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Friday, November 30, 2007

First Night, First Light

I love my Sunday morning shiur! (Jewish Studies class)

Only one problem -- I haven't gone in about two years!

I was determined to start attending regularly, as soon as this school year started. But.... well.... now that Sundays and Mondays are my only "functioning" days, it's especially difficult to “give up” one of my mornings.

Still, I feel much better when I am learning (Torah) on a regular basis.

Not to mention that I love the shiur. And I love the woman who gives the shiur (brilliant, learned, dynamic, charistmatic -- you name it, she's got it! And she's a "feminist" and "right wing" -- and how many of those are there!?)

In short, I am rather in awe of this woman.

Anyway, we were privileged to attend the very special wedding of her youngest son this evening, the first night of Hanukah.

When we arrived, I was surprised to meet several friends from Ginot Shomron, which, it turns out, is the kallah’s (bride's) home town. Cool.

Ginot Shomron is a large yishuv (town) in the Shomron, near Petach Tikvah. One of the beautiful neighborhoods in the yishuv, Neve Aliza, is quite reminiscent of our home town: Teaneck, NJ. Beautiful houses, front lawns and back yards, and quiet, tree lined streets, where kids can play (without fear of being run over).

After expressions of mutual surprise and pleasure at meeting, one friend after the other protested: "You haven’t posted in a week! I check every day and there has been nothing new since you wrote about Hareisha!"


How nice to know!

So now, as was pointed out to me, I absolutely had to post before going to bed.

So, dear friends, I want to wish you all a Hanukah Sameach! (Happy Chanukah)

May the light from our candles shine forth and brighten this world.

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,

Sunday, November 25, 2007


From the hilltop where my sister-in-law lives, you can see the entire Israeli coast-line, from Haifa to Ashdod.

It's pretty amazing.

To drive there, you drive through Talmon, up past an army base, then up and up and up and up.
Hareisha is a tiny yishuv on a mountain top. 25 young families, living in caravans.

My SIL and her family found this warm and welcoming community after they were kicked out of their home in Neve Dekalim.

They have re-established their home inside two carravans. My daughter, A, commented that they have a beautiful home. My SIL laughed, "we live in a cardboard box". Nonetheless, it's true, my SIL created a beautiful home inside her cardboard box. "We worked hard to make it nice," she added.

Over Shabbat, with our two families crowded into their modest home, we enjoyed watching the children play.

On a quiet and serene mountaintop, there is nothing more beautiful than the pure sound of children's laughter.

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving 2007

I love Thanksgiving!

I love being with family & friends, and celebrating America, and being grateful for all that God has given us.

This year, for the first time since I made Aliyah, I did not spend Thanksgiving with other bogrei (graduates of) NATIV (I came to Israel for the first time on NATIV, a one-year program that combined studying at Hebrew University and working on Kibbutz Sa'ad, a religious kibbutz in the Negev). Every year, bogrei NATIV gather to celebrate Thanksgiving together. It is a great way to stay in touch with old friends. And it is exciting to see how the program has grown and how many bogrim (graduates) there are living in Israel.

This year, good friends of ours, T & J, have just returned to Israel, from 10 years in the US. They invited many of their "old" friends for Thanksgiving dinner. Over the years, before they went to the US, many of us had spent previous Thanksgivings with them. It was a joyous reunion to be together again.

Our kids hit it off with T & J's kids. Their son, Y, is a big Star Wars fan. So Y & MD had plenty to talk about! Of course, being boys, they still found time to harass the girls.... But, for the most part, the kids basically disappeared into their own world for the entire evening.

It was a wonderful evening, filled with good company, good conversation, good food and lots of warmth.

We have so much for which to be Thankful.

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Where R U??

"So," said today's chemo date, "where should I meet you?"

"On the 7th floor. Are you there already?" I ask, still at least 20 minutes away from the hospital.

"I got here early and I'm in the lobby, should I wait for you here?" she responded cheerfully.

"You could, but I might not come into the hospital from that floor," I answer, wondering where it's best for her to wait. "There is a waiting area in the entrance to the oncology ward," I inform her.

