My mom

Posted on November 25, 2008

I have not written in a long time, and for that I apologize. I have been dealing with my feelings in therapy and talking with friends who live nearby. For some reason, it has been hard to write about it, but I don’t feel like I am at the mercy of my memories the way I did even a few months ago.

Besides, I met with my rabbi today and he told me to start writing again regularly. Even if it is hard and even if I do not know what to say and even if no one is listening.

Because I just found out my mom is dying.

She has pancreatic cancer and the doctor said she may have only months to live. I hope the doctor is wrong and a specialist will say something different. I am currently going back and forth between shock and denial.

She found this out this past week. The cancer part was confirmed on Friday. On Wednesday (tomorrow) she will have a very detailed CT scan to determine if the tumor is operable. The doctor said the tumor partially or completely surrounds a major blood vessel in her pancreas and is partially or completely blocking the bile ducts. Her lymph nodes are also involved, but we do not know to what extent exactly.

After she has her CT scan she will see a specialist about treatment options, although from what her current doctor says, it is more a matter of putting off the inevitable than it is actually treating.

My mom lives 2000 miles away. I have a brother who lives near her and is very close to her emotionally. I hope that I and my children (my mom’s only grandchildren) will be able to see her once more. Despite all of the challenges in our relationship, my mom and I have reconciled and pretty much figured out how to have an adult friendship without inviting hurt every time we talk to each other. I cannot fathom never getting to give her another hug.

I am scared and sad and hopeful and numb. I want to be able to share this with people I know, but I am unsure if I should post things twice, once here and once somewhere less anonymous. Or if it is time to tell friends that this is my blog, this is a part of me. Some friends already know about my struggles with depression and anxiety. Some might be shocked by what I have written here. I just don’t know what to do right now.

My rabbi said I need to check in with him every few days even if it is just a quick note by email. He said this is going to be a difficult journey and one I should not travel alone. In my mind I thought this is especially true as I enter my “dark time” of year.

I will talk with my mom again tomorrow (Wed) night and hear about her scan. We will hopefully also talk about a possible visit and how we can make that happen in terms of time and money.

Right now I just want to curl up somewhere warm, eat something comforting, and not think about this.


  1. Rivka

    Thank you all for your kind words and support. Today I was very tired, maybe some from the emotional toll. I talked to my mom tonight on the phone and that helped a lot.

    We are going to wait until we hear what the doctor has to say on the 5th before we make any plans to travel to see her. I looked at airfare and the earliest we can get out there without spending the equivalent of buying a new car is mid-January.

    And I think that if my mom knew we were coming out now, it would stress her more. She doesn’t need more stress at this moment and rushing out there doesn’t feel right.

    I have to go with these G-d whisperings right now.

  2. Scraps

    Oh no…this is very, very hard news. 🙁 I hope that your mother has a refuah shelaimah, though I know you've said that the prognosis is not good. I will have your mother in my tefillot.

    (((hugs))) <- not sure you want them, or I have the right to offer them, but there they are…

  3. Looking Forward

    when davening you use the name that the person goes by.

    actualy, using a never used hebrew name for davening or calling them up to the torah is actualy in error. . . although I suppose one should offer a limud zechut for it.

    No, the name that she went by is her name, thus one should daven for ann bas josephine.

    (אן בת יוספין)

  4. corner point

    May Hashem grant her a refuah shelaima bekarov…

    Miracles can happen.

    Is there a way we can use those names to pray for her? Can you ask your Rabbi? I would love to include her in my prayers….

  5. Looking Forward

    Rivka, how are you coping? we’re worried. . .

  6. Anonymous


    I am one of those strangers you touched. Leora passed your post on to me as I am part of the macrobiotic world. I can’t promise you anything but hope. There are so many wonderful stories of people “condemned” by their doctors to be at their end, but they didn’t follow their doctors and chose to go a different – and imho, quite a simple, way. They chose to heal with food – and many have!!!! the difficulty is that you are so far away from your mother, physically (and you are blessed that you recreated your relationship with her – I sadly never did), that my question is, can you influence her (and your brother, she would need all the support she can get) to try something else. It takes ALOT of nerve not to just go along with the doctors’ advice. But many of the people who did figured, if the doctor already condemned them to a death sentence, what do they have to lose??

    the beauty of Judaism is that as long as one breathes, there is hope. Always!!!! I myself am not a teacher or counselor – but I would help in any way I can, if you are interested. The first step would be to find out where the closest BEST macrobiotic counselor can be that lives near her – and have them look at her and give their evaluation. Leora can tell you I’m not yet technologically in the 21st century, so don’t know if I can add my email (or newest blog) here – it’s my name, klara_levine (the underscore between the two names) and it’s at – or I can come back here glady if you’d like.

