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Monday, May 31, 2010

Tummy Breaks

My stomach is just not happy.

My oncologist advised me to take a break from the drugs for a few days.

I have to be honest, I skipped the drugs this morning because I just could not deal with my upset stomach.

I am so wiped out that I had to cancel swimming lessons today!!  I just could not drag my sorry little *** out of bed!  I also worried that teaching in the hot sun might cause dehydration.  I really do not want to end up in the hospital, and I am losing a lot of fluids....  I am drinking all day long, but I do not know how much I am retaining.

I felt so good yesterday, and today I just feel like a wet dishrag!

I slept for several hours and still feel drained.

At least, I am catching a few extra moments with my girls!  (my son is on tiyul with sayarut)

My stomach feels so awful! (I have not even mentioned my cracked hands and mouth sores!)

I hate this!!

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

With love and optimism,

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Eurovision 2010

I love watching Eurovision and I love watching with friends.

This year, several friends from our neighborhood joined us, increasing our fun!

JB is now officially a "regular" -- she has been joining us for at least three years!*  This year, her husband joined us as well, which was really a pleasure!  We are often guests in their home for Shabbat, but I do not host much on Shabbatot anymore, so it was nice to be able to host them both for this!

My friend, CV, who now lives in Shlav Bet (the neighborhood just below us) and her daughter also came, which enhanced the fun for me (even more) and for my eldest daughter. 

This year, all our kids watched with us, which was really special.  It is interesting to see how they "vote."

Our family rates each of the songs as they are shown.  We inherited this tradition from BB, with whom we used to watch Eurovision, oh, so many years ago! (even before we had kids!)

Since Eurovision begins AFTER our kids' normal bedtimes, I did insist that our two younger kids go to sleep right after the songs, without watching the voting.  They were not happy about leaving the party, but the voting takes at least an hour and a half.  As is, they went to bed hours after their bedtime!

Watching Eurovision is an experience; it is so nice to share that experience with family and friends!

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

With love and optimism,

* In Judaism, three years constitutes a chazakah (an "established pattern").

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Best Favors

Apropos my recent post about friendship, I will share with you one of the best truisms I learned from my friend, IS. (my phrasing, her idea)

"The best favors are those that are no big deal for the giver and a really big deal for the receiver!"

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

With love and optimism,

Friday, May 28, 2010

From Each According to Her Abilities, To Each According to Her Needs

We each have our own gifts and our own weaknesses.

We form our friendships based on our commonalities, but I am finding that my deepest friendships are strengthened by our differences.

Friends with different views challenge us intellectually.

Friends with different interests expand our horizons.

And friends with different abilities help us when we cannot do it ourselves.

My friend, Bracha, from Sde Eliyahu called the day before my radiosurgery and offered to come stay with us over Shabbat and help with whatever we needed. 

We were also invited to spend this Shabbat with my in-laws.  I love going to my in-laws, especially for Shabbat.  We were there just last week!  But I really wanted to be home this week, in my own bed.

There are not many guests who give more than they receive.  Bracha is one of those.  The best part is that she thinks that she is getting more than she receives.  Imagine that!

I am still not sure what I am giving her that matches what she is giving me, but that is the beauty of friendship.  Good friends strengthen each other; together we are better people.

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

With love and optimism,

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The End of The Day... After the Radiosurgery

(I posted earlier about yesterday's radiosurgery.  See below)

I woke up today (Thursday) feeling much better!  Still, Moshe worried about me staying home alone.  I reassured him that I would not be alone all day.  My friend Leah, from TriLcat, (whose blog I can't seem to add to my blogroll -- can anyone help with that??) would be coming over in the middle of the day, for several hours.

Neither of us realized my eldest daughter would also be home most of the day. I spent some nice time with her in the morning, when she finally woke up. 

Then Leah arrived, with bagels and lox and ingredients for milkshakes!  How amazing is that!!

As if that weren't enough, she loaded the dishwasher and kept me company while I tidied up a bit.

We talked, ate, laughed, and played games.  FUN!

By the time she needed to go, I was ready to rest.

I waited for the bus with her, then crawled right into bed.  I did not sleep, but I rested all afternoon. 

When my youngest daughter came home, I spent some time with her, working on her Bat Mitzvah invitation.  She was so tired from her tiyul shnati (two-day class trip) that she fell asleep in the middle.

Then, my son came home, and we also spent some nice time talking... until he ditched me to go play on the computer.

I spent the rest of the day watching a movie (Down with Love - funny chic flic, with a twist), writing, and chatting on the phone.

It is the end of the day, I have a mild headache, and I am tired.  But I feel good.

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

With love and optimism,

Stereotactic Radiosurgery -- Everything You Wanted to Know....

Moshe woke me at 6:00 am, Wednesday morning.  I wanted to snag another ten minutes of sleep, but my stomach already demanded attention. (euphemism for: my first round of diarrhea)

Given my already upset stomach, I decided to skip that day's dose of Tykerb (Lapatinib) and that morning's dose of Xeloda (Capecitabine).  I prayed that would be enough to curb the diarrhea and prevent any unpleasantness during the actual procedure.

The instructions were to wear comfortable clothes, so I actually chose my clothes the night before and slept in them!  (you know, like we did for our kids when they were in gan (kindergarten))  I wore the softest black pants and an extra large, bright purple T-shirt, because purple makes me happy.  **TMI Alert** (I even wore purple underpants.)

I remembered to bring almost everything I needed to the hospital.  I even brought my laptop, so I could "live blog" the experience.  OK, that was a little overambitious!  I did not even turn on the computer!

