Dostrovsky street is my Everest. It’s a very steep hill that connects Efrata street with Shalom Yehuda in my quaint little Jerusalem neighborhood, and named after award-winning scientist Israel Dostrovsky. Before we had a second car, and I used to pick the kids up and walk them home from school in Baka, I would always opt to walk up Ein Gedi street and make a right on to Efrata so I would avoid Dostrovsky. My Dad dubbed it “cardiac hill” since your heart is pounding by the time you make it to the top.
On Monday this week, I didn’t have my follow up appointment with my bariatric surgeon. But it was a date that I had been looking forward to for months. We were supposed to review all of my pre-op tests and set a date for bariatric surgery, which I was expecting to take place some time in February. It was a hard appointment for me to give up, especially since I wanted to thank the surgeon for agreeing to do the surgery in the first place. So many people tried to convince me not to have the surgery, but I had said that if the top bariatric surgeon in Israel was willing to do it, I was going to go ahead. Thank g-d he agreed to do the surgery. If he hasn’t agreed to the surgery, I wouldn’t be where I am now.
Tuesday was my weekly appointment with Dr. Ashkenazi at Shaare Tzedek. I got my PICC line cleaned and my numbers drawn. My WBC’s were low, as expected, so I started again on the Neupogen shots. I still marvel at the science behind these shots. Literally, a syringe full of medicine makes my bones squeeze out white blood cells. I feel it working, as I woke up this morning with pain in my arms and just generally feeling unwell.
I’m also amazed by how physically weak I have grown since I started R-CHOP. I went from feeling like a strong person, to having difficulty walking from room to room. Seriously, walking from my bed to my chair in the living room leaves me winded. Before my cancer diagnosis, I was working out with heavy weights, using my TRX and thinking about working out with a trainer. Gaby and I ran/walked the Maccabiah Games 5K this summer and I got such a high from it, that I hired someone to teach me how to run. I told Gaby that I want to be a runner. My health and fitness goals included having surgery to lose weight, and with all the excess weight off of my knees, start a running program.
This is still my ultimate goal, I’m just taking a different route to get there.
So now, I have to figure out how to stay active even though it’s difficult. I’ve recruited friends and family to take me out for a walk at least once a day. And I make myself walk up Dostrovsky street, even though it’s really hard. I told myself that if I can manage to walk up Dostrovsky once a day, then I’ll be okay. I’ll physically make it through all the chemo and the cancer and anything else that this illness will throw at me. I just need to put one foot in front of the other and make it up this street.
Yesterday, my friend Tami came to take me out for my walk and I was feeling so great that we walked up Dostrovsky twice! We sat on a bench in the sun and caught up afterwards since twice up Dostrovsky is really my limit, and it was just so nice to sit and breathe. To not think about work deadlines or the pile of laundry that needs folding or the sink full of dishes that needed washing. It is so rare in my daily life to just sit on a bench from 1:00 – 2:00 p.m. and talk to a friend. I think we all need to figure out how to get these moments into our daily lives, because that social interaction literally carried me through the rest of my day.
This morning I was feeling run down from the shot, but the kids were up at 5:30 so I pulled myself out of bed. I made them Aruchat Esser, some morning shoko and warmed up cheese bourekas for breakfast. I was thankful they didn’t ask for eggs because I had no energy to start cooking. I was supposed to have acupuncture at 9:30 but my whole body ached so we rescheduled and I went back to bed. I slept until 12:30 and then my Dad came over to take me out for a walk. We decided to go to Beit Hanatziv since I wanted to buy some fresh spelt bread and fresh cashews so I can make cashew milk. I haven’t been to a store in a really long time and I felt a bit anxious walking in to the Roladin. There was a rack of breads but nothing to grab them – no tongs, no gloves, nothing. I have to be really careful about germs and handling food, so my Dad grabbed me a napkin and I put a loaf of bread into a bag. When I went up to the cashier to pay, I asked him if he could slice it but to put on gloves when he handled my bread. He laughed at me and I could tell he wanted to give me a hard time, but he did as requested. He must have thought that I was another crazy American who is annoying about germs.
We then went to the nut store which is literally my favorite store in this complex. I haven’t been in there in three months but it’s a very narrow store so I was really anxious. My Dad kinda gave me a little nudge and I walked in and asked the owner if he wouldn’t mind giving me fresh unsalted cashews from the box. I can’t eat from display cases that are out in the open. As he went to the back to get the cashews, the woman in front of me who had just finished paying and was distracted while walking out of the store, slammed into me on her way out. It wouldn’t have been a big deal except that she slammed right into my PICC line and she literally pushed me back. My Dad caught me so I didn’t fall over, but I let out a loud gasp. Interestingly enough, the woman actually came back into the store to see what happened. She asked me if she bumped into me and I was just so shocked. I responded “didn’t you feel it?” because she had hit me with such force! She said “no, she didn’t feel anything” and then she left. No apology. Nothing.
I think that’s the last time I go into a narrow store. Now these store owners know me well, I am a pretty good patron, so they had no problem asking me why I needed the nuts from the back. I told them that I have cancer and he looked so shocked! But he understood and assured me that if I ever wanted nuts or fruit, he would make sure to give me from the packages and not from the bins.
I was tired on the walk back home but it was important for me to get up Dostrovsky, and even though I had to concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other, I made it to the top.
No matter what your Everest is, I hope you make it to the top, no matter how long, or slow, or hard it might be to get there. Just put one foot in front of the other, and you’ll make it.
Please continue to daven for me: Lior Shira Batya Bat Chaya Yehudit