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Archive for July, 1997

It’s noon on Thursday, and I had my first chemotherapy dose on Monday. They first gave me Kytril and Decadron to prevent nauseau, then Cytoxan and Adriamycin. It has gone very easily. There are occasional periods of grogginess or fullness or lack of appetite, but nothing worse. Our spirits are just fine.
Our nurse for the chemotherapy at Columbia Presbyterian was a wonder. There were about 15 patients receiving chemotherapy on reclining chairs in a somewhat crowded space, with a few nurses tending to all of us. Our nurse managed to be incredibly efficient without being the least bit hurried – whenever she came near us we had her undivided attention. She was empathic, perceptive, a very good interviewer, very good at giving us information. It was a joy to be under her care.

Our oncologist encouraged me to do things I love and not just sit home this week. So on Monday afternoon, as soon as we got home, Ken and I went to the Museum of Modern Art with my mother and four house guests from Toronto. I felt fine though slightly weak (I sat in a wheel chair part of the time – the nurse had warned that I might run out of energy all at once, and I was being cautious), and we all were thrilled that I was able to do this.
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First, I appreciate your taking the time to read this, and I love it when you write back, even a brief note.

We’re back from Schroon Lake and the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health – it was a perfect vacation. It was great to be with our friends in Schroon Lake for the Fourth of July weekend. At Kripalu, we did the five-day course on “Letting Go of Fear,” and loved it, and then had two days of free time.

It’s a bit hard to use words to describe what was good about Kripalu, and what we took with us from it. I found I wasn’t always comfortable with the words they use – there was sometimes an anti-intellectual strain, a downplaying of the values of planning, analyzing, thinking, achieving and having goals in life. Some of the talk and written materials could get a bit sappy and simplistic (and it is hard not to emulate this as I write about the experience). Yet I really loved the place. Given the very strong emphasis on thinking and planning in our family, we really can appreciate the balance that comes from relaxing, paying more attention to our bodies, allowing feelings to flow more freely, and relieving stress.

The leader said that “Letting Go of Fear” was not exactly the right title for our workshop. Her goal was to help people accept fearful feelings, “ride the wave” as she would say. Many people respond to fear with “fight, flight, freeze, or faint,” and she was offering tools to allow the fear to just crest and then subside. The tools they offered included group support and sharing (the fourteen members of our group, plus three staff, became a very close and supportive community), breathing exercises, meditation, and movement.

In the course of the week, I could feel myself unwinding, and I could see the increasing relaxation and calm on Ken’s face. Ken has always been extraordinarily kind to other people, but this program helped him be kinder to himself as well. We enjoyed the feedback about how lucky we are to have such a loving marriage and we were something of “house parents,” inviting everyone out to ice cream in town with us, and organizing the group to eat dinner together on the last night.

Outside our small group program (which met five hours a day), Ken had his first massage, I had my first facial and an “energy balancing” session, we had two evenings at Tanglewood, celebrated Havdalah (the ceremony for the end of the Jewish Sabbath) under the stars with friends we met from New York City, used the whirlpool, went to “danskinetics” classes (something between aerobic dance and creative movement), and I went to two yoga classes. Ken also enjoyed reading an excellent history book by one of Margie’s teachers – The First Moderns by William Everdell.

We had one of Kripalu’s few luxury rooms, and the view was spectacular. The grounds were lovely for walking – we especially liked the hammock under two majestic trees, and a little waterfall with a bench next to it.

The vegetarian food was tasty and plentiful (though the quantities of roughage were challenging to my digestive system), and the staff and guests were consistently friendly, relaxed, and considerate. I loved Kripalu’s shop, and bought lots of books and audio and video tapes to help me continue to do yoga and meditation at home and in the hospital. (We also enjoyed the shop’s frozen yogurt and chocolate chip cookies, since they didn’t serve sweets in the dining room).

Tonight we are starting a course on Reiki, which will meet on three Tuesday evenings. I really don’t know what it is yet, but it was strongly recommended by a friend whose judgement I respect. It has something to do with healing oneself and others by the use of the hands and something about energy fields. I expect that I will, as usual, be somewhat skeptical of the theory of Reiki but will nevertheless enjoy the experience, and will use it to relax and handle stress. My eighty-eight year old mother is taking the course with Ken and me – the teacher, Pamela Miles, was excited that my mother would be her oldest trainee yet – her previous eldest was eighty-four. We are glad my mother is able to share this with us.

Harriet

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Margie has left for Israel until Aug. 11, and Sarah for summer camp until Aug. 18. Margie is at Kehilla Project, Nesiya Institute, Gad Street #3, PO Box 10111, Jerusalem 91101, ISRAEL. She would love to receive mail (and I have failed to write to her as often as I’d like, so if you already know her, I’d welcome your help). If you would like to write to Sarah, write to me for her address. (For security reasons, I’m not listing their last name on the Web).

We are pleased to report that we’ve made all our plans, both for vacation and for treatment! We have also gathered a fabulous team of medical people.
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