nothing more in the world than to beat the crap out of him. In my mind, this guy was Stella’s cancer. I could finally do something to protect her instead of sitting around feeling helpless.

I heard people on the bus start to yell while others jumped out of the way. But mainly I was consumed with rage. I pulled my fist back and was about to throw the first punch I have thrown in a few decades.

But just then I saw an image of Stella frowning. I instantly knew that this was not going to work out well, and she would not have appreciated bailing me out of jail the day before chemo.

No matter how rude this guy was, he was not my real enemy. He was just a guy, not cancer. I dropped my fist and let him pass by. (He did get an earful from the irate older woman who I was helping.) Once again the feeling of helplessness returned.

Stella and Ruth

Today Stella had her second chemo. She was excited to be there because unlike getting into fights on a bus, getting anti-cancer medicine pumped into your body is really fighting cancer. We watched together as the first one, which has a bright red color, dripped from the IV bag into her arm and we both thought of more commandos jumping into the battle. They are outnumbered, for sure. But Stella is the General and she remains confident that the chemo commandos will get the job done.

The other thing that made things a bit better today was that during chemo, I downloaded and started reading this book called “Anti-Cancer,” on Stella’s new iPad. The author, a physician himself who was diagnosed with brain cancer, makes a few fascinating observations. One of them is that all the frightening statistics include everyone with the same condition. They do not differentiate those who have mentally given up with those who are actively fighting back by keeping a positive attitude, eating right, exercising, and supported by a strong group of family and friends.

What he found was that a person’s chances were directly related to the above. While there are no guarantees, one stands a much better chance by taking positive action.

So while Stella would NEVER use a cuss work or punch out a rude guy on a bus, that is exactly what she is doing to this cancer that won’t “get out of the way.” Unlike me, she is reaching back and about to cold cock that cancer right in its face.

As the book says, the support of a circle of those who love you is as important as the chemicals. So consider this the virtual IV. Send us your e-mails and comments, even — and we really mean this — even if you are not sure what to say. If Stella is in your thoughts and prayers, let her know.

Thank you from both of us.

Yarden and Stella


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  1. Sari says:

    Well said, as usual. Stella is ALWAYS in my thoughts…and last week, in Rockville, MD, when I introduced myself to people in a strange new shul, several people asked me if I knew you guys – there is no question in my mind that the entire area down there has you in their thoughts and prayers as well. I suspect it’s not just the chemo commanders that are hard at work, but an army of people praying on Stella’s behalf. Hopefully this hugely large army will succeed!

  2. Miriam Poch says:

    I am constantly thinking about you. And davening. And today I had the zechus of bneing able to actually do sosmething for you. I am not sure it’s the right thing to say Erev Tisha B’Av, but I hope you enjoy the dinner.

    Like Yarden said, it’s frustrating when you want to do something, but you don’t know waht to do. We are praying for you. Refuah shlaima. Miriam.

  3. Josh says:

    We are constantly thinking of you all! Kol haKavode for not popping that guy in the nose! Taking the high road is always a better option. Thats what “they” say anyway.
    Be well and know we are all pulling for you.

    The Jersey Frankls

  4. Bill Landau says:

    Indeed, the Potomac area has got a lot of people thinking of, and praying for, Stella. I was very pleased a couple of weeks ago when the Beth Sholom office sent out an email letting people know that Miriam Singer at YIEIP was coordinating those who wanted to say Tehillim for Stella. It truly is a community-wide effort.

    As always, our love and our prayers are with you.

    Bill & Gail

  5. Iris says:

    Stella is always in my thoughts and prayers and has helped me in a bigger way–i have internalized her positive attitude and have happily let go of complainng about much. Yarden, one of those big wobbly clown blow-ups from a toy store may do the trick for you!
    Love, Iris

  6. Carla says:

    Love, hugs and prayers from Toms River, NJ…. While you are writing your thoughts and what is happening you are making an impact on others. I am going to get that book for someone I know. I like what the doctor is saying and it is so true. OUr love to all of you. You are always in our hearts.

  7. Bracha says:

    I got to your blog through some other blogs. Your writing is wonderful because it’s so real. I daven for Stella’s refuah shlema every day. It is obvious that you have a fantastic circle of friends and neighbors – but I hope it helps to know that people who don’t know you also care very much about Stella and your whole family!

  8. Genendy says:

    Hi guys!
    We were away, but I was thinking about you and Stella the whole time. Before we left we had an ‘Amen’ party in the Gan as a zechut for a refuah shelaima for Stella. Each person in the room said a bracha on each kind of food and everyone answered “amen” to each bracha. There was something very special about three and four year old children proudly saying their brachot right along with the adults. I could feel all of the positive energy flowing your way as everyone said Stella’s name for a refuah shelaima.

  9. Rev. Rocky says:

    There is never a day nor night that you aren’t in our thoughts and prayers. We know that God is holding you in the palm of His hand and that he has awesome plans for you and your family. Jordan, you did the right thing by not punching that sap in the nose. He probably seserved it but perhaps he learned a lesson and will be more polite the next time he gets on a bus. Keep the positive attitude and know that you are surrounded by people who love and care for you.

    Rev. Rocky & Carol & Cameron,
    Drumright, U.S.A…………………

  10. Minka goldstein says:

    May the chemo army annihilate the cancer cells. May their victory be total and complete. In shul here in San Francisco I Davened for Stella during the misheberechs, and I know hashem heard me saying that he cannot taker her from her husband and children at a time when they need her soooooo much, and I also informed him in case he didn’t know that the entire jewish world needs stell so much…her neshama is so unique and precious, and her way of giving is unique and an example for all of us as to how to behave.
    I of course went on and on to talk to him as I often do.

