Monday, July 25, 2016

Feeling kind of numb. Except for migraines.

Day 26 in New York.

My mom passed away 27 days ago.

I don't know how or what to write. I feel down most of the time. I can't pinpoint a specific emotion, but down kind of covers it. As down as I am, my father is a thousand times more down. Many things are forever changed in his life, and there is no map explaining how to proceed.

There actually is never a map for how to proceed. If life were "Waze" it would "recalculate" the route every 3 seconds.

I feel kind of numb.

I kind of lost my mother slowly over these past five years that she has been ill. I realized then, maybe about four years ago, that I no longer have her as a mother, in the definition we understand as mother, in our young years. She became another mother in my heart. Over time, she couldn't even hold a phone in her hand for more than a few minutes, and had no capacity for real conversation, at least over the phone, which is all we had.

Losing her body now, and looking at the last picture I have of her- the one of she & I together in her bed- it doesn't really register. When I look at the picture I posted in my blog, it doesn't even look like my mom. I almost don't recognize her. Her vibrancy was already gone by then.

So losing her physically now, well, I don't know. At the same time I say her vibrancy was already gone, this house is ghostly empty without her, even though she was living in only one room of the house for almost five years, without mobility whatsoever. Even though she slept most of the time, as long as she was alive and living here, this house was alive. Now it just seems like a bunch of old dusty things without sentiment. Every corner of the house is decorated by her. My dad walks around here lost and confused. Very confused. I'm worried about him.

I don't know how I feel about the fact that my mother just passed away. I don't know. I have no words, and almost no feelings. I am also just walking through the house, and trying to take care of my kids, and just going through the motions. I just want to sleep.

I miss my home. By home I mean Israel. I think my feelings are there. I'll probably find them there once I return. This trip is so, so long. I feel like I've been here for many months already. I'm tired emotionally and physically.

Wound up in the local hospital the other day. A migraine that speared through my head and made me see white and black at the same time behind my eyelids. After throwing up, I knew there was no way out. I took the pills that were at my disposal to try, but what I took, while it would have put an elephant to sleep, didn't give me any rest at all because I was in such intense, vicious pain.

We showed up at the ER in Glen Cove at about midnight. We left without my father or children knowing; everyone was blissfully asleep. My mother's nursing aide is still living in the house, for the time being, so I knew things would be OK if my father woke up.

We were taken care of pretty quickly. There were only like two or three other patients there, I think. I had my eye shades on, and was just rocking and moaning in pain, and Robert did the explaining. Within an hour I got my "cocktail" of IV meds that I know can rescue me from the pain. The ER doctor said she'd not usually give those meds to a migraine patient, but in my case, I knew it worked, I have a lot of allergies, and we were not discussing other options. Not at that moment, anyway. Robert had even brought a print-out of the evaluation of my recent brain MRI, just in case they gave us trouble, just to show that I am getting treated for the problem.

Anyway, I got relief, and even dozed a bit there in the ER when the meds kicked in.
We got back to my father's house (my parent's house...) at 3:30am. Not too bad.

I've had what I call migraine "remnants" since then. Not a headache, but soreness near my eyes.
I now have the "cocktail" meds in oral form, in case I need them. That's good, but I'm not sure if they will be effective going through the digestive system. I assume I'll report on that at some point.

Anyway, enough about me.

I have to muddle through the next 10 days before I'll get home.
Then, as soon as I get home, I'll be worried about being away from my dad.

Here is a random picture from my high school years, or early college years... we know that because of my big 80's hair. :)
The menorah in the forefront is from Jerusalem, made of Jerusalem stone. We had just bought it for them. My brother Peter brought it with him from Jerusalem at the time.

The copper coffee set, clay bowl and chess set are still on the same table in the living room, in the exact same positions. The more things change..... well, it's actually not the things that change at all. They do stay the same. The people change, though, a lot. So much.

(btw- this is my thousandth (1000th) post to this blog!)

Friday, July 15, 2016

All good things must come to an end

My days have been filled with vacationing, doing fun things, my family, my father.

And two migraines have ambushed me.

