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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Beit Natan Winter Retreat 2009 -- Renewal -- Part I -- Playback

The first day of the retreat was intense. By evening, I felt tired, but good. I could easily have gone to sleep after dinner. Instead, I looked forward to an energetic and entertaining performance of Playback Theatre.

I had seen a performance of a Playback Theatre troupe, two years ago, at our La Leche League leaders' retreat. Though I enjoyed it, the performance did not overly impress me. Still, I was curious. The troupes emphasize that every performance is unique. I do not know if this was the same troupe or not. The sub-group that performed for Beit Natan (Playback1) consisted of the director (Aviva Appel), four female actors (Shosha, Shirli, Lirona and Nurit (I think)), and a musician (don't remember her name). This time, I was quite impressed.

They asked for stories from the audience and I immediately thought of my saga with Y, regarding the seminar she wanted/didn't want to attend. (see here, here, here, and here) But I worried that my story would not be relevant to the group, so I did not raise my hand.

The first two skits were quite heavy. First, N told of an out of body experience she had at age 8 when she was clinically dead for several minutes. Then, T shared a traumatic incident about her son's complicated medical situation. I felt the moved by the portrayal and interpretation of the actors.

Then, M related the travails that she and A experienced on their way to meet the bus that morning. I laughed so much, just hearing her describe their escapade; I wondered how the actors were going to interpret her story. They were very creative and provided the comic relief we needed after the previous stories.

All the while, I wondered if I should tell my story. Perhaps seeing their interpretation would help me let go of all the frustration I still felt thinking about it. So, I raised my hand.

I told the saga: how I forgot to sign Y up for the seminar, how upset she was when it was "too late, and I should not even bother trying," how I got her in anyway, how happy she was, then how she became apprehensive and considered not going, our LONG discussion, our fight, her decision, her going, her happiness that she went.

It was a little embarrassing admitting in front of everyone that we actually fought about it, but that was part of the story (I was really mad at her, and I guess what bothered me was that I was still angry about it).

I had to choose the actors who would portray us. Shosha was tall, and beautiful, with very curly hair. I chose her to portray my daughter. I debated between two of the other actors, before choosing the third, Shirly, who I knew was a mother from her introduction.

The actors did such an amazing job of capturing all the myriad emotions of my story. They elaborated on elements that I did not even mention, but that they picked up through the telling. They portrayed such a loving relationship, which they could not have known would be accurate, but really was. They revealed the tensions of a child wanting to stay little and wanting to grow up, as well as the conflicts of a mother who wants to allow her child to grow up, but not to lose her. Of course, there were elements that were not exactly the same as my perspective, but overall I really felt they captured the essence of the events.

The experience was cathartic. Watching them tell my story, I felt like they perceived my inner soul and gave sound and motion to the difficult dance of the mother-daughter relationship. Whether watching the daughter spread her wings and then, at the last moment, being afraid to fly, or the mother, gentle one moment and then strict the next, I saw both my daughter and I as we are. At one point in the skit, one of the other actors sang in the background "Ima yekara li" (my mother is dear to me), a song that every child knows from gan (kindergarten). The entire montage was poignant and touching and I was grateful for their insight.

Afterwards, I thanked the actors. I was particularly impressed that the actress who portrayed my daughter described her fear about going somewhere new. I had not mentioned her fear or hesitation at all. The actress nonchalantly explained that these emotions are universal. Perhaps they are, but it took me an hour in real time to realize that my daughter’s sudden hesitation about attending stemmed from "normal" teenage fears (i.e. "no one else I know is going"....).

Afterwards, many people came up to me to tell me how moved they were by my story, which made me so happy that I shared it.

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

With love and optimism,

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Beit Natan Winter Retreat 2009 -- Renewal -- Part I

The theme of this year's Beit Natan retreat was "צמיחה מתוך התחדשות" -- Growth From Renewal

At 8:30 in the morning (early for me!), those of us from Jerusalem and the surrounding area gathered at Binyanei HaUma. As soon as I arrived, I joined the tumult. You could not miss our group. Women of every religious orientation were milling about, busy greeting old friends and already making new ones. About half the women were already on the bus, while others were huddled on the sidewalk, too busy catching up to board the bus.

I recognized so many of the women and even more recognized me -- some of whom I then remembered, but others I did not. I was able to explain my lapse in memory with two words: "chemo brain." The women understood, and were not cynical, because most of them knew what I was talking about from first hand experience! What a relief!

Finally, it was time to go. We talked the whole way there, shuffling seats occasionally, so we could talk with everyone . By the time we arrived, we were already coalescing as a group.

When we arrived at Nir Etzion, I was so excited to see MC, from last year's support group, sitting in the lobby! While we were catching up, a long line formed at the registration desk (by a "long line" I mean that 30 women were crowded around the desk trying to register!) No worries. I went to get a cup of coffee and joined several other friend who already arrived from around the country, including Ch, from my support group, and T, with whom I roomed last year.

By the time I finished my coffee, the line had disippated and I quickly registered. Then I dumped my things in my room and rejoined the group in the large hall. The chairs were set up in a large circle, with a bag on every seat containing the schedule, hand creams, chocolates, and a T-shirt (size M!). As the late commers straggled in, I exchanged my T-shirt for an XXL! (cancer has not caused/helped me to lose my appetite!)

After the greetings, the group was split into two smaller groups, each led by one of Beit Natan's oncological social workers. Both groups did the same introductory activity:

Participants were given a small piece of paper on which to draw or write an image or word that represent renewal to them. The individual pictures/papers were posted by themes on a large board, showing both the diversity and commonality of our group.

I drew a picture of a glowing shkediya (almond tree). In Israel, the shkediya is the first tree to bloom. As soon as I showed my picture, before I could even ellaborate on why I chose it, the group burst into song:

Hashkediya porachat, veshemesh paz zorachat
Tziporim merosh kol gag, mevasrot at bo hechag
Tu BiShvat higiyah, hag hailanot

The almond tree is blooming, the golden sun is shining
From the rooftops, the birds are heralding the coming of the holiday
Tu B'Shvat (the 15th of Shvat) has arrived, the holiday (birthday) of the trees!

The almond tree represents renewal -- the coming of spring; new life emerging from the cold, barren winter; the white and pink flowers, reflecting the sunlight, glowing with hope and beauty.

