Saturday, September 26, 2009

Day of Rest

I don't think the carepages notification system has been working you may find that you are behind by 3 updates...


This past week was really crazy for me. I felt like I was running around and very busy the entire week. Was it just me or did you feel that way too?

If it was just me, I think it's a sign to me about how I'm dealing with this canServersary...keeping busy enough not to feel anything about it. I got Aimee a 12 foot trampoline this week and discovered that my arms didn't swell up with lympedema from putting it together practically all by myself (not to say Techy didn't help tremendously). But then I had the carpets cleaned and boy oh boy, can I tell you how much furniture I moved around and lifted?

My lower back told me last night when I finally got into bed.

What is going on with me? I was carrying around furniture yesterday thinking, "I need to remember I'm recovering...maybe I'll start wearing that pink bracelet with the ribbon on it to remind me." Or do I need to get a medical bracelet to remind me? Or am I just not wanting to face the memory of this past year right now?

Last year at this time, I couldn't stop crying. This year, I can't stop myself from running away from it all. I reach into the top of my shirt and reach down between my camisole and those beautiful fake boobies and feel the scar and cringe. I just want to get on with my life and pretend this year never happened. I want my hair long again no matter who tells me I look great with short hair. But some things are impossible. And I shouldn't run from reality if I want to stay alive. I need to force myself to keep remembering I'm a very recent survivor because all I want to do is run away.

I guess at least that tells you how great I feel physically anyway. I get tired though when I push myself and so I have to force myself to remember I'm a recent survivor.

So I was incredibly happy that today was the day of rest. Since becoming friends with Baily and hanging out with her on Saturdays, I found myself really enjoying the absence of my running on at least one day of the week, every week. Over the years I've cut a couple of things out of most of my Saturdays: the computer & shopping. It's rare that I do those things on the day of rest anymore. And mostly, I only drive when I go to Baily's house.

I used to download and print articles from Chabad website to read on that day so I could avoid turning on the TV. I'd only watch if Geoff turned it on. But since getting sick last year, TV's become my friend and my Saturdays, unless I go to Baily's, consist of sitting in bed and watching TV all day. Not the holiest of habits for the day of rest.

Still, I find the permission to rest irresistible. And so I take it on like the commandment it is. But I am not exactly anywhere close to being traditionally Shomer Shabbos. Maybe one of these days I'll get back to the holy part and get myself to read instead of watching TV. Or get myself over to Baily's where I know I won't do anything but chat and eat and relax.

Tomorrow night starts the Shabbos of Shabbosim (or at least I think it's been called that): Yom Kippur, where we rest from all kinds of earthly pursuits. We fast (which darn, my doctor said I was healthy enough for), and we wear white and hope to achieve angelic heights with the day-long prayers and fasting.

A group of our friends has been getting together to break the fast over the past few years and I'm looking forward to seeing everyone again. It's a bit embarrassing - where I've been this past year - and I'm not sure what that embarrassment is all about. Maybe I'm just being shy and don't want attention but I'm sure this canServersary of mine is going to be on the minds of many of my peeps on Monday.

Yom Kippur is the one holiday that nearly every Jew celebrates and so when I was younger, the Temple I grew up in had to rent out a very large church for the occasion. I remember my friend, Nancy and I, sneaking candy bars in the church bathroom because we were "fasting". My kids are going to try to fast - we'll see how well they do. It's not easy - especially if you are home the whole time and not in services. But I won't let them go to school no matter how much homework they will need to make up. It's just that kind of a holiday and schools should be off for it - it's not fair to the Jewish kids to have to make up a day missed for religious purposes.

The liturgy for Yom Kippur is fabulous but towards the end we read about the horrific deaths of our most revered sages. All of them were tortured and it is unpleasant to be reminded of the dark past of our people. Especially when you think if this could happen to the great, holy rabbis, what could happen to a shmo like me? But this is Yom Kippur and this is it's wonderful ability to bring you to your knees, remembering that you are not in control of it all, a Higher Power is, and the reasons that certain things happen is ultimately beyond your puny human understanding. Yes, everyone who really participates in Yom Kippur in a deep way, goes through their own canServersary.

