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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Crazy Cancer Patient

Yes, that would be me.

I could barely shuffle down the hall this morning; I was in that much pain.

I arrived at the hospital around 9:00 am.  The entire nursing staff took care of me so that I would have time to receive both the Herceptin and the Doxil.  They did an amazing job, but it was close to 4:30 pm, by the time I got out of there.

I did manage to schedule a massage, and that helped me immensely.  I felt much better afterwards, and I moved easier as well.

I drove straight home, packed up some good food, packed my daughters into the car, and drove to the train station. 

Then we took the train to Tel Aviv and saw Carmen in Park HaYarkon.

I got home around 1:30 in the morning!

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

With love and optimism,

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Aack! I Am Going Through Withdrawal (Humor)

Aack!  I am going through withdrawal!!

Not from the narcotics!!

(What were you thinking?!?)

I am doing fine with the narcotics. In fact, I probably should be taking more of them!

It is hard for me to keep taking more narcotics; they scare me.  I KNOW tha people who really need narcotics do not usually get addicted, but I still find them frightening. All those years of “say no to drugs” and all that....

Anyway, drugs aside, I am definitely experiencing withdrawal.

OK, so I do not have the shakes or the shivers.  Instead, I have words swirling around my brain and nowhere to put them down.

My internet source has been cut off and I am experiencing cyberspace withdrawal symptoms.

I am spending a few days with a friend and we have no internet access.
Not to worry, I will get hooked up again as soon as I go home.

Meanwhile, at least I got a quick fix (in a restaurant in town)....

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

With love and optimism,

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Please Pray for: David Yosef ben Faigeh Perel

It is amazing how we put ourselves at the center of the world, even though we do not always belong there.

When I learned of the terrible accident, all I could think was: I just saw his mother last night at our daughter's Bat Mitzvah celebration. 

My friend, who suffers her own health issues, joined us in our simcha, beautiful and laughing, as always.  That is what I love most about her.  She and I spend most of our time together laughing at life's ironies. 

She makes me laugh.  She tells it like it is, doesn't whitewash the tough stuff, and won't let anyone around her wallow in self pity.  When I feel most down, I call her, and she whips me into shape.  She  is the strongest woman I know.

And now this.

This thing that, three weeks later, is still too horrible for words.

There is nothing to joke about, nothing to laugh about.

We could laugh at ourselves. 

This is not about us.

It is about our kids.  It is about her kid, her youngest son.

My friend's youngest 16 year old son is one of those "really good kids,"  the kind of kid who "makes his momma proud."

He is a strong, healthy, capable, independent teenager.  He could do anything he wants.  Yet he chooses to spend his free time saving other people's lives.  He is a volunteer fire-fighter.

At least, he was all these things... until three weeks ago.

Three weeks ago, he was driving in a car with some other fire-fighter volunteers; he was sitting in the passenger seat.  A car pulled out in front of theirs, making a dangerous, and illegal, turn.  The driver of his car, pulled to the side, trying to avoid a collision, but the other car still hit their car, knocking the passenger side into a steel lightpost.  The passenger seat crumpled.  (you can view pictures here.  please note that the accompanying article contains several factual errors)

The only person critically wounded was David.  His friends, all fire fighters, immediately went to work, trying to save his life.

The first miracle God did was to help David survive the night, despite his very serious injuries.

Now we need some more miracles.

David is in a coma.  He is, thank God, breathing on his own.  Nevertheless, the trauma to his brain is very serious.

He will need all of his strength, and all the strength from our prayers, to come out of this.

Please daven for the refuah shlaymah of David Yosef ben Faigeh Perel

(read about David's strength and determination in this article from March, about David's bike ride up the Hermon)

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

With love and optimism,

Monday, July 19, 2010

What Do You Say When There is Nothing to Say?

What do you say when there is nothing to say?

We have all been there.

We have all faced a friend, going through a really rough time, and wondered: what can I possibly say to make my friend feel better?