My nights are the worst, though. I've been having creepy dreams, then I wake up, and all the sadness comes to me in a big wave, overtakes me.

By day my father needs me to help him through his grief waves. My own can't coexist with his. He is so depressed to have to set out on life now without his wife of 58 years. I can't imagine. All I can do is offer support and make sure he knows we will not leave him living alone in his house. We are looking into options.

At night my sadness comes out to get attention. First in the disturbing dreams, then after I'm awake from that, all this stuff ruminates in my head. I no longer have a mother.
Thoughts of her alive and well dance around in my active imagination.

I have a very sick friend in the hospital in Israel (I'll call her S). She weighs heavily on my heart, too. She is getting worse. We pray that the doctor Rav Firer recommended can help her out if this mess. Please pray for Shoshana Chaya bat Bassie. Give it all you got.

We're leaving the Connecticut house today. It is presently dawn here, and I have half a mind to go down to the dock- a few meters away- and take out a kayak in the lake, and coast in the quiet. But we had a rainstorm last night and the day is overcast and humid. And I should try to get more sleep. I'll miss this lake, and the kayaks, canoe, and paddle board.

It was a good week.
I wish that my mother could be been with us, she would have loved it, and seeing the kids so happy and enthusiastic.

I miss her so much.

But right now, my dad's grief needs to be held and loved. None of this is easy.
I'm going to shut my eyes for a while before the busy day starts.
The anti anxiety pill is kicking in.

Shabbat shalom from me to all of you.


"blue" in the butterfly house in Norwalk aquarium

Friday, July 8, 2016

Hanging in there over here

What a time this is. It's good, it's hard, it's togetherness, it's a Very Sad Dad. (and it's lots of food.)

me and mom in her home hospital bed, last summer

In other news, I got the results from my brain MRI.
There is one finding, and I don't know what sort of significance it has. Since we were looking for 'no findings', I was a bit thrown off to see a "something".

It is some sort of spot in my left frontal lobe, in the white matter. The report says it's non-specific. That's it.

Gotta call my neurologist at some point.

We are going to the Connecticut house on Sunday. We are taking my dad with us. It'll be a much needed break for all of us. Mom's aide, Nina, hasn't taken a vacation in over a year, she was very sensitive to my mother's anxiety when she wasn't around. So, she will get a greatly deserved vacation, too. She needs it. She's like the unrecognized mourner here, she loved my mom very much. She was much more than a physical aide. Not only did she keep my mom glowing (four years in bed and no bed sores) with her hair done and nails polished, she was also like a therapist to her. Whenever mom would get down, Nina would boost her spirits. She would remind mom of her wonderful husband, great children, and six beautiful grand children. She gave her a reason to go on when my mom felt helpless and useless stuck in bed 24/7. I always told Nina that it was because of her that I could sleep at night.

The house we are renting is on a lake, with use of canoes and row boats. I am very much looking forward to it, and it'll be so good for my father to get away from the house after this intense week of shiva. It'll be good for all of us.

In the mean time, tomorrow is the last day of shiva, then we'll have Shabbat here at the house.

Thank you for your tremendous outpouring of love and support at this really sad time. It means so much to me, especially since I am not with my friends and community here in New York. (although there have been visits from a few Be'er Sheva friends! That was awesome.)

Shabbat shalom

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

In New York, but not the trip I expected

When someone dies, even if they were sick for a long time and you knew the end was near, it is always a shock when you get that news.

I got that shock last Wednesday, June 29th.
My dear mother of blessed memory passed away. It was quiet, five in the morning, she was in my father's arms, she was not in pain, there was no drama, her heart simply stopped working. She slipped away quietly, my father seeing the instant that it happened.

Her heart was always weak, from her childhood. In adulthood, she had a heart attack, open heart surgery, lung cancer, a three month coma from sepsis, bedridden for the last four years, and her body finally let go. Over the past few weeks she was getting weaker and weaker. She was in congestive heart failure. I did know that, I just didn't think that it would happen before we got there. She passed away four days before my family's planned trip to New York to see her. I flew out the next day, and my family came at the scheduled time, Sunday evening. Unfortunately they missed her funeral.

