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Prof. Moshe Rosman

 Moshe Rosman is Professor of Jewish History at Bar Ilan University in Israel. He was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma stage 3A out of 4, and treated at the Department for Bone Marrow Transplantation at Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem.

 I was born in Chicago. I am sixty years old. I came to Israel in 1979. I am married, I have six children and I teach Jewish history at Bar Ilan University, where I have spent virtually my entire career. I specialize in the history of the Jews in Poland, in what is called The Early Modern Period, that is sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. I wrote a book about the founder of Hasidism, the Baal Shem Tov; I have written about relations between the Jews and the Polish high nobility.

My latest book is about writing Jewish history in the post modern climate - how to grapple with the challenges that post modernism poses to any history writing and in particular to Jewish history writing. The name of the book is 'How Jewish Is Jewish History?' So I am very involved in the Jewish study scene, both here in Israel and abroad. I have enditioned a teaching at Bar Ilan when I have been on sabbatical. I have been in the University of Michigan, University of Pennsylvania and this year I will be teaching one semester at Yale University.

On June the 24th, 1998 after about six months of running from doctor to doctor and from test to test, I finally was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma stage 3A out of 4. This is a disease of the blood in which the body manufactures too many plasma cells, and these plasma cells eat away at your bones so that eventually your back bone disintegrates and becomes paraplegic at first. Also the disintegrating bones clog your kidneys, so it is very common to lose kidney function. Stage 3B, the next stage, is when you lose kidney function. So I was days, perhaps two weeks away from becoming paraplegic and losing my kidneys when the diagnosis was made at Hadassah.

When I first got sick, my doctor at the time, Professor Yaakov Matzner, who subsequently died in a plane crash, explained that the life expectancy, the median life expectancy with Multiple Myeloma was thirty months, with treatment of course, but what was very important was that he immediately held out hope and explained to me how intensive research was going on and there was every reason to believe that as longer I lived the better my treatment would be and that I would live, as he put it, “many good years”, without putting a number on it. So he was realistic, but at the same time he held out hope that I could survive, and that is what has happened, thanks largely of course to the Department for Bone Marrow Transplantation at Hadassah and Doctor Warnstien.

I should also say that when I first got sick in the summer of 1998, I was very sick and as I said before really close to death, a friend of mine happened to be in Israel and he is an attorney from the United States who is a medical malpractice attorney who defends hospitals and doctors against malpractice suits. He has a network of experts that he uses in his defense cases and when I was diagnosed and got in the hospital and seemed to be so sick, he called a few of his experts in the hematological field and asked them if perhaps there was a place in the United States that I should go, and they all said the same thing: if I am at Hadassah, there is no reason to go to America, that Hadassah in this field certainly is cutting edge and I would not get any better care anywhere else, and that of course was proven to be true.

I underwent three courses of chemotherapy in the summer of 1998 and as a result went into full remission from the disease. This then provided the opportunity for what is called High Dose Chemotherapy and my first peripheral stem cell transplant, an autologous transplant, meaning that they took my own stem cells, and after the High Dose Chemotherapy had attacked the cancer, my own stem cells were replaced in my body and they reconstituted my hematological system, my immunological system. This lasted for several years, from the fall of '98, when I had the first transplant, until the summer of 2002, when I relapsed and I had another peripheral stem cell transplant, again autologous, from my own cells.

This time I was not as fortunate and I relapsed again after about half a year, and so in the summer of 2003 I underwent the third transplant, but this time an allogeneic transplant from my brother's stem cells, because he was a match for me, and this was partially successful, however not completely successful; it  reconstituted my hematological system, but the disease made threatening signs that it was coming back, and so in the fall of 2003 I underwent D.L.I. -Donor Lymphocyte Infusion, also from my brother's cells, and that did the trick.

There was a crises right afterwards; I became sick with Encephalitis - that is a brain infection, which was quite serious, lasted about three weeks. At one point, not only was I on the verge of death, but I actually thought I was dead. In my own consciousness I thought I was either in a coma or already dead and that this was what it was like to be dead, but Doctor Or and his team brought me back and since then, since February of 2004, I would say that I have only improved in terms of how I feel and my quality of life. Of course there are many side effects and complications of both the disease and the treatment.

The philosophy of the treatment at Hadassah Bone Marrow Transplantation Department is that chemotherapy can never, certainly in my disease can never destroy the entire disease; there will always be something called the M factor that is there waiting to rear its ugly head when it gets an opportunity. So the philosophy at Hadassah, Doctor Or's philosophy, is to have the body fight the cancer itself, and the way you do this is to induce Graft Versus Host Disease - G.V.H.D. That means that when you do an allogeneic transplant from a donor, the idea is that the infusion from the donor makes the body react against these foreign cells, Graft Versus Host, that is the host starts fighting against the graft, trying to reject the graft. The theory is that when the body is awakened, when its defenses are aroused to fight with the graft, it also fights against the cancer, because the cancer cells are also foreign cells.