I did forget all about bringing food.  Luckily, my in-laws (Moshe's parents) were planning to join us, and my MIL prepared tuna and egg sandwiches. (She makes such great tuna salad that even I ate half a sandwich!)   When they heard that I wanted candy, they also made sure to stop by the candy store and pick up my favorites:  licorice and gummy bears.   YUMM... 

My friend, AK, had arranged parking passes for us, so we had no difficulty parking right next to Machon Sharret (the Cancer Institute at Hadassah).

We went to room 60, a special room in the radiology ward, for lucky patients like me.  Most of the day, we had the room to ourselves, because the second stereotactic radiosurgery patient did not need a frame and was free to leave the area.

My sister arrived just a few minutes after we did (and managed to find us, despite there being no mobile phone reception!).  She brought cards and crossword puzzles.  She also went to get me ice-coffee, when I was finally ready to eat something. (Even after a dose of steroids, it would be many hours, before I was hungry enough to eat my MIL's delicious tuna.)

Nadia, the nurse, opened my port (had I realized she would be using my port,* I would have put on Emla (a topical anesthetic), but she was quick and precise and it did not hurt too much) and drew some blood, then hooked me up to a saline IV with Zantac (to reduce acid reflux) and Dexomethasone (steroids to prevent swelling).  She sent Moshe to bring the blood tests to the lab.

Just after Moshe left, the neurosurgeon, Dr. Shushan, came into the room to ask and answer questions.  I wished Moshe would have been there, but at least my sister was with me.  Then the doctor and nurse started to prepare for attaching the frame.  I did not want them to do it when Moshe was not there, but they wouldn't let him be in the room anyway, so....

Dr. Shushan injected Lidocaine in the four locations where they would be attaching screws to my skull.  The nurse had already given me an oral sedative (Vaben).   Just before the doctor injected the Lidocaine, she injected an additional sedative into the IV. They said it would not hurt much.  I am sure it did not hurt them. 

I asked for more of the sedative.  They gave me more, but still not enough.  The last Lidocaine injection was especially painful, it burned.  Then they screwed in the frame.  That was also quite uncomfortable, to put it mildly.

Once the frame was in place, I did not see Dr. Shushan again.  From that point on, Dr. Vigoda, the head of radiology, took care of me.

I felt pressure from the frame, but no pain.  At least, not in the beginning. Over the course of the day, when I felt pain, Nadia gave me liquid Optalgin (YUCH!!!) and I took additional Algolysin, from my personal drug store (with permission, of course).

I tried to sleep, but it was difficult to find a comfortable position with the frame.  My sister teased me, calling me "the bride of Frankenstein."  The shape of the frame reminded us all of the helmets in the original Battlestar Galactica

I gave up trying to lie down.  Instead, I sat up and played cards with my sister and mother in law.  My sister kept beating us at Palace (this Israeli card game that she learned from my youngest daughter, who really likes it).  After a million games, I finally won one.  I called it quits and suggested we watch some TV. I tried to relax, but still could not find a comfortable way to lie down.  Finally, with help from Nadia, who strategically arranged the pillows for me, I managed to rest for a bit. 

I expected that by the time I awoke, it would be time for the radiosurgery.  There was something malfunctioning with the machine, so I had several more hours to wait.

My friend from radiology, Tamar, came in to visit/check up on me, several times.  She was really very helpful, and reassuring! 

There was also an English speaking nursing student, Jody, who was very pleasant and helpful.

While we were waiting, we looked for funny programs on TV to help pass the time.  We found some silly shows; they were good for a few laughs.

Another thing I forgot was to bring music for during the radiosurgery.  Tamar brought a CD of musical highlights that she thought I would appreciate -- perfect! 

When they finally called me in for the procedure, I got to listen to all the best songs from West Side Story, Annie, Annie Get Your Gun, Cabaret, etc.

Then, it was over.  They took off the frame -- also not the most pleasant experience, but not too bad.

I was glad it was over.

I wanted to go home right away, but they made me wait.  I felt fine... until I did not.  I had a brief wave of nausea and a headache.  I took more pain killers, ate more candy, and felt better.

I really wanted to pop into my friend's simcha (celebration) -- my friend, MT, married off her final son last night.  But I forgot to bring nice clothes with me!  It was just as well. 

After 13 hours in the hospital (12 within that frame), I was finished.
Overall, the day's events constituted a pretty harrowing experience.
By the time we got home, I crawled into bed. 

My head hurt, and I was exhausted, but I called my mom to tell her I was home and OK.  I knew she would appreciate the call.

Then, I closed my eyes, had a brief conversation with God, and fell fast asleep.

(For more information, see yesterday's brief summary)

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

With love and optimism,

*In Israel, nurses need special certification to be able to open a port.  I did not realize that Nadia was an oncology nurse and would be certified.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Stereotactic Radiosurgery -- brief summary (more tomorrow)

I arrived at the hospital at 7:10 in the morning.

They attached the frame to my head at 8:00 in the morning.

They took off the frame at 8:00 at night.

I left the hospital fifteen minutes later, at 8:15.

13 hours in the hospital.

12 hours in the frame.

My head hurts.

I am tired.

There were three tumors that grew, not two.  They zapped them all.

In three months, we'll do an MRI to check the results.

I'll post more details tomorrow.

Gotta' go to sleep.

I am glad it is over.

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

With love and optimism,

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Day/Night Before

My stomach is still upset.  My ability to cope well diminishes significantly when I am not feeling well.

I was so tired this morning.  Even so, when my son asked me to get up and help him make sandwiches, I did it... with a smile!

I hope, some day, he appreciates just how much I love him.