My birthday is exactly a week after Tu B'Shvat. So, for me, the blooming almond tree marks not only another calendar year for the trees, but another calendar year for me as well.

When I drew the tree, I thought it might seem cliché, but only one other person drew an almond tree. Other women drew flowers, buds, leaves, and other trees (i.e. a cypress tree). There were other themes as well: children, grandchildren, smiles, etc. -- so many different images, representing our faith in the future and the sources of our strength

After lunch, we could rest, go for a walk, or participate in a laughter workshop, led by Yehudit Kotler, who I met last year at the retreat, and who hosts free laughter workshops in her home every Rosh Chodesh. I went several times this past year, and even brought my youngest daughter with me once. (if you are interested, email me for details) Of course, I chose to attend the laughter workshop!!

Boy did we laugh!! Two women, T (last year's roommate) and L (who cracked me up at last year's laughter workshop), made me laugh so much! It was the best workshop that I have attended yet! Everyone participated and just laughed and laughed. I felt so great afterwards!!

A word about T -- last year, I requested that they put me in a room with someone who has been living with cancer for a LONG time. They put me with T, who has been living with a brain tumor for 20 years! (ok, last year it was only 19 years!) She has such a positive attitude, she really inspired me! This year, I told her how much it had meant to me.

After the break, we divided into smaller groups for our next session. I chose a session called "living, dreaming." I thought it would be about how to actualize our dreams (i.e. aspirations). I saw this as an opportunity to continue a process that I began during last year's retreat, of learning to believe, and embrace, the future. The facilitator was nice, but I did not relate to the sources she shared with us. I did not get much out of the session, which was disappointing. Though it was still nice meeting other women and hearing what they had to say.

Dinner put me back in a good mood. The food was varied, plentiful, and delicious! Each meal was an opportunity to talk with different women. Each table seated ten women, so there were always both new and familiar faces.
The evening program was FANTASTIC and deserves a post of its own....
Tune in tomorrow.... Same bat time.... Same bat channel....

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

With love and optimism,

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Beit Natan Winter Retreat 2009

I came home from the retreat physically and emotionally exhausted!

I was away for almost three full days and there was so much I wanted to do when I got home. Instead, I went straight to bed! I spent a few minutes with my daughter, then with my son. I fell asleep in the middle of my son's entertaining description of his drama class (he and a few of his friends made a comic skit was about the yetzer hotov and the yetzer harah [our good and evil inclinations]). His description was very amusing, but I could not keep my eyes open!!

I had a wonderful time at the retreat. Many women were there last year as well (I even remembered several of them!).

It felt like coming home.

Last year, I had to be convinced to attend. This year, I could not wait!

It was so wonderful to be in the company of such a special group of women. And it was an emotional relief to be able to talk completely freely of all things related to cancer.

Though I was still a bit reserved about the fact that I have metastasis, it was helpful to recognize so many faces from my support groups and to know that I was not the only one. By the end of the retreat, I had met several other women who are also on the long-term plan. One woman with mets was only 34!! (she was 29 when she was first dianosed with cancer, and received her second diagnosis only a month after she finished treatment)

The time just flew by!

It seemed as if we just arrived and already it was time to pack up and leave.

I look forward to next year!

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

With love and optimism,

Monday, January 26, 2009

Beit Natan Winter Retreat -- I'm on My Way!

It is just for a few days, but it is hard to leave my family....

This year, no one had to convince me to attend.

I had such a wonderful time last year at Beit Natan's Winter Retreat for cancer survivors. (read about it here and here)

I was so apprehensive beforehand. What would it be like? Would it be depressing? Would I be able to relate to the participants? Would there be other women like me?

My worries were unnecessary.

Most of the women were after cancer (i.e. had finished their treatments). So what? We still shared many common experiences.

I also worried about the religious nature of the program. Though I am religious, and I believe in God (most of the time), I am not one of these super religious types who believes that everything that happens is for the best. I don't believe that God did me any favors by giving me cancer.

There were all sorts of women on the retreat and there were plenty of women who with whom I felt I had a common language.

Ultimately, I really appreciated the religious nature of the program, since faith has a lot to do with how I handle my situation. God figures pretty prominently in my life and I trust that God has His reasons for all this, even if I will never understand them.

The retreat was intense, and I formed strong bonds with several of the women.

I can't wait to see them again!

I will be gone for three days (and two nights) -- I'll write when I get back! (b'li neder)

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

With love and optimism,

Friday, January 23, 2009

Chemo Day -- no more short days?

This past Thursday:

Got there before 9:30.

Didn't start treatment until at least 12:30.

Didn't leave until after 4:30.

It was no one's fault.

There is something wrong with my port -- it is supposed to support "two way traffic," but is currently working "one way only."

For several weeks now, the nurses have not been able to draw blood from my port. That means that every time I go for chemo, I get stuck with needles twice -- once to open my port, and a second time on my arm.

In the past, I did not mind so much, because the person who took blood was expert and did not hurt me. But he recently suffered a heart attack and, though he is doing well, he is still on leave. I am always anxious about new people drawing blood from me. I have difficult veins, and often suffer from pain and buising if the person who draws blood is not really good.

The woman who manages data from the bone study research arranged for me to seen by a doctor who, she assured me, was also good at drawing blood. The doctor drew blood (painlessly!) and also injected half a dose of urokinase into my port. Urokinase, a blood thinner to dissolves clots that might be in the port, has to be approved and administered by a physician.

The protocol is to wait at least an hour after the injection before using the port. It also takes about an hour for the results of the blood test to come back. That day's treatments (in this case the Taxol and the Zomera/Denosumab) are only ordered AFTER the blood tests come back okay.

Everything takes time.

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

With love and optimism,

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

My Kids Are Too Young To Be Applying to Schools!!

My son took his first junior high school entrance exam today.

Yes, you read that correctly. My son is in the middle of sixth grade, and he is taking entrance exams to get into junior high school. No pressure..... (yeah, right....)

Last night, I made sure he had everything he needs: two sharpened pencils, an erasor, and a sharpener. I spoke with him about test-taking. I tried to be casual/matter of fact about it all.

He seemed to be calm, cool, and collected. I was relieved that he was not uptight about the exam (or so I thought).