Anyway, I hope you all get a notification of this update and for those of you celebrating Yom Kippur tomorrow night and Monday, I wish you a very meaningful holiday and a very easy fast.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Making Amends

I wrote an update yesterday and usually when I click on "Post", at least 5 - 10 of you appear in my guestbook, showing me you've taken a peek. Instead, only one person showed up. I began to think, "maybe it's been a year and people are getting tired of these updates. Oh well, I'll keep writing just for me." Then I began to realize that maybe no one got the email notice that I'd written a new update...

It's funny how I jump to that lonely place where people are really getting tired of me anyway. Also funny how this Rosh Hashanah for me has been lonely (see previous update that you didn't see yet!) What does it all mean in the grand scheme of things and what does it mean that this happened for the first time in a year of updates? I love looking at underlying meanings of why HaShem brings things into my life.

This is the week of making amends. What does that have to do with these updates? Do I need to make amends with you all?

Maybe I need to write a few things to you.

1. Thanks for being here with me all this time. It does mean a lot to me that you're still reading this stuff. It's helped me to feel good about myself - like I have something to say, something to give and maybe some things that are important to share. I've needed to feel good about myself this past year. This carepages is one of the ways I felt better about myself and how I got through all the self-doubt, guilt and self-blame.

2. If you ever stop looking, I won't notice because there are so many of you. So don't feel bad about it. I understand that this is a long time and I'm over the worst of it and you don't need to continue with the drama of my life. I may also decide not to continue with this writing one day, but for now, it's still healing for me.

3. I'm sorry if I pontificate and write too much about my Jewish thoughts. Or if I act like a know-it-all on that front, I don't mean to. I know so little it isn't funny. And I'm seriously not very observant. I wish I followed more of the commandments, but I'm severely lax in a lot of ways. If I've ever offended you because you're Jewish and have other beliefs about it, I apologize. If I've offended you or made you feel like you should be Jewish but you're not, please know that I know there are many ways to the One and everyone alive has their special purpose on this planet. I don't want to be offensive to anyone and I only want to write about what interests me.

4. If I've written too graphically over the past year about things that should stay private, I'm sorry. It helps me to write the honest truth and it sometimes comes out with a bang. I know we're in mixed company and I have to refer to body parts, etc., and don't want to offend anyone and won't be offended if you can't continue to read these updates because of that.

5. I apologize to anyone who feels that I've written something about them that should have stayed confidential or wasn't written in exactly the way you wished you'd been represented. I realize that could be really embarrassing for you and I'm sorry if I've done that.

Since I can't think of anything else at the moment, that will have to do for now. It actually feels good to get that all out since I had been thinking about them. I so treasure this community and what you have all brought to me over this past year. You have no idea how much you mean to me and have meant to my recovery.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Who Shall Live and Who Shall Die

Amazing that my diagnosis coincided with Rosh Hashana last year. If you really take to heart what it says in the prayerbook, you get to experience what it feels like to be diagnosed with canCer. (The one with the Big C.) And I think that's the way it should be. Faced with your own mortality, it's much more likely that you'll make the changes you need to make.

Here's a quote from the Oonataneh Tokef, (just in case you didn't get a chance to experience the awesomeness of it):
"All created beings pass before You, (one by one,) like a flock of sheep...and You allocate the fixed portion for the needs of all Your creatures, and inscribe the verdict of their judgment.

On Rosh Hashana they are inscribed, and on the fast day of Yom Kippur they are sealed: How many shall pass away and how many shall be born; who shall live and who shall die; who shall live out his allotted time and who shall depart before his time; who (shall perish) by water and who by fire; who by the sword and who by a wild beast; who by hunger and who by thirst; who by earthquake and who by pestilence; who by strangulation and who by lapidation; who shall be at rest and who shall wander; who shall be tranquil and who shall be harassed; who shall enjoy well-being and who shall suffer tribulation; who shall be poor and who shall be rich; who shall be humbled and who shall be exalted.

