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Goodbye, Farewell – Smile for Me …

12 Dec

With breaking, aching hearts we have to inform you of the death of our most beloved Martin today at 1.30 – he passed away peacefully at home, embraced by his family whom he adored, and who adore him entirely.  The funeral will take place tomorrow, Thursday 13th December, at 12.30 in the Pardess Haim Cemetery in Kfar Saba.

 In true and typical Martin fashion, some weeks before he died, he wrote what he called “The Last Blog.”  Here it is – below:

 

Goodbye, Farewell – Smile for Me …

I won’t know when this blog will be posted.

Pam will have taken that decision for me.

We lost our fight with pancreatic cancer.

We had some successes for which I’d like to thank each and every one of you.

It never broke my spirit.

Smile for me.

Shalom, shalom. 

Happy Hanukka

8 Dec

At this time of year so special for miracles, let’s hope that we can again transform darkness to light … in good health, peace, and more than anything – tolerance.

Hag Hanukka sameach – happy Hanukka to all!

Has Keith Helped Me to Turn the Corner?

23 Nov

Keith is leaving early tomorrow morning.  What brilliant timing for a visit.  Although any visit at any time from Keith would be amazing.  He’s just that sort of guy.  And I have the luck to be his brother-in-law … and he’s left me in better shape than when he arrived.

With regard to “turning the corner” – that’s a complicated matter.  Geometrically it might be a great analogy.  My clinical condition continues to deteriorate in a downward straight line.  My movement is miniscule and I spend most of my day (and night) in my reclining couch.  So we’d have to turn a corner for any dramatic change.  But you know my philosophy: life is a continuous cycle, going round and round.  We just don’t know whether we’re at the bottom, ready to swing back up, or vice versa.

The signs are pretty ominous, although each sign may well be one more crutch.  “Wheelchair” sounded bad, but it serves me well in getting to the beach and enjoying nature.  “Oxygen” sounds even worse, but having the admin behind us and a cannister on call (for the odd puff now and again) certainly makes for common sense.  “Morphine” sounds as low as one can go.  But using the right-sized patch has proven a blessing.

So, who knows?  At least I’ve still got the patience to wait and see – and to wait for Keith’s next visit.

Keith’s come over from Canada

18 Nov

Keith arrived last night from Vancouver.

I might just use the blog as an ‘updater’ while he’s here rather than posting my normal blog.

I might also be a little indulgent and ask that you channel your interest by email rather than calling, even though I myself am getting to the keyboard less at the moment.  So email Pam; she passes on all the messages to me.

Hello Again

1 Nov

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been on the PARPS for three weeks. It would be even harder to describe what’s being going on during that time. Most of it has been pretty negative and I’ve been too exhausted to tell you.

But I’ve been so touched and encouraged by your support – those that have wanted to visit, keep phoning or those whose emails I’ve failed to answer – that I have to get back to the keyboard. Hopefully, there’ll be lots to share with you in the future.

I had thought of using the blog merely as a means of updating you – but perhaps at another stage. For the moment I’d like to keep to my mandate of fighting this awful illness.

The euphoria of receiving the PARPS receded as pain seemed to take over almost immediately. But the following day, we’d been invited to a seventieth birthday party of one my golf partners – a retired surgeon. Against Pam’s better judgement, I prevailed upon her to go. It was a last minute decision.

As fate would have it, I sat next to one of my host’s long-time work colleagues. We start talking and, looking as I did, the conversation soon turned to my illness. He just “happened to be” co-ordinator of a massive EU funded project that is out to find early-detection for pancreatic cancer!

This most remarkable man, Prof Louis Shenkman, tells me about the project: four years to investigate pathways of cancer – and hence lead the team to a cure. The “team” is being led by the Nano-technology Department of Bar-Ilan University; 19 members, including three other Israeli universities, one from Russia and the rest from the European Union. What is fascinating to Prof Shenkman is the fact that most of the personnel involved are scientists who have little or no contact with patients. He himself, while still a practicing doctor, admitted that he hadn’t before had such a heart-to-heart discussion with a potential “end-user”. He persuaded me how our few words were added incentive to ensure that the team beat their “deadline”.

By co-incidence, he tells me, he was travelling the next day to Europe for a meeting with the team leaders. After eighteen months work, the SaveMe Project has reached a cross-road for decision making; finalising the short list of the paths they will follow. They know they’re on the right trail. He asks me whether he can quote part of our discussion in his opening address. I’m knocked out.

I tell him that I had to wait two years for the PARPS. If his team comes up with the solution in another two and half years – I’m prepared to wait around for it. In view of what’s been happening in the last three weeks that’s one hell of a challenge. Let’s all hope we’re up for it.

Check out the “SaveMe Project”. The link is   http://fp7-saveme.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1&Itemid=1

 

Pam’s Perspective: 4

21 Sep

As the holiest day of the Jewish year rolls around again, I find that I have a rocky relationship with God.  On Wednesday, Yom Kippur, we will sit in shul and say that today He decides who will live and who will die – but Penitence, Prayer and Charity avert the severe decree.  And I’ve got a problem with that.

