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My Favourite Feast – Non-Ketogenic

4 Oct

The festival of Tabernacles has long been my favourite. It goes back to my childhood. Both my brother and sister now fondly remember “how we helped schlep the (wall) panels of the succa (booth) from the garage to the patio, bolt the pieces together and close the roof! Also sitting in overcoats at night with the heater on – magical!”  My late father was probably the first, certainly in our suburb of London, to have hand-made his own succa, replete with floor and opening roof. For years it served as the centre piece of my parents’ socializing; an annual gathering after the Festival services.

We’ve come a long way in the fifty (almost sixty) years since then. I’ve managed to reinvent my own succa-building tradition in Israel – in a slightly more “hands-on” manner – using the help of Pam’s every increasing next generation of little cousins. And our succa also allows us the opportunity to welcome friends.

This year, however, I felt a change of mindset. For some reason I wanted to read more about the festival of Tabernacles and its concept of rejoicing. I looked up the biblical text of Deuteronomy 16: 13-15: “And you shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son, and your daughter, and your manservant, and your maidservant, and the Levite, and the stranger, and the fatherless and the widow… and you shall be altogether joyful.”

Rabbi Shlomo Riskin wrote about the festival in The Jerusalem Post this week. He pointed out that the Bible “is teaching us the sequence of joy. A person must be able to rejoice, first of all, with himself, with his own development, growth and accomplishments. Then with his family, the people who are closest to him, and finally his community. One has to appreciate what one has and share it with others.”

On the one hand, how apt and timely I find Riskin’s words. He seemed to summarize my feeling exactly. I sit in my succa thinking through my situation and realizing how much happiness I’ve found in the past year. How my family has helped me and how friends have rallied round. The humility of the succa’s flimsy surrounds seemed to envelop me.

But on the other hand, I found myself thinking that in some ways I’m a bit of a fraud. How nice it’s been that I’ve chirped away on my blog and have received accolades from people I’ve “helped”. They’ve being telling me how much pain they’re suffering and how tiredness and lethargy completely overwhelms them. Only in the last few weeks have I realized that the “words of wisdom” I was waffling about came from a place of less pain, less discomfort and far more energy. Recently I’ve been far closer to the conditions they were suffering – and couldn’t do much to help myself. The feast of Tabernacles comes along and puts things in perspective for me.

I realize that this illness is not going away and has depths that I can’t imagine. My succa made me realize that everything has proportions.  But thankfully I’ve been feeling better over the last few days – and this respite from pain allows me to post this blog.

Happy New Year

13 Sep

To all my blog readers – Happy, Happy New Year, filled with hope, health and happiness whenever and wherever you can get it.

To those to whom I’ve been short over the year – and the list is probably too long – this is the time to proffer my apologies.

And finally, to fellow pancreatic cancer sufferers, I wish you the strength and courage to keep fighting.

May we all be inscribed in the Book of Life.

How Long Do We Have on This Planet?

29 Aug

We don’t know.  How lucky we don’t know. What an absolute blessing we don’t know.

Which reminds me of an experiment our Rabbi (ex-Californian, now retired) used on his high school pupils. He asked the kids to raise their hands if they were told they could choose their life expectancy (limited to the age of 99). All, yes all, the kids put up their hands and said they’d be happy to be in control of their life-span.

Then he asked them how they thought knowing your life expectancy would affect day-to-day life. They discussed the problem of motivation, quality of life, living perhaps with disability and approaching their own self-imposed “shelf-life”. On a re-run of the original vote, the hands raised dropped to a hand-full.

I’ve come to the conclusion that dealing with this illness, with all its many facets, basically falls into two categories. The physical challenge and the psychological paranoia.  The first category is something I have to deal with – although hands-on help from the family and the seemingly unending drugs-for all-ailments (except cure) are certainly a great help. But the second category, unfortunately, spills over into my immediate family. At the moment, this is the real challenge.   

I think I wrote of a wish I shared with a cousin a while ago – to be at my daughters’ weddings. “But you were at their Bat-mitzvahs,” he retorted.  “So?” I said. The point was that life has the habit of us always wanting more.

How often, behind very closed doors, we, in the immediate family discuss the differences between what will happen to me and those who survive me. As the rabbi said, lucky that life doesn’t give us the definitive batting order. The discussions are emotionally exhausting moments – but at the same time motivating. They motivate me, they motivate others and as I said in my last blog, I’ve even been moved to try and motivate people who I don’t know.

