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How dare I fall apart? I am blessed beyond deserving it. My family is OK. My friends are OK. I knew only one family who had the virus and fortunately have recovered. Until this week. . . .

First, we lost our goldendoodle, Simba. After watching him decline with cancer, we made the difficult choice to put him down, foregoing the worst of the inevitable ending. Then we heard a friend’s mother died, and she is grieving alone. No funeral, no family to gather, no shiva, no closure. Then I broke when I learned my beloved surgeon got the coronavirus. The man who was invincible, who did surgeries no other surgeon would take on, working for shifts up to 28 hours, mending those who no one else could mend, including me.

He was being feted at a weekly hospital concert, recovering after weeks of being on a ventilator and emerging too weak to walk; wheeled into the lobby to join his colleagues in singing “A Whole New World,” and telling the story breathlessly. Humble as always.

I’ve been crying since I heard of his battle. Tears of gratitude that he survived, gratitude for his care, and frightened for his future. We don’t yet know what the virus leaves in its wake. If he is unable to continue his work, so many will be deprived of his rare talents and courage to tackle the cases that only he will take – and largely succeed at, putting back together us broken souls. I guess when it comes down to it, even this giant of a man, a world renowned and dedicated surgeon is after all, human. And this virus spares no one, especially those in the line of fire. 

My plea to my friends is not to be foolish. We are all anxious to return to life “as it was.” But that may not be possible for a long while, if we are to contain this scourge. I am missing my friends and family immensely, yet continuing to distance myself from physical contact. No distance is safe enough when it comes to this virus, so I’m only doing necessary outings. Partially to honor my doctor, who worked so hard to give me my life back. I will I not risk throwing it away after that battle. And for my family. Any one of us engaging in unsafe behavior puts all three of us at risk. 

I implore you – all who I love. Do not take this threat lightly. I am out of tears and am afraid I may not have any left to cry for you. 

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NEW BLOG POST

The start of a new year always brings an opportunity to look back on the past year and possibly beyond. A new year is filled with expectations that things will be better than the year before, particularly when the previous one was difficult. The reality of life is that it has its ups and downs, it’s joys and sorrows, and there is no timetable for any of it.

So what can we do to take a more realistic look at life?

I really believe the most important thing we can do to help fortify us against challenges, is to stop and count our blessings. Even in the worst of times, there is good to be found. Take for example, the many tragedies that have been suffered in this world. Haven’t they always brought out the best in people? From one man stepping up to feed thousands of people in Puerto Rico after the hurricane, to the rescue efforts at the World Trade Center, to the outpouring of funds from individuals for any of the natural disasters that have struck our shores and beyond. Then of course, are those personal challenges where many of us have experienced the pure outpouring of support from others.

I speak from personal experience.

While suffering unspeakable pain, isolation and fear, I was visited by people I would never have expected to see. A work colleague with whom I had differences at times, came to offer me a facial and manicure. Another visitor, someone I knew somewhat peripherally in HS, came to see me while i was in a NYC hospital. A cousin, with whom we had limited contact as children, came several times. Another, traveled in from NJ.

And then those who I counted on, traveled from far away places to see me – my sister, cousin and son. And my dear husband, who was with me every day while in the hospital in CT, came every other day from CT to NY, spending 4 hours a day traveling, while maintaining our home, our pets and a job.

If that’s not something to be grateful for, I don’t know what would be.

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Our annual trip to Maine was up in the air. Should I go so far from my medical team (8-10 hours by car)? If not, should my husband go for his much deserved vacation and leave me home alone? How would cars be juggled? Would I see my west coast son if I didn’t go? All these questions had to be considered. I had already cancelled my teaching obligations and gave up any possibility of attending any art classes myself – two of the things I look forward to each year.

As we approached the weekend we would leave, I felt good enough to chance it. We planned only one week, rather than our usual two, to hedge our bets. Being in the woods, sitting on a screened porch overlooking a lake was just what the doctor ordered. I spent little time in the kitchen. My boys and their friend cooked and we went out to dinner. I even ate a 2.5 lb. soft shell lobster!

The healing power of family and nature is certain. I was out of bed all day (albeit resting and sitting a lot). When I got back home, I was able to be out of bed, doing things around the house, food shopping, laundry, etc., before tiring.

Now that I feel some recovery is occurring, I need to face the rest of the journey: another surgery in the risky zone and a minor one to complete the mastectomy/ reconstruction process. But I have survived this nearly one-year nightmare and feel almost human again, and that counts for something.

This portion of the experience is being wrapped up with this post. If I write any more about related subsequent events, they will stand on their own. Thank you for sharing my journey with me.

