Just days after coming home from hospital following five months of intensive treatment for a rare brain tumour, 4-year-old Tal rode half a kilometre on her tricycle. She teased her twin brother Noam as he tried to catch up to her: "You can’t catch me, you can’t catch me!"
Tal’s sense of fun, determination, and resilient spirit were her hallmarks.
Tal (affectionately known as Tali) underwent a four-hour surgery at the Hospital for Sick Children in October 2006, five days after her tumour was identified. To her family’s amazement, Tali, who was 3 at the time, was singing her ABCs in the recovery room following the procedure. A biopsy would determine Tali had an atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumour (ATRT), which holds a significant chance of relapse within the first year of diagnosis.
It was the beginning of a long and challenging road for Tali and her family. That surgery would be the first of many needed to stabilize her condition to prepare her for six cycles of chemotherapy in two phases, as well as stem cell transplants. Tali spent much of that time in near isolation in hospital, seeing only her parents and hospital staff, but was able to communicate with Noam and her big brother Amir by webcam.
She quickly learned to adapt and overcome her fear of daily medical procedures. In fact, she began to take an active role, insisting on doing as much as she could on her own, such as taking her own temperature and blood pressure. As she conquered each procedure, she was rewarded with bravery beads, and she displayed her vast collection with pride.
Tali was well enough after some of the cycles that she was able to go home for brief visits. The stars aligned and she was with her family to celebrate Amir’s birthday, the birthdays of each of her parents, as well as Passover.
Throughout her five months in hospital, Tali found ways to make the best of her circumstances. One of her favourite activities was making gifts to send home with visitors. She would string beads into bracelets or necklaces, or work at arts and crafts, many of which she would bestow upon lucky recipients, who would be seen leaving hospital clutching one of Tali's masterpieces. Tali would bid them goodbye with a grin and a "See you later, Alligator", and wait for the correct response: "In a while, Crocodile".
Tali was discharged from hospital on March 30, 2007. She gained weight, her hair began to grow back, and she resumed a more normal life despite the continued medical procedures, which she took in stride. At the park, she would speed down the slide or swing high in the air, often laughing out loud. She rode her bike, went for walks around the neighbourhood, played soccer, blew bubbles, drew chalk pictures on the sidewalk and played hopscotch. She particularly loved to swim, and after her feeding tube and central line were removed at the end of June, she spent a lot of time in the pool or at the lake.
In early August 2007, Tali began to have stomach and neck pain. A CT scan and subsequent MRI confirmed that Tali had suffered a severe relapse: There were no further treatment options available. Tali’s parents brought her home to be with the people who loved her most. Three weeks later she slipped away peacefully and quietly, with her heartbroken parents by her side.