Monday, April 12, 2010


When I first began working at the Religious Action Center, Mark, the Associate Director, talked with us about the many calendars that we functioned on at the RAC. He explained that we adhere to the Jewish calendar, so that we can be strategic in our grassroots efforts while being sensitive to the schedules of our members and our own religious needs. Our life also ebbed and flowed with the congressional calendar in order to plan our lobbying and advocacy strategies. Additionally, we functioned on the Reform movement's organizational calendar - a distinct third calendar of meetings, conferences and events. He explained that we overlay all of these calendars, and do our best to maintain a healthy balance through it all. Beyond my year at the RAC, I applied this same basic thinking to my work at NCJW. It is important to balance those same three calendars to ensure maximum efficacy at work.

On top of all these calendars in the office, everyone lives by their personal calendars – I overlay my personal calendar of birthdays, anniversaries, life cycle events, appointments, vacations, etc, while also trying to keep the calendars of the important people in my life in mind. My life is impacted by my family members calendars - factoring in that my mom will be busier at work just before tax season or when my sister has a lecture coming up. With so many friends in grad school, I often keep an eye on the academic calendar since my life is busier when they have more time during breaks, or early in the semester or quarter. I also have the Jews United for Justice organizational calendar overlaid on top of all these, to keep up with my commitment as a member of the board of directors. We all keep so many simultaneous calendars, each sometimes coming to the forefront, then receding back again, when appropriate. And it's always seemed to me that one of the best indicators of one's happiness and well-being is how well those calendars are balancing.

Given that I generally enjoy the balancing act, it's still strange to me to think about how the cancer calendar necessarily trumps all others. The events of the other calendars, the sum total of which at one time defined my days, effectively disappear. Suddenly it isn't a matter of balancing the many calendars, it becomes all about adhering perfectly to just one. One that’s nearly always out of my control, and one that nearly always comes on too quickly to ever clear the others in advance.

When I am in treatment, I profoundly missed the act and art of balancing calendars. I miss having my life focus on more than one thing at a time. But I believe that in the process, I also gain insight into which calendars are most important to me, so that when I return to the balancing act, I am able to balance better.

After two weeks of feeling like I was back at it, a conversation with my oncologist in Chicago has left me feeling the effects of the cancer calendar's ultimate take-over once more. As I schedule my next round of treatment here in Washington, and learn more about the status of my bone marrow donor search, I will keep you all posted here.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Spring Break

As I recently reported, I had a very encouraging set of scans at the end of March which indicated that chemotherapy worked well. Despite this, my oncologist here in Washington prescribed additional chemo, which I was scheduled to continue on March 26. On the evening of March 25, I spoke with my oncology team in Chicago about some treatment options moving forward, and they recommended taking a break from chemotherapy while we assess our next move. My anxiety about deviating from my very trusted DC doctor's recommendation (this was the first time that there had been any significant difference between the two physicians on treatment protocol) was heavily outweighed by my relief and joy over pausing treatment temporarily.

This respite came after a fairly grueling six weeks. I underwent four rounds of chemotherapy during February and March, with a three-week hospitalization and recuperation for meningitis in the midst of it. Paralleling a record-breaking cold and snowy DC winter, those weeks constituted a dark and depressing time for me - a time marked by pain and isolation, a time when illness cut me off from my social and professional life in miserable ways.

But in the few weeks since my fourth treatment, I have found new meaning in the term "spring break." I have felt a small sense of renewal. I have had visits from some of my closest friends back from semesters abroad or on spring break, and was able to go home to Chicago to celebrate Passover, which was restorative and wonderful. I have been able to be fully present at work, and feel on top of my portfolio and responsibilities for the first time in months. I've been able to spend time with my friends and enjoy the gorgeous DC spring. I've been able to make plans more than a day in advance, have fun, and feel normal. And even if I've had to employ a bit of denial to do it, after a tough winter, it has simply felt so good.

The next couple of weeks may bring me back to my reality as my doctors, family, and I make decisions about next steps in treatment. I promise to share those plans as soon as they become more clear. In the meantime, I'll be enjoying the sunshine.