It took me a while, but I managed to fall back asleep after he left for school.

I woke up late in the morning, still terribly tired.  I considered blowing off my art class, but knew I would be sorry to miss it again (I missed class last week, when class had been moved to the day after Shavuot, and I just could not get out of bed that morning). Somehow, this morning, I managed to drag myself to the second half of the class.  It was hard for me to participate, because of how uncomfortable I was, but I managed to do some work on my project.  Everyone in the art class, sponsored by Tishkofet-Ma'agan, had/has cancer, so I did not feel the need to minimize how I was feeling or why. I received a lot of support and understanding, which I guess I needed.  Overall, I felt glad I made the effort to get there, even if I only made it for half the class.

I was supposed to have a massage afterwards.  I really wanted/needed it.  Instead, the center switched me over to someone who does Reiki.  Probably, on some other day, the switch would have been fine.  But, today, it just made me upset.  My reaction made me realize just how uptight and anxious I am about tomorrow's procedure.

I went straight home and crawled into bed.

I slept, on and off.  People kept waking me up.  Friends called, kids needed me, you know, the usual.... No one expected me to be asleep at 4:00 in the afternoon, or 6:00 in the evening!

I finally fell into a deep asleep around 8:00 pm.  I fully intended on sleeping 'till morning.

Did I mention I have to be at the hospital at 7:00 AM!!!  (that is so cruel!!!)

Then, Moshe woke me at 11:00 pm!  The pre-op instructions said I should shower and shampoo my hair (what hair??) the night before.  I did not read the instructions, but Moshe did... God bless him.

I so did not want to wake up.  But once I was awake, I could not ignore my upset stomach.  So, I got up, showered, and shampood the few hairs I have, wondering what hair will be left after this next round of radiation......

I really should thank Moshe.  Just as I finished dressing, my daughter and her friend came home after opening night, full of excitement and eager to share.  I also got to hear from my daughter about her math bagrut (exam).  I spent about half an hour with my daughter and her friend, and I would not have traded that time for anything in the world!

I would write more, but it's late, and I have to get up in the morning.....

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

With love and optimism,

Upset Tummy

I woke up so early!  Before 6:00 am!!

The house was so quiet.  The light shining through the windows was that hazy, early morning light, just after the sun comes up.

I did not want to be up, but I had to go to the bathroom.

By the time I could go back to bed, there was activity in the house and the sky was brighter and clearer.

I really want to go back to sleep, but my stomach is still churning.

I took two pills (Imodium/Stop-It), but my tummy is still upset.

I am really tired and feeling sorry for myself.

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

With love and optimism,

Monday, May 24, 2010

Crazy Night, Crazier Day

When I volunteered to coordinate registration for our Barnard alumnae event (last night), I did not realize it was scheduled for the same evening as my close friend's son's Bar Mitzvah celebration.  By the time I realized the scheduling conflict, I had already taken on the responsibility for coordinating the whole event, including the hall, the caterer, etc.  I love coordinating these events, even though it is a lot of work.  I am a people person, and events like this are invigorating for me.

Thankfully, I had made it to the Bar Mitzvah celebration on Shavuot, which was really the main celebration.  Still, I did not want to miss the evening celebration, especially the speaches by the Bar Mitzvah boy and his family (that's my favorite part!)

The alumnae event was scheduled to end an hour after the Bar Mitzvah celebrations were scheduled to begin.  If the timing worked out, I imagined I could arrive at the Bar Mitzvah celebration not long after it began. Who was I kidding?

Of course, our event ran a bit longer than expected!  And I am slow getting everything packed up!!  I arrived at the Bar Mitzvah celebration almost two hours late!  I was worried that I missed all the important parts. 

I walked in, just as the second speach began.  I actually made it on time!! (almost!)

I just missed the first speach by the Abba.  To my good fortune, he posted his speach on his blog.  Reading it is not quite as good as hearing it in person, but it is a close second.

I had such a good time at both events!  It was after 11:00 pm, when I crashed.  It was the very end of the Bar Mitzvah, and I was sitting with my friend and several other close friends, when a wave of exhaustion hit me like a ton of bricks.  I had to go home and lie down, NOW!

Within seconds of arriving home, I was in bed, fast asleep.

Everyone was tired this morning.  We all slept late.

My youngest was hours late to school  My middle child decided to take the day off (I did not really approve, but his teacher gave his permission, so I let it go).  And my eldest did not have school so that she could prepare for the math bagrut (national exam) tomorrow.

I will never get used to the Israeli system.

I spent several hours this morning talking with my son, and helping him plan out his morning, so it would be productive.  He decided to learn several chapters of Navi (Prophets), since that was one of the classes he would be missing today.  Of course, he also spent half an hour playing on the computer....

Meanwhile, I went to the hospital for my "pre-op" stuff -- registering for the radiosurgery and a quick MRI.

Again, who was I kidding???

The hospital registration was a beaurocratic nightmare, and the MRI was backed up by over an hour!

Thank God, my friend who accompanied me today, NHC, was really helpful!  Especially when the doctor did not get the needle in the vein on her first attempt, and I was really scared and uptight when she tried again. 

Between the registration, the delay, the needles, and everything else, I was pretty stressed out!

Did I mention that I did not cancel my swimming classes????

As soon as I finished the test, we ran out of there.  I did not even wait to get the CD.  (I will pick it up on Wednesday)

My friend took me straight home, so I could pick up my son and my car.  My son waited outside, with the keys to my car; so, as soon as I got home, we drove off to the pool!

I teach the best kids!  And their parents, God bless them, are so flexible and understanding.  I arrived 20 minutes late for my first class.  (Classes are only half an hour long!)

