Once a year, Ben & Jerry’s holds a Free Cone Day, where celebrants are encouraged to contribute to a local charity in exchange for free ice cream.
My husband Les treats this occasion like a national holiday and marks it on his calendar every year. Today is especially good for me because my next chemo infusion is tomorrow and I won’t be able to eat solid food for three days. For a change, I actually need extra calories.
At Ben & Jerry’s District at Tustin Legacy Jamboree store, the non-profit organization is Camp Kesem (campkesem.org), a free one-week camp for children whose parents have cancer. Kesem means “magic” in Hebrew. Students from UC Irvine have a table with pamphlets and talk to people at the front of the ice cream line.
When I go through the line the second time, I pick up a pamphlet to read while eating at an outdoor wrought iron table. I can’t imagine what a young child feels watching a beloved parent get sick and sometimes die. The enormity of the situation overwhelms me. The enormity of cancer overwhelms me.
The third time through the line, I pull out a dollar from my purse. My hands are shaking so badly I can’t fit the bill in the slot of the cardboard box. Les takes the money, folds it, and deposits it in the box. The student thanks me but I know if I talk to her or make eye contact, I’ll start to cry. I tell Les to contribute, too.
I wake up an hour early Wednesday morning before my infusion, still thinking about Camp Kesem. I ache for children swathed in pain and helplessness caused by a parent’s cancer. I shudder for the devastation that cancer wreaks on so many lives, including mine and Les’.
The tears, which I barely held back yesterday, stream down my cheeks and flood the pillow.