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Max is Back!

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Welcome Back to the USA

WOW, Steve and I are back in France after a five week visit to Southern California to see our kids and precious grandsons Isaac and Oliver.

This time I left for America healthy and returned to France healthy TG. On the previous two such trips, I returned to France very ill. So I believe that I have broken the cycle and will continue to be healthy and stay healthy, especially while traveling back and forth to Southern California a few times a year.

It is safe to say that “Max is Back”!! I am finally feeling back to myself after two years of not being well. It has been a year since I finished my six-month course of chemotherapy and four months since I fully recuperated from a lung infection that I contracted on our October 2018 visit to Southern California.

I am very happy to say that the results from all of my recent tests, scans, exams and blood tests show that I am in “Full Remission”!!

I got my life back!! It is like an earthquake. (I am from California and was brought up experiencing them throughout my life – in fact there was a substantial one in June while we were in California). You make it through the initial earthquake and it is not until afterwards that you realize what happened and could have happened. Then you feel a bit shaky wondering when the aftershocks are going to hit. However, I continue to think positive and live in the now, enjoying and appreciating every moment. I am grateful and thankful for all of the blessings in my life. I live every day to the fullest, love many people and laugh a lot. I look to touch peoples’ lives in a positive way and to make a difference in the world. That keeps me going.

It is amazing how fast time goes by and how fast babies grow and change. We were actually watching our grandsons growing up right in front of us.

They say that “Home is where the Heart is” Well my heart is at home with my kids and grandsons. So for me going “Home” is when I arrive in Southern California.

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There’s No Place Like Home

 

So many exciting things happened on our five week visit with our family:

Our grandson Isaac began pre-school shortly after we arrived. He goes three mornings a week. It was hard to let go and accept the fact that he is growing up so fast and no longer a baby – he is a toddler now.

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Isaac Excited to be Starting Pre-School

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Isaac Having Fun on the Playground

On June 18th we celebrated Isaac’s 3 year birthday. Bubbie and Papa(Steve & I)took him for breakfast for home made pancakes at a special restaurant near our house called Flappy Jack’s. Isaac enjoyed a plate of pancakes shaped like Mickey Mouse with chocolate chips and whipped cream for the eyes and mouth.

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Bubbie and Isaac

We had a birthday party at the house on the Saturday before Isaac’s “Actual” Birthday (Isaac’s words!). You can see by the photos that is was a fun filled day with all of the family and  friends.

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Toy Story Themed Birthday

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Isaac Enjoying His Birthday Cake

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The Family Celebrating with Isaac

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Mommy and Daddy and Isaac

There was Papa time with Isaac as he learned French from books that we brought for him from France. He is doing so well and learning new words all of the time.

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Papa Time with Isaac

Bubbie Time with Isaac consists of playing on the floor with his cars, monster trucks and other toys with wheels. We had story time –

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Bubbie and Isaac after Bath Time

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Isaac with His Cars and Trucks

Isaac loves to have stories read to him – and then there is bath time. He also loves to go shopping with Bubbie and Papa to Costco, Trader Joe’s and Target. It’s the everyday things that I like most and miss the most – out to dinner with the family,

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Out  to Dinner with “My Boys”

homemade meals together, shopping, going to the park, special time with each of them and babysitting.

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 Bubbie, Isaac and Papa “Welcome Home”

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Bubbie and Oliver

Isaac took Swimming Lessons for two weeks and Bubbie and Papa got to go watch him learning to swim.

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Isaac with His Swim Instructor

We spent time with Oliver playing on the floor with his baby toys and watching him learning to crawl.

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Happy Baby Oliver

He practiced rocking back and forth on both hands and legs for a few weeks and then all of a sudden he put his legs into full gear and took off crawling all over the place. Then there was no stopping him.

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Oliver Getting Ready to Crawl

We were there to celebrate 4th of July. You can see USA Flags everywhere.

