October 31, 2011

Last day of Pinktober

I read on Facebook about a woman who uses the last day of October to remember those she's lost to breast cancer. I thought this was a beautiful custom to share.

I remember....

My grandmother, Mary Neuer Cohen, who also had metastatic breast cancer and lymphedema. In the late '60s and early '70s, no one knew how to control lymphedema. She suffered with an arm the size of her leg. My first cousin became an oncologist because of Mema's cancer.

(My other grandmother, Esther Aaronson Poppel, lived for a long time with breast cancer and as far as I know it was not responsible for her death at a ripe age.)

Emily, my dear young friend. We met on an airplane going to a conference on the other coast and talked for the entire time there and back again. We could talk for hours, despite the differences in our ages and backgrounds. She only wanted to live to turn thirty and died soon after her 30th birthday, leaving a husband and two young children.

Dena, who underwent a simple surgical procedure and entered a coma from which she never woke. Dena used to say that with neuropathy, she could wear the fancy shoes. Her feet were so numb from neuropathy that she couldn't feel how uncomfortable the shoes were! Her husband didn't know her wishes regarding hospice care because they hadn't figured out how to talk about it. She left a young child.

The "other" Jill, who I met by accident when I heard her say her name. I was near her house a few months ago and recognized it, almost by accident, as the seeting of our many talks. She left a husband and young child.

Wynne, who I met at a young survivors retreat in Las Vegas. She looked me up on a trip to Seattle and from that point on we became friends. Wynne and her husband had just adopted an infant daughter when her cancer took a turn for the worse. She died before her daughter's first birthday.

And although they didn't have breast cancer, I remember...

Josh, the bravest person I knew, who lost his left hand after a growing sarcoma forced amputation and who with his wife raised three children, worked in his field, volunteered, wrote poetry, and made a movie about his struggles with cancer (My Left Hand). He was a mystic and spiritual person who brought the spark of the divine closer to all.

My beloved friend from high school, Rabbi Charisse Kranes. Although she died from cervical cancer and not breast cancer, she figured hugely in my developing years and helped make me the person I am today.




My father, who suffered from non-Hodgkins lymphoma and whose treatment may have helped him decline from robust man to bed-bound. Still talkative in his last days, he told me he wasn't going to die, even when his quality of life was very poor. On our final visit we reminisced with my mother about childhood days with my sister. Now, as my mom says, there's no one left who remembers when they were all young together.

Zichrono l'vracha, may their memories be for a blessing to all who knew them.

Today's update

In preparation for today's PET/CT scan, I had to eat a special diet for the previous 24 hours. No carbohydrates at all; high fat and protein. That meant no milk in coffee; hardly any vegetables; no fruit at all.

For breakfast I made a two egg omelet, sauteed in butter, filled with sauteed mushrooms and some cheese and a cup of herbal tea. (Missed my morning mocha ALOT!) At lunch I polished off the rest of the leftover chicken from a couple of days ago. I snacked on a handful of almonds. At dinner, green salad, freshly picked from our garden, and broiled lamb chops. I drank a lot of water too. What did I miss? No bread, potatoes, CHOCOLATE. That last was the hardest to give up, even for a day.

Then I fasted for 12 hours before the scan. I managed to drink all of the glucose solution without too much gastro-intestinal trouble. After the scan, I met some friends for brunch where I devoured a buckwheat pancake topped with strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and freshly whipped cream and a huge mug of coffee. After I cam home I immediately ate a piece of chocolate, thereby getting my daily dose of vitamin CH. I guess I'll have to have two pieces today to make up for missing yesterday.

I get the scan results from Dr G on Wednesday, as well as my latest tumor markers (hopefully at normal for the first time in a long time). We'll see what comes next.

My Avastin-related bloody nose has subsided a bit and I no longer have mucus running down my face if I can't get to a tissue in time. I am really looking forward to this week off treatment and hope to recover full strength soon.

Now I plan to get some nap time on the sofa, since my evening will no doubt be disturbed by several trick or treaters. We don't really celebrate Halloween. I moved the carved Bob O'Lantern to the front steps and will light a candle in it to encourage some kids to come to the door. Maybe I'll see some neighbors and former neighbors. Teens, stay away. Halloween is for the little kids.


