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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Chemo Day (26.02.08)

Chemo day started so well!

I had a great day, despite the chemo.

As soon as I arrived, a nurse was available to "open my port" (insert a special needle, attached to a tube, for the chemo infusion). Usually there is a line ("queue" for you Brits), and a significant wait (often around 1/2 an hour)

Then, straight away, I had a wonderful massage, which totally relaxed me.

Then I got hooked up to the IV, and hung out with my "gang."

Moshe was with me (he stayed longer because we had a doctor's visit scheduled), my friend LG came from out of town to visit with me, and another friend, EA (who is LG's cousin), also came to visit. I was relaxed and had great company.

Even after Moshe and EA left, I was thrilled to have so much time to "catch up" with LG.

The day got even better!

We were in our own little room (more on that below) and LG revealed that she had packed a delicious "picnic lunch" (quiches, salad & a sinful dessert) and had brought several fun "brain games." (I LOVE games!!) We played Abalone (It's a good game!! I'd never played before) and another called Tipover. I love those types of games!

By the end of the day, I was in such a good mood; I could almost forget the disturbing event that had threatened my usual effervescence.

Disturbing Event:

The TV was on in the "day room." (Not, in and of itself, a terrible thing, though it adds noise, and the room was already full)

From the music and cinematography, it was clear that the movie on TV was a horror film.

Spooky music fills me with dread.

Years ago, I requested that Moshe only watch the X-Files when I'm not home. He found it amusing that, even from across the house, the music haunted me.

But that's the way it is.

And the X-Files is like a children's show compared to the movie that was on TV in the oncology ward.

I tried to ignore the movie, but between the flash of images and the music, it was too much for me. The images and music distracted my attention, and I would glance at the TV and see disturbing, violent images (including graphic sexual violence).

I asked one of my friends to turn off the movie.

Being more courteous than I, she asked around to see if people minded. Most people were not watching and did not mind if the TV was turned off, but one couple was watching the show. So my friend simply lowered the volume.

I will not get into the details about the verbal attack I received from the couple.

I did not engage them in dialogue, beyond explaining my sensitivity and suggesting that they sit closer to the TV. (As I did, a few months ago, when watching a comedy that disturbed another person in the room). The couple (neither of whom was actually hooked up to an IV) was hostile and raised the volume.

I approached the head nurse for assistance, but she felt it was not her place to "get involved," even after I explained that it was a horror film with graphic violence.

The head nurse graciously offered my friends and I a "private room", which was a very comfortable solution for me.

The only negative element was that the chairs were not recliners, and it hurts my back to sit for so long. But it was a small conference room, with comfortable chairs and a table. It was much more private and relaxing.

Overall, I preferred to sit in a less comfortable chair, than to be bombarded by those images, which still flash into my consciousness, even now.

Meanwhile, this encounter has left me disquieted.

There is no justification for subjecting patients to such disturbing images and sounds.

The hospital clearly strives to create a positive environment. In addition to the highly professional and caring staff, there is a bright room with comfortable recliners, and let's not forget about the wonderful massages!

There should be some sort of policy regarding films with tension and violence.

No patients should have to fight for their rights during chemotherapy.

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

With love and optimism,

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Water (and the Second Temple)

Did you know that in the time of the second Temple, there were two aqueducts bringing water to Jerusalem from the Hevron hills?

The upper aqueduct brought water to the "upper city" and the lower aqueduct brought water to the Temple Mount.

On Friday I attended the postponed tour about water, and I'm glad I did.

It might not sound interesting, but it was! Our guide, Eyal Davidson, who wrote an interesting tour book (currently available in Hebrew only), was excellent.

We began tracking the lower aqueduct at Armon HaNatsiv (near the Tayelet).

From there, we went to Mishkenot Sha'ananim, where we can see a section of the aqueduct that was covered with stone slabs to protect it. There aren't many sections like this anymore, since the stone slabs were often taken and reused in other building projects. Eyal showed us a picture from his book, drawn during the late 19th century from where we were standing in Mishkenot Sha'ananim, of a bridge that carried the water across the Gai Ben Hinnom valley.

Then we crossed over to the other side of Gai Ben Hinnom. We saw a section of the aqueduct that was cemented over by the Turks on Rehov Hativat Yerushalayim, the road leading from Derech Hevron up to Jaffa Gate. The Turks got tired of trying to protect the aqueduct, which was still in use, so they installed ceramic piping and then poured cement over the aqueducts.

