Archive | February, 2012

Canada – Seeing is Believing

29 Feb

From comments I received recently there seems to be an equal number who claim to have followed my progress in Canada as those who don’t seem to know why I went and whether I’ve returned.

To make things clear – I’m now back safely in the Holy Land. To those who thought I went on holiday, well, I certainly had a holiday. But the purpose of the trip was to accompany Pam on her reincarnated book launch “For the Love of God and Virgins” – see www.pamelapeled.com . The book is available through Amazon, Kindle and the publisher, Mantua Books www.mantuabooks.com  . It is now also available at Chapters in Canada and at Steimatzky in Israel. The original tour was scheduled for exactly a year ago but was postponed because of my illness.

I always say that seeing is believing – so take a look for yourself: Here are three parts to a television interview Pam had in Toronto with Doris Epstein of MenschlifeTV. The programme is schedule to be broadcast coast to coast in the United States before the end of March.

“For The Love Of God and Virgins” (“FLOGAV”)

FLOGAV – Part 1: William Shakespeare is buried in Jerusalem   http://youtu.be/PMzWg8VOVDo

FLOGAV – Part 2: Israel and Apartheid    http://youtu.be/kdybEBBORmw

FLOGAV – Part 3: The Media and Reality   http://youtu.be/d-ZwlPnoW-U

How can I begin to thank Lewis Manne, of ZAP PRODUCTIONS LIMITED for the filming? Lewis stepped in right at the very last second and offered to take on the job without making any professional compromises. Nothing was a problem for him – just pure and utter dedication from a special man. He just upped and rallied to our call in a sense of volunteering and love rarely seen today. Most importantly, he is supported in every sense by Wendy – not only his wife but professional partner. You can check them out on their website http://www.zapproductions.com  or contact him by email at lewis@zapproductions.com .

For those who think that hearing is believing, then listen to Pam’s radio interview with Zelda Young of CHIN Radio. The interview was broadcast live last Sunday, 20th February.  https://rcpt.yousendit.com/1385758432/9133878b0f3b5eb4d40ca10461392988?cid=tx-02002208350200000000&s=19105

If you wonder what any of the above has to do with pancreatic cancer… I wouldn’t be here to tell you without Pam’s full time support.

Advertisements

My Wedding Anniversary Sonnet[24]

26 Feb

 

Pedantic Peled plods his path although

His cancer challenges the core of man;

While Pam applies herself to all who know

And medical men just manage as best they can.

 

A year goes by he opens up his blog

Has chemo’, radio’, 5-F-U, the rest;

She flays and fights her way clear through the fog,

Convinced the Cornerstone or Parp will best.

 

On ketogenic diet for over a year

Hangs in while searching any better solution;

Don’t drown despite your rending many a tear,

In parallel there’s poison from passive pollution.

 

No better partners will dance this merry dance

Together hope for medical advance

 


[24] Celebrating 27 years of marriage today

Conclusions in Canada

22 Feb

As Pam’s tour comes to a close, I find it difficult to come to a conclusion about my cancer experience in Canada. Perhaps allowing myself to believe that this is a “developing story” is the best outcome.

The fact that I was able to accompany Pam – and not impede any of her activities – was pure magic for me. And like her book tour, I would like to think that opportunities are opening up, new contacts have been made and there’s plenty to be done.

The “Canada Cancer Experience” was not to be. I’ve blogged about that; my blood count came up short at an inopportune moment – which may have been a blessing in disguise. Two treatments would have probably been two too many and too ambitious by far. Who knows? I just have to keep pushing forward.

Meeting my guardian angel, Agi, was a highlight – and like life itself, who knows where this new-found friendship will lead.

Then there’s always the quirks and curios. I met a couple of people who told me I looked so much better than they expected. On the face of it that sounds nice – so I thanked them. But what sort of face were they actually expecting? Then there was the waiter in the restaurant last night – very professional and polite. We told him I was on the ketogenic diet. Like so many other restauranteurs he took great pains to be sympathetic to my dietary requirements. But with his knowledge came a certain look – further illustrated by the exaggerated, quizzical way he wished me well and hoped I’d be back. He even gave me a bottle of spices – a farewell present?

And talking of presents – I bought myself one (or two) and managed to surprise the wife… I went to “hellandgone” to buy a new golf bag, golf shoes and gloves. Wow, said an amazed Pam… as she wished me many long seasons ahead. The real surprise was the sales assistant. Married to a kibbutznik, former kibbutznik himself with a haredi brother in near Modi’in…

Am Isra’el chi… 

Meeting Your Guardian Angel

18 Feb

I sometimes feel that what’s happening to me is directed by the Divine. On the other hand, I’ve blogged about co-incidences that make me think I have a guardian angel. Yesterday I met her.