October 28, 2011

Better today

My nose was slightly less bloody today (only used 15 tissues before noon). So far I've had coffee with a friend, ran two errands, and done three loads of laundry. Next up is to start some soup for dinner -- I'm considering squash/pear bisque -- and maybe bake an apple galette for dessert. I must feel better.

We have no guests for Shabbat dinner tonight, since I may have to pick up the car from the auto repair shop and didn't know what time it would be ready. Still, I like to make a good dinner at least once in the week and hot soup sounds very appealing on this cool, rainy day.

My toes, however, are warmly ensconced in my Uggs. It turns out that cold negatively impacts neuropathy. I have been trying to keep my tootsies warm at home and while out without over-wearing any one pair of shoes. Today the Uggs won the toss of what to wear.

October 26, 2011

More Ladarke

I LOVE to sing!

Checking In

It's been a tough couple of days, more so than usual.

Monday's chemo took 5.5 hours for a 90 minute infusion. This time Dr G got everything approved and properly "signed" on time, but the Swedish Cancer Institute lab had a machine breakdown and couldn't process my creatinine. They had to send the sample over to the hospital lab and of course that took MUCH longer than usual. I did have company with two friends and went out to lunch afterwards with one of them. Then I came home and crashed hard on the sofa for an hour or so. I am thankful to have next week off treatment.

Tuesday was a continuation of the recent busy days. I woke up early again and then waited most of the morning for an insurance adjuster who didn't have the right appointment time. Next I went to my weekly meeting with the rabbi and synagogue executive director. Then it was off to the podiatrist to get my toe checked out.

Yes, I have another doctor. I thought this was an infection from earlier in the summer, but Dr Lo says it was a toenail curving into the nail bed. I also had him look at my other big toe and he confirmed a fungal infection. So he trimmed back both nails )one more dramatically than the other) and I am to apply an over-the-counter anti-fungal ointment every night until the nail regrows. Maybe this will prevent the fungus from returning, but with my compromised immune system, it's doubtful.

My feet are still painful from the peripheral neuropathy but I also noticed numbness for the first time. Dr Lo the podiatrist says this could be addressed through additional gabapentin or maybe a new medication called Lyrica. I think I tried this last year, because I still have a bottle of it on hand. I will ask Dr G when I see him next week.

Today was spent in front of the computer on a synagogue project, finally going to the grocery store and blowing my nose over and over again. I had a major case of the Avastin bloody and runny nose. I again crashed hard of the sofa and slept for more than an hour with Bobka the dog nestled at my side. Hard to imagine who was happier about it -- him or me.

I have a PET scan on Monday and hope for good results. Either way I plan to tell Dr G about the dramatically increased neuropathy and to ask him to consider a treatment break. It's tough to balance controlling my cancer with keeping a good quality of life, but he is usually receptive to my concerns. And if I can't walk properly, it's hard to have a good QOL.

October 21, 2011

Ladarke at Croatia Fest

Seattleites can hear my choir Dunava, along with Vela Luka Croatian Dance Ensemble, Dave and the Dalmatians, and other special guests, in a FREE special performance of Ladarke, a Croatian choral piece composed by Emil Cossetto.

Croatia Fest
Sunday, October 23
3:55 PM
Seattle Center Exhibition Hall

Click here to view a YouTube video of the last time this production was mounted in 1994.


October 20, 2011

Bobka update


Bob the dog is recovering nicely from his dental cleaning and surgery. This evening he "graduated" from canned food to dry kibble soaked in warm water, which he ate so rapidly I don't think any bits touched his teeth.

The x-ray report wasn't as good. Evidently he has compression of several spinal discs. The vet recommends we keep Bob very quiet for the next two to four weeks, to ease any pressure on his spine. That means no walks at all, just going into the backyard to pee and poop. Bob could go for years like this and not need surgery. But we're also supposed to watch for pain, incontinence and/or difficulty moving, which would be indicators of a much more serious condition than the vet currently thinks is the case. The vet was happy to hear that a few months ago we started using a harness instead of attaching Bob's leash to his collar.

The dental/surgical follow up will be in two weeks as well. Maybe by then the vet will allow us to go on short walks. In the meantime Bob seems happy to snuggle on the sofa and has no trouble jumping up, as I realized when I saw a Bob-shaped arrangement of a previously carefully folded blanket.

October 18, 2011

A long couple of days

What a long day yesterday was!

First I dropped off Bob the dog at the vet for a dental cleaning and x-ray to check out his hoip. He'd been complaining while scratching and grooming himself so we were following up. The dental thing is annual.