I am sitting shiva at the house I grew up in, with my two brothers and my dear father. It's very hard.

I would like to share the eulogy I delivered at her funeral.
Her casket was right behind me as I spoke, my heart was broken. So, so many people came to her funeral from all over the country, it was really a tremendous testimony to who she was and how strong her influence was. The funeral home had standing room only, and there wasn't a dry eye.

She was intelligent, metropolitan, wise, independent, spicy, beautiful, modest and made a consistent, permanent home for all her children and her husband. So permanent, in fact, that she died in her home, and my father and brothers and I are sitting shiva for her in that very home.

My father, brothers and I gave eulogies. Each one of us touched on her character from our unique perspectives, it was really tremendous.

Here is my eulogy. Farewell, and thank you, 
Theda Kashin, Tova Bat Itzchak v'Sheindl.
May Hashem grant you eternal rest.


A daughter being born to a mother after two boys is a game changer. I know that from personal experience, having had my own two boys and then a girl.

A daughter and her mother have a relationship quite unlike that which she has with her boys. I learned that pretty early on in my own mothering years as well, and began to understand my mother on a new level, and appreciate her for all she was able to do to nourish our relationship.

It was not a simple relationship by any means; the whole family can attest to that.

In my younger years, she hand-sewed me dresses and haloween costumes (one famous clown costume is with me in Israel and comes out on Purim). She tried to teach me how to sew, but I didn't have the patience. Though, since I have become a mother, even her sewing talents must have rubbed off somewhat on me, because I mend and hem my kids clothing just like she used to, although by hand. I still can't operate a sewing machine. Sorry Mom.

In my older years, mom was entirely devoted to my education as a budding orchestra musician. There may have been strife involving many other aspects of our life together, but when it came to my music lessons, she was the most amazing support anyone could ever dream of.

She drove me everywhere and anywhere for my musical education and enrichment. When I got accepted into the Juilliard pre-college program, she drove me into Manhattan every Saturday, dedicatedly leaving the house at 6am, for me to get there for a 7:30 rehearsal. I spent every Saturday in Juilliard, and, so, then, my mom did, too.

She'd sometimes go around Manhattan when I was in classes, but more usually she would hang out in the lounge area and knit. She was knitting me a sweater. Not only was she giving up her whole Saturday for me to learn music, but she would be giving to me even as she waited all day in the lounge. That sweater, which I affectionately call my "Juilliard sweater" has been in every closet of every apartment I ever lived in, including where I live now in Be'er Sheva, Israel. Yes, Be'er Sheva *is* in the middle of a desert. But it can get cold there, and some of those rainy winter nights I slip on that beautiful wool high neck sweater, and feel warmly enveloped in my mother's love and devotion to me.

She supported every audition I took, and drove me all over the map to get me to them.

She wasn't a professional musician herself, but with classical music playing from her kitchen radio literally all day in the house, it is a testimony to her endowing us with a love of music, that all three of her kids because musicians.

In my own parenthood, I have acquired a much deeper understanding of who she is... was, and what she had to conquer as the obstacles in her life in order to give us what she was committed to: a home with a mother constantly present, a different warm meal on the table every night, together with dad when he came home from work.This was entirely different than how she herself grew up, she created, and committed herself to a whole new reality, basically out of nothing.

When she fell ill four years ago, we thought we'd lose her. She has a very strong inner power, even when her body is failing, she can summon that power to keep her alive. I believe I inherited that inner power from her. I also have been in medical situations when it wasn't clear I'd make it out alive, and it was pure inner strength that keep me going. Even when our bodies gave out on us, our spirits, mom and me, that spirit never gave up.

Mom's body in the end did give up at the age of 82. I believe she wanted to live a little longer. She knew my family and children (three of whom she hadn't seen in 2 + 1/2 years) were just about to arrive in New York. But her body was completely out of energy. Her heart just stopped working. But her spirit is still with us very strongly, as I know you are understanding here.

