brain tumors


I get about a dozen emails every week from people with a dying/dead parent, asking me for advice or just asking me to be a sounding board for them. Yesterday I received an email from someone who’s mother was just given a few weeks to live after recently finding out she had cancer. The writer asked me what I wish I would have asked my mom before she died.

A lot of what I would ask or do now is different from what I would have done at the time because I am now a mother and at the time I wasn’t even dating anyone (see how much happens in 3 years?) In retrospect, I would have asked her a lot of questions that would have made me feel stupid at the time, since they weren’t even in the near future, but I would have been happy to have the answers later. I don’t regret not asking her these questions for this precise reason – I wasn’t even able to see past the fact that she was dying to a time where I would be happy. Regardless, by the time we knew it was the end, she couldn’t talk anymore anyway, so none of these would have been an option.

I’d ask her about her pregnancies, and what it was like for her to be a mom for the first time (I am the eldest). And I’d ask her about her births and recoveries and how she got through everything. I’d ask her what challenges she came across with pregnancy and marriage and what she did to resolve them, and I’d ask her how can you love a tiny person so much and still have enough room to love another (we are three girls).

I’d ask her about my childhood, what kind of a kid I was like, what she would have done differently with us and what she would have done the same. I’d ask her about her wedding and what the planning was like, and what tips she may have for me and if she’d be OK with me wearing her wedding dress (which I did).

I’d ask her why my meatballs aren’t as delicious as hers and for her recipe for chili.

I’d ask her to reassure me that I will find someone who I would like to marry (and who’d like to marry me) and that I would be a great mom. And I’d ask for her to list the reasons since I wouldn’t believe her anyway.

I’d ask her to record a video of herself reading some stories for my future kids, like “Goodnight, Moon”, which my nephew and niece both loved so much, so they could somehow know her, even the puffy and weird version of her, though that may be painful to watch.

Most of all, I would ask her to hug me so I could sniff her and feel her touch. I would give almost anything just to feel her touch and smell her.

Advertisements

Hi Mom,

It’s been a while since I’ve written on the blog. As opposed to the previous times that I have delayed posting because I was crying too much – or didn’t want to cry – this time a tiny, 3.320 kilo person has delayed my post (Best. Excuse. Ever.)

I’d like to introduce you to my brand new daughter, Sophie Rachel Perez. Yes – her middle name is yours.

She was born on February 28, a couple of weeks early. A week before she was born, The Boy made me go to the doctor because I had some pain the night before. Turns out it was actual contractions and I was 1/3 of the way through, so I was sent to the hospital.

The Boy joined me at the hospital, and while Baby’s heartbeat was being monitored, I suddenly started shaking. I was freaked out, both at the concept of having a baby (whom I am expected to keep alive) and the fact that you wouldn’t be here for any of it. It’s not that I would have had you in the delivery room with me.

Or maybe I would have. Who knows? It was never an option. It would be like asking me if I would prefer boxers to briefs.

But it wasn’t meant to be that day, and as my due date approached, I couldn’t help but feel that I was going to give birth early. You see, 2 weeks before I was due was to be the three year anniversary of your death. From the moment I found out I was pregnant (and that I, most likely, conceived on your wedding anniversary), I kept having a feeling that Baby was going to come very close to that date.

A week after the previous hospital visit, after my regular doctor’s appointment, I was sent to the hospital and was induced. 12 hours after getting to the hospital, she came. Within seconds I was transformed into a parent.

It was, without a doubt, the weirdest feeling in the world. I can’t describe it. Somehow, I was able to focus completely on this absolutely awesome family that just formed, and I thought of no one except Baby and The Boy.

The next few days were a blur, as were the first days at home, where I was mainly amazed that I was expected to keep a tiny person alive with less training than I had on our washing machine. But 6 weeks later I am beginning to feel the impact of your absence.

It’s so incredible to me how things change in a moment. I was transformed into a mother with the same ease and incomprehensible speed with which I was orphaned.

