September 28, 2010

Hair

On Saturday it was so warm that I decided it was time to uncover my head and expose my 1/4 to 1/2 inch long hair to the world. Although there are still some skimpy patches, and my hairline starts very high on my forehead, it basically looks like I have an extremely trendy, cutting-edge 'do. I also put in my contacts for the first time in months, used some eye makeup (I now have dark eyelashes again, but my eyebrows continue to need help on a daily basis), wore a cute dress and HUGE silver hoop earrings.


Of the 30 or so people at our party, only one made a comment to Rik that he was glad I'd uncovered my head, because they all wanted to know what I looked like. Now if I'd been baby-butt-bald all this time, I don't think this person would have wanted to see my head. Nor would I have wanted to expose my head in that state.

Patrick Stewart
Nothing says cancer for young women quite like looking like Yul Brynner or Patrick Stewart. 
Yul Brynner






(As it is, I have my father's hairline and I look like a male version of myself.)
But since I never lost all my hair, and since the thinning has slowed considerably, I am comfortable going out in public without a scarf. On cooler mornings I wear a hat, but take it off when I am indoors. I did that yesterday at chemo and a woman in the waiting room commented on low cute I looked and said seeing me with hair gave her hope that her hair would come back too.

The only other person who commented on my "trendy" haircut was the four-year-old who wanted to touch my thin short hair and asked why it was like that. I told here it was a very stylish, very short haircut, and did she want one like it the next time her hair needed to be cut? (She demurred.)


September 27, 2010

Adriamycin #4

I had such a smooth experience with the Swedish Cancer Institute this morning. Although it was hard to get up so early, I was there by 8:35 AM despite traffic, went to the lab right away and was seated in a chemo chair, ready to get hooked up, an hour later.

I was the first patient in the infusion center, and so had the undivided attention of my nurse. The pharmacy provided all the drugs quickly and the whole experience ended around 11 AM. My friend G dropped in for a chat, so I was well-entertained. The Decadron has me talking quite a bit, but I am still ready for a nap.

Here's to Adriamycin kicking some serious cancer butt!

September 23, 2010

Day 3 of Adriamycin #3

Even with the reduced dose of steroids at Monday's chemo, I have had a bounce of energy for the past few days. I also got some good sleep, with the help of Ativan. I will try to taper off it tonight so that I can start up again next Monday.

Because it was a lovely evening, we ate dinner in the sukkah last night. Today, of course, it's raining, and that might have been our last meal in the sukkah for a few days. It was just us, but I made a delicious roast chicken with zucchini strips marinated in preserved lemon, garlic, and salt, and tossed with pine nuts. We made kiddush over juice made from our very small grape harvest, barely half a glass each.

If anyone has tips on how to improve the quantity of our grapes, I am open for tips. I only know we have sweet, green grapes, not the type. The arbor is full of leaves and vines, but we got very little fruit this year. (Had a bumper crop last year.)

I did a little cooking today since I am bringing a meal to a sick family (zucchini minestrone and bread). Plus I started some cookie dough that can be frozen for a few days and baked up fresh, and made some spiced nuts.

I guess I have more energy than I realized!

September 21, 2010

My Yom Kippur appeal


I was asked to give the fundraising appeal at Congregation Beth Shalom this year during erev Yom Kippur. I am pleased and proud to report that our community stepped up to pledge $75000, $10,000 more than I asked for. In these tough economic times, I am grateful to all those who were able to be so generous.

In addition to the financial success, we received more than 162 volunteer card responses, a greater than 50% increase over last year. The commitment of our members to make our shul their Jewish home away from home humbles me.

Here's what I said:

My name is Jill Cohen, and it is my honor to be president of the Beth Shalom board.

Each year we chant, Berosh Hashanah yikateivun; uve’yom tzom kippur yichateimun: On Rosh Hashanah it is written and on Yom Kippur it is sealed. How many shall leave this world and how many shall be born into it? Who shall live and who shall die?

On Yom Kippur we are all the same. We are asked to face our mortality so that we can examine our lives. I’d like to share with you how belonging to Beth Shalom for me supports me in choosing a life of meaning, of spirituality, and of community.