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Quite Patriotic in the Supermarket

Bubbie and Papa took Isaac to a Car Museum.

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Bubbie and Isaac. Notice the name “Max”on the car

Needless to say that he loved every minute of it, walking up and down the rows of race cars and antique cars and big engines too.

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Isaac Loves Cars

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Isaac in the Driver’s Seat

We had a beautiful day out with Joshua & Lupe. They took us to The Huntington Library Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens near Pasadena. We walked for hours through the many gardens, all from different parts of the world. Mid-day we stopped in at the food court and had some drinks and snacks. 

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Lupe, Mom and Joshua

After a wonderful day, we took them for a delicious dinner at a Japanese Dumpling Restaurant.

We were able to squeeze in a visit with Steve’s Mom. We picked her up in Arizona and drove her back to California to stay with us for a few days. Steve’s brother Scott & sister-in-law Patty drove down from Northern California. It was nice to have the family together for the day.

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Family Day

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“The Boys”

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Steve and Scott with their Mom

My hematologist in France says that I can go back and forth to Southern California as long as I pace myself. I take that very seriously and considering everything that I have been through with my health, I am not taking any chances. That means that I take a rest when Isaac & Oliver take their nap, I eat sensibly and healthy, I get my 8 hours of sleep every night and I spend 90% of the time with the kids and grand kids at home and limit myself to spending 10% of the time with our friends. Most of them come to us and to see our family and then we go out to eat in our area. Otherwise we would be schlepping all over Southern California to see all of our friends. They are all so respectful, caring and understanding of my situation.

Steve and I live a good life in France. We have lots of good friends that we spend time with eating, drinking wine and traveling around France together. However, there is nothing that compares to “Being Home with Our Kids & Grand Kids”.

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Mommy Time

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Daddy Time

Dorothy says it best in the Wizard of Oz, “There’s no place like home”.

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Steve, Jonathan, Oliver, Isaac, Liz and Joshua

We spend a great deal of quality time and share many special moments with Jonathan, Liz, Isaac & Oliver and Joshua & Lupe. I believe that a picture is worth a thousand words so I have shared with you my favorites of this visit to Southern California.

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Happy is how I feel when I am Home with Our Family

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Home Is Where Your Heart Is

To me, home is where our kids and precious grandson Isaac are.

We are finally home again after my 6 months of chemotherapy treatments and 2 months of recovery time. We are back together with our family and Loving It!!

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Together Again – Lupe & Joshua, Maxine, Liz & Jonathan, and Steve at the Baby Shower.

This is my “Happiest Place on Earth” with my kids and grandson Isaac, awaiting the arrival of grandchild #2.  

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Bubbie’s Boy & Papa’s too. Our Precious little Grandson Isaac.

We are having an awesome, incredible, amazing time in Southern California.

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Let the Adventures Begin. Motorcycle Bubbie & Isaac

Grateful and thankful and feeling so blessed, healthy, joyful and at peace. Life is Good.

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Bubbie and The Boys at the Baby Shower

During my cancer journey I stayed laser-focused on getting my health back so that I could get home to my kids and grandson Isaac and here I am, thank God. It’s like a dream come true. It is as if I just clicked my heels three times and I am home (from my favorite movie The Wizard of Oz). It all feels surreal and yet it is so real.

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Living in the Moment

Live in the moment as it is all we have, right here, right now.

I am living my life “To The Max”.

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I Crossed the Finish Line!!

The final leg of this Marathon that I have been training for this past six months has finally arrived. With six chemotherapy treatments behind me, I Have Crossed the Finish Line – I Have Beat Cancer Once Again!!!!

I am now able to recuperate and allow my body to recover and heal itself. I’m Back ~ Max is Back!!

These past six months seem surreal to me. Maybe it is a survival mechanism that our bodies use to protect us, to allow us to do what it takes to get through the experience, without thinking or analyzing too much.