"I'll go up and wait for you there," she says decisively.

A few minutes later, my phone rings again.

"Where did you say to go?" asks my friend, sounding confused.

"To the seventh floor -- the oncology day ward" I repeat.

"I'm on the seventh floor and I can't seem to find it," says my friend, still sounding cheerfull, and a bit lost, "maybe I went up the wrong elevators?"

"Are you by the clinics?" I ask, trying to remember if the floors go up that high in that section of the hospital.

"I'm definitely not by the clinics." She answers definitively.

"Then you have to be in the right place," I answer, confused.

"I don't see any signs that say oncology," she says, "I must be in the wrong place."

"The signs should be right opposite the elevators," I say, wondering how it's possible not to see them. "Ask someone who works there," I advise, in an attempt to help my friend.

"I must be in the wrong place," she repeats....

There is a pause, and then it occurs to me....

"You are in Sha'are Tzedek?" I ask, hoping the question is rhetorical.

"Well, that explains it," says my friend laughing, "I'm in Ein Karem."

"Not to worry," she continues,"I'll hop on another bus and meet you soon."

"OK," I say, not sure what else to do, but feeling a bit guilty over the mix-up.

A few minutes later, my phone rings again.

"Do me a favor..." my friend asks sheepishly.

"Sure, what can I do for you?" I answer, eager to do something.

"Please don't write about this on your blog."

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,

Monday, November 19, 2007

Chills - part II (and Imago)

I'm feeling much better, thanks -- but not quite yet 100%.

Last Wednesday, after sleeping in all morning and early afternoon, I felt quite better by mid-afternoon.

So Moshe and I went out, as planned, to the first session of the Imago Couples Workshop at Ma'agan. We were five couples altogether. Most of the couples were young, like us. I knew one of the couples (the wife was in the Art of Living Course with me; she told me about the Imago workshop), but Moshe hadn't met either of them before. Everyone seemed nice, but a bit reserved. The instructors were very warm and welcoming; both are also cancer survivors.

The first questions we were asked is: what makes us happy/enjoy life?

I was surprised at my immediate response: analyzing TV shows with Moshe. After that, of course, is camping - which is my all-time favorite activity. And then there is: water -- teaching, swimming, and just being in the water.

I was equally surprised by Moshe's response: the act of creating; of building something, and building it well. Like what he does at work (programming); and what he does when he prepares a d'var Torah. He added that he also really enjoys analyzing shows with me. (but not camping)

Afterwards, we played a name-game: we stood in a circle and tossed a balloon to another person, saying that person's name aloud. By the end, we were all laughing, and we all knew everyone's name. It was fun.

Then we did a number of excersizes about communication. It was a pleasant experience. Both Moshe and I left feeling close to each other, and also to the group. I look forward to our next meeting.

At home, I stayed up a bit longer doing this and that. Until, quite suddendly, I felt terribly cold and went straight to bed with the chills. Despite the piles of blankets, I could not get warm.

In the morning, I went to the doctor again. This morning, I still had a fever. The doctor on call took a blood test, told me he would confer with my regular GP and also with the oncologist, and then he or my regular doctor would get back to me.

By the time my doctor called back, I had a high fever (40+) and couldn't even talk on the phone.
Now, when I am too sick to talk on the phone, then I am really sick!

The doctor called Moshe, and Moshe picked up a prescription for the super-duper anti-biotics.

Well, four days later, I don't know what is knocking me out: the chemo, the cold, or the anti-biotics.

My fever is down, I feel much better, but I am still weak and exhausted.

I had to cancel swimming lessons, which is always disappointing. I really love "my" kids, and I miss them. But I am still too tired to teach.

And tomorrow is chemo day....

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


Last night, I had terrible chills.

I wondered if it was a "new" side effect of the chemo.

It turns out that I just have a common cold.

I think people with cancer should be exempt from the common cold.

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,

Night Mirrors

One of the pleasures of parenthood is hearing (and reading) the "mistakes" that our children make in the language that they use.

