RivkA’s passing

November 1, 2010

RivkA’s funeral was late Saturday night.  Here are two comments from Toddler Planet that I wanted to share with you.

Michele said:

I have never seen so many people attend the burial of a private person in Jerusalem. More than 1,000 people, men and women, of all ages, gathered together at 10 pm on a chilly Jerusalem night and paid their last respects to a young mom who really and truly inspired many of us to live more loving, more deliberate, more in-the-moment lives.

and Robin:

There were so many people at the funeral Andrea that many had to stand outside, listening to the loudspeakers. It was a night of so much love, and pain, and yes even laughter. RivkA would have wanted it that way, and I trust that even now she’s up there somewhere taking the place by storm.  Here’s a link to the Jerusalem Post essay you mentioned, it’s a beautiful tribute to a beautiful woman.

Condolences for the family can be left at RivkA’s blog, Coffee and Chemo, and you are of course invited to share any memories of her there or here.

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A Little Light

October 30, 2010

by Jen(ster)

Yesterday’s news was a blow for most, if not all, of us. Cancer has taken another mother away from her children and it hurts. I don’t know about the other writers here, but I’m guessing it shook them up just as it did me.  Just like the others who are gone, every post or comment by her causes a hitch in my breath.

Shortly after I read the news about RivkA I received a message from Cindy’s sister. (I wrote about Cindy HERE.)  It didn’t say much, but what it did say was huge. Only one lymph node out of 14 was cancerous.

While I mourn for RivkA’s family, I rejoice for Cindy’s. Her first battle with cancer was an extremely tough fight for her and this time might just be a little easier.


RivkA has died.

October 29, 2010

Our old friend RivkA has passed away.  I would write lovely words here for her, but right now I am just so ANGRY that cancer has taken another good woman from the world.  

In June 2009, RivkA gave a talk on Coping With Adversity; she recently asked that it be reposted on her blog and shared again with the world.  In her honor, we encourage you to view the link and honor the memory of a woman who fought the good fight.

Please daven, pray, or whatever you do in your faith tradition for the memory of a good woman, and for the healing of her family.


All the Best

November 12, 2009

Dear Friends,

I regreat that I will no longer be posting here.

Thank you for all your love and support.

If you would like to remain in touch, you are welcome to visit my personal blog:

http://coffeeandchemo.com

You are also welcome to email me privately at:

coffeeandchemo@gmail.com

May we all have a full recovery and enjoy good health for many years to come.

All my love,

RivkA


Death Be Not Proud*

October 26, 2009

(cross posted on Coffee and Chemo)
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You know, I am good. I mean, I have cancer and everything, but I am good.

Mostly, I feel good, and I do things, and I even work a bit.

Most of the time, I do not feel that cancer defines me.

But it does.

I am unquestionably in the cancer world.

Even taking chemo in pills (at home), I still have to go to the hospital several times a month — for doctor’s visits and blood tests (every 3 weeks) and my bone treatments (once a month).

But that is not all. No, no, that is not all.

I also have to go to the hospital for regular CTs, MRIs, bone scans, echocardiograms, ultrasounds, and whatever other tests or procedures are deemed necessary by my team of medical caregivers.

Everywhere I go, I meet other cancer patients.

Over time, many of the cancer patients get better and “disappear” back to their “old life,” the life without cancer.

But not everybody.

Some people, like me, are not going to get better. We meet regularly, week by week, month by month. We get to know each other. We get connected.

Many are like me. They are good. They are living with their cancer, and they are really living. Struggling, like me, but living. Even, I would say, living a good life.

But not everybody. Not all the time.

Sometimes people disappear and I do not know why. Have they simply switched treatment days or….? I am afraid to ask. Afraid to know.

It is hard. Hard to keep hearing about people dying of cancer.

Hard to keep my head buried in the sand, denying the threat of death, when death is all around me.

When I was first diagnosed, I stumbled onto the devastating statistics: five years after diagnosis, only 20% of women diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer are still alive.

I desperately needed to find other young women who were living with cancer for more than 10 years, to know they existed, to know it was possible, to believe that I could be one of them.

It was surprised (though I should not have been) that it was not easy to find these women.

I contacted Sharsheret, a support organization connecting young Jewish American women with breast cancer, who connected me with an amazing woman. Though extremely private about her cancer, she generously shared details of her challenges and accomplishments. She was still working, full time, as a professor in a university! She inspired me, and gave me hope. I spoke with her several times, until I found more local support via Beit Natan.

I just found out that, a year ago, she passed away suddenly, leaving behind 8 children. She battled cancer for around 10 years.

Her sudden death shocked those around her. But not me.

I have already learned: cancer is devious.