Later, when the kids were in bed, Moshe came over and asked if I had talked with MD about the test. Something about the way he asked caused me to think twice. Though I answered "yes," I went to MD's room to check up on him.

MD was lying in bed, listening to the radio. He removed his earphones when I came in.

It took me only a few seconds to realize, both from what he said, as well as the expression on his face, that he was really anxious. He noted that he is especially nervous because the exam is for the school he really wants to attend. We spoke for a few minutes about what he can do to stay calm, especially during the exam. Without prompting, he mentioned his ability to calm himself by focusing on slow breathing. I was pleased that he knew what to do to control his emotions.

We spoke for a few more minutes.

I asked if he wanted me to be there when he went in for the test. He said "yes," so I told him I would be there.

Then I reminded him of the importance of getting a good night's sleep. He agreed right away, and turned off the radio.

The I tucked him in (you are never too old for your mom to tuck you in!) and gave him a hug and a kiss good-night (you are never too old for this either).

Smiling, I turned off his light.

In my head, I said a silent prayer.

I wish my son did not have to go through this! I went through this with my daughter, and it is no easier the second time around! My kids are too young for this!!

Where I grew up, no one applied to junior high or high school. I actually did have to apply to my high school, because I wanted to attend Teaneck High's Alternative 1 Program. But there was no pressure. Everyone who applied got in.

My son wants to attend a junior high that is relatively small. There are not enough places for all the kids who want to attend. All the kids are painfully aware that most of them will not be accepted into the school. I did not feel that sort of pressure until I applied to college!

I pray that God will help our son get into the school that is right for him, and I pray that God will give us the wisdom to help our son make the right choice.

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

With love and optimism,

YOU Can Save Someone's Life!!

Today, January 21, is Israel's nationwide bone marrow donor recruitment drive.

I have been in the registry for over 10 years, but I can no longer be a donor.

You can!!

If you are between 18 and 50, in good health, and have never joined any bone marrow registry, PLEASE take part in this lifesaving drive.

There are testing stations throughout Israel. Check this list for the location nearest to you::

TODAY there are THREE stations in Jerusalem, open until 8:00pm:
  1. Malcha Mall, Lord Kitch plaza, upper level
  2. Ezer Mizion, 25 Yirmiyahu St
  3. Central Bus Station
The test is a simple blood test and takes just a few minutes of your time!

Please register now!!

You can save someone's life!!

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

With love and optimism,

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

What Would You Miss if You Did Not Have Cancer Anymore?

Remember that shopping trip? You know, the one on Hanukkah...?? (How can you forget a day like this??)

Anyway, one of the things we hoped to find at the mall was a sweatshirt for Y. Y really wanted a FOX sweatshirt that zippered down the front. Now, I am normally not one for buying name brands, but the price was right. Unfortunately, the size was not. They did not have the color she wanted (pink) in her size. In fact, the did not have her size in any color that she was willing to wear. Argh!

To my surprise, FOX has a really great exchange policy. So, I was going to purchase a sweatshirt in the wrong size, just so we could benefit from the sale (50% off). But, the sales clerk was kind enough to tell me that the sale was ongoing. Well, after almost a month, they finally got the stock we wanted. I was a little nervous that, after so much time, we might have missed the sale price. We did not.

Today, I took Y to the mall, we went right in, picked up the sweatshirt of her dreams, paid the sale price, and walked out.

Not Bad.

So, what does this ordinary story have to do with the title of this post?

Well, on the way into the mall, in the midst of some mundane conversation about how people use expired handicapped parking permits after they no longer need them, Y asked me what I would miss in the event that my cancer was cured.

At first, I was not sure I heard her correctly. Then I was not sure I understood what she meant. But she meant what she said (and she said what she meant....). She wanted to know what I would miss if I did not have cancer anymore.

"Nothing." I answered, without hesitation.

"Really?" She asked, "Nothing?"

I thought for a minute, then answered, "free parking."

"Nothing else?" She asked again.

I thought some more. "No," I continued, "nothing else. I would miss the free parking. Nothing else."

"You wouldn't miss all your friends coming to visit you?" she asked.

"We would go out to a cafe (coffee shop)," I responded, still unclear what was prompting these questions.

I am still not sure. As quickly as the conversation popped up, that's how quickly it ended. It got swallowed up by the ebb and flow of the mall.

As we made our way to the store, Y told me about a class she had at school in which the teacher discussed shopping and values and how the malls are designed to make people spend money frivolously. Y thought the teacher exaggerated. "I only buy the things I need," Y declared.

Later, after we purchased the sweatshirt, we searched for a bag for Y. We found one on sale that she liked a lot. The bag was only 19 NIS and the store would not charge a credit card for less than 25 NIS. So we tried to find something for another 6 NIS. After looking around for almost 15 minutes, I said to Y, "this is just what your teacher was talking about!" We laughed as we realized that we were just looking to spend money (even if it was only a little money) on something we did not really need or want. So I paid for the bag with cash, and we left the store.

We got what we came for and we were done.

As we headed back to the car, our conversation was light and carefree.

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

With love and optimism,

Monday, January 19, 2009

Crazy Days: I don't have time to be sick, there is too much to do!

5:00 in the morning, I woke up coughing my head off. Finally, I got out of bed to take some cough syrup and suck on a heavy duty cough drop. For lack of anything better to do, I surfed the web while waiting for the cough syrup to kick in.

For those of you who don't know me so well, I am definitely a night owl. I NEVER get up that early in the morning!! In fact, I often sleep 'till 9:00, and that has nothing to do with chemo!

By the time I was ready to go back to bed, the kids were up and the house was rocking!! I lay down in bed and waited for the quiet.... then.... ZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzz

At around 10:00, someone called (the nerve!!) and that was it, I was up.

Then, the big question: do I teach swimming today??

I did not feel well, but I hate cancelling class. And I already cancelled swimming for next week (I am going away, on the Beit Natan winter retreat)

I kept putting off the decision, thinking that maybe I'd feel better in a few hours. Meanwhile, I spent the time taking care of paperwork that had been piling up. (there is still a lot more to go, but I did enought to feel productive!). Luckily, I could do most of the work sitting down.

