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Monday, September 29, 2008

"New Year's Resolutions" or "One Year Down, 78 to Go!"

I've been a little down lately. (you might have noticed)

After the third person said to me "it's that time of year..." (referring to Elul, the Jewish month of reflection and introspection), I decided to wait a month, and see what happens.

Meanwhile, I suspect, there is more to these feelings than that.

My mood reflects the change of season. The sky is darker, and I can already feel my winter head cold.... (it arrives in the fall, and checks out in the spring)

More significantly, I was diagnosed with cancer in the summer.

I am now marking one year since my diagnosis of metastasis. (and three years since my initial diagnosis)

For me, Rosh HaShanah does not simply signify the passing of a Jewish year. For me, Rosh HaShanah marks another year of survival.

I just survived my first year with metastatic cancer.

Since only 20% of women dianosed with metastatic cancer survive the first 5 years, I feel like these first years are the most significant.

I am 20%* along the road of successfully beating the odds. (as you know, I fully intend to beat the odds!)

Btw, my approach to these statistic is strongly influenced by Stephen Jay Gould's essay, The Median is Not the Message. (I highly recommend that you read his essay. Read it now. I'll wait...)

I used to say that "I intend on living 'till I'm 90," until a friend asked me why I was cutting myself short (referring to the Jewish tradition that our life span is 120 years). I accepted her tikun (correction), and now plan on living until 120! (hence the 78 more years to go...)

Meanwhile, though I do not live my life as if I am living on the edge, I have begun to think a bit more seriously about what I really want to accomplish.

Verbalizing my intentions, gives them more weight, more meaning.

It signifies a certain level of commitment.

Perhaps that is why, in the past, I have not made any lists.

So, here, for the first time, you have it: my new year's resolutions.

What I want to have achieved by next year:

1. clean/fix up my home (a bigger task than most of you imagine!)
2. spend more time with my kids (and my husband)
3. be more patient with my kids (and my husband)
4. manage my time better
5. host a women's Megillah reading in my home
6. lose 2-5 kilos (4½ - 11 pounds)
7. speak to groups about living with cancer

What I want to achieve in the next few years:

1. write a book
2. go to Disneyworld/Universal studios with my kids
3. visit Japan

None of us ever knows how long we will live. Anything can happen to any one of us, at any time.

Living in the shadow of death, puts things in a different perspective.

There are things that I want to do.


The end of that sentence just hangs in the air.

So, let's bring it out in the open.

There are things I want to do before I die.

Not to worry, as far as I know, I'm not dying yet

(I'm not dead yet!)

So, next year, when I've beaten 40%* of the odds, we'll review this post, and evaluate just how successful I was at achieving this years goals.

Then, I will decide whether or not to make another list...

Wishing you all a K'tiva V'Chatima Tovah (you should be inscribed and sealed in the book of life) and a Shanah Tovah U'Mtukah (a good and sweet year).

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

With love and optimism,

* I know these statistics don't work that way. But you get the idea....

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Peaceful Shabbat

We had a quiet Shabbat.

Only MD was home.

It was nice to have a chance to spend some time just with him.

I thought we would play more, but all of us slept after lunch, for a LONG time.

A went to her cool Aunt's for Shabbat.

They also slept for a LONG time.

It was one of those Shabbatot.

Y was gone since Thursday. She went, with her school, for a three days "seminarion" (weekend seminar).

For half an hour after Shabbat, we lived in the Twilight Zone -- we still felt slow and peaceful.

Then, almost in an instant, things switched back into high gear.

Moshe picked up A.

Then, A and MD had to get ready for bed, including getting all their things ready for school the next day. If they were quick enough, we would watch Star Trek.

Y called to make sure we (read: Moshe) could pick her up as soon as she got back to her school.

Even though Moshe would have to leave in the middle to pick up Y, we started watching Star Trek. (If you know us, you know that this is actually a big deal. A big part of the "experience" is in watching together!)

Ten (okay 12) minutes before the episode ended, Y called.

Moshe left; the kids and I finished watching Star Trek.

A few minutes later, Y blew through the door, distributed hugs and kisses to all, then flew back out the door, to go to her youth group, 'cause she "missed them too."

It was 10:30 pm on Saturday night.

What about going to sleep? Not to worry, the girls convinced the principal to cancel school tomorrow -- after all, what would they learn in one day? (No school this week from Monday through Wednesday, because of Rosh HaShanah)

Y was gone... again.

Moshe sang to A & MD. Then, despite having napped all day, the kids fell asleep right away.

