Monday, April 16, 2012

At the door for round #4 (chemo, the last round)

Today was day 14 of my third round of chemo.  Round four starts tomorrow morning.   I am looking forward to it with trepidation and excitement.

First, the excitement....this will be the last round!   Hooray!  It will be good to have this behind me, and to start to move on to the next phase of treatment, in about five weeks -- surgery, and recovery.

Round three taught me a lot about what they mean by the dosing for chemo being "cumulative".  It's been a grind.  The dark days were longer, extending well into the second week, and the climb back has been a challenge.  I can see now why they don't allow a round five!  

Throughout the first three rounds, I've been trying to exercise when I could - it helps with the recovery, and is one indicator (for me) of the physical impact of the chemo.  That starts with walks, but has progressed back to the cross trainer at our local gym.  In round one, I was back at the gym on day 9, and doing an hour each day on the cross trainer.  It felt good.  In round two, I was also back on day 9, initially limited to 1/2 hour but quickly built back to 45 minutes per day.  That was my limit.  This cycle, it was two days later before I made it back, day 11, and after 20 minutes on the cross trainer, that was it.  I was pleasantly surprised to make it out of the gym on my own, about 45 minutes later.  I went back yesterday for 1/2 hour, my limit for round three.  I'm glad that I'll have plenty of time to digest round four.

In the meantime, I'm ever heartened by the support, prayers, and good wishes of family and friends.  There is a phrase in Hebrew called "chesed" (or, hesed).  The word "chesed" is typically translated as acts of "kindness" or "loving kindness" for which there is no expectation or opportunity for  reciprocity.   In mystical Judaism, chesed is considered the highest 'action' attribute of G-d.  There are many examples, but some are bringing a new life into the world, burying the dead, and visiting or taking care of the ill.   

Having been blessed with good health for most of my life, I never fully appreciated what it means to be on the receiving end of such kindness.  Now, I'm blessed with it -- the deep support and care that I'm receiving from my family, and the many ways that friends, near and far, have reached out, sometimes just to say "I'm thinking of you".   Each means a lot to me and is a source of new strength, helping me along on a sometimes difficult path.   It is also an education to me as, at times in the past, I've found myself not knowing what to say, so I've remained silent.  Turns out, the words need not be any more eloquent than "I'm thinking of you".  

As the door opens to this last round of chemo, I'm excited that this phase of my treatment is almost over, a bit anxious about the next two weeks, and truly appreciative and stronger for the support and kindness of family and friends.  You are all a constant source of strength, the wind at my back -- thank you!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Chemo and Passover (Round 3, Week 1)

Wednesday...finishing the "long day" at DFCI
My third round of chemo started Tuesday.   This Friday and Saturday evenings are the first two nights of Passover, the nights of the Passover Seders.  For as long as I can remember, Passover has been a big holiday in our home, and one of my favorite Jewish holidays.  Since we've been married, Fran and I have always hosted big festive Seders.  It is one of my favorite meals to prepare, an always special gathering of family and friends, and an important reminder of the many things that we have to be thankful for.  This year will be different, not because we don't have a lot to be thankful for -- we do! -- but, the Seders are being hosted by family and friends, who kindly offered to host.  And, this year, I likely will not be able to participate.  I will miss it.

Passover is often referred to as a 'celebration of Jewish freedom'.  It is that, for sure. But, it is much more than that, in addition to always being a special gathering of family and friends,  it is a reminder of Jewish responsibility and of the positive impact that we can have on the world around us.  If you'll indulge me, since I probably won't be at a Seder, there are a few parts of the story that always stay with me:
  • after generations of exile as slaves in Egypt, the beginning of our redemption started with one person, Moses, rising up against the oppression.   While our ultimate escape from Egypt, and freedom in the land of Israel, came with G-d's intervention, Moses made the first person can change history
  • after escaping Egypt, we spent forty years in the desert, two generations, before we re-entered Israel, the land of our ancestors.   That is a long time, it means that most of the people who entered Israel were not the slaves that escaped Egypt, but their children.   Yet they fully embraced the story of redemption, and it's telling to every generation since "as if you were there".   What does that mean they were doing for those 40 years in the desert?  Among other things, it means that the parents, and elders, were teaching their children to embrace their history, appreciate their freedom, and respect the responsibility that comes with that freedom -- specifically that as long as their are oppressed people, Jewish or not, we have a responsibility for work for their freedom.   From those roots, we have the continuing commitment today of the Jewish community to world service, justice, social action, outreach, and philanthropy.   It is a tall order, and a lasting legacy of our ancestor's commitment to teaching their children the 'story' of our own redemption being told and reflected on "as if we were there".
  • during our 40 years in the desert, Moses received the Torah, the law, on Mt Sinai.  We entered the desert as Israelites, descendants of Abraham.   We returned to Israel as Jews.  At Mt Sinai, we rejected idols and become the first of the monotheistic religions.  From those roots, came each of the other monotheistic religions, Christianity, Islam, Bahai, Druze, and others.  It is worth recalling that we are all of the same roots.
I'm sure that the Rabbi's and better Judicially educated among my friends and readers may have some corrections to my comments or interpretations.  And, they and others will each of their own reasons for why Passover resonates strongly with them.   But, these are mine.  On this year when I probably will not be at a Seder, thank you for letting me share them. 

On this Passover, I am truly thankful for the freedom and ability to fight this cancer, for the unconstrained love of my family, the kindness, prayers, and good wishes from friends across time and space, and to live in a time and place where we have the medical care and knowledge to put the odds in my favor.

To all of my family and friends celebrating Passover this year, I wish you a Chag Sameach.

And, to each of my friends celebrating Easter this year, Happy Easter.

The 'once and future' me.  Courtesy of Hazon, and the 2011 CA Ride.