I finally decided to consult my GP. He is always advising me not to go in the water when I am sick (and I almost always badger him with questions until he cedes that it is probably ok if I do it anyway).

Wouldn't you know it? When my doctor called me back, he said it was ok for me to go in the water! He said it sounded like I have sinusitis that is getting better by itself. While there is a chance that going in the water can make it worse, if that happens, he'll just treat it with antibiotics. He told me that it might take another week before I feel better and suggested that I do not limit my activities.

What a dilemma!!

By the time I decided that I should follow my instincts and cancel class anyway, it was too late. Trying to do the juggling to cancel class was more difficult than just showing up and teaching! So, I went.

Like always, once I got in the water and started teaching, I felt better! But, I must admit that after 45 minutes in the water, I started to get a bit chilled. And by the time I was done with my third class, I was downright cold!

I took a quick break, and stood under a steaming shower for 3 minutes. I would have loved to stay longer, but I did not want to keep my kids waiting (especially since I did not want to stay too late).

Today, thank God, I brought a robe to wear so I would not get chilled when I got out of the pool to teach my advanced swimmers.

I was also really disciplined and talked really quietly during all my classes, so as not to strain my voice even further. (I have a voice again, but it still hurts a bit when I talk)

Unfortunately, my kids were less than cooperative today, and I did not have the patience to deal with them. Why is it that it is harder to teach my own kids than anyone else's?!? When I tell other kids to do things, they do it. Today, my kids argued with every single instruction! (ok, not all my kids, and not with every instruction, but you get the idea!)

After swimming, I raced home, to get ready for a Bat Mitzvah.

We ended up arriving almost an hour and a half late. The Bat Mitzvah was in The Gush, in Alon Shvut. We have known the parents, S&DK for many years. Over the years, we have stayed in touch, often meeting at political demonstrations and Manhigut Yehudit conferences. It was a very moving to be a part of their simcha (celebration). Besides shared political convictions, we share a more difficult experience.

After I was diagnosed this time, I decided that I would daven (pray) for other cancer patients. For many months, I davenned for DK's father, z"l, who passed away just over a year ago.

Sharing an illness creates strong bonds. To some degree, it gives you a glimpse into the depths of another person's soul. There are feelings we all experience, that are an inevitable part of dealing with a terminal disease.

Though I do not talk about it often, death is a shadow that is ever-present in my life.

I like the new terminology, that cancer is a "chronic" disease. But, let's be honest, it doesn't get better. (at least, not yet... not until we get that miracle)

But tonight was not a sad night. Tonight was a joyous celebration of life and coming of age.

May we all merit to share many more happy occasions together!!

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

With love and optimism,

Sunday, January 18, 2009


Shabbat was pretty quiet.

Moshe and I were both getting over colds, so we kept things pretty simple.

With no guests, and Y at a friend's (see previous post), A and MD got some extra attention.

MD spent a lot of time playing with his "Diablo" (never heard of it? see here). He even taught his sister how to juggle with it!

I basically slept all Shabbat.

Our Shabbat Seudot (meals) were very nice, and I managed to stay at the table (awake) for the entire meal. I have not done that in a while.

Despite needing to rest a lot, I found some time to read to my kids, which I also have not done in a while. I read the first two chapters of one of my favorite books: Follow My Leader, by James B. Garfield. I remember this book as being really influential. It will be interesting to read it again as an adult.

I feel a lot better, but, unfortunately, I still do not feel well. I am still very tired (despite not receiving chemo this week).

And I am still, as we say in my family, "a pony" (i.e. I am a little hoarse).

The doctor said that my voice will come back quicker, the less I use it.


What can I say.... it is hard for me to keep my mouth shut! ;-)

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

With love and optimism,

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Next Generation

On the first day of school, a girl from her class approached Y and said "I hear your mom blogs all about you and your family. My father blogs all about me and my family too. You have my sympathies." (loosely quoted from my sketchy memory, but you get the drift)

Three days ago, my daughter called me to ask if she could spend this Shabbat at her friend's home with some other girls from their class. When I asked where she wanted to go, she answered "to A; you know, her father also blogs...."

It is so bizarre when our virtual worlds and our real worlds collide....

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

With love and optimism,

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Chemo Day -- Herceptin: YES, Taxol: NO

Apparently, a "little break" is one week.

I received Herceptin today, but no Taxol. My next Taxol treatment will be next Thursday.

I was a little nervous about skipping the treatment, but my oncologist was pretty insistent. When I pressed him about it, he offered to give it to me if I was willing to sign a waver, taking full responsibility for any possible complications. I politely declined, to which he responded "I thought that's what you'd say."

So, I will focus on kicking this cold, which is pretty much taking up all my energy and then some.

I felt a bit better this morning, but by the time I got home I was wiped. I went straight to bed and slept for three hours!

At least I got the Herceptin. (This dose was the free dose provided by Roche)

We still hope to make an evaluation before I am due for my next dose, in three weeks.

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

With love and optimism,

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Cancer vs. The Common Cold

It occurred to me that having a cold might affect my ability to receive chemo tomorrow.

I emailed my oncologist, who wrote back: "come and we will decide tomorrow--sounds like you will get a little break"

What does that mean?

Do I have the nurses open my port as usual?

I am scheduled to receive both Taxol and Herceptin. If "we" (and by "we," I mean "he") decide to postpone treatments, do we postpone both medications? By how long? A few days? A week? What is a "little break?" (To me, a "break" would be at least a month! We know that is not happening, as we have already established (here) that we can not postpone the Herceptin by more than a week)

Last week, my doctor told me that we would evaluate the efficacy of my treatments in the next two weeks. How does postponing treatment affect our ability to evaluate if the drugs are working?

All these questions, just because of a stupid cold, from which, we agreed last year (see here), cancer patients should be exempt!

It seems that when push comes to shove, the common cold trumps the cancer card!

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

With love and optimism,

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Sick Again

I have a cold… again.

I made the mistake of going to the doctor... again.

I did not have fever this time, so I though I was "safe." I just wanted cough syrup, so I could sleep better. (Besides, I was wheezing, and it sounded spooky)

I might have slept in anyway, but Moshe woke me because he and Y were going to the morning walk-in-clinic and it made sense for me to go with them.