I leave behind the physical and emotional pain from the many restrictions I have had to live with – the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and feelings that I have experienced will soon fade away and then it will all be behind me.

I take with me the gifts that cancer can bring with it. Even more patience, inner strength, total positivity, a feeling of empowerment and accomplishment and the care, love and support from so many beautiful people on this journey.

I am overwhelmingly grateful and thankful for the continuous support from my many relatives and friends around the world for sending me positive healing energy, positive thoughts, prayers and love on a continual basis throughout my treatment, especially my Steve who has been by my side throughout this entire journey and my family in Southern California – Jonathan, Liz & Isaac and Joshua & Lupe, who have been my biggest support from almost 6,000 miles away. They have been calling, texting and putting our precious grandson Isaac on video phone calls for us to see each other a few times a week. They also sent me little video clips of Isaac playing and talking and growing up in front of my eyes. He turned two years old June 18th.

We have so much to catch up with when we get home. It will be a long visit this time!! We want to be there to have special time with Isaac before the new baby comes in November, then be there for the birth of the new baby and have bonding time, and then to be there for the first few months to help Jonathan & Liz with both of them.

You have all been on my cancer journey with me – I did not do this alone – it was a team effort – God, myself, Steve, my kids & grandson Isaac, my relatives and friends, Cancer Support France (CSF), the French healthcare system – my doctor and his team of doctors, nurses, and all who took care of me in the hospital, the chemo clinic and my home nurses, my taxi driver Sam, everybody has played a part in my healing process.

I Did It!! ~ We Did It!! ~ Thank you to everyone of you for being by my side as I Crossed the Finish Line. I can now move on with my life.

As I Count my Many Blessings I Have this Peaceful Joyful Feeling in my Heart and Soul.

A Lightness ~ I’m Free (again) to Be Me ~ I’m Back ~ Max is Back!!

Life is Good….

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Hugs, Not Kisses

To all of you that have been following my Cancer Journey, I am so grateful, thankful and happy to say that two-thirds of my chemotherapy regime is behind me.

I also have great news – the weekly blood test results and recent CT scan have shown that the chemotherapy is working!! It is killing the cancer cells and preventing new ones from forming!! I knew in my heart and soul that my body would be totally responsive to the chemotherapy and that it would do its job.

This really helps me to “Keep My Eye on the Goal” – to be back to my healthy self so that I can get on an airplane and fly back to Southern California to my kids and grandson Isaac, and for the birth of our second grandbaby, due in November. This is what keeps me going!!

I also want to be back to my healthy self to enjoy our wonderful life here in the South of France.

All of you have and continue to play an important part in my healing process. Whether it is through a text, an email, a card, a phone call, or a visit, by sending me positive healing energy, positive thoughts, love, keeping me in your thoughts and prayers, lighting candles and saying special healing prayers for me, I want you to know that it really works. I can feel it from all of you. It is if you are standing with your arms around each other surrounding me with this incredible energy and love that heals and protects me. It contributes to my feeling Healthy, Strong and Positive through this trying time.

Although you will not hear me complain, it has not been a picnic. After each chemotherapy treatment, my skin is ultra-sensitive to hot, cold and touch, I’ve battled nausea, I can become emotional easily – happy tears – thankful and grateful for everything, small and large things, and sad tears – missing my kids and grandson Isaac, wanting to be done with the chemotherapy and all of these things that it does to my body and mind, and yet thankful that it is working. About a week after each treatment I can feel the effects of the drugs subsiding, leaving me to be my usual happy self.

During my “good weeks” friends that I have been able to see in person are familiar with my “Hugs, Not Kisses” policy. Because one of the effects of chemotherapy makes me more susceptible to germs, I have to “screen” my guests to be sure they are not suffering from coughs, colds or worse!

I still have two more chemotherapy treatments to go – July and August. It is comforting to think that more than half of the tough times are in the rear-view mirror, and all the good things in life are in front of me, thanks to my family, friends and you, my faithful readers.

