Downs and Ups

Posted on January 27th, 2012

When you ask me how Stella is doing, I might answer you.

Or I might turn my back on you and scurry away.

Either way, you will have my answer.

So now I probably confused everyone.

Didn’t Stella have the miracle operation? What happened to “She will be cured, she will be cured……(breathe)?”

Yes, that IS still the hope. But it’s a bit more complicated than that. Let me explain.

As you remember, in June Stella was diagnosed with stage four gastric cancer. The cancer had spread outside her stomach so the standard response — removal of the stomach — was not under consideration. Instead, we embarked on an aggressive schedule of chemotherapy. The hope was that the chemo would slow the spread of the disease.

But it did more. In November a scan showed that there was no more active cancer outside the stomach. Stella’s situation was re-assessed and it was determined that she would be able to have the operation after all. If all the cancer had been killed by the chemo, then there was a chance that the operation would result in a cure.

On January 1, Stella had the operation. When the surgeon saw the extent that the cancer had spread, he elected to perform the “most radical” surgical operation. Stella’s stomach, spleen, gall bladder, and over forty lymph nodes were removed. The tissue that was removed was then sent to the lab to see if any active cancer cells had been “hiding” from the scan.

The report from the lab showed that active cancer cells were indeed hiding from the scan in the tissue outside her stomach. This means one of three things.

Either the cancer is still present in her body and just as cells that were removed in the operation had not been revealed on the scan, she still has more cancer still inside that didn’t show up. This possibility gets the unhappy face.  🙁

A second possibility is that there are again more active cancer cells inside her body, but they represent the last remnants of the cancer. Since chemo successfully killed all the rest of the cancer, it makes sense that continued chemo will kill any remainder that is still there. This option gets a neutral face :I

A third possibility is that the cells discovered are the last vestiges of the cancer and since they were removed in the operation, she no longer has any cancer inside. This option, of course, gets the happy face 🙂

The problem is that there is absolutely no way to determine which of the three possibilities is the true one. As our Doctor said, Stella’s case is really “outside the box” as far as stomach cancer in concerned. She managed to have an operation for which there had initially been a zero percent chance. So now, the statistics can be thrown away, and we can rewrite the medical journal articles.

Where that leaves us is with a return to chemotherapy. The chemo is either going to kill active cancer cells that are still in her body, or it is simply a precautionary step to make sure that all the cancer is dead. Regardless of which option it is, we will resume the battle where we left off. Although this time our odds are better. Hey, the Giants are only three-point underdogs to win the Superbowl. That’s a hell of a lot better than they were a month ago, right? (If you don’t understand, ask a football fan.)

And so the battle continues. Right now, Stella gains strength every day, but it is not without occasional set-backs. She is trying to eat and drink, but it is difficult. She still has pain from the operation and some days she is not up to “visiting hours.” (So always e-mail before coming over.)

As for me, when she is not doing well, I am not doing well. When she is feeling better, I am feeling better. Catch me on a good day, and I will talk football or biking with you. Catch me on a bad day and I might spit on you. (No, I wouldn’t do that. But I might  just turn my back on you without answering the customary “HowzStella?” greeting.)

Chemo will not be fun. We know that. Just when Stella’s hair has grown back and some of the other side-effects from chemo have disappeared, we have to renew our membership in the club. Once again, we will be spending days at Shaare Zedek and will have a number of “rough patches” coming up.

But we do have a possibility of a cure and THAT is what we must focus on. The big party will have to wait, and we will once again call on Stella’s Army to don your battle gear and jump into the fight.

So Long Cancer Cells

In the TV show “24,” just when it seemed like all the bad guys were dead, the plot would turn and more bad guys would show up. But eventually it was just Jack Bauer and the last remaining bad guy. And we could all get stoked as he showed no mercy and sent the final villain on his way.

I have this dream where Stella finally confronts the very last cancer cell with her chemo gun loaded.

And she kicks its ass.

(If you didn’t get the Giants reference, you probably didn’t get this one, it’s a (mostly) guy thing.)

So we have no choice but to accept the situation and tell those cancer cells that their days are  numbered. (Yeah, I’m in a bit of a rah-rah mood today.)

Yarden Frankl, Neve Daniel

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  1. Jackie B says:

    nicely written and explained very well – especially liked the Giants referenced 😉 stay strong, we’re still davening for Stella! we know she can kick cancers ass!

  2. Iris says:

    thanks for the update. We were concerned because we didn’t see a blog for a while and didn’t wanta do a “howzstella?” until you were ready to share more. We continue to daven and channel our inner Jack Bauer.

