Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Olive Oil and Teaching

I have survived three work days in a row. Three. Tres. Trois.

I love my students. I love being with them in the classroom. There is a vibrancy and an organic nature to everything that happens there. That's why I will never get bored with teaching. What teacher can know what fate and chemistry will bring in the fall - the personalities and life experiences of twenty teens, combined with the personality and life experiences of my own self. It's like saying - I'm going to put together four ingredients...try to guess what the result will taste like. My life as an episode of "Chopped."

I know the room number, the book titles, my hopes for their growth and discovery - that's about it. The rest unfolds day by day.

To be honest, there is one ingredient that I always bring. Kind of like, whatever I make for dinner, I know that I will use olive oil. My olive oil is my deep conviction that every privileged person in this country must do what she or he can to make this a true place of opportunity for everyone. If you don't believe that, or if you're not willing to open your heart to that possibility - well, I guess it's kind of like coming to my house for dinner and being allergic to olive oil. I'll do my best to feed you, but it's gonna be a struggle.

So that's about it.  Hello and Salaam to the person who logged on from Saudi Arabia. You made my day. And Finland - a new and faithful reader.  I hope that's not creepy - I don't know who you are or anything. I just get a list of countries, like this:

Saturday, September 26, 2015


This morning a friend came over to do an acupuncture treatment while my regular acupuncturist is in China.

Then, this afternoon, as I headed out to get the mail, I was greeted by this:

Yup! Flowers! (I guess they didn't fit in the mailbox.) And no, your eyes are not deceiving you. Those orange ones do precisely match the ones that my squirrel friend has been happily and sadistically devouring.

But wait, that's not all. Something that did fit in the mailbox was a package for me with Cranberry Goat Milk lotion! (And if you're wondering, yes, the temptation to taste it is great, but so far, I'm restraining.)

Yeah, so that's what my life is like.  Filled with blessings (including a pot of Esther's Chicken Soup that arrived on my porch earlier this week).  Hope yours is, too.

p.s. Here are my new lovelies in their new home:

Friday, September 25, 2015

Bed #2

I'm afraid to get out of bed.

Yesterday was one of the worst days in recent memory - 11 hours at MGH, and an aching back more or less throughout.

Today, however and miraculously, I have woken up after a sound and uninterrupted sleep feeling perfectly fine. Finer, in fact, than I have in the past month. So I'm lying here thinking about going for a swim after a brief MGH visit, doing some school work with a settled mind, maybe I'll even cook something!

And that, my friends, is why I'm afraid to get out of bed. What if I don't feel so great after I stand up? Take a few steps? Actually do some of those marvelous things?

The irony actually makes me laugh. What a great story - the woman who felt so good that she was afraid to do anything for fear of screwing it up.  There's also probably a profound metaphor in there somewhere, but I'll leave that to you to ponder.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Take Four

Starting my new trial tomorrow.  Trying to be hopeful. Today during the closing service of Yom Kippur I had a glimpse of pure optimism. I saw myself well and free of worry. Thriving.

That was a great thirty seconds.

The truth is, I do have many reasons to expect that this trial will be successful. Too much medical vocabulary to explain precisely why that is, but it has to do with addressing the genetic mutation that emerged, making my first trial go from "major response" to basically no response after about 6 months.

So a long day ahead, filled with many knowns and fewer - but significant - unknowns.  I know my peeps. I know where the snacks are. I know what my lunch choices will be.  I don't know how I will feel after taking my first dose, nor do I know how it will be to spend a ten-hour day at the hospital.  I got really good at it last year, but it's been awhile.  And I'm in a kind of emotionally rocky state. Do I want company or not? I have no idea. In the meantime I'm bringing with me every possible pastime in my posession. Will I want to read? Watch movies? Grade papers? Plan classes? And can I trust my laptop and kindle to stick it out for the whole day, or do I need to bring chargers?

And was it a stupid idea to tell my spouse that I'll take myself to the hospital, and she can come later? Perhaps.

So many questions without answers, all of them covering up the big ones that I daren't even type.

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Shit

Here's something new -- a post from deep in the shit.

I usually try to avoid these, whether to protect someone who I don't want to be worried about me, or because I just don't feel like writing.  But given that I'm just here in that two-hour window between CT and Bone scan, I might as well take on a new challenge.

Happy news: I'm starting a new trial this week.  At least I think I am.

Sad news: I'm going to be missing a lot of school and I'm not sure how to deal with that.  Being in the classroom - all set.  Creating online lessons that replicate the vibe and demands of my regular classroom - all set.  Letting someone else teach my kiddies...not so much.

Other sad news: Three times over the past two weeks I have woken up in the middle of the night in excruciating pain. LIke wild, thrashing, wait-is-this-actually-happening-cause-it-feels-like-some-weird-movie type of pain.  No idea what's causing it.  Could be swollen lymph nodes pressing on my lungs.  Could be not that.  Maybe scans will tell.

Happy news: I'm heading in the MGH today to get a Percocet prescription.

So no redeeming words of hope here.  Apologies.  Hopefully whereever you are, you are in the presence of something for which you feel grateful - a glimpse of sky, a loved one, warmth.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Flowers #2

Yesterday I came home to this:

Not such a big deal, unless you keep in mind (as those of you who read my "Flowers" post from July already know), that I have been engaged in a summer-long battle with a squirrel over this plant, and then yesterday, this.

