Thursday, March 5, 2009

More About Me

I have to also write a bit more about me today!

Yesterday was the absolute best day I've had in a long time. I decided that I needed to get out to Capitola to WomenCare to get names and numbers of people who offer free massage to cancer patients. But lately, it's hard to motivate myself to get out the door, let alone drive all the way to Capitola! (It's so far! Yeah, probably a good 15 minutes away for goodness sake!) So I thought, "who could meet me out there for lunch? That would get me out there!" Then I remembered that Stef had met me out there for lunch before and so I called her. She said, "How about we meet at my office and drive together?"

So luck would have it that she had 2 late cancellations and we met at 11am and had until 3pm! What fun! We went to WomenCare, to GoodWill and this nice 2nd hand store next to Goodwill where I got a new hat, new pants (all my pants are falling off of me), new earrings and a new hat. Then we went to the bead store because I need to always change over my earrings to clip-ons due to my darn immune system making every pierced earring hurt my ears.

After we got back to her office, I went to pick up Aimee at a friend's house to take her to the rabbi's house. Bailly had gone to Minnesota to visit her son and to a Bar Mitzvah and so she asked Aimee if she would help the rabbi with the Hebrew school for the little kids. Wow was Aimee proud that she was asked to help! They made Humantaschen for Purim.

While I waited for Aimee to be ready to go back home, I decided to get some exercise, walking around their neighborhood. I remembered that Andrea had offered to walk with me sometime so I headed over to her house just to see if she was there and wanted to walk. Just as I came to her house, there she was walking down her walkway to go out on errands. Lucky me! She would rather go for a walk with me! We went to a quarry by her house that has a gorgeous view and one of my favorite sounds these days: birds singing.

So now I've got 3 days each week where I have a friend appointment. Mondays are for Bailly. Tuesdays are for Stefanie. Wednesday afternoons are for walking with Andrea.

Before this diagnosis, I rarely took the time to see friends or get out of the house. Now it's become a priority. I also made a list of all the things I like to do so I can remember to do them when I get bored or lonely.

My list so far:
make sugar-free cookies/chocolate
go on UTube to listen to my favorite musical artists
get a massage
get a DVD or search Netflix to order one
go for a walk with a friend or borrow Aimee's iPod (thanks Nancy!)
call someone to talk to them over the phone
make new earrings/go to the bead store downtown
listen to audios
go to the trees or to West Cliff

The list will get longer as I remember what I like. That's also a bonus of going through this diagnosis and treatment, I'm beginning to remember what I like.

I'm also setting up appointments with therapists who've been recommended by WomenCare or Katz Center. I'll find someone who feels comfortable to me and who's on my PPO list. I'm finding myself telling them over the phone that I'm not really in crisis and seem to be handling all this pretty well, considering...but I just want to have someone to sort through things with when the darker stuff creeps up...and I want to make the most out of this time - get all I can get out of it.

I keep looking at the calendar and seeing how close I'm cutting the end of treatment to our trip to Hawaii. When I see my oncologist on Wednesday, Geoff and I will ask him about the pros and cons of going through the last 3 rounds of chemo faster. Whatever's best for my system is what I will go with, but my mind's been on that a lot lately.

So that's more about me. I hope those of you who are in Santa Cruz are enjoying this glorious day. Sun and majestic, puffy white clouds in the sky here today.

Hadassah & the BRCA Gene

I’m going to the Hadassah luncheon this Tuesday, the day before my next chemo. Murray Baumgarten is speaking on the future of Jewish Studies at UCSC. It’s being held at Ma Maison restaurant in Aptos. My mother-in-law, Lee, is very active with Hadassah in Santa Cruz. Thanks to Lee & my mom, I’ve been enjoying Hadassah’s fabulous magazine for many years. It covers everything from the TV show “In Treatment” (which was created in Israel) to how Koreans study the Talmud and teach it in every high school to sharpen the mind. Still, I never really knew all that Hadassah was about until recently. The organization does so much that I still don’t really know everything about it except that it’s a Zionist women’s fundraising organization (feminist-oriented) that has built hospitals in Israel where terror victims and terrorists are treated side by side.