We then walked up Kvish HaApifiore (the Pope's Street, so named because it was paved in honor of the Pope's visit), and saw sections of the "renovated" pipe line, including one section that "fell" down.

Then we climbed around the ruins behind the bus stop by by Sha'ar HaAshpot (Dung Gate) and saw where the aqueduct entered the Old City walls. We also saw Mikvaot from Second Temple times.

Then we entered the Old City and saw where the aqueduct reentered the city walls, by the main steps to the Kotel plaza (at the base of the steps leading up to the new Aish HaTorah building).

From there, we tracked the aqueduct to Wilson's Arch, below Sha'ar HaShalshelet, leading onto the Temple Mount. Sha'ar HaShalshelet is a Crusader entrance to the Temple Mount, built on top of the earlier Herodian gate. The aqueduct ran under the gate, then to the right, into a large well on the Temple Mount.

From Sha'ar HaShalshelet, we were able to glance onto the Temple Mount.... (so close, and yet so far away...)

Opposite the gate, is a Turkish Sabil (drinking water fountains), whose water source was from the aqueduct. There are several other Sabil's in the Muslim Quarter which also drew their water from the aqueduct. As well as a Hammam (Turkish Bath), which also had a Mikveh (Jewish ritual bath), which served the local, mainly Jewish population in that area during the 19th century.

Walking around the Mulsim streets, it is easy to forget that this area was once a Jewish neighborhood.

Both the upper and lower aqueducts were still in use, until the first modern pipes were laid, during the British Mandate, in Mahane Yehudah.


Post Script:

During Shabbat, Moshe's cousin and his wife, M & ZE, stopped by.

ZE told us that there are remnants of upper aqueduct on Derech Hevron, and remnants of the lower aqueduct on the hill opposite our window. We can actually walk along the ridge, alongside the aqueduct.

History is right here, just outside my window.

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

With love and optimism,

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Hello Old Friend

One of my oldest friends in the world, ER, is in Israel for 2 weeks.

We got together last night and had so much fun, talking and catching up.

We are friends since high school, and we also attended the same university. After that, our paths diverged. He is also a strong Zionist, but his real dream is to be an astronaut.

Talking about high school friends, made me wonder where all my high school friends are these days, and how they are doing.

We swapped information about the friends with whom we are each in touch. But we had many more questions about "what ever happened to....?" than we had answers.

Some of the stories that ER told me were sad. (There is a lot of tragedy in the world) Other stories were just bizarre. And some just magnified the different paths that all of us have taken.

I lived in such a different world back then.

First of all, I felt split in many directions. Socially, my friends were all over the place -- there were my friends from school (mostly, but not exclusively, Jewish, secular and assimilated), my friends from NCSY youth group (Orthodox, FFB), my friends from Habonim youth group (Zionist, non-religious), and my friends from frisbee. (yup, even then I had a "frisbeechevra")

Even within school, I was split. I went to the A-school (Teaneck's Alternative 1 High School -- which deserves a blog post of its own). I also took science courses at Teaneck High. And I also took courses at Fairleigh Dickenson University, as part of my high school curriculum. (Where I passed as a college student, and prayed that nobody discovered that I was really just in high school).

And then there was my involvement in the theatre community, which is how I became the confident, outspoken person that I am. (Can you believe that I used to be really quiet and introverted?)

My friends from high school were so different than I was, in so many ways. But I LOVED them. I loved hanging out with them. I loved hearing their stories. I loved experiencing all their wild adventures vicariously. I loved being on the fringe of their outrageous world.

And I was on the fringe. I was a serious kid. Serious about not taking drugs. Serious about "waiting until I was married." Serious about going to classes. Serious about being Jewish. Serious about Israel. Serious about everything.

Maybe even too serious.

I was on the fringe of the fringe group.

Maybe we all were -- fringes on the fringe.

I think about my high school friends, and I think about the unique paths they took.

Compared to the rest of my high school crowd, I took a unique path as well.

I'm the only one living in Israel. I'm the only one who is "dati leumi" (Religious Zionist). I am the only one who married a religious Jew and whose children are religious Israelis.

To them, I might as well be an astronaut and live on the moon.

