Friday, March 30, 2007

Season of Redemption

May the Lord G-d take from us: hatred, contention, anger, argumentativeness, lack of gratitude, false pride, arrogance, gossip and all the rest we beg to be forgiven for on Yom Kippur. May any cancer of the body and/or soul be alleviated if not cured.

We have made it to another Season of Redemption! Boruch Hashem!!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

New Day - New Friends

I have checked Google Analytics and have noticed that I have readers around the world! Would those people who hail from outside the Continent of North America please let us know how you found my blog and what about it that interests you? Thanks a lot.

To my local readers within this continent: Thanks for your abiding devotion and love.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Pre-Op or Car Wash?

Jeff and I could not help finding the following similarities and differences between the pre-op waiting area at Maimonides Hospital and your local car wash:

Blatant Similarities:
1.Occupants of four-wheeled vehicles (gurneys, autos) queue up and must wait their turns.
2.You cannot skip the line.
3.Lots of soap around.
4.Age and mental health status do not seem to be important criteria for being there.
5.Anesthesiologists appear somewhat sleepy/people who work in car washes probably drive around in clean cars.
6.There is a great deal of ethnic diversity.
7.Pine smelling things are all around.

Observable Differences:
1.Evelyn Diluccio's name probably does not inspire fear in a car wash.
2.No reading material in the pre-op.
3.No coffee in pre-op except that which is carried around by exhausted personnel.
4.Endoscopy screen in pre-op/TV screen in car wash.

(Jeff - did I forget anything? I was a little out of it at the time.)

Sunday, March 25, 2007


...still! Minus one kidney plus a traumatic short hospitalization. Thanks to everyone for your prayers and good wishes....

Saturday, March 17, 2007

I Should Have Felt Bad about My Neck...

...but never gave it a second thought until Nora Ephron started her shtick.

Here are bodily parts that actually do deserve current attention:

3.lymph vessels
4.beta cells
5.kidneys (much too obvious to list as #1)

Now re: my neck:

It is actually worse than Nora's .
It looks like it houses a diseased thyroid.
It looks like it belongs to a chicken that houses a diseased thyroid.
It speaks volumes (about the perils of aging).
It will be a lucky day if I am still complaining about my neck one year from now.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Re: G-d and Blessings

I have not seen the face of G-d because I do not think G-d has a face. I have, however, experienced the strength and, if you will, essence of G-d, arrogant as this may sound. And G-d is good, and G-d has some plan and knows what has to be done to bring about a particular outcome: This is what I have come to believe.

I have received the miracle of the ability to walk and talk, which I hope will not be taken from me.

I have also received a very special blessing and privilege: I am living to experience the love and praises of many wonderful people; usually the words that I hear now frequently are reserved for eulogies.

Example: Frida looked around at the plants in the living room today and said to my sister: "She loves flowers."

Loves!!! Present tense!!!!

G-d and Blessings.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


First and foremost they are odd-shaped beans that are very good for you, except that some people have to combat their effects with prophylactic Bean-O.

The new expensive tables in all NYC classrooms are shaped like kidneys, by order of Mayor Bloomberg. The kidney shape not only encourages but also forces students to talk to each other, which is vitally important to the workshop model, currently in vogue. (Any serious pedagogue knows, however, that the best way to teach kids is to first seat them at old-fashioned desks that are nailed to the floor, thus forcing students to remain facing forward instead of one another.)

What the heck is kidney stew? Do people in the UK actually eat it? From what animal(s) do the kidneys come?

I have been told that kidney functions are very "redundant." How come? It is actually possible to live with 1/2 a kidney!

A normal kidney looks very cute and nice on a CT scan. A cancerous one looks like a water balloon.

What do they do with old, diseased kidneys? (Will part of it become a slide that I must track down and keep in my dresser drawer in case another doctor wants to see it?)

I keep telling myself that kidney surgery will not be that much worse than a C-Section, but of course there are obvious differences.

How many kidney beans must be present for a soup legally to be labeled "minestrone"?


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Cancer for Dummies (extremely preliminary)

1.Keep all scans. It is just too much trouble trying to get them from doctors.
2.Same goes for all summaries of scans.
3.Might also turn out to hold true for biopsy slides. (But for how long do those things keep?)
4.Find out who are the dingbats and who are the organized workers at each facility you must deal with.
5.Keep lists of things to do. Check off things as they are done; this will render amazing feelings of accomplishment, even if one of the items only was: "Be sure to move car to the correct side of the street before 11 A.M."
6.Appreciate all bodily functions in yourself and everyone else. Encourage people around you to do the same.
7.Do not fall for any scams. Scamsters do not respect disease. On the contrary diseases provide them with vulnerable, opportune moments.
8.No longer believe that all pain, especially lower back pain, is due to age and must be treated by your chiropractor, no matter how helpful he has seemed to be in the past.
9.On the other hand try to remember that not every tinge of pain or touch of dizziness means imminent death.
10.Try to wear your newest clothes. There may not be a lot of time left.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Remember When...