Then I was at the Swedish Cancer Institute for four and a half hours for my 60 minute infusion. The lab was very busy and I waited there for almost an hour. Then G came and we hung out in the waiting room for an other hour. By 11 AM or so I was in a chemo chair hoping for a quick infusion and off we would go! but no. Dr G's computer orders still don't sync with what I know he wants (i.e., this is day 8 and I get Abraxane only, no Avastin). More talk on the phone while G and I wait, and wait, and wait. Finally all is confirmed and I started the Abraxane just after noon, was done just after 1 PM. Then I had to make some follow up appointments, so it was about 1:45 before we sat down to eat lunch.

The sun was shining and I still felt good, so after lunch I went to the grocery store to pick up a few things. By the time I got home and unloaded the bags, my energy had started to flag. Of course by then I had to find out about the dog before I could take a nap.

It turns out Bobka needed 16 teeth extracted! It was supposed to be a routine dental cleaning with two suspicious teeth, but in the course of the cleaning, they found periodontal disease and loose teeth. Most of the ones pulled were the front upper and lower tiny incisors, the side incisors I had discussed with the vet, and three back molars. 


Needless to say I was more than surprised to hear this news. The tech also told me that BOb had to stay overnight at the vet (at no charge, thankfully, but still...) because he hadn't come through the anesthesia well. That scared me.


I tried to lie down for a bit until RIk came home because I wasn't sure I was processing all this dog-related information very well. Together we called and spoke directly with the vet, who assured us that all the extractions were medically necessary. He also said that Bob needed to stay overnight because he needed intravenous pain management. He'd come through the anesthesia fine! After that reassurance I was able to sleep, which I did, from 5 PM until 7 AM this morning. 




Today I went off to Swedish for my Neulasta shot to boost my white blood cell count. Then I went straight to the vet, where Bob greeted me with enthusiasm. We came home, he roamed our yard contentedly and is now happily cuddled up in his dog bed.


And it's only 11 AM. I wish I could crash again, but I have a noon meeting now and a dinner meeting tonight. We will see how well I do as the day progresses. At least the sun is still shining!

October 15, 2011

A new addition to our sukkah

It's a Bob O'Lantern, hand-carved by our friend D, the proud owner of two Cavalier King Charles spaniels.

Walking the 3 Day

My sister has conquered day two of the Komen 3 Day in Philadelphia:

Sister S (on the right) and her walking buddy.

October 14, 2011

LOL

While talking with my sister yesterday, she told me a laugh-out-loud story. It seems one of her Facebook friends also had a family tradition of making onion cookies. This friend had lost their family's recipe and put out a call to her relatives -- who had Grandma's recipe? A niece replied that she had it. When my sister, curious about this other onion cookie recipe, asked to see it, it was the exactly the same as our family recipe. How could this be?

Turns out the niece had found the recipe online. From MY BLOG!

If you too want to try the Cohen family recipe for onion cookies, look here.

Go Sis!

This weekend my sister participates in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure® in Philadelphia. Participants must raise a minimum of $2300 and train to increase their stamina and ability to walk 20 miles each day.

I am proud that S raised $6500 for Komen. When we spoke yesterday, she was planning to spend the evening with her walking buddy, decorating their backpacks with the names of those they are honoring and remembering in their walk. In our family, this includes both our grandmothers (as well as me, of course). S also plans to recognize her friends and colleagues who have had breast cancer.

Here's what S wrote on her donation page:






With your help, I can make a difference
For over 12 years I have watched my sister, Jill Cohen, live with
metastatic breast cancer. Her journey has been inspiring. Many of us
have watched loved ones struggle with breast cancer, survive breast
cancer, and too many have lost their lives to breast cancer. The Susan
G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure is something I can do now, and with hope,
prayer and together with your financial support we can make a
difference in the lives of many.
The Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure™ is a 60-mile walk over the
course of three days. Net proceeds from the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for
the Cure™ are invested in breast cancer research and community
programs. The Philadelphia 3-day is October 14-16, 2011.
Jill has benefited since the early years of her diagnosis from the
Susan G. Komen Foundation. She has attended many conferences for young
women with breast cancer, support groups, and programs with scholarship
from Komen.
I am walking the 3-Day with my dear friend Erica King. We have been
training since April, with a small "break" to heal my broken ankle.
Since we need to get to 20 mile increments, you may see us all over
Cherry Hill, logging the training miles! And yes, we proudly wear
pink.
You can read more about Jill's story on her blog, Dancing with Cancer

My thanks and gratitude for your support.