  3. Tammy Berman says:

    I am a big ’24’ fan. I am also a huge ‘Stella’ fan. Hang in there. I wish I could give you a hug of transfusion of strength. Shabbat Shalom.

  4. Paul Goldstein says:

    We’re continuing to do what has been successful so far – davening and daven and daven. That’s the value of having an army! Have a Beautiful Shabbos.

  5. Moishe Lewack says:


    Yarden / Stella
    Pam and I are still davening for Stella, you, and the kids!
    You guys are my inspiration. Go Giants and Stella!

    May your Shabbos be peaceful and as close to uneventful as possible.

  6. Moishe Lewack says:


    Yarden / Stella
    Pam and I are still davening for Stella, you, and the kids!
    You guys are my inspiration. Go Giants and Stella!

    May your Shabbos be peaceful and as close to uneventful as possible.
    Love Moishe & Pam

  7. Dennis Berman says:

    Dear Yarden and Stella,
    You both continue to inspire us. For us, as part of Stell’s Army, we will continue davening on your behalf. There are many people like us who may not write so often, but we have you in our hearts and minds regularly.
    With love and Shabbat shalom,
    Denny and Debbie

  8. Alberta says:

    I’ve been praying daily for dear Stella, but I’ll daven too!…anything to succeed in this very uphill battle!!!! thank you for this wonderful commentary/report – it helps to know a bit more…thank you, Yarden from Alberta

  9. Phyllis and Harold says:

    Just as others above have said, we continue to daven for you everyday. Your Potomac army is always on duty! Hope your Shabbos was comfortable. Thinking of you.
    Phyllis and Harold

  10. Cindy Zitelman says:

    Dear Stella & Yarden,
    Hope you kick the cancer right out of the end zone! We can’t wait to dance a victory dance with you. ( These are football references ) Sorry, but I’m an Eagles fan.

    With love and Shabbat Shalom,

    Cindy Zitelman

  11. Seitz Family says:

    lots and lots of love from us, guys. Please let us know if you need ANYTHING we can do!!

    Yarden, you need anyone to spit on, come over anytime!

  12. Melody Hartuv says:

    Damnit! Didn’t anyone tell those cancer cells that they were supposed to be gone? G-D willing, this chemo session should be easier for Stella and hair is over rated to begin with. Its too cold for a picnic now anyway, so, send the memo to those ugly cells and tell them to leave immediately and we’ll picnic when the weather is warm. Be well. Be strong and we look forward to really good news.

  13. Esther and Yitzchak Van Leeuwen says:

    Shavu’a Tov! B”H you are on the right way to COMPLETE HEALING – and we hope and pray it will be VERY SOON. Just because you are used to biking long distance doesn’t mean you HAVE TO go long… right? REFU’AH SHLEMA!

  14. Lisa Landau Rudner says:

    My desk is clean and orderly; there are no notes or post-its on my computer. There is, however, a single strip of paper with “Tzuria Kochevet bat Sara” taped to the screen. Tonight my husband, Steve, inquired, “I’ve been wondering for months — what’s that paper about?” I explained that I’ve been reading this great blog about Israel for awhile now, and how I was drawn into your life and Stella’s battles and how I say a prayer for Tzuria Kochevet bat Sara’s refuah sheleima everyday. I live in Dallas, we’ve never met, and yet I’ve been so taken with your family — and I was before Stella’s illness. And I always thought Stella had the brightest, most beautiful smile. Please G-d she will continue to share her sweet smile with friends near and far…and with those of us who consider her a friend because who couldn’t love her angelic face? Be well, Yarden. I carry your family in my heart. Lisa Landau Rudner

  15. Donna says:

    May G-d give you the strength to kick those cancer cells’ ass! We are rooting for you!

  16. rachel himelstein says:

    thankyou for your clear explanations. you are keeping us in the picture and in this way we can all be so clearly focused for the next round. We are ready and waiting whenever we can be of help. You keep letting us know whatever it is you need of us.
    we will all keep up with our tefillot.

  17. Shira says:

    Being a 24 fan too, I am always believing that the goodies will win in the end and putting my trust in the Jack Bauers or Stellas of the world.

    Shabbat shalom

  18. The D'Agostino Family says:

    You are all in our prayers, Cancer is a bad word and cure is what we want, for all who suffer this dreaded journey. Each day is a gift and we must make the best of it. “For those who struggle under the burden of sorrow; send them compassionate guides to encourage them.” Our wish for all of you.
    The D’Agostino Family

  19. Lauren Lieberman says:

    Dear Yarden – thanks for the update. It’s helps us to know what both of you are going through. I love you Stella. Lauren

  20. Ruth Baars says:

    Still davening everyday!

  21. Vivian FIrst says:

    I am eagerly awaiting smiley face news.