I ended up combining my first and second classes, and just made the lesson longer.  My son also assisted me in teaching that class.  I could write a whole post about how wonderful it was to work together with my son!

Then I taught my advanced swimmers class, and my son joined that class.  It has been a while since he has been in class and he worked really hard.  I was so proud of him.  And so pleased to see that his form was still good!!

I love my advanced swimmers class.  There are two or three different levels in that class and it is so challenging, but so great.  I really get to push the kids to achieve more than they think they can do.  Every once in a while, I have a lesson where I see that each kid has really made progress.  Today was like that!

I was in such a great mood when I finished teaching.  And I was so excited to have spent such quality time with my son.  In theory, as soon as I got home, I could have gone straight to bed....

In theory..... but not in real life.

Believe it or not, my day did not end there.  (Yes, I am a crazy woman!)

Tonight, Moshe and I attended the first workshop, in a series of 8, based on the book "How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, and Listen So Kids Will Talk."  The series is sponsored, and hosted, by Zichron Menachem, so the workshop relates to the impact of having a family member with cancer.  The other families all have kids who have or had cancer.  We are the only family in the workshop with a parent who has cancer.

After the workshop, we had to stop by the drugstore.

By the time we got home, it was close to midnight.

It has been a long, emotionally draining, day!

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

With love and optimism,

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Back to Biking

After my son got hit by a car, we needed to take his bike in, to make sure it was safe to ride.

The thing is, I needed my son's help to take the bike in, and our schedules were just not compatible.  He had school during the hours I had energy.  By the time he got home, I had no energy.  It is not that hard to set up the bike carrier and drive to Talpiot (a 7 minute drive), but it was too hard for me.  We just kept putting it off, week by week. 

Last Thursday, Isru Chag (the day after Shavuot), the kids had no school and a friend, LF, came over to visit.  Rather than sitting around drinking coffee (or tea), we decided to do errands together.  She agreed to help me and my son bring the bike in to the shop.

The whole thing took less than an hour.

We had to buy him a new helmet and they had to realign the wheel, fix a few things here and there, and -- presto: good as new.  Well, not 100% -  the seat and the grips on the handlebars are still ripped, but we can wait awhile to replace them.

My son rode his bike home and today got up early enough to ride his bike to school.

I might have dropped the ball, but he has certainly picked it up!

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

With love and optimism,

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Too Much Food

Every once in a while, I eat a  bit more than I should.

Considering how sparingly I eat, it is surprising how little food is "overeating" for me.

But my body lets me know, in no uncertain terms.

There is no room in my tummy for any extra food. 


We spent Shabbat at Moshe's parents.  Not only is Moshe's mother a fantastic cook, but her presentation of food is so inviting.  I did not eat much, but I did allow myself a few extra bites....

Big mistake.

A wave of nausea hit me just before we left.

The whole ride home I felt nauseas.

Poor Moshe, I wanted him to:
1. drive slower, so the ride would be smoother
2. drive quicker, so we would get home sooner

Moshe, God bless him, drove slowly and played soothing music, whille I closed my eyes and tried to relax.

We made it home without incidence. (Thanks God)

Such is the life.....

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

With love and optimism,

Friday, May 21, 2010

Muscle Aches

Recently, my muscles have been aching.  It started with muscle pain in my thigh.  Now I have muscle aches in both legs and both arms.

My GP thinks the pain might be caused by a deficiency in Calcium and Magnesium.

He gave me pills to take, but I have to take them at least an hour before or an hour after I take any other drugs, because they prevent absorption.

I take chemo three times a day, and pain killers.  I am constantly popping pills.  I try to follow the guidelines (take this chemo without food, take this chemo with....).  It made me crazy for a while, but, thanks to the advice of more experienced pill poppers, I do not get uptight about all the rules anymore and will be flexible.

I cannot be flexible about mixing the Calcium and the Magnesium with the chemo, because I really do need my body to absorb all the chemo.

So, I am constantly looking for windows when I can pop a pill or two....

Meanwhile, I still have all these aches and pains, which make me want to stay in bed all day.

I do not feel like moving, at all.

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

With love and optimism,

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Fiddling Around

A few days ago, I was talking with a friend whose daughter is also in Fiddler on the Roof.  She mentioned something about attending rehearsals.

"You can do that?" I asked, surprised.

Then, I asked my daughter how she would feel about me coming to watch her rehearsal. 

She was totally fine with it.

So, tonight, I watched their rehearsal.  It was so much fun!  The play is going to be so great!! 

Rehearsals are grueling!  I got tired, just watching!!

They did not even rehearse the full show! 

I might go again, to see the stuff I missed.  We'll see.

Meanwhile, one of the girls in the show, who is in the same school & class as my daughter, has basically moved into our home.  She lives in the Gush and would get home really late after rehearsals.  So she is sleeping here pretty much until the show is over.  It's nice that I can open my home that way and the girls basically take care of themselves.

Today, when I finally got out of bed, I got busy!  I went on several errands with my friend, LF, who had a few hours free while her daughter was at a local birthday party.  My friend drove, and we accomplished a lot!  It was fun and productive!!

When I came home, I still felt energetic, so I fried up some sweet potato latkes for my kids.  My younger two did not really like them (apparently neither of them like sweet potatoes), but my eldest daughter loved them (and appreciated that I made them for her).

Overall, it was a good day!

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

With love and optimism,

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Shavuot 2010 -- The Way it Was....

On Erev Shavuot, our host walked in the door with a list of the shiurim (study sessions) that were being offered by his shul (synagogue):  a series of lectures about the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Dead Sea Sects, from the Second Temple period.