I didn’t wonder how you felt when I was born – it was obvious to me that you must have felt the same insane range of emotions that I felt. But What about everything else? Did you cry? Did you feel incompetent? Did you feel abandoned by almost everyone and everything you know? Did you ever feel like a bad mother? I can’t possibly know – I couldn’t have possibly felt more loved by you.

But this is some of what I am faced with now, and I wish you were to tell me I’m doing OK. It doesn’t matter how many friends tell me I’m a good mother, I don’t believe them. How would they know? You would tell me the truth. And, since you know me better than anyone, I would believe you.

Or not. How would I know? Boxers or briefs.

Luckily for you and us, you did have a chance to be a grandmother and pass on some advice to my sister. She, in turn, passes some on to me. I think of it as by proxy parenting.

Sophie looks sooo much like you (me). She has your (my) smile and your (my) facial expressions. She has the funniest facial expression when I take the bottle out of her mouth, the same one that you had. Except on you it wasn’t funny – it was your expression when we fed you when you were dying. When she looks at me with that expression, I am overwhelmed with awe and love for her, and sadness and aching for you. I can’t separate the two from each other. I’m happy she looks like you because it gives the affirmation of your presence, but it’s so hard to be her mother sometimes, through no fault of her own other than DNA.

Furthermore, as I suspected, I indeed gave birth in very close proximity to the third anniversary of your death. I was released from the hospital on the day of your memorial. If that isn’t the circle of life, I don’t know what is.

Hi Mom,

It’s been a while since I’ve written. My last post, when I just got engaged, pretty much described everything leading up to the wedding. I survived it all and even had a great time. A lot of people have been talking to me about it, asking me how it went, so here’s the list of what I thought I wouldn’t survive – and what ended up happening:

  • You won’t be there for me to tell you I am engaged. You weren’t, but I survived.
  • You won’t be there to help me with the preparations. But Grandma came with me to be fitted for the dress the first time (the seamstress offered her a job), my baby sister the second, and my good friend the third. Shanainai tied it for me and everything. I survived.
  • Your name will be listed as z”l (deceased) on my wedding invitation – or is it not supposed to be listed at all? I have no idea. A non-issue. We didn’t list any parents on the invite, we just made the invitation from us. That was easy. I survived.
  • You won’t be at the signing of the Ketubah. Neither was any other female. If anything, you were there, but I wasn’t. I didn’t even know when it happened. Survived.
  • You won’t be walking down the aisle. Grandma went with me instead. The rabbi suggested it, and I loved the idea. So did she. Definitely survived.
  • You won’t be under the chuppah with me. Grandma was. But then again, so were you. I know it was you that made that wind blow and knock everything over. Definitely survived.
  • You won’t be beaming down at me. Ever. No, but there’s nothing I can do about that. I guess I accepted it, so I survived.

The truth is, the  most stress I had about and from the wedding was that I was afraid of the attention. I was hoping no one would mention you when they saw me, and thankfully just about no one did, other than a few of the elderly. But I had that invisible “pretend you are someone else” wall up, and it worked perfectly.

In fact, everything went very smoothly, from the planning (which I hated, but I would have hated it if you were here, too, to be fair), all the way through the wedding. I had more offers of help than I knew what to do with, and The Boy and I knew what we wanted and wouldn’t let anyone bully us into something we didn’t want to do. Well, we did invite a few people I didn’t want to invite, but The Boy was right, it wasn’t worth the fight.

I had the sleeves from your dress removed, and the back opened up with a corset-type thing to tie it with, and the dress ended up being great. I would have preferred to be a few pounds lighter, but who wouldn’t… Dad’s best friend growing up actually asked me at the wedding if it was your dress – he somehow remembered your dress from 36 years before!

I’m so happy I got to wear it. There were a few times where I felt I  missed out on the choosing-a-dress part of the wedding, but the truth is it doesn’t matter – who wouldn’t rather wear their mother’s dress if it was as gorgeous as it is? There were times where I would suddenly think, I can’t believe my mom danced in this and ate in this and got married in this. I thought it would make me cry, but I loved it. By the way, I hope you didn’t take it personally that I changed clothes when we were dancing. I was just jealous of The Boy and wanted to be part of the t-shirt fun, too.

