Thursday, August 20, 2009

New Moon - Elul - CT Scan

I got a CT scan this morning and it showed no metastatic canSer. Just a cyst on one of my kidneys that my dad says means nothing. Still I will see my oncologist tomorrow anyway to ask about it.

The tamoxifen may not be side-effecting me - or not just yet. I am waking up a lot during my sleep lately, but that could just be normal for me. Or due to anxiety over the scan.

I've been listening to a lot of audios on about the coming holidays. There are 60 days that start with tonight's full moon - the Jewish months of Elul and Tishrei - that are full of holidays. First Rosh HaShana, then Yom Kippur, then Sukkot, and finally, Simchas Torah.

Of course I'm focusing on the first two holidays in my studies because it's the anniversary of my diagnosis. Geoff calls it my "canServersary". He says it was October 7th last year but I'm just focusing on the Jewish calendar myself, and Rosh haShana starts the night of Sept. 18th this year.

He pointed out that Jason was born on April 7th, Aimee on August 7th and my canServersary is October 7th. (maybe that's when I was reborn) But he forgets that my brother's birthday is Dec. 7th and my dad's is Sept. 7th.

Anyway, Ani Lidodi V'dodi Li is how you say in Hebrew, "I am for my Beloved and my Beloved is for me". That's a line from a part of Torah called, Shir haShirim or "Song of Songs" written by King Solomon. And the first letter of each of those words spells out the word for the Jewish month that starts tonight - Elul.

This line from Song of Songs represents the tone we start with for the month of Elul when we have both holidays that commemorate the birthday of the world or the creation of man (Rosh haShana) and the day of forgiveness (Yom Kippur). The week between the two holidays is the 10 days of Tshuva - which can be translated as "repentence" or "turning" and is related to the word for "rest" or "sitting" which is its root. Last year I got my diagnosis during the week of Tshuva.

This month, we look over the past year and see how well we did on our mission here and what we need to improve on, spiritually, for the coming year. Rosh ha Shana literally means "Head of the Year". But it's not the first month of the Jewish calendar. It's the 7th. The first month is Nissan - when we were taken out of Egypt.

According to one of the audios I listened to by Moshe New, we look at our relationship with G-d like we do any marriage/passionate relationship. The month on Nissan was like the honeymoon period of any relationship - everything is wonderful and miraculous. The reed sea is parted and we get fed manna. Now, though, is the time later in the marriage - like in any marriage - where you've looked at the golden calf and it looks so much better than what you are married to. And on the brink of divorce, your house is destroyed (Tisha b'Av) and the Temple is no more, and since there is no divorce in our relationship with G-d, you can do one of two things: either leave your house in shambles or rededicate yourself to the marriage.

So after Tisha B'Av comes the new year and you get to recommit to the original plan. Know that this marriage was meant to be and focus on the positive things that you really love and look past all the bad stuff. It's now up to you. Miracles are not going to get you to a good marriage. Your hard work and dedication even when the going gets rough is what brings a good marriage - it deepens the marriage and now it's no longer based on ephemeral things but is more solid. Developing faith & hope during the hard times gets you through.

That's where the concept of "turning" comes in. We aren't being punished for misdeeds - only reaping consequences of our actions. There is always forgiveness. The King knows how He set up this world. We are bound to win some, lose some. No matter how often we fail, there's always forgiveness because there's always the possibility to "turn" and return to our true selves and our true mission. It's a "turning", not a punishment. It's a returning and a resting or sitting because when we are back to ourselves, there is no more struggle. Everything flows when you are coming from your strength (your soul) and your strength lies in what you do well and what comes easy to you - what you are good at is what your purpose is in this life. (Moshe New didn't say that - I'm extending on what I heard due to what I've experienced this year.) And what your purpose is is what the King gave you this life for - you take part in the King's purpose for this world.

I really feel like that's what this year has been for me - a returning to myself, an embracing of myself, a remembering of what my purpose is. And I don't always succeed at that return, but it keeps me going when I "miss the mark" (which is the translation for the word, "sin" in Hebrew). No matter how far we've strayed from our true self (from our soul), there is no way to leave it behind, it is a part of us and waiting for us to come back to it.

So in Elul, the rebbe says that the "King is in the field" - down here with the field-workers. Checking out the work we have to do, shaking hands, listening to our challenges, hearing our requests. On Rosh HaShana we have the (re)coronation of our King. And we have an entire month of Elul to do the repair work necessary to reconnect to being the King's servant.

Another interesting thing I learned from one of these audios, the one from Ruvi New, is that two very important people in Jewish history were born on the 18th of Elul. And remember that 18 is the number for the word that means "Life". So to help us understand what Elul means - let's look at who was born on the "life of Elul":
The Baal Shem Tov and the Alter Rebbe who was the founder of Chabad.

The Baal Shem Tov was the person who started Hasidism. He was all about making Judaism joyful and personal. Before him, there was little mention of the soul in Jewish learning. So he also brought the mystical Kabbalah down to the masses whereas before only the elite of the elite were able to study it. The Alter Rebbe was one of the students of the Maggid who was a disciple of the Baal Shem Tov. He was the one out of all of the students to be sent to Lithuania.

At the time, Lithuania would be the toughest place to bring new information to. It was a huge stronghold of Jewish learning with strong learning centers. According to Ruvi New, the learning in Lithuania was very intellectual and lacking in spirituality. People knew things intellectually rather than making them exciting and personal. Their religious practice was very dry and I think they are one of the reasons so many men threw their tefillin into the ocean once they arrrived in America. The Alter Rebbe was the most intellectual of all of the Hasidic students of the Maggid so he was able to reach these people at their level. He was a prolific writer and wrote a book called, The Tanya, that elucidated deep Kabbalistic teachings but made them accessible to even the lay person. He started Chabad of Lubuvitch and brought soul and spirit to the intellectuals of the time.