Earlier that day, Moshe told me he did not plan on staying up all night learning this year.  I planned to study all night at Pardes, like I did last year. 

As soon as I heard the topic, I knew Moshe would want to go that shul and learn there all night!  This stuff is like candy for him, like someone opened the door to the candy shop and said, "go in and take whatever you want."  I also knew he would want me to go with him (if you could have as much candy as you wanted, wouldn't you want to share it?).  Of course, I joined him.

The topic of the third shiur interested me the most, but by that time, the hour and the Hebrew were starting to get to me.  I finally succumbed and left the room to sleep for "a few minutes."  I returned... an hour later, just as the fourth, and final, shiur was ending. 

I was so tired. 

I began to wonder if it really made sense for me to walk to the Old City.

I was not even going to daven (pray) there, because I would be davening later, at the Bar Mitzvah of my friend's son. Moreover, I worried that even if I did manage to walk to and from the Old City, I would crash when I got back, and be compelled to sleep.  I did not want to miss the Bar Mitzvah.

I also did not want to disappoint my kids. 

My eldest had already announced that she planned on learning with her friends and walking with them, so I did not have to worry about her.  But I did promise my other two kids....

God had already arranged a solution....

Our host planned to walk to the Kotel with his sons; he was happy to take our son with him and our son was happy to join him. My youngest preferred to sleep in this year.  So I was "off the hook."

I chose to use my brain instead of my feet this year.

For the first time, since I moved to Israel, I did not walk to the Kotel on Shavuot morning. Instead, I decided to sleep for a few hours, so that I would be awake and alert at my friend's Bar Mitzvah. 

Please God, I will walk to the Old City again, next year.

This year, I needed to be with my friend and celebrate with her.  I know she appreciated it!

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

With love and optimism,

Shavuot! (Automated Post)

This is an automated post, because I do not write, or type, or use the computer, on our Holy Days.

If I am lucky, I will stay awake all Tuesday night learning Torah (Bible studies); then I will walk with my children to the Old City of Jerusalem, there we will daven (pray) in the rebuilt "Hurva," after which we will visit with our (Moshe's) cousins, who live in the Old City; then we will walk "home" (to where we are staying).

Unlike other years, when the next step is SLEEPING, this year I will continue on to my friend's shul (synagogue), where her son (who I have known since the moment he was born -- I was actually at his birth!) will be reading the Torah portion, the Haftorah, a chapter from the Book of Ruth (which we read on this holiday) and celebrating his Bar Mitzvah.  I can't miss that!

Only afterwards, will I go home and sleep!

We'll see how much I actually stick to this ambitious plan....

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

With love and optimism,

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Counting My Blessings (reviewing this past week)

******  warning: long post  ******

So many good things have happened this past week.  I have been too busy to sit down and write!

The day of my PET CT, a good friend, BW, who I do not get to see that often, came to spend the day with me. The intake nurse was a real character; she explained everything in great detail and added a lot of humor to the day. My friend brought lots of great games for us to play, but we did not get a chance to play any of them. We were too busy talking... and sewing. Together we sewed up two major items of clothing for my daughters. After I finished at the hospital, my friend accompanied me (i.e. chauffeured me around town) on a myriad of errands. It was so great to accomplish so much in one day!

Oh yeah, did I mention that when she arrived, she brought three containers of food for my family! She stuck them in the fridge as a matter of course. (get it? as a matter of course??  -- good thing I amuse myself!)

I was tired from all the running around and I knew I had a big day the next day.  Thursday, my youngest daughter's school would be celebrating Yom Yerushalayim, including the "mayatzim" (madrichei yerushalayim tzeirim -- your Jerusalem tour guides) project.  My daughter, along with a team of her 6th grade classmates, would be guiding us on a three hour tour of Ir David (The City of David).  Then, following a communal meal (falafel), we would watch performances of all the younger grades.  Even before I had cancer, this event would leave me both energized (it's such a great program!) and exhausted (it is so tiring!!)!

I planned to rest all Wednesday night and Thursday morning, so I would have enough stamina to get through the big day.

Wednesday night, I had difficulty falling asleep.  My stomach had been bothering since the morning, and it was still churning.  For the first time since I began treatment, I had non-stop diarrhea.  All day, I took pills (Imodium) to stop the diarrhea.  They did not work.  I passed the 6 pill mark, when I was supposed to call my doctor (he was out of the country)… and then the 8 pill mark, when I was supposed to go to the hospital.  I never want to go to the hospital in the middle of the night; but that night would have totally messed me up for the next day!  I needed to sleep.

I was not dehydrated. I had been diligently drinking all day. I even drank a milkshake, to get in some calories and free radicals (salts and sugars). I felt fine. My stomach just would not cooperate.

At around midnight, I called my neighbor, who is also an oncologist (I actually have two neighbors/friends who are top-notch oncologists).  I knew if I called the "on-call," I would be instructed to go straight to the hospital.  I really felt that was unnecessary, but I did not want to be irresponsible.  So I consulted with my neighbor/friend/local oncologist, who I hoped would give me an answer that was not "by the book."  He confirmed that I could stay home and, if need be, I could go to the hospital in the morning, get an IV, and rest there (an option far better than going in the middle of the night!).  Neither option turned out to be necessary.  I had one more episode, after which I was finally able to fall asleep. 

It was not until the next day, when I was feeling a lot better, that I learned that my friend's intention was that I would go straight to the hospital if I had another episode. Thankfully, all's well that ends well.  I was fine the next day and able to rest in my own home, and gather strength for that afternoon's event. 