More often than not, the answer is: nothing.

There is nothing you can say.

There is nothing you can do.

So, just be there. 

Say nothing.

Just listen.

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

With love and optimism,

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Support Group -- Final Meeting of the Year

Our support group always breaks for the summer. 

Tonight we met for the last time this year. 

In addition to updating each other about ourselves, several of us learned that another member of our group passed away just over a week ago. 

For me, Shoshana was a "new" member.  She only joined the group this year, and did not come every time, so I did not know her so well.  At first, I could not even identify who we were talking about.

I felt disconnected from the discussion about her.

It might seem cold, but since I was not close with her, the news of her passing felt distant, as if it did not really affect me.

I guess, on some level, I have erected a shield, to protect myself from this sort of news.  In the world I live in, the angel of death is a regular guest.

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

With love and optimism,

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Overly Optimistic & New Pain Theory

******warning: biological details******

Wish I could report that I am feeling better.  I am not.

I am not worried about anything serious.  My biggest concern last week was that maybe the pain was from a strangulated hernia, but the doctor confirmed that my symptoms do not match that situation. 

We both agreed that the pain was consistant with constipation.  The laxative he prescribed seems to have cleared out my intestines, but it has not fully resolved the pain.  The initial pain is significantly less, but I still have sharp pain whenever I breathe deeply or yawn.  And I am still uncomfortable when lying on my side or sitting up.

My new theory is that I must have pulled a muscle during the period when I was constipated and trying to relieve myself.  (sorry for the graphic description, but it is what it is).

I might have pulled a muscle around my lower lung or somewhere in my upper abdomen.  Either way, if I am correct, it will take a while for the muscle to heal, so I do not expect relief anytime in the next few days (or nights).

Nights are really the worst, because I keep waking up from pain.  I have not had a pain free, good night's sleep in over a week.

And I wonder why I am so tired.....

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

With love and optimism,

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Pain-Free Window and Another Miserable Night (Medical Update)

Despite yesterday's crazy, drugged-up, day at the hospital,  I managed to rest for an hour before leaving to give my presentation in Elazar.

I am pleased to report that I felt great during my presentation, and the talk was excellent (if I do say so myself).  I spoke for about an hour and then opened the floor for questions.  Many women actively participated, asking pertinent and insightful questions. Even after the evening officially ended, women came up to ask additional questions and share some more personal thoughts.

I had prepared an outline for the evening's talk, to give to the organizers.  I usually do not plan out what I am going to say in such detail.  The outline really helped me to focus my presentation, and the messages I wished to convey.

Right after the presentation, on my way out, I experienced a sudden, new, intense pain, in my upper abdomen, on my right side.  It hurt me to breathe.  I could barely stand up straight.

It felt like a gas bubble was caught underneath my ribcage and I did not know how to relieve the pressure.  The pharmacist had warned me that the pain medications could cause constipation, which I understood to be at the root of this new pain.

As soon as I got home, I collapsed into bed.  Lying flat on my back was the least uncomfortable position.  Turning onto my side caused excruciating pain.  Two hours after I first fell asleep, I woke up from the pain. I could not fall back asleep, the pain was unbearable.

I wrote an email to my doctor then spent an hour in the bathroom.  I managed to relieve at least some of the pressure, but it was not fun to be up in the middle of the night, feeling so much discomfort.

I felt pretty miserable.  It took another hour or so to fall into a fitful sleep.  I did not sleep well.  The pain kept waking me up.  Each time, I had to concentrate on breathing slowly and shalowly, so I could relax my body enough to fall asleep.

When morning finally came around, I still hurt. 

I went to the doctor, who examined my abdomen and agreed with my evaluation.  He prescribed a laxative and gave me a shot for the pain. 

By the time I finished at the doctor's office, the pharmacy had already received my order for the new pain patches.  My mom picked up the new patches, which are 50 mg of Fenta (instead of 12), and I put one on right away. 