Now the last interesting thing and then I'll let you go: If Rosh haShana is the birthday of creation - in fact, the day that man was created, then can it be celebrated by non-Jews? Well, there are some non-Jews, called the Noahides or the "B'nai Noach" which means the "children of Noah", who have asked if it's ok for them to celebrate Rosh HaShana. According to Moshe New, they should be able to celebrate it. Who are these Noahides? They are a group of mostly Christian people who, dissatisfied with their own religion looked to Torah to discover what it says about how to become a "righteous gentile".

Did you think the Torah was only written for Jews? No. Adam was given 6 commandments and then Noah was given the 7th. All of mankind descends from Noah. Google it: Google "7 noahide laws". There is such a group called the children of Noah and there are 7 commandments for all mankind.

Here's a link to a good article on Elul$ShoftimCOLON_Elul_and_the_Economy.php

And if you want links to the audios I listened to, email me.

I hope you enjoyed all of this as much as I did. Now you know what I'm doing with my new iPod when I'm driving around town! I will be continuing to write about how I see all of this relating to me as we go through these holidays. I just love this stuff!!!!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Back From Hawaii

"Menachem Av 27, 5769 · August 17, 2009
Faith in the Dark

Do you only believe when you can see with your eyes? When your prayers are answered and miracles carry you on their wings? Or do you also believe when circumstances fly in your face?

If it touches you to the core, if it is a belief you truly own, if it is as real to you as life itself, then it does not change.

And if it does not change, then you are bound up with the true essence of the One who does not change."

From the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe; rendered by Tzvi Freeman. To order the Daily Thoughts in book form, go here:

I've been tired since we came back from Hawaii. The first few days I was there I was tired too, so I think it might be jet lag. But I napped there and got over it quick but I've been running around here. I saw 5 clients yesterday and on Friday, we went to get Aimee's ear's pierced in between my therapy and my acupuncture. (I discovered that I could do something for her without sacrificing what I needed to do for myself - she sat in 2 waiting rooms watching a DVD.)

The fires and breathing in smoke every day since returning home hasn't been the best thing for my health. I wake up with a bloody nose every morning. I've also started the Tamoxifen and felt a slight headache this morning so I'm a bit worried about how blocking my estrogen is going to effect me even though it does make me feel more secure taking it.

Hawaii was beautiful and not too hot and I didn't get any mosquito bites and my arms didn't blow up with lymphodema in the airplane and I didn't get a thrombosis from sitting too long on the plane. These were all the things I was worried about that didn't happen. I was blown away about the mosquitoes because they usually love me so I think that they just weren't interested in my chemo blood.

I felt extremely lucky that we had made the reservations prior to getting diagnosed because I don't think we'd have gone otherwise after the year we've had. Plus, I feel so lucky to have finished my treatment in time to go and have the party before I went. If you want to see a photo essay about the place we traveled to, Geoff wrote a great blog on it:

I also uploaded some photos here.

My highlights:
*Aimee holding me in the water.
*Jason body surfing.
*Good talks with Geoff.
*The Hawaiian butterfish dinner Aimee and I made.
*Napping on the deck (lanai).
*Reading, "The Street Lawyer" by Grisham.
*Aimee's pina colada smoothie.

I did run into some challenges that I didn't realize I'd have. Mostly around the body image stuff. I discovered that I look good in my bathing suit no matter what I think! (Aimee told me to write that, looking over my shoulder as I'm writing this!) And I discovered that my hair looks good all messy or curly and sticking out all over. So that's how I've been wearing it lately. (thank you Aimee for the cognitive therapy - but I do still want to go into the darkness for a moment)

Getting into a bathing suit has been a challenge my entire life. Being in Hawaii, even though 30 lbs lighter, I was still uncomfortable in my body. This discomfort was made more obvious to me because I also had no boobs. When this cute guy came to fix our bed (the frame was falling down), it was apparent to me that I used to depend on those things on my chest somehow to flirt. I never realized that until they were gone.

So as Tzvi Freeman writes, I still believe even when circumstances fly in my face, so I use those uncomfortable feelings about my body as clues to where I still need to heal my psyche. There is a way that I really ignore my body and purposely don't look in mirrors because it's too painful. I don't like to see myself growing old and I don't like to see myself fat and I don't like to see my chest deformed.

There's a part of me that would be so incredibly happy to have some plastic surgeon take my droopy belly and make boobs out of it. More to get rid of the belly than to even get the boobs. I don't really want fake ones with tatoos for nipples. But having a flat stomach for the first time in my entire life would satisfy me just fine.

Better still, if I could practice every day to look in the mirror naked and simply love my body, that would heal me on a much deeper level. And so that is what I intend to do. I believe that is the Higher Plan for me in all of this: Loving my body and treating it with kindness and feeding it with healthy food and fun exercise. And if after trying all that natural treatment for awhile, I still feel awful in my own skin, I will look into plastic surgery because why suffer?

I've been Israeli-dancing-up-a-storm in preparation for a couple of classes I'm teaching at PCS during the first week of school. I love Israeli folk-dancing since it's a wonderful way to physically express my love for my heritage and my people. I can't wait to research it online and print something out for the kids. Their dance teacher is out on maternity leave and asked for volunteers so now all I have to do is narrow down all the dances I have to share.

Life goes on and I need to schedule another ct scan. Yipes! Looking forward to getting a clean bill of health, right?