You see, I have stage IV, metastatic breast cancer. Just over eight years ago, I learned that my cancer had come back and spread into my bones, and now my liver. I had to face the new normal of daily life with cancer. I had to face my own mortality every day.

I’m not alone in this. Many in our community live with cancer and many of us have lost loved ones to cancer. Many live with other life-shortening, chronic illnesses.

Many people have the luxury of pretending that they are in control, that life will always tick on the way it has. We who live with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses have been forced to realize that control is an illusion. We have to think every day about the hard questions: How long will we live? When will we die? And yet somehow we must also live a meaningful life.

When I retired on medical disability eight years ago, I lost my daily routine and the sense of self-worth that came from doing work I loved. At first I started coming to shul on Shabbat to give myself a new routine. Then I came for the sense of community, for the delight in singing together, because I love to sing. When I sing with my community, I feel joy and am connected to others. When leading services as the shlicha tzibur I feel even closer to that spiritual experience we call God. The more joy I found in the regular practice of prayer and song, in communal gathering, the more active I became at shul. The more I volunteered, the more connected I felt to Beth Shalom and our members. One thing led to another, until I stand here tonight as your president, living my life in community, with community and for community.

A few years ago, when I was asked to serve as president, my cancer was more or less under control. This year my cancer got noisy. Last September my ongoing battle with swelling in my left hand, called lymphedema, acted up. A year later it’s still not quite back to normal. In December and February I had surgery. On our way home after the first Pesach seder, I fell and dislocated my left elbow. A long, slow recovery left me with almost, but not quite, full extension of my left arm. And I’m left-handed! In May I began chemotherapy and was diagnosed with depression. A second chemotherapy drug caused me ten days of painful mouth sores and weeks of blistered, burned hands and feet. The third chemotherapy drug, which I began at the end of August, has been tolerable so far, and we hope it will be effective. To top it all off, on my husband Rik’s 50th birthday, we had to euthanize our beloved fifteen-year-old dog Pumpkin who worked for several years as my service animal.

Nu, why am I listing my sorrows for you? Whether I experienced surgery, chemotherapy or radiation, on any day that I needed to lift my spirits, I could count on members of Beth Shalom to be there for me and my family. When times were hard for Rik and I, in the past twelve months and over the years, Beth Shalom was there with meals, phone calls, visits and loving care. Surrounded by community, I have been able to mourn my father, grieve the loss of friends, and celebrate personal milestones.

Speaking of personal milestones: Rik and I both turned 50 this year, and as a woman living with advanced cancer, I wasn’t sure that would happen. How did I celebrate? Here in this community, with an aliyah to the Torah. I celebrated my eighth anniversary of living with metastatic cancer in August and stood on this bimah again, grateful to have another aliyah, to receive blessings from the Rabbi and the entire community. Rik and I also celebrated that milestone with plenty of chocolate, known in our home as “Vitamin CH.”

In the last six years of chairing our fundraising committee, I have been awed by our community’s response to appeals for a balanced budget. For a second year in a row our congregation ended the last fiscal year in the black. We are slowly beginning to repay to ourselves the money we borrowed six years ago.

Far from feeling burdened by the role of president, I have taken Rabbi Borodin’s advice to heart. She said not to serve because I think I’ll do a good job, or because I’m concerned no one else will take it on. “Serve because it will bring you joy.”

Meeting new faces, deepening my current relationships, praying communally, and serving you is joyful and life-affirming to me. I know that after hearing my story, some of you will want to help me by cooking a meal, offering a ride, or otherwise helping me personally. There has been, and there will be again, a time for that kind of help. Tonight, if you want to help me, you can do so by helping our synagogue community.

It is my goal, as president of our synagogue, to only ask for your financial support two times a year. Tonight is one of those times.

Tonight I have the privilege of asking you to invest and make a commitment in our community, our collective Jewish home. This year our goal is to raise $65,000. All the money you give tonight will support the general operations of the synagogue. Our dues cover only half of the synagogue’s operating expenses. Beth Shalom has taught me that Jews take care of community in good times and in bad. In this time of continued economic uncertainty, it’s more important than ever to give of your financial resources and of your time.

