Friday, October 3, 2008


On my birthday yesterday, I received a number of messages from people wishing me well and wondering how the heck I am. I’ve been meaning post on my blog for a while now, so your messages are the motivation I need to get me to sit down and write. The short answer is that things are pretty miserable. I’ve now completed my 10th round of chemo, and continue to be extremely fatigued all the time. Other side effects that come and go are prolonged bruising and bleeding, including frequent nose bleeds; neuropathy in my feet; hair loss (I still have stubble that is falling out, and other body hair is going too); sore throat; runny nose and coughing; sensitivity in the intestinal tract; and lots and lots of irritability.

I’d like to thank my latest helpers – Sarah Brydon visited for Chemo #8 and my brother Bob Rhode visited for Chemo #10. I really appreciated having both of you here. Thanks also to my local friends for their periodic assistance, in particular to my great neighbors, Karen, Michael, Olivia, and Max for lending many hands in the evenings when Colin travels. And thanks Colin for keeping up your patience and doing so much with the kids when I need to rest.

My biggest problem right now is childcare. Many of you know that we hired an au pair, Nadja, to stay with us for a year, to help with the kids. Because an au pair works 45 hours a week, I had reduced all the kids’ daycare / preschool / after school care schedules so they would be home with her much more. What you may not know is that 3 days after she arrived, she decided she couldn’t stay with us because she couldn’t sleep in our house. It turns out she’s afraid of heights, and her bedroom was on our 3rd floor, up 2 flights of winding stairs, which gave her vertigo. She was only getting one or two hours of sleep a night. Otherwise, she was great with the kids and we liked her. She was with us Aug. 29 – Sept. 26, and has now resettled with a new host family in San Francisco and reports that she is sleeping fine now. Unfortunately the au pair agency was not as quick to find us a new au pair. They spent 3 weeks offering us other au pairs who were already in the country but wanting to leave their current host families for various reasons, but these reasons often meant the au pairs were duds – bad drivers, not engaging with the kids, can’t handle the work, etc. Finally we were offered a brand new au pair, Tina, who is still in Germany. We like her and have decided to take her, however she won’t arrive until October 31. This leaves me with 5 weeks of almost full-time childcare to do on my own (except next week, when my parents are visiting for Chemo #11), during the hardest part of my treatment. Because chemo gets worse over time, I can expect to be the most tired during the month of October. But I won’t be able to rest because I will have little Martha home every afternoon, Sarah all day twice a week, Ethan after school, swim lessons for the kids, and I’ll be running around picking up and dropping kids off at varying times. Plus the Newton Public Schools annoyingly close for the Jewish holidays and Columbus Day, meaning there are 3 school vacation days in a 3 week period, but Colin doesn’t have any of these days off. Add to all this my previously mentioned extreme irritability – I find myself getting irrationally angry at the kids and yelling at them way beyond the level of their “crime,” and I feel bad afterwards, but I can’t help it. It’s all completely horrible. If anybody still wants to come help out in any way, your assistance will be gladly accepted…

Let’s see, in other news, today I have my first visit with the Radiation Oncologist. This is the doctor who will oversee my six-week long radiation treatment, the next and final phase of treatment. Previously I had assumed that radiation would begin two weeks after my last chemo, since chemo has been happening every 2 weeks, and from this assumption I calculated that I would finish everything the week before Christmas. Well, I was wrong. Usually they wait a month between the two phases, so I’ll be in treatment straight through the holiday season (every week day except the holidays themselves) and won’t finish until some time in January.

As for how my birthday was, let me say I’ve had better. Even though I’m 37, with the cancer I’m feeling old before my time. 40 is looking closer and closer. Colin was on a business trip so I was solo with the kids in the morning, had Sarah home all day and Martha home for half the day. Ethan and Martha both made me birthday cards, which was cute. I received delivery of flowers which are brightening up my dining room (thanks to both Jess and Anne). My neighbors helped me in the evening, which was really great because at the last minute I decided to take Ethan to join the Cub Scouts and their first meeting was last night. When we got home from that, Karen had already put the girls in bed, loaded the dishwasher, and cleaned up the kids’ toys. I think that was the best part of the day! Now Colin is home so we will celebrate next week. We have planned a flight on a hot air balloon in western MA so keep your fingers crossed for a clear day and beautiful foliage.


Michael Cayley said...

Martha - that is a gut wrenching report.

As you know, over the years I done a great deal to "stand out" in the eyes of God.

You know, sort of like starting your house on fire to attract the attention of the fire department?

I will be using what ever attention span that I am afforded to switch the topic from my bad behavior to bringing your pains to the big "one"'s attention.

Humor attempt noted?

Love to Colin & kids too!

Rachel said...

Good luck this month, Martha. I hope the new au pair arrives on time and is perfect in every way (except for perhaps an unfortunate face). In the meantime, wonder if you can get a college kid to watch the kids in your house for a few hours a week? Something low responsibility and not tragic if they flake, but still helpful to you?

Elaine said...

Martha, I have the perfect solution! My former nanny just moved to Boston, to be closer to her grown daughters while she waits to start a new nannying job in January. She's living at my mother's house (ie, across the street from you) for the next few months, and I'm pretty sure she's available now for temporary work. And she's brilliant with kids. Her name is Maia. Her email is or you can just phone her at my mom's house.

Sparky said...

It's a very thoughtful gesture on your part, but I can handle turning 40 on my own. You go back to being 37. Glad you survived your week alone, hope your new au pair arrives soon. I think I might have accidentally stolen some of Colin's boxers. Let's just keep that between us, shall we?