The Jewish religion mandates praying 3 times a day; there is an opportunity each time to offer a prayer for someone’s health. So many people are praying for Martin – they ask for his Hebrew name, and the name of his mother, and they “add him to their list” (as some of them tell us) every day.  We are grateful for this; I think it is another facet of Judaism’s brilliance.  You pray for someone 3 times a day and so you think of him, you think of him so you call, or email, or visit.  Visiting the sick is one of the greatest mitzvot a Jew can perform – and it is tremendously supportive to the patient and his family.  So prayer is wonderful, and gives the supplicant a measure of (assumed) control.

But what of God, who receives the prayers?  Is He sitting there on high with a notebook, or an iPad, calculating whether the threshold of prayer has been passed or not, and He will show mercy?  Enough Shema Yisraels and He’ll add on another year?  People come up with strange and incredible manners in which we should appeal to God’s better nature: a friend’s son, studying in Yeshiva, told Martin to go into a small room and tell God, out loud, what he has done for God’s country.  Hmmm.  Does God not know? Has He forgotten?  Do I want to believe in a God like this?

 

Some of the more … ummm … ‘provocative’ Rabbis have their own take on tragedy.  When, many many years ago, a train ploughed into a bus full of schoolchildren on their way home from a class trip, killing over 20 kids, a Rabbi proclaimed it was because they didn’t keep Shabbat.  The same statement, from a different Rabbi, followed the disastrous crash of 2 air force helicopters, on their way to Lebanon.  When a bus load of Haredi children was blown up after that, resulting in the death of many innocent religious kids who did keep the Sabbath, the Rabbis said it was God’s will.

So it’s a win-win situation for God, I see: things go well, it’s because He’s answered your prayers, things go badly – well, it’s God’s will.  So many, many well-intentioned people are now telling me to trust in God – it’s all in His hands, it’s all from Above – I should be comforted in that.  Here’s the thing: it’s the opposite of comforting for me – I don’t want to believe that such a fickle God exists, and certainly not that I’m in His hands.  A line from King Lear leaps up each time I hear about praying to God: “As flies to wanton boys so are we to the Gods, / They kill us for their sport.” 

Oh dear.

But, you know what, I am desperate.  This year, as always, I’ll go to shul and beat my breast in penitence for the sins of eating and drinking (not waiting long enough for my Cadbury’s chocolate after my chicken), and for my foolish speech and wanton glance (though, for the life of me I can’t remember being wanton … but it’s best to be on the safe side); and we will give charity as we always do, and we will pray, oh how we will pray, for a better year for all.

And God, if you prove me wrong and show me that You are listening after all – well, I’ll even go into a small room and tell You, out loud, how much I love You.

 

Chatima tova[1] for to us all – to the House of Israel and all the other houses on God’s earth.

 

 


[1] May we be inscribed in the Book of Life

Happy Birthday Pam

2 Apr

Happy Birthday Pam!

Every day with you is a celebration. May we just continue together for many more years.

Amen.

 

Spring

23 Mar

Did I miss something in my melancholy? They tell us to be aware of the Ides of March – but what exactly is the warning? As daylight became longer than the hours of darkness this week, we travelled up north to visit one of our daughters.

How the sunshine, open road and some sixties and seventies music can swing the mood. But what can one do with physical pain? Unfortunately, this week I’ve again had a terribly mixed bunch of bad feeling. Stomach aches – which moved my mind to places that I haven’t been to before. Except once – a couple of weeks ago. Thoughts that I can only share with Pam. Fortunately I was able to broach the subject with my ever-present Joanna – a daughter who seems wiser beyond her years. And capable of communication in conversations that I am not. But how comforting she always is to me.

So we motor up north, gob-smacked by the beauty of the greenery interspersed by outbursts of audacious spring-blooming trees. How can this not uplift your soul? By what about physical pain? My good friend Robert, the physician, counsels me not to be stubborn but simply to take some pain-killers. The other alternative is to check-in to Tel Hashomer hospital and let them try to get to the bottom of my latest problem. Only I fear that the pains are nothing new and my obstinacy demands respecting my week-long break from chemo and travelling north – to be perfectly pampered by Tal. I certainly know how to count my blessings.

Shortly after I was diagnosed, Robert suggested I build a pain scale of 1 to 10 and medicate myself accordingly. I’ve used the scale sparingly to convince myself that I’m always on the low end. But this week I succumbed – and started popping a few pills.

Did they help? It was certainly an up-and-down week; pain peppered with magical moments, friends and a few phone calls – from Sidelle especially – to help as well. And even share an entertaining evening in Jerusalem with her. And a niece nice enough to place a plea in our Western Wall.

This week, as ever, I’m so aware how supportive my family are in this on-going battle. I hope that spring can put a spring back in my heel and spirits. I might even get round to some spring cleaning….