The first thing the doctor on duty did was take my temperature, which was normal. (told you so!)

So, imagine my surprise when the doctor sent me to Maccabi (my health care supplier) for blood work, cultures and an x-ray!

"But I have no fever!" I protested.

The doctor was unmoved.

I grasped at straws, and asked him to try calling my oncologist for confirmation. My oncologist did not answer the phone. The doctor left a message (that helps... NOT).

I asked how irresponsible it would be to just ignore his advice.

As my father always says "If you have to ask, you already know the answer."

Now, it is true that going to Maccabi was certainly faster than going to the emergency room. And, given that I was finished with everything in less than an hour, it might very well have been faster that going to the oncology day ward. BUT, what I really wanted was to go home and go to bed.

Do I really need to do this every time I have a cold?

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

With love and optimism,

Monday, January 12, 2009


I was hoping that I would be lucky this time too.

Despite a few days of hair loss, most of my hair remained on my head during the past year or so of chemo. So, when my hair started falling out this time, I hoped that it would stop after a few days. (Never mind that my doctor said it would probably not fall out last time and that it probably would fall out this time -- feelings are not rational)

It has already been two weeks, and every day I comb out more hair.

A few days ago, I posted here about losing my hair. I cross-posted on Mothers with Cancer (here). My friend, Mary Beth Volpini, commented on the post:

I read a great saying a long time ago …
”If you don’t know what to do…don’t until you do.”

The simple truth of those words touched my inner soul.

I was not yet ready to say good-bye to my hair.

I was torn. Though I was not yet ready to "cut it all off," I wanted to save part of my hair. I wanted to save my braid, which was getting thinner and thinner every day. I did not want to wait too long.

The other night, I watched several YouTube videos of women with cancer who shaved their heads.

Several mothers chose to involve their children in the shaving/cutting. I thought this was a great idea. When I first suggested it to my girls, they were appalled by the idea. I let it go. Not every good idea is good for every family.

Today, after swimming, I had to ask a friend to help remove all the hairs that fell off and stuck to my back. That was it. When she asked me "why don't you cut it short?" I realized the time had come.

On our way home, I mentioned to A, who was the only child with me, that I wanted to cut off my braid tonight. We talked a bit about our feelings.

"It makes me sad," A said sweetly, "I like your hair."

"Me too," I admitted.

We were quiet for a few moments. Then I asked her, "Would you like to help me cut it off?" Without hesitating, she answered "yes."

When I got home, I told Y that I was going to cut off my braid and that A was going to help cut it. Then I asked her if she wanted to help cut it off too. To my surprise, she also answered yes right away.

I then asked MD, who answered just as quickly "I am not part of this." We all laughed.

I told Moshe, who asked, surprised, "You want to do this now?"

I was hurrying to get ready for a simcha (celebration), but the timing was right.

"I want to do this now," I answered, definitively.

I got our our barber shears and gave them to Y, who began cutting off my braid. Then, she passed them on to her sister. While A was cutting, Y came around to give me a hug. I felt surrounded by love and caring.

It took less than five minutes. I combed my fingers through what was left of my hair.

"It looks cute," Y said. Then she noticed that the ends were not even. She took the shears, studied my face, and evened out the ends. "There," she stated when she was finished. "You should put in some clips to hold the hair out of your face," she added, and ran to get some for me.

And then it was done. I went to get dressed for the simcha.

"Nice haircut," said one of my friends, later in the evening, noticing the short ends sticking out from under my scarf.

I smiled, and she realized why I cut it.

"Still," she said, acknowledging the loss, "it looks good on you."

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

With love and optimism,

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Support Group -- New Beginnings

After our first support group ended, I was eager for us to meet again. I was excited when I found out that our new group was forming after the chagim (holidays), and that S was going to be our facilitator. I had met S last year, on the Beit Natan winter retreat last year; she made a really good impression. M had been such a skilled facilitator that it was imperative that the person who took the group over would also be highly capable.

I naively expected everyone from our first group to return, and was a bit surprised when only four of us (L, M, T, and me) showed up for the first meeting. C was also supposed to attend, but she was not feeling well (we were all quite concerned about her). There were supposed to be several other new women, ten in all. For each of the first two meetings, only one new woman joined, but did not return.

Tonight was our fourth meeting. L, who had attended the third meeting, returned, and there were two other new women, M & R. C also came, which was really exciting since she had missed all the previous meetings (she was really not well for a few months). So, tonight, we were eight women. It was really nice to finally feel like a group.

We had really good discussions in previous meetings. However, since we were such a small group, with almost no one new, we really felt the absence of the others.

During our second meeting, we shared what we knew about the women from our previous group. P was too tired to come the meetings, Y was not doing very well, and MC chose not to continue because the commute is too difficult (she came from Dimona, almost 2 1/2 hours away). Sadly, I learned that E had passed away. That meeting, we spoke a lot about loss and the challenges of being in an environment, whether it be a support group or the chemo ward, where encountering death is an inevitability. It was a difficult meeting emotionally, though very important. Sometimes we need to allow our fears to come out of the box so we can look them straight in the eye.

Since there were so many new women tonight, half of the meeting was spent introducing ourselves and catching up. The other half was spent discussing how we deal with the unexpected. In particular, how we deal with surprises that force us to confront our disease -- such as the need to go to the emergency room when you just have a simple cold that happens to include a fever. (If you don't understand the reference, see here)

One theme that consistently arises in our group is how to find the ballance between living our lives as "normal, regular" women, and living our lives as cancer patients. For me, this is a constant challenge.

It is difficult for me to accept that every time I have a minor fever I have to go to the hospital (though on normal days, I can at least bypass the emergency ward and go straight to the oncology day ward). It is difficult for me to adjust to the fact that I need to actually take my temperature, and not just rely on how I am feeling. And it is difficult to know that I will spend many "unnecessary" hours in the hospital, just to be "safe."

This is my "new normal." I do not like it. But, it is what it is.

So, I am trying to learn to accept it.

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

With love and optimism,

Thursday, January 8, 2009

First Thursday

If I would have had chemo last Thursday, then my first Thursday would have been on the first day of the first month of the New Year.

Alas, I did not realize how cool that would be!

Nevertheless, this Thursday turned out to be way cooler than I ever imagined!

