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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008

This year, we went again to our friends, T&JG, to celebrate Thanksgiving. I spent much of the evening talking with YC, with whom I laugh a lot!! We stayed a bit later, so we would also have a bit more time with T&J. It was really nice to be with friends for Thankgsiving (though I still miss doing Thanksgiving with NATIV).

For Shabbat, we went to my in-laws for Thanksgiving Shabbat. It was really nice to celebrate with family as well.

Had I been more put together, I would have made arrangements for us to stay in Beit Shemesh on Thursday night, since both T&JG and my in-laws live there. Since this shabbat was Shabbat Irgun (Irgun means organization, but there is nothing organized about Israeli youth groups!), Y did not have school on Friday anyway, and it would be no big deal for MD and A to miss school.

There is no way to translate the craziness of youth groups here, in this case B'nai Akiva, that culiminate in a month of intense devotion called Chodesh Irgun, the apex of which is Shabbat Irgun.

The Thursday night before Shabbat Irgun is Laila Lavan (White Night), during which the kids stay up all night. Y's school just cancelled school on Friday, automatically conceding defeat to the youth. MD & A technically had school, but I did not send them.

When Y was little, I did not understand this facet of Israeli culture, and made her go to school even when she insisted that nobody else would be there. Being American, I thought that if there was school, the teachers would be teaching. Silly me. The few poor kids who came to school would watch some sort of movie (of little or no educational value). Eventually, I learned.

Then, Saturday night, the B'nai Akiva kids put on shows (highly improvisational, very silly, filled with inside jokes I would not understand even if I could hear/understand what they were saying in the first place).

My kids are not in B'nai Akiva (to my chagrin, but that is another story), but many of their friends are. My kids wanted to go watch their friends' plays tonight, but we did not get back to Jerusalem in time. Oh well.

What can I say, I am still an American. I like my kids to go to bed on time and go to school in the morning.

Still, it was nice to have a long weekend (Thursday night to Saturday night), it almost felt like Thanksgiving weekend.

Y's school went all the way, and cancelled school on Sunday as well. She really does have a full, long weekend. Lucky her!

My in-laws gave us the leftover turkey (plus a whole lot of extras), so I'm not complaining!

Hope y'all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!!

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

With love and optimism,

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Know Anyone High Up in Maccabi?

My health fund (Maccabi) denied me coverage of the Herceptin.

Before we go any further (and before anyone suggests we try to pay for it ourselves, or with donations), Herceptin costs 170,000 NIS per year.

The fund claims that
1. the "progression of disease" shows that the Herceptin stopped working, and
2. I am no different from all the other patients in my situation

However, there are two senior oncologists whose clinical experience leads them to believe that the Herceptin is still a valuable component of my treatment, and there is a research study going on right now to prove just that. Not to mention, most other patients in my situation are eligible to participate in this study, providing them with a means of receiving treatment, where I have none.

So, tomorrow I will start writing letters....

Meanwhile, anyone have any "protectzia"?

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

With love and optimism,

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Medical Update -- changing meds

Well, it is official. I am definitely switching chemos.

My markers have bounced back up and they are higher than ever.

I will definitely be getting Taxol.

If my health fund (Maccabi) approves, I will also continue with the Herceptin.

The health fund might deny coverage, due to lack of "evidence" that continuing Herceptin with a different chemo is effective. The research, that I cannot join, due to the cancer only being in my bones, is to prove what the doctors suspect, that it is beneficial to continue treating with Herceptin.

Unless, I get the Herceptin within the next 7 days, even if it is approved, I will have to get another "loading dose." That means another major chemo day from hell.....

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

With love and optimism,

Monday, November 24, 2008


So, if there is one thing that I am learning as a cancer patient, it is to recognize that I cannot control everything.

For the past 6 months, my markers have been steadily rising and my pain has been increasing.

After months of tests, scans, deliberations, and sending me for a second opinion, my oncologist has determined that this particular drug combo is no longer working.

I went in for chemo last Sunday, and my oncologist sent me home.

Well, not right away. After my blood test, we sat with my oncologist for about half an hour, discussing options. Both he and my second opinion oncologist (SOO) recommend staying with Herceptin and switching to Taxol. There is uncertainly about whether or not the health fund will approve the change (Herceptin is very expensive, and the health fund might insist a change of both treatments).