    Two other points (forgive my longness) – you are VERY lucky to have such a wonderful rabbi. And you have encouraged me muchly about blogging – I am new at it all and wondered how honest we can be with strangers (or people who might know us and find us) – I am very moved by your honesty and look forward to reading more.


  7. Unknown


  8. mother in israel

    I am so sorry to hear this. My stepmother had it–she died peacefully and without pain a year after she was diagnosed.
    Thank you for the email. I’ll add you to my reader so I can keep up with new posts.


  9. Rivka

    I’m afraid I only have the energy to do a quick response tonight.

    Thank you, Yoni. 🙂

    Leora, I will look for that book. My rabbi said also that while it is normal to be sad, not to mourn her while she’s still alive.

    Yid wLid, because I converted (my maternal great-grandmother was Jewish but my grandmother was raised Christian by her adoptive parents), my mom doesn’t have, to my knowledge, a Hebrew name. And I don’t know my great-grandmother’s. But I can tell you my mom’s name is Ann and her mother’s name was Josephine.

    Ayelet, you are making more sense than you know. There is much I want to say. For now I will suffice with your comment, Something along the lines of – how can I be so angry at her, she’s my mother? Yes yes yes. 🙁 That was an early and pervasive thought: now that our time is limited (and we like each other), how could I have wasted so much time by being angry or hurt? Or just as bad, maybe my anger hurt her and caused the cancer. (My rabbi reminds me I am not that powerful!)

    Rational thought prevailed and I had to tell myself that this is not about me. It is a tragedy and it is horribly painful but it is about her. It is her journey that we are taking, partway, with her.

    But yes there is guilt that I didn’t spend more time with her, at the same time knowing that it was too painful for both of us for a while to be in contact.

    There are many, many mixed emotions. Today I had to do much self-talk about not going to the place of, we might never have another Thanksgiving dinner together. Because maybe we will. Maybe we will celebrate her making it a year post diagnosis.

    I have to remind myself it is in G-d’s hands.

    So much for my quick response.

  10. Ayelet

    woah. That’s a sock in the gut if ever there was one. The kind of punch that makes you double over and want to throw up. And every time you think about it, you want to puke all over again?

    First of all, I’m glad that you have been able to find support with your rabbi. I remember how big an issue that was for you – being “unseen”….It sounds like he is much more there for you now.

    Second of all, I’m glad to hear that your mother and you have come to a place in your relationship that is happier than what I imagine it must have been with all the challenges involved – conversion, abuse, etc. I am so impressed that you have managed to get there. With so much history, it’s so easy to succumb to the super power of anger and destroy relationships rather than build. It reflects highly on you (and your mother) that you have worked to this point.

    With that said, deep hurt and anger never heals completely and often a new component gets added to the mix: guilt. Something along the lines of – how can I be so angry at her, she’s my mother? perhaps? I can only imagine the way news of an illness as terrible as cancer can just bring so many deep conflicting emotions to the surface.

    Do I have anything right, here? Is anything here resonating?

    As for ditching your anonymity, why? Here’s why you wanted it originally: This is an anonymous blog. It needs to be such, or I would lose the ability to share my truth, whether anyone else wants to read it or not. Has that changed? Might you regret ditching your anonymity in the future? Or is it just too exhausting keeping up two blogs? (I, of course, would love to read more about your daily joys and news so feel free to send me a link to your daily blog…:) )

    Seems as though I’ve done nothing helpful in this long and disorganized comment so I’ll end it now.

    Good luck tomorrow. Stay in touch!

  11. Unknown

    What is your mother’s hebrew name and your grandmothers…I will add her to my daily prayers

  12. Leora

    Oh, Rivka. I’m so sorry to hear that.

    For now, she’s still alive. Enjoy having her with you.

    If you can, this is a good book to read Anticancer: A New Way of Life. It may give you some ideas of what to try, beyond what the oncologist tells you.

    My mother died of colon cancer. But I did get to spend some good time with her, before we lost her.

  13. Looking Forward

    oh my gosh. my only grandmother died of pancreas cancer when I was 8 I think, which was like 16 years ago. I hope I can help you.

    what a bad way to go, and this after you made up with your mother.

    Oh my gosh, this is just awful.

    and pancreatic cancer, what a way to go.

    I’m linking this on my blog and putting you back on my sidebar.

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