Once again, the house was quiet.

Moshe and I watched the end of Star Trek.

Aftewards, we watched Jericho (post-apocalyptic TV series, brilliant, complex).

I don't usually like to watch two TV shows in one night. But there were only two episodes left of the second season, and I couldn't resist.

Y breezed back in, at some point, and went straight to bed.

Moshe and I finished watching the second to last episode.

In the quiet hours of the night, we analyzed the episode, focussed on a far away, stormy, and imaginary, world.

As we settled in for the night, our home felt safe and secure, and peaceful.

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

With love and optimism,

Friday, September 26, 2008


(Hat Tip to my cousin Nina)

What will they think of next??

Check this out!!

Kosher food, from vending machines, is now available at John F. Kennedy International Airport, in New York!

The "Hot Nosh 24/6" can be found in the food court (#23 on the map) at JFK's new Terminal 4!


You can purchase onion rings, knishes, pizza, hot dogs, and more!

For $4.5o, you can purchase a hot dog any day of the week.

Despite the name, the machines operate 24/7. After all, "... you don't have to be Jewish to want a kosher hot dog," said Ruby Azrak, of Kosher Vending Industries.

According to Jeremy Olshan, who wrote the NY Post article:

"While it may not sound kosher to eat a hot dog from a vending machine, the company's patented technology can grill a perfect frank.

It takes about 90 seconds from Genesis to Exodus."

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

With love and optimism,

Pictured: Rabbi Yehuda Balashov, of The Bronx, sampling the onion rings at JFK’s Terminal 4.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The New Normal

"Ima?" I hear my youngest daughter's sweet voice on my phone, "Where are you?"

"I'm at the hospital," I tell her, marvelling at how small she sounds, over the phone.

"You're at chemotherapy?" She asks, not quite pronouncing the "r".

That's my baby, asking if I'm at chemotherapy, the way other kids ask their parents if they are at work, or the park, or at home.

I guess I should be glad that is seems so normal for her.

It's not scary.

It's not threatening.

It's just part of life.

"Yes, honey," I answer cheerfully, "I'm at chemotherapy."

"When will you be home?" she wants to know, just like every other kid.

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

With love and optimism,

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Letting Go

I officially have a teenager.

I am not complaining, just stating a fact.

My daughter is doing her own thing.

She no longer asks me permission for everything.

She uses her own judgment, forms her own opinions, and makes her own decisions.

I am trying to be ok with this.

It is hard to let go. But it is worse to try to hold on tight.

I did that a few weeks ago, and the results were disastrous.

I hope I won't make the same mistake twice.

For a teenager, she is still pretty terrific.

She has good values and her head, and heart, are in the right place.

I pray for the strength to let her be her own person.

I love her so much.

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

With love and optimism,

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Medical Update -- pain, markers, & mets

Remember the old days, when Mets was just a baseball team?

(not mine, of course. I'm a Yankees fan!)

Welcome to my world, where mets is slang for metastasis.


(my attempt at lightening things up a bit)

I feel a little bad that my posts have been a bit down lately. It's not so interesting to read, day after day, about pain, and feeling sad. It's not so great to be feeling that way either.

Oh well, welcome to my world. (staaaaam*, it's not that bad....)

So, here's what's new.

I asked my doctor how high the markers have to get before we really start to worry.

To my chagrin, he answered: "we're there already."

Between the increase in my markers and in my pain, he is concerned (and has been, for some time).

He's going to look over my CTs again.

From CT to CT, there is no apparent change in my bones. However, perhaps, over time, there might be some evidence of progression of disease. There do not appear to be new tumors. But it is possible that existing tumors have been growing very slowly. Because of the bone drug that I take, it is difficult to tell.

The problem is, if the cancer has been growing in my bones, how should this affect my treatment?

The cancer in my liver and lungs has responded WELL to treatment. As of now, there is no longer any evidence of disease in either my liver or lungs. That is amazing.

If we alter treatments, there are no guarantees.

Maybe another drug will be better for my bones. Maybe not. Maybe another drug will also be effective on my organs. Maybe not. There is no way of knowing in advance.

But we won't deal with this dilemma until we know the facts.

So, for now, I have to wait.

And, as we all know, the waiting is the hardest part. (dating myself with this link!)

"You take it on faith.

You take it to the heart.

The waiting is the hardest part."

(Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers - The Waiting, 1981)

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

With love and optimism,

* stam (loosely translates as "just kidding")

Monday, September 22, 2008


Just when I thought I was coming out of my slump....

