September 29, 2007

The annual sukkah party

Today was the Shabbat of Sukkot and the 13th anniversary of the day Rik and I met. Since we married in 1995, we have held a sukkah party every year to share our anniversary.

[What's a sukkah, you ask? A sukkah is a temporary shanty Jews built in ancient times when living in the fields while bringing in the crops at harvest time. For more than two thousand years, during the festival of Sukkot (Tabernacles), Jews have built these shacks. The sukkah is made of all natural materials, and the roof is covered with just enough to allow one to see the stars at night. We decorate our sukkah with flowers, fruit, cards, toys and other tchatchkes.]

For our bar/bat mitzvah anniversary we borrowed a popular bar mitzvah celebration idea and made a collage of all the photos taken in the sukkah over the years. It was such fun to see how our friends' kids have grown over the years and how everyone's hair has gotten shorter or longer (or disappeared altogether). Today was cold and a little rainy, but about 40 people showed up and many of us crowded into the sukkah to take this year's photograph.

We snacked on a delicious buffet of (mostly) home-made delicacies: baba ganouj (smoky eggplant dip), white bean pate, ajvar (roasted read pepper puree) and various breads and crackers; potato-cheese and mushroom borekas; double cream brie, goat cheese, Bulgarian feta and Dubliner cheddar; fresh figs stuffed with goat cheese and drizzled with peppered honey; tomatoes from the garden; and of course lots of dessert, including chocolate-zucchini cake, espresso shortbread cookies, and honey cookies.

Everyone brought an item to hang in the sukkah, and we now have added to our collection more plastic fake fruit, a glass-shaped piece of "candy" and a huge paper apple that may not survive the night. This is the real meaning of the sukkah -- a reminder of the temporary nature of life.

September 26, 2007

A little pain

I've had some new pain in my right hip, the kind that wakes you up in the middle of the night. At 3 AM I find myself restlessly trying to get comfortable in bed, when the figurative light bulb goes off over my head -- I'm in pain! That's why I'm twitching! So I take some pain meds and am usually able to get back to sleep.

Four such occasions in the last week might mean disease progression, so I called my oncologist. I will probably have some tests, maybe a bone scan or PET scan, and then we will talk about treatment options.

Of course, the first thing that comes to mind is worry and fear. How far has it progressed? What new drug will I have to take? Will I be able to have radiation a third time in the same place? All of these questions are much scarier when I'm awake in the middle of the night.

In the meantime, the pain meds are my friends....

Cancer travel

On Monday my friend D came to town. She was just accepted to a phase III clinical trial for a breast cancer vaccine at the University if Washington. That means she'll be travelling from New York to Seattle, at her own expense, once a month for the next seven months.

D and I are online buddies. We met last March, at a retreat for young women with metastatic breast cancer, and have corresponded with the participants ever since. But as soon as she knew she would be in Seattle, she got in touch so we could get together face-to-face.

We spent a lovely afternoon and evening walking the dog, cooking and enjoying a tasty dinner, drinking wine and talking. It was a pleasure to be able to talk about real issues with someone who gets it -- pain management, death and dying, leaving a legacy.

I hope D and I will see each other every month when she comes to Seattle for the trial. The world can be very small when you have something big like cancer in common!

September 18, 2007

Choose life

It's the Jewish season of reflection and renewal. On Rosh Hashanah it is written, and on Yom Kippur it is sealed, who shall live and who shall die? And so I quote Hadassah Medical Organization's Dr. Avi Rivkind: "My grandfather taught me that when we're wavering between olum hamet and olum hahayim -- between death and life -- we choose life!"

September 13, 2007

Shana tova!

Today the world is born. It's Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. May this new year of 5768 bring us all good health, joy in life and many blessings.

For a very funny new year's wish, especially if you speak Yiddish, click here.

September 10, 2007

Looking for a match

My friend Jeanne, the Assertive Cancer Patient, who also has metastatic breast cancer, has had it with US health coverage. She's decided to look for a Canadian sweetie with an eye to matrimony.

What started out as a political take on the state of US health care has snowballed into actual connections with (hopefully) eligible men, participation in several radio talk shows, and an interview on Seattle's KING 5 news. Evidently many Canadians are concerned that a US citizen might want to move in to take advantage of Canada's universal health care system.

You can read about Jeanne's experience or watch a video clip of her KING 5 interview.

To listen to Jeanne's interview on Canadian talk radio (the Christy Clark Show on CKNW), click here, scroll down to Wednesday, September 5, 2007, and click on Hour 3. Jeanne's story appears about halfway through the hour.

September 03, 2007

Harvest time

The sun has finally been shining in Seattle. Today I harvested a couple of pounds of ripe tomatoes and a big colander of grapes.

Nothing says summer to me like perfectly ripe tomatoes straight from the vine. These came from plants I started from seed in the early spring. Unfortunately we had a cool summer, so although the plants were tall and strong, with a lot of fruit, it's taken until September to ripen. I foresee insalata caprese in my future: fresh mozzarella cheese and basil leaves over sliced tomatoes, dressed with a scattering of sea salt and some fruity olive oil.

I've been tasting the grapes daily to ascertain the peak of sweetness. The colander yielded 6 cups of grape juice. It tastes both sweet and tart, the perfect metaphor for life. I will refrigerate the grape juice to have for kiddush during the holidays later this month.

The plums are already stewing in the basement to become homemade "hooch." The strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and chester berries were all delicious too!