But Repentance, Prayer and Charity avert the severity of the decree.

For as is Your Name so is Your praise. You are slow to anger and easy to pacify, for You do not desire the death of the one deserving death, but that he return from his path and live. And (even) until the day of his death You wait for him; if he will by repent, You will welcome him at once..." from Machzor for Rosh Hashanah, translation by Rabbi Nissen Mangel, published and copywrited by Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch, order through

Our Machzor is 369 pages long and the services are a prayer workout - a marathon lasting 4-5 hours on Shabbos and holidays - while the Yom Kippur machzor is an all day affair. It's like a 24 hour silent zen center experience only with standing, sitting, singing, and constantly bringing your mind back to the words of the prayer you're reciting under your breath. Tiring, boring sometimes, but I've worked my way up to it and have been able to do the entire thing, following along in the English while the rabbi does it all out loud in Hebrew. Unfortunately, I missed the workout this year.

I did end up catching Aimee's cold and was soooooooo disappointed that I couldn't pray with my peeps. I missed the lovely service on Friday night with the delicious meal afterward and the longer service the next day. Baily and Yochanon set up a tent in their backyard and then invite everyone to stay for a meal after services. Very warm and heimishe. All my friends were there and I was coughing and feeling sorry for myself at home.

Trying to find the silver lining, I realized how much I wanted to pray with everyone and how much that group means to me. I ended up borrowing a prayerbook from the rabbi so I could still pray at home. (I don't own a High Holiday Machzur!) Praying by myself was actually very meaningful. I took breaks when I needed to and really got to focus on the prayers and on what I was saying rather than being distracted.

On Sunday, I went to part of the service and got to hear the shofar and some of the ancient melodies that I so love to hear this time of year. I heard some wisdom from the rabbi's which I loved and got to pray a bit with everyone. After awhile I got tired and left, so I missed my favorite part, the Priestly Blessing:-[ And it was kind of embarrassing to be there since I had to tell people I had a cold when they went to hug me but sometimes they thought I was telling them I didn't want to catch anything from them!

Being sick brought back all the past year and all the times I had to stay away from friends and family. It helped me make an even deeper level of commitment to taking care of myself because I had to face my fragility yet again. I could have prevented this cold had I protected myself better. So it even got me to accept the fact I need to get back on the immune builders and also get a flu shot.

Not changing the subject at all, I have to share with you that I saw a DVD on Joni Mitchell's life history. In my mind, she is the greatest poet, musician, & artist born out of the turbulent 60's and 70's. Her ability to plumb the depths of her pain and come out with clear, raw poetry and music, capturing the essence of universal themes is something I've always admired and loved.

What captured my attention in relationship to all of this is that her life was really a struggle mirroring the woman's movement. She had a child out of wedlock that she had to put up for adoption because she couldn't depend on the man she later married to do the right thing. Then after divorcing him, she became famous and her writing revolved around romantic love vs independence. She couldn't get tied down in a relationship, she wanted to focus on her craft. And because she refused to marry Graham Nash, she did blossom and her best work came out of the depression following the break-up. In the end though, she admits that the most important thing in life is Love. And not romantic love.

It hit me that she missed that Love when she gave up her baby and when she subsequently gave up marriage and family for her craft. Her independence and desire to further her career gave her something really great while raising a child and committing to a marriage would have given her something else. To me that's what this whole holiday boils down to: what's important in life? Career? or family, friends, & relationships? That's the universal dilemma of a woman. How can you develop your own craft and self-care while at the same time, not forgetting the relationships that are really the most important things in life?

When faced with the possibility of dying no matter how much you pray or what you eat or how you think or how much you give or how good a person you are (since we're even told that the angels are judged on this holiday), and knowing that whether you live or die is really, ultimately out of your own hands, what's most important gets really clear:

Our relationships.

And that's what I keep coming back to when I get sick. I don't want to have a recurrence. I want to live and the most important thing that I miss when I am sick is my peeps.