Sometimes their mistakes seem more accurate than the actual word or phrase.

For example, in our home, we don't eat "mashed potatoes", but rather "smashed potatoes."

And our children don't have "nightmares" they have "night mirrors" -- reflections of bad thoughts that have somehow invaded their dreams.

I had forgotten about this clever phrase until this evening, when A saw something that my mom was watching on TV and protested that it would give her "night mirrors".

(yet another reason why I don't like the TV to be on when the kids are up....)

Her response made me think about the difficulty that I've had falling asleep these past three nights.

On Sunday, I had a test called: MUGA (Multiple Gated Acquisition Scan). The MUGA checks to see how one's heart is functioning. Herceptin can damage the heart, and my doctor wanted to make sure that I don't have any heart damage, before I had another dose of Herceptin. My heart is fine, thank God!!

(keep davening, 'cause He sure is listening!!)

Anyway, afterwards I met with a friend, JM, for lunch. We had a wonderful time discussing all sorts of things. Towards the end, I must have mentioned the book I'm currently reading: Take Off Your Party Dress -- When Life's Too Busy For Breast Cancer, by Dina Rabinovitch. The author's brother lives on the same yishuv as my friend. JM mentioned something about when the brother sat Shiv'a (the seven day Jewish morning period). "For whom?" I asked. "Oh, I'm so sorry...," said my friend, " I thought you knew.... she died two weeks ago..."

I didn't know Dina Rabinovitch. But I had heard about her blog "Take Off Your Running Shoes" -- it was recommended as an upbeat account of dealing with cancer. I hadn't read the blog, but I was enjoying the upbeat nature of the book. And I related to many of the experiences that the author shared.

As with any well-written autobiography, the more we read, the more we feel that we "know" the author. Perhaps I felt that even stronger because of the Jewish/Israel connection.

All I know is that I suddenly felt like crying. But I couldn't just burst out bawling in the middle of the mall!

I kept busy for the rest of that day. I was scheduled to give a Tupperware Party at a friend's home later that evening, and I couldn't do it if I was down in the dumps. I forced myself to focus. The party was a lot of fun and helped raise my spirit. There were about 15 women, most of whom I knew from different walks of my life, and it was quite a social event!

I came home late and tired, but in a good mood.

I hoped to accomplish a few tasks quickly and then go to bed. Unfortunately, my poor son was sick and needed TLC. By the time Moshe and I took care of him and I finished my few tasks (which took longer, because of the late hour, and my mental and physical exhaustion), I was unbelievably tired. I was certain that I would fall asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.

But when I finally fell into bed, I couldn't turn off my mind. I kept thinking about Dina Rabinovitch... I wanted to cry, and mourn, but I didn't know how. Who am I anyway? I don't even know her.

There are no answers to these questions. And, sometimes, there is no ignoring the dark cloud that lurks in the distance. But I did need to sleep.

So I practiced the breathing I learned in The Art of Living course. I tried to calm my mind and my body. It took a while, but I eventually fell into a deep sleep.

As I tried to shut out the reflections of my mind, I prayed that there would be no "night mirrors" to disturb my sleep.

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Books: Why I Wore Lipstick to My Mastectomy

I just finished Geralyn Lucas's book, Why I Wore Lipstick to My Mastectomy.

I recommend it.

The book made me laugh and it made me cry.

And I needed to cry.

I don't seem to have any trouble laughing, thank God. And I find myself able to laugh about my situation a lot. But it is hard for me to cry. And sometimes crying is really important.

Of course, Lucas's cancer is not metastatic, so the context of her experience is quite different from mine. But there was still so much that I could relate to.

And she writes with such good humor. It was actually a fun book to read.

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,

Friday, November 9, 2007


I was off this Tuesday, and looked forward to a week with a little extra energy.

I took advantage of my "free day" and went with my kids to get innoculated with the flu vaccine. Then I treated them to falafel in the shuk, so the experience wouldn't be all bad.