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My narrative continues with my stay in the pulmonary wing at Le Centre Hospitalier de Béziers (CH Beziers).

After the fluid was removed from my right lung, the fluid was sent to the lab to be analyzed and the results confirmed that it was a lung infection. However after a more in-depth investigation of the fluid, it also showed that the non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, that I was originally diagnosed and treated for 17 years ago, had a made a recurrence.

I was given several antibiotics to attack the infection. After a couple of days of antibiotics, I could feel my strength returning, along with improved breathing capacity. Meanwhile, preparations were being made to transfer me to Le Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Montpellier, Saint Eloi (CHU Saint Eloi), where my oncologist/hematologist practices.

The first attempt at the transfer was interrupted by a very rare event in the south of France – a snowstorm. After two hours in the medical taxi – and not even getting halfway from Beziers to Montpellier – we had to turn around and, after another two hours, arrived back at CH Beziers, where they hadn’t given up my bed, on the chance that I would return.

Finally two days later, the snow had for the most part melted and I finally left CH Beziers and was checked in to CHU Saint Eloi. My hematologist confirmed that I would need to begin chemotherapy, but first the main priority was to get the infection under control. I had many tests to monitor my situation. One of the crucial tests was to confirm that the lymphoma that had appeared was indeed the same type that I was diagnosed with back in 2001. When the results confirmed that the lymphoma was the same, it was a relief because we knew that I responded well to treatment before, and was confident that I will once again. Who could imagine that someone could be happy to have a confirmed diagnosis of cancer?

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With these results, the treatment plan could be established. The protocol is six rounds of chemotherapy, with each round consisting of two back-to-back days as an outpatient, spaced 28 days apart. The first round was done while I was still in the hospital. Following this first round, I developed a low-grade fever, a result of the tail-end of fighting the infection. I was not able to leave the hospital until the fever broke.

After a few days of continued antibiotics, the fever finally started cracking until it finally broke. I was finally going home after 23 days in two hospitals.

In conjunction with my release from the hospital, a team of nurses sprung into action. There was a check-out nurse who was responsible for ensuring that everything was done to prepare me to leave the hospital as well as coordinating all of the medications that I would need with my neighborhood pharmacy. There was a coordinating nurse who arranged upcoming home visits, supplies, paperwork – even down to arranging medical taxis for the next few scheduled trips to the hospital, for chemo, doctor visits etc.

I have access to day and night nurses at the hospital, who are only a phone call away. Of course there are language barriers, but they always find someone that can speak a little English, and Steve speaks a little French, so we always manage to communicate.

There is a rotating team of three home nurses that visit me to take blood, give me injections and change the dressing on my picc line, all on the well-documented schedule organized by the coordinating nurse. In fact, they provided a customized binder containing all of the instructions for the doctors and nurses, places for the nurses to document their actions, as well as all of my prescriptions – and there are many! I take a number of pills daily, some for five days after the treatment and some for the entire six months as well as a daily prescription mouthwash to prevent sores and fungus in the mouth, common side-effects of chemo.

As one of my girlfriends said “It is a full time job to keep up with all of this.” Fortunately, my Steve has it all organized in the diary on my phone, and it beeps with a reminder of all of these things to do throughout each day.

I have to say that the French healthcare system is #1 in the world. The doctors, nurses and the hospital staff were incredible. They were supportive, understanding and caring people. I am provided with a taxi to take Steve and I to my doctor’s appointments and all chemotherapy appointments in Montpellier – which is 45 minutes from our house.  Not to mention our village pharmacy, who delivered all of my medications to our house the day I came home from the hospital.

It is so good to be home with Steve and our many supportive friends. The support from our family and friends in the USA, France, UK, Canada, Australia, Belgium and Israel is what helps keep me going.

An adventure in the journey of life – I stay strong and positive and am thankful and grateful for everything – everyday.

