September 25, 2013

End of Sukkot holiday

It's been rainy and cold as we end the Sukkot holiday. I don't want to walk the dog or eat in the sukkah when the weather has changed so quickly and dramatically from summer to winter. So I made Rik drag up the boxes of wool sweaters from the basement and I changed over my wardrobe in the hope that I could warm up!

Thank goodness Bob the dog is happy walking or not walking. In fact, his favorite pastime seems to be laying on a dog bed and sleeping.

Now I'm off to get Avastin-ized!

September 19, 2013

Xeloda round 9 and holiday update

I finished the ninth cycle of Xeloda on Tuesday and I am paying the price for agreeing to up the dose back to max again. I just never remember that increasing the dose gives me terrible side effects of more hand-foot syndrome, diarrhea, and fatigue. I stumble around because my feet hurt and I sleep until late morning because I'm so tired. At least I have the good tincture of opium to dry up the diarrhea. But for four days in a row?!

The Jewish new year holy days have been lovely. This year's fast for Yom Kippur was particularly long because the holiday fell so early in September. We gathered for a quick dinner at 5 PM and headed off to synagogue at 6:15 or so to get good (i.e. comfy and not folding) seats. Services began at 7:15 and the fast ended at 8:15 the following day, so it was a bit longer than a 5 hour fast.

I enjoyed leading Yizkor, the memorial service. It's an honor and a pleasure to help people remember their loved ones who have died. I try hard to give enough emotionally so that I can connect with people's feelings, but not so much that my focus on my own losses distracts from my leading the prayers.

Ne'ilah, the closing service, is usually highly energetic at our synagogue. We've been together as a community for a long day, we've prayed together, sung together, and listened to words of wisdom from members and our rabbi. We conclude with a final blast from not one shofar but many shofarot. Anyone, of any age, who brought a shofar to the synagogue can stand up in front and try to hold the longest note. The noise defines cacophony, and the shofar blower holding the longest note this year was, as usual, my friend K. Man, can that man make his shofar sing!

The next day Rik and some friends built the sukkah, a shack resembling what our ancestors lived in while they were bringing in the crops. The harvest aspect is like Thanksgiving, and the decorating aspect is kind of like Christmas (evergreen boughs, lots of silly decorations, and lights). This year marks the 19th since Rik and I met during the Sukkot holiday. He says building the sukkah is a lot of work, but the finished product always makes him happy, because it reminds him of the day we met.

September 13, 2013

Brain scan results good

My recent brain MRI shows stable disease -- some mets are 1 mm smaller, some are 1 mm larger, but overall this means stable disease. Now that's a nice way to start the new Jewish year.

Gmar hatima tova -- May you be inscribed (in the Book of Life) for Good.

September 03, 2013

Starting a new year

Tomorrow night marks the eve of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. I have a lot to be thankful for as this High Holyday season begins.

I appear to be in good health, with tumor markers continuing to fall while I am taking Xeloda. There are few side effects, and the most annoying (Hand-Foot Syndrome) has responded well to henna. I would like to continue taking this chemo as long as possible because it is so effective and so tolerable.

Today my shrink Dr Dobie offered suggestions on how to treat my chronic insomnia. I was taking the Cymbalta at the wrong time of day! Tomorrow I will begin taking it in the morning. I can increase my dose of Ativan and take it 90 minutes before bedtime. These two shifts should help me get better sleep.

I just spent the long weekend in Cincinnati with my mother and sister. We went for a family wedding, but this was also the first time we'd ever taken a trip together, just us girls. We laughed and talked and had a great time. I took the opportunity to reconnect with three high school friends. We started at 6:30 pm and closed the restaurant down at 11 pm. Marvelous! Plus I ate Graeter's ice cream every day. The wedding was fun too, as was spending time with my distantly related cousins. We've been close since 1968, when my family moved to Cincinnati, and have shared one another's simchas over the years. I think the bride is my third cousin, once removed.

As far as spiritual health, all I can say is that I am a practical Jew in the way that Hadassah is practical Zionism. Hadassah builds the land of Israel; I cook, sing, dance and generally find ways to bring joy to my life on a daily basis.

That's what I've learned through 11 years of living with advanced cancer: live your life with joy every day.

L'shanah tova u'metukah -- to a good and sweet year!