The wedding itself went by in a second and a half, like everyone said it would. I survived the family picture taking (mostly because people were already coming, so I just wanted it to be over), the reception was great, and the hike to the chuppah was a lot of fun. After a brief 10 minutes when we couldn’t find Grandma, she appeared, and the ceremony started.

It was the fastest 10 minutes of my life. I felt like an actress playing a part, just I was surrounded by people I love instead of random actors and stand-ins. At one point, the rabbi said that Jewish tradition says that 3 generations back come to visit at the chuppah, and that we have to mention your absence. I swear, he could have been talking about sauerkraut if you were to judge by my reaction. I can’t believe how calm I was. The only time a few tears fell down my face was when I heard Grandma sniffling beside me. Of course, The Boy is amazing and took  me hand the second he heard it, just to beam some extra strength into me (which worked, of course).

And then she asked when do we kiss already, so that was over.

The rabbi picked up one of the glasses of wine, started the first prayer, and then an insane gust of wind blew in and knocked everything over – the other glass, the ring, etc.

My reaction: Yey, The Boy broke the glass succesfully

The reaction of the 175 other people at the wedding: That was Talia’s mom.

Thankfully, I made no connection. I didn’t think about it at the chuppah, I didn’t realize it during the wedding, and only later when I got home, people started talking to me about it.

And as it turns out, everyone thought it.

So I’ve accepted it. Even though I am not mystical in any way, I kind of like the idea that you made a statement and said, “Ahem! I am here! I am in the dress and the wind and the glass of wine that just shattered on the floor.”

So the wedding went by smoothly, and honestly, it couldn’t have been more perfect, that is other than you actually being there. Everyone laughed and danced and ate and had a great time.

I waited a while to write about the wedding because I was waiting for a nervous breakdown. A week passed, another week passed, and another, and I was OK. I don’t know how. And then suddenly it was just over; Reports of the impending emotional storm were greatly exaggerated.

A few weeks after the wedding, I started feeling really weird. Not sick or anything, but just weird. After a few more weeks of weirdness, I decided to take a small test.

It had 2 definite lines on it. I am pregnant.

A few weeks later, the doctor was able to tell me exactly what day we conceived.

It was 5 days after the wedding.

On your wedding anniversary.

Dear Mom,

The Boy proposed on Saturday morning and we are now engaged. You would have loved him. If you are looking, then you already know how great he is. I just hope you aren’t watching at inappropriate times.

For the longest time, I wasn’t ready to get married, not because I wasn’t sure (let’s face it, I pretty much knew by week 3), but because of all of the logistics involved:

You won’t be there for me to tell you I am engaged.

You won’t be there to help me with the preparations.

Your name will be listed as z”l (deceased) on my wedding invitation – or is it not supposed to be listed at all? I have no idea.

You won’t be at the signing of the Ketubah.

You won’t be walking down the aisle.

You won’t be under the chuppah with me.

You won’t be beaming down at me. Ever.

It took me over a year to even bare the thought of figuring out what happens with the invitations, and that’s probably the least important of everything – I mean, we can just email everyone and get it over with. For the last year or so, everyone and their dog has been bugging me about when I’m going to get married, and I brushed it off with a swift, “when we decide.” It even got to the point where people were getting angry with The Boy, through no fault of his own.

They just didn’t know. And why should they? It’s not like I told them. Luckily for them, they haven’t been in this situation and can’t even fathom a wedding without their mother.

It got to the point where I wanted to elope. Forgo all of it, after all, it’s the act that matters, not the execution. But The Boy was right, our families would be hurt.

When Saturday happened – and believe me, I couldn’t have been more surprised (we have been talking about it, but I wasn’t expecting it Saturday) – I was pleasantly surprised. While half a year ago, the thought of not being able to call you made me cry, when Saturday happened, all I wanted to do was talk to my sisters. It’s not that I didn’t want to talk to you; I think it’s just that my brain knew I couldn’t, so it just sent me on the right course.

So I got the girls together and told them, and of course they screamed (and the kids asked why they’re screaming). And then I called Dad. And then I told your parents, Saba and Savta. And then I called my friends. And I did really well. I didn’t cry once, I didn’t get depressed once, and I seriously don’t think I would have been this way half a year ago.

