Adi Shachar Gebzo (42) was diagnosed with cancer three times. Her first diagnosis was when she was only 23 years old and after two years she was told that her disease had returned. The third time she received the devastating news was during her pregnancy with her third child. This time the cancer had spread and she has become terminally ill.
“At 20, I was working to save money, going abroad for a long post-military tour of duty, and feeling invincible,” she says, adding that cancer was the last thing on her mind. “Then I was diagnosed with cancer in my thyroid gland. I had surgery to remove half of the gland, and a year later doctors removed the other half. I was naive and followed the doctors advice. I was a hero .”
Gebzo, who is married and the mother of three children aged 8, 6 and 3, talks to Ynet from her hospital bed where she is being treated for a bacterial infection in her blood. She is currently waiting for a test to show if the treatments she has received have helped, or if she needs to “take a different path,” as she puts it.
Years after recovering from thyroid cancer, Gebso was diagnosed with a malignancy in her breasts. “I had a suspicious spot and they removed 21 lymph nodes from my armpit,” she says. “I received treatments and complimented them with traditional Chinese medicine, which reduced about 60-70% of the side effects.” That even led her to quit her job and study Chinese medicine.
Even during periods of illness, Gebzo remained active and energetic. Among other things, she organized two charity events that raised money for trips abroad for recovering patients. She continued to be the life of the party, among her friends.
“After breast cancer, I was completely healthy for 12-13 years, I didn’t even take Advil, says Gezbo. “I was living the dream. I met Tal and we moved to the kibbutz where he grew up. We had two kids because I was fighting to be a mom after the oncologist warned me about it.”
She remembers how hard it was when her doctors said, “You want to be a mother, and this is a free country, but your child will bury you when he or she is one year old, because you are going to die.” That almost broke her and she barely left her house three months after those words.
During the ninth week of her third pregnancy, Gezbo began to feel severe pain in her pelvic area. “It was the beginning of the COVID pandemic, we were all at home. The pain was severe, I couldn’t walk upright, I couldn’t even sleep,” she says. I, treating others and not even taking a pill for headaches, found myself writhing in pain. They told me it was pelvic expansion, which is what happens during pregnancy.”
But despite the pandemic, Gezbo’s doctor referred her to a specialist who performed an MRI. “The doctor called me and told me there were nodules in the lymph nodes and liver,” she says. the cancer was back. “I was hospitalized in the maternity ward… had a cesarean section to deliver the baby, but the surgery took another four hours.”
“The oncologist said to me in these words, ‘You want to be a mother, and this is a free country, but your child will bury you when he is one year old, because you will die.’ I didn’t leave the house for three months, I was broken.”
Naveh, Gizbo’s third son, spent the first few weeks of his life in his grandparents’ house. “I wasn’t allowed to see him, I only breastfed him once,” she says. “Two days after surgery, the oncologist came into the room to take a piece of my bone. I looked at him and said, ‘We both know I’m going to die, so why should I suffer any more?'”
How did you react? What did you feel?
“I realized that the situation was not good. I understood that my disease was in stage four and there was no turning back from there. The goal was to extend my life. It’s hard, it came during pregnancy, with the hormones, with kids at home, with a relatively young relationship. I got used to closing the clinic at noon and spending the rest of the day with the kids. I devoted all my time to them, with no phone or so Today it’s just Dad or a babysitter I knew all hell would break loose after giving birth.
“I felt like I was going to leave my children behind, and a mother who worries about her children is horrible. What, they will remember a sick mother? A few days ago I got a call from the nursery to tell me that my son has a virus.” He told me that his sister is not feeling well either, and when I asked about mommy, he replied: ‘Mommy is always sick’.”
“I also decided to prepare boxes for them with keepsakes like the birth bracelet, first outfit, first blanket, and also letters from me, for any occasion – bar/bat mitzvah, weddings. I’m not done yet. I am i also trying to write a journal for them it hurts me to write i can type but i want it to be in my own handwriting i try to document every moment i post live feeds to facebook so they can to see what their mother’s been through. For three years I’ve wondered when my hourglass is up.”
What do the children know about the disease and what do they experience?
“I’m not trying to hide anything, but explain everything and answer all their questions. I think they’re suppressing it, but they’re with me and they see everything.”
“I decided to prepare boxes for them with their belongings, such as the birth bracelet, first outfit, first blanket, and also letters from me, for any occasion – bar/bat mitzvah, weddings. I’m not done yet. I’m trying capturing every moment. For three years I’ve been wondering when my hourglass is empty.”
What do you wish your children today?
“I want to be a mother figure to them, but I will be. They deserve it, and I deserve it. I worked hard to build the family I have today. I want them to have memories of me, for them to grow up and know my story I want them to be good people fulfill themselves unstoppable and know that we love them no matter what I want them to make mistakes and learn from them I want so much to be the gentle and motherly side they need and I am not ready for them to lose their mother so soon it saddens me that they grow up in the shadow of this disease I want to say to them my children Maybe soon I won’t be with you, but I’ll always be with you.”
What scares you?
“What scares me is leaving the children. Not being with Meitar when she has her first period, or when she gets married, and not being with Ofek during his first heartbreak. Sometimes I worry about the different parenting methods that Tal and I have because he is a great father, but he is not a mother. I am afraid to feel pain, for my children who are in pain and have no mother.”
And what do you dream of?
“I dream of holding Tal’s hand when we are old and seeing our children and grandchildren together. I dream of being in the delivery room with Meitar, being there for their IDF recruitment and being at their weddings. I dare to dream far.”