Israeli Submariner Receives Award After Surviving Cancer and Returning to Active Service
Staff Sergeant Ido (22), a submariner in the Israeli Navy, survived his battle with cancer and has now returned to active duty, earning him a medal from Israeli President Reuven Rivlin.
Ido faced a long struggle with the disease. He underwent chemotherapy, hair-loss and agonizing months of treatment. But he was able to recover and overcome the illness. After a series of tests confirmed that his cancer had gone into remission, he was cleared to return to his submariner unit in the Navy.
The illness, as well as the disabilities that come with cancer treatment, were particularly difficult for Ido. When he enlisted in the Israeli army, he scored a medical profile of 97. In the IDF, 97 is the highest possible medical profile and indicates that the soldier is fit for any combat unit.
Ido was an outstanding athlete and an avid soccer player. In October 2012, he began the prestigious diver course and graduated from the primary stage.
He was halfway through training and receiving his certification when his plans came to a halt. One day in front of a mirror changed his entire life. “I noticed that I had some swelling on the left side of my neck – a bump,” Ido told i Channel 2 News. His lymph glad had grown to an abnormal size. “I noticed there was something unusual with my neck, and that it was very strange. I asked my parents if they noticed it, or if I was just imagining things.”
Ido started to worry.
“I went back to the doctor at my base, and he referred me to the emergency room,” he said.
The series of events after that moved very quickly. Ido went to Rambam Medical Center, close to his base in Haifa, and was sent for medical tests in Yusufiya. It was there that he was told, “you have cancer.”
“What was going though my mind – especially given this kind of shock – it took me a while to absorb,” said Ido. “What do you mean, ‘cancer’?” He asked. His parents were also in disbelief. “It was like a bomb on a clear day, it was something we were not expecting.” After a few days, it was revealed to him that his cancer was of the Hodgkins’ lymphoma variation.
After that, he calmly returned to base and told his commander and fellow soldiers, who were equally shocked and upset. He took his belongings, left the base, and began four and a half months of chemotherapy.
The treatments took their toll on Ido. He was visibly fatigued. His hair fell out and he lost a lot of weight. He turned pale and barely left the house, according to the report. He went from being an active combat soldier to a complete recluse. However, he had the constant support of his parents and sister, and his commander and course comrades took off every week to visit him.
Despite the difficulties he was facing, he always had in mind that when he overcame the disease, he would return to the diver course. He wanted to graduate the course with his friends. The Navy agreed, depending on whether tests showed his cancer had gone into remission.
After months of treatment, Ido’s hopes were realized. In February of 2014, he finished his final treatment. Two weeks later, he went to the doctor who had initially given him the diagnosis. To everyone’s surprise, the doctor told him, “You are healthy!”
In June, he returned to the army, against all odds. After a number of tests, the Navy’s doctors cleared him for reenlistment, and in July 2014, Ido was back in the diver’s course.
Ido had to re-learn everything about diving in a submarine, but that was also not an insurmountable challenge. He quickly adapted and recalled his earlier training.
Then Ido received another surprise, but this time it was a good one. The Israeli president wanted to offer him a medal.
While receiving his medal, he spoke about how surviving cancer changed him in inexplicable ways. He said he would no longer take his life for granted. “Now I have more perspective. I know what big things exist that can end your life. This entire experience was something that challenged me a lot.”
Even though Ido does not yet know if he wants a career in the army, he is still expecting to remain in service until June 2017. “The Navy is a warm family. They proved that. They wanted me and they fought for me,” he said.