In this installment – Ahmed, the Yiddish-speaking Arab from the Judean Hills

I’ve decided to continue posting old emails in the order I wrote them.  This entertaining missive is from February 21, 2012.


As we sat in the hospital yesterday, Tammy working on her needlepoint and me on my computer, plenty of passers-by took interest in what she was doing.  The nurses were impressed and all wanted to know where Tammy got the design she was working on.  It’s a tefillin bag with a really nice Jerusalem scene on it.

Imagine our surprise when an obviously Arab-looking guy stopped and said, in Hebrew, “I did one just like that with a scene of Al-Aksa!” He was, of course, referring to the mosque that currently sits next to the Dome of the Rock and not the terrorist organization.  I think.

Anyway, as I’ve often described in these missives, cultural, religious and political boundaries mostly crumble in the chemo ward, so we started chatting.  Turns out Ahmed picked up Yiddish as a young boy in the villages surrounding Jerusalem, when his friends – a Russian and a Pole – used to speak the language between them. Not wanting to be left out, he learned it.  Now, he wants us to teach him English and he promised to help Tammy build on her Yiddish basics.  When he left, Tammy said to me, “I think you have what to write about this week…”

This gets weirder every time.

In other news, the past two weeks were somewhat adventure-filled, at least from a “dealing-with-cancer-and-an-illeostomy” perspective.  While en route from JFK to TLV last week, about two hours from landing, I thought my bag felt somewhat “wrong.”  Something was moist against my skin.  Uh oh.  Went to the bathroom and checked it out.  Sure enough, the bag seemed to be leaking.  Not a full-fledged puncture or anything, more of a seeping.  Nonetheless, not good to have.  So, I immediately emptied it and kept checking.  While it was slowing, I decided I needed to take action.

Now, in order to properly change the bag requires enough room so I can properly move around and a space to lay flat for about 20 minutes.  Thankfully I was upgraded and could take care of the second challenge but, even upfront, the bathrooms are tiny.  Not sure what to do, I thought I might be able to use the pilots’ sleeping bunk located upstairs on the 747.  I spoke privately to the head flight attendant, Muriel, whom I’ve seen on many flights.  I explained to her why I was wearing a mask and what was going on with me right then.  She was great and immediately said not to use the pilots’ rest area, but to use the cabin crew’s area at the back of the plane.  I grabbed a box of tissues and a pack of paper towels and followed her to the back where she opened what looked like a bathroom door.  There was a tight staircase – almost a ladder – that led to a small room with 8 small bunks and barely enough room to stand.  She told me I had total privacy as all of the crew was on and no one was allowed to be there.  So, I spread out a sheet under me and sat on my knees and did the fastest change of the bag and base I have ever done. Then I laid down for about 30 minutes until the captain made his announcement that we were almost 30 minutes out and everyone had to sit down.

I have to admit, I was rather proud of myself.

Sunday night, Tammy and I had a wedding to attend, so attend, we did!  during the meal, same thing as on the plane.  Something’s not right.  Checked it out and, sure enough, same problem.  Not wanting to leave, we decided to ask our host if there was a private room they used to prepare for the party.  Luckily, there was.  She gave us the code and the room was perfect; it had a big couch and a couple of tables.  Again, quick change, this time with the help of my lovely assistant, a quick rest for 20 minutes or so, and back to our table in time for the main course!

A few words about how I’m feeling.  Pretty well, thanks.  The most annoying side effects continue to be the exhaustion which comes without warning, and the incredible neuropathy which manifests itself as extreme painful sensitivity to cold, even in a shift of a few degrees.  When that happens, it’s nearly impossible to type, so I’ve become very good at holding a pencil in each hand and using the eraser ends to type.  Some have suggested I look into dictation software but, quite frankly, I’m not interested in investing in anything as significant as that, especially with the light at the end of the tunnel becoming somewhat visible.  (Hope it’s not that of an on-coming train!)

Thank you all for your continued support.


About Alan

F---ing Cancer since 2011.
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