When you decide how much to give tonight, please picture the following:

• Imagine your donation as an investment in children beginning a lifetime of Jewish experiences. Although cancer prevented Rik and I from becoming parents, we still believe in the value of a strong Jewish education for our community’s youth.

• Think of the singles, couples and families living their Jewish life as part of our synagogue. Many of us at Beth Shalom are new to Seattle and have no family here. The next time you come to pray, chat at a communal meal, or volunteer to serve, you might begin a lifelong friendship with someone and create a “family of the heart” for yourself.

• Imagine how our members face the loss of a loved one or the challenge of a serious illness. Our community can give you the same comfort and strength that Rik and I received.

Here is how we’re going to make the pledges. Some of you brought your appeal cards with your ticket tonight. As you entered the building, others were given an envelope. Inside it are two cards. If you did not get an envelope, please raise your hand and a volunteer will bring one to you.

The white card is for your financial contribution. Fold over the tab on the dollar amount you want to give. Feel free to use several tabs to add up to the amount you want.

The blue card is for your spiritual contribution as a volunteer. Fold the tabs to choose how you want to be involved in our community.

The pink card is for Project Kesher: Connecting Beth Shalom. We want to know, “How connected do you feel to other people at Beth Shalom?” My goal for this year is to deepen our connections to one another through Project Kesher, bringing members closer together through special interests and activities. If you haven’t already marked the spot that most closely matches your answer, please do so after Yom Kippur and return the card to the shul office. A Project Kesher volunteer will contact you to follow up.

You make me proud to serve you, a community that is spiritually uplifting, generous, and nurturing of us all.

The Torah instructs us to choose life. For me, Jewish service was my choice of career and is my choice of life, meaning and joy. Gmar hatimah tovah, may we all be be sealed in the book of life for a good and healthy new year.



If this moves you as well, and you would like to make a donation to Congregation Beth Shalom, mail a check to 6800 35th Avenue NE, Seattle WA 98115, or click on our web site to donate online via credit card.

September 19, 2010

What it's really like in Israel

For those of you who have wondered what life is really like in Israel, here is a post from Judy Lash Balint's blog Jerusalem Diaries: In Tense Times, about how Israel observes Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Judy, a former Seattleite, gave me permission to share this.


I know most Jews call Yom Kippur by other names, but here in Jerusalem, it's the Day of No Traffic Lights. There are no traffic lights because there's no traffic on Yom Kippur in Jerusalem. The city just turns off the lights for 25 hours. Imagine—an entire country without any motor vehicle traffic apart from emergency vehicles and security patrols. The quiet is absolutely stunning. Starting from sundown on erev Yom Kippur, 25 hours of blissful peace and quiet. Think of the negative carbon footprint impact! No traffic; radio and TV stations are silent; no phones ringing; no home appliances whirring; no airplanes overhead—you can actually hear the wind in the trees and the song of the birds.

Pedestrians share the road with bicycles ridden by hundreds of secular Israelis who savor the day as a safe opportunity to try out their biking skills with no annoying traffic lights or crazy Israeli drivers. But the overwhelming sense is of a people taking a complete day to evaluate and perhaps change their lives.

Walking to Kol Nidre, the streets are thronged with people clad in white, to signify purity and a withdrawal for one day from the vanities of our usual fancy clothing.

Every synagogue is packed to overflowing, and several hundred community centers around the country also offer Yom Kippur services with emphasis on discussion and openness for those who might never before stepped foot in a synagogue.

After the Kol Nidre prayers are over, it's as if the entire city spills out onto the streets. Strolling along in the middle of streets usually clogged with cars is the main pastime as people saunter off home, greeting friends along the way.

This Yom Kippur, the weather was a perfect 75 degrees. Last year, I spent the closing Neilah service of Yom Kippur at a shul just down the street, as it was too hot to trek back down to my regular shul after the break.

As I took a seat at the very back of that neighborhood shul, an elderly woman was wheeled in by her son who parked her wheelchair just in front of me. Her fingers were severely misshapen and she wore thick glasses. She carefully unfolded a copy of the Amidah part of the Neilah service that had been blown up on large sheets of paper. Next, she carefully extracted a magnifying glass from a little box and oblivious to the Chazan, proceeded to painstakingly slide the magnifying glass over every word of the prayers. She completed her reading just as the congregation came to the closing verses and she joined in the fervent singing of 'Next year in a Rebuilt Jerusalem.' She even managed to clap as the men danced in a lively circle to express joy at having been given another opportunity to make amends before God.