After that, we went to a "lail shimurim" (night-watch) -- a Jewish tradition, in some communities, of gathering children to say "sh'ma" over a newborn son, on the night before the "brit milah" (ritual circumcision). A's teacher, R, just gave birth to a son, and invited the whole class for the "lail shimurim". R had also taught MD for two years and I knew she would be happy to see him as well. So I just brought all the kids over. R was so happy to see us, it was so nice.

(Interesting Aside: MD is named for our friend, Danny Frei, who was murdered by an Arab terrorist 12 years ago. Danny Frei had lived on a small yishuv, just outside of Jerusalem, called Michmas (or Michmash). R grew up on Michmas and, when she was a young girl, she used to babysit for Danny's baby daughter.)

So, despite the flu shot, Tuesday was a nice day.

The next day, Wednesday, I awoke feeling very tired and worn down.

I didn't think the feeling could still be an after-effect of chemo, nor did it feel like the flu (no fever or aches in my joints). Though I didn't remember feeling ill after previous flu shots, intellectually I knew that I was probably feeling ill effects from the vaccine. But I also had my doubts.

I wondered if the tired feeling was psychological. Maybe I was starting to succumb to feelings of exhaustion and they were taking me over. Maybe I was at risk of letting the heaviness of my situation weigh me down. Maybe I needed to push myself harder.

So, though I felt like I had no energy and just wanted to stay in bed, I went to OT as usual. When she saw me, my OT said I looked pale. I mentioned that I wasn't feeling well. But I still wondered if maybe I was just being lazy.

Afterwards, while waiting for my mom to pick me up, I popped over to a friend's home for a quick visit. My friend commented that I looked great. (I wasn't feeling so great). Who was right, my OT or my friend? Was I really run down or was I just indulgent?

A friend of mine, from my neighborhood, was marrying off her first child that night. Her son is Hareidi, so the seating would be separate (men and women in different sections). Moshe wouldn't know anyone there (not even my friend), so we agreed that there was no need for him to attend. But that meant that I had to drive. I am so tired at night, driving is difficult. Luckily, I drove another friend from the neighborhood and her company helped me stay awake and alert. Nonetheless, I came home early from the wedding and went straight to bed.

Thursday morning I woke feeling even worse than Wednesday. I'm pretty sure that I had fever. I still wondered if the tiredness was all in my head, but I felt so miserable that I didn't care. I went back to sleep and slept until noon.

Then the fever broke. I woke up feeling great. I didn't feel sick at all. I even felt energetic.

I had been a "wet rag" just a few hours earlier and now I was up and ready to go!

Clearly, that icky feeling had, indeed, been a reaction to the flu shot.

How could I have been filled with so much self-doubt?

It is so hard to judge how much to "give in" to the feeling of tiredness and how much to keep pushing forward.

If I wasn't on chemo, I would have assessed the situation at face value, assumed I was reacting with a mild flu, and slept a few days. No problem.

It is so hard to evaluate what I am feeling physically and what I am feeling emotionally.

And it's hard to "slow down" when you don't want to miss out on anything!

I get tired just thinking about it all!


Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Coffee Klatch (read: Chemo Klatch) -- Part II

Again, this story begins innocently enough....

Two weeks ago, at chemo, I met a really nice lady, S, who was there with her friend. When my C & C date left, I started to chat with S and her friend. We were the last people there and we had the place to ourselves, so we chatted for a while (until my mom arrived to take me home).

Then, last week, while I was receiving my massage (see Part I), my mom wandered into the waiting area and met S, who told her "your daughter is a very special person." So my mom, who is, after all, a mom, sat down to hear more. (What mother doesn't like to hear good things about her daughter?)

Well, one conversation led to another, and my mom and S discovered that they had attended the same college, at around the same time (S was a few years younger). So my mom asked what had been S's maiden name. Then my mom thought a moment and asked: "Are you the same SH who lent RZ (my dad) a dress to wear on Purim?" S thought about it a moment and answered "yes."

Now get this:

The first real memory that my mom has of my dad was from a Hillel Purim Party, where he was dressed up as a girl. My dad and S were really good friends in college, and he had borrowed the dress that he wore that Purim from S!