Xeloda, which is similar to Taxol, but less toxic, might be a "nicer" drug for me, but both doctors recommended "using up" Taxol first. My SOO suggested saving the Xeloda for use with the drug we will use when the Herceptin stops working. And my oncologist pointed out that I am only available for a particular study if I have already used Taxol. Moreover, the health fund will not approve the use of Xeloda before Taxol has been used.

My oncologist suggested I try to get into a study that would fund Herceptin and Taxol. But that study would make me ineligible to continue with the bone drug study, and I want to stay with the bone drug study.*

We also discussed the side effects of Taxol. I will probably lose my hair. (Want to know how I feel about my hair? Read this) I must admit, I have grown accustomed to having chemo and hair. I do not really want to start down that road now. I do not want to look sick. I will also probably suffer from neuropathy (a tingling of the fingers and toes, sometimes accompanied by a loss of dexterity). That really frightens me. And I might become very tired again. That does not excite me either. I took some deep breathes, and tried very hard to stay calm (read: not cry).

We walked out of his office with a letter to "send immediately" to my health fund, requesting the new chemo (Taxol).

I updated one of the nurses, with whom I am particularly friendly. She informed me that if you have to drop out of a study, sometimes the company will still pay for you to continue receiving the trial drugs. So that, if I need to enter a new study, perhaps I can still receive the bone drugs. (good to know). After she removed my "port" (the needle and tubing that connects my port to the IV), she suggested that I ask the secretary to fax the letter to my health fund, and wished me luck.

I faxed the letter, then my friend drove me home.

A few hours later, my oncologist called.

"Don't send the letter yet," he instructed.

"Too late," I told him, explaining that we had faxed the letter before we left the oncology ward.

"What's going on?" I asked, perplexed.

"Your marker are down," he answered, just as perplexed.

After rising around 20 points every month, for the past six months, my CA-125 marker suddenly dropped 54 points (from 170 to 116). My CEA marker also dropped (from 3.6 to 2.6).

"What does that mean?" I asked, searching for understanding.

"I don't know," he answered honestly, "I wanted some extra time to think."

So, we waited for the PET scan results, hoping they might shed some light on my situation.

He got the report yesterday (Sunday). There is nothing new on the PET scan, it only shows bone lesions. GOOD NEWS for me!! But not at all helpful in determining treatment (though now I am ineligible for that new study, since bone lesions are too difficult to measure, and no other tumors are evident at this time).

I went in on Sunday to test my markers again. No further news yet.

So, here I am, the night before chemo, and I do not know what chemo I might be getting or if I am getting chemo at all.

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

With love and optimism,

*I am either getting Zomera or a new drug called Denosumab. Participating in the trial is a win-win for me. The Zomera is the next generation drug of its kind, and is not covered by the health funds. And the Denosumab is a new drug which is not even available on the market. So, either way, I'm getting a better drug than I would have gotten had I not been in the study.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Eilat -- Day 2 -- Diving with the Dolphins

***Don't get confused! I am home!***
"Day 2" was Tuesday, November 11

It might not be nice, but when my sister took my daughter diving with the dolphins for her Bat Mitzvah, boy was I jealous!!

I have been swimming since I was a baby! I virtually grew up in the water. My childhood fantasy was to be a mermaid when I grew up, so that I could spend all my time under water.

Not surprisingly, I have always been fascinated by, and enamored with, dolphins. After all, dolphins are intelligent creatures, perhaps even smarter than humans, who live under water! And they are so graceful!!

So, when my friend suggested we go to Eilat, all I could think was: I am going to swim with the dolphins!

I was crushed when my doctor did not give me his "stamp of approval." (see Limitations)

Moreover, when I mentioned that my sister and I were considering learning to SCUBA dive together, my doctor asserted that I would not be eligible for a license. *SQUASH* another dream bites the dust.

Then, the rebound. I did not give up.

When I went for my second opinion, I asked the oncologist about diving with the dolphins. She did not see any reason for concern, and was willing to write me a note. (Salvation is on the way!)

The doctor stressed that I should not hide my medical history from the diving center (so much for that plan!), so I called the dolphin reef in advance, informed them that I had permission from one of the heads of oncology at Tel HaShomer, promised to bring the note with me, and received approval to dive with the dolphins!

What a fantasy! I was going to enter the wonderful world under the sea! I dreamt of this my entire life! I thought it would be so easy!

It was tougher than I expected....