A cancer patient can seem fine one day, and the next day is critically ill. The situation can revert back to being stable or the patient can be dead within a few weeks. There is no way to know.

We never know.

Every death is devastating. Another reminder that living with cancer is uncertain.

Everything can change in an instant.

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footnote: Death Be Not Proud, by John Donne (Link includes full poem and Wikipedia article)


Radiation Relationships

October 13, 2009

Cross-posted, with some edits, from Coffee and Chemo
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Radiation therapy draws its unsuspecting victims into an alternative universe.

For 20 consecutive days, excluding Friday and Shabbat, I descended into the darkest depths of Machon Sharett, the cancer ward at Hadassah Ein Kerem, in Jerusalem. Then I trudged down the long, dimly lit corridor, until I reached the last door on my left, room 38.

I really could get into painting this “gloom and doom” picture, but it really would not give you an accurate picture, nor is it really the point of this post.

True, the radiation department is on the bottom floor of Machon Sharett. Also true, my radiation room was at the end of a very long, rather dim hallway (though better than I remembered from my last radiation treatments).

But I did not “trudge” to some ominous destination, and I certainly was not a victim.

Besides, this post is not about the journey, but rather the people we meet and the mysterious magic that happens when strangers meet, day after day, for weeks on end.

I spent the first few days of radiation in a haze, still in shock from my diagnosis and how fast my doctor scheduled me to begin radiation. It took me time to get into a routine. After a few days, I figured out what time works best for me to get to the hospital (around 10:00), where and how to park (give my “date”/driver the parking permit, and get on line while she parks), how much time I can expect to be there (20 minutes to an hour), and what my day will look like afterwards (SLEEPY).

By the third or fourth day, I could pick my head up out of the water enough to notice the people around me.

By the middle of the second week, I recognized the “regulars,” most notably:

1. The solemn elderly Russian lady who, when I smiled at her, looked up and flashed me a gold-toothed smile. A few days later, I tried to talk with her, but could not understand her friendly response… in Russian. With no real common language, our exchanges consisted of very simple dialogue and hand signals.

2. The sweet older South African couple, with whom I established a real friendship. They came from out of the city, and arrived every day around the same time as I. I loved watching them together, so attentive of one another.

This couple is the inspiration for this post.

You see, for almost a full month, we saw each other every day. Once we became friendly, we also spoke almost every day. We shared details about our lives, our families, our friends.

In the waiting area, our lives became intensely connected.

It is a very strange phenomenon — this sudden connection and just as sudden disconnect.

Strangers become close friends, and then, in an instant, the day radiation is over, we return to our “normal” lives, and our “normal” circle of friends.

To a certain extent, this dynamic is also true about the radiation staff. Though the staff tends to keep a professional distance, some technicians are friendlier than others. Some of us even remember each other from my previous radiation (tw0 years ago, to my left hip).

I really appreciated it when the staff members treated me as a person, and not just a patient. It made the process a little less scary. For a few seconds, I could pretend I am out visiting friends and not in the hospital getting my brain zapped.

The relationship is even more intense, since I am relying on these people to get everything right. I was pretty nervous about the whole brain radiation, and every day I had another question or two. As I got more answers, I felt increasingly confident about my treatment.

And then, as with the other patients, one day it was over. These people, in whose trust I placed my life, and who I saw every day, are now… in another world.

They exist in an alternative universe, one I hope not to visit again.


MRI — Good News!

September 17, 2009

(cross posted from Coffee and Chemo)

“Can the radiation make the tumors go away?” I asked, first to my oncologist, then the radiologist, then the head of radiology.

I was devastated by the discovery of brain mets. I could not accept that the brain mets would not go away.

“Sometimes the tumors shrink from radiation,” I was told, with reservation.

“But can they be totally destroyed?” I persisted.

“Rarely,” I was told, by caring doctors who did not want to give me false hope.

The main goal of the radiation was to stop the tumors from growing any further.

That was not good enough for me. I prayed every day, during my five minutes of radiation, for the radiation to completely destroy the tumors.

Well, the tumors might not be 100% gone, but they have certainly lost some of their power!

We have not yet received the written report, but the images look a lot cleaner! We only saw one or two “shadows,” only one of which is still a remnant of a tumor, according to my doctor’s analysis (though he is the first to acknowlege that he is not a radiologist).

My doctor, upon reading the report, sent me the following message right away:

got the report of your MRI and the improvement we thought we saw is REAL.

This does not mean that I am done with brain mets. Like the bone mets, brain mets never goes away. Still, I doubt anyone expected such good results.

Thank you all so much for your prayers!! God is listening!!

I cannot think of a better way to start the new year!*

*Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish new year, is this Friday night, Saturday, and Sunday