And now, S and I are being treated for cancer in the same hospital in Jerusalem!

How wierd is that!!

Well, that story caused instant bonding!

All of a sudden S, and my mom, and the woman sitting next to me, and her friend, and I, all started talking as if we'd known each other for years. We pulled up extra chairs, so everyone could sit together. Then we spent the next few hours sitting around the table "catching up" and talking about all sorts of things; each woman sharing some of her interesting stories.

It was so much fun. All the women there were so dynamic and had such interesting stories! We were chatting like we would have at a cafe or a party, except for the bizarre twist that three of us were sitting there with IVs!

The hours flew by.

When I finished, and it was time to go, I felt like I was saying goodbye to old friends.

We exchanged phone numbers and emails, and I know that we will meet again, not just in the chemo ward.

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,

Sorry to keep you in suspense

I guess people really are reading this -- based on the number of "you can't leave us hanging like that!" calls and emails that I received!

Totally cool.

I was way too tired to post last night.

I got the flu shot on Tuesday and it knocked me out for the first time.

I felt really bad this morning, and slept 'till noon. I'm MUCH better now.

But have to run now.....

So, I will try to post the rest before Shabbat.

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Coffee Klatch (read: Chemo Klatch) -- Part I

It was such a wonderfully fun morning..... and it took place in the chemo ward.....

The day started out normal enough. Moshe drove me to chemo, and my mom came too (in a seperate car), because I had a doctor's appointment scheduled at noon. Moshe's mom was planning to join us around eleven. Everyone wanted to be there when my oncologist discussed the CT.

Luckily, my oncologist was able to see us as soon as we got there. We quickly called my mother, who was still parking, to tell her to come right away. And we called Moshe's mom to tell her not to bother coming, since she would arrive long after the meeting (which we knew would be quick).

My oncologist showed us my current CT, side by side with my previous CT. He showed us a spot on my lung, which seems to have gotten a bit smaller. Then he showed us spots which had been on my liver and are no longer visible! It's the best we could have hoped for. Not only have the drugs stopped the cancer from spreading, they are shrinking the tumors!

What does that mean? It means we continue treatments. Thank God, we now know they are working!

My poor mom arrived at the doctors office just as we were leaving. Her face fell. (like a kid whose ice cream falls of the cone). She had wanted to see and hear it all. The oncologist was very kind and understanding, but he didn't have time to sit and explain everything again. He encouraged my mom to focus on the fact that the results are very good, then rushed off to his next patient.

Then I got "back to business". The nurses opened my port but couldn't draw blood for tests. (my blood likes to stay in my body). It was getting late and I wanted to finish in time to leave with my mom, to pick up my kids. So I agreed to let the doctor (who deals all day with needles and IVs for patients with no port) poke me with a needle and draw blood the "old fashioned" way. (Before I started treatments, I met another young woman with metastatic cancer who assured me that I would get used to being a pin cushion. I've been scared of needles all my life, and I did not believe her. But here I was, just like she said, agreeing to get stuck with a needle, so that I wouldn't get stuck in the oncology ward...)

Then I went down to the 2nd floor for my second full body x-ray, which I do every three months for the drug trial (that I joined for the bone medication). This time, the technician was a woman. She was much gentler (no painful poking and prodding this time), more friendly, and quicker. Moshe stayed 'till I finished, then left for work. My mom came back up to the chemo ward with me, to keep me company.

Then I had a treat. The blood test results weren't back yet, so I went to get.... a massage! I kid you not. There is a new "Merkaz L'Siyua Holisti" (Center for Holistic Assistance) sponsored by the Yuri Stern Foundation. A few times each week, professionals come to give massages to cancer patients. I received a 20 minute massage, from a sweet young woman, and I felt great.

Between the good news and the massage, I was in a really good mood.

But the day got even better!

I went to sit in the waiting area, in between the nurses station and the day room. In the waiting area are two small round tables, each surrounded by two pairs of chairs. I went to sit at one of the tables, next to a lady who seemed very friendly.