After the piercing tones of the shofar marked the conclusion of another Day of No Traffic Lights and the congregation clamored out of the doors to get home for refreshments, half a dozen secular people from the neighborhood were arriving, hoping to hear the shofar. This particular shul finished a few minutes before the appointed time for the end of the holiday, so the neighbors were disappointed to have missed it, but another group was still praying in another part of the building, and the outsiders quickly made their way down the stairs to take in the tradition.

Before I even made it home, a few cars were already on the streets and the Day of No Traffic Lights was no more.


--
Posted By Judy Lash Balint to Jerusalem Diaries: In Tense Times at 9/18/2010 07:52:00 PM

Mourning

I just woke up suddenly to what I thoughts were the sounds of dog toenails, clickety-clack on the wood floor. I checked and Bobka was on the bed, asleep at my feet, Rik at my side. It might have been Pumpkin’s spirit roaming through the house.

Someday we will be together again, and Pumpkin will greet me over the rainbow bridge, his little tail wagging frantically with joy, and I will let him jump on me and lick my face and rub that special spot under his ears. Kitzel will come along, fluffy and furry, and she will sit on my shoulder and let me stroke her. Then Dunky, faithful friend of my youth, will arrive and the dogs will play together joyously in the tall green grass as Kitzel hunts nearby.

Oh my poor dear companions, who suffered so in their last days. I didn’t hold up my end of our bargain very well. You gave me unconditional love and I could neither prevent your pain nor take it away quickly enough.

I cried hot tears and sobbed in the dark, then had to get up to write this. It must be the pain and sorrow I wasn’t able to express from the bimah when speaking, singing to lead the congregation during yizkor, or praying on this Yom Kippur, come out in a dream. My beloved father, who is gone these two years. My dear childhood friend Charisse, dead for so many years it’s been longer than the time we knew each other. The friends I’ve lost to cancer, including the one I heard about before going to bed, five months after her death.

The last flames of the yahrzeit candle flickered out as I wrote this. It’s time to stop crying and try to sleep again. Peace to all of you, who I loved so. Although I mourn you all, you are still present in my heart.

September 17, 2010

The onion cookies


Since I was a little girl, every year on the day before Yom Kippur, we make the onion cookies. My great-grandmother Pauline taught her daughter; my grandmother taught my father; he wrote down her recipe and taught it to my sister and I. (My mother loves them as well and her role was always to bake the cookies while my father's job was to put together the dough, roll it out and cut the cookies with a small, round glass. We never used cookie cutters.)

Today's batch came out particularly well, as you can see. I've decided to adapt my grandmother's recipe and remove the water to make the dough less wet (and hopefully the cookies less soggy when we eat them tomorrow to break the fast).

Yum! This annual treat is a welcome blast from the past that tastes just as good as childhood memories.


MEMA'S (MARY NEUER COHEN’S) ONION COOKIES

(My father sat down with his mother one day as she baked these and took notes while she worked. Now five generations of Cohens have enjoyed onion cookies to break the fast after Yom Kippur.)

5 cups flour (or more, as needed)
small box of poppy seeds
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 teaspoons salt
4 eggs
1 cup vegetable or olive oil
3 large onions, finely chopped

In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix 4 cups flour and all dry ingredients with onions and poppy seeds.

In a separate bowl, beat oil and eggs together with a fork.

Make a well in the center of the flour/onion mixture and stir in beaten eggs and oil.

Add one additional cup of flour if wet.

Working in batches, roll dough out 1/4 – 1/2 inch thick on a floured board.

Cut cookies with a small round cookie cutter (or use the traditional juice glass dipped in flour). You can re-roll scraps into the next batch.

Place cookies about 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheet. Pierce each cookie with a fork.

Bake in preheated 400 degree oven for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown.

Cool cookies on racks and store in a sealed container with a piece of bread to take up any moisture. (Cookies tend to soften overnight.)

Spread with butter or cream cheese and enjoy!