However, my restless stomach from the day before made me nervous.  I knew there would be no bathrooms once we started the tour, so I popped two pills, "just to be safe," as we left the house.  I am happy to report that I had no problems that day.  Thank God!!

That afternoon, we arrived right on time!  As soon as we got there, I could feel the excitement in the air.  The sixth graders were all in their mayatzim shirts, with voice amplifiers, guiding and directing the parents.

My daughter did such a great job leading our tour group!!  Who would have imagined that just a few years ago, this girl barely spoke above a whisper?  Here she was, full of confidence, reciting her script loudly and clearly.  It was definitely one of those proud parenting moments.

I was impressed by her entire team.  Not just by their excellent presentations, but by the way they worked together, in harmony, making sure everyone had what they needed, stood where they were supposed to, and did not forget what to say.  They did a fantastic job!

My son was in his element as well.  He and another boy from his class had spent several days making sure that their classmates would attend.  They succeeded in gathering almost all the kids from their class and they had a grand old time together.  My son almost blew us off to hang out with his friends, but my eldest convinced him to stay with our group.  I was glad he chose to stay with us.  I enjoy his company (and his help carrying my bag!).

Before the performances, the parents' committee thank the teacher who teaches the kids about Jerusalem from the time they begin school, culminating in this final project.  I was honored to present her with flowers and a class shirt.  It felt fitting to end our tenure at the school this way.

This year is the last year that I will have a child in this school. This was the last time I would attend the Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day) celebrations. Next year, all my children would go on their own, with their classmates. They would not need me for this anymore. I looked around me, trying to soak it all in.

The shows ended and all the bogrim (graduates) were invited to join the current students on stage, for the "school song."  There they were, all three of my "babies," on stage, embraced by friends and community. My youngest daughter had a huge smile on her face; she knew her class did a great job and the hardest part of 6th grade was over.  My son, surrounded by all his old friends, also had a huge smile on his face as he waved an Israeli flag high over the heads of his classmates.  And my eldest, who also reunited with her classmates, was so free and childlike, dancing with her friends and laughing.  They were home.

The evening ended relatively early.  As the energy slowly dissipated, we made our way home and into bed.

The next day, our youngest two slept in, our eldest went to school, Moshe went to this course he is taking at Ir David, and I went to our friends' daughter's Bat Mitzvah celebration at Nalaga'at, in Jaffa Port.  All the waiters and servers were deaf.  In the middle, they gave a brief "lesson" in sign language.  It was really fun and very interesting. 

That Shabbat, we hosted two girls from Mitzpah Yericho, as part of Shabbat Yerushalayim.  All the youth groups in Jerusalem host kids from other branches, who do not live in Jerusalem.  During the day, after lunch, they all walk to the Kotel where they meet all the other religious kids from the country!!  It is a HUGE "happening!"

The walk takes about an hour and a half from where we live, but the kids never miss it!  There are buses after Shabbat, to take them home.

We hosted dinner in the evening.  Lunch, the kids ate with their youth group and we ate with good friends of ours.  We were three families at lunch, but since most of our kids were with their youth groups, it was actually a very small meal.  We were three "grown ups" (who are all pretty childlike) and five kids (out of 9).  It was fun!

After lunch, I collapsed into bed and slept for hours!  I needed that!

Sunday and Monday were rather mundane.  I had a great experience teaching swimming, but I'll post about that separately.  And, here we are, Tuesday, ever Chag HaShavuot. 

Chag Sameach!!  (Happy Holiday!)

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

With love and optimism,

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Baruch Dayan Emet -- Taube Korn z"l

I do not want to write this post.  Writing it makes it true.  And I do not want it to be true.

I did not want to write this, yet I could not write anything else, until I wrote it.  Which is why my blog has been silent for so many days.  I did not want to write the words that would make it real.

My dear friend, Taube, passed away last Tuesday night.

Her funeral was on Wednesday, at the same time as I was scheduled for my PET scan.  There was no way I could attend.  Maybe that was God's way of protecting me.

Though I met Taube because of our cancers, we discovered connections that go back to our childhood.  We grew up a block away from each other, our brothers were in school together, our mothers knew each other, we were in the same youth group, and we attended the same college/university.  Our common past, combined with our common present, formed a strong bond between us.

Taube began her journey into the cancer world about a year before I did, so she provided a tremendous amount of support and insight for me.  Whenever I felt lost, I called Taube, and she guided me with patience and wisdom.

I was privileged to be a guest in her home on several occasions and got to know her kids a bit as well.  To say that her family is impressive, is an understatement.  I cannot adequately describe the harmony I felt in her home.

Mostly, we talked on the phone.  We talked about cancer, parenting, religion, faith.  You name it, we talked about it. 

Even as her health deteriorated, I did not believe that her situation would not turn itself around.  She had a very rare form of bone cancer and had been in a not-so-good place before.  I felt sure the doctors could bring her around again.

Taube was poised, smart, private, perceptive, and giving.  She managed to keep working, despite her pain and limitations.  She inspired me to be strong and to live my life, despite the cancer. 

When I felt darkness closing in on me, Taube helped me through it. 

I did not realize how quickly her own darkness was closing in on her.

When Taube stopped calling me, I assumed she must be busy.

When she stopped returning my calls, I started to worry.  Still, I assumed she must be busy.

She was busy.  I had no idea....

By the time I realized how serious things were, Taube no longer felt strong enough for visitors.

I did not have a chance to say good bye.

Had I the chance, what would I have said?

A friend wisely advised me to write Taube a letter, which I did.  Taube's husband read the letter to her. 

