Kayaks Over Chemo

Posted on April 16th, 2012

As we sit here once again on the seventh floor of Shaare Zedek, last week seems like a dream.

I planned the trip months ago with the full knowledge that our chances of actually getting away for a family vacation were like…. were like the chances of a football team that barely made the playoffs winning the Super Bowl.

But I also knew that the opportunity to get away with the family was just as important as the nasty chemotherapy, and a lot more fun.  So we planned….. and hoped.

And it happened.

We spent the week at Metulla, a small town that is on the border with Lebanon. (Yeah — to my non-Israeli friends: This is what we call getting away to a nice quite spot.) Now some people enjoy vacations where all they do is sit around reading a book and scheduling a massage. But that would not be the Frankls.

So we went for walks…..hikes……..ice skating!……cycling!!….. and… kayaking!!!!!!  Not only was this very important medicine for Stella, but it was also a joy for the rest of us to be able to do things with her. For all the hours Stella has had to lay in bed, we made up for them with a vacation that could tire a marathon runner out.

We saw raging waterfalls and mountains capped with snow. Every day, we woke and looked out on a beautiful view of the Golan Heights. But the best views of all to me were the views of my kids smiling and having fun. When I saw the picture to the right, I realized that it was the first time I saw my eldest smile that I could remember. (He had just set a record on the Canada Center basketball game.)

The past nine months (I know) there has not always been stuff to smile about. Even when things seem to be heading in the right direction, the fear that things could change is always out there, lurking in the corners and hiding in the dark. It’s hard to go about your day to day business, whether it’s work, school, or just simple errands with this terrifying thought keeping just out of sight. It’s hard on Stella, it’s hard on the kids, it’s hard on our friends. Hell, it’s just plain hard.

But I think when we packed up our suitcases, we brought the swim suits and sun block and left the cancer behind. That uninvited guest did not accompany us on our walks, our meals, and not surprisingly, the coward stayed far away from the rapids. Instead of navigating hospital corridors, we were navigating national parks. Instead of watching a slow IV drip, we saw rushing water cascading down from the mountains.

We divided into two groups of three for the kayaks. Two people would paddle while the third just hung on. At first I was nervous about Stella just going along, but when I saw that she was actually wielding a paddle, it changed my usual worried frown into a smile. (Note: Next time bring a water-proof camera.)

One morning I woke up very early and went out for a run along the border with Lebanon (that just sounds cool.) I was astonished by how beautiful the area is. There is an actual national park hike there and since they frown upon arrest anyone who would be foolish enough to climb over the gate and run along the path before it opens in the morning, I went back and got everyone and returned at a normal hour.

We were greeted by four amazing waterfalls that were so fantastic they chased all other thoughts away. (This is called Nachal Ayyun. The river starts behind Metula and finishes on the road between Metula and Kiryat Shemona. It’s a one-way hike so unless you actually enjoy running to get a car, bring two cars and leave one at the end.)

So we all got a break in every sense of the word.

So what now?

I really wish I knew. I am writing this again from the chemo room where Stella is fighting her way through yet another treatment. We probably won’t know for a little while what we need to do next. But it is a real possibility that this will be the last chemo, at least for a very long time.

So we will not focus on a return to chemotherapy. We will instead dream of the future. Complete with hiking, riding, and a little more kayaking in the Golan Heights.

Make every day count.


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  1. libby anfinsen says:

    Sounds idyllic……Stella is turning out to be more of a heroine than the book I loaned her about the astounding Australian venture of the doc and the aborigenies.
    Here’s to a successful #9……and more smiles…..libby Anfinsen

  2. Nancy Ely says:

    We hiked Nachal Ayyun! We must have similar pics! We should have coordinated! Now will get back to baking challahs for Shabbat in Stella’s zchut. Speak to you soon . . . XO

  3. Jill Shames says:

    What a fantastic account of a wonderful vacation! May it be one of many, many, MANY reasons to smile, to walk, to run, to paddle, to hope, to dream and just to live.

    Tzuriya Cochevet Bat Sarah, you are paddling along in my tefillot. It may not feel like heroism—- but it is.

  4. rutimizrachi says:

    Looking forward to more travelogue posts like this one. You guys are THE BOMB!!! You’re right. Those smiles are worth their weight in diamonds. Thank you for sharing, and lifting our spirits.

  5. Rev. Rocky says:

    My tears of joy I shed as I read your last post was enough for you guys to take at least one more Kayak trip You guys look great and all the pictures were just icing on the cake. Let us all pray that this is the last chemo ever and that all traces of your horrible horrible disease is gone for ever. Thank you Jordan for sharing the life of the Frankl family with all of us who love you guys so very much. May God continue to heal you physically, mentally and emotionally from all that you have gone through.

    Peace & Blessings,
    Rocky & Carol & Cameron……………………..
    From Drumright, U.S.A.

  6. Pam & Moishe Lewack says:

    Shalom Yarden & Stella (Tzuriya Cochevet):

    Wow! You guys (the Frankl family) are awesome! Everyone looks wonderful and are an inspiration to us all.

    Pam and I are hoping that your next Blog Entry is V for Victory!

    Regards Moishe and Pam
    from Frederick, MD

  7. rachel himelstein says:

    cant wait to hear more about this amazing trip..to see Stella smiling with your wonderful family. Boosting the batteries for the rest of this journey!

  8. Ahuva Engel says:

    Love the picture of your remarkable family. You’ve done so much for us all. Miss you all and we will keep davening

  9. Paul Goldstein says:

    Smiles. Great picture of Max! We look forward to good news.

  10. Linda says:

    Gorgeous post, gorgeous family, gorgeous stella – nothing more healing than happy kids and the waterfalls of northern israel.

  11. Lauren Lieberman says:

    Thank you for the beautiful photos and updates. Love you Stella!