The new patch seems to be working.  I took one Percocet when I woke up this morning, but, besides that shot in the doctor's office, I have not needed any further supplements to the pain patch.

I still feel abdominal pain on my right side, but it is significantly less than this morning's pain.  I am cautiously optimistic that I will feel better tomorrow.

Tomorrow is my mother's last day of this visit.  It would be nice if we could do something fun....

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

With love and optimism,

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Not So Fun and Relaxing

Today, my plan had been to go to my art class, get a massage, then come home and rest for a few hours before going out to speak to the women's Rosh Chodesh group in Elazar.

Instead, I spent the entire day at the hospital! 

To begin with, even though I am wearing THREE pain patches (12 mg each) and took a Percocet as soon as I woke up, the first thing the pain specialist in the oncology ward had me do was take two more Percocets.  It did shoot me into La-La-Land, but I could finally bare the pain! 

Then, after a brief consult and exam by my oncologist, he sent me for a CT.  After which he invited an amazing (and very nice) oncological orthopedic surgeon for an additional evaluation.  I need to do an MRI of my hip, to make sure I have no fracture, but that will wait for another day.

After I finally got out of the hospital, I had to go to the pharmacy for more pain meds, but they did not have the higher dose pain patches, that the doctor wants me to try.  My mom drove me to another pharmacy, but they did not have the patches either!  I was too tired to make another stop, so we just gave up and will go tomorrow.

By the time I got home, just a few minutes ago, I only had (have) an hour and a half to rest before leaving to speak this evening.

I am so damn tired!

I am counting on the fact that being around people energizes me.  So, I am not too concerned about my ability to give a good presentation.

That said, I am pretty sure I will crash afterwards.  Thankfully, I do not have anything planned for tomorrow, so I can rest.  Though I would really like to do something fun with my mom, who is leaving in two days. 

Being in all this pain has really cramped my style! 

I had planned on doing all these fun things with my mom.  In the end, I did not feel up to doing anything fun!  I am really hoping that we will manage to fit in at least a few fun things during the next two days!

I wanted today to be fun and relaxing.  It really was not!

Anyway, if any of you women live in the Gush, you are certainly welcome to come here me speak this evening at the moadon in Elazar at 8:00 pm.

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

With love and optimism,

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Easy Life.... NOT!

I put on two pain patches yesterday morning, but I am still in a lot of pain.  I woke up multiple times in the middle of the night from pain, and this morning I woke up in agony.  The pain just got worse as the day progressed.

In addition to the patches, I took a Percocet.  I took a whole pill and even that did not alleviate the pain, though it made the pain bearable.

I do not know how I managed to teach swimming today, but I did.

My final class is for advanced swimmers and I teach that class from outside of the water.

Today, I pulled a chair up to the edge of the pool and gave my comments to the kids while sitting down.

One of the parents commented to me that this must be the "best job."

I was not sure what she meant, so she explained "sitting out in the sun, teaching swimming." 
Anyone who has seen me teach knows that I am usually running up and down alongside the lane, giving the kids instruction.  I might sit for a few minutes, but I am 100% with the kids.

Today, I sat because I could not stand.  I could barely manage to sit.

I did not want to elaborate about how much I was in pain, or explain that that was why I was "lounging" by the side of the pool.

I laughed off the comment, but it stuck with me.  I know she did not mean anything negative, but it struck a nerve.

I was not in full form today.  I had a very tough time concentrating on the kids.  I was so unbearably in pain.

When class finally ended, I dragged myself to the changing rooms. 

When I left, I had to ask someone to help me carry my pool bag up the stairs to the exit. I could barely walk.  I did not even want to drive, but I had no choice.

I just wanted to get home so I could take more Percocet.

My oncologist advised me to add another patch and take as much Percocet as I needed.  I no longer cared whether or not the drugs made me woozy (they did not), I just wanted to get out of pain.

My oncologist wants me to come in tomorrow morning to do some scans. He does not usually see patients on Tuesdays.