I am sure my sister will have a great time and achieve her goal of walking all 60 miles, just as her fundraising more than tripled the minimum required. You go, sis!



 (FYI, Charity Navigator rates Komen with four stars (Exceptional: Exceeds industry standards and outperforms most charities in its Cause.). Although I personally feel Komen should give more money to research and less to awareness (who in the USA isn't aware of breast cancer??), page 13 of their 2009-2010 annual report says they spend 7% on treatment, 24% on research, 15% on screening and 34% on education.)

Back to the old template

I received some feedback about the new "dynamic" template, and decided to revert to the old format.

Writing Chick said it best:


Hm... seems snazzy, but I don't like it.
For one, all information about you is gone. There used to be a sidebar with links and information about you... no more? I tried several views, and it doesn't appear in any of them.
Your tag line, which starts with "I got breast cancer in 1999...", is cut off, and only visible if you hover the mouse over it -- but then it appears with HTML tags visible, which isn't pretty. 
The variance of views (Magazine, Flipcard, etc.) seem fun, but it looks like everything else besides the blog entries themselves got cut or altered. Wouldn't be surprised if Blogger switches it back. 

So we are back to basics for the time being. I think Blogger will eventually create all the widgets for the side bars etc. in the Dynamic Views. We will see!

October 13, 2011

Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day 2011


Today, October 13, is Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day. I received this email from Living Beyond Breast Cancer this morning. You can help raise money specifically for metastatic breast cancer.

For Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day 2011, Genentech has partnered with Living Beyond Breast Cancer, MetaVivor and Metastatic Breast Cancer Network to help support people living with MBC — this time with a focus on how friends and family can help.
  Today, they are launching a new video that provides a look at how the disease is different from early breast cancer. The video reflects the sentiments of an online survey of 760 people with MBC and provides us with simple ideas on how friends and family can help these women with their journey. For every video view, Genentech will donate $1 to MBC initiatives and programs (up to $20,000).
Please help us “spread the word” in these three easy steps:

1.   Facebook:       
a.   Replace your profile picture today with the Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day image on your right.      b.   Post a “status update” about “Faces of MBC” that links directly to the video:
            Example: Today is Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day. For each view of Faces of MBC video, $1 will be donated to MBC initiatives (up to $20K). Watch today – www.facesofmbc.org.

2.   Twitter:    
       a.   Follow @facesofmbc and re-tweet messages about #FacesofMBC      
Example: New video gives a voice to people with metastatic #breastcancer. Check out www.facesofmbc.org to spread awareness and raise $1.   

E-mail: Send a link to the video – www.facesofmbc.org to your friends and family via e-mail


October 12, 2011

Quick update

Monday's chemo went even slower than usual. I arrived at 11 AM but the lab was backed up, so they didn't take me until 11:30 AM. I waited more than 90 minutes for lab results and a go ahead from Dr G to treat me. Thanks to my good friends G and R I had company almost the whole time, but still! 4+ hours for a 90 minute infusion? I just can't get over it and yet it happens time after time.

I was so drained by the time I arrived home at about 5 PM that I got into bed and stayed there until this morning. (Rik ordered himself a pizza and looked after Bob the dog.)

Our sukkah - note the grape lights
I felt much better when I got up but was tired after the morning dog walk and a few errands. I waited at home for the delivery of the new Blomberg washer and dryer. The installation finished by 4 PM and I have been catching up on email, doing some cooking for the Sukkot holiday beginning tonight. We're having chicken with prunes, capers and olives plus quinoa. Tomorrow's menu will feature pear-squash soup. I'm lucky that I can eat well while on chemo.

Happy Sukkot to one and all!

October 10, 2011

Trying something new

Blogger has created new Dynamic templates. What do you think of this version, called Magazine? It's a different way to showcase my blog. Just click on a post to read the whole thing. I'd like your feedback.

May her memory be for a blessing

We drove to Vancouver BC today for the funeral of Rik's "aunt." The two families were so close when they all lived in Montreal. The kids called all the parents aunt and uncle and they refer to one another to this day as cousins.