I don't seem to be overwhelmingly sad these days.


I seem to be angry.

I am easily agitated.

I have no patience.

I can be in a good mood one minute, and ready to scream the next.

I am volatile and unpredictable.

I am bitter.

I hate being in pain.

I hate having to take drugs.

I hate having cancer.

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

With love and optimism,

Sunday, September 21, 2008

100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall

The chagim (holidays) are coming up!

Day trips, and car rides, can be fun!

Usually, it's the kids who drive their parents crazy during car rides.

Unfortunately for my kids, I'm the one who drives them crazy!!

I love to sing "The bear climbed over the mountain!" My kids, of course, get annoyed before I repeat the song even once! (too bad for them!)

I also sing "100 bottles of beer on the wall." My stick-in-the-mud kids don't like that one either!

But I did find a way to get them into it.

In a stroke of parenting genious (if I do say so myself), I changed the song ever so slightly, to make it more interesting, and also educational.

No subterfuge, just a little creativity (you know, the product of desperation!)

Basically, the song goes like this:

"100 bottles of beer on the wall, a hundred bottles of beer.... if ______ of those bottles just happens to fall, ______ bottles of beer on the wall."

Traditionally, the first blank is a "one" and the second blank is simply n-1. Not very difficult. The song typically has 100 versus, and can fill up at least 10-15 minutes of travel time.

However, you can substitute any number in that first blank space, making the subtraction a bit more complicated, and cutting out any number of verses.

Since the kids never knew how many bottles of beer would fall at any given time, they had to pay attention, and figure out (quickly) how many bottles of beer were left, so that we could continue singing....

When we sing it this way, sometimes they are even willing to sing it twice!

Try it!

(and let me know how it worked for your family!)

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

With love and optimism,

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Pain in the Neck

OK, I do not actually have pain in my neck, it's more like stiffness and discomfort, but "pain in the neck" is such a great blog title... (well, at least I amuse myself....)


Lately, I've noticed that I do not turn my head so much.

I first noticed this new phenomena while driving.

I discovered that I was avoiding changing lanes, because that required me to turn around and look behind me.

A while later, I realized that if my kids were talking to me from behind, I would ignore them. When I started making an effort to pay attention, I had to ask them to move into my line of vision, because it was painful to turn around to face them.

I think the discomfort stems from two sources:
1. my neck
2. my back

Twisting puts stress on both parts of my body.

This came up today, when friends stopped by to visit in the afternoon.

I needed to put up my legs, because my ankles felt swollen and painful (not related to cancer; probably related to arthritis, but I don't know).

Anyway, by raising my feet, I ended up with my back to one of my guests.

Everyone had to move around (think: musical chairs), so that my guests and I could all be in comfortable eye contact.

It's not like it was such a big deal, but all these little things add up.

I wonder if anyone is doing the math...

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

With love and optimism,

Friday, September 19, 2008


This week has been really crazy.

I am looking forward to resting on Shabbat and spending some nice, quiet time with my family.

I just wish I could blink my eyes and have everything be all ready....

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

With love and optimism,

Pain in my back

Last night, it was difficult to fall asleep.

Sleep has always been one of my brachot (blessings). I am a deep sleeper. I fall asleep quickly (thanks to chronic exhaustion) and I stay asleep.

Even when my kids were babies, and sleeping right next to me, Moshe had to shake me awake, because their cries (right next to my ears) did not penetrate my slumber.

Even now, if you call me and I am asleep, it is as if the call never happened. I might say anything, but nothing I say is reliable. Most likely, I will not remember the converstation, or even that you called!

But I digress...

Recently, I have had a few nights with severe back pain. The pain has made it difficult to fall asleep.

If this happens more frequently, I will need to take stronger pain killers.

I am distressed at that thought, but that is the way it is.

I'd rather be cheery after a full night's sleep, than a "grumpy-head" because I could not fall asleep.

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

With love and optimism,

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Medical Update --Markers

I haven't quite figured out the marker thing yet.

CA 125 seems to be "my" marker.

CA 125 is often linked to ovarian cancer, but not exclusively.

When I was diagnosed with mets, in the summer of 2007, my CA 125 was 56.7 (high).

Five and a half weeks into treatment, my marker dropped to 32.2 (normal).

Two months later, at the end of October, it was down to 23.7 (normal).

At the end of December, it was 26.1 (still normal).