1.kidney referred to a bean that, at worst, might give you gas?
2.divorce and losing part of a pension were the most grievous things in the world that could possibly happen?
3.the most serious surgery imaginable was botox injections to eliminate frown lines?
4.the prayer to be said after peeing seemed a bit odd?
5.the word "cancer" had a certain ring to it, especially in the hands, say, of Susan Sontag?
6.we believed there might actually be a "war on cancer" somewhere in the world?
7.shaytels were optional for people like me?
8.we resisted going for mammograms because we were afraid they delivered too much radiation and therefore were part of some plot against women?
9.we thought that drinking Poland Spring water would prevent cancer?
10.haircuts were an annoyance?

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Within This Strange Altered Context...

..there is good news!

The cancer is in only one kidney, which will be removed asap. Radiation will be administered to my head to zap any micrometastases; new genetic drug might be used later on (to protect the second kidney?).

The oncologist thought that this was very good news! (No kidding!!)

Too Much Gloomy Crap...

...on this blog!

The good news is that the clocks have been turned forward, and so there will be one more hour of daylight each day now til november. (An ungrateful way of saying this is that there is one less hour today to have to fill.)

Greg has been here, helping. Jeff and Sheryl are coming today. I think Ryan and Sarah too!

Message late Friday from the oncologist:"I have good news in that what is there is removable and curable - potentially."

More - much more this week.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Who Contemplated a Skull?

Who were the great figures in literary and art history who contemplated skulls? (Who cares?)

Now it is my turn to contemplate my skull (Who cares?):

1.Is my post-operative brain swelling even as I type, thus rendering it too big for my skull? If so will I soon start behaving like a pit bull?
2.Will the titanium mesh inside my head eventually rub against the skull bone and cause canker sores, which are the worst curses of all?
3.Will radiation to the brain do something odd not only to the brain but also to the skull? (Books never address this issue.)
4.Is there such a thing as skull cancer?
5.If so what are the symptoms?
6.How many times can they incise the same area of skull?
7.Another way of stating #6: Once incised, does the bone of the skull ever heal?
8.In short does my skull now bear some sort of cast? If not should it?
9.Why should an image of a skull and bones universally represent poison? Shouldn't a picture of a person gagging and/or vomiting be used instead?

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Post-tests: New Rules

In educational parlance, the word post-test implies some degree of progress and success. New rules, however, apply to post-medical tests:

1.Try to stop laughing and attempt to connect with the seriousness of all this. Even though the little "breathe in" and "breathe out" faces were ridiculous, remember that they were there to remind very ill people (like me) what to do and when to do it during CT scans.
2.Think about the worst concentration camp story you have ever heard to get yourself to STOP LAUGHING. None of this is one bit funny.
3.Try to remember that blue urine is more a sign of the excretion of poisonous dye than a symptom of imminent renal failure.
4.Pretty much the same thinking (obviously with different anatomical terms) should apply to diarrhea so severe that it can no longer be called diarrhea. (Our medical friends can tell me if "chyme" is the correct word.)
5.Stop thinking that this is the worst of it, because things are only going to get worse - no matter what the results of today's torture turn out to be.
6.Keep wishing that years ago you had the chance to become a member of the medical profession rather than a teacher. This will take your mind off the fact that you will not live long enough to enjoy very much of your teacher's pension.
7.Stop gagging every time you see a can of anything liquid. Chances are very, very good that they only have banana-flavored barium drinks at imaging places. (Forgot to ask if it was kosher, but why wouldn't Lerman's Imaging look into this on their own?)
8.Try to forget that the grief on the technicians' faces actually had much more to do with you than with anything at all going on in their lives, especially when they shot poisonous dye through your veins (arteries?).
9.Do not tell anyone that you could not stop laughing even (or especially) when you imagined that the dye infusion was a very American, constitutional lethal injection for a convicted criminal.
10.Focus on how ridiculous it is for snow to be falling one week before we turn the clocks ahead.

Pre-Test: New Problems

Remember when a pre-test used to mean some vaguely scary activity on Monday morning that forced you to think about some silly spelling words that you would homework the hell out of in the coming week and then know backwards and forwards (literally, as a result of Wednesday's homework) on Friday??

No more!

Pre-tests (now defined as the times before medical procedures) have assumed much greater proportions:
1.Will my insurance company actually approve the test?
2. How will I get to the imaging place?
3,Will the titanium mesh holding my brain together be compatible with the newest test?
4.Will there be some preparation so awful that they are afraid to inform me about it until I walk through the door?
5.Will the degree of angst on the technician's face be a clue as to the seriousness of my condition or to the amount of marital problems he/she is having today?
6.Who will break first - me, or the poor person who must sit in the waiting room wondering what is going on inside?
7.Will I keep still enough, or will images have to be retaken? My stillness, interestingly enough, seems to depend lately on trying not to laugh, of all things!!! How ridiculous this all is!
8.Good research questions always arise: Are the makers of these imaging devices hopeless sadists or invaluable humanitarians? What colleges did all these sadistic/smart people attend? Did Jeff know any of them at Columbia? Did I?
9.What should I be hoping that these tests will show?
10.Will I have the privilege of returning next year for an annual check-up?

