It has been some time since I wrote a blog post. One reason I delayed is that my blood counts are stable and I have not needed any medication to boost them for several months. Last week for the first time in four years our doctor said we did not need to go to the clinic at Mt. Sinai, given my improving health. Also last week our close friends from Nashville, Rick and Susan Levy, who retired to Tucson, came to visit. The weather was hot and given the restrictions I still follow we did not do much sightseeing. We visited the Great Falls in Paterson and I was able to take some photos with my camera. (I added one to “My Photography” on this blog.) We also went to the Fair Lawn Jewish Center/Cong. B’nai Israel. They were very impressed with the renovated main sanctuary. Aside from that we basically ate and schmoozed. One morning they joined me on my walk in Saddle River Park. They were surprised to learn that I walk three or four times a week that I walk at a brisk pace and cover about two and a half miles in forty-five minutes.
This week we saw Dr. Keyzner at Mt. Sinai and my blood counts are still stable. However, she looked closely at the skin discoloration on my cheeks. She diagnosed it as GVHD – graft versus host disease. That complication of a bone marrow transplant appears in about 70% of the recipients. It can attack any organ in the body and vary from easily treatable to very serious. I had hoped to be spared this. We have scheduled an appointment with a dermatologist at Mt. Sinai for next week. At this point I am not very worried and I am hoping that there will be a fairly simple treatment. Of courses I looked up every possibility on the internet. Contrary to some of my other internet searches about my disease, I concluded that I need not be too anxious.
Someone asked me recently if faith played a role in my recovery. I answered by mentioning that someone said to me a year ago that I would be cured because I was a “man of faith.” I answered that I simply did not believe that. I have seen people of faith die before their time and others with no faith live to a ripe old age. I don’t believe faith gives anyone immunity from disease nor does it automatically cure someone who is ill. However, faith does have a role in my life, giving me confidence that there is good and meaning in the world, even though it may not seem that way at many times. Faith gives me a positive outlook and yes, I believe it may have a constructive effect on healing. I recall during my initial hospital stay thinking that I did not know if I was going to survive. I knew that my odds of being healed were only about 50%. I said to myself that I have lived a meaningful life of 69 years, more years than is granted to many. Certainly I wanted to live longer, but If I did not I knew that I had so many blessings during those years, a loving wife and children and a career that enabled me to preach, teach and counsel many others, having an effect on their lives. I thought of the long history of the Jewish people and my place in it. That brought me comfort. There are many books about faith in the life of cancer patients and I make a point of reading as many as I can. Each of us has to face a health crisis with our own resources. Typically one faces an illness with the same patterns that one uses in other difficult times. Yes, for me faith was and is part of that pattern and it helps to sustain me.
We are now able to have visitors more frequently. If you would like to stop by, please call first. The same rules still apply – don’t bring flowers or food, and don’t come if you or a member of your family is sick or is just recovering from an illness.