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

With love and optimism,
Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


I woke up this morning to a beautiful flurry outside my window....

It was just an illusion. We could see the snow settling on the next hill. But, once again, no snow in Homat Shmuel.

It turns out that, despite appearing to be a tall mountain, Homat Shmuel is actually one of the lowest hills of Jerusalem. We get less snow than anywhere else in Jerusalem!

So, when the radio announced that there would be school today (starting at 9:00, instead of 8:00), we (read: Moshe) woke up the kids, got them ready, and drove them to school.

Moshe dropped off Y, waited for her to confirm that the gate was open, and then drove away.

A minute later, Y called. The gate was open, but her school was locked.

Moshe drove back to pick her up.

*** Meanwhile, back at the ranch... ***

The phone rings.

It is one of the parents from the kids' elementary school.

School is cancelled.

The teachers, and the principal, who live in the "gush" (Gush Etzion), can't get into Jerusalem (THEY have snow!). And the hasa'ot (children's mini busses) aren't working.

I wonder why everyone realized this less than half an hour before school starts. But, no time to argue. (Besides, I don't believe in shooting the messenger)

I run to call Moshe.

"Where are you?" I ask, without bothering to say "hello."

"I just dropped the kids off and am heading home," came his response.

I drop the bomb: "School is cancelled," I inform my dear, sweet husband, knowing how frustrated he will feel driving around and back into the Old City.

Now to track down our kids...

It didn't take long. Some kids from their school were playing outside in the snow. MD & A went to their house and called Moshe.

With kids in the car, and on his way home, again, Moshe called to ask "What about Y?"

I called her school. No answer. I called her teacher. School is open, she answered officially. However, she continued, expecting me to read between the lines, "If most girls don't come, we won't be covering new material." I called Moshe.

"Y called some friends. They are not going to school," he told me.

"Great," I answered, "bring them all home."


"What about chemo?" Moshe ventured.

"I'll call the hospital..." I said, hanging up one phone and dialing on the other.

No snow-day for me.

(a special thanks to CV, who braved the snow to keep me company)

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

With love and optimism,

They Promised Me Snow

I should be in bed, sleeping....

Outside it is windy and rainy.

There is no snow. (yet?)

If there is snow tomorrow, then I won't be able to go to chemo (for the bone drugs, not the actual chemo).

Instead, I'll stay home and play.... very carefully. (remind me to tell you about the last snow day...)

The weather people promised a serious snowstorm.

I LOVE snow!

I am waiting....

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

With love and optimism,

Friday, February 15, 2008

Adventures of a Friday Morning

These last few days, I've been running on empty.

Thursday, I slept late, but not enough. As the morning progressed, I realized that if I took a nap, I would not wake up in time to pick up my kids from school. I forced myself to stay awake.

Then, I dragged myself to pick up my kids. I arrived on time, which was really good, 'cause the weather was awful! (cold and rainy, and windy too)

As usual, teaching swimming invigorated me. For an hour and a half, I felt great. I wasn't the only one. MD was full of energy and continued swimming laps, even after his class was over!

After swimming, I realized we were going to be at least two hours late to a family wedding. Moshe called his mom, who told him the chupah (marriage ceremony) hadn't even begun. So, I shifted back into high gear, and off we went. (you can read all about the wedding here)

Friday morning, I had a hishtalmut (enrichment session) for Migdal David (The Tower of David Museum) tour guides. We were to meet at the Tayelet (The Haas Promenade, overlooking the Old City), and end near the Kotel (Western Wall). It was a bus tour, so I figured I could do it even if I was tired.

I didn't want to leave my car at the Tayelet for the duration of the tour. My car is identifiably Jewish and "nationalist" (note the orange ribbon hanging from my rear-view mirror, and my bumper stickers). It's like a giant sign inviting Arab teens to come and vandalize my car. (Been there, done that). Moshe agreed to drop me off after he took the kids to school.

When I woke up, I didn't check the clock. The kids were home, and Moshe was working at his computer, so it felt early. As I pitter-pattered around, I suddenly noticed the time: 8:00. School was starting...NOW!

I rushed to get ready, pausing only to find a flashlight for the tour. (Finding a working flashlight, with working batteries, is no small feat! MD & A joined the search as I was about to give up. A remembered that she had a small flashlight and MD helped her find it.)