First, you have to get into a wet suit, which I could not do by myself. Then, they strap a belt on you with weights to.... (you guessed it) weigh you down. Then, they strap on the air tank, which is also plenty heavy. Then, feeling like a bloated beached whale carrying flippers, we plodded down to the beach, stopping on the way for the photographer to snap our picture. (say "cheese!")

Once in the water, we were instructed to bend over and put on our flippers. When I told my instructor/guide*, Assaf, that I could not do it, he encouraged me to try. I should have told him that I can barely put on socks myself, and that is without all the extra bulk and weight. Instead, I bent over to try to put on my right flipper, since that leg is more flexible than my left leg. Assaf directed me to put on my left flipper first. I tried, more than once, before insisting that he help me. This was not the way I wanted to start (frustrated, humiliated, and feeling incompetent).

Nevertheless, I was not going to let anything spoil my fantasy. So, I lay back on the water, let Assaf put on my flippers, and we moved on to the next step.

I put the mouthpiece in my mouth, and breathed in the air. It was not like breathing through a snorkel! It felt like breathing with a shirt over my mouth. I could breathe in, but it did not feel comfortable. Assaf encouraged me to breathe slowly, and not try to fill my lungs. I did my best.

Then I floated, face down, on top of the water, and breathed via the tank. I felt like I was not getting enough air, and I stood back up. I knew I had to stay calm, so I focused on breathing slowly and steadily. I tried again, but it still did not feel right. I knew I should not stand up again, but I did.

I started to feel anxious. Would I be too afraid to go through with it? I had come this far, I did not want to fail. I looked at Assaf and told him that I was afraid. With gentle patience, he assured me that diving can be intimidating at first and that we would go down slowly, and he would check with me at every stage. I took a deep breath, lay down, and did not stand up again.

True to his word, every time I felt a bit of pressure, as we went lower, Assaf used hand signals to ask if I was alright. I signaled him that I was fine.

Within a few minutes, we were several feet below the surface, and I felt completely comfortable.

Once over my initial fear, I felt like I could stay under the water forever.

As we swam out a bit, I felt in awe of the underwater world. There were small coral reefs and clusters of fish. I recognized many of the fish from the underwater observatory.

Then there were the dolphins.

Every so often, one or two dolphins would swim by. They were so beautiful. But they did not stop to play. In a flash, they were gone.

At one point, five of the dolphins were all in tumble. A few of the other divers swam closer, but my guide held me back. Later, when I asked why, he explained that the dolphins were fighting and he did not want to "box them in."

And then it was over.

As we headed back to shore, I signaled to Assaf that I wanted to do a summersault underwater. This was not a signal that we had coordinated in advance, but after a few tries he understood what I meant.

It was fun, though slightly disorienting.

I did not want the dive to end, but our time was up.

Afterwards, I asked how far underwater we went. We were only 3-4 meters under water. You can reach those depths from a simple surface dive. But you can't stay down there for half an hour.

I could have stayed there forever, in that magical underwater world.

I mentioned my dream of getting a SCUBA diving license, and Assaf suggested I contact one of several physicians who specialize in SCUBA diving. I think I will.

Because I can't wait to dive again!

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

With love and optimism,

* Every diver is accompanied by a licensed diver, who holds on to the unlicensed diver for the duration of the entire dive.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Back to "Normal"

Well, the house is quiet, we have no more company, and life is returning to "normal." (whatever that is)

I am trying to keep within me a piece of the peace and tranquility that I experienced these past two weeks.

I will forever be grateful to my friend, ABH, for taking me away and for giving me such wonderful experiences. I am also grateful to her husband, for making it possible, to her mother, for her support and encouragement, and to her kids, for sharing their mom with me.

I am also grateful to my husband, who made it possible for me to go and who picked up all the loose ends, and to my kids, who graciously let me go and have fun and did not make me feel guilty at all.

It is not a small thing for a mom to "run away." The logistics can be overwhelming. But we did it. And our houses are still standing.

Of course, I have a long list of things to do now. But I would have that list in any case.

Meanwhile, as happy as I am relieved to return to my family, I miss my friend already. It was a real treat to have her around and be able to talk with her about everything!

When she lived here, we used to talk ALL the time (multiple times a day). We would share everything -- little tidbits, interesting experiences, thoughts, feelings, etc. And we would often turn to each other for advice, each of us possessing different strengths, and complementing each others' knowledge and abilities. I miss that.

