“And Twice the Marrow of Her Bones”

by Brian on October 13, 2010

in A Parent in Israel

Timora Avitzour, z'l

UPDATE: Sara has renewed posting to her blog under the name “Loving, Losing and Living.” She will be focusing in particular on the theme of resilience – how we go on in the face even of unspeakable tragedy.

Last week I attended a book launch and reading by Sara Avitzour, a friend who has written a moving memoir of her daughter Timora who died of cancer when she was a teenager in 2001.

Timora was first diagnosed with cancer when she was just 12, in 1996. Her battle to fight off what Israelis euphemistically call “the illness” spanned two bone marrow transplants, one remission and several rounds of chemotherapy.

In the last year and a half of Timora’s life, as questions about her medical condition and treatment began inundating the family, her mother started emailing out regular updates. Those electronic messages – along with a subsequent blog that Sara kept – became the basis for a book: “And Twice the Marrow of Her Bones: A Mother’s Memoir” – which was recently published by Zmanma Press.

During the reading Sunday night, Sara explained how, when someone is sick with cancer, well-wishers come out of the wood work with a never-ending stream of “guaranteed” cures. The strangest: a man who came up to Timora and Sara in the mall and assured them that if Timora simply fasted for two weeks straight, her cancer would be gone. The man apparently didn’t notice that Timora was already so thin that such a course of treatment would be highly dangerous.

Sara had no complaints – at least not major ones – about the medical care her daughter received at Jerusalem’s Hadassah Hospital. Indeed, after her death, Sara joined the system herself, changing careers and retraining to become a psychotherapist. She praised Timora’s physician – a Professor Cividalli – as exemplary. He sadly also suffered from cancer and died a year after Timora.

The book also includes some of the poetry Timora – a gifted writer – composed during her long illness, which Sara translated from the original Hebrew. Here is the last poem she ever wrote:

And why.
Why live.
Fight, struggle.
Why pull and pull like a wretched, miserable beast –
For what.
In loneliness, in darkness, in the cold.
How much have I asked, and how much will I ask
And I am not the only one
Not only when sorrow blinds the eyes like a veil of tears.
But within me I know
And sometimes, like a flame
The answer blazes before me –

“And Twice the Marrow of Her Bones” is a heartfelt, honest, illuminating and ultimately uplifting book, as one follows a family’s steadfast refusal to give up, even in light of crushing odds. It’s available from the publisher and, in the near future, in Jewish bookstores.

I first wrote about Timora on the Israelity blog.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Patricia Diaz October 13, 2010 at 11:17 pm

Thanks, Brian. I am interested in reading this, being that I was with my sister during the last year of her battle with breast cancer. It’s amazing, the strength one can muster up when facing something like this. Thanks for making us aware of this book.

2 jody blum October 14, 2010 at 2:41 am

Wish I could’ve been at the reading so glad you wrote it up so beautifully. I met and sat with Timora and Sara at a Yakar event as she was fighting her illness. I was taken by her beauty and was happy to have had that brief interaction with such a strong young woman.

3 Sara Avitzour January 5, 2011 at 9:11 pm

I just wanted to let you know that I’ve renewed my blog under a new name (but with the same url: http://fiveyearslater.blogspot.com), “Loving, Losing, and Living.” I’ll be developing the themes that I wrote about both in the original blog and in “And Twice the Marrow of Her Bones,” especially that of resilience – how we go on in the face even of unspeakable tragedy.

Patricia, if you’re in Israel, the book should soon be available at Steimatzky and Tzommet Sefarim. If you’re in the States you can order it on Amazon, through my site.

4 Sara Avitzour January 5, 2011 at 9:22 pm

Sorry, the link should be http://fiveyearslater.blogspot.com/.

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