Makes more than 50 cookies but can be halved.

Gmar hatima tova

On Yom Kippur we finish wishing one another a sweet new year and instead greet with "gmar hatima tova," may we be sealed for the good in the book of life.

I feel very well today and look forward to sharing the pre-fast meal with good friends, attending Kol Nidre services this evening, and to effectively appealing to our congregation for their continued financial and volunteer support. (I'll post my remarks after the holiday.) Tomorrow I hope to feel well enough to lead the congregation in the Yizkor service.

So, gmar hatima tova, I wish us all a year sealed for life.

September 16, 2010

Doggie dreams


Very early Wednesday morning, about 4 AM, Bobka the dog gave a sudden, high-pitched whine in his sleep. The sound woke Rik; my insomnia had kept me awake most of the night. We looked at each other in bed and said, what kind of nightmare can a dog have? They forgot to feed me?

As I lay awake after Rik and Bobka went back to sleep, it occurred to me that a dog's nightmare could actually be an existential experience. Dogs are pack animals. They never like to be alone. Anyone who has experienced the neighborhood phenomenon of the lonely, housebound dog who barks at any passing car or other animal, or who howls constantly, is familiar with this. Pumpkin, our beloved cocker spaniel, was particularly sensitive to loneliness. It didn't matter if we were gone five minutes, five hours, or five days, he gave us the same over-the-top, full-out, wiggle-butt greeting after he had to spend time alone.

I think that Bobka's nightmare was related to abandonment. Certainly Pumpkin had been abandoned twice that we know of: once at a shelter by his (presumably) original people, and once by the rescuer who rehabilitated him and gave him to us. He didn't know that the rescuer was providing only a temporary home. By the time Pumpkin came to us, he had separation anxiety which he never really got over, even after spending seven years with us. That's why we got Bobka, to be a companion for Pumpkin.

Perhaps we will never know if dogs experience existential angst about being alone. But I can't think of a better explanation for a doggie nightmare than the realization that ultimately, we are each alone, inside our own heads, no matter who is cuddled up next to us.

September 13, 2010

No chemo tuday

Dr G gave me today off chemo, at my request. I have big plans for Yom Kippur -- I have been asked to give the fundraising appeal on Friday night and also to lead Yizkor (memorial service) on Saturday. I love that he listens to me!

I checked in with Dr G about my latest symptoms. My compulsive touching of my fingertips (they're not numb, just sensitive) is probably residual hand-foot syndrome. Same with my more-than-usually sensitive toes. My vision has been a bit blurred, not enough to make it hard to drive, but enough to make it difficult to read. That's probably due to the steroids, and Dr G has agreed to reduce the dose next Monday. He wants to see me in a month, continuing the Adriamycin weekly, and have a liver ultrasound before my next appointment.

Dr G also sang to me today. (We were sharing favorite high holiday music.) He does this frequently with his patients, and told me about an elderly man who could not receive anesthetic for a procedure. So Dr G sang, and they sang duets. What a doc!

September 12, 2010

The best ice cream in the world

I grew up in Cincinnati, where Graeter's Ice Cream has been a local tradition for several generations. It's so addictive that we ex-pat Cincinnatians have been known to have it shipped to us when we need a fix.

Made in small batches in the "French pot" method, using only the best ingredients (and formerly their own chocolate too), a scoop of mocha chip is a thing of beauty. True coffee flavor, not too sweet, and filled with irregular hunks of chocolate, it's my personal favorite.

Check out this article in the Seattle Times. Graeter's may be coming to your town soon! When it's available in Seattle, you'll have to stand in line behind me.

September 10, 2010

Shana tova u'metuka


On Tuesday evening we celebrated the beginning of 5771, the new Jewish year. Rik and I sang, toasted, ate and drank, surrounded by the love of close friends.

The next day at synagogue I was honored with the Kohen aliyah to the Torah. Every time I am asked to read this blessing, I think of my father. For Dad, being a Kohen, a descendant of the ancient Jewish priests, was a special responsibility and privilege.

(I remember the first time I was offered the Kohen aliyah, at summer camp when I was about 15. I knew about it a few days in advance and had to call home long distance -- collect! -- from the pay phone to be sure I knew my full Hebrew name: Yachna Maryam bat Shimon Shir haKohen u'Masha Leah. Dad was startled but happy to oblige.)