Then, in February, the numbers began to fluctuate:
5.2.08 -- 35.6 (high)
4.3.08 -- 32.5 (normal)

Then, in April, the numbers slowly and steadily began to climb up:
29.4.08 -- 47.0 (high)
10.6.08 -- 68.7 (higher than when we started)
1.7.08 -- 71.9
19.8.08 -- 102.1
2.9.08 -- 120.9

The diagnostics seem to indicate that my treatment is effective.

So why has my CA-125 count has been rising for months now?

No one knows why.

We have done all the tests:
CT -- everything looks the same
MRI -- we really needed to check my liver, and discovered that it looks even better than expected.
Ultrasound -- a few months ago, there was something strange near my left ovary. It did not "look like cancer," but I needed to follow up on it. I did an ultrasound this past Tuesday... there is nothing there anymore.

I met with a gyno-oncologist. (I bet you did not know there was such a thing! I sure didn't)

My gyno-oncologist (GO) only has clinic hours on Tuesdays, so I waited for a "free week" to go spend the morning at a different hospital, Hadassah Har Zofim.

Moshe came with me.

The GO was present for the ultrasound (as was some other woman, in addition to the technician). I might have minded the "invasion," if it weren't for the fact that I was anxious about the growth and the fact that all three agreed that nothing was there anymore. I mean, if something was still there, one of them would have seen it, right?

Anyway, after the ultrasound, we had to go to the GO's clinic.

Moshe had an important meeting at work, but he wanted to be at my meeting with the GO, since I don't remember anything these days.

Even though the doctors were running a bit late (because the department who schedules these appointments seems to be unaware that there is a staff meeting every Tuesday morning....), we (read: I) thought Moshe could still make it on time to his work meeting.

I was supposed to be the first patient to see the doctor.

Moshe, being infinitely more pessimistic, expected something to come up. It did. The doctor took another patient in before us, because they had a brit that morning.

By the time we were inivited in, 45 minutes later, I was completely anxious, and knew that Moshe would be late. The doctor, sensing my anxiety (you'd have to be blind to miss it), offerred to meet with us later, at our convenience. I was so aggitated, that I was ready to come back another time. Luckily, Moshe was cool-headed and assured the doctor that it would be alright, and we should meet now.

The GO suggested that we leave the tension outside, so that he can give me all the time and attention that I needed.

It was hard to release the tension, because my rising markers made me tense to begin with, and that was why we were there!

But I was impressed, yet again, with the doctor's gentle and concerned manner.

In the end, we also spent at least 1/2 an hour with the doctor. He spoke with us in detail, and also consulted with my oncologist.

The bottom line, there is nothing to do at this time.

Neither the GO nor my oncologist recommends checking out my ovaries laproscopically. There is no indication that the GO would find anything. And, given my weight and medical history, including 6 abdominal surgeries, resulting in a lot of scar tissue and adhesions, the surgery would not be simple. Not to mention that I've had 3 serious post-op infections in the past....

So, what do we do about the rising markers?


Just "wait and see".....

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

With love and optimism,

Blogging Sickness

I definitely should have gone to bed last night and blogged in the morning....

I went to sleep to late and now I am paying for it.

I woke up this morning feeling the beginnings of a cold: headache, congestion, generally yucky feeling....

I would have gone back to sleep, but I have to go to the dentist... again. (follow up for root canal)

Anyway, check out Batya's post about the conference. She captured the atmosphere of the conference. And, reading her post made me feel better -- like I wasn't the only one there who was hearing about some of that technology for the first time....

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

With love and optimism,

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Tachlis 2 Point Oh!

This web conference was a lot more tachlis oriented!

Unfortunately, I had to cut out early this time too, for another aseifat horim!

Lucky for me, this conference was in a cool, and beautiful, courtyard in the Armenian quarter of the Old City, just around the corner from my kids' school, in the Jewish Quarter. Pretty convenient for me!!

Akiva Fuld (I Thank Thee) introduced the conference, and Ricky Ben-David, from the Jersuaelm post, moderated the conference.

Benjamin Pashkoff (Sun Microsystems), spoke fast, and well. In ten minutes, he created an atmosphere of excitement about Sun's accomplishments. He impressed me. How often do you meet a major geek, who speaks well, and gets non-geeks interested in geeky things??

Next, Aharon Horwitz (PresenTense), spoke about Grassroots Community Building. I was really interested in what he was saying, but half of it was in another language! I asked a question, and the answer was still too technical for me. He is involved in using the internet to advance social causes. Very cool.