I am worried.  All this pain cannot be good.

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

With love and optimism,

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Opera in the Tel Aviv Mall (Flashmob)

For all you Opera lovers out there, check this out! 

Opera in the Dizengoff (Tel Aviv) Food Court.

This is so great!

If you like this, maybe you'll join us for Carmen in the Park (see post below).

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

With love and optimism,

Friday, July 9, 2010

Opera in Israel -- How Cool Is This?

OK, I admit it, I like Opera!

Carmen is one of my favorites and it is being performed, for FREE, in Tel Aviv, this summer!!

I am going!!

It is going to be hot, humid, and crowded as hell, but I am going!

It is going to be after a LONG chemo day (I will be getting both Doxil and Herceptin that day), but I am going!

It is going to wipe me out, but I am going!

As soon as I am done with chemo, I will gather my kids and take the train to Park HaYarkon.  We will bring a picnic and and camp out until they let us in.

We will be hot.  We will be sweaty.  But we will be there!

You are welcome to join us!

Need I remind you?  Admission is FREE!

When is this happening?  Thursday, July 29th.

What time is the performance?  9:00 pm (that's 21:00, for you Israelis)

Officially, audience entrance begins at 7:00 pm, but maybe they'll let us in earlier....

How long is the performance?  Approximately one hour and 45 minutes.

Where exactly is the performance?  Ganei Yehoshua (Park Hayarkon) in Tel Aviv.
Park HaYarkon is MILES long.  I have no idea where Ganei Yehoshua is.  I imagine we will figure this out when we get off the train.  Apparently, the train does stop right next to Park HaYarkon.  I have no idea how close the train stop is to where we want to be.

Maybe you are wondering who is sponsoring this Opera in the Park?
The Municipality of Tel Aviv Yafo and the Israeli Opera continue the annual summer open air opera in the park tradition in Ganei Yehoshua.  This summer's presentation is one of the most popular operas in the repertoire: Carmen, by Bizet, in a colorful and extravagant production. 
Carmen, a free spirited gypsy, runs aways from prison, falls in love with the Toreador, and gets killed by her former lover. 
This larger than life, open air production is based on Franco Zaffirelli's production at the Metropolitan Opera, New - York.
Email me if:
1. you are interested in joining us
2. you have a chair I can sit on for the performance
3. you know if my disability card can get us in earlier
4. you know of a good place to hang out while we wait to get in
5. you can explain how to get to Ganei Yehoshua from the train stop at Park HaYarkon
6. you have any other great ideas

Do not email me to tell me that I am crazy.  I already know that.

(For more information about Carmen in the Park, see below)

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

With love and optimism,

Conductor: David Stern
Revival Director: Gad Schechter
Set Adaptation & Design: Nitzan Refaeli
Lighting Designer: Eyal Tavori
Choreographer: Neta Shezaf

Carmen Rinat Shaham
Don Jose
Scott Piper
Escamillo Vladimir Braun
Micaela Noa Danon
Frasquita Hila Baggio
Mercedes Shira Raz
Zuniga Andrei Trifonov
Morales Yair Goren

The Israeli Opera Chorus:
Conductor: Yishai Steckler

The Young Bat-Kol Choir:
Conductor: Dalia Lazar-Shimon
Conductor & Music Director: Anat Morag

The Opera Orchestra - The Israel Symphony Orchestra Rishon LeZion

The Neta Shezaf Flamenco Dance Theatre

Sung in French
Subtitles in English and Hebrew: Israel Ouval

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Upping the Ante -- Moving On To Stronger Pain Meds (Medical Update)

Today, I began treatment with Herceptin again.  Since I have not received Herceptin in a long time, I needed to receive a "loading" dose.  Beforehand, I agreed to take hydrocortisone, to reduce the chances of an adverse reaction.  I did not really want to receive more steroids, but I also did not want to have to stop treatment in the middle.  Thankfully, I did not have an adverse reaction this time.