Having visitors from abroad just makes you miss them that much more when they leave....

For now, no more guests.... until Chanukah, when, hopefully, my brother and his family are coming

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

With love and optimism,

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

General Update -- Life is BUSY!! (Filled with Good Things)

Once again, I have not really had internet access for several days.

Just to put things into perspective, I was away last week for three and a half days (Sun-Wed) and I am away this week for another three and a half days(Sun-Wed). In between, I had my PET scan on Thursday (no results yet), we went away for Shabbat (to friends in Kochav HaShachar), I went to chemo on Sunday (more about that another time), and Sunday night my support group started meeting again!

I guess now I understand why I am so tired!

I am having a wonderful time!

I have all sorts of things to share, but do not have the time to post right now.

I wish I would have thought to have people "guest post." I just was not organized in advance....

Oh well, next time...

Meanwhile, thanks for your patience.

I will try to post when I can, and hope to be back to "normal" next week.

OK, gotta go have more fun now.....

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

With love and optimism,

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Eilat -- Day 1 -- The Underwater Observatory

In theory, we planned to go to Eilat on Sunday morning.

In practice, we arrived in Eilat after 8:00 pm, Sunday night.

We checked into the hotel, and were thrilled to discover that breakfast is served until 11:00! So, Monday morning, we slept in!

The plan was to take it slow and easy the first day.

I figured it would be perfect to visit the Underwater Observatory. In addition to everything else, we could reacquaint ourselves with the magical underwater world, and its various life forms. My friend did not really need the review, but I sure did!

What a great way to start off the trip.

After a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, we packed some extra fruits and pastries, and went on our way.

Like Eilat in general, the Underwater Observatory was far more developed than the last time I was there, 24 years ago!

In addition to the underwater observatory, there were numerous, wonderful exhibits above ground, and an expansive play area, with creative sea creatures on which to climb, swing, slide and take your picture!

As soon as you enter the park, you can observe life underwater, without even going below sea level. There is a beautiful Red Sea Reef Aquarium, that is cool and peaceful.

Then there is the dark, and mystical, shark pool. During our visit, in addition to several sleek sharks, and two majestic stingrays, there was a diver in the pool... vacuuming.... underwater debris. It was somewhat surrealistic.

Next, we watched as a slow, but determined sea turtle, struggled to enter the sea turtle pool. As graceful as these enormous, long living turtles are underwater, they are cumbersome on land. As the turtle flopped into the pool, we were amused by its clumsy entrance into the water.

Then we went to the oceanarium, for a show about life under the sea. It was a simulator ride. Despite not having received a clear answer from my doctor, I knew the ride would be fine, and I did not want to miss out. My friend, who is a stickler for rules, was a bit nervous (she would have preferred to sit in the chairs that do not move). But I was determined, and I am not sorry. The movie was a bit corny, but the ride was fun!

Afterwards, we went on a glass bottomed boat ride. We sat at the front of the boat, right next to the guide, so we heard all sorts of extra tidbits, and were able to ask several questions.

From there we went to the underwater museum, which was just magical.

Both my friend and I were starting to get tired.

We went through the special exhibit about the Amazon forest, but then my friend had enough.

I did not want to miss anything! I went, by myself, into the rare fish exhibit. It was so cool! I really wanted to show my friend all the amazing things and, in the end, I did convince her to look at some of the more spectacular exhibits. At the end were the luminescent corals I remembered from my visit, so many years earlier.

The visit was really spectacular!

We left the park, exhausted but exhilarated.

We went back to the hotel, ate a light supper, and relaxed in the Spa, under an outdoor waterfall, surrounded by greenery. We were the only ones there and it felt like we were in our own private little world.

I sat under the hot water, and let it pound out the tension in my back and neck. The contrast, of the cool night air and the hot water pouring down over my head, was peaceful and heavenly.

I could have stayed there forever.

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

With love and optimism,

Thursday, November 13, 2008

PET Scan

PET scan today....

Must fast 5 hours before PET scan.

Really tired this morning.

Forced myself to get up and eat a decent breakfast.

Began the 5 hour fast.

An hour into the fast, get a call, there was a "takala" (malfunction), so my scan was moved from 3:30 to 4:30.

I had 5 minutes to eat something, before the next five hours started.

Quick! Eat a clementina! (No clue what that is in English. Tangerine? Clementine?)


Back to the fast.