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My cousin’s favorite holiday is Thanksgiving, and we shared the holiday with her and her husband for many years. This year, she was in the midst of packing to move and I wasn’t travelling, so we endeavored to have Thanksgiving at our house, even though I wouldn’t be able to assist in preparations. Our family, cousins and sister’s family chipped in on the cooking and cleanup to make a beautiful Thanksgiving feast. And to my utter delight, I was able to take my first bites of food beginning that week. Thanksgiving was particularly poignant as we all were so grateful for my survival and beginning recovery. Recovery began and proceeded, marked by small advances through December and January. One drain out; then another. First shower. First food after months of IV feeding. Weight gain (I had lost 15 lbs.) Walking further. Driving. Pain lessening. I scheduled the prophylactic mastectomy for June, sure I would be well enough to have the next surgery in seven months.

To be continued . . . . . .

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Why do we get more sentimental as we age? Is it the feeling (and reality) that our time is growing limited? Is it a yearning for days gone by? Or is it a combination of these factors?
I am joyful beyond measure for the time we get to spend with our family. It is so rare now to have them all together at the same time, and usually not all to ourselves. With friends in their lives, we are sharing our boys with other people. I am happy about the kinds of people they choose to be in their lives, and enjoy the young adults sitting around the dinner table having mature conversations. I love the amazing meals my son and his friend turn out for us to enjoy. I love the physical closeness phone calls can’t provide.
Then why am I also sad?
It’s because I know this time is limited.
It’s because they will be wretched from us once again – each parting as difficult as the first.
It’s because I do not know when we will next see each other.
It’s because we will be moving away from where they grew up, and when they go “home” maybe it won’t be where we are moving to.
It’s because all parents carry guilt about what they didn’t do even though the outcome was good and there is no logical reason to feel that way.
It’s just because sometimes.
So, now I will put it aside and go back to enjoying the time I DO have with my sons and their friends. They need help in the kitchen!

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Fair warning . . . . especially to family. The feelings expressed in this poem reveal deep, personal pain in the context of the family rift. If you feel it may negatively influence you about the family, please read no further.

These past six months have been difficult. While much of my life has been lived without the support of my mother, her decision to cut herself off from two of her three children is unfathomable to me. I understand some of the logistical and survival reasons for her choice. Yet I cannot imagine, for any reason, EVER, being estranged from my sons, therefore can’t understand how she can do it. Never mind the pain it might cause her (if it indeed does), but her lack of consideration about her children’s feelings – I just can’t wrap my head around it.

I’ve considered reaching out – many times – but I already know the score. I’ve been there so may times, each time emerging with freshly opened wounds, so I decided to stop hurting myself any more. Only a fool keeps doing the same thing, expecting different results.

So, when I pause to think about things, I become angry, in self defense. Writing is cathartic – so emerged the first poem I have written since I was a teenager. Here it it.

You Told Me I Couldn’t

Act like a child,

even when I was one

I had to be the adult you couldn’t be

Develop my academic talent

When I qualified to skip a year of school,

you held me back

Go to religious school when I wanted to learn who our people were

because you wouldn’t join the temple that offered you

a scholarship you viewed as “charity”

Take music or dance lessons

because you didn’t have the money

yet your poorer friends found a way to send their children

Go to a prestigious public school

because you didn’t want me to ride the subway

You thought your fears should be mine

Claim my spot in a desirable college

because I couldn’t go to that school

So I dropped out of a different college, already defeated in my belief I

that I could accomplish anything great

Go to art school

because I would be a starving artist

even though my teacher saw promise and helped me create a portfolio

Do the right thing

because when I stopped to help an injured child along my way,

you punished me for losing the money I was given to bring home dinner

Go to college unless I could find the money to pay for it

because you didn’t think my education was important enough

Or maybe you didn’t want to see me succeed

Your actions and words broke me in places no doctor could fix

But years of reflection, therapy and depression, provided some glue to hold me together

while I built my own foundations of strength

I made my life meaningful in spite of you

In the face of loss of

my childhood,

my innocence,

my health

jobs,

old friends,

my home,

two husbands,

and others I loved,

I built a life of worth, and still find it possible to be grateful for every bit it

A devoted husband

Two beautiful sons

A good education

Health

Friends

Meaningful work

And the privilege of finally, finally, being all those things you said I couldn’t be.

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I missed my kitchen. These are strange words coming from someone who used to struggle to think of what to make for dinner. But somehow (a little late for my kids unfortunately), I have come into my own, in the kitchen. It helps that I love it since we did a mini renovation, and made it more pleasant to be in it.

But the real pleasures are found in the zen of preparing the food, knowing what is in the dishes prepared and those with whom we share our meals.

So after being away nearly 3 weeks, I got busy in the kitchen. It was around Passover, and I was not hosting a seder, but for some reason (maybe its because I was returning from Israel?) I felt like cooking traditional Jewish food. Chicken soup, brisket, potato kugel, matzah brie, vegetables, lots of vegetables, charoset, hummus from scratch (from dried beans), cabbage salad, beet salad. My fridge runneth over.

I entertained many friends, sharing meals and stories, and lots of laughs. That’s the best part. With 11 of us crammed into my small kitchen, nothing could be more comfortable. There is nothing like the warmth of a kitchen filled with food and friends.

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