Also today, thanks to Moshe's gentle persistance, I chose to switch my method of pain management.  I got a patch which releases pain medication on a steady basis, over the course of three days. I am starting with the lowest dose patch, because I do not want to be all woozy.  I had to upgrade to something a bit stronger, becaue my previous regimen no longer kept the pain at bay.  I am hoping that this low dose is enough to do the trick.  One of the nurses warned me that I might experience some wooziness initially, but encouraged me to keep the patch on for several days, to give my body time to adjust and get over the wooziness.

So far, I am not feeling particularly woozy.  I still have some mild pain, but it really is mild.  We will see how I am feeling tomorrow.

My mom kept me company at the hospital today, which was really nice.  We ended up being at the hospital for a really long time (I arrived at 9:00 am and we did not get out until 4:30 pm). 

I would have liked to go home and rest, but God had other plans for me.  My son, who got himself a job working as a junior counselor this summer, had a field trip with his camp today.  He called me as soon as he learned that they would not be getting back in time for him to catch the bus to Tekoa for his horseback riding group.  I offered to take him by car today as well (I drove him and one of his friends yesterday, for their first lesson, so I could see the stables, meet the owner, and provide the boys with some sort of orientation so they would be able to come and go on their own).

Once I was driving in anyway, I decided to hang out in Tekoa with my friend, KAA, and just drive the boys home after their horseback riding session. I did not mind the wait, but I needed ice cream.  KAA and I went to the Makolet and I bought myself a tub of Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey ice cream. Despite the hot weather (and the steroids coursing through my system), I exhibited exemplary self control and did not eat the entire tub of ice cream.  I used a trick my father taught me and wrapped the left over ice cream in multiple layers of plastic bags.  I used a LOT of plastic bags and the ice cream was still frozen when I got home, almost an hour later (Thanks Dad!).

Tonight, Moshe, my mom, and I, watched several episodes of The Big Bang Theory. (Thanks, LWG!)  If you are a geeky type, or even just married to one, you have to watch this!  You will laugh!!

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

With love and optimism,

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Humor (wit and wisdom when you least expect it)

I am not feeling too well.  My head hurts, I feel pressure in my chest, and my hips, thighs, shoulders and neck hurt. 

I am feeling pretty sorry for myself at this moment.  I hate not feeling good.  And I hate being this way when my parents are here.  I want them to see me at my best, so they will not worry when they are not here.

But I am feeling so miserable, there is just no way for me to be my usual, cheerful self.

I mentioned to Moshe how much I hate not feeling well.

Ever the supportive husband, he responded:  'It's your own fault.  If you liked not feeling well then you'd be having a great time."

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

Friday, July 2, 2010

Aliza's Bat Mitzvah Shabbat

What a wonderful Shabbat!

Our hosts were were generous beyond description.  Not only were we welcome in their home, but they had a simcha of their own, so they were out for all meals and invited us to use their home for whatever we wanted.  Their hospitality did not end there.  They cooked us a phenomenal Friday night dinner, with all our favorites: orange soup, sushi, salmon, lasagna, maccaroni and cheese, salad, and, for dessert, spicy carrot cake, ice cream, and real NY style cheese cake!

We ate dinner with just our immediate family: the five of us, Moshe's parents, and my parents.

Dinner was so filling that both Aliza and I fell asleep before dessert.  Everyone decided to serve the carrot cake and save the cheesecake for seudah shlishit! 

I had a piece of the carrot cake in the morning, with a large glass of milk!

Then off to shul we go....

When we got to shul, I realized all the little details that I forgot to arrange in advance.  So I went around distributing honors to family and friends.  I forgot a few, but the women from the Tefillah group smoothly filled in all the gaps.

My youngest daughter read beautifully, taking care to pronounce correctly every sh'va na, sh'va nach, and mapik hey.  She read loudly and clearly, enunciating ever syllable.  It was a pleasure to hear her read so well and to see her standing at the Bima with such poise and grace.

