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Posts Tagged ‘brain cancer’

Barely a week has passed since my father’s yahrzeit; I think about him every single day and I miss his presence in my life in ways that make little or no sense to me.

Today, a friend of mine mentioned how his father was diagnosed with cancer on his birthday and died 10 days later; he would have been 89 today.  Although this friend is merely a Facebook friend, I wanted to reach out and comfort him. . .I understood in some small way how he may have been feeling.  My father was diagnosed with brain cancer a couple of days before his 71st birthday; 6 weeks later, he took his last breath.

I will never forget when my father took his last breath or the weeks leading up to it.

Aryeh wore this baseball cap for many years following his Zaydie's death.

Aryeh wore this Baltimore Orioles baseball cap for many years following his Zaydie’s death.

Somehow my father found the strength to allow the boys and I celebrate  his 71st birthday in his hospital room.  My kids had chosen to get him black shorts and an orange t-shirt as a gift; my father loved the Baltimore Orioles and my kids loved my father. (Orange and black are the colors for the Baltimore Orioles.)

My father was an amazing Zaydie who loved his grandchildren more than life itself.   So, with that in mind, he did what any proud Zaydie would do, he put on the outfit and ate chocolate cake with us.  It was the last time, any of us celebrated life with my Abba.  I can’t believe how he pushed through the last birthday of his life not for himself, but for his precious grandchildren.

During the shiva house (week long traditional house of mourning), one of my nieces wore his orange t-shirt and black shorts and for all I know is still wearing them to this day. 🙂

Zaydie believed that grandchildren were a grandparents reward for not killing their children.  Dad also believed that grandparents and grandchildren had one thing in common; they both couldn’t stand the parents.

May my father’s memory continue to a blessing for good.  I love you Daddy.

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RIP Zach Lederer. RIP Superman Sam.  RIP Liv Wise.   RIP So Many More. . . . 

In the last few months, amazing young people with so much life in front of them lost their struggle for life.  Brain cancer took their last breath away.  (Correction: Sammy died of refractory acute myeloid leukemia another form of cancer.)

Remembering. . . .

While I did not know any of these beautiful souls; my heart crumbles with each and every loss.  My entire being feels the loss and then remembers how much our family once suffered as we fought for Aryeh’s life.  Yes he not only thrived, but survived in spite of losing most of his teenage years to illness, a very large (6.5 cm all around) arachnoid cyst on the right temporal lobe of his brain.  Many sleepless nights, everlasting tears, intense pain, and two brain surgeries later, I still never go a day without remembering what happened.

Aryeh at the Kotel Summer 2012 - Seeing this photo touched me deeply.  At one time, the possibility of Aryeh thriving would have been a dream. . .. .

Aryeh at the Kotel Summer 2012 – Seeing this photo touched me deeply. At one time, the possibility of Aryeh thriving would have been a dream. . .. .

As a mother, I recall the sleepless nights, the fear of loss, the stress on our family, the financial realities, and the agony my son faced every moment of his life for over 3.5 years.  I never questioned why him, but I did always pray for his pain to cease in any way it could.  I hated seeing Aryeh in pain; it nearly destroyed me.  There was nothing I could do; sometimes it felt like no one could help. Eventually one special doctor made all the difference.Any time a loved one has to watch a child suffer is profoundly horrible.

There are no words to express the darkness that looms with each breath.  Even as you hope all will be ok, fear of hoping can be paralyzing too.  Each of us that have faced serious illnesses knows that sometimes there are no tomorrows.  Since March 2007, I see the world through different eyes.  I fear loss, but almost never forget to live fully.  While there is no such thing as a given, nearly every moment in life is precious.

Each of the losses above have flooded me with memories of Aryeh’s journey.  The journey to health from serious illness sucks and yet we still get to choose (mostly) how we navigate our journeys. All I can say is wow as the tears run down my face. My hope is that brain cancer and all serious illnesses find a cure. No one should have to endure this pain and/or this loss.

Remembering. . .

My heart goes out to Lederer, Sommer, and Wise families and to every family that has ever had to navigate a health journey.   Losing  is the worst.  May the souls of their loved ones be at peace; may their memories be a blessing for good.

For more information on the amazing young people mentioned above:

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From beginning to end, yesterday was challenging and full of gifts too.  Sigh and yay!!!

The only thing that got me through was drumming and chanting niguunim (melodies).  As my heart was hyperventilating, I took time to release the energy through drumming and chanting.  With each beat of the drum, I released the tension in my soul; with each deep breath followed by my chanting, I felt my sadness leave me.

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The drum of my dreams. . . .

