Fighting disease can be costly, but rebuilding your life after a health crisis can pose just as tough a financial challenge.
After Ariel Fixler was diagnosed with a rare form of adrenal cancer last summer, members of various communities rallied to help the 29-year-old meet her medical bills. They are pulling together again now to help her fight her way back to normal life.
That process began last year, right after Fixler underwent surgery to have a kidney removed. Friends clubbed together and bought her an iPad so the ever-gregarious, self-described yenta could stay in touch more easily. These days it means helping her pay —among other things — rent until she is earning again, transportation costs because she can’t manage bus or subway trips, and the intensive nutrition plan with which she is trying to rebuild her immune system.
On Tuesday, Aug. 14, Temple Beth O’r/Beth Torah in Clark will host a fund-raiser dinner for Fixler. There is no charge for the meal, but participants — and anyone else who cares to help — are being asked to “contribute generously” to help her (see box).
Her parents, Rona Wexler and Gene Fixler, live in Manhattan now, as does Ariel, but the family did belong to Beth O’r/Beth Torah. They joined the congregation back in the early 1990s when they lived in Rahway and their shul there, Temple Beth Torah, merged with the Clark congregation. Ariel, who attended Solomon Schechter Day School of Essex and Union, now the Golda Och Academy, had her bat mitzva ceremony at the synagogue in 1995, coached by Cantor Steven Stern, who now leads the congregation.
they moved later to Springfield and also joined Congregation Israel, the Modern Orthodox congregation that has also helped raise funds for Fixler. Wexler was an active supporter of the Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey until the family moved to New York in 2001. The federation carried an appeal for support on its website, as did Fixler’s fellow Schechter alumni.
Fixler was in Boston in mid-July for radiation treatment, but despite the fatigue that comes with it, she managed to e-mail answers to NJJN’s questions about her health, and the dinner. Her tone was upbeat and warm, just the way Stern and other community members say she has always been, and reflecting what her mother described to NJJN as her “persistent, resilient” spirit.
“I am so honored the temple is holding the dinner. It touches my heart in ways I cannot express,” she wrote. “I have such wonderful childhood memories of the congregation. I was one of the few younger children at the synagogue, and I felt very adopted and taken care of there. I also have the most wonderful memories of helping out with babysitting at the temple, studying and celebrating my bat mitzva, and having Shabbat meals at everyone’s houses. The temple was my Jewish playground and I never wanted to leave, even after kiddush was over.”
Both mother and daughter said they hope to be at the dinner in Clark, though their attendance is conditional on many factors.
In June 2011, Fixler was diagnosed with cancer of the adrenal glands, a form very seldom seen in someone so young. In August of that year, she underwent surgery at New York Presbyterian Hospital and a battery of treatments after that. This past spring, she was accepted into an experimental drug program. She was treated first at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and then, because of insurance limitations, at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
After that, and before beginning radiation treatment, she took a somewhat different route and spent three weeks at the Martha’s Vineyard Holistic Retreat, learning about alternative therapies and holistic nutrition from its founder and director, Dr. Roni DeLuz.
She has written about the experience in her blog, lilfixversuscancer.blogspot.com.
She told NJJN, “I am feeling better. I am definitely happy to be home. My outlook is strong, as well. I still struggle with low immunity, radiation side-effects of fatigue, low cell counts, and nausea. But, my coping mechanisms, since leaving the alternative therapy retreat in Martha’s Vineyard, have been much better.”
A marketing executive and social media manager before she got ill, Fixler said she now has plans to do a social work degree, so she can counsel other cancer patients. “I also have been leading support groups for cancer patients, accompanying members to chemo appointments and radiation,” she wrote. “Apparently I have become a go-to person to talk to if anyone you know has been diagnosed with cancer. Additionally, I have become a social media manager for wellness clients, and I also handle the marketing and social media needs for Dr. DeLuz at the holistic retreat I attended.”
And she is still following her “avocation” — matchmaking.
“I try to stay active on days when I don’t have treatments, because on the other days I am sidelined with fatigue,” she wrote. “I matchmake for free, not for profit anymore, but I still believe it’s my calling — now one of many. I am still known as SweetFixup. I work with my friend, Michelle Booso, with her company, The MATCHBOOK.”
For more information on the Aug. 14 dinner at Temple Beth O’r/Beth Torah in Clark or about making a donation to support Ariel Fixler, call the temple at 732-381-8403. Checks can be made out to the TBOBT Chesed Fund, and designated for Ariel Fixler. Address them to Temple Beth O'r/Beth Torah, 111 Valley Road, Clark, NJ 07066.