In the letter, I let Taube know how much I valued her friendship and appreciated all her advice, support, and love.

I will miss her more than I can describe.

May her memory be a blessing.

יהי זיכרה ברוך

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

With love and optimism,

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

PET CT (May 2010)

I was not too worried about the PET CT, until I got the results from the MRI.

The news that two tumors grew, combined with my rising markers, has triggered a bit of anxiety about what else might be growing....

In general, I am pretty proficient in evoking "The Ostrich Syndrome."*  To a great extent, I can pretty much ignore/forget about most things.... until the relevant day.

Well, today is the relevant day.

A good friend is joining me, bringing games (of course!), and we will pass the time with good conversation, and lots of laughter, I am sure.

But, I am, admittedly, anxious.

I will be in the hospital for around three hours (everything takes time in the hospital....).  The PET scan only takes a few minutes (10-20 minutes, I don't remember exactly).  But, 'till you are checked in, and are injected with the radioactive material, and the material circulates in your bloodstream.... well, it all takes time.  And, during that time, there is just no way to ignore the fact that I have cancer.

Then, of course, there is the wait that comes after the test.

Waiting for the results is tough.  You know the results are out there... you just do not know what they are.

The hospital only sends the results to the oncologist.  I understand the logic, but it is frustrating.  It simply adds another step, so it takes even longer to find out the results.

On the one hand, I do not mind extending the illusion that everything is fine.  But, I want to know.

If things really are fine, I want that reassurance.

And, if they are not, well, I need to know that too.  Because that affects how I am treated and if I need to make any changes in my treatment.

Either way, I want to know.

Until I receive confirmation that the results are good (and the cancer is stable), I will be anxious.

I am praying.

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

With love and optimism,

* Yes, I know, Ostriches don't really bury their head in the sand.  Still, you all knew what I meant, because the image is strong, even if it is fictional!

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Article Everyone Sent Me....

I have been bombarded by links to this article in the NY, about a woman who has been living with cancer for 17 years.

It is so nice to know that so many friends saw this article and cared enough to send me the link. 

Thank you!

I know you meant to encourage me.

The article can be extremely encouraging, especially for women who have the "right" kind of cancer.

The article informs us:
"There’s a small subcategory of people with Stage 4 breast cancer... who live for years and years.... about 2 percent of all cases.... People in this group tend to have disease that has spread to the bone (as opposed to lung or liver, say) and feeds on estrogen...."
Though my cancer did spread to my bones (in addition to my lungs and liver), my cancer does not feed on estrogen. 

So, though the message of this article is that woman can live for twenty or thirty years with advanced cancer, the statistics are still not great (only 2%), and they are not so relevant for me, given my cancer type (ER-, PR-, HER2+).

Now, do not get me wrong.

I still have my 80-year plan! (ad meah v'esrim, plus...)

No one, not even the doctors, can predict who will be the lucky survivors; my plan is to be one of them!

But this article does not hold out that promise for me.

Knowing that you all are thinking of me, and praying for me... now, that gives me hope.

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

With love and optimism,

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Medical Update (Brain Mets -- Stereotactic Radiotherapy)

May 26th.

That's the day -- all day.

They will drill 4 little holes in my head, they will screw my head into a frame, they will send me for a CT, they will do some calculations, and then they will zap each of the two tumors in my head, for about half an hour each.

I will be there from 7 in the morning (just getting up that early is torture!) until some time in the evening. 

One day.  One hour.

One day in the hospital.  One hour of radiation.

No big deal, right?

So, why do I just want to curl up under my covers and cry?

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

With love and optimism,

Saturday, May 8, 2010

As the Sun Breaks Through the Clouds.... (Medical/Emotional Update)

From the moment I discovered that my cancer spread to my brain, I felt surrounded by a dark fog.

I struggled not to get sucked into that black hole we call depression.

I did not want to slip into that world.

Yet, despite all the things I did (on my own, with my family, and with my friends), the fog would not clear.

Months after I finished treatment, I still felt that I was fighting my way out of that dark fog.

I worked so hard at maintaining a positive attitude.

So much of my energy was just sucked away.

I spent days in bed, accomplishing nothing.

Nights, I lay in bed; doom-and-gloomy thoughts, swimming behind my closed eyes.

For almost 10 months, I felt like I was treading water, barely managing to keep my head above water.

After a while, I wondered if I could shake this on my own. 

I filled a prescription for anti-anxiety pills.

I kept them the pills with my pain killers.

I never took them.

About two weeks ago, I noticed the clouds were clearing, and I could see the sun shining through.

Finally, I felt myself returning to that "good place."

I got out of bed. 

I started doing some of those things on my "to do" list. (you know, that awful list of things we have to do, but hate doing...)

I felt like I could be myself, without working so hard.

I felt good.


Then, this past Thursday, Moshe was really sick (he's fine now).  Though he wanted to accompany me, coming to the hospital was not an option.

I went to the hospital on my own.  I met with my oncologist on my own.  I got "the news" on my own.

I responded very rationally.  (I think I might have been in shock)

In my calm, I recognized that I stood on a threshold;  I made a choice.

I did not want to go back to that dark place where I spent the last ten months.

I will not go back there.

It is not so easy.

I have two tumors on my brain that are growing and my markers have been rising slowly, but surely.  I have an appointment with the head of radiology tomorrow (Sunday) and I have a PET CT scheduled for Wednesday. 

I will know more tomorrow.  And I will know even more when we get the results of the PET scan (though I will probably have to wait another two weeks to get those results).

I do not really want to tell people, because I do not want anyone freaking out or feeling sorry for me.