We stayed at synagogue until the point in the service where some imitate the high priest and physically prostate oneself on the ground. This is a gesture that has moved me since I learned about it. In some synagogues it's only done by the rabbi, or cantor, or whoever is leading the service. In some synagogues it isn't done at all. (For instance, I never saw this in my childhood Reform temple.)

Normally during one line in this prayer we "bend the knee" to God. On Rosh Hashanah, for Ashkenazi Jews of Eastern European descent, the custom changes. I sink to the floor on my knees, bend forward, and touch my forehead to the floor. This literal, physical prostration -- so rare in Judaism -- challenges me to humble myself in the presence of the Ineffable. And perhaps especially for me, given all the cancer in my bones, it's a reminder of my physical abilities and limitations.

All over the synagogue, at this moment, you see people step out of the rows of seats and into the aisles. Men, women; young and old; even the six-month pregnant woman in front of me, crouch down.

Rabbi Dr Jeffrey M Cohen of London wrote in 2005,
But Aleinu does not stop there. It affirms that God is not aloof or containable within some heavenly region. He is not remote, or even above our heads. Ki Adonai hu ha’Elohim bashamayim mima’al v’al ha’aretz mitachat, “The Lord is God in heaven above and upon the earth beneath.” And here we have the reason for our full prostration on the ground: to give expression to the God who is not only located in the highest heavens, but also on earth below, indeed beneath our very feet.
I find this a most beautiful custom.

After services ended we enjoyed a festive meal with friends. Later in the afternoon many trekked down to the beach to perform tashlich, the casting away of our sins. For the first time since moving to Seattle, I was unable to walk down and back again, and so Rik and I made a quiet exit and came home for the evening.

All in all, it was a wonderful holiday. I am happy to be starting a new year!

September 07, 2010

Adriamycin #2

Today's chemo adventure was more complicated than ever before.

It started at 3:30 PM when I arrived at the Swedish Cancer Institute. Dr G had written the orders for yesterday. The Ca Institute doesn't give chemo on holiday Mondays. We knew this a week ago, and had scheduled an appointment for Tuesday. But did anyone suggest Dr G change the date of the orders? No. (Personally, it never occurred to me that orders were dated.)

After waiting for more than an hour and a half, Dr G amended the orders in the online system. I went downstairs to the lab for a blood draw. The nurse could not get blood return from my port. I raised my arm, I coughed, I turned from side to side -- nothing.

She took me back to a spot where I could lie down. Same thing -- cough, raise arm, turn to left side, turn to right side. Nothing. At this point I suggested the nurse remove this needle and try accessing my port a second time. The same nothing happened again.

However, they have a back up plan. A phlebotomist can draw blood from my elbow to test, then I can receive alteplase to remove a suspected fibrin sheath. (The nurse explains this is when a catheter, such as my port-o-cath, becomes encased in a fibrotic sheath, which may harbor bacteria and make it difficult to draw blood from the line). The alteplase is a good thing, since it will clear out my port and Adriamycin can only be given through a port and not through an IV line. However, it takes at least 30 minutes for the alteplase to be effective. The tech is able to get blood on the first poke (and I only allow one).

At 5:30 I go back upstairs to get the alteplase. My friend S and I take a break and I buy us dinner (Japanese-style crepes at Crepan; mine spicy tuna, hard-boiled egg and lettuce, hers mushrooms, basil and cheese). By 6:15 we are back in the Ca Institute.

We wait for the nurse to test the port. Voila! She can get blood return. The nurse gives me the IV Emend, Aloxi and Decadron over 45 minutes. Then she uses the IV push technique to give me the Adriamycin (takes about 10 minutes). I am sucking on ice to prevent mouth sores and talking a mile a minute from the Decadron. We leave the Ca Institute at 7:45 PM. I've been there more than four hours altogether.

I am hopped up on Decadron, would still be talking a mile a minute if I wasn't typing so speedily. I think I will suck on a popsicle to help prevent more mouth sores, put on my jammies, turn on the tube and try to relax. Maybe I will be able to sleep tonight. Maybe.

