Monday, April 29, 2013


it is 5:30 p.m. in the holy city of zefat on lag b'omer.   hello everyone!  i've been wanting to be in touch for so long.  i got back home from my radiation and chemotherapy treatment about two months ago.  at first, while i i was away, i felt well and energetic enough to keep in touch with my closest friends by e-mail.  i was sort of upbeat  and downright hyper-active from the steroids they put in my chemo drip. i stayed in a hostel for cancer patients for nearly two months.  i made friends with most of the patients there.  i was most popular.  i was also popular with the nursing staff and technicians at the radiation ward.  i had the most wonderful chemo nurse you could hope for.

i did come to near blows with my radiation nurse.  she was old school.  i was new school.  she didn't miss a chance to warn me of the terrible side effects that i would be getting.  she was most adamant against  my  using anything homeopathic.  she was a real square.  i chose her to be my nurse because she was an English speaker.  i didn't think that i could go through this process in all hebrew.  as it turned out to be, when i finally did succumb to the terrible nausea and diarrhea, the homeopathic remedies didn't help.  but all in all, i was drug free, if you don't count the steroids, chemo and radiation.

i was the only english speaking patient at the hostel.  they did not fancy watching  television in the main lobby in english.  they had hand written signs against it.  there were several programs that the whole group got together to watch.  the israeli 'master chef' was a major one.  even the nurses joined us for that one.  80% of israeli society are emotionally invested in this show.  they take it very seriously.  they really care about the contestants.  i would sit and watch as an outside observer.  eventually, i could chime in and relent the fact that vicky or some other contestant got eliminated.

being at the hostel, was definitely a lot of work for me.  having to speak in hebrew all the time and listen to every one's troubles and illness was hard.  it took a lot of my strength.  i  had my first 'meltdown' at the end of the first week, when i started experiencing certain side effects.  up until then i was the life of the party.  i ate like a truck driver.  those steroids were something else.  i didn't get much sleep at the beginning.  i got to bed after 1 or 2 a.m.  my roommate was mentally challenged and didn't understand that i was there to share a room.  i had to use the lobby bathroom because she monopolized the one in our room.

i actually, threatened to 'harm' her and i was made to change rooms, during my meltdown.  i went hysterical and called my sister.  i told her that i couldn't continue another day there.  i was very loud and scared a lot of the residents.  most everyone there was sedated.  not zelda. i remained faithful to my anti -drug policy at the beginning.  when i finally calmed down, the nurse 'cratchet' told me that the steroids can evoke some rage.  i was most apologetic.

i got through the first few weeks of treatment without any major hitch.  my weekly blood test revealed that my white blood cells had crashed.  that was the end of my weekly chemo.  i felt very disappointed.  the  doctor explained that it was the norm.  i did continue to get radiation treatments 5 days a week.  every thursday i got the side effects, and felt an outer body and mind experience plus a severe nausea.  nevertheless, i travelled home by bus.  after the 4th week, i was seriously dehydrated by the terrible diarrhea, that the english speaking nurse had warned me about.  i  was told not to travel anymore.  i stayed at friends nearby tel aviv on weekends.

i received infusion about 3 to 4 times a week.  i could no longer deal with eating in the dining room with everyone.  i would come back to the hostel late every evening by taxi.  i stopped emailing friends.  i was in bad shape.  i lost a ton of weight and finally was hospitalized for 2 weeks.  i was totally bedridden for days.  i even got a blood transfusion.  i spent purim in bed.  it was the first time ever, that i wasn't home for purim.  i was totally alone and miserable.  i had finished my cancer treatment but my body was crashed.  one day a hospital clown came by to greet me.  'zeldele' he said, and proceeded to sing 'when you're smiling' for me in english.  that was a turning point for me.  chabad yehiva students came by to read the megillah on purim and there were a lot of volunteers dressed in costumes to visit the sick.  eventually, i managed to feel happy in spite of my surroundings.

i stayed in kfar chabad for a while after i was released.  i was ridiculously, swollen from all the infusion and could hardly walk.  i could barely eat.  all i did was sleep.  after two weeks, i came home by taxi.  my niece came in from india with her 3 little ones, and i picked them up at the airport with the help of my other niece.  it was a few weeks before pesach.  my nephew got married in rehovot but i couldn't make the trip.  i did pull myself together one day to get the house set up for sheva brachas.  i  schlepped around  from 7:00a.m.. to 2:30 p.m. and i collapsed into bed until the evening.  i didn't move again for some time.  i did the absolute minimum for pesach.

i got sick right after the pesach seder for at least two weeks.  i am now recovering from a virus or flu or dysentery.  i have an appointment to see the doctor tomorrow and do a blood test.  i have to fast for 12 hours.  i have an enormous appetite once again, and have gained back about 10 pounds in a very short space of time.  i just  have very little energy.  a lot of it is due to depression.  although i have been told that the tumor is history, i still have to do a pet ct scan next month to check out the lymph notes.  all in all, i am one lucky lady!  to be continued.......................