I do not know what I was thinking, when I thought I would not know anybody!

First of all, there was at least one other "regular" from Tuesday who changed chemo days for the same reason I did (we have the same doctor....).

Then there was the woman from my support group (oops, that reminds me that I haven't posted about some of the interesting and meaningful meetings we have had) -- she has been a "regular" on Thursdays for EIGHTEEN YEARS!!! (halevai alai!! -- sorry don't know how to translate this one). She is such a positive woman; I am so thrilled to have the same regular day as she does!!

My friend TK also came for her treatment today! She does not really have a regular day, but I am always happy to have a chance to chat with her, and she has the same doctor as I do, so it is likely that I will also see her frequently on Thursdays. She is really my chemo buddy, and I get a tremendous amount of insight, information and support from her!!

I had the privilege of sitting next to a relatively new friend, LS, who just started chemo today! We met a year and a half ago on Thanksgiving, at a mutual friend's home and reconnected this summer when the same friend hosted a poetry reading in honor of her mother's yarzheit. (Our friend's mom used to host poetry readings, so our friend thought it would be fitting to honor her mother's memory in this way. It was a VERY special evening. Anyway, I had a very nice chat with this woman, and, among other things, mentioned my blog to her). When LS received her diagnosis, she looked up my blog and found it very supportive. We emailed, and I directed her to another site, my communal blog Mothers with Cancer, that I thought might provide even more support. It did!

But that is not all. No. No! That is not all!!

There was another woman, who came once to our support group, but hasn't been back since, because she lives in Emek (the valley of) Beit Shean, which is really far away!! She comes twice a month to Jerusalem for chemo, but does not have a regular day. I hope she will continue with our group, but it is not looking so likely....

And there was the relatively young oleh from Argentina, who I know from Tuesdays, and was there today as well, though I don't really know if he has a regular day or not.

And there was a nice, older gentleman, whose wife and I used to work in the same building, oh, so long ago. He was also a Tuesday regular. So, it is highly possible that he switched days as well.

And there was another woman, who I met years ago, also through work. She was there keeping a friend of hers company. It was nice that she came over to say hello.

Not to mention that I met another two "new" women.

So, all in all, there were plenty of people to "meet and greet."

Of course, I also had the pleasure of a really fun chemo date today.

So, the fact that I did not even start receiving my treatment until after one in the afternoon, and that I had a reaction to the chemo (it made me HOT!!! or, as A would say, I was BOILING!!!), which made the nurses slow down the infusion, so that I did not finish until almost FIVE, all did not really matter!

I had a really nice time! (Would you believe it?)

At the very end, it was just me, my chemo date, and the nurse on duty, and we all hung out together. No one else was left, so the nurse sat down with my friend and we talked about religious girls' high schools and various other topics. It was a nice opportunity to get to know this nurse better, as she is relatively new to the ward. I will also mention that she did not hurt me at all when she removed the needle from my port!

A word about this particular nurse on duty: A few months ago, just before she gave me my bone treatment, she noticed that the medications were labeled incorrectly (we will never know if someone just wrote down the wrong info or if the actually prepared the wrong drugs for me). The nurse immediately called the pharmacy and sent the drugs back. I really appreciated her care and diligence. It is nice to know that she was so careful about my treatments!

On the way out of the hospital, we ran into Moshe's cousin, who happens to be the internal auditor (מבקר פנים) of the hospital. I made sure to tell him about my appreciation of the staff, I told him the previous story about this nurse, as well as about the efforts made on my behalf during Hanukkah, and how that made me feel. I do not really know what he does, but is sure sounds important...

As I was talking to him, one of my favorite nurses passed by and asked, with good humor, if I was complaining about things. Moshe's cousin smoothly noted that, on the contrary, I was singing their praises. She seemed surprised, given the time I was leaving! I then mentioned that this was Moshe's cousin. Then I worried that maybe that wasn't a good thing -- after all, I don't want everyone to be afraid that I will report them. ...Though maybe that isn't such a bad thing either. Anyway, what's done is done.

I was exhausted when I got home!! But I could not sleep because we had a wedding tonight!

I chopped (snuck in) a few minutes with my kids before I ran off to get ready.

We just got home. Okay, we got home over an hour ago. But I had to check my email!

Now that I have done my "blogging duty," I can go to sleep!

(And I did not even mention the war!)

Good night, dear friends. Thanks for holding my hand through this transition!

May all the changes in our lives be so smooth!!

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

With love and optimism,

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow?

A week ago, after swimming, I sat in the locker room combing out my hair.... literally.

As I combed, more and more hair came out in the comb.

It took me a few minutes to realize what was happening.

A few weeks ago, I commented to my oncologist that my hair did not seem to be falling out and, perhaps, I would not lose my hair this time either.

"Don't count on it," he responded, matter-of-factly.

I still have not figured out what I want to do.

I am reluctant to just "shave it all off," since I have met women who did not lose their hair with Taxol.

Some women just lose the hair on their heads; others keep the hair on their heads but lose their eyebrows and eyelashes; other women lose both; some women lose ALL their hair (including the hairs on their arms and legs).

I had always thought that I would be one of those bold women who just shave everything off. You know, the "get them, before they get you" approach.

If I knew for certain that I would lose it all, then that is what I would do. But I don't.

So I am waiting is out. Holding on to what is left. And wondering, if it all falls out, will I ever have red hair again....

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

With love and optimism,

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

No Way to Avoid the War

Last night, I went to a shiur (Torah class) in honor of my friend's mother, who passed away suddenly, a year ago, from lung cancer.

The shiur was given by a neighbor and friend, AK, who just returned from three years of shlichut (serving as an emissary) to the Jewish community in Memphis, Tennessee, USA.

He dedicated the class both to my friend's mother and to all our soldiers, who are fighting in dangerous enemy territory.

There is no where you can go without talking or thinking of the war. (our good friend is live blogging the war here) Many of our friends and our friends' sons are serving in the army or have been called up from the reserves. (read my friend's moving blog about her soldier son here)

Other friends are living under daily bombardment. Some have chosen to take refuge with family or friends in other "safer" areas of the country. Most of our friends do not want to leave their homes. (you can read about how my friend from Be'er Sheva is dealing with the situation here) One friend, who lives in Ashdod, recently wrote to us:

I am afraid to say that we were lucky, since you don't know what
will happen next, but the apt on the 9th floor you've seen on TV
today, which was hit by a Kassam [rocket], is next to our building.

