Eyal Turtz' Story
Eyal Turtz of Kibbutz Yagur is only nine years old, but the cancer that he contracted - and from which he was cured after long months of difficult treatments - transformed him into an emotionally mature child. There is no other way to understand the insight that he presents early in the interview: “Only people who have experienced cancer personally and who were cured, can better understand the value of life”, he says seriously, “Only people who suffered from cancer and who were cured understand that life cannot be taken for granted and that if you were given the gift of life, you have to take advantage and enjoy it as much as possible”.
It all started in February 2004. He didn't feel well for a few months, but the doctors he turned to, together with his parents, calmed them and said that it was nothing serious - something that would past as quickly as it appeared. Since the situation did not improve, his parents turned to a specialist and, after comprehensive tests, he was diagnosed with cancer.
Eyal recounts: “At first, we were very frightened. After all, this isn’t a simple disease. Naturally, I cried a little, as did my mother and father, but we eventually realized that this is the situation and that we have to deal with it. We reached the conclusion that we mustn’t give up and that, if I want to live, I must cope with the disease. And that’s just what I did.”
For many months, Eyal underwent a variety of treatments at the hemato-oncological ward of the Haifa Rambam Hospital. Eyal, as he describes it, did not break down. His spirit was greatly bolstered by the strong support from his family; his mother, father and two younger siblings - then 5 - the twins Yael and Yuval. His friends at school were also very helpful, never leaving him and coming to visit him together with the teachers.
“All in all, when I look back to that period, it wasn't so terrible,” he says, “I’m not saying that there weren't difficult days, that I didn't have breaking points, but in sum, it was relatively okay. Today, I can say, to every boy and girl in my situation, that ‘it can be overcome’. With faith, hope and an objective - the rest just falls into place”. One of the most difficult moments for him during the entire period was the stage in which he woke up one morning, looked into the mirror and found out that he was bald. “That is definitely unpleasant”, he says, “you look into the mirror and you see the change in you - and it's a bit scary. It leads you to bad thoughts. Suddenly you start thinking: ‘Wait a minute, will I be like this for the rest of my life’? But a few weeks later, when you understand that your hair will grow back and with everyone around you encouraging you and explaining that it is part of the normal process - you calm down and forget about it”.
That was when Eyal first met the “Larger Than Life” volunteers. At first, he admits their offers and ideas - joining the various organization activities - seemed impractical. “I thought that they wanted to make me feel better by talking about all kinds of future plans”, he remembers, “but they apparently meant every word they said”.
Eyal took part in the “Larger Than Life Smile Train” together with his family and experienced one of the most exciting Purims ever. “It was one long and ongoing celebration that started in the morning and ended in the late afternoon”, he explains. But all this, of course, was nothing compared to the exciting experiences that he - and 21 other “Larger Than Life” children - had on the “Dream Trip” to the West Coast of the United States; 2 magical weeks in Los Angeles, San Diego and Las Vegas.
“It was really a dream trip”, he says with great enthusiasm, “It’s something I will not forget for the rest of my life. To me, just like to the other kids who went on the trip, it was like a bonus for the difficult days. Beyond the exciting experiences, the trip also made me emotionally stronger. It gave me the power to go on struggling against the disease. After seeing all of the wonderful and exciting sights, I realized that there is something to live for, that life is wonderful”.
He adds: “Any activity outside of the ward, grants the children with the energy to go on fighting. You forget about radiation, therapy and the daily routine in the ward, and you go back to being a kid, just like everyone else. You go back - whether it's for an hour, a day or a week - to being a healthy child. You detach yourself from the disease, the problems and the fears - and you live like any other healthy child”.
Unlike many others who took part in the “Dream Trip” and who identify “Disneyland” as the high point of the trip, Eyal was most impressed by the visit to “Universal Studios”. The close encounter with the movie industry left him in total awe. “I was also very touched by the hospitality of the Zafrir family, a Jewish family in Los Angeles that had me over for Friday night dinner. There was something very special about that evening that I still have difficulty explaining. Anyway, it made me feel good”.
He closes: “Only today, after being cured and going back to a regular routine, including school, can I appreciate the Organization’s great contribution to children with cancer. I think that only someone who was sick and lucky enough to participate in one of their activities can truly appreciate this contribution. In any event, I will not forget them for many years to come”.
March 15, 2014
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