Auntie E was devoted to her family. She found tremendous opportunity for self-expression in  caring for her husband, children and grandchildren. She died suddenly last week while visiting her daughter's family and due to the impending Yom Kippur holiday, the funeral was delayed until today. Normally Jews bury our dead within 24 or 48 hours, a custom which doubtless harkens back to our ancient desert days.

Rik's cousin, the rabbi who married us, gave a moving eulogy about his mother. His voice cracked with emotion as he reminisced about the close connections between the two families. The burial immediately followed the funeral service, and as is the custom, everyone present helped. We throw shovels full of dirt into the grave, using the back of the shovel at first to show our reluctance. It's the last act we can do for another human being, which they can never repay. The thump of dirt on the coffin is the most final sound you can imagine and truly brings home a sense of loss.

We then formed two columns and the mourners walked between them to the cemetery's exit as we offered the traditional words: May God comfort you among all the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem. Last we washed our hands, symbolically purifying ourselves.

After the funeral and burial we returned to Uncle S's home for the meal of consolation. We Jews also believe that it's important to show immediately that life does continue for the mourners. We ate round foods: hard-boiled eggs, lentils and chickpeas, which symbolize the circle of life. As we talked with one another about Auntie E, I noted that G had torn the kriah on his tie. I learned the Montreal custom is for men to tear their neckties and for women to tear a scarf which they wear around their necks.

Rik and I stayed as long as we could, then drove home to Seattle. On the drive he told me more stories about their growing up together. The whole day was a chance for me to become even closer to Rik and his family.

Zichrona l'vracha - may her memory be for a blessing to all who knew her.


(If you want more information about Jewish mourning customs, I find that this site is particularly informative.)

October 07, 2011

Onion cookies

Last night my sister called with the annual reminder that it's time to bake the onion cookies. This family recipe was handed from my grandmother Mary Neuer Cohen to my father, and from him to my sister and I. It's our special way to break the fast after Yom Kippur. You can find the recipe here. I baked a half-batch because we only have 12 people coming over to break the fast, and a full batch yields 40+ cookies.

There is nothing quite like an onion cookie fresh from the oven and slathered with butter or cream cheese. Think of it as a savory Jewish biscuit, complete with chopped onions, black pepper and poppy seeds.

(I almost forgot to add the onions; they were on a cutting board on the other side of the sink and not in my direct line of sight. I had to put all the cut cookies back into the bowl and knead the onions into the dough. Fortunately they still came out fine!)

I bake them a day ahead to serve after the fast. The cookies can get soft after a day in a baking tin, even with a piece of bread placed in the tin to take up the moisture form the onions. I have figured out how to improve upon the piece of bread in the tin. You heat the cookies briefly on a baking sheet in a low oven to restore crispness. Still delicious!


I also baked four loaves of crown challah to bring to the pre-fast meal this afternoon and a chocolate-zucchini cake for the break-the-fast tomorrow night. I'm on a baking roll! (Pardon the unintentional pun.)

Wishing all gmar hatima tova, a good conclusion to the days of awe. We should all be written and sealed in the book of life for the next year.

October 06, 2011

Missing them

I have spent the past few days practicing yizkor, the memorial service for Yom Kippur. Yesterday I had the bright idea to find the CD my friend T made of an old tape recording. My dearest friend from high school, Charisse Kranes, became a rabbi. Only a few months after her ordination, she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. She attributed the hard lump she felt in her belly, plus the various tummy aches and pains, to nerves as she approached ordination. Instead she had a tumor the size of a grapefruit.

After surgery and while she was undergoing chemo, Charisse got married. A year or so later, when she and her husband had moved to the Bay area, I asked her to record some high holiday music for me. This became the "love note," as she called it, which my friend T had transferred to CD for me a few years ago. Charisse died in 1989 at the age of 32.

Imagine my surprise when I didn't recognize Charisse's voice on the CD. Who was that talking and singing? Only after a few moments had passed did I realize that I was listening to Charisse, z"l. I spent the next while labeling all the digital tracks and uploading them to iTunes. I didn't find the particular tune I'd hoped she'd recorded, but that brief trip down memory lane made me realize how much I missed Charisse.

Preparing for yizkor also makes me think of my father, Sheldon Charles Cohen. He did in 2008 at almost 80 years old. How I wish that my husband had had the chance to know my dad when he was younger, less bitter and more happy. Dad survived a stroke at age 62 and spent his last few years with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. He gradually let go his hold on life. On my last visit, when I was deputized by my mother and sister to find out Dad's wishes regarding a funeral etc., he was still filled with hope. I had the hard talk with him, and he asked why I was crying. He said he wasn't planning to die. This, while he was practically immobile in a nursing home bed. Somehow, we never do want to let go of life, even when we are dying.