My blog has reached corners I could never have conceived of. And reconnected me with characters with whom I had long lost contact. But when a cousin of Pam insisted I get to Dr William Isacoff – a circle was completed. Why him? I asked. “‘Cause he’s one of the best pancreatic cancer specialists there is”, he replied. I’d already been referred to Bill a couple of weeks earlier by Debbie Oppenheimer. Now this cousin is telling us that his connection was through Agi Hirshberg, who, in gratitude for Bill’s treatment of her husband, set up the Hirshberg Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research[18] . What a vote of thanks – and what a woman.

This powerhouse of a woman, who is beautiful inside and out, contacted me immediately she knew I was ill – and continues to inspire me with her unbounded concern and love. Yesterday she took the unprecedented step to meet me inVancouver. Step did I say? Not even a hop, skip and jump – she flew in from California. Pam and I met Agi in the lobby of her hotel. Even though we’d never set eyes on her before – I think we’d have picked her out in a crowd of hundreds. It was like meeting a long-lost relative; a living legend.

The facts speak for themselves. The Hirshberg Foundation is at the forefront of pancreatic research and inspires so many. It makes me feel that I should be helping too. At dinner, we introduce Keith to Agi and the discussion deals with the Ketogenic diet.  My hope is that research may come of this, and who knows – others may benefit as well as me. 

 Thank you, Agi. 


[18] The Hirshberg Foundation for Pancreatic Research was founded by Agi Hirshberg  http://www.pancreatic.org/

 

The Impossible Dream

15 Feb

Before I got sick I used to dream of playing golf on courses round the world. I’m not one of those people who need “separate” holidays – far from it. Pam was prepared to put up with being my caddy on the rare occasions golf fitted into our travel plans. That dream replaced my boyhood one of years ago in the days when Weeks, Worrell and Walcott [22] were West Indian sporting legends. Cricket was my craving and the Caribbean the epicenter of my world.

How life turns one upside down. A couple of postings ago I touched on the problem of treatments. My decision to go to Canada was partially based on Keith’s ability to set up treatments in Vancouver and Toronto. Yesterday Keith took me to Lions Gate Hospital for a treatment. Was my golf dream being replaced by an inter-continental tour of cancer centres? First Vancouver, then oncology in Ontario? Was this really going to be a first? It’s difficult enough to psych oneself up for a regular treatment – I’ve told you about my “Tel Hashomer Syndrome”. But as we drove to the hospital, my mind was meandering. Even fantasizing. Could I really be thinking in terms of writing a best-selling book “Guide to Inter-continental  Cancer Centres” – based on personal experience? Come on, I mean we’ve got Lonely Planet, the Michelin Guide…

We get to the oncology department and I’m making mental notes of the differences between Lions Gate and Tel Hashomer. The first thing I notice is the donors’ plaque; a mere four names on the board. Topping the list: “The Estate of Hossein Tehrani”[23] . Then there was the patient-bed and/or couch ratio. About 1:5 at Lions Gate compared to 5:1 on occasions at Tel Hashomer. I’m getting carried away….

How life continues to turn you upside down. The oncology doctor pulls out my blood results from the previous day. For the first time ever, my blood count is too low for a treatment. I’m dumped down to earth with a bang. Literally. It takes more than a moment to get myself together. Then the oncologist, Pam, Keith and I reach the inevitable conclusion – to accept that there will be no treatment.

The dream is impossible. But it’s Valentine’s Day in Vancouver. At least I managed to surprise Pam… but that’s a different story.


[22] In the 1950’s Everton Weeks, Frank Worrell and Clyde Walcott were known in the cricketing world as “The three W’s” from the West Indies. Was there ever such a great sports team or was it an illusion of my youth?

[23] Hossein Tehrani was born in Tehran, Iran (formerly Persia) in 1912 and died February 25th 1974. According to Wikipaedia, he was a musician and father of the “tonbak” – otherwise known as a simple clay vase covered at one end by a skin.

 

Anaphylactic Reaction

13 Feb

A 12-hour flight from Tel Aviv to Toronto, plus a 2 1/2 hour stop-over (which the baggage handlers rounded up into a total of four), plus another five hour flight – still doesn’t give me enough time to think of the right words to thank my brother- and sister-in-law, Keith & Sheila, the ones who put me onto the ketogenic diet, who are waiting to meet us at Vancouver airport. I need to thank Keith for saving my life.