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Words That Have Lately Acquired New Meanings

The following words used to have innocuous meanings. The contexts, unfortunately, have changed, thus rendering new definitions:

favor, focus, protocol, clear, mililiter, features, supine, prone, clamp, mesh, fingerbreadth, brain, skull, clip, metal, friable, etc., etc.

Please feel free to add any words that I have omitted.

Scary Words and Acronyms

Here is a list, in no particular order, of scary words and acronyms that just start sounding silly when you use them enough times. Caps are used to designate (now commonly used household) words that we never dreamed would ever enter our vocabularies:

clot, stroke, cancer, malignant, tumor, ADENOCARCINOMA, mri, ct scan, with and without contrast, KIDNEY, brain, BRAIN CANCER, beta blocker, titanium mesh, divorce, pension, equitable distribution (of the latter), ONCOLOGIST, RADIATION, surgery, isolated tumor, METASTASIS, hematologist, lungs, MORE SURGERY, clear cells (sounds good but is not; actually refers to CYTOPLASMIC abnormalities), neurosurgeon, second opinion, transfusions, infusions, renal, artery.

The list will continue to grow; that is for sure.

Life Is Beautiful

Just returned from the pharmacy and thus the shopping center.

It is very cold in NYC today: winter's last hurrah.

And I was able to feel the cold!

The wind blew, and I was able to walk steadily and hold on to my hat! At the same time!

The wind blew again, and I was able to steer my car straight ahead!

A trash can had rolled into the middle of the street, and I was able to maneuver my car around it!

The pharmacy was empty because it is too cold for all the old sick people - except for me!

A lot of mail and bags ended up in my left hand, and nothing slipped out!

And G-d's little smirky joke is that it is already March and that spring is on the way!

Another smirky joke is that suddenly I feel pain (or maybe just pressure) where I imagine the left kidney to be. My brain still responds to the power of suggestion!!

Life is beautiful.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Good News or Bad News? You Decide

Two doctors today! More than I went to in the last decade!!

If I am lucky, the only metastasis will have been to my brain!!!! Also if I am lucky, the new bio drugs,(different from chemo, which does not exist for kidney cancer), might be effective.

I will need radiation to my brain to zap micro cancers that may have already metastasized from the kidney. Hair will fall out and MIGHT grow back!!!

Kidney cancer is very slow, so no big guns need to be fired immediately. Have to go for lots and lots of CT scans before the plan of action is determined.

Is any of this good news? If so, which part?

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Home Alone I

Jeff is driving Sheryl and Greg to the train station! Hopefully he will return safely and escort me to doctors tomorrow.

Being Home Alone is fraught with the deepest fears: Will driving-resistant Jeff actually return? Why is Greg no longer living here? Will Sheryl survive our family's tragedies?

One wants to hold on to each one of the above persons and beg him/her to stay. (One also wants to hold on to G-d and beg Him/Her to allow one to remain in this world with these people who are so intensely dear.)

Greg the dependable, who always dealt with doctors and somehow delivered bad news in ways that were not so bad.

Jeff the immensely vulnerable, who hides behind silly stoicism.

Sheryl the saviour, without whom Jeff and therefore I would not have survived to this point in time.

My beautiful people!!!

And the utterly incredible people who visit each day, email each day and call on the phone each day! Such wonder; such fear now of being Home Alone.

What Should We Make of All This?

I am not sure if I am now a character from "Our Town," looking down from heaven at my beloved dear ones. If I am, then heaven is no different than real life! If I am still actually alive, then the glimpse I had of heaven was not conclusive: It consisted primarily of Elysian fields of (perhaps mind-altering) flowers, jolly pigs and happy little boys begging their daddies to read "Charlotte's Web" to them just one more time.

It turns out that my mother was right: The things you worry about do not happen; the things that never ever occur to you are the ones that will get you. My stroke was not even caused by stress or hypertension! It was allegedly caused by cells from a renal cancer that broke away (nobody yet is bold enough to use the word "metastasized") from the kidney and made it to the brain, where blood clotted around the cells (in an attempt to prevent implantation?). It is this clot that bled four weeks ago and burst through an artery.

So the game is not over. Tomorrow I see an oncologist: If I continue to be lucky, only one kidney will be declared cancerous, and it will be removed. Then my job will be to change my entire negative world view ("weldshmetz") and personality and become a positive thinker!! If both kidneys have already gone awry, then I continue with my old negative self and go quietly into that good night.

This initial blog post is really a (not very) veiled invitation for members of the American Death Industry (see Evelyn Waugh, "The Loved One") to contact me re: their services. Mausoleums are inherently very selfish, and my love of the good earth and gardening probably makes me a good candidate for burial in Israel, where no coffin is used. Lots to think about!!! It's not over til it's over!!!!!

Let me hear from you - whomever you may be. You will make an old lady happy, or at least as happy as I am capable of being.