My mom comes over to join us and exclaims "you'll never believe this!"

(find out what happened tomorrow..... "same bat-time, same bat-channel"...)


Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,

Monday, November 5, 2007


I love the musical HAIR. When I was a teenager, it was one of my favorites. Good music, teenage rebellion, social justice and HAIR. (and I am an Aquarius)

From the time I was 13, until 23, I had hair down to my.... well, all the way down my back. (is there any gracious way to say "tush"?) It was long and thick and red and beautiful.

But thinning hair is genetic and I knew that my great Aunt Madeline (z"l) was right, that I needed to cut my hair if I didn't want it to thin away.

As long as I could remember, I was "the girl with the long, red, hair."

Cutting it would be like changing who I am. I couldn't do it.

Until I made Aliyah, and no one really knew me here anyway. So I cut it all off. BOOM. Just like that. I even forgot to save it. (you know, for some day when I might want to make a wig out of it... who knew?)

Since then, a few times a year, I cut my hair, reluctantly, ever aware that if I don't, I will lose it.

So, in the face of cancer and chemo, it was the thought of losing my hair that made me cry.

But then, I got lucky. The chemo I get doesn't usually make one's hair fall out.

So, when my hair was still there, after a month of chemo, it became a symbol of how "healthy" I looked. After all, I still had my hair. I was doing fine.

Then, a few weeks ago, I noticed quite a bit of hair in my comb. Maybe it was my imagination? Then, it happened again. Still, I could be over-reacting.

Then, one evening, my hair kept knotting, so I kept combing, and the hair kept coming out. It was like I stepped into a horror film. There was hair everywhere. I cried.

But, a week later, I could relate the story without crying.

I still have most of my hair. The loss is not yet noticable to anyone else.

Still, I'm scared of what's to come.

So, I asked my oncologist about it. And he couldn't tell me what to expect. Maybe that would be it. Maybe more would come out. Maybe now. Maybe later. Maybe never. No way to know.

It makes me cry.

"You are an interesting woman", says my doctor.

"How so?" I ask.

"You're like a 'bull' ...powerful, determined, stubborn, teaching swimming.... "

....and yet I cry, because I don't want to lose my hair.

I know it's a small price to pay. But I don't want to pay that price. I don't want to lose my hair.

I don't want to watch it fall out, bit by bit, over time.

I love my hair.

It's like the song goes:

Gimme a head with hair
Long, beautiful hair
Shining, gleaming,
Streaming, flaxen, waxen

Give me down to there hair
Shoulder length or longer (hair)
Here baby, there mama
Everywhere daddy daddy

Hair, hair, hair, hair
Grow it, show it
Long as I can grow it
My hair

My neshamah (spirit) will always have long, thick, red hair.

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,

Friday, November 2, 2007

Soooo Tired

I was soooo tired after chemo this week.

I did my usual running around, but the activity ran me down!

Wednesday night, I had a meeting about my daughter's gymnastics (both girls are taking gymnastics this year) and then my book club.

I fell asleep during part of the gymnastics presentation, but I didn't want to go straight home. I love the book club and didn't want to miss it, even tho I was really tired.

During the meeting, I felt like my comments were a bit more "intense" than usual. I realized afterwards that the added intensity was a manifestation of pushing myself so hard.

As soon as I got home, I went straight to bed and fell asleep withing minutes.

Thursday morning, I went to our La Leche League district meeting. I fell asleep during part of that as well.

I taught swimming in the afternoon -- and it was like magic. All of a sudden, for the first time in days, I was filled with energy. I felt great and my classes were excellent.

But as soon as I got home, I crashed.

I stayed up to watch Bicentenial Man, which Moshe had rented as a "surprise" for us to watch together. I enjoyed the movie. Usually I would spend time with Moshe afterwards, analyzing the film.

But as soon as it was over, I went to bed. Moshe came to keep me company, and we analyzed the movie a bit, but it wasn't long before I fell into a deep slumber.

It's so hard to be tired all the time.

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,