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Thursday, November 6, 2008


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

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

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

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

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

The questions annoyed me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Can I SCUBA dive,” I asked.

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

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

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

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

“I don’t know,” repeated my doctor.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I take a deep breath.

“What about water skiing?” I ask.

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

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

“What about wall climbing?” I ask.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I barely hear his answer.

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

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

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

With love and optimism,

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


Anonymous said...

Sometimes it's nice to be boring.....

Anonymous said...

Loved this!!

Anonymous said...

Bummer about the rock climbing...I've been wanting to go, and I thought for a minute I'd have another 40 something to go with :)

jwander said...

You should join my club!


Sarah said...

Regarding the dolphins: If you can't go scuba diving, I recommend the snorkeling-with-dolphins option. That's what I did when in Eilat. You stay up at the surface of the water, looking down into it, with the dolphins swimming just beneath you. It is beautiful!

A Soldier's Mother said...

I agree about the snorkeling - it's amazing and relaxing and no impact. Sorry about your not being able to do all the other things. I wish there was some way you could do it. About the scuba diving - ask...maybe they could find some way not to take you too far down - but truthfully, all I ever wanted to do was snorkel because when I go to Eilat, I want to relax. If I could think of something to say...I would - but I hope you have a great time no matter what you can or can't do in Eilat!

Anonymous said...

Third world medicine?! What?! Not in Israel!

Batya said...

He probably would have said that you walked too much in Shiloh, too. I could barely keep up.

B"H, I'm no expert in cancer, but I'll never forget what I read in a pregnancy book. The writer, an gyn-ob, told that he was talking to some others about the sports they allow pregnant women to do. It ended up that they permitted the sports they did and forbade the ones they didn't like.

Of course, listen to your doctor, but ask him to check with a doctor who is very athletic.

Baila said...

It really scared me that they came here to study third-world medicine!

Go snorkling! We did last Chanukah in Eilat and it was amazing.

Anonymous said...

I gotta borrow your sister. The subversive role she plays in your life is transcending.

Seth (Avi) Kadish · אבי קדיש said...

Rivka, you are amazing!

Anonymous said...

Mrs. Settler wants to go down to Eilat for Chanukah. Let's do it. I want to take my kids for a ride in the submarine.

Shevy said...

I think I read the same book Muse did. I remember specifically the example that doctors who played tennis thought that a pregnant woman could continue to play regularly throughout!

I guess if he's concerned about impact then that's something you have to consider when you think about things you might like to do. I like the idea of snorkeling with the dolphins better than doing SCUBA with them anyway.

So, I guess you're not going skydiving either?

Noa said...

I 3rd (or is it 4th) the snorkeling suggestion - I did it simply because it was way cheaper than scuba diving, and we didn't miss a thing! There was a brand-new baby dolphin who came swimming right up to us. One of the best pictures I have of Bryan and I was taken underwater while swimming with the dolphins.

Anonymous said...

Dear RivkA, Go for the snorkel option,and be sure to go into the underwater viewing building as well as to descend by "submarine." We also enjoyed standing on the dock and watching the dolphins frolic. I'm sure you will too. Don't forget the sunscreen & hat!
I'm glad that your sister isn't into bungee diving . . . . A little chutzpah never hurts; face down those medical sceptics who imagine that this is a third world country, when it actually can compete with ease with their medical schools! Love, Zefira

A Living Nadneyda said...

I really enjoyed reading this post, and your openness with the students is very encouraging. (yes, it's true, your medical info is already out there, but that's not the same as having two strangers sit in on an intimate private meeting with your physician).

I can understand your MD's concerns about your bones, but why is he surprised that a "42 y.o. w/3 kids" wouldn't want to do all of those fun things?!? Age shouldn't be a factor, and motherhood just makes us want to do more, not less. Doesn't it? As for the cancer factor, I rely on your viewpoint but I say, let your sister influence you and GO FOR IT!!!