I woke up this morning feeling sad. Perhaps it’s the grey skies or the fight I had with my 7 year old before she went to bed last night. It might have to do with the book I started reading called Keto for Cancer, in my desperate search to find a way of eating that is both healthier and will hopefully keep the cancer away. But in this book, there’s a section where the author talks about the moment your oncologist says that there is “no evidence of disease.” She is clear to write that the doctor will never say that you are cured, just that the tests taken to detect cancer did not find any cancer cells. That doesn’t mean the cells aren’t there, it just means that the tests didn’t see them. Until the day the cancer comes back and that cancer will either recur or you’ll get another type of cancer that’s related to the chemo or radiation.
Pretty bleak to read right before closing your eyes at night.
But here I am, Hineni, waiting for the call from the doctor to let me know if I am in remission. This wait is very reminiscent of the wait six months ago. That was the beginning of my cancer journey, and this is what I pray will be the end of the dark and bleak chapter of my life.
I ended up in the ER of Shaare Tzedek on Monday night, suffering from severe constipation and dehydration, a potentially deadly combination for a cancer patient. I had fasted most of Monday because of lack of appetite, walked in the heat from appointment to appointment, and when I finally ate something at 2:00 p.m. it caused my stomach to swell and bloat. I looked like I was 9 months pregnant and the pain in my stomach and back were intense. We spoke with one of the hematology-oncologists at Shaare Tzedek and she advised us to go immediately to the ER, concerned about a possible blockage. As soon as I hung up the phone, I started vomiting. We called in reinforcements for the kids and Gaby drove me to the hospital, where they triaged me very quickly. I went through an EKG, vitals and then even though I have a PICC line, they put in an infusion (I can’t find where you told me the right term, Noa!) into my right hand where they took blood samples. They sent me to the surgical ER to wait to be seen. I made my way to a row of chairs as Gaby talked me through the plans for the ER, explaining the unique layout and the circular nature of the ward. I took my seat next to a Russian couple who were laughing and in very good spirits. Across from me was an examination room with sliding doors, and an open area with patients in beds surrounded by curtains.
The ER was packed with people, the halls were lined up with patients in gurneys and as this was my first time in the ER, I was just overwhelmed. I noticed the hooks on the wall behind the chairs where we were sitting and then closed my eyes. Minutes later, a nurse arrived with a bag of Optalgin (pain reliver) and she spoke with the Russian couple. She hooked him up with the meds and then hung the bag on the hook behind him as the medication dripped slowly into his veins. I thought that was genius, then I started vomiting again.
As I hung my head into the Kirkland garbage bag that we brought with us to the hospital, wretching up whatever liquids I had managed to drink in the car ride to the ER, I thought about the Chazan’s prayer before Mussaf during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
hineni he’ani mimaas, “Here am I, poor in deeds. . . .”
I could hear Rocky Fuchs singing those words as I mentally transported back in time to the basement minyan of the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. His voice, the tune, the moving words sung before a congregation of people praying for another year of life, good health, financial well being, happiness.
With my head in the garbage bag, I composed my own version of this prayer.
Hineni, here I am, sick and frightened.
Hineni, here I am, praying you will hear my words.
Hineni, here I am, desperate for a cure.
Hineni, here I am, hoping that I’ll be able to see my children grow up.
Hineni, here I am, please heal me.
Gaby rubbed my back until it was all over and I was spent. He got up to speak with the nurses, anxious about my condition. Minutes later, a nurse arrived with 1000 ML bag of liquids that she hung on the hook behind me and hooked up to my hand. I was still clutching the bag of vomit in my right hand. Galia introduced herself as she hooked me up, told me that fluids should help me feel better, then took my bag of vomit and threw it away.
I was released at 3:00 a.m. after hours of tests including a stomach ultrasound and lower GI X-ray. A dose of Xantac and Zoffran stopped the heartburn and vomiting, and the fluids helped me feel a lot better. I was sent home with a bottle of laxatives that they give people before colonoscopies and the well wishes of the surgeon and nurses. Five hours later, I was thankful for the night of fluids as the radioactive materials shot through my veins prior to my PET CT. The rest of this week has been a blur, with another hospital visit yesterday to be examined by Dr. Ashkenazi and for a PICC line cleaning. As of yesterday, he didn’t have any results from my PET CT.
Hineni, here I am, waiting, praying, hoping for a second chance at life.