I look forward to going home to our kids and grandson Isaac when my six chemotherapy treatments are behind me. It is what keeps me going…

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A Long and Winding Road

Let’s see where do I begin?

This blog post is a long time coming as I have not written a blog in many months, for good reasons, as you shall see.

When Steve and I moved to South of France almost 4 years ago, after living in England for almost 7 years, I told Steve that once our kids starting having children – our grandchildren – that we will need to be going home to Southern California more often. I would not want to miss watching our grandson Isaac growing up.

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“Bubbie’s Boy” Isaac my Precious Grandson 

I have looked forward to having children and grandchildren since I was a little girl myself.

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Bubbie and Isaac “Inseparable”

Wanting to keep Steve happy by living in South of France 7 or 8 months out of the year, and keeping myself, my kids and grandson happy too, by seeing them more often,

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Uncle Joshua and Isaac – Ready to Go Play 

we finally came to an agreement. We decided to fly home more often and stay for fewer weeks at a time. This meant that we fly home every three months for four to five weeks at a time. This travel plan has worked well for the whole family since Isaac was born – June 18, 2016.­­­­

We have been home 5 times and this past time was for 2-1/2 months. It included all of the holidays in December,

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Our Family Celebration of Chanukah and Shabbat

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Bubbie, Isaac and Papa

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Liz, Isaac and Jonathan  – Intrigued by the Candles

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Happy Chanukah – Isaac’s Menorah and New Trucks

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Celebrating the Holidays with Lupe’s Family

a three week visit to New Zealand in January 1-22 2018, then back to Southern California for our younger son’s wedding February 2, 2018,

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Steve and Maxine With the Happy Couple – Joshua and Lupe

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Jonathan, Lupe, Joshua, Liz and Isaac

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Our Family Wedding Celebration 

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Isaac With His Papa

celebrating Jonathan’s birthday and my birthday together,

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Jonathan and My Birthday Celebration 

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Isaac With Bubbie on Her Birthday

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Isaac Helping Bubbie Open Her Presents

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Look What I Got – A Jonathan Painting – I Love It

and Valentine’s Day before heading back to France mid-February.

Even though the trip from Paris to Los Angeles consists of a lot of travel, including a short flight from Montpellier to Paris to catch our non-stop flight to Los Angeles, we have enjoyed each trip and I have been able to keep up with the busy travel schedule.

However this past December 2017 to February 2018 trip was a little different. I had been having a few health issues over the past 6 months and I was not feeling 100% myself. I had a cough and cold a few times during those 6 months and my breathing wasn’t feeling normal. I could take deep breaths but had labored breathing if I walked too far or did uphill walking.

I noticed my stamina for physical activities wasn’t where it should be. I had been to my GP doctor in France a few times and she checked my lungs, heart and breathing, and nothing showed up at the time. So we decided to continue with our plans to go home for 2-1/2 months to be with our kids and grandson Isaac.

It was the best decision that we could have made.  We had total quality time with all of them.

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My Girls – Liz and Lupe – Shabbat Shalom

We also spent time with Liz’s parents and family and Lupe’s parents and family. We had time with many of our friends, too. I was able to keep up with Isaac, playing with him all day and chasing after him in the garden, taking him to Gymboree

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Isaac Playing at Gymboree

and to the park.

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We Are at the Park with Jonathan and Isaac

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Papa, Isaac and Jonathan Taking a Walk in the Park

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Sunshine and Warm Weather in December – I Love S. California

 

As you see, we packed a lot into this visit.

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We Wore Out the Kids on This Visit

Towards the last week before we were to leave to go back home to France, I began showing signs of low energy and labored breathing. I went to see my GP doctor in Diamond Bar 2 days before leaving for France. He took a chest x-ray which showed that I had fluid in my right lung.

He gave me a prescription for antibiotics and a mask to wear on the plane. He said that it was safe for me to fly back to France, as long as I saw my doctor as soon as I returned.