Now, of course this is tricky, because G.V.H.D is also a disease and it can kill you. It affects every organ in your body, and I can say that from tip to toe every organ of my body has been damaged to some extent by the G.V.H.D. The trick is of course to keep that damage to a minimum so that the G.V.H.D is strong enough to defeat the disease, but no so strong enough as to defeat me. So I have to take care of my lungs, I have to take care of my skin, I have to take care of my kidneys and urinary tract et cetera, et cetera, but so far with great success, so that I am able to live a normal life.

I have not been limited at all in my professional or in my family responsibilities, but I take a lot of medicine and I visit a lot of doctors to keep the effects of the Graft Versus Host Disease in check, and so far it is working, while under going the chemotherapy that goes with the transplant, and this transplant itself, after the transplant, there were many times when I was so weak I could not certainly talk, I could not even watch television, I could not do anything and I certainly felt it would be easier to die than to try to withstand the feelings of pain and weakness that accompany this procedure, but the staff and Professor Or always gave me encouragement and of course my family who is very important, my wife in particular, and my children, in pulling me through.

Doctor Or is a very unusual person and a very unusual doctor. Let me give an example. I have met many doctors over the last eleven years. Some of them develop a talent where they can walk through a waiting room full of patients and not make eye contact with anybody. Doctor Or, when he walks through his waiting room, which is full of patients, makes a point of greeting everybody and trying to lift their spirits and ask them how they are and give them a smile, shake their hand. He is always aware of the fact that he is not treating a disease, he is treating a person.

His patients are each of them a person with a family, with hopes, with dreams, with responsibilities, and he is very aware of that. So for example in my case, I am a professor and one of the things that I do is travel to conferences, I take sabbaticals and teach at other institutions, and someone in my condition with such a serious disease and a compromised immune system, it might not be the most prudent thing or the most usual thing to think that he could travel frequently and long distances.

Doctor Or has only encouraged me to keep up with my profession and he has made sure that I am healthy enough to travel and he has also connected me with doctors on the other side, so that in case there would be a problem, I would have someone to turn to. So I have been able to travel with great confidence, knowing that he was behind me. In fact, several times while traveling I have called him directly on his cell phone and got an advice while I was traveling, which is of course another unusual thing about Doctor Or. Many doctors build walls around themselves, so that it is very difficult for patients to access them. I have his cell phone number and usually within one or two calls I am able to reach him. If he is very busy, he will say “Please call me back in an hour” or “In four hours” or what ever it may be, but he is always accessible to me when I really need him and that is very important to me.

The Hadassah Bone Marrow Transplantation Department is medically advanced. I think I said already I would call it “Cutting edge”. Not just I call it that, but doctors that I have spoken with myself in the United States have said that. They have imagination, creativity, flexibility. In my own case they never gave up on me. When I had relapses, that I had twice, they always had another therapy to offer me. When I had the Encephalitis and was so close to death, they worked very hard, successfully, to bring me back from the edge. They also have what I think is a very important principal, and that is ‘More important than the quantity of life is the quality of life’, and they are always concerned that what ever they do to me will improve the quality of my life and not just prevent my death, so that I feel that the department at Hadassah is a home for me, a haven for me. I know that they are always there for me. If there will be complications, as there have been several times over these last eleven years, I know that I can always go to them and they will take care of me. I know that even if I am out of Israel, I can call and they will lend an ear to what ever my problem is and be able to either suggest something over the phone or connect me to someone wherever I am. So I feel that the department at Hadassah is a place that is professionally not just competent but super competent, and on the human level are willing to take me as a person with needs, with hopes for the future, with plans, and help me to realize them.

I recently had my 60th birthday and my children put together a video presentation and it was very important that in that presentation Doctor Or and members of the staff, who have worked so hard to get me to my 60th birthday, would participate, and they did willingly and lovingly, and I feel tremendous concern and love from them, that they take responsibility for keeping me alive and they take an interest in how I will live. I feel my quality of life has just improved; I wrote a book since then, I have written many articles since then; I have traveled to many other institutions; in my personal life I have had several grandchildren born; I have married off two of my children, third is in the offing this spring. I have increased my physical activity gradually; I now workout fairly regularly and I try to walk everyday, so that I would say my quality of life has improved since the last transplant. Of course in the beginning, the first half year, it was very difficult, I was extremely weak, but I was able to overcome that and now I feel I live a normal life.

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