What affected me the most deeply was the deep sadness that surrounded me at nearly every turn.  So many folks were struggling with real darkness and others were just creating challenges through their actions.  For those that were struggling with their own darkness or perhaps their own demons, I found myself wishing I could share with them this beautiful rendition of Katy Perry’s Roar by Olivia Wise who is currently suffering from brain cancer.  http:/https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_An8xNwupo

Olivia’s rendition of Perry’s Roar brought tears to my eyes and deep pain to my heart.  Imagining what Olivia and her family are facing hurts; I can relate and yet I can’t.  After years of the deep pain that accompanied Aryeh’s illness and to the pain that has at times accompanied my life, I couldn’t stop crying.  Life is such a gift and some people can’t find the gifts that are in front them.  Olivia made this video so that those who love her will always hear her ‘Roar”.  How beautiful is that?!?!?!

As I write, Olivia is more unconscious than conscious; her wakeful moments are few and far between.  What her family is telling the world is that Liv woke each day seeking light and finding light too.  While none of us can do that all the time, I wish more folks would go out of their way to find light and make things work with each step.

If I could make a difference for even a moment, I would shatter the illusion that there is no way around pain.

For nearly four years, I watched my son struggle for life and yet I almost never gave in to the darkness.  I always, always, always reached for life and light even as I accepted what could have been inevitable.

With every ounce of my being, I wish that the people around me could find the gifts in the challenges instead of reaching for the darkness and letting that darkness be their guide.

Choose life.

The rhetoric of the anti-abortion world and the teaching of Deuteronomy is perfect for this moment.  While I am far from the anti-abortion world, I do choose life.  Every day, I choose to wake up and find the light within the challenges.  Darkness rarely encompasses my heart and soul.

Choosing life is what I do.

I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter, dancing through the fire

‘Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar

Louder, louder than a lion

‘Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar.’

Katy Perry’s Roar

My son Aryeh is alive.  How ironic it is that Aryeh’s name means lion.  He is alive. In spite of a fatal diagnosis at times, he has always decided to be a thriver that is very much alive.  We are all alive; each and every one in my family is alive and thriving and yes, even roaring.

Yesterday as I sat in the midst of so much pain, watched some folks make troubling choices, and also experienced little things getting blown out of proportion, I wanted to help others find the light when only darkness seemed to persevere.

There are so many people like Olivia or Aryeh that choose life until no more breaths can be made.  There are so many folks that have chosen to thrive as opposed to bury their head in the sand.  May those folks be our role model.

May we all find our ‘Roar’.

PS – I forgot to mention, I saw some beautiful vibrant life yesterday.  I met people on the street that grapple with life and win.  From a distance, I watched my dear friend and his wife move towards the impending death of their father and father-in-law.  I also watched beautiful young minds embrace their own love of learning.  And finally, I had a delightful evening with my son.

While darkness surrounded me, it wasn’t part of me.  Still, may I and those that are part of my life always remember to ‘Roar’.

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For many reasons, the summer of 2001 was absolutely one of the darkest periods in my life.  For 6.5 weeks, I sat watching my father struggle for life and then let go of life.  Exactly 6.5 weeks after discovering he had brain cancer, he was dead.  For the first five weeks he fought valiantly for his life and then he let go.

Watching him beat up his dying body with radiation and then chemo nearly killed me.  I loved my father.  While our relationship was extraordinarily complicated, I hated watching him suffer.  While he couldn’t always take care of me as a child, he loved me and he really did try. And the good news is he came through as a zaydie, he was an amazing grandfather to my children.

During his final week, I looked at my Abba (father) and said, “I am so sorry you are going through this.’ And with that he responded with five simple words that have since become my life’s motto. “It is what it is.”

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Those words have helped me manuever life for over 12 years.  They provide comfort and allow me to accept reality without going crazy.  Sometimes life is beautiful; sometimes life is less than beautiful.  There is nothing simple about life; there are hours, days, weeks when life feels challenging or even crippling.  And there are times when my spirit soars and inner peace fills my soul.  It is what it is!

‘It is what it is’ helps me navigate the world with a little more ease.  While I am still one of the most intense people I know, these words allow me to be present in wherever I am at any given moment.  These simple words remind me to breathe deeply,  to hang on for the ride, to seek the gifts within reality, and to be ok with what is!

What a gift this little phrase has been for me!! Yay!!!  Perhaps in these five words I found the greatest legacy that my father left me.  How surreal that it came during his last days or maybe even last hours of consciousness; 12 years after his death, that thought is resonating with me.

A couple of months ago, two close friends send a gift; this gift was a surprise in every way.  It wasn’t my birthday or even a momentous occasion; my friends were just being the thoughtful and loving people that they are!  As I looked in the box I was so jazzed by what the mug in the box said and then I realized that while the mug came in three unexpected pieces,  the message was still the same.  How ironic!!!  It is what it is!  I love how my friends ‘got me’ !!  The  knew that these words inspire me to walk through the world as I do.  Broken or not, this mug is still making me smile.  How cool is that!?!?!

May we all learn to honor what is even as something different then expected comes our way.

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