Blood sister

Kathy and Laura Lebedun

By Ellen Futterman, Editor

Kathy Lebedun will celebrate Mother’s Day a little early when she proudly watches her daughter and personal hero, Laura Lebedun, 28, receive a 2012 American Red Cross Lifesaver Award. The ceremony takes place Friday, May 4 at the Frontenac Hilton.

“I gave my daughter life and then she gave it back to me,” Kathy, 59, a retired medical social worker and 20-year leukemia survivor, likes to say. She and her family live in Chesterfield and are members of United Hebrew Congregation.

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Kathy says her daughter saved her life numerous times between 2004 and 2008. During that four-year period, Kathy received 33 red blood cell transfusions (66 units of blood) from the Red Cross to treat her anemia, which is a symptom of her leukemia. Laura volunteered to become a direct donor so that she could give her mother genetically matched, life-saving blood. 

“Each unit of blood from every donor is appreciated more than I can say,” says Kathy. “However, there is something extra special about having my child’s blood course through my veins. It was an emotional experience for both of us. It was also a time of bonding. Laura and I would lie togeth

er in a hospital bed, watching old family videos on a portable DVD player that my husband gave us for these unique mother-daughter experiences.”

Kathy reports that Laura was only 9 years old when her mother was first diagnosed with leukemia. Says Kathy: “The first question I asked was ‘How long do I have to live?’ The doctors said hope for 10 years but prepare for less. My goal was to get Laura through high school. Now, she will be 29 in June.”

Laura, who is a personal trainer, continues to donate blood to the Red Cross. “Laura has seen firsthand how one person can make a difference; she has watched my symptoms ebb as her blood did its job,” says Kathy. “She knows that I am only alive today, as a 20-year leukemia survivor, because of the precious blood I received. Laura is my favorite hero.”

Camp Roseanne

I loved summer camp and I appreciated the sacrifices my parents made to send me to the sleep-away variety, though the cost then was not nearly what it is now, even relatively speaking. I still have dreams about those days. When I wake up I have to pinch myself to remember that it was, indeed, a dream and that my camper days are long over.

As an adult, I have found the closest thing to camp is a retreat, so you can imagine how my eyes widen upon learning about the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center in the southern Berkshires of Conneticut. Although I have never been there, I know people who have and give the programs they attended high marks.

Scanning the website, I came across dozens of retreats that run for as little as a weekend and as long as a week. There are ones that cater to men only, women only, families, teens and the LGBTQ community. Retreats are also built around special-interest topics such as Jews and comic books, Judaism and baseball and Jews who like the blues. Some are more religious-minded while others are geared toward the interfaith community. Prices aren’t cheap but not outlandish either, and in some cases, financial aid is available.

My favorite of these retreats, or at least the one that caused me to do a double take, is called “The 2012 Roseanne Barr Retreat,” which takes place mid-September. It features Roseanne, of course, along with sister Geraldine Barr, and daughter Brandi Brown, and will be open to all genders as opposed to last year’s women only. 

The retreat is billed as “an intimate and intense weekend of meditation, kabalistic exploration, and unavoidable humor.” Imagine meditating with Roseanne, hmm, maybe she’ll sing, too.

For more information about the retreat center and its programs, go to www.isabellafreedman.org.

Israel bound

This will be my last News and Schmooze for a couple of weeks, as I am headed to the East Coast for a family celebration and then to Israel for a jammed-pack week of touring the country, meeting with journalists who live there and reporting on a couple of stories for the newspaper. 

During my week there, I will be blogging regularly about the adventure and posting pictures. Of course I say this hoping that:

1. I can figure out the technology (not my strong suit) and 

2. The adapter I purchased works. 

But I’m optimistic and ask that you check in between May 2 and 9 at www.stljewishlight.com/ellen and join the journey.