Mom, thank you for teaching me about the power of "Tikun", a Jewish concept referring to repairing the mistakes of the former generations. You preformed this tikun quite successfully with bringing us up in ways much better than how you had it. You taught me that, and in honor and deference to you, mom, I continue repairing, I continue honoring the concept of "tikun" while I raise my own children.

I only wish you were still here with us to witness it, and enjoy them with me. My children, husband and I all miss you terribly. You left your mark of courage on all of us, even though you'd say quite the opposite of yourself.

I miss you, and will continue to miss you, and will always honor your memory.
Thank you for giving so much of your life and soul's energy to me.
We were truly blessed to have each other. 
...but what I'd do to climb into bed with you for snuggles and giggles just one more time....

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Brain MRI

Wow, Robert and I are under tremendous pressure these days. We are leaving for a month-long trip to the states, and things are wild and wooly. Neither of us are keeping it together so well, but it's gonna be OK. It has to be, right? We've done harder things. But as my dear friend Ken said earlier today... life is messy.

One of the zillion things I had to worry about this week was doing the brain MRI, and that was this morning. What a thing.

Oh, but I didn't write about how my hip/leg MRI came out from last week... I have the results from that. All-n-all, seems like things are OK around my hip joints. The MRI noted the lymph edema present, which I already know about and try to deal with. Problem with that is that I have to wear the pressure garment more, but it gives my skin grafts and the skin around it a heat rash in the summer months. So that makes me not wear it for a few days until the heat rash gets better, then I have lymph edema swelling again, and round-and-round we go.

There was one other small finding, but I'm completely not worried about it. It's some sort of cyst near the surgical area of my recent right leg surgery (from October).

I'll go back to my orthopedic oncologist after our trip to the states and clarify anything more. I am pretty pleased with the results, though, thank Gd. *No PVNS*. That is what we were praying for, No imminent surgery. Baruch Hashem.

About today's brain MRI... whoa. A whole new experience in MRI'ing. Wayyy not something I ever would want to do again. Please Gd I won't have to. All of you out there who have to do brain MRI's on any regular basis...? So sorry dude. It really is the pits.

Picture lying down in a head rest which encompasses your head until your face, then having a cage device put on your face which clips into the head holder thing. You can smell the cage thing, it is that close. OK, picturing that? Now that you are all snug and can't move your head or shoulders, imagine putting yourself, lying down on a stretcher, into a long, white tube, which is small enough that your feel your outer arms being pushed ever-so-slightly on your sides. You look around and all you see is cage on your face and white tube surrounding you. Claustrophobic? Problem.

Now, with all that happening, the MRI noises start. This time, it's all around your head! (I am used to the multitude of MRI's I've had for my pelvic area, hips, etc. That noise was further away from me, and my head always got to be out of the machine.) Then the machine starts up...LOUD.... zzzing...zing....bang-bang-bang for many minutes, more zingzingzing for another few minutes, clip-clip-clip-clip for another unbearable amount of time, and repeat all those sounds, randomly, for like 15 minutes. Then, you get rolled out of the white tube on your stretcher, and get shot up with contrast dye. Then you get rolled back in and another 10 minutes or so of the chainsaw sounds and jackhammering at your head, but this time with a strange burning sensation in your body from the contrast dye.

Oh, and the bit about the contrast dye? Well, today I had no veins for the first time in my life. The doctor couldn't get an iv into me, and he poked at my arms with needles 5 or 6 times, on both arms, before he gave up. He announced my veins "too scarred". I showed him the vein the other guy used last week for my other MRI (it was still a tiny bit bruised), and he tried it, but the needle bent... too much scar tissue. I've had a lot of iv's recently, in the past few months, with all the visits to the hospital for the migraines. That's, of course, not to mention nine years of manymanymany iv's and blood draws and hospitalizations. I never thought I'd be the one with no veins, though. My friend, who is a cancer patient and on chemo for the second time in as many years, *she* has no veins. Chemo does that. Well, maybe the doctor today just didn't have the "knack" of getting an iv going. I look like a junkie now, though. So how did they get the contrast dye into me? It was lovely, let me tell you. They rolled me out of the white tube, head cage still buckled tight, pulled an arm out, and fiddled again with my veins. "Don't move"... yah, gotcha doc...
They somehow got the dye in (I couldn't see how because my head was locked down), and rolled me on my stretcher back into the tube for more amplified jackhammering and zinging. This time with the weird warming sensation whizzing around my body from the dye.