I was doing so well, and then I wasn’t.

I went to look at rings with my friend, The Swiss, and the sales lady at last store we went into used to work at the mall where Dad had his restaurants. And naturally she asked about you.

Since it’s been two years since you left, I haven’t had to tell people you’ve died in a while; at least not people who knew you personally. I was able to get through the story fairly easily, omitting the most painful parts, like the last 4 months, and by doing what I always do when I talk about you now: Disconnect completely from the words coming out of my mouth.

But no, this encounter was made to make me cry. And I haven’t in a long time. I did a bit at night when your two-year anniversary came by when we were in Japan, but other than that, it’s been forever.

It started with her being shocked. And then telling me what an amazing woman you were, which I know. And then she had tears in her eyes, saying that the righteous die early, and I couldn’t hold it in anymore and I started to cry. And once I got my breath back, all I could say was, “She could have died in 20 years, and that still would have been too early.”

But that ship has sailed. You are gone. I am embarking on a major life event without you.

But you will be with me. You know how I always wanted to wear your wedding dress when I got married? I tried it on, and it fits me almost perfectly. So welcome to my wedding. You would only be able to be more present if you there in person.

Hi all!

So I haven’t written in a while for two reasons:

1) I’ve been working my buttox off (I look really hot right now). (Not really.)

2) I am preparing to go on a long trip.

The Boy and I are about to leave on an almost-four-month trip to Thailand, Australia, China, and Japan. Normally, I would not advertise going on vacation – I usually only talk about it when I get back, what with anyone having access to my blog. I’d rather not experience another break in – one was enough.

However, we have friends who will be staying at the apartment, and the husband works from home, so I don’t have a problem talking about it.

This trip is SO exciting, but pretty stressful to plan. As I plan the trip and get the visas for Australia and China, and get the bills in order, and make sure I know what’s going to be where and when and more and more and more, I haven’t been forgetting that this Thursday is the Race for the Cure in Jerusalem.

I spoke about it on my last blog post, but now that it’s crunch time – 3 days and counting – I thought I’d give it one final push. I will be attending the Race with my two sisters, The Boy and his mother, sister, and aunt, and a few friends and their friends. All in all, there are 14 or 15 people in our group so far – it should be fun.

So what can you do help? I’m glad you asked.

I do not want to list the reasons for why I am participating in this race again in memory of my mother and uncle – you can read the original post. But here is what you can do:

1) Participate in the walk. It will be in Jerusalem just outside the Old City. Sign up to join the Klein Family and Friends team here. Click on “Join Talia’s Team.”
2) Sign up as a virtual participant. You won’t be attending (most likely because you aren’t in Israel), but you’d like to help us reach at least 10 people so we can have the minimum team size, and make a donation while you’re at it. You can do that here as well.
3) Donate whatever you can. Honestly, even if it’s just $5, every bit helps. You can done through my page here.
4) Spread this blog post to your family and friends and see if they can help as well.

Thanks to everyone who has already made donations. I am so far at $385, which in today’s economy is a lot (most of the donations were under $20). I send everyone individual thank yous, but just in case I’ve missed you – thank you SO much for your donation.

I’ll do my best to take some pics and post about the Race this weekend.

Thanks everyone for all your help!

Update: The last day to register as a participant online is tomorrow, October 25 by midnight, but you can register at the event itself as well.

Aryeh Klein (z"l), left, Rachel Klein (z"l), right

When my friend Shanainai sent me the link to the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure about a month ago, I didn’t want to hear anything about it. I didn’t want to be reminded, I didn’t want to know, I wasn’t interested.

But then I got to thinking: Yes, my mom and uncle died of different cancers, not breast cancer, but does it really make a difference? Each cancer is different, granted, and research for each type may be done separately, however finding a cure for one can lead to a cure for another, no?

As we speak, chemos found effective for one form of cancer are being tested on other forms. I know – my mom was one of those people. It clearly didn’t work for her, but one day it will.

