So, a plan is taking shape. Mike and Judy met with the oncologist at Emory five days ago. She was extremely knowledgeable, frank, and personable. She confirmed the diagnosis and the fact that this was not curable but hopefully controllable. She offered Mike the opportunity to enter into a study they are doing at Emory. It’s a three drug study in which Mike would be certain to get all three drugs. There is no control group. Mike thought this was preferable to the other study he had been presented with by the first oncologist he met with. In that study he had a 50% chance of getting 3 drugs. All three of the drugs in both studies have already been approved for lymphoma treatment. Both studies are looking at new combinations of already approved drugs, trying to find better approaches to treating this particular type of cancer. Mike had a bone marrow biopsy two days ago, and they met with the oncologist again. Michelle was able to join them for that meeting. It looks like we are talking about bringing out the big guns against his cancer. The induction, she said, will likely cause a situation called a tumor lysis syndrome. The drugs kill a great deal of cancer cells all at once which places a burden on the body to clear all that material from the system. And it doesn’t feel good either. In fact, I think Mike’s best chance of dying in the next five years is going to be a couple of weeks from now. But I just don’t think that’s going to happen. Mike has been letting more people know about his situation and is getting a tremendous amount of support. He is starting to tell his patients that he has cancer and they are responding with much love and prayers. And we have had more hawk sightings. As Mike was leaving the Berman Center Wednesday after letting the staff know what’s going on with him he looked out the window and saw a hawk fly by. He saw another one circling overhead as he was driving home. I think the universe is definitely with Mike for a good recovery. The hawk on the other hand can stay far far away from me, thank you very much. Next week Mike has more tests and will have a port inserted for better intravenous access. It’s all part of the adventure. Treatment could start as early as the week after next. We won’t find out till the end of next week. Stay tuned.
I just thought I might mention that today is Moses Gordon’s birthday. He was born on this day in 1909. Moses was Mike’s father. He passed away in 1986 of Parkinson’s disease, but at the very end of his life was diagnosed with lymphoma. Mike’s aunt Florence also had lymphoma that was treated successfully a number of years ago. She eventually died of another kind of cancer. Mike’s brother died of lymphoma in 2011. I may have mentioned this before, but he took notoriously poor care of himself, especially for a person who was constantly going to the doctor. One wonders why he bothered going to the doctor when he routinely disbelieved what doctors told him, and followed his own counsel rather than that of the doctor. So it looks like lymphoma is a family tradition that Mike has engaged in. On his mother’s side of the family they are known for stubbornness and longevity. Hopefully the Cowl genes will prevail over the Gordon genes. Time will tell, but I’m optimistic.
It is of interest to me and could be of interest to you that we are in a period of the Jewish calendar referred to as the counting of the Omer. In the Torah, the Jewish people are commanded to count the days starting with the second day of Passover and ending the day before Shavuot, a total of 49 days. (An omer is a measure of barley.) Passover as most people know is the holiday which celebrates the release of the Jewish people from enslavement in Egypt. Shavuot is the holiday that commemorates the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. Up until the giving of the Torah the Jewish people had an identity and a relationship of sorts with God. However, the revelation of God at Mount Sinai, and the giving of the Torah marks the establishment of the Jewish religion. With the establishment of the religion there was a new awareness of God’s nature. In fact, one way of thinking about the Torah is that it’s the story of the relationship between God and the Jewish people.
At its most basic level, the commandment of counting 49 days would simply let the Jewish people know exactly which day they should begin the celebration of Shavuot. However, many Jewish people take it as an opportunity to embark upon a spiritual journey. There are various systems that can be utilized to formalize the process. For example, the Kabbalah, a mystical form of Jewish philosophy, has a meditation and practice for each of the 49 days. A more modern system of Jewish practice, Mussar, publishes a meditation for each of the 49 days. You can find all of this online if you’re interested. So every year, the Jew travels from his spiritual enslavement in his own self-imposed Egypt to knowledge of God’s will with the giving of the Torah. Or at least, he or she can if he or she wants to. Spiritual opportunities always abound, but people have to be motivated. For cats this is not an issue. We have our own daily meditation practices with which anyone who spends any time around cats are well acquainted. Many people through their experiences and training in life conclude that their life is a spiritual journey. Some people seem to do a better job of navigating than others. And life deals reminders, like cancer, from time to time to remind us of the importance of the spiritual path.
So, on a very tangentially related topic, did you know that Josef Stalin at one point in his life admired and respected Jews? Early in his command of the Soviet Union he banned antisemitism, and sought to establish Jewish homelands within the country. The largest and most successful of these was Birobidzhan in the far East, a spot on the trans-siberian railroad on the Manchurian border. In other words, in the middle of nowhere. I think it was supposed to be the new Zion of the East. Started in 1928, it was officially designated as a Jewish Autonomous Region in 1934. It attracted refugees from eastern Europe and elsewhere in Russia, although due to its isolation and harsh winters, most did not stay there for very long. But there were Jewish institutions established, and Yiddish was the official language. Stalin eventually caught the antisemitism bug himself and the community declined in the 1940s. Another sharp decline occurred in the 1980s and 1990s. However, if you were to go to Birobidzhan today, you would find 2 synagogues (the larger being Chabad), Jewish schools, a kosher restaurant, a mikvah (ritual bath), a Yiddish section in the local newspaper, a large menorah at the railway station, other Jewish-themed statuary around town, and many signs are in both Russian and Yiddish. Jews officially make up 1.5% of the population, and there may be nowhere in the world where Jews, Muslims, and Christians enjoy better relationships with each other. Who knew?
So, that’s it for now from Happy Meadows. Let’s hope for good things. I can assure you that your prayers and meditations are creating a large mass of healing spiritual energy. We love, appreciate, and pray for you all. Thanks so much, and be well. Sholom!