by Nissan Yakubov
“I don’t want to sugar coat it. You have leukemia and it doesn’t look good.”
These were not the words I was hoping to hear from Dr. Jonathan Canaani in September 2017 at Tel Shomer Hospital. Hospitalized, my hemoglobin was 5.5; the normal range is between 13.5-17. Diagnosed with Acute Myloid Leukemia, the hardest part for my wife and I was telling my mother and our six children.
After two rounds of chemotherapy, I was told to contact my brother or sister immediately as I needed a bone marrow transplant. “I don’t have a brother or sister,” I whispered. “I’m an only child.”
The doctors were pessimistic and said that finding a matching bone marrow donor is like 1 out of 15 million and time was not on my side. They also said that coming from a stranger there was no way there would be a 100% match. The range could be 50% to 90%. My body would be forced to accept the new bone marrow which would necessitate medication for the rest of my life. I felt totally helpless.
Friends, family and many Jewish communities got involved. Meals were setup, day and night hospital visits, money was raised, and prayers and Psalms read on my behalf.
This was not the first time I faced certain death. I was involved in deadly car accidents and walked away with a few bruises and scratches. Looking over my life I clearly saw how God answered my prayers. Did I start taking Him for granted? Was part of me running away from God?
Well, there was no way I could ignore Him now. But did I have it in me to pray for Divine mercy after experiencing my father dying and being taken away from me?
I recalled how much my father and I loved each other I felt the love I have for my wife and all my children, love that feels infinite, endless. And then it hit me: all that love doesn’t come close to the love God has for me. At that moment, lying in the hospital bed, I gently told God, “I am going to love you until my last breath, nothing you decree will ever change that,” and I fell into a deep, restful sleep.
A few days later, my wife called me and told me an organization called Ezer Metzion had found an 18-year-old bone marrow donor in Israel, a male, and it was a 100% DNA match. The doctors could not believe it.
I thought, is this really happening? This can’t be real; it’s too good to be true. Is God really going to grant such a wonderful thing? Maybe it was too early to be excited.
After one last round of chemo, I was ready to receive the stem cells from the donor that would grow into the bone marrow. It was to be given intravenously through my arm and it would take just 20 minutes.
It was December 2017, during the holiday of Hanukkah, a time for miracles, when the medical team told me that they usually collect 5 to 6 million stem cells, but they somehow managed to collect 9.5 million. “And there is more good news. Their quality is superb! On a scale of 1-10, these stem cells are a 10+! Do you realize how lucky you are?!”
“No, its not luck,” I said. “This is a gift from God, don’t you see it?”
One of the nurses said, “Yes, I do see it!” Her words brought tears to my eyes.
As an outpatient, my first bone marrow test was with Dr. Noga ShemTov. She told me she doesn’t know how much of the bone marrow my body will accept and how in some cases it may be rejected even if it’s a 100% match. “If there is even 1% trace of leukemia in my bone marrow, we’ll have to start the whole process over again.”
She also warned me that the new bone marrow may attack my organs and that there may be damage to the heart and kidneys from all the chemotherapy. She finally concluded, “Your hemoglobin will never be higher than 10 because it’s not your bone marrow.”
Thank God the results of the first test indicated my body accepted 100% of the new bone marrow. I was in complete remission; there was no trace of any leukemia and my hemoglobin was 11.25.
Three months later, the second bone marrow test revealed a continued 100% acceptance and I was still in complete remission. My hemoglobin averaged 12.25. I am presently still in complete remission and my hemoglobin averages 15.5. There were no complications, no organ damage, and no infections. Dr. ShemTov told me a lot of this had to do with, “Your friend in the sky.”
“He’s not just my Friend. He’s our Father,” I said.
I am still receiving small doses of chemo as a preventive measure since the leukemia I had has a very high risk of return. But everyone is optimistic and I am beyond grateful to God for His continuous loving miracles and thank Ezer Metzion for being God’s invaluable messenger.
My wife and I now realize how delicate and precious life truly is. We have learned the importance of love, laughter and acceptance. We always tell our kids, “Isn’t love the best thing to have?” We have also seriously changed our diet. Sip by sip, bite by bite, we are rebuilding our bodies. We have literally seen a miracle and never expected anything like this. Because no matter what happens, a life full of love is truly very simple and very beautiful.
credit to aish.com