I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in the summer of 2017 (5777). The oncologist determined that a regimen of chemotherapy should be used to treat this form of cancer. The procedure that was recommended was to administer six treatments through intravenous infusion once every three weeks. The oncologist felt that since I had very visible veins, the treatment should be administered by inserting a needle, a peripheral IV, each time into one of the veins. This was the preferred method for me rather than using a PICC or a port which, over a period of time, can become infected.
Harav Avrohom Chesny, z”l, a well-known member of the Chicago community, told me, before his petirah on Sukkos, that I should recite a special passuk from Tehillim prior to each treatment as a zechus that the procedure should go well and the insertion of the needle into the vein should go smoothly. The passuk I was to recite is Tehillim 107:20: “Yishlach devaro v’yirpa’eim vimalet mishechisosam” which means “He would dispatch His word and cure them, and let them escape their traps.” The question arises: What traps are present when the Alm-ghty brings healing? Rabbi Chesny explained to me that this passuk is referring to the inevitable “negative side effects” that generally accompany most medical procedures and medications. He urged me to say this passuk immediately before any procedure is done to pray to the Alm-ghty that it should go smoothly, with no ill effects.
The first two treatments went smoothly and the nurses were successfully able to insert the needle properly into the vein. By the third treatment, the procedure became more difficult, as my veins were hardening as a result of the chemotherapy. We asked my care team to have a skilled nurse with more experience insert the intravenous needle. When it came to the fourth treatment, the skilled nurse attempted to insert the needle into the vein, but it did not go in properly. I then exclaimed to that nurse, who is not Jewish, that although I had said my prayer earlier while I was in the waiting room, I had neglected to say it right before the nurse began to insert the needle. I asked the nurse to wait a moment before she made her second attempt, to enable me to recite the passuk. She waited, and once I had completed the recitation of the passuk, she began to insert the needle. This time the needle was inserted flawlessly and the treatment began.
On Erev Chanukah, the fifth treatment was about to begin. As always, I had recited the passuk while waiting to be placed in a room for treatment. Upon entering the room, I was happy that it was the same skilled nurse who was to administer the treatment. After she set everything up and was about to begin, she looked up at me and said, “I cannot begin until you recite your special prayer, the one you recited before the last treatment.” I then recited it out loud, and when she saw that I was finished, she immediately inserted the needle. It went in so smoothly that I did not even realize she had done it. In truth, it was the easiest IV I had received, even better than the very first one at the beginning of the treatments!
It had been three weeks since the last procedure, but this non-Jewish nurse remembered what she had witnessed during the previous treatment and realized just how important my prayer was and how it had brought success without any negative side effects during the previous treatment. It had made a lasting impression upon her. Thus, a true kiddush Hashem had occurred, for she saw how the Alm-ghty had guided her hand during the previous treatment and she wanted that same assistance as she began this new treatment. The rest of the treatment that day went flawlessly and I was able to arrive in shul in time for Maariv, the first night of Chanukah, and couple my own experience that had just occurred that day with that experienced by the Chashmona’im thousands of years ago. I offered my own tefillah of shevach and hodaah to the Ribbono shel Olam for the yeshuah He had granted me, just as He had done for Matisyahu and his sons centuries ago.
Shlomo Cherrick, Chicago, Ill.