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The trip of a lifetime

Temple Beth Ami offers local man an opportunity to fulfill lifetime dream by traveling through Israe

Posted: November 2, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: November 2, 2013 2:00 a.m.

Darel Roberts smiles for the camera as he takes a camel ride during his trip to Israel. Darel strives to live life to the fullest every chance he gets. In spite of battling pancreatic cancer, he maintains a positive outlook on life.

When Darel and Julie Roberts made the commitment to go on a day trip to Israel with their synagogue, Temple Beth Ami, they had no idea the trip would mean so much to them.

Several months before leaving for the trip, Julie was diagnosed with breast cancer. The form of breast cancer she had was very treatable. After undergoing a lumpectomy and radiation, Julie was cancer free by mid-May.

The trip was a success, Darel and Julie had a great time. They hiked everywhere and swam in the head waters of the Jordan River.

Several weeks after returning from their trip, Darel became very sick and the couple was faced with bad news, yet again.

Darel began experiencing severe itching all over his body. Later he became jaundiced. What doctors thought may be hepatitis became a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.

“He always wanted to see Israel before he died,” said Julie. “He just didn’t realize they may come so close together.”

Darel and Julie were devastated, but doctors seemed hopeful. They thought they caught it early. The tumor was blocking a bile duct, causing his odd symptoms. Typically patients with pancreatic cancer don’t experience symptoms until the disease has progressed to late stages.

Darel quickly underwent a very difficult procedure called Whipple surgery. The death rate for the surgery alone was 15 percent.

“We thought, we’ll take whatever odds we can get,” said Darel.

During the surgery doctors removed a portion of the pancreas, the gall bladder and the stomach’s duodenum. The surgery should have taken only five hours, but turned into an 11-hour ordeal.

The complications were due to massive amounts of scar tissue in Darel’s abdomen. The scar tissue was from radiation he received 30 years ago after being was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

The tumor found during surgery was much larger than doctors anticipated. They also realized the cancer had spread to his lymph nodes. Darel now had a 20 percent chance of living another five years.

The trip Darel and Julie initially planned as a fun vacation and opportunity to visit the “old country” became an important pilgrimage of sorts. A trip they are thankful they took when they had the chance.

The group of travelers became fast friends and spent five days in Jerusalem, several days in the northern part of Galilee and Telaviv.

“I wanted to go to Israel all my life,” said Darel. “That was something I would have regretted not having done.”

Many Jews hope to make a trip to Israel at some point in their lives. The reasons include matters of faith, a desire to see a historical land or to get in touch with family history.

“Any body of water we came across they would jump in and swim in,” said Blazer. “They really do live their lives like that all the time.”

Darel and Julie are grateful they had the opportunity to go to Israel when they did. They reminisce about visiting 5,000-year-old ruins, enjoying an “enlightening” experience at the wailing wall and swimming in the Dead Sea and Sea of Galilee.

“I encourage Darel to share his way of living with others,” said Blazer. “I hope he can inspire other people to look at life in a positive way, not to put off something like a trip because it is expensive. They call them trips of a lifetime for a reason.”

Darel takes Blazer’s advice and shares his perspective on life and facing the possibility of death in updates and poems he sends to his friends from the trip.

“As long as I can fight it, I will,” he said. “Life is short, you shouldn’t let your fears limit you. You don’t know when the end is going to come.”



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