Twice, actually.

The first time was a bizarre incident almost twenty-five years ago. Keith was doing a locum quite close to our house in Kfar Saba. I was supposedly being desensitised for allergies at Tel Hashomer; a series of 12 injections. I’d had about five for the previous five weeks. Keith offered to give me the sixth at home, to save me the hassle of the hospital. Suddenly, I’m not feeling too well. Pam tells me to take an anti-histamine or something similar. I go to our mirror-faced medical cabinet and see what seems to be my own reflection – except it’s full of red blotches. But it’s my chest that’s feeling the pinch. I peer at it in disbelief and can’t even panic. Keith will fix it. As luck would have it, Pip had just popped in and proffered to take me to the doc. To cut a long story short, we get to Keith – who takes one look at me – and we literally fly to the Meir Hospital. I’m having an anaphylactic reaction [21] . I hardly notice he has a syringe drawn up between his teeth as he drives, just in case. ER is there to recognize emergencies and jab me with the corrective cortisone. It was over before anyone could explain to me what an anaphylactic reaction or shock is. Keith had simply saved my life. I never knew I’d been in danger – let alone being about five minutes from meeting my Maker.

This time it’s different. I know how serious pancreatic cancer is. I have no idea how long I’ve got. But then how different is that from anyone else on this earth?

The flight is long enough to write thus far. No thoughts of how to adequately say thank you have taken off. I’ll continue after landing.

Keith was there to pick us up with his gorgeous daughter, Natalya. I tried to find the right words – which simply brought a sort of embarrassed smile to his face. It was so reminiscent of his late dad, Sidney. I realised yet again what an amazing family the Symons are – both Keith, Pip and their families.

And I bless our safe  arrival inVancouver.


[21]  Anaphylaxis is defined as “a serious allergic reaction that is rapid in onset and may cause death”. It typically results in a number of symptoms including an itchy rash, throat swelling, and low blood pressure. Common causes include insect bites, foods, and medications. On a pathophysiologic level, anaphylaxis is due to the release of mediators from certain types of white blood cells triggered either by immunologic or non-immunologic mechanisms.

Medical Madness or Managing One’s Illness (Part 2) [19]

8 Feb

This week I had to resort to my meager management skills for one of the thornier aspects of being ill – managing the medicine. It’s not just the medicine of course, but dealing with differing medical opinions.

My oncologist has been concerned for a long time that continued usage of Folfirinox (5FU) would lead to irreversible side effects. He put the limit at 12 treatments – this week would have been my 20th – but, for various reasons, he blew the whistle. So here’s the rub. To what do I change it? Pam and I sit in his office and listen to his alternatives; Gemcitabine (Gemzar) with Tarceva (Erlotinib); Gemcitabine with Abraxane or maybe stay with the 5FU. Who’s to decide and by what criteria? My medical expertise has come a long way in more than a year – meaning I’m not completely clueless anymore. Perhaps I’m just beginning to know how little we all seem to know about the right choice. At this point I have to take you back to the beginning.

When I was diagnosed I was told that I’d start radiotherapy and chemotherapy immediately. I thought time was of the essence and was more than grateful that the treatment would start the next day; my first session of radiotherapy and the following day a crack at chemo. In my naivety I thought this was great – what I described in a previous blog as “traveling through a medical maze in a whirlwind of medical activity”. But did I stop to ask what level of radiotherapy, what voltage I would receive? What chemo protocol would be concocted for me and why? If I had three brothers, I’d be the one who didn’t know how to ask.

My good fortune was many-fold; having my brother-in-law, who as a doctor himself, was only too ready to help, explain and advise; my chance connection to Dr Bill Isacoff[20] and Pam’s persistence to get the right answer.  Today I can add a few more notable names to my list – but does that make decision making easier?  Often, opposing opinions are on offer.

Now throw in the curve ball – how about a break in treatment while in Canada? Is a rest (from treatment) as good as a change (in treatment)? Keith can arrange a cancer treatment inCanada… that’s certainly turning things on their head. No wonder my head is spinning.  

I have no answers – I’d be happy to know how my blog readers make their own critical decisions.


[19]  Part 1 of Managing One’s Illness dealt with administrative problems (posted on 1st January)

[20]  Bill Isacoff was instrumental in changing my protocol – see my blog “Paying it Forward” from 28th November last year.