Moshe had to drop me off before he brought the kids to school. The kids would be even later, but there was no choice. The Migdal David hishtalmuyot start on time, and I didn't want to miss the bus. I had to be at the Tayelet by 8:30.

We left the house at 8:15, and Moshe dropped me off at 8:23 - 7 minutes early.

As Moshe drove away, I scanned the small cluster of people there and realized that they were not my group. There was one other person walking around; he also wasn't part of my group.

I wasn't that early. I couldn't be the only one there. Unless....

I called RA, from Migdal David. She was home. The hishtalmut was cancelled, due to inclement weather.

I looked up at the bright sky, and felt the crisp air on my cheeks. The weather was perfect.

Three days ago, the forecast predicted pouring rain. Somehow, I missed the email informing us that the hishtalmut was postponed. (I checked, the email was in my inbox since Tuesday)

I could have been sleeping!!

I hadn't brought a book, and the crisp air would begin to feel cold if I didn't start moving. My friend, NA, lives very close to the Tayelet. I called my husband, then walked to her house. My eldest daughter, Y, was at NA's daughter's b-day party sleepover. Moshe could pick us up at the same time.

It was great to see NA, even for a brief visit. To our chagrin, before we could even drink a cup of coffee, Moshe returned. Y was still in pyjamas, like all the other girls, so we left her there, to be picked up later.

On our way home, Moshe needed to stop at the post office. I wasn't eager to stand on line and I didn't want to wait in the car (remember, no book). Moshe thought the post office would take a few minutes, but I've waited on line a lot longer (sometimes up to half an hour). It was too late to go back to NA's, so I decided to visit, IS, who lives near the post office.

I was eager to share (read: vent) my morning's frustrations. As I entered IS's building, I thought of something Yehudit Kotler suggested at her Rosh Hodesh laughter workshop: changing feelings of frustration to laughter, by laughing at adversity. The laughter releases endorphins, and we feel better. (for more information about laughter and endorphins, click here)

So, I laughed. OK, I chuckled. It was kind of lame, actually. So I tried again. Still, only a chuckle. But the reframing had already taken place.

When I described my morning's mishaps, it was with a spirit of laughter (and just a touch of irony).

In the end, Moshe was right; the post office did not take long. As I finished my tale, Moshe called to tell me he was waiting downstairs.

Walking to meet Moshe, my steps were light, I felt free.

Maybe I'd get my morning nap after all.

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

With love and optimism,

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Smachot (Joyous Occasions)

Have I mentioned how much I love Moshe's family?

When I got married, we invited every single relative that I knew I had in Israel. My father's mother's cousin and his wife. Their two children and their spouses. And the children's 3 children, 6 in all. The total: 12 people.

I come from a very small family. Even my extended family is small.

Not Moshe's.

From Moshe's side, we invited only the "top" generation. We invited his mother's and father's siblings and cousins (and their spouses, of course). No kids and no grandkids. The total: 60 people.

Well, even if you divide that by two, you have 30 matriarchs and patriarchs.

Let's say that half of them are not close enough to include us in all of their smachot.

That still leaves about 15 families. At least 10 of those families have close to 10 children, and, in the older families, each of their children have plenty of children of their own....

So, thank God, we have plenty of relatives, and plenty smachot.

Each simcha is an occasion to catch up with family members, and to be updated about family news.

It has taken me over 15 years to learn the family members. But I now know the upper level and am working my way down through the generations.

What a pleasure!

My husband's family is comprised of some of the most special Jews I have ever met. They are real, "old world," Jews. Their whole world revolves around Torah, and has for generations. They are deeply religious, and highly knowledgeable. Yet they are not removed from the rest of Am Yisrael. All of the older generation men served in the army. Some of them have secular educations, in addition to their yeshiva background. All wear "black hats." Many of them have prominent positions as Rashei Yeshiva and Rabbanei Sh'chuna. And all have open doors to all of Am Yisrael, no matter what background one comes from.

When Moshe and I first married, some of the cousins were particularly warm and welcoming to us. Inviting us to their homes, inviting us for Shabbat. Even today, we know that we are welcome whenever we want.

It is a warm feeling to be embraced so lovingly by one's family.

