Chantal C. is the eternal optimist. From the day she and her husband Yaakov landed in Israel and moved to their Beit Shemesh home her hope, her plan was that they would raise their children here in happiness. They would handle any hurdle or obstacle that came their way. But despite her optimism, it wasn’t to be. Yaakov’s disability and breathing problems prevented him from holding down a full time job. Chantal worked for hours on end at low paying jobs, barely able to cover their bills. The family lived in poor conditions-struggling to buy food, unable to provide their children with new clothing-but always with hope that at some point because of her work and determination things would improve. Steadily, despite Chantal’s hard work, perseverance and bright outlook their debt continued to grow.
Chantal never despaired, though. She never gave up hope that things would improve and she never gave up, period. Determined to do the best she could to keep her family afloat, she kept working as hard as possible, employed full time as a dishwasher for a caterer-often starting at 5:00 a.m. and continuing until late hours of the day. Sometimes she even worked at night, too. It wasn’t until this past September that she was forced to stop.
Right before Rosh Hashana Chantal began having odd pains in her side and other strange health issues. At first she hesitated to visit the doctor, as that would take her away from work, away from doing her best to care for her family. But once the pains lingered and intensified, she went for her appointment.
The grim CT results showed tumors, many of them, in her lungs, in her liver and in her intestines. Chantal had apparently been sick for quite some time without knowing it. Never one to complain, even had she suffered discomfort she would not have mentioned it to anyone. She was not daunted by her news, however. After an initial hospitalization (which she dreaded because it took her away from her job) radiation and chemotherapy appointments were scheduled. Ever the optimist, she accepts they are just one more thing she will have to deal with and she has started the sessions.
Unfortunately the already dire situation in her home has now grown worse. The poverty is compounded by Chantal’s days of lost income. Though Yaakov takes every opportunity to bring in income for his family, Yaakov can’t hold a job for more than about two weeks, as employers he’s had won’t keep someone who isn’t physically stable and can barely get up a few steps to get to work. The debt is overwhelming and the poverty is unimaginable. Chantal can’t even afford to travel to her chemotherapy appointments. She has reluctantly had to borrow money from a friend for transportation, but doesn’t know for how much longer she will be able to do so. Her 14 year old daughter hasn’t gone to school in months, not because she is incapable of learning but because her parents owe too much money to the school. The living conditions in the home are frightening, there are no doors on any of the rooms. Most people would not use their bathroom. When our representative visited their home there was only one jar of olives in the refrigerator and on a recent Shabbos their meal consisted of tuna from a can.
But if you speak to Chantal (Simcha bat Chava), if you spend time with her, you will only see a bright-eyed woman full of life, strength and joy (as she is aptly named). Someone who must keep moving forward. The situation in the home is alarming, her health is in grave danger, yet Chantal’s main worry right now is once again not for herself, but for her children, including getting her daughter back in school. She wants so badly to provide for her family’s most basic necessities but without her small income her situation is worse than ever.
We could not hear about Chantal’s heartbreaking story without trying to help her and her family. As we don’t know what her future holds, we must collect $7,200 as soon as possible. With it we can allay some of her worry by getting her daughter back in school, putting proper food on the family’s Shabbos table and covering transportation costs so she can continue her chemotherapy treatments.
Though Chantal’s prognosis is grim, her inner strength and optimistic outlook drive her to work through her illness. She says “Thank G-d I have optimism. I don’t own a lot, but my optimism? No one can take that from me.” It is up to us to help her reach her optimistic goals of regaining her health and lovingly caring for her family.