Hadassah raises money for many different things but what interested me most recently (in light of my current illness) was an article in the November 2008 issue of Hadassah magazine called, “Breaking the Chain.” There they reported on the work being done at Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Center in Ein Kerem, Israel, where they change the destinies of women who have the BRCA gene so that they can’t pass it on to their children. Using a technique with In Vitro Fertilization, they select only the 3 day old embryos to implant that don’t carry the gene. A handful of other hospitals do this worldwide but Hadassah is the only hospital that analyzes for Down’s Syndrome as well. There are many other genetic disorders that can be selected for too. I began to wonder if there’s a gene for migraines...

Anyway, two things stuck out for me in this article. One was this quote: “One in every 40 Ashkenazic women carries the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations…” So, no wonder I kept getting asked by oncologists if I was Ashkenazi! I don’t have the BRCA gene but wonder if the gene I do have will be discovered one day. The other quote that was interesting to me: “The sages say that the soul enters the embryo on its 40th day. Therefore, days old embryos, comprising a few cells, are not considered human beings under Jewish law… This is in total contrast to the status of a 9-week-old fetus, the earliest that prenatal diagnosis can be performed; it would be halakhically problematic to terminate the pregnancy at this stage of development. Producing mutation-free babies with a healthy future was not only permitted…but actually preferred.” ( one of the Orthodox women that they interviewed.)

They discussed the fears people have about this technology giving people the opportunity to create "designer babies" and then ended the article with: “But if designer babies are understood to be children free from devastating inherited disease, it is a technology to embrace.”

So I hope you found that as enlightening as I did. This is my feeling-completely-normal week and so I thought I’d use this energy to write about Hadassah and the work that they do.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Positive Thoughts...

I had a really great time with my dad. Having him here lifted my spirits tremendously. I highly recommend getting a chance to spend time with each parent separately. We watched TV together, talked, took naps (well, he did that better than me), and went out to eat. Going out to eat is like a tradition with my mom and dad. Last time they came to visit, I was so sick, I couldn't go out with everybody - so I made up for it this time. We went to Gayles (love it), Hoffmans, Sabieng, and best of all, Shadowbrook. I cried when I overslept and missed our last meal together: breakfast at Walnut Ave. Cafe.

I believe those tears were chemo and cancer related since of course, our "last meal together" touched me very deeply in a way that wouldn't have if I wasn't a cancer patient.

Paul, Geoff's brother came down from Marin on Saturday and we got their mom, Lee, to join us at the Shadowbrook. It was just lovely and the food was perfect, as usual. It didn't seem like there was a recession because there were so many people out, but Shadowbrook is one of those special occasion restaurants. Jason once told me (when he was very young) that when he got older, he was going take his date to the Shadowbrook.

I wore my fanciest black and gold headwrap and beautiful topaz colored earrings my friend Liz got I felt somewhat normal. But some women seemed to look at me longer than others and I wondered if they were survivors. I bet I'll be like that too one day...wishing I could go up to a person who looks like she's going through chemo and give her a big hug, letting her know I've been through it.

I spoke to my WomenCare "sister" last night over the phone. I told her about my tears when I missed breakfast and she completely understood. She said she always hated it when people would say to her - "you've got to think positive while you are going through this". She said she was literally "on drugs" for 6 months while going through chemo and if that doesn't effect your mind, what will? Plus this is a disease that does bring you face to face with mortality. She said if we could heal cancer with positive thoughts, we would all be sent to comedy shows rather than chemo drips.

I agree with her. It's important to feel the feelings that this disease brings up and to thoroughly explore your own mortality on a personal and spiritual level. It's not often that you are given that opportunity in life. And I do see it as an opportunity. I surely wouldn't explore it on my own without having it shoved in my face like this.

The best part of that exploration is the pure joy and love and positive thoughts that also flood you. This life is made of both "good" and "bad" experiences and the "bad" sometimes makes what's "good" more evident and more precious. And of course whenever I think I could lose something, it makes it all the more appealing - like chocolate!

Which reminds me, I need to go eat some of that sugar-free chocolate I made!