The death of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs is all over the news today. I heard a recording of him giving the 2005 commencement speech at Stanford University. Here is the part that struck me in the heart:
No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.
So I practice my yizkor tunes, think of my departed family and friends, and hope that I will do justice to what they taught me this coming Yom Kippur. Zichrono l'vracha, may the memories of our loved ones be for a blessing to all who knew them.

October 04, 2011

Appliance rant - don't buy Whirlpool!

We own four Whirlpool appliances: a dishwasher, refrigerator, washer and dryer. The washer began having issues just after the warranty period ended. Recently more issues arose with this three year old washer. The white cycle stopped working. The normal cycle stopped working. And then it died on every cycle. Turns out the electronic circuit board has failed. Repairs were estimated at more than $400, almost the price of a new washer. So I thought I'd call Whirlpool and see if their customer service department is really service-oriented.

After waiting on hold for more than ten minutes, the customer services representative assured me there was nothing she could do since the washer is past the limited one year warranty period. I asked to speak with a manager, waited on hold for another ten minutes, and was told the same thing: the machine is no longer within the warranty period, so Whirlpool can't (read won't) help.

Moral of the story: NEVER BUY WHIRLPOOL AGAIN. And tell everyone you know not to buy Whirlpool products.


October 03, 2011

Pinkwashing

Check out this YouTube video about pinkwashing.

Take action at www.thinkbeforeyoupink.org.
Pinkwashing has reached a new low this year with "Promise Me," a perfume commissioned by the giant of the breast cancer movement, Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Promise Me contains chemicals not listed in the ingredients that: (a) are regulated as toxic and hazardous, (b) have not been adequately evaluated for human safety, and (c) have demonstrated negative health effects.

Think Before You Pink defines Pinkwasher: (pink’-wah-sher) noun. A company or organization that claims to care about breast cancer by promoting a pink ribbon product, but at the same time produces, manufactures and/or sells products that are linked to the disease.

So PLEASE don't buy the pink ribbon products. If you really want to support this cause and find a cure, make a donation to a charity that puts their money to good effect:
METAvivor (funding research exclusively into metastatic breast cancer)
The Breast Cancer Research Foundation (the name says it all)

October 02, 2011

A happy new year to all

Rosh Hashanah was terrific but it's been a long few days. We celebrated the beginning of the holiday at dinner Wednesday night with the usual gang of friends (family of the heart, I call it). On Thursday, after a long morning of praying, we had a long afternoon of eating and socializing with more friends, some family of the heart and others we have shared this holiday with for as long as I can remember.

The ancient Jewish custom of tashlich involves casting our sins into the water symbolically using a piece of bread. We always do this with friends at Alki Beach. This year I noticed a group of very Orthodox men in black suits, white shirts and hats. We moved a little further along the beach and read a few words from the prayerbook, sang a few songs with water themes, and did a little private meditation.

On Friday I went to synagogue while Rik taught school. After more praying, I enjoyed yet another large meal with synagogue friends and headed home to prepare for Shabbat dinner.

Do you detect a praying and eating theme here? I often tell a joke about what's behind so many Jewish holidays: They tried to kill us. God saved us. Let's eat.

Saturday was Shabbat Shuva, the Sabbath between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur commonly known as the Sabbath of Returning. There are some special additions to the prayer service on this day, and I've been leading a particular service for many years and did so again. Because the new year holiday fell on Thursday and Friday, there were fewer people than usual in synagogue by Saturday. Three days in a row is more than many (most?) Jews can handle.

By Saturday afternoon I was pooped beyond belief. I crashed hard on the sofa and slept for a few hours, ate a light meal of leftovers and watched a DVD.

This morning I felt enough better to make french toast from the remaining challah, go to the grocery store, and have a long visit with some close girlfriends. We went out for dinner (Greek avgolemono soup at The Continental Restaurant and Pastry Shop). Now I am in my jammies, ready to put my feet up.

I am pretty tired after all these new year's activities, but I am extraordinarily happy to have had the energy to celebrate as much as I did. I think this bodes well for the new year!

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I dance with cancer. Oy!