Tonight, we were invited to one of the cousin's grandchildren's wedding. We are not always included in these invitations, as we are only 3rd cousins (and there are hundreds of third cousins). It is a real honor, and a privilege to be included.

These weddings are all separate seating, with a mechitzah (physical divider). I spend the wedding socializing with the women, but don't really have contact with the men.

So, you can imagine my surprise, when the grandmother of the kallah (bride), tells me that her husband is waiting by the mechitzah to talk with me.

Her husband is a talmid chacham, and a well-respected teacher. And he was waiting at the mechitzah for me.

I rushed over.

I immediately wished him a Mazal Tov and thanked him for including us in their simcha.

And then, to my surprise, he thanked me for making the effort to attend.

I cannot express the depth of my emotion at his attentiveness.

I am the wife of a distant cousin. And yet he took the time, and made the effort, to seek me out, and to wish me a refuah shlaymah (full recovery), and to give me his brachot (blessings).

Earlier, his wife, my mother-in-law's cousin, told me that I am included in her daily prayers. Even today, on the day of her granddaughter's wedding, she recited Tehillim (Psalms) for my refuah.

Perhaps one day I will write more about this amazing couple. His father was the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Hevron, where Moshe's grandfather came to study, and survived the Arab pogrom (massacre) of 1929. She raised their children with an educational philosophy that was years ahead of her time. Both were born in Palestine, and watched the birth and growth of the State of Israel. Both are strongly religious and Zionist.

I had wanted to stay home tonight. I was immensely tired. It was cold and rainy out. I just wanted to crawl into my cozy bed and rest.

But I went to the wedding, because it is a privilege to be included in these smachot.

It is a privilege to be welcomed into a world that is so different from mine, and to be so lovingly included.

May we all be zohim (merit) to celebrate many more smachot together!

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

With love and optimism,

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Mom - Thank You! I Miss You Already!

This summer, as soon as I notified my parents about the return of my cancer, my mom wanted to hop on a plane and come to Israel.

"Hold on, Mom," I cautioned, "we don't know what's happening yet. Why don't you wait a bit, and come when school starts. You can help me much more during the school year."

Mom was feeling far away. She was, understandably, quite nervous and worried. But she agreed to wait.

"Mom," I then asked, "for how long can you come?"

Without hesitating, my mom answered "For as long as you need me."

I immediately queried "So, are you moving here?"

After all, even when we are healthy, we all need our moms! Kal V'Homer (even more so), when we are sick!

Since I knew I would have cancer for a long time, I figured I would need my mom for a long time....

Well, my mom arrived at the end of August and this morning, almost a full SIX MONTHS later, my mom went back to her home in America.

I miss her already.

And I still need her.

I am so grateful for her generosity (and my dad’s). She dropped everything in her own life to come and help me.

She helped me with so many things: picking up the kids from school EVERY day (even when she didn’t feel well); making the kids’ snacks and lunches EVERY evening (which is a task that is as draining to her as it is to me); and shopping EVERY week for groceries (even though she can’t read labels in Hebrew and doesn’t speak more than a few words of Hebrew).

Of course, there were all the little ways that she helped as well, with dishes, and laundry, and sewing, and taking kids to the doctor, and taking ME to the doctor, and holding my hand when I wasn’t feeling well, and… just being here.

It was a long visit.

There were times when our home seemed very crowded. Especially in the beginning (read: first four months), when I wasn’t coping so well. During that time, I am chagrined to admit, I took out much of my frustration on my mother (who was VERY forgiving, especially since it is MY mitzvah (obligation) to show her respect).

Ultimately, it was a very good visit. Eventually, I got my act together, and showed my mother greater deference. We had two good months, and I enjoyed our time together immensely.

I particularly enjoyed watching the many small, and special, interactions between my mother and my children. I am certain that, over time, my children will cherish these memories of living with their grandmother. There is something unique, and priceless, about three generations living together. It was a real privilege to have my mother live with us for such an extended time.

My mother left just a few hours ago, and I already miss her so much.

No matter how old I get, I will always need my mom.

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

With love and optimism,

Sunday, February 10, 2008

But You Still Have Hair!

The following post is inspired by TK's response to Looks Can be Deceiving.

"But you still have hair!" they notice right away, eyes immediately scanning the wisps of hair, visible despite my hair covering. (I cover my hair for religious, not cancer-related, reasons)

It’s almost as if they are challenging me: “how can you have hair if you are on chemo?”