Can drink water, but nothing else.


Get to hospital.


Get shot with radioactive stuff.


(just kidding)

Wait around in dinky room.



Drink this.


Not as bad as Barium.

An hour later, called in for the scan.

Notice two waiting stations, with comfy chairs and individual TELEVISIONS!!!

Boy did I feel like a second class citizen!

Oh well... I'll know for next time!

My turn for the scan.

Another really narrow "bed" (why do they make these things so narrow?!).

Commented about the music.

Technician said he could change it.


I asked for classical music.

Good stuff.

Lie down; arms over my head. Hold them there for.... TWENTY FIVE MINUTES!

Scan is over.

Go home.


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

With love and optimism,

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The times, they are changin’

Hey Y'all! I had some internet access problems and was completely cut off from the internet! It's a long story, but it's over now. So, sorry for the delay. Hope to post a bunch in the next few days....


The last time I was in Eilat was over 16 years ago!

I was single, young, healthy, and going to live forever!!

And there was nothing here!!

The underwater observation center was a wonderful, but dinky tourist attraction.

There were only a few hotels, one or two beaches renting snorkeling equipment, and a small, sleepy town.

That was it.

Eilat was, mostly, a lot of empty beach.

Not anymore.

The youth hostel, which used to be way out of town, is now close to the edge, but well within the city.

There are a plethora of hotels, each one more extravagant than the next.

The architecture is fantastic!

And there is plenty to do besides swimming and sunbathing.

I feel like I have landed on another planet!

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

With love and optimism,

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Medical Update -- Second Opinion

"Why are you here?" asked the oncologist.

"My doctor wanted me to get an expert opinion," I responded.

"What nonsense; he's an expert in his own right," she muttered under her breath.

So, I explained that my doctor wanted someone with a fresh opinion, from another hospital, who would examine my case from an unbiased perspective.

That, she found tenable.

Her analysis does differ somewhat. She notes that:

1. all my markers have been rising steadily(not just the CA-125). That, coupled with my increasing pain, indicates, without doubt, that there is "progression of disease."

2. the CT report does not indicate that the cancer has been eliminated from my liver. After the second report, noting that the lesion is smaller, all following reports note "no change."

3. though there is no evidence of disease on the MRI, since there is no previous MRI with which to compare the results, they are inconclusive. Perhaps with this type of imaging, no evidence would have been apparent, even in the beginning.

4. there are lesions evident on the CT, that could be tumors.

She recomments switching treatment.

I expressed my concern that I have already "used up" one of the drugs that are appropriate for my cancer.

She assured me that there are still plenty of drugs left in the "arsenal" and that there is a lot of research these days about HER2 breast cancer.

The uncertainty is disconcerting.

But we are just talking about changing treatments.

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

With love and optimism,

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Ain't it good to know, You've got a friend

"I'm coming to visit you," says my friend, after reading some of my recent posts.

"I'm OK," I reassure her.

"I'm coming anyway," she repeats, emphatically.

"I'm really not that bad," I reiterate, "I am already coming out of my slump."

"I know," she acknowledges, "I want to come. I think you can use the support."

Who am I to argue?

She's one of my best friends in the entire world. I miss her terribly.

"OK," I accede, "Let me know when you want to come."

I feel so loved.

I did not want her to come because she was worried. I know that I am OK, even if I have been feeling a little down.

But I am thrilled for her to come and play with me!!

She used to live here, and we have been through a lot together!

Well, she arrived Wednesday night!

I am so excited.

We are going to run away together.

My kids pouted a little, feeling slightly deprived that I am not taking them along. But I know they understand. I need a rest. And, as my friend jokingly pointed out to them, "If they come along, I won't rest." The kids laughed, knowing that it's true.

So, hopefully, we are off tomorrow!

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

With love and optimism,

Thursday, November 6, 2008


“Are you sure you can do that?” asked my sister.

“Why not??” I responded, irritated that she was even asking.

We were discussing the possibility of diving with the dolphins in Eilat, something I have been dreaming of doing for years!

When she mentioned that she always wanted to go water skiing, she added, “You should ask your doctor about that, too.”

Later on, she said the same thing about rollercoasters, and Wall Climbing, in Teddy Stadium.

The questions annoyed me.

I wrote all her questions down in my yoman (diary), so I would not forget to ask my oncologist during my appointment on Tuesday morning. I would show her!