So I decided to listen to Shanainai and asked my sisters if they’d like to join – they immediately jumped in. Then I published the link on my Facebook wall and Twitter account, and a few friends said they’re interested.

So I hereby announce the Klein Family and Friends team. We will be doing the 5K (walk, not run) on October 28, 2010 in honor of our mom, Rachel Dagani Klein, and our uncle, Aryeh Klein, who just passed away a month ago.

There are 4 ways you can help if you are interested:

1) Participate in the walk. It will be in Jerusalem just outside the Old City. Sign up to join the Klein Family and Friends team here. Click on “Join Talia’s Team.”
2) Sign up as a virtual participant. You won’t be attending (most likely because you aren’t in Israel), but you’d like to help us reach at least 10 people so we can have the minimum team size, and make a donation while you’re at it. You can do that here as well.
3) Donate whatever you can. Honestly, even if it’s just $5, every bit helps. You can done through my page here.
4) Spread this blog post to your family and friends and see if they can help as well.

I haven’t ever asked anyone to give me any money for anything, at least not past high school fundraisers for dance team. I don’t want anyone feeling obligated in any way, and just because I may know you in person, doesn’t mean I will be angry or hurt that you chose not to donate. But if you can, I would really appreciate it. And if you can join us at the race? The more the merrier!

Hope to see you there!

I usually write when I’m down, but I had a bit of a delayed reaction. 2 weeks ago, my beloved (paternal) uncle died of cancer. He was sick for 14 years, lived well beyond what was predicted, yet this comes as little comfort. The fact is, my uncle was in his early 60s, by all accounts entirely too young to die.

His death comes less than a year and a half after my mother’s. Two blows in such a short period of time. I can’t imagine being in my father’s shoes: Losing a wife and a brother within less than 18 months of each other. My paternal grandparents gone, the last connection to his core family is now gone as well.

My uncle was awesome. He was incredibly loving. My father was always this huge superman in my eyes, the Man Who Could Do Everything. The man who, when I was 7, I proudly boasted would “beat you to grits” if you dared mess with me. But when his big brother would be with him, he looked like a 5 year old boy who looked up to his brother. And that is one of my favorite images in the world.

One, among so many, that I will now have to bring up in my mind, for lack of opportunity to see it in person.

My uncle’s passing was not a shock by any means. He had been touch and go for over a year. Luckily, we were able to see him 2 years ago when he came to visit my mother. A week or so before he died, he had a surgery that was supposed to alleviate some of his pain. What came out of the surgery was a This is It conversation, and a euthanasia wish.

A wish that was granted.

My uncle chose his future, or lack thereof, as it may be. On Sunday night a few weeks ago he called his (grown) kids and my father to say goodbye before he was given enough pain killers so he wouldn’t wake up, and on Thursday morning we got notice that he had passed.

For those few days, it was like my mom all over again, just waiting for the phone call/text message that would say it’s over. I got the message and it didn’t really hit me that he was really gone. For a few weeks. If with my mom I saw her decline, my uncle lived in South Africa, so I did not see him in the hospital, did not say goodbye, and did not attend his funeral. So really, for all intents and purposes, it’s as if he were still here.

But it has begun to sink in, and I can’t help but thank what the heck are we here for? People die so young, before they had a chance to do things, to make a difference. What was the point in my mother’s death? She hadn’t had a chance to teach me and my youngest sister how to be mothers, help us, calm us down. Am I supposed to think “She raised me, and I will raise kids who raise kids who raise the kid that will find the cure for cancer?” Because I have to say, I don’t really see any purpose here right now.

Don’t misunderstand me: I’m not suicidal or about to hurt myself in any way. But I feel resigned to the fact that we are just here to “be” and that’s it. I can’t help but feel sometimes that The Boy will be better off without me, and other than him, I haven’t made an impact of significance on any lives.

To some, this may be the inspiration to do something big. But I don’t think I have anything big to give. I don’t see how I can make my mother’s life – and death – worth something. Nor do I see any point in my uncle’s suffering. Unless their deaths help others understand how precious their parents are, I honestly don’t see the purpose.

And you know what? I would have rather not made those sacrifices to begin with.

Next Page »