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How to Cope When There’s No Hope

Eliezer Shulman

Chani Weinroth is just 31 years old, but for the last five years she’s lived with the knowledge that her days are numbered. What does she tell her children? How does she make it through the day’s “normal” tasks? How does she pull herself together as a wife and a mother when she knows the cancer living inside her is a ticking time bomb?

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

The master clock in the Weinroth living room ticks on and on like a heartbeat. For most of us, it’s such a natural sound, we don’t even pay attention as it blends into the rhythm of everyday life. For Chani Weinroth, though, each tick is another second closer to death. This Erev Pesach, Chani told her children the secret she’d kept from them for the past five years: she has cancer, and there’s no cure. Ten-year-old Shira, nine-year-old Shlomo, and seven-year-old Naomi had one question. Would their mother die? “Probably,” she answered. Chani, 31, has been living with the knowledge that a slow, insidious, and incurable cancer has been festering in her internal organs. She’s not ready to say goodbye yet, but she knows her days are numbered, and felt it was time for full disclosure. Besides, she’s written a book (in Hebrew, not yet translated) about waking up every morning on the cusp of death. In the Land of Life: Charting a New Course — edited by acclaimed author Chaim Walder — is a sometimes shocking, often unnerving, but brutally honest account of a young mother facing all the ramifications of her mortality. To be sure, Chani’s children haven’t been oblivious over the last five years. They know their mother is very strict about her health, that sometimes she doesn’t feel well, and that many of her friends have lost their hair and some have died. And children have their own way of processing catastrophic information. Chani reviews a conversation she overheard with her son Shlomo and his friend Michoel. “They were in our living room on Pesach playing mini ping-pong, when Shlomo said to his friend, ‘Did you know that my mother has cancer?’ “Michoel said, as he hit the ball back, ‘Really?’ “Shlomo hit the ball back and said, ‘Yes, but the cancer is asleep.’ “Michoel hit it and said, ‘Oh.’ “Then Shlomo hit the ball and said, ‘But it can wake up.’ “Then they missed the ball, and it rolled under the couch.”

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