Tuesday morning, I strode into my doctor’s office and stopped. Two young adults, in white coats, were just hanging out in the room.

I paused, then queried the smiling young couple “Are you students?”

They smiled at me. “We are studying medicine at Soroka Hospital, in Be’er Sheva. Would you mind if we stick around during your appointment?”

Well, it is not as if my medical information is not out there for the entire world to read!

“Are you planning to stay in Israel?” I asked (unable to curb my Zionism, even in the oncolgy ward).

They looked at each other, and smiled again. They came to Israel as part of a Columbia University program, studying third world medicine. About 80% of the students are not even Jewish.

As it happens, the young man is Jew from Maryland; the young woman is a non-Jew from Denver. Cool.

My doc came in, turned to the students, and said, “Fasten your seat belts.” Then he introduced my case…

I tried hard not to interupt, as he gave a 2 minute overview of my medical history. I did interject when he described minimal pain; but I could not argue when he pointed out that I was managing my pain with minor league pain killers (Optalgin and Algolysin).

We then discussed some general questions, like the sensitivity in my jaw (“Why are we talking about her teeth?” My doctor quizzes the students*) and my upcoming second opinion (What I should bring with me; how I should present my situation, so as not to bias the doctor; etc)

The meeting was more or less "normal," until I turned to my list, and started asking my “real” questions.

“Can I SCUBA dive,” I asked.

“WHAT???” Moshe turns to me, in surprise (read: shock!).

“I want to go diving with the dolphins,” I calmly explain to the doctor… and my husband.

“I don’t know,” says my doctor, not the least bit perturbed.

“What could be wrong with SCUBA diving?” I challenged.

“I don’t know,” repeated my doctor.

“One of my teachers, who is in Israel right now” inserted one of the young students, “is a pulmonologist who has done research about SCUBA diving.”

“It’s a different field,” my doctor noted.

I wave my hands to indicate a magical aura, and chant “lifelong dream… diving with dolphins….”

I can see that my doctor is not moved by my creativity, and youthful eagerness.

“You only go down about 10 meters,” I add, not quite managing to keep my voice from pleading.

But my doctor is concerned that the pressure might damage my bones.

“You can try asking this fellow’s friend,” he says, nodding towards the student.

I take a deep breath.

“What about water skiing?” I ask.

“WHAT???” Moshe says, shocked yet again.

“No,” says my doctor, this time with no hesitation, “impact.”

“What about wall climbing?” I ask.

“WHAT???” Moshe says, nearly jumping out of his seat. “Where are you getting all these ideas?” he asks, looking at me like I just landed from Mars.

“My sister,” I reply, as if stating the obvious.

“No,” says my doctor, he does not hesitate this time, either.

“But you can’t fall,” I argue, “They use a belay” (to secure a climber at the end of a rope).

“If you lose your grip, the rope will catch you, stopping your fall, and causing impact,” my doctor explains, kindly.

He is patient, acknowledging my disappointment, as he turns to his students to explain the crazy lady sitting opposite him “She is a 42 year old, mother of three….”

I am resigned as I ask my final question, “I suppose I can’t go on a rollercoaster either.”

I barely hear his answer.

“You are raining on my parade,” I say quietly, trying to laugh it off, but pouting nonetheless.

My doctor turns to the students, “I told you, this one would be interesting.”

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

With love and optimism,

* If the bone drug is Zomera, it is a biophosphonate, which can cause osteonecrosis in the jawbone.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Socially Acceptable Body Mutilations, A.K.A. Pierced Ears

If God wanted us to have holes in our ears, we would have been born that way!

In the Bible, ear piercing is a sign of slavery! (See Devarim (Deuteronomy) 15:16-17)

When I discovered that my father was against piercing your ears, that was OK with me. I did not really want anyone putting unnecessary holes in my body. (Little did I know....)

Over time, I acquired a pretty nice collection of clip-on earings.

I was proud to have unpierced ears.

And then.... betrayal!

My daughter wanted pierced ears.

"You can make that decision for yourself, when you are eighteen," I declared, just as my parents told my sister, repeatedly, every time she asked for pierced ears.

My daughter persisted.

In an effort to placate her, I lent her (and her sister), my clip-on earings.

For a while, I thought I had succeeded.

I was pleased that they were using my earings. Even though they lost several pair, I thought it was worth it if they would lose interest in piercing their ears.