My son was home at the time and he didn't even hear the siren,
only the boom. We live in a 2 story bld. Fortunately we don't
appear to have any damage to our house."

Let us hope for a quieter next few days or weeks.

At the end of the shiur, it was inevitable that someone would ask the speaker if he received a "call up" to serve in the army. (All Israeli men are in the reserves until they turn 50. Every year, they spend a month in the army, practicing and retraining.) Apparently, the army felt that three years was too long to be away. "My entire unit has been called up, except me," he explained, adding "I am not too comfortable with that."

To which, one of the women in the shiur responded, "I bet your wife is!"

Please pray for peace and the well-being of our soldiers.

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

With love and optimism,

Monday, January 5, 2009

Hanukkah 2008 -- an overview

I just noticed that I never posted this! As Hanukkah was only a week ago, I thought I'd share with you just how crazy our Hanukkah was.

On the first night of Hanukkah (Sunday), nobody was home at the same time! It was disappointing not to start the holiday together. (I posted about that already, see here)

On the first day (Monday), the younger kids had school, Y was home, Moshe was sick (still) and we discovered that MD had strept throat. Again, not a very auspicious way to begin the holiday!

On the second night (Monday), we had a family get together with my in-laws (Moshe's parents, his sister and her family, and his sister's best friend, who is like part of the family) (MD was on anti-biotics for less than 24 hours, so we did our best to make sure that he did not touch anything that anyone else would touch)

On the second day (Tuesday), I had chemo (posted about the here). Moshe was still home sick, and all the kids were home for Hanukkah vacation. The younger two were supposed to have school, but, at the last moment, their school decided to start vacation with all other elementary schools. Had I not had chemo, I would have been happy for an extra day with the kids. But this left my kids home, on their own (a sick father does not count), with nothing constructive to do while I was in chemo. You can just imagine how their spent the day.

On the third night (Tuesday), I was exhausted from chemo. Everyone was home for candle lighting, which was nice. Afterwards, our youngest went to a sleepover party, our eldest ran away to youth group, and I am pretty sure that our son went to youth group too.

On the third day (Wednesday), Y went off on a two day seminar (I posted a bit about that here), and the two younger ones were home. We had a quiet day together.

On the fourth night (Wednesday), my eldest was gone (on the seminar), but the other two were home.

On the fourth day (Thursday), everyone slept in! We had a slow and easy day. Outside, the weather was cold and rainy. Inside, we were cozy and warm.

On the fifth night (Thursday), my younger two were home for candle lighting, but then my youngest went to another sleepover party, and my son went to youth group. My eldest came home late, and then ran off to her youth group.

On the fifth day (Friday), my two girls went off to a gymnastics workshop at Wingate (my youngest went straight from the sleepover). The girls came home in the early afternoon. We prepared for Shabbat and then hurried to Neve Daniel, for my nephew's Bar Mitzvah.

On the sixth night (Friday/Shabbat), we had to light candles that would burn long enough (we light candles before Shabbat/sunset, but they need to burn for at least 20 minutes after sundown), so we lit tea lights. Only Moshe lit this time, but all our kids were with us. Friday night we had dinner with our hosts. Moshe and I know the wife from our childhood; she is from our home town. And Moshe went to elementary school with the husband. We have stayed there before, so the kids know their kids and get along. Dinner was really nice. After dinner, we went to an Oneg Shabbat (a special get together, to celebrate Shabbat), to celebrate my nephew's Bar Mitzvah. That night, my youngest was very sick. She woke up several times in the middle of the night. At one point I used guided imagery to help her relax and go back to sleep. Then she slept until the morning.

On the sixth day (Saturday/Shabbat) we went to shul (synagogue) to hear my nephew read that weeks Torah portion. He read exceptionally well, loudly and clearly and at a good pace. Then we went to my sister in law's for lunch. We were almost 30 people! She has ten kids, my other sister in law has 7 kids, there were two other families, and us. It was very nice. I crashed after lunch. I was in the middle of playing games with some of the kids, and I excused myself and went to lie down on the couch. Within seconds, I was fast asleep.

On the seventh night (Saturday), we attended the celebration of my nephew's Bar Mitzvah. As soon as the speeches were over, we went home, because my youngest was really sick. We arrived home very late, so only Moshe lit candles.

On the seventh day (Sunday), Moshe took my youngest son to meet his scouts group for a two day hike, then Moshe went back to the doctor with my daughter. The doctor took one look in my daughter's throat and said "her infection is so bad, I do not see white dots, there is just one giant spot!" She started antibiotics immediately! She was so sick! Yet, when she came home, she still wanted to go shopping. I said no. (posted about that one too, see here).

On the eighth night (Sunday), my son was still on his hike, but the rest of us lit candles together. It was nice.

On the eight day (Monday), I finally took my girls shopping. They had a good time and I got most of what they needed (though not everything). I got home, exhausted. (and still lived to post the tale here)

The next day, Tuesday, life returned to "normal." The kids went back to school and I went back to chemo.

And now, a week later, it all seems so long ago!

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

With love and optimism,

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Friday Fever

(This was written on Friday, but I couldn't post until now for technical reasons)

I don't really use thermometers. If someone has a fever, I usually can tell, just by touching their forhead, if it is low or high. The exact temperature is not really that important. For myself, I usually can tell by the way I am feeling, though it is less reliable. Up until Friday, I did not think it really mattered.

Friday morning, I woke up feeling sick and miserable. My head was stuffed and I just felt awefull. Had it been any other day of the week, I would have just stayed in bed. But with two kids on antibiotics for strept throat, I did not want to take a chance of getting worse over Shabbat. So I dragged myself out of bed and asked Moshe to take me to the doctor.

The doctor on call checked me thoroughly. Unfortunately, I had a fever 38.7, and my white blood cell count was slightly low. The doctor gently directed me to go to the emergency room.

"But I just have a cold!" I protested.

"I know," he answered sympathetically, "but you also have a fever."

"I'm going to cry," I announced, sniffling.

"You are allowed to cry," he reassured me.