I made the two flights back to France and saw my GP doctor a few days later. He said to come back after I finished the antibiotics for a recheck.

But my health took a sudden turn and I ended up in the emergency room a few days later. After a few tests they checked me into the hospital and the rest is history. They did many tests and the pulmonary doctor did a procedure to remove the fluid from my lung. He removed 1.4 liters of fluid – a lot of fluid that I was carrying around.

I thank God for giving me the strength and energy to enjoy those 2-1/2 months of quality time with our family and friends, it is priceless!!

To be continued…

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Light the Night Walk

WOW, it has been a long time since we have been in Southern California in September. However, due to our 3 month plan of visiting our kids and grandson Isaac, this year we ended up there mid-September to mid-October.  This is exciting because it meant that we were with our family for the Jewish Holidays and that Steve and I could attend the Light the Night Walk – the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s annual 5K walk.

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I Brought the LTN Walk to Angel Stadium 16 Years Ago

This is the walk that I started at Angel’s Stadium 16 years ago. I was the Campaign Manager and I took it from a $10,000 walk to a $250,000 walk in just three years!! It now raises over $1,000,000!! It is said that this is a legacy that I left to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Something that I worked very hard for and  I am very proud of.

Mike Hunter’s Team – supporting a family team that started with me 16 years ago. Mike Hunter lost his battle with cancer when he was just 32 years old. I met Barbara, his mom and Vicki, his sister 16 years ago when I was the Campaign Manager of the Light the Night Walk. They shared their touching family story about Mike’s diagnosis, treatment and passing. I wanted to help them by doing something that would give them a way to have a positive impact on others and keep Mike’s memory alive. I asked them if they would like Mike to be the Light the Night “Memorial Honoree”. Both Barbara and Vicki jumped at the opportunity and for the three years that I was Campaign Manager, Mike was the Memorial Honoree. They became volunteers on my committee. Their family has done the walk every year since. They just celebrated their 17th year doing the walk. They have created a large team that raises a lot of money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, helping to fund research and support patient’s needs. They also have Mike’s Teams in other states walking and raising funds. I worked with LLS National 16 years ago to get Mike’s Team to become the first Light the Night National Family Team in the country.

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Steve and I Surprised Them and Walked With Their Team This Year

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Steve, Barbara, Maxine and Vicki

 

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Our Friends Harriet & Ben Joined Us Too. They Were Also Volunteers On My Walk Committee. It Was a Special Night For Us All

Each walker carried a Lighted Chinese Lantern throughout the walk – A White one if you are a Survivor or a Patient, A Red one if you are a Supporter, and A Gold one if you are walking in Memory of someone.

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As a Survivor, I Carried a White Lantern

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We Also Surprised Our Friends Van & Virginia Who Were Volunteers on My Walk Committee. All Six of Us Are Cancer Survivors – Virginia, Maxine, Van, Harriet & Steve

This year there was a Survivors’ Circle where all of us gathered before the walk began to turn on the lights in our Chinese Lantern together and acknowledge the amazing survival rate for blood cancers. It was a very moving moment and I experienced a flood of emotion run through me as I reflected on how long we have been cancer survivors – Steve is 31 years and I am 17 years. Also you realize that you are not alone in this fight to find a cure and beat cancer.  You are doing it together.

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The Survivors’ Circle. A Very Emotional Moment for Many of Us

For me the walk was emotional, inspirational and empowering, as I reminisced about what I created here 16 years ago and how much it has grown in attendance, money raised and awareness of blood cancers.

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I Was Excited to See What I Had Created Here 16 Years Ago and How Much it Has Grown in Attendance, Money Raised and Awareness of Blood Cancers

I started the walk here at Angels Stadium 16 Years Ago and it is still going as strong!!

Here’s to finding a cure!!

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Maxine and Harriet – Survivors

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