Friends and comrade-in-arms of a former Israel Defense Force paratrooper suffering from a particularly aggressive form of cancer, have launched a crowdfunding campaign to save his life.
Maj. Gen. (res.) Ronen Magen suffers from meningeal tumor, which forms around the brain and spinal cord. However, this is not the first time the father of six had to battle the disease. Magen was diagnosed with skin cancer some 20 years ago when he was still a conscript in the Israeli military. Back then, Magen managed to fully recuperate and enlist in the IDF. Ronen went on to fight in Lebanon back in 1999.
Th 43-year-old Magen last served in the military as a deputy commander of Paratroopers reconnaissance unit. "When I was in charge of the Paratroopers Brigade, I was diagnosed with melanoma, a violent form of skin cancer,” said Magen. “I began treatment, including a long experimental treatment in the United States. I did everything I could to return to the military and within four months I was back in service. I had the lowest medical profile of any officer who fought in Lebanon.”
In February 1999, Magen was one of those who took part in the deadly battle during that claimed the life of Major Eitan Balachsan, the commander of Paratroopers commando unit, as well as two other paratroop officers, Lt. David Granit and Lt. Liraz Tito.
"I was part of the force that stayed in Israel in order to help those fighting in Lebanon return to the country,” said Magen. “When I arrived at the Rambam Hospital in Haifa, I was required to identify the bodies and break the devastating news to the families and other soldiers. The images from that night accompany me to this day. Later I was appointed as Balachsan’s replacement."
Since his discharge, Magen continued his reserve duty service. Then, four years ago, he suffered a violent seizure and was told he had a meningioma disease — a rare form of cancer that spreads to the membrane surrounding the brain and spinal cord.
"Four years ago, my eldest son woke me up, saying something has happened to his dad,” said Ronen’s wife, Niri. “I went upstairs and saw him lying on the floor with his eyes wide open. I immediately called an ambulance, and later we were told that the cancer had returned. He underwent the first operation that year.”
Niri said her husband has already had four surgeries, but after a period of remission the pervasive illness returns. “Every year the tumor returns. After four surgeries, the last chance we have to save his life is to use a cap that zaps tumors with electrical currents to prevent it from returning," said Niri.
The experimental treatment, which costs around NIS 90,000 a month, is not part of 2019 Israel’s medicine basket and a family that’s raising six children simply cannot afford it.
"The doctors explained to us that meningioma causes the body to collapse like dominoes,” said Magen. “When I was diagnosed in my youth, I was not afraid of anything, but now that I am a father to six, I look at things from a different perspective.”
"There is a lot of similarity between the Lebanon war in which I fought and the personal war I am waging on cancer. In both cases it’s a war of attrition, with ups and downs, and occasionally small victories,” the 43-year-old added.
This month Magen was awarded the rank of major during a special ceremony at his home, in which his former comrades—the Commander of the Military Colleges Major General Amir Baram, and IDF Spokesperson Brigadier General Ronen Manelis—also participated.