I used my powers of disassociation as much as possible. I was organizing our trip in my head, making mental lists of calls and errands, thinking about the beaches we'll go to, worrying about my mother, worrying about my father, organizing life. Mainly trying not to get freaked by my encroaching PTSD from the loud noises and feelings of helplessness. I hate loud noises.

One thing happened which I am just "letting go" of, because this is all out of my hands, you know? I'm sure it was just some technical glitch or something, but in all my experience of MRI's, this never happened....

I was in the tube, and the noises were happening for about five minutes, then machine just stopped. OK, that does happen a lot, they do their techie thing. But this was a really long time, inordinately long, that I was just lying there, head in the cage, with no pictures being taken. Then I hear the outer door, the technician's room door open. I hear more footsteps into that room. Door closes. I am in the tube thinking "seems like another person just came in". There is a little rear-view mirror thing attached to the head cage thing, where I could see an angle into the technician's place. I think it is there to help the claustrophobic people to see out of the tube. So indeed, I noticed there were three people there instead of just two. They were all looking at the computer screen. Was a new guy brought in to see something unusual? The worry takes root in my harnessed down little head. Honestly it felt like forever, but it was probably just 3 or 4 minutes, then dude number three walks out, and the MRI starts up again. What was *that* about?

At the end, I was happy not to hear what my little brain feared: "you have an aneurysm, you need immediate surgery". Read again- I did *not* hear that from the technicians. But my mind went there. Tricky little things, these minds we have, even when buckled down in a cage. *Especially* when buckled down in a cage.

At the end of the whole thing, I asked the technician if that big break was anything to worry about. They said that they are not allowed to say anything to the patient about the test. They are just the technicians, I need to wait for my evaluation to be ready in 7-10 days. I then said I am flying overseas in a few days, and I asked if there is anything I need to know about. Again, the mantra: you will get your results in 7-10 days. "Have a good trip". Okee Dokee, techie man, thanks! I'll go do that!

And now my friends, I am exhausted. I have so much more to document, but not enough time in the day. I honestly don't know if I will find any more time before we leave on Sunday morning. I stole this time from myself; it could have been my resting time. But I needed to write.

And with all this? Just the tip of the iceberg. It's been a crazy time period. I have let important people down because there is just too much on my mind and heart. I hope those people really forgive me.

My mom is not doing well, over the last few weeks there has been a drastic deterioration. She's not the same mom I left last summer. She isn't communicating much anymore. Sleeps a lot. Very sad for my kids that they haven't seen her in 2 and 1/2 years (at least that's true for the boys. Shifra and I were there last summer.)

What happens if I get a mega migraine in New York? Or any other destination? I pray. I wait it out. Maybe I go to the local ER if I just can't take the pain any more. It's out of my hands. I'll have the evaluation of my MRI from today in 7-10 days. I have access to it on-line.
The rest of it, it's out of my hands.

We did an awesome thing, though... we rented a house on a lake in Connecticut. Just for the 6 of us Kleins. You see, during the year, my older boys learn out of town in Yeshivas, we only are together Shabbats, and not even every Shabbat, at that. We have not spent quiet time together as a family in a long, long time. This house we are renting is right on a lake, and there are canoes and boats for us to freely use. It's called chill time for the Kleins. I am so looking forward to that, you can't imagine. I NEED it desperately. I want to coast on the gentle waves in a canoe, and just listen. Heaven. Quiet, clear, water. It is what is saving my sanity on this trip. I pray for that. I live for the water. I live for Torah, and I live for Hashem. And my family. Especially my family.


ps- I had to totally go off the medicine that my neurologist gave me which was meant to be protection against the migraines. It gave me awful tremors in my hands, shortness of breath, weight gain, and other undesireable effects. I now have no medicine at all for the migraines. Hashem, please protect me and hold me in Your hands.