We gave aliyot to my mother, eldest daughter, SK (who came in from Be'er Sheva!), AGS (who came in from Alon), YLR (who had not made it to the Tefillah since her first baby's birth, but came for our simcha!), and, of course, the Bat Mitzvah girl!  I had the aliyah for Maftir, and read the Haftorah.

It was so amazing to look around the room and see so many friends who came to join us in our simcha.  Many left before davening was over, and I did not even get a chance to say Shabbat Shalom.  But they were there. 

After davening, we had a lovely kiddush, that was put together with the help of so many friends and family members that it is impossible to mention them all!  Someone brought cherries (my favorite!) -- and I probably ate half of them!  Since that was all I ate, I did not feel bad.  I did take two peanut butter and chocolate squares, but some kid ran into me and knocked them to the floor, so I really just ate the cherries...  Oh, and a few slices of melon. 

I had no appetite and, anyway, I was too busy talking to worry about food.  So many people joined us for kiddush that, once again, I did not get a chance to greet everyone! 

Then we had a delicious lunch, which my Mother in law prepared, with some additional family members and friends who came in from out of town, Y&UC (who came in from Beit Shemesh), SK and her daughter, YG, and PB.

After lunch, we went back to where we were staying and my son and I played chess with my dad, while Moshe, my mom, and the girls rested.  When my son and I teamed up together, we actually beat my dad.  But, on our own, we both lost... big time.  I'm never going to beat my dad at chess, but, eventually, my son might.

Later, my in-laws came over and we had seudah shlishit together.

Everything turned out so well on Shabbat.  Everyone did everything they could to make it nice.  I really enjoyed spending the time with our family and friends.

I am so grateful to all the people who helped make Shabbat such a simcha and to all the people who came to share in our simcha.

Most importantly, my daughter had a wonderful Shabbat.  She felt really good about her reading, several friends came to hear her read and to join us for kiddush, and she was really the focus of our attention.  Our hosts not only decorated their home with baloons for her, but they decorated a special chair (throne) for her as well. She felt like a princess. 

May we have many more occasions to celebrate together!

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

With love and optimism,

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Reading Haftorah - fulfilling a dream

People often assume that, because I know how to read Torah, I also know how to read Haftorah.  After all, you read Haftorah from a book, not a scroll, and all the nikud (vowels and punctuation) and ta'amim(cantilations) are there, right in front of you.

But I never learned the meloday for Haftorah. 

I always wanted to learn, but never found the time....

As my youngest daughter's Bat Mitzvah approached, I had the idea that if she learned to read her entire parsha (Torah portion), then I would learn to read the Haftorah.  I really liked this idea, but even as she approached the end of her learning, I still had not found the time.

Thursday night, before her Bat Mitzvah Shabbat, I realized I either have to assign someone else to read the Haftorah or I have to learn it, FAST!

Providence shined on me and, that evening, my good friend, RJ, who is an amazing reader called to ask if I needed any help.

"I have a crazy question for you...." I began, "Can you come over tomorrow and teach me to read Haftorah?"

She laughed.  Who wouldn't?  Who learns a new trope in one day?
I know the signs and names of the ta'amim, so that makes the starting point a little easier, but learning all the notes in one day is tall order.  I also have a pretty good ear for music, so I felt confident (perhaps overly so) that I could do it.

RJ agreed to come by on Friday and teach me whatever she could.

Some ta'amim were easier for me to learn, others were quite difficult.  We did not have much time, but RJ was very encouraging.

At the end of our session, I had it down.  But.... could I remember it?

After my daughter read her parsha so beautifully... I was up.

I was not at all confident.

I asked RJ to stand next to me, so she could prompt me for the three ta'amim I had difficulty remembering (each appeared only once in my reading).

For someone who learned both the ta'amim and the Haftorah the day before, my reading was pretty good.

But, as one of my brutally honest friends said, "I've heard you do better."

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

With love and optimism,