The doctor agreed to call my oncologist for a second opinion. To my chagrim, without any prompting, I could tell that my oncologist was instructing him to send me to the hospital.

I cried.

Moshe took me to the hospital.

On the way, I realized that I might not get back home in time to cook for Shabbat. I called my friend and asked if she could get the chickens from my house and cook them for us for Shabbat.

At the hospital, my oncologist came by the emergency room (it just so happened that he was on call today). The intake nurse had already taken my temperature, which was normal, when we spotted him.

"Can I just go home?" I asked, pleading.

"You have to follow the protocol," my doctor explained.

They would be doing a chest X-ray (to check for pneumonia), blood cultures, and blood tests, and a doctor would see me.

"But I just have a cold," I protested weakly. I could tell already that I was doomed to be there for several hours. "I just want to go home," I pronounced, to no one in particular.

The doctor walked us to the X-ray. On the way, he looked at me sternly, "I told you that if you have a fever, you need to go to the emergency room." I had not understood that this applied, even when other factors could explain the fever (like a simple virus). "What is the minimum fever?" I needed to know. 38 and above. (I would not have thought that 38 was significant enough to warrant notice.)

The X-ray technician was a friendly guy, with long curly hair. He made me laugh.

When I came out of the X-ray room, my oncologist was gone. We went back to the main area of the emergency room.

We returned to the comfortable chairs and waited.

I called Y and asked her to take care of what she could at home (the place was a wreck and I could tell that I would not be back in time to clean it up).

A few minutes later, another friend called. She heard we were in the hospital (her daughter was with Y when I called), and offered to cook some food for us. "A friend is already making us chicken and rice," I told her, "but we would love salad or vegetables." And with that, I stopped worrying about what we would eat for Shabbat.

I was still sitting around, waiting for someone to take my blood. (When the intake nurse tried to take my blood, she hurt me. To her credit, when I asked her to "please stop and get someone else," she immediately took out the needle. That said, I still have a huge bruise where she was poking around).

At 2:00, I went to the head nurse and suggested that it would be a real shame if I ended up staying in the hospital all Shabbat because they did not take my blood in time. She agreed and stopped what she was doing to help me. She used a blood pressure band to build up pressure in my veins, then found a vein in my hand. The needle hurt less than I though it would. In a few minutes, she was done.

The nurse advised me to sit patiently for 1/2 an hour, until the bloodwork is done, and then to come be "pushy."

I sat back down and drifted off to sleep. (Let's not forget that I was not feeling well)

Finally, the doctor called us in. The main blood work was done. My white blood cell count was slightly low and I had a virus (I knew that). I wondered if my count was low because of the chemo or the virus. Both, she explained, and advised me to check my blood count again on Sunday. She asked us to wait until all the test results were complete and then we could go.

It was after 3:oo when we were finally able to check out.

We got home less than 1/4 of an hour before Shabbat.

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

With love and optimism,

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Here We Go Again....

A few months ago, Tzameret, one of the many leadership training groups in Jerusalem had a local congress for high school kids. Last year, Y's junior high school sent her as one of their representatives and she had a great time. There were religious and secular kids from junior high schools throughout Jerusalem, and it was an opportunity to discuss ideas with all sorts of different kids (not to mention, a chance to see friends from other schools). Y wanted to go this year too. But, since her school is full of leader-types, there were more kids who wanted to go than there were spaces available. So the seniors, who were in charge, made a raffle, and Y's name was not chosen.

Not to be deterred, Y offered to help distribute the information packets to the girls who would be attending the congress. As an aside, she asked if one of the girls could not go, could she go in their place. In the end, two of the girls could not attend, and Y was invited to attend. This year, again, she had a great time.

A few days ago, one of the girls in charge called to invite her to the national congress, in Tel Aviv. Y was less enthusiastic, but still agreed to go.

Then, last night, she approached me to discuss whether or not she should cancel.

This time, I was not emotionally invested in whether or not she attends. True, I think it is a good opportunity. But she has great classes today, including theater (which is her passion), and it is a shame for her to miss them. So, I just listened to her internal debate over the issue.

In addition to other considerations (missing school, missing swimming lessons, etc), Y was apprehensive about going somewhere new, with girls she did not know so well.

We had been down this path before.

This time, I was going to let her make the decision on her own. Besides a few reassuring comments, I basically just listened. The conversation was much shorter, and calmer than our last one. (Though not specifically referred to in this post, this issues were quite similar)

After a few minutes, she reticently decided to attend.

Still, I was not surprised to hear Y's screech this morning. I do not know what happened, but she was shouting something about not making it on time and not wanting to go.

It is amazing how calm one can be when one is not emotionally invested in an issue.

This time, I was not going to come in and "save the day." (like I did the last time)

I called Y into my room and encouraged her to take deep breaths and try to calm down. I pointed out that the group buses never leave on time. I also suggested she wear a simple and easy outfit that I knew she liked (if she took the time to deliberate what to wear, she would miss the bus for sure).

Sure enough, my daughter pulled herself together, got ready and caught the next public bus (that would take her to the group bus).

About twenty minutes later, she calmly called to update me. It was 7:59, and she was still on the public bus, at least 15 minutes away. Her friend had relayed to her that the group buses would depart no later than 8:05 (yeah, right). I had several suggestions for what Y could do, but she had already done them all! (I was so proud) Y was very non-challant. "Either they will still be there when I get there, or they won't," she declared, matter of factly. I could not tell if she would be upset or relieved to miss the bus. She seemed quite fatalistic about it.

As we were about to hang up, I suggested she try calling the girl who had recruited her in the first place. That girl, it turned out, was on the same bus as Y!

Fifteen minutes later, Y called to tell me that she was on the group bus, and could not find her friend, who must be on another bus.

I offered a few words of encouragement ("you'll meet new friends on the bus") and reminded her that she would meet her friend from school when they all got off the busses in Tel Aviv.

"Yeah, yeah," she sighed, clearly ready to get off the phone. She knew what I would say. She had heard it all before. (She remembered this) She was not especially worried.

My daughter was not calling for my assistance or my problem solving skills. She was not calling to complain either (well, maybe a little). Mostly, she was just calling to let me know. She was calling to share.

That is why I am here.

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

With love and optimism,

P.S. She had a great time!