Somehow, a flower had sprouted.  And my squirrel had suspended its game of chew-the-petals-off-the flowers.

I stared and stared.  I went inside and then came back out again.  Each time it was still there. Finally I said goodbye to my beautiful friend, and closed the door for the night.  I'll admit that the next morning I was almost looking forward to seeing the petals on the ground.  Go for it, squirrel, I thought. I had enjoyed a whole afternoon with this flower, soaking it up, relishing its orange brilliance. I even got pictures!  But what I woke up to today was this:

To be honest, I don't know what to say.  I love my flowers. I don't know how long they'll last, but I'm thrilled that they're here.  And I'm a bit concerned about my squirrel.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Second Day of Rosh Hashana

There's a question that's hanging over me, after about two weeks of not feeling great:

Am I infirm or just lazy?

Take this morning for instance.  It's the second day of Rosh Hashana. A day of no school.  A chance to soak up the vibes of the New Year with my community, but not so dressed up, not crowded, and a shared feeling of luxury among those of us lucky enough to be able to take the day off of work.

Then over breakfast my spouse asks, "Are you coming to services today, or just relaxing at home?" Ooooo! Something I hadn't considered...cancer patient stays home to rest instead of going to services. But that's silly, I thought to myself. I really love the second day of Rosh Hashana service.  Of course I'm going.  Late.

So off goes my rabbi spouse and my mother-in-law, and I am left to ponder when I should show up. But then the question arises, Am I OK? Should I be home relaxing cancer-style to shore up my energies?  Or does all of this lying around breed more and more inertia?

Am I infirm or just lazy?

Clearly I need to think about this some more. Step one: Take a short nap on the couch.  Definitely the right move, because I emerged from my nap with a plan: I would test my state of being by riding my bike to services.  It's not that far - about two-and-a-half miles.  It is, however, almost totally - albeit steadily - uphill.

And I made it! I enjoyed the (last third of) services, I shmoozed, I meditated, I graciously accepted compliments for saving the planet by riding my bike.  Then I ate two pieces of my favorite Rosh Hashanah cake and joyously coasted downhill for most of the way home.

Still, the question remains unanswered.  The truth is, I do have a lazy streak in me.  I simply love to relax.  And the truth is also that I am not feeling my fullest, well, and energized self.  What's a person to do?  How do people who take medical leaves know that they should?  I mean, do I want to go to school tomorrow? No.  But, frankly, who does?  Yet do I know that I will be my most alive and happy self during the hours when I am in my classroom? No doubt.  For now, then, I'll have to take each moment as it comes, and let the question rest.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Trigger Warning: Sad

Just to clarify - the title is a joke.  I hate trigger warnings.  I hate the culture from which they have spawned.  "Watch out, fragile person! Shit lies ahead!" No duh! Yes, shit lies ahead for all of us in varying degrees of shittiness, and then other shit lies ahead that will remind us of our past shit and all we can do is try our best to keep going and to leave the world a little less shitty than we found her.

Glad I got that off my chest.

The reason for this rant, I suppose, is the fact that I'm just not feeling great. Now, there are many possible reasons for this -- I had two procedures at MGH this week, a port implant and a bronchoscopy; I'm taking anti-biotics; my body is ajusting to not being on the chemo that I was taking for most of the summer.  But then a crazy and terrifying and, yes, sad thought occured to me last night - Maybe I'm not feeling great because I have cancer.


I mean, this whole past year I've dealt with the pain-in-the-assness of it all, the trials, the meds, the confronting of my mortality, blah, blah, blah...But I always felt fine.  Such pride.  And in the meantime, cancer is doing its best to multiply and thrive and really could not care less about my positive attitude or my blog or, it seems, my treatments.

So there it is.  The saddest post in the life of my blog (I think - I did not go back an reread before making this claim).  Nothing to do but move forward.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Dear Blog

Hi, Blog. I'm Gina - your writer.  Sorry for having abandoned you for so long.  I'm not even going to look at the date of my last post.  That would be too sad.

Anyway, I had a terrific summer.  How was yours?  (By the way, doesn't "yours" seem like a word that should have a posessive apostrophe in it?)  Probably not as rich as mine since I abandoned you. You can hear the guilt, right? Let's discuss why I wasn't writing...

Well, first, I was busy living.  We had tons of house guests with tons of children and I loved them all. Making breakfasts that I would never make for myself, playing with my kids' old toys, laughing, eating, going on adventures. Plus a little traveling with my spouse and then with my children and soaking up boundless love. Would you want to take a time out to write about living with cancer? Well, you probably would, given that you're a blog about living with cancer.

Then there was that little treatment glitch - meaning that the latest chemo wasn't working. Isn't chemo supposed to kill everything? Apparently not. Or not always. So in fifteen months we've been through two trials and one chemo. Not exactly the way I pictured this journey.

And I know what you're thinking - Why didn't you tell me? Isn't that what I'm here for? Yes. Apologies.  But as much as I love you, Blog, my family comes first and I hadn't shared my update with my kiddies. Anyway, now I have, and so we march forward.

Next step, back to my beloved Termeer, my beloved Dr. Dejan, my beloved peeps there, and a new trial - a triplet.  I'm excited about it.  And I'm excited to be back to you, dear Blog.