A charity that’s my cup of Chai

Even the thought of cancer keeps me awake at night. More power to those who confront the disease daily

By Tracy-Ann Oberman, December 10, 2009

I have always been a bit of a hypochondriac. It’s not just a cold it’s ’FLU; I haven’t just put on a few pounds in weight, it’s a THYROID problem; it’s not just a headache, it’s a pulsating, hideous MIGRAINE; no, worse than that, it’s a BRAIN TUMOUR.

Since having my daughter, I am worse than ever. I lie in bed at night in a cold sweat, panicking about what the first signs of CANCER of the leg/mouth/ breast/career might be. Just writing the word cancer makes me nervous. It is one of those words like Auschwitz and Nazi that is visceral.

It’s one of those words that brings on paralysis, dry mouth, makes the head pound whilst simultaneously provoking a strong desire to run away.

This may sound a tad trite, like I’m trying to eke out some comedy, but I, like so many of you, have been touched by cancer, lost young and old, friends and family alike, and I know that it’s no laughing matter.

I try not to think about it too much.

Chai will never let anyone be alone. They will be the friend that will take you to and from the treatments, they will be the shoulder to cry on.

But last week I was invited to an evening at Chai Cancer Care in Hendon to hear about how cancer has touched so many people and how Chai has helped.

Chai Cancer Care is the Jewish community’s support organisation. It provides a range of therapies, educational programmes, support groups and professional advice and care.

Louise Hager spoke very movingly about how her mother founded Chai: “When my mother was diagnosed with cancer, my father told us that we must keep it a secret, keep it within the family.” Chai never wants anyone to feel alone.

The evening made me realise that firstly, cancer is indiscriminate. Secondly, no one likes to be a victim and Chai sees that often people who have the illness are the “strong ones” who cannot accept that they may now need help. No one wants the pity and the sighs.

Thirdly, and it is something I have seen with my own eyes, that cancer sufferers are bombarded with the responsibility to be “positive and cheerful” in the face of a horrifying time.

Chai beautifully tackles all of this head on. It’s a bright cheerful place.

As one incredible, funny and intelligent woman, Bella, put it: “I was the capable one , I told people how to sort their lives out and here I was in need of help. I didn’t want it. Chai was the last place I thought I’d go. But I turned up one day and sobbed for an hour with a counsellor. Then I had a cup of tea.”

Chai will never let anyone be alone. They will be the friend that will take you to and from the treatments, they will be the shoulder to cry on, they will give you all the legal and medical advice you need, they will offer the quiet space to just “be” or a place to have a massage or if you are too sick to travel will bring it to your home.

And I think that is incredible. If you or anyone you know has been touched by cancer, please call Chai. They are an incredible resource for our community.

You can call them on 020 8202 2211; or telephone the helpline (which is free and confidential) on 0808 808 4567.

Last updated: 4:10pm, December 10 2009


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