Pam’s Perspective 2 [26]

10 Mar

It’s a seductive affair, writing a blog.  You sit, the keys at your fingertips, and pour out your heart in private. You can cry, and no-one notices.  You can scream, and no-one can hear.  You can say all the things that are bottled up in your throat, and no-one looks shocked, or uneasy.  And then you hit a few buttons and click a couple of links and whoosh – all your innermost feelings are ‘out there,’ for all to share.  Scary.

One of the most unexpected side-effects of Martin’s illness has been the resurgent ache that I have for my own parents.  You would think at this stage of the game I wouldn’t want to reach for the phone to call my mommy; thank the powers-that-be I have been a mommy myself for a beautifully long time.  It’s over a quarter of a century that I haven’t had a dad – how weird is it now to long for his hug, for my mother’s calm coping skills, for their advice and love.  But miss them I do – more and more each day, it seems.  Not for their help with the shopping, or the cooking, or the laundry; I miss just being able to talk.  There are certain things – the thoughts that hit as I drive home from work, the conversations that Martin and I have in the small hours of the morning, when we lie holding hands in bed, crying softly and chatting – that you can’t really share with anyone except a mom and dad.  It’s not fair to burden the kids – and I put so much on my brothers and sisters-in-law as it is – there have to be some limits, somewhere.  So I long for my parents, with that twisting, raw ache.

And then I stop myself.  I think of my special daughters – who walk in from their own busy lives, wash their hands, and start cooking for us; and my brothers and sisters-in-law who are always, always there for us – God! How lucky we are! – and my family and friends who have kept up an unending, embracing blanket of support with calls, and practical help, and visits and more, all through this long, long time (which we hope will stretch on for the longest time yet) … and I have to count myself blessed.  And I think how lucky I am that I can still hold my husband in the quiet hours of the night, and we can discuss all manner of things together, and that in the warm sunlight of morning, life still can look good.

As I type my heroic husband is cleaning up our garden for Pesach, pruning and sweeping and planting new buds to brighten up our Chag.  He popped a Tarceva in mitten drin, as my mom used to say, and we pray that it keeps him stable and well.  And he pops in every ten minutes to check on West Ham – since he’s been ill I’ve taken to caring about this maddening soccer team too … just let them get back into the Premier League, soon.

And as Pesach rolls round I think just maybe I might clean this year, as I do each spring – although I thought I’d never care about that again.  And I think how weird to be so glad that I want to scrub behind the washing machine … and I think how strange life is bichlal, and I get up from this surrogate life – the computer – and put on the kettle to make my husband a cup of tea. 

Lechaim – and happy, happy cleaning to us all.

___________________________

[26] This is the second time Pam has written her perspective. The first, seemingly ages ago, was written on 24th November, 2011.

Ketogenic “Bread”

5 Mar

Our whirl-wind tour of Canada and the long trip home may have taken its toll. The combination of return flight and a chemo treatment early last week didn’t work well for me. But as I’ve often said, one has to believe that downturns will end swinging upwards again. I had another treatment today and I’ve been sleeping on and off ever since – but amazingly enough – even at this late hour I feel up to a quick “post”.

I’m proud to present a recipe for Paleo Bread, for which I will be eternally grateful to Janice and Felicity:

1 ½ cups blanched almond flour

2 tablespoons coconut flour

¼ cup golden flaxseed meal

¼ teaspoon celtic sea salt

1 ½ teaspoons baking soda

5 eggs

¼ cup coconut oil

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Place almond flour, coconut flour, flax, salt and baking soda in a food processor

Mix ingredients together

Mix in eggs, oil and vinegar

Pour batter into a greased 7.5″ x 3.5″ loaf pan

Bake at 350°F/180°C for 30 minutes

Cool and serve

Actually, I couldn’t wait for the “cool” bit. I cut my first slice and lashed on butter – hardly waiting to see it melt. Closed my eyes, took my first bite, and thought I’d gone to Heaven…

Is that what over a year on the ketogenic diet [1] does for you? Fooled me into forgetting how much I took food for granted?

Who knows why I’ve stuck so religiously to the diet for so long? Is it because of family support? Fear of upsetting a thus-far “winning” formula? Belief in an as yet undocumented theory? As I’ve said before, there’s been no extensive research on the diet – but hopefully even that might change. I’d be specially interested to see the effect on weight changes.

I can tell you the thought that ran through my brain as I was biting my “bread”. I’m in the middle of reading Israel Meir Lau’s book “Out of the Depths” – his experience through and after the Holocaust. Nothing can compare with Lau’s experience but my small abstinence – out of choice – of part of my diet, put things into proportion.


[1] Some people say the Ketogenic diet sounds like the Atkins diet – no carbs, no sugar and no fruit. If you can cut out real bread, cake, biscuits, pasta, potatoes, rice, sugar and fruit (berries are OK) you’re on your way.  For more about the diet go to:  www.frauenklinik.uni-wuerzburg.de_forschung_ketogenic_en.pdf