September 06, 2010

Feelin' groovy

Well, I'm not really sure what that means, but I seem to feel okay these days. The first treatment of Adriamycin has been tolerable. My new compression sleeve gizmo is working well, although it can be kind of hot to wear. As my friend I points out, it's like wearing a very long oven mitt.

I haven't been sleeping well, even after taking some Ativan at bedtime. It may be that I am too used to the 0.5 mg dose I take for it to be effective. It may be the hot flashes that wake me up. Last night's 3 AM restlessness turned into the dog waking up and deciding to get out of bed, then woofing to be let outdoors. Rik was sound asleep, so I got up and dragged Bobka back to his dog bed. We both slept some more, but I keep awakening with hot flashes. I stayed in bed until past 10 AM this morning.

The good news is that I have a pile of ironing and some silver polishing to do, and I have enough energy to do both tasks.

More chemo tomorrow.

September 02, 2010

Blogger stats

Every so often I read up on what's new with Blogger, the site that hosts my blog. Today I saw that it's now tracking statistics since May. Here are some of the most interesting ones I've found:

There have been 9,621 page views since May 2010.

I have readers in the US, Canada, Hungary, UK, Australia, Germany, Netherlands, France, Iceland and South Korea. You know who you are!

Quite a few people found my blog through bcmets.org, a list for women with metastatic breast cancer. And of course plenty of people find me through Google.

Most people are using Windows (no surprise there) but some are Mac users and a few read my blog through their iPad, iPhone or other mobile device.

A small number of people found my blog by searching for my friend Josh Isaac's z"l blog. Zichrono l'vracha, may his memory be a blessing.

Rebound insomnia

Last night I had a little queasy tummy before bedtime, and eating a dry cracker didn't quite do the trick. I pulled out the Zofran (anti-nausea med) and re-read the label. Sure enough, "may cause drowsiness" is right there in the tiny print. I took one and got into bed thinking I would fall straight asleep. NOT.

Three hours later, I'd been tossing and turning regularly. I was too stubborn to take Ambien or Ativan, and wasn't sure how the meds would mix with each other anyway. At 3 AM Rik got up. At 6 AM the alarm clock went off. I really don't think I slept for more than 30 minutes at a time all night long.

This rebound insomnia comes whenever I've taken a sleep aid for too many nights in a row. I'd been taking Ativan since I've been bandaging my arm at night and it's hard for me to sleep that way. A few nights ago I decided to switch to Ambien when I felt the Ativan wasn't working as well.

Perhaps I should have combined the Decadron high from Monday's chemo with coming off sleep aids. This makes three nights in a row of not-best-quality sleep. I will try to take a nap this afternoon to keep my head on for a meeting tonight.

Oh, and I finally got my made-to-measure JoviPak arm sleeve. It's big and blue, with quilted channels to provide compression, has a special extra pad to control swelling in the back of my hand, and fits perfectly. It should help me sleep better while providing lymphedema compression.

September 01, 2010

Day three post-Adriamycin

My personal engine has been revving practically non-stop since receiving 12 mg of Decadron (a steroid) before Monday's chemo. I slept fitfully on Monday night, had plenty of energy on Tuesday to attend four hours' worth of meetings and talk on the phone all evening. I slept better on Tuesday night but woke at 3 AM and was unable to get back to sleep until about 7 AM, then slept until past 9:00. I will report this to Dr G and ask if he will consider reducing the steroid dose back to 8 mg, which is what I received with the Doxil.

I expect some kind of a crash later in the week as the steroids and the long-acting anti-nausea med wear off. I will take the third of three doses of Emend later this morning. If I experience any nausea tomorrow or later, I do have plenty of other anti-nausea meds, plus ginger ale and ginger tea, on hand. I've started carrying the anti-nausea meds and ginger tea bags in my purse again, just in case.

In the meantime it's been pleasant but weird to feel a more normal amount of energy. I have been talking and typing extra fast, although chemo brain still insinuates itself on occasion when I can't think of the specific word I need.

The sun is out after a whole day of cold and rain yesterday, I took a walk with Bobka the Dogka, and hope to have lunch with a friend. That's a good day.

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I dance with cancer. Oy!