January 30, 2013: Blood, Sweat, and Fears

The day, like almost every Monday, starts with a blood test. As soon as we get to the hospital, blood is drawn from Stella’s port and tested by the lab to see if she is strong enough for the day’s treatment. Occasionally, low blood cell counts have caused the cancellation of the day’s chemo. While we usually dread the chemo sessions, there is actually something quite unsettling when the day is cancelled.

We get all psyched up (I put on my favorite shirt in the morning and pick a song of the day) and mentally prepare ourselves for the ordeal. While Stella takes a reflexology session, I go on Facebook and rally the troops. I guess that we feel when we are doing the chemo, we are actually fighting the cancer even if it’s tough. So when the day’s battle is cancelled, it leaves us at a loss. I am quite nervous while waiting for the test results.

A few months ago, Israel was poised to launch a ground invasion of Gaza to stop the rocket-fire coming out of the strip. Although such an operation would have been difficult and certainly caused casualties, I heard from many soldiers who were bitterly disappointed when it was cancelled. They would rather go through the hardship and risk because they knew they were going after terrorists and protecting Israeli civilians. After psyching themselves up for the battle, it was a bit of a let down to stand down.

So even though there are obvious differences, I think we can relate.

If the blood test is all right, then Stella first gets a bag of saline and then if that goes o.k., she gets a few bags of the nasty. That’s when things usually get difficult for both of us. Stella often starts to feel sick and knows that the feeling will last most of the week. I drive myself nuts with worry for her and just try to will the medicine to go faster so I can get her home and into bed. Safe. (Yeah, right.)

I don’t really sleep at night. I get a few hours here and there and watch the clock creep towards dawn. I am exhausted most of the time, but instead of sleeping, I exercise. Like nuts.

Right now I am doing the “Tour of Sufferlandia,” an eight day indoor cycling stage race. The workouts are videos that you watch while riding your bike on an indoor trainer. They are very, very intense and by the end everything in sight is covered in sweat. For me, they are a real escape. Instead of sitting next to Stella in chemo, I am racing up the Alps with the best bikers in the world. For an hour or two, I have my own reality and can get away from the fears that now accompany us every minute of the day.

What is really cool is that there is a Facebook group for those of us who enjoy riding ourselves into a mush each night. Usually riders comment on their experience with the day’s stage, talk trash, make jokes, etc. But when I posted that I was doing the ride after 8 hours sitting next to Stella in chemo, I got some wonderful messages of support from all over the world.

Here’s an example:

“Yarden- we ALL should be riding for you and your wife. Woke up sore, destroyed, and deflated but after reading your comment above, I just rearranged my work schedule to come home at lunch and ride Stage 4. I wasn’t going to ride until tonight, now I can’t wait.”

Whoever you are, we love you.

And that’s good. Because feeling connected with people keeps us both going.

For those who did not read or understand the subtle way I gave an update in the last post, let me be more clear.

The cancer became resistant to the last chemo treatment we were on and started to grow. Stella has been switched to a much more aggressive medicine. It’s like putting down the pistol and bringing in the tanks. And while tanks are much more powerful in destroying the enemy, they tend to wreck pretty much everything in their path while doing so.

So this chemo has been very hard on both of us and the kids. We have been spoiled the last few months because Stella was feeling good. Now she has treatments on Mondays two consecutive weeks with the third week off. The effects last almost the entire week.

That means that we need to bring back the old rules.

Please e-mail before visiting. Please talk to me before you decide to make us a meal (Note: this is NOT a request for meals.) And please forgive me if I tell you to F* off. (No, I don’t really do that, but I can be quite nasty when things are not going so well.) Remember the tip: If you hear music despite the headphones, and I’m singing/screaming, avoid at all costs.

And, of course, please continue to have Stella in your prayers.

The difference between running and bike riding is that running is constant work. On the other hand, when you are on a bike, every now and then you come to a nice downhill. You sit back, feel the breeze, take a drink and just coast along until the next hill. Then you have to work hard again.

And that’s what we have to do now.

And ride for the dawn.


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