Reading my last blog I see that there’s a certain amount of repetition. Nothing new; only a few days wiser. And what have I learnt? That life continues to be full of surprises and hope. The discussion came up with my oncologist today.  How lucky that I have a dedicated doctor determined to do the best for me.  She told that there’s yet another trial in the pipe-line. This time by an Israeli Jerusalem based company called Silenseed. See their website on

The Silenseed siG12D LODER enables the targeting of an undrugable target. It’s a miniature biodegradable polymeric matrix that encompasses anti K-RASG12D siRNA drug, designed to release the drug regionally within a pancreatic tumor at a prolonged rate for a period of ~12-16 weeks. Clinical studies of its first target – pancreatic cancer – started at Hadassah, Tel Hashomer and Shaare Zedek medical centers in Israel last year. Today, of the 12 people treated world-wide, 9 are at Tel Hashomer. According to my oncologist they’re having encouraging results. By the way, the Israel Advanced Technologies site, is also worth a visit: It’s is a font of fascinating Israeli latest developments. One doesn’t have to wait for dark moments to let the sunshine of pride come through from their achievements.

We have to believe a solution is on the way. Yet again, I have to consider how cathartic this blog can be. Tomorrow, I might just embark on another “new Project”. As I’ve said before: Another dip into the savings – long may they both (life and the savings) last!  


Abra(xane) Cadabra

17 Mar

The thought of changing treatments conjures up mixed emotions. I haven’t come across too many people who deal well with changes for the unknown – and if I have, I’ve forgotten the ground rules. So trepidation will be there but Tarceva, with its unpleasant side effects, won’t. Abraxene in – but will it work its magic?

We all know Abracadabra is an incantation used as a magic word in magic tricks. Historically it was believed to have healing powers when inscribed on an amulet. The word is thought to have come from “אברא” (avra) meaning “I have created” and “כאדאברה” (k’adabra) meaning “as I speak”.

Abraxane was first sold in the United States by Abraxis Bioscience in 2005 for breast cancer. It’s a protein-bound paclitaxel, a mitotic inhibitor drug used primarily in the treatment of breast cancer. Abraxane is a first in its class of drugs using nanoparticle albumin bound (nab) technology platform. In June 2010, positive results were published from a phase III trial in first-line non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Some pancreatic patients have been on it for a while now, and are doing well.

So why the change? We’ve always tried to “keep ahead of the game”. Out- guess the cancer (and maybe the oncologists?). Why the trepidation? Who knows what will happen. They say one of Abraxane’s side effects is hair loss – and I can’t say that fills me with great joy. The truth is that while on Gemcitobene and Tarceva something has changed, both physically and psychologically – and I can’t put my finger on it.

Hopefully writing about abraxane, then trying it, will do the trick.

Or should I just say Abra(xane) Cadabra, and hope for the best?

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

A Pancreatic Prayer

8 Jan

In the early days of my illness, the most common message I used to get was that people were praying for me. All sorts of people. Since then, I’ve often been asked what the illness has done to my faith.

The last thing I would do is get myself embroiled in a religious debate about faith or belief. But in the context of “religion” in Israel today, I feel I have to say something. Why is religion in inverted commas? Because so many of us have a definition of religion that is far removed from the religious-secular chasm that is, day by day, growing in Israel. For me, religion is something private between me and my God. My relationship with my fellow man has to have a tolerance far beyond what I see around me today.

My take is as follows: there’s 1 land; there’s 1 Jewish people; there’s 1 Jewish religion – but there are more ways than one way to practice the Jewish religion. On two conditions: no religious coercion and a division between State and religion.

So much for my own musing. I’d rather recount a story that started a couple of months before I was diagnosed. It puts religion in a different perspective. After many years, I decided to change banks. I could only have been to the new bank a couple of times at most; filling-in forms and changing credit cards with a helpful clerk. Then, in the middle of the process, I got sick. Finances weren’t foremost in my mind.  More than a few months passed by without me contacting my clerk. Then the sickest days seemed to have passed – I was beginning to get back to “normalcy”.  I needed to get back to the bank.

So I phone the bank clerk, tell him it’s Moshe, and try reminding him who I am … he stops me mid-sentence. “Moshe ben Ester Malka”, he says, reciting my Hebrew name and my mother’s Hebrew name in full, “I pray for you every day”. You could have knocked me over with a feather. How did he know the names? Why would he bother praying for the likes of me? I remembered that he wore one of those small knitted skull caps. But this is not about his skull cap, nor his dress code. The man had faith in what he felt. And he acted accordingly. Modestly, privately – between himself and his God. I bet he never goes around telling people what to do.

When I was really bad, so many of the “all sorts of people” I referred to above, told us that they themselves were praying for me. From those dressed in black – to those whom religion seemed anathema. I was even told that someone had their whole class at school praying for me!

Is this why my condition turned round? Let each one have his own opinion. But I really believe that in matters of faith, it’s better to keep religious opinions to one’s self – or share them with your God.

And as to the opening question of “what has the illness done to my faith”? I can’t point to any dramatic changes in my belief – but even if could, I’m not sure that I’d share them. The change that is obvious is the increased amount of time I spend at home and with Pam. She bears the brunt of my “belief”. She sees me as how I am. For better for worse. And I bless her every day.