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July 25, 2011: Roller Coaster

I feel we are on a roller coaster.

Sometimes Stella feels fine one hour and the next she can barely get up.

I hated Shabbat. (Am I allowed to say that?)

No offense to the people who brought over all the great food. We really appreciate it. But even if the Iron Chef himself schlepped over the food, I could not have enjoyed it.

If asked, Stella will always say that her cooking is “no big deal.” No secret recipes or mystery ingredients.  She just adds a little onion soup mix and a lot of love when she cooks and it always tastes fantastic.

Shabbat dinner twenty-four hours before everything fell to pieces, she had cooked up a storm for close friends who were coming over. She made all her special signature dishes. It looked like she was preparing to feed the Golani Brigade. I asked her why she was making so much.

She told me that she knew our friends’ teenage sons really liked her cooking and she wanted to make sure they got to try everything. When everyone told her how much they enjoyed the food, I knew she was happy.

But last Shabbat, while she lay on the couch, we ate food that other people had brought over. With her and her cooking gone from the table, I couldn’t help but feel that our Shabbat guest was cancer.

Cancer is a terrible house guest. He’s always there, making your lives miserable and won’t take a hint that it’s time to move on.

I sent the three younger kids to my parents in California.

I was really looking forward to getting them there. Don’t forget, their suitcases had been packed and waiting at the door back a few weeks ago when we had to surprise them with the news that our Summer trip was cancelled because Mommy had gotten sick.

Not being able to grasp the implications of cancer (thank G-d for that), the thing they were most upset about was missing the trip to their Grandparents. So I am glad that they get a week to be spoiled, have fun, and act like kids without every single person on the street asking them how their Mom is feeling.

But even more, I looked forward to them going so I wouldn’t have to wear my “everything is all right” mask around the house. Now, I can cry when I am out of the house and don’t have to put on an act when I come home.

But that’s not really true. It’s not true because I am on the roller coaster with Stella.

Sometimes I am fine.

No, really, I mean it.

I can have intelligent conversations, read the news, and maybe go for a run.

Yet other times I feel that I am standing on the edge of a chasm and pure terror of “what ifs” shake me to the core.

I cry, I sweat, I feel sick to my stomach as if I am the one on chemo. I look down at the ground because even raising my eyes requires more strength than I feel I have. I stay up all night but get nothing done because I am not quite awake and not quite asleep.

There is a line in Tehillim Vav (Psalm 6) where King David writes that his “bones shudder in terror” and “I soak my couch in tears.”

I always thought it sounded odd.

But I get it now.

But then, just as I feel suffocated by fear, the roller coaster slows down and I can take a breath.

The world rights itself and things don’t seem to so bad.

Stella gives me a smile and I calm down.

When this happens, it strikes me as obvious that Stella will get better and we can go back and pick up life where we were a few weeks ago.

I can talk to friends and I look fine and it’s not a mask.

And everything is o.k. in the universe again.

Until the roller coaster takes the next plunge.

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