NEWS FLASH: not all chemo makes your hair fall out.

Hair loss is the most visible side affect of chemotherapy. Chemo can make ALL the hair, ALL over the body, fall out. The loss of eyelashes, and eyebrows, makes the faces of many chemo patients look strange and sickly.

So, when people know I'm on chemo, they have certain expectations. They have an image of what a person on chemo looks like.

When we actually meet in person, there is a severe dichotomy between the image and the reality.

“You have hair.”
“You have hair?”
“Why do you have hair?”

Cancer patients can have their body blasted by chemotherapy and still have a full head of hair.

To make things more confusing: the same chemo can affect people differently, so that some lose their hair altogether, some lost a bit of hair and some don’t lose any hair.

I was told that I might not experience any hair loss from the "vanilla bean" (Navalbine).

At first, when I didn't lose any hair, I was so relieved and grateful! I thought that meant I was one of the lucky ones, and wouldn’t lose my hair at all.

Then, my hair started to fall out, very slowly, a bit at a time.

Then, there was that one traumatic evening, when every time I ran the comb through my hair, more and more hair kept coming out.

By now, my hair has thinned so much that I want to cry. I can still make a braid (about the thickness of my finger, but a braid nonetheless). Though I am avoiding getting a much needed trim, because who knows if my hair will ever grow back....

Apparently, as long as I receive the “vanilla bean”, the hair that is gone, is gone. I might lose more hair. I might not. No one knows.

Still, I have hair, on my head, on my eyebrows, eyelashes, etc.

So, I look “normal.”

But I’m not.

I have cancer.

My life revolves around chemotherapy.

That is definitely not normal, even with hair.

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

With love and optimism,

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Looks Can Be Deceiving

"You look great!"

(or so everyone says....)

What they mean is: "You don't look like you're dying."

What do they expect?

They expect people with cancer to look like they are dying.

But what does a person who is dying look like?

Most dying people look like you and I.

I am dying. So are you. We all are dying.

From the moment we are born, we are in the process of dying.

So, perhaps "You look great!" really means "You don't look so sick."

I don't, thank God.

I don't look like someone sick.

Until I started chemo, I didn't feel like someone sick either.

When I was first diagnosed, and everyone asked "How do you feel?", I answered honestly "I feel fine." (only later, did I remember the annoying hip pain, which, it turns out, was cancer).

I had just discovered that I had cancer in my bones, liver and lungs, yet I looked, and felt, fine.

That's the devious nature of cancer. It attacks from the inside out. So, on the outside, you look fine. While on the inside, things are not necessarily so good.

This is a lesson on not judging others. We never know what is going on inside anyone else.

It's also a lesson in human survival skills.

We don't want to see illness in others. It makes us uncomfortable. It makes us scared of our own mortality.

So we are relieved to see others looking well.

If they look well, they must not be so sick. If they are not so sick, then they will not die.

If they don't die, neither will we.

Well, the good news is that I'm not planning on dying anytime in the near future.

As the good doctors all assure me, cancer can be considered a "chronic illness."

You can live with it for a long time.

So, go on, tell me how great I look.

'Cause I plan on living for a long time. (God willing)

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

With love and optimism,

Chemo Day

Had chemo this past Tuesday. (new cycle: Herceptin & "vanilla bean")

Btw, chemo-Tuesday is way better than chemo-Sunday.

Getting chemo that Sunday, after the retreat, messed up my entire week. It was Thursday night before I felt enough energy to do anything. And, by then, the week was over. Blah.

This way (chemo on Tuesdays), I have at least a modicum of energy on Sunday and Monday. And, though I'm beat until Shabbat, I am not so drop-dead exhausted that I can't sit at the table with my family (at least for most of the meal).

So, Tuesday it is -- maximizing my good days without messing up Shabbat.

Anyway, this Tuesday, I met with my oncologist.

I found out:

1. The ultrasound (that I did on chemo-Sunday) showed less information that the non-iodine CT. So, no need for more ultrasounds. But, also, no way to find the information that we miss by not using the iodine contrast for the CT.

2. The back pain is worrisome. After all, if the drugs are working, why this new pain? So, I need another CT to examine the back.