Then Ahuva Berger (Saddle Rock Advisors), spoke about Social Network Marketing. She used so many buzzwords that were completely new to me. I was also interested in what she had to say, but I felt myself spiralling down the rabbit hole!

This world is so new to me. I wonder if I can ever catch up!

I missed the presentation by David Abitbol, from Jewlicious, about the Tachlis of Blogging. I'm going to have to see if it's available online somewhere...

Anyway, Jewlicious put this conference together with PresenTense, WebAds, I Thank Thee, and more... Jerusalemite.net, JerusalemBlueprint.com, EJewishPhilanthropy.com, The Jerusalem Post, and Reader Impact Email.

I never even heard of half of these!!

The conference was sponsored by Sun Microsystems, Taglit Brithright, and The Center for Leadership Initiatives.

Most of the bloggers there were people I did not know from before. I did hang out with Batya, who I met at the JBloggers convention, and Hadassa Levy, who I just met, and someone else, whose name escapes me (sorry!).

I also got a chance to catch up with Brian Blum. And I met Deb, who, when she met me, asked "Are you the RivkAAA, who's friends with T????" Is that cool, or what??

I could write more about the people, but I have to go to sleep!!

I meant to just jot down a brief post and.....

Say no more....

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

With love and optimism,

Monday, September 15, 2008

Aseifat Horim

I wouldn't even begin to know how to say Aseifat Horim in English!

In the beginning of every school year, every educational framework in Israel, from Gan (kindergarden) through High School, has an aseifat horim.

At the aseifat horim, parents meet their children's teachers for the first time. It is also an opportunity to meet the other parents.

For kindergarden, the aseifat horim is relatively simple. Parents arrive, are given some sort of cardboard shape (eg. a flower), and are asked to write their child a bracha (blessing) for the upcoming year. Then, the ganenet (kindergarden teacher) invites the parents to introduce themselves, after which, she explains everything a parents should know about kindergarden. At the end, the ganenet asks for volunteers for the va'ad horim (parents committee).

In the beginning of our journey into the school system, I was impressed that parents were invited to be more involved. With time, I learned that the main job of the va'ad horim was to collect money.

In elementary school, in addition to meeting with the teachers, the aseifat horim includes greetings from the principal.

In Junior High School, we are also introduced to other staff (guidance counselor, vice principal, etc).

Last night, we had our first High School aseifat horim.

The first thing that impressed me was that it began on time!!

Good thing, too, because there was a lot of talking! Greetings from the principal, the Rav, the vice principal, the pedagogical coordinator, a second pedagogical coordinator, the administration manager -- whew!

Admittedly, some of it was a little boring.

Nonetheless, overall, everyone who spoke was really excited about the school and about all the special programs. Their enthusiasm was contageous.

Finally, we divided into our individual class meetings. It was nice to see some familiar faces among the parents.

Y's teacher exuded positive energy, and was very articulate. I discovered that this teacher would teach my daughter for both 9th and 10th grade. I was pleased.

I could tell why my daughter was happy to go to school every day.

When we got home, Y was in bed, but still awake.

"Did you meet my teacher?" she asked, right away.

Y looked up at me, her sweet, innocent, eyes shining.

In a soft voice, she continued, "She's nice, isn't she?"

I looked at my beautiful daughter, who is growing up so fast, and whose independence is emerging as a strong force in our household.

I wanted to hold onto that moment forever.

I bent down, and kissed her on her forehead.

"Yes, she is," I assured my daughter, as her eyes closed, and she drifted off to sleep.

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

With love and optimism,

Organ Donations

The news about my friend's son, who needs a kidney donor, brought home something I've been thinking about lately.

I am a strong believer in organ donation.

I always imagined that, after my death, there would be all these people, out there, whose lives I saved by donating my organs.

Though it is so difficult to think about, it can be very comforting for a family to know that out of their darkness and tragedy emerges hope, and new life.

Cancer took that away too.

I can't donate anything... ever.

Not blood; not organs.

Not while I'm alive.

Not after I'm dead.

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

With love and optimism,

Friday, September 12, 2008

Netanyahu's Education Initiative

*** Thanks to Steve, from WebAds, for including me among the bloggers invited to cover Former Prime Minister, and leader of the Opposition, Binyamin Netanyahu's press conference ***

*** Please note: this post is not an endorsement ***

At exactly 10:30 in the morning, right on time, I walked out of the elevators, onto the 14th floor of Beit Jabotinsky, right into Likud headquarters.