  11. Ruth says:

    Stella, the prayers that come from my heart to HaShem, the prayers with focus and intensity, are for your refua. I imagine them soaring up to the heavens with the thousands of other prayers for your complete refua. We stand behind you, next to you, in front of you. You are surrounded by love and support!

  12. rachel himelstein says:

    its so inspiring on tisha be’av to hear how so many many people are being brought even closer and are verbalising in such a united way such feelings of love and warmth. its all because of stella and yarden and their beautiful family. this is a difficult time for am yisrael but you guys are the light that remind us of the right way to behave and connect. may we all grow posotively in understanding and friendship and shrink those negative cells out of existence.

  13. Moishe Lewack says:

    I know it’s Tisha B’Av in Neve Daniel, but I too, want to say Kol Hakavod for your restraint. By maintaining your strength, you have saved the best of yourself for the Cancer battlefield and Stella.

    Have an easy fast! Pam and I have been thinking and davening for you too.

    Keep up the inspirational posts. I am in awe of both of you.

    Regards, Moishe

  14. Rebekah says:

    Excellent piece and expression of how some people try to fight others when they really mean to fight something evil. Kol Ha Kavod. I am praying for Stella.

  15. Stephanie Frumkin says:

    Thinking of and praying for you both.
    Stephanie and family

  16. Karen says:

    You asked people to let Stella know that we’re thinking of her — so I am. I’m a neighbor from a neighboring yishuv, although I don’t think we’ve met, heard about you guys from Ruti. You’re in my prayers. And get a punching bag, it might be very therapeutic.

  17. Deborah Krebs says:

    I am Ruti’s cousin living in Ottawa, Canada. I wish you continued strength in your fight against cancer. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

  18. Dean G says:

    I’ve got Stella’s name on my lips three times a day, and best wishes for her recovery in my mind constantly. Thanks for sharing your story about the guy on the bus. Our basement gym has a punching bag, and many an evening I’ve let loose on someone at work, or on some other person/issue bugging me. But you and Stella have a much bigger battle facing you. So just know that your virtual army of friends around the globe and their prayers really isn’t so virtual. God willing, all of our prayers, good wishes and tzedaka given in Stella’s name will have a real impact on her cancer, and will help you win this battle. Thinking of you!

  19. Gal says:

    You guys don’t know me, but I have been reading here since Romi shared your blog with me. Romi and I are friends from college, and we have been emailing lately about hope and denial and faith and life’s challenges. I’ve been following your words regularly, and sending Stella so much love and light and prayers from Cincinnati, OH. I’ve been reading silently for a while, but wanted to let you know now that it is an honor and a joy to be contributing, hopefully, to Stella’s IV of healing. You are all held by a larger family than you know. Sending love.

  20. Sharon Baratt says:

    My dearest friends, Stella & Yasrden,

    Congratulations on maintaining management over your anger, Yarden. You were doing a mitzvah for an elderly woman; she, in turn, verbally let the unique individual (what’s the word for opposite of mentch?) have it. I agree with Karen – add a punching bag to your running – just picture those lousy cancer cells on it!

    Stella – keep knocking those bad guys on their collective tushies! Jackie & I are keeping you all in our thoughts and prayers. Much love to you and your whole family. You’re going to beat this thing!

  21. Annick Abrams says:

    I didn’t read all the comments tonight, but am I among many who loved that Stella’s frown kept you in check. the connection you have with each other is tangible even i can feel it. maybe Stella’s frown or smile will help me handle something a little better. i have never had the release of punching someone, but i’ve wanted to. maybe it was deflating to put the fist down? i guess so. doing the right thing isn’t always exhilarating, it’s just the right thing.

    since your post, Stella began to feel real lousy. i hope it’s the chemo doing what it needs to and that she’ll feel better after this treatment round. i don’t read tehilim, but i pray all the time in my own way and Stella is now part of my day.

    love from the Abrams’

  22. yael says:

    I’m thinking and praying for you daily!

    looking forward to seeing you soon – I return B”H to ND tomorrow night


  23. Rev. Rocky says:

    God tenderly invites us to believe that He is our true Father and that we are His true children, so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask Him as dear children ask their earthly father.

    Let us then approach the throne of grace and confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16

    We continue to lift you in prayer that you might find a peace and confidence that only God can give. May God’s grace fill your days and nights with complete assurance that He is beside you always.

    Keep the positive attitude and know that there are many prayers being prayed on your behalf. God loves you and He would never abandone you.

    Rev. Rocky & Carol & Cameron
    Drumright, U.S.A.

  24. Avigail Stern says:

    We are thinking of you all the time- while getting through the day and while lying in bed at night.. always in my heart and praying you have a full and speedy refuah shleima. Stella- when you popped by the other shabbat, i was so touched that i got some minutes to myself with you in the middle of all this. You are truly an inspiration for everyone around you- your smile stays in my mind- whenever i think of u , i see you with that pure and true smile- it looks so real that smile- it should only just always feel so real to you.

    Eli had a great time with Yedidya in camp Sababa b”h- look at the pictures Debbie sent- they b”h really look like they had a blast!
    We love you and look forward to seeing you back on your walks soon be”h!

  25. kira says:

    I kinda was hoping this article read differently and you whammed into the guy with a huge hug that overcame him in a different way than an attack-punch … which is what we all hope our t’fillot do with the cancer: we can’t fight it like chemo, but we can shock and overwhelm it with our love.