Much to my chagrin, my daughter continued to beg for permission to pierce her ears. (This made me quite sorry that I lent them my earings, since it is IMPOSSIBLE to find clip-on earings anymore, and I cannot replace the ones they lost!)

This summer, I discovered that my daughter had a powerful ally.

One bright, sunny day, my sister pulled me aside. I thought she was about to share with me some super secret. With the greatest air of sharing confidences, she quietly suggested that... I let Y pierce her ears before school starts. Woah! Y is only 14!! She is not even close to turning 18!

My sister, ever so gently, suggested that I do not really want to make my daughter wait that long.

"No way!" I told my sister.

My sister was not so easily deterred.

Over the next several weeks, my sister cajoled me, little by little, wearing down my resistance.

She assured me that my daughter would not "grow out" of her interest in pierced ears. She explained just how much she resented not having pierced ears when she was a kid. And she described how appreciative my daughter would be, if I relented.

I stuck to my guns, and school started with no bodily mutilations.

But my sister did not let it go.

"OK, we missed the beginning of school. But think how nice it would be if she got her ears pierced before Rosh HaShannah...."

"I don't want her to pierce her ears," I repeated, but my arguments were beginning to sound weak, even to me.

I love my daughter. In some ways, she is a lot like me. But not in all ways.

Unlike me, my daughter really is a "girly girl." She is like my sister. She is "into" clothes; she likes shopping, she likes nail polish, she wants to use make up. (My other daughter is the same way, btw).

What can I say? I was never interested in those things. Neither was my mother. But my sister was.

I do not really understand that facet of my daughter's personality. But my sister does.

So, despite my strong facade, I listened when my sister explained how important earings can be to a teenager, and how the desire for pierced ears will only grow stronger, and she will get them anyway, and quite possibly resent me for preventing her from piercing her ears earlier.

I listened.

I recognized the truth of her words.

I resisted.

I reflected.

I wished things were different.

I started noticing who did not have pierced ears.

A lot of my friends and acquantances do not have pierced ears. (As a group, we are a statistical anomaly)

I started asking these unpierced women, "Did you want pierced ears in high school?"

They all answered the same.


I could not ignore the evidence.

I had to ask myself, 'if my daughter is going to pierce her ears anyway, what advantage is there to making her wait until 18?'

I had no good answer.

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

With love and optimism,

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Family Meeting -- Shabbat Preparations

We've been talking about it for weeks (read: months).

We finallly did it.

We sat down an hour later than I wanted to start, but we were all there.

I was surprised at how well the kids listened to each other.

I was also surprised at the choices they made.

All along, I had thought that they wanted choices. It turns out, that did not work for our family, and the kids did not like the stress that came along with all those choices.

So, the kids chose to group certain chores together, and then formed a rotation.

Moshe made a lottery, to choose who begins with which tasks. And, voila, the new system was in place!

We will re-evaluate the system in several weeks.

It took us an hour and a half (half an hour longer than planned). We had to "table" the discussion (i.e. postpone it for the next time) about exceptions to the rule (i.e. what to do when one person can't do their rotation that week).

Towards the end, some of us snapped at each other. The meeting was a little too long, and the time was a little too late, for us all.

We were all exhausted by the end.

Maybe we will institute some sort of "feel good" ritual to end these meetings. (it might be too "earthy-crunchy" for my husband, but I think it's a good idea)

Still and all, I think it was a positive experience.

We just have to fine tune it a bit.

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

With love and optimism,

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Shabbat Preparations -- Involving ALL the children, continued

After posting, I handled the stress a little calmer.

I also called Moshe, and he took over. (Tag-team parenting is the best!)

Later in the afternoon, my child, who was reluctantly doing what I asked, paused to announce "I just want to know when I am done!"

I realized that that is a very important piece of the puzzle.

My child was also extremely frustrated.

This child does not deal well with transitions. I know that. But I never applied that knowledge to household chores.

This particular child needs to know what is expected and when no more will be required.

I tend to assign another task, as soon as the previous task is finished. So there is no clear ending. The child has no way of knowing how many tasks need to be done and when they will be finished. This causes my child unecessary stress.

I need to set clearer guidelines as to what are my expectations, and to give my child (children) a concrete "finish line."

If I have several tasks to assign, it might be helpful to give this child a written list, and say "when you have completed all the tasks on this list, I will not require anything more of you until Shabbat begins."

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

With love and optimism,