It was Sunday, August 31st, the day before school starts.

The press was already there, as were my fellow bloggers. I sat down next to A Mother in Israel, who was next to Rafi G from Life in Israel, who was next to Carl from Israel Matzav. Lurker, who sometimes posts at the Muqata, sat on my other side. We must have been quite a sight! Five religious bloggers, sitting in a row, laptops open, typing intensely. (Someone took a picture of us, but I have yet to see it).

We were surrounded by representatives of the mainstream media, who were predominantly, if not exclusively, secular reporters.

As far as I know, this is the first time in Israel that bloggers were invited to cover a media event. Pretty cool.

Just minutes after my arrival, Netanyahu entered. He approached our group of bloggers and greeted us all individually, shaking hands with all the men. Then he approached the podium.

"Good education guarantees equality in society," Netanyahu pronounced.

He decried the crisis in Israeli education, and announced his plan to revolutionize Israeli education. His plan includes the creation of an "Education Cabinet," which Netanyahu would head, that will give backing to the Minister of Education. To paraphrase: Just as Sharon backed me up when I revolutioned the economy, and pulled Israel out of debt; I intend to create the same dynamic that will allow us to revolutionize Israeli education.

It was a clever opening. All sides recognize Netanyahu's previous success as Finance Minister.

The goal of the Education Cabinet, he continued, will be to restore the level of Israeli students' achievements to international excellence within the next 10 years.

Netanyahu shared some disturbing statistics. The percentage of soldiers who pass basic reading comprehension tests, upon entering the army, has dropped dramatically over the years from 60% in 1985, to 40% in 1997, to 32% in 2002!

Based on the idea that education is the most effective tool for bridging gaps in Israeli society, he hopes to create a sociological revolution. Netanyahu plans to replicate methods of improving education that have been effective in other countries, including investing in ongoing professional and pedagogical enrichment courses. His plan would also raise teachers’ salaries, though he repeatedly emphasized that this alone does not constitute a solution.

Netanyahu also emphasized the need for class discipline, and for a return to Zionist studies, so that Israeli children will know Jewish/Zionist/Israeli history.

He criticized the recent inclusion of the Nakba in the curriculum, pointing out that there is no other country in the world that teaches and legitimizes the ideology of an enemy bent upon the country’s destruction. He promised to remove it immediately.

It all sounded good. But I wonder, will he really do it? Will he really restore our education? Will he have the courage and fortitude to make serious curriculum changes and withstand the barrage of abuse that will rain down from the left-wing media?

I took the opportunity to question Netanyahu about the problem of cheating in the classrooms, which is rampant and a well-known problem. I want to know how he plans on revolutionizing that. I did not receive a satisfactory response.

If Netanyahu has the courage of his convictions, he really could revolutionize the education system. However, he has yet to convince me that he is a man of integrity.

Everything he promised is overshadowed by his betrayal of his previous pre-election platform, regarding Hevron and the rest of Judea and Samaria.

When Netanyahu was elected Prime Minister, he was invited to address the U.S. Congress. He delivered an informative and passionate speech about the State of Israel, which included a section devoted to the centrality and historical significance of Hevron to the Jewish people. His remarks on Hevron were interrupted several times by applause, and he received a rare standing ovation at the end of his speech. He had the backing of the United States Congress. In spite of this, only a few months later, in the Hevron Accords, he gave away 80% of Hebron, betraying his promises and all the people who voted for him. A year later, in the Wye River Accords, he signed away enormous parts of Judea and Samaria.

Netanyahu is a phenomenal speaker. But his words no longer impress me.

Let me see his words put into action.

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

With love and optimism,

Thursday, September 11, 2008

September 11

We watched "United 93" tonight. (click here, for more infor about United Airlines Flight 93)

The film was true to life, filmed in "real time," and much of the dialogue was based on actual recordings and phone messages.

The movie was so powerful.

It brought back that day....

It was a boring afternoon. My eldest was at a birthday party.

Then my sister calls up and says: Turn on the TV!

"What channel?" I ask; but it doesn't matter.

We watch, together, for about half an hour. None of the reporters really know what's going on. But we can't turn away.

I am sitting on my bed, in front of the TV. My younger kids are off playing somewhere else in the apartment.

Then, in the middle of all the reports and speculations, I see the first tower crumble.

"Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God," I repeat over and over.

I can't think of anything else to say.

I can't believe it's real.

It feels like a bad movie.

Then the second tower falls.

This is a terrible nightmare.

