As a child, my parents used to buy us shoes twice a year – before Rosh Hashanah and before Pesach. Early one Sunday morning, we would all pile into my Dad’s red Oldsmobile and drive over the Williamsburg Bridge, past the Lower East Side and into Alphabet City, to Richie’s Children’s Shoe store, which had the best quality shoes for the cheapest prices. Providing quality footwear for four kids was costly, especially since we all needed sneakers, school shoes, pool shoes (for camp) and Shabbat shoes. I remember my Dad making multiple trips from the store, precariously balancing shoe boxes stacked high, and filling up the trunk of the car.
But I loved everything about shoe shopping day: the smell of leather, trying on pretty pairs of shiny black or white (depending on the season) patent leather shoes, walking around the store to make sure they fit, modeling my feet in front of those half angled mirrors on the floor, having Richie press down on my big toe to make sure there was still room to grow, and then walking away with a couple of new pairs of shoes for the season. Truth be told, I’ve never outgrown my love of shoes, and I still cherish the pair of prize Salvatore Ferragamo open toe, black kitten heel mules with a bow and gold accents that I purchased with one of my first paychecks from Saks Fifth Avenue back in 1999.
So I was truly puzzled when in Kindergarten, during “off season,” my Mom bought me a beautiful pair of slippers. They were pink with silver stars and white faux fur lining that felt really great when I put them on. I later learned that these were going to be my hospital shoes.
I can’t tell you the name of the hospital where I spent a couple of days having tubes put into my ears and my tonsils and adenoids removed, but I remember with such clarity climbing out of the bed that first night, slipping on those beautiful pink slippers, and searching for my Mother. My slippers made a squeak sound on the shiny PVC floor and I followed the lights and the TV noises to the “family room” at the end of the hallway. There, I found my Mom with her 1970’s short feathered hairstyle and large, dark glasses, sitting on a couch against the wall watching the nightly news with her eyes closed. I was petrified to sleep alone in the hospital room, chock full of other children, and I made my Mom take me back and sit in the chair next to my bed. I also remember meal time before the surgery, and one of the other kids in the ward asking me why I wasn’t enjoying the chicken nuggets and french fries he kept dipping into his ketchup. I told him that his food wasn’t kosher so I couldn’t eat it, to which he said it was too bad cause the food was really good. I remember feeling jealous and wishing I too could eat chicken nuggets and french fries.
And I remember waking up, strapped to the gurney, before the surgery. Now, I don’t know who messed up but someone didn’t give me enough drugs. I remember being in the room with my parents and then waking up in a hallway, my bed against the wall, and I wasn’t able to move anything but my head. They must have knocked me out in the room so I wouldn’t freak out but just didn’t give me enough drugs to keep me out. I tried to sit up but I was restrained by white straps. I told myself, oddly enough, that the white strap was a bra. I started to panic and tried to get out of the bed. I lifted as much of my head and shoulders as I could and caught a glimpse at the scene in front of me. What looked like another gurney with another child lined up in front of my bed and the doors to the OR were wide open. Doctors in green scrubs were working on a patient and that was scary enough for my little 6 year old brain to register cause I started SCREAMING! The doctors jumped and someone came running towards me. I was hysterical, tears streaming down my face, arms and legs trying desperately to get out of my restrains. I remember a black mask and that was the end of the nightmare. My next memory from the hospital is of my Grandfather begging me to eat anything on the tray. I refused, the pain in my throat was too great, and I wasn’t enticed by the ice cream or the cherry ices. I agreed to taking small sips of apple juice from a straw and I would only drink if my Grandfather was holding the cup. I’m sure I was not a great patient but the surgery was essential and I went from having back to back bouts of strep and ear infections, to becoming thank g-d a healthy kid.
So, it’s no surprise that I have a serious hospital phobia. Yarden’s 36 hour labor ended up in an emergency C-section that kept us in the hospital for two days. As soon asI could, I got us checked out and into Hadassah’s Hotel Baby so I didn’t have to spend a minute more in a hospital room. By the time Sivan was born, I had an elective C-section and I checked myself out of the Hotel Baby a day before I was supposed to. My doctor called me, furious, and asked who gave me permission to leave?! I ended up going to her office to have my staples removed and she was not pleased with me. Tani’s birth was the worst because he was jaundice and they wouldn’t let me move over to Hotel Baby. I spent four night and five days with him in the hospital, and it was brutal. I got no sleep, someone stole the towel that I brought from home, and it was awful seeing him in the light box for two days. When we were finally able to go home, I had hoped that would be the last time I ever see the inside of a hospital.
I’ve been so, so fortunate that my treatment thus far has consisted of a couple of hours each week in the Hematology-Oncology day clinic. I’ve been able to get my chemo in the hospital and then go home to deal with the after effects. Tomorrow, please g-d, is the last R-CHOP session. I call this the end of Phase I, where we have been fighting the cancer in my liver, spleen, and bones.
After Pesach, we begin Phase II of my treatment, where the Doctors will begin to treat the cancer they don’t see. I’m going to be having two rounds of Rituximab, which is the “R” in R-CHOP. I’m also going to be having two round of Intrathecal Chemotherapy, which is basically a spinal tap where they inject chemo directly into the cerebral spinal fluid. I’ve had multiple spinals taps and four epidurals, so I’m not looking forward to this procedure.
And then I’ll be having two rounds of high doses of methotrextate chemo, which requires me to be hospitalized for between 4-6 days each round.
I’m not gonna lie, I’m absolutely petrified. I’m scared of how I’ll react to this chemo, I’m anxious about being away from my husband and children for so many days, and I’m petrified to be alone at night. I was able to make it through my hospital stays at Hadassah because I was so high and happy to have my babies that I didn’t feel scared about being alone. Truth be told, I didn’t sleep much with feeding scheduled for every two hours, and then Gaby was there first thing in the morning to spend the day with me and the new baby.
But I don’t know what awaits me on the 7th floor of Shaare Tzedek Medical Center, and the unknown is petrifying.
So, I’m trying to not think about it right now. I’m trying to stay focused on fighting this cold that I caught over the weekend and gearing up for Round #6 tomorrow. I’ve got my Crave t-shirt ready and my black Sperry Topsider slippers packed. They might not be those faux fur lined pink slippers of my childhood, but they remind me of home and provide just enough comfort to get me through the day.
Please continue to daven for me, especially tomorrow during treatment: Lior Shira Batya Bat Chaya Yehudit