There is more good and boring news on the health front. I went to Mt. Sinai four times in the span of two weeks last month and on most of those visits I had multiple appointments to see my doctors and to have routine tests. All is good. I am now on a four month interval for appointments with Dr. Keyzner, my transplant surgeon, and won’t see her again until January. I have finally scheduled cataract surgery for both eyes in December and to use an apt metaphor I am looking forward to having them done.
Thanksgiving will be at home with Rhonda with turkey, sweet potatoes, and cranberry sauce and hope to be with our children and their spouses on Zoom. There are some things I just don’t understand. There is a Rabbinic principle that if your life is in danger, then you must violate Shabbat to seek medical help. Rav Shimon ben Menashe presents the famous rule, citing the Biblical verse, “‘and the Jewish people shall keep Shabbat,” that one should violate one Shabbat, to save one’s life, to preserve many future Shabbatot. I have missed so many events during my recovery and the number of those events has expanded as the pandemic continues. I really don’t understand why so many Americans are risking their health and the health of their family members this Thanksgiving by traveling to family celebrations. I would just like to say, violate your family tradition of gathering this Thanksgiving to preserve many future Thanksgivings together. I have learned these past two years that you have to sacrifice in the present for a better future.
I have been very busy with my volunteer work. The Community Read of So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo that I co-chaired for Fair Lawn and two other neighboring towns just concluded. We had 600 people following us on our Facebook page and the culminating event, a webinar talk by the Attorney General of the State of New Jersey, Gurbir Grewal, who also read the book, reached 144 screens. Now I am working with a group to expand the Community Read of that book to the local school system, including administrators, teachers and students. Our Community Relations Advisory Committee had a meeting with our local police chief and several officers. I followed up with a discussion with the police officer in charge of community relations. He volunteered to read the book about racism from the Community Read. I feel that there is more that unites the police and those it protects than divides us. It was unfortunate that a local rally in Fair Lawn advertised as supporting the police and first responders attracted Trump followers and a group of Proud Boys, a white supremacist organization. If the Police can understand what they look like to the residents they protect, especially people of color, and if we can understand what the world looks like to the police, I feel we will find common ground and greater understanding, reducing the tensions that exist.
Over the last few years I have interacted with the director of the Myeloproliferative Neoplasm (MPN) Research Foundation. She mentioned my name and my story to an organization called Patient Power that broadcasts informative videos on the internet about blood cancers. I will be part of a live interview with a doctor and the director of that group in December. We will be discussing how, after a diagnosis of blood cancer, one makes the decision to have a bone marrow transplant. It took me three years to reach that point and I hope my decision-making process will help others. I was in denial for some time. I kept hoping that my disease would not progress. I had a fantasy that my cancer would remain easily treatable; that I would have no symptoms until I was at least 85 years old. As I used to say, if the disease killed me at that age, I could die happy, not having to make the decision to undergo a risky and debilitating procedure. But the disease chose otherwise. It progressed and I made the decision to go to transplant. You need to pre-register for the webinar called Weighing Decisions & Outcomes for MPN Stem Cell Transplants. It will be broadcast on Wednesday, December 2, at 4:00 PM Eastern Time. Everyone is welcome to view.
As I write this, I continue to be outraged by the attempts of President Trump and his supporters to overturn the obvious democratic decisions by the clear majority of Americans to elect Joe Biden as our next President. Jews have always prospered best in democratic nations. An attack on American democracy as we are witnessing now, ultimately is also an attack on the security of all minorities. Our people have only too tragically witnessed that in Europe with autocrats from both the right and the left. I hope this disturbing aberration will quickly end, and we will all return to the democratic norms of our country. I will never understand why fealty to an autocrat trumps the clearly demonstrated will of the people, a principle that is the bedrock of America. I shudder to think of what this demagoguery has injected into our nation.
Let me end on a more positive note. Rhonda and I wish you all a joyous Thanksgiving with hopes that family celebrations and usual democratic norms will resume soon.