I feel so sorry for the little boy, whose birthday party no one will ever forget.

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

With love and optimism,

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Check Out These Posts

Jameel, at The Muqata, posted about men who are WANTED for abandoning their wives. These men have "disappeared," leaving their wives as agunot, trapped in marriages, with no way out, until their husbands are found. Check out this important post; there are PICTURES.

Gila, at My Shrapnel, hosted this week's Haveil Havalim, and mentioned yours truly (thanx!).

Also thanks to Gila, who heard from Baila, who heard from SuperRaizy, I heard about my friend's son, Asaf, who is in need of a kidney transplant (any donors?).

(The percentage of successful kidney transplants is higher from a live donor, and the transplanted kidney has a longer chance of surviving in the recipient's body.)

It is the strangest thing to read a story like this, and then realize.... hey, I know this kid's mom and dad!

We haven't been in touch for a few years, but I guess I always picture them waiting for us to come visit again on Shabbat. I guess, these days, they have some other things on their mind....

(I bet they don't know about me either...)

Please pray for Asaf Dror ben Leiah Shulamit.

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

With love and optimism,

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Support Group -- "Bein HaZmanim"

"Bein HaZmanim" is the "in-between time." (Yeshiva terminology, referring to the 3 week break in learning from Tisha B'av to Rosh Hodesh Elul. Some yeshivot also take off for a few weeks around Pesach)

At our "final" meeting, we discovered that none of us wanted our support group to end.

Our wonderful facilitator was going abroad for a year.

We were on our own.

We decided to meet twice, within the next five weeks, "before the chagim." (holidays)

Perhaps, "after the chagim," Beit Natan would find us another facilitator.

Meanwhile, we were advised that one of us should be assigned to lead each meeting.

I volunteered to lead the first meeting.

We decided that I would prepare something in the spirit of Elul (the Jewish month, when we reflect on the past year and the changes we would like to make in the upcoming year).

Five of us came to our first, "independent," meeting (L, C, M, Y & me). C had Sheva B'rachot that night, and still chose to attend our meeting first, before heading by bus to Ashdod!

We spent the first few minutes "catching up."

Then I asked everyone to take a piece of paper, and draw segments divided by straight lines on one side, and segments divided by curvy lines, on the other.

On the side with straight lines, I asked everyone to write about things, not necessarily cancer related, that we regretted about the past year. Then, on the side with curvy lines, we wrote about things we hope to do differently next year.

Then, we shared how we felt when we were writing.

Not surprisingly, it was harder to examine our flaws. I know that I felt overwhelmed by all the things that I wish I could change.

When discussing the flip-side, participants felt satisfaction. The felt happy about the things they were doing well.

When I turned over the page, I also felt my mood switch. I felt the burden of my failures lift, and the opportunity to do better next year.

After summing up everyone's emotions, I shared some of my thoughts about the page:

The straight lines create sharp angles, representing the harshness with which we view our own faults. The smooth, wavy lines are meant to guide us in being gentler in our judgments of ourselves, in helping us be more flexible and open in the future, helping us to "go with the flow."

Though there were many tangents over the course of the meeting, I felt the meeting went well. We'll see what kind of feedback there is.

I have years of experience as a group facilitator, however leading our group was particularly challenging. I was not an outsider, coming in to lead the discussion; I was also part of the group. The dynamics were different, both in the way the group related to me and how I related to the group. Nevertheless, I think I was successful in creating an open, and dynamic meeting, and in preserving our "safe space."

The meeting was also challenging, because one of the women was going through a particularly difficult time. It was clear to me that she needed more support than a simple support group can provide. I tried to give her the space she needed to share, allow time for women to support her, and still keep the discussion focused and on track. It was hard, but I think I succeeded.

We ended our meeting, as we always do, standing in a circle, arms wrapped around each other. One by one, we each say, in one word, an emotion that represents how we are feeling, right now, in this moment.




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

With love and optimism,

Monday, September 8, 2008

Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C)

Thanks to Moshe, I was able to watch Stand Up to Cancer online.

You can watch it too: SU2C

In the lower left corner, press "select episode."
(as of this writing, there is only one episode to choose)

The phone line is working until September 12th (I think).

100% of all donations goes directly to cancer research.

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

With love and optimism,

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Ups and Downs -- Part II

My dear, wonderful, warm, caring, friends,

I love reading your insightful, and thoughtful comments. It's fun to see who is reading my blog, and who has what to say. Comments make me smile!

(here it comes.....)