On the other hand, I would not mind if people added a few extra prayers.

I have been talking a lot with God lately. 

I am counting on God to help me get through this.

I want to wake up every day and see the sun, shining bright!

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

With love and optimism,

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Brain MRI -- Medical Update (May 2010)

Mixed results, mostly good.

Most of the tumors in my brain continued to shrink and some are no longer visible.

Two tumors grew larger.

Sunday I am meeting with the head of Radiology at Hadassah to discuss Stereotactic Radiosurgery (you can find additional info here).  I read a lot about this procedure when I was first diagnosed with brain mets, last June. 

I do not know if the radiologist will do the procedure that same day or not (I suspect not).

I will know more after our meeting.

Now that we have the report, things seem to be moving fairly quickly.

This is not great news, but it is not devastating either (at least, that's what I keep telling myself).

Hopefully, this should not affect my overall diagnosis.

It is just another bump in the road.

I will do the radiation, and keep on moving forward.

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

With love and optimism,

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Just Answer the Question

Kids are very literal.  At least, mine are.

When my kids ask questions, I often answer what I interpret as their question, rather than their actual question.  Oftentimes, it turns out, they just want an answer to their question, the one they actually asked, not the one from my imagination.

Sometimes it is difficult for me to hear the question they are asking, because my mind automatically jumps three steps ahead.  I have to train myself to repeat the questions in my head, to make sure I am really hearing what the kids are asking.  By answering their questions literally, I avoid making assumptions about what they might "really be asking." 

When my kids ask me cancer questions, I have to listen even more carefully, to make sure I really do answer their questions.  I worry that there are other, more difficult, issues that concern my kids.  So far, I seem to be the only one delving that deep.

My kids are not usually concerned with my existential questions; they just want to know if anything is going on that will mess up their plans for the coming week.

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

With love and optimism,

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

So Tired

Lately, I have been sacrificing my sleep, in order to spend time with my kids.

Often, the time is spent on fun things, like playing games or watching movies.

Other times, I spend the time talking with my kids, about whatever they want.

Recently, I have been spending a lot of time trying to help my kids with some specific issues.  These conversations drain my strenth, physically and emotionally.

I know that my time is well spent.

I know that my priorities are in order, and this is what I need to be doing right now.

I just wish I had more energy.

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

With love and optimism,

Monday, May 3, 2010

Ani Yehudi -- I am a Jew (music video)

Rafi posted this awesome video on his blog, Life in Israel.

He described is so well, I'm just going to quote him:
Lenny Solomon's smash hit "Ani Yehudi" has been remade and rewritten into Hebrew by Kobi Oz. The result is great! And I can't get over the name "Fishy HaGadol", "The Big Fish" (one of the singers who participated in the making of this "We Are the World-esque" video)

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

With love and optimism,

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Lag Ba'Omer 2010 -- Morning has Broken....

We had great plans for today.  For some of us, the plans are working out.  For others.....

Moshe is taking off from work to attend a morning of lectures (about? what else? Second Temple history), followed by an afternoon of jeep touring around the Bar Kochba caves.

My eldest stayed out most of the night and plans to sleep all day (her sleep plan is currently in progress).

My son considered attending the seminar with his Abba, but decided to hang out all night at a bonfire with friends from school, and then sleep over at his best friend's home.  (I imagine he has a similar sleep plan as his older sister... at least, I hope he does!)

My youngest and I planned to attend a fun day with Zichron Menachem;  ZM organized jeep tours in the Jerusalem hills and a bar-b-q.  They planned to start the day a bit early for me, but I knew it would be worth the effort.

Unfortunately, my daughter woke up with a high fever.

No jeep tours for us!

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

With love and optimism,

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Lag Ba'Omer 2010

I'm getting too old for this holiday.

I volunteered to be present at my youngest daughter's class bonfire. (When will I learn?)  I specifically stated that I did not want to be the only parent there.  I was the only parent there.

I discovered that there are plenty of parents who are willing to leave their kids alone at a bonfire, without any adult supervision.  I did not feel comfortable leaving 11 and 12 years old alone!  I would not have let my daughter be there without an adult.  Although I am beginning to suspect that most adults know very little about campfire safety. 

The kids certainly know very little about fire safety.  Only a few are even interested in learning anything about how to manage a bonfire.  I shared, with as many kids as I could interest, some basic fire safety rules (don't burn plastic coated wood, don't burn slats of wood with nails, etc.).  I also tried to provide them with some guidance about how to cook in a fire, without burning the food (place potatoes on coals, not directly in the flames, etc.).

I am grateful to the mother who offered to take over as soon as I was ready to go.  At least I know that someone will make sure the fire is extinguished properly when the kids are finally ready to go home.

Still, I took my daughter home with me.

My eldest two children participated in a Scouts-like program, in which they learned all about fires and fire safety.  My youngest has yet to participate in any such group.  I would not want her to adopt the laissez faire attitude of the kids in her class (and, apparently, many of their parents).

The kids were not very appreciative of my help or my presence.  Not one said "thank you."  Maybe I should not be surprised, but I was.  I sure hope my children have better manners!

I do not think I will accompany any more of these kids' bonfires.  I should not need to.  Next year, my youngest will, hopefully, attend her youth group bonfire.  The youth groups choose a location and all the sub groups do their own little bonfires in the same place.  So there are many older teens present to supervise.

I love bonfires.  But I am just as happy to spend Lag Ba'Omer at home.

I would be happy to walk around our neighborhood, check out a few bonfires, and then go home.

Next year, I just might do that....

I might even skip the walk around the neighborhood.

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

With love and optimism,