Tomorrow, Thursday, I'm going in for the CT of my back. The results will be discussed on Monday. And I should know more on Tuesday. (Like, will I need radiation on my back?)

Oh yeah, there's more. Apparently sciatica can be triggered by the cancer.


On a positive note: I felt a lot more energy today, than on previous Wednesdays.

Could be because:
a. I slept for over 3 hours when I got home from chemo yesterday
b. I'm getting used to the drugs
c. I'm not fighting a stupid, common cold for the first time in three months
d. all of the above
e. none of the above

Don't you love it? There’s no way to know anything!

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

With love and optimism,

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Chemo Day -- last Sunday

My mom came with me to chemo last Sunday. It was a bit of a crazy day, with lots of running around between departments. There are advantages to everything. On my way back to the oncology ward, I met up with B&AW. BW was able to stay and hang out for the rest of chemo. Fun for me.

In addition to chemo, I had an ultrasound of my liver, and a full-body-x-ray (for the research that gives me the bone drugs).

Since I am now allergic to iodine, I do not receive the contrast material (based on iodine) for CTs. So, periodically, I will have an ultrasound to supplement the information from the CT.

The x-ray is done for the bone research. It's just to make sure that nothing's broken. They take x-rays from my head, down to my knees. It takes 15-25 minutes, depending on the technician, and involves a fair amount of poking and prodding.

I finally suggested to the research director that if there is going to be that much poking and prodding, there should be a woman doctor taking x-rays of women.

She was very receptive to my suggestion, so I'm glad I said something.

I have to have this type of x-ray every few months, so it makes a difference to me.

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

With love and optimism,

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Less Pain

The Star Trek episode was great.

The back pain is not so bad anymore.

No need for the ER.

I still plan on taking drugs to help me sleep. But Acamol (the Israeli equivalent of Tylenol) should do just fine.

Shavua Tov.

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

With love and optimism,

New Pain

My back hurts.

It's been hurting on and off for a week or two (maybe more). It hurt enough that I knew I should mention it to my doctor, but not so much that I remembered right away.

My oncologist was out for a while, and I didn't want to disturb him. I figured most things could wait.

I saw him briefly this past Sunday, when I went in for chemo (I postponed the previous Tuesday’s chemo to Sunday, so I could go away on the Beit Natan retreat). So, during my five minutes with the doctor, I mentioned the back pain. My back didn’t hurt that much at the time, so it was just one other item on my list.

On Wednesday night, my back hurt a LOT.

The kind of pain that makes you want to cry. (but not so bad that you actually cry)

I took some drugs and went to sleep.

Thursday morning it still hurt, but not as much.

Still, I knew that I should let my oncologist know that the pain was increasing.

Finally, on Thursday night, I sent him an email.

I received the following email in response:



Now I was worried.

Have I ever mentioned that I hate going the emergency room? The only thing worse than going to the emergency room, is going there on Shabbat. Once the life-threatening concern is over, you are stuck there, missing Shabbat with your family. YUCK.

Of course, you can walk home. But given my back pain (new), my hip pain (old), and my ankle pain (arthritis), I knew that I wouldn’t be up for an hour and a half walk home. So, in short, I’d be stuck there. YUCK.

And, given that this past Shabbat was my mom’s birthday, and she’s only here for one more Shabbat, I really didn’t want to miss out on Shabbat with my mom and my family.

I wrote back and forth a few times with my oncologist, and then the phone rang. He decided that it would be easier to clarify the situation with a conversation.

Have I mentioned how much I appreciate my oncologist?

It turns out that I didn’t have to be worried, but I did have to be aware of the back pain, and maybe go to the ER for a CT. Not the best, but not the worst either. I could go on Friday, early.

If the pain continued to increase, I would have to go. I prepared myself to go on Friday morning. But Friday, the pain wasn’t so bad. And there was a lot to do to prepare for Shabbat.

On Shabbat, I had pain from sciatica. Not fun, but not cancer. So I suffered, but didn’t feel the need to go to the ER.

Now it’s Saturday night, and I have more serious back pain again.

But, in Israel, Saturday night in the ER is a ZOO!

And you spend hours just sitting around waiting. And sitting is not so comfortable for me right now.

So, even though I should probably go, I’m just lying down and resting.

Soon I’ll take some drugs and go to sleep.

After Star Trek.

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

With love and optimism,