BUT, though I recognize that those of you who recommended therapy as a response to my previous post, did so because you love and care about me..... YOU TOTALLY MISSED THE POINT of my post.

The post was about mood swings. About the ups and downs of living with illness (in my case, cancer).

It is totally normal to have ups and downs.

I am not debating the benefits of therapy.

If I want/need therapy, I will get it.

I am surrounded by people (to begin with, my husband, and my oncologist) who will let me know if/when it is time to seek outside help.

I know therapy is available if I want it.

I appreciate all your comments and emails, I really do.

BUT, I really felt bombarded by so many suggestions that I go for therapy.

I am sure that I can benefit from therapy.

I have LOTS of issues. (I had most of them before I got cancer)

BUT, my TIME is LIMITED. I cannot do everything.

Right now, unless I need it, I don't want to spend an hour a week in therapy, plus travel time.

There are other things I would rather do with my time.

If I only wrote about how great I feel, and how great life is (and life is great), then this would not be an accurate portrayal of what it is like to live with cancer. Because, friends, cancer SUCKS. And, no matter how great my attitude is, cancer still sucks.

And no amount of therapy is going to change that.

And no amount of therapy is going to make the cancer go away.

And that's why, even with the best therapy in the whole wide world, I will still have mood swings.

Because, quite honestly, it is not easy living with cancer.
(Even though I'm doing great, thank God, thanks to all of your prayers, and happy, healing thoughts)

I wish the cancer would just go away.

I really do.

But, I live in the real world. And, for now, my cancer is a permanent, chronic, condition.

I can live with that.

For someone living with cancer, I am proud to say that I have a damn good attitude. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I have an exceptional attitude.

So, do me a favor. If you think I need therapy, then, please, give me, or my husband, a call. Tell us that you are worried, and why.

If not, please don't tell me I should go to therapy, just because sometimes I'm sad that I have cancer.

I am not depressed. I am not in denial.

I have cancer.

Sometimes that makes me feel sad.

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

With love and optimism,

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Ups and Downs

"So, kiddo, how are you doing?" asked my oncologist, as he opened my files (the one on his desk and the one on his computer).

"Well," I began, "my mood has been swinging up and down...."

He stopped.

"You get depressed?" he asked, with a puzzled look.

"Yeah, she does," confirmed Moshe.

"'cause I don't see it..." continued my oncologist.

Even in the chemo ward, my mood is usually upbeat -- probably because every week a different friend comes to hang out and I just enjoy the company so much!

"What are you feeling?" he asked, looking at me seriously.

"I'm having a hard time with the "long term" thing," I explained (not for the first time). "I just wish I could look forward to a time when it will be over."

"Do you want to see someone?" he asked (also not for the first time).

The thing is, I am not clinically depressed. I get out of bed in the morning. I am active. I have a strong support network: family, friends, my support group, and my blog.

What more would I get from therapy? I asked. There is no clinical indication that I need a psychologist. It all depends on how I feel.

Overall, I feel I am handling things pretty well. Both my husband and my oncologist agree.

But I still have mood swings. I still wish it would all just go away.

Someone once told me that all the cancer stuff would eventually fade into the background, like white noise from the radio.

I hope that is true.

Meanwhile, I hear the radio blaring and I really wish someone would change the channel.

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

With love and optimism,

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Telling the Teachers

This is the third year I have to tell my kids' teachers about our “situation.”

You might think the telling would get easier with time. It doesn’t.

Our kids are in school so much of the day. I have to rely on their teachers to be our eyes and ears. It is likely that the teacher will notice if something is wrong, maybe even before I do.

I need the teachers on my team.

But it is difficult. Difficult introducting the "situation;" difficult explaining the "situation;" difficult making sure they know to be on the lookout; difficult conveying that we want to know about anything unusal right away (and they should not "protect" us by keeping information from us); difficult conveying information so that they understand, without pitying me, or my children.

They need to know.

Hopefully, this is just a precaution. Hopefully, my cancer won't be an "issue" for my kids.

But the teachers need to know.

And I need to tell them.

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

With love and optimism,

Monday, September 1, 2008

The First Day of School

Your first day of school.

You did not need me to see you off.

I got up anyway.

You chose your own clothes.

You did a good job.

You made your own lunches.

And cleaned up after yourself.

You packed your bags.

OK, I helped with that.

You left the house, calmly.

You have done this many times before.

For the first time, I did not take your picture.

I am sorry.

You did not need to mark this day.

I did.

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

With love and optimism,