Zev Family Newsletter:February, March, April, May 2001

I'll send out a regular newsletter soon, but first, a story about me.

The beginning of my story started years ago, when I was pregnant with Benjamin. My doctor observed that I had a good sized fibroid in my uterus. A uterine fibroid is a growth which is almost never cancerous. It is very common (in women) and unless they cause pain or other problems they do not need to be removed. At the time, my fibroid was not causing me any problems.

About a year ago, I went to my gynecologist and mentioned to her that my periods were lasting a really long time and that this was kind of annoying. She put me on medication to try and regulate my periods. However, the medication was not effective. In November, I had another check up and I mentioned that I thought the fibroid had grown. My doctor did a quick in-office ultra-sound and confirmed my suspicions. She said that the fibroid was the cause of my long periods, which had gotten pretty heavy too. We also determined that I was anemic. She recommended a hysterectomy.

Although the thought of not having another period was attractive, I wasnít about to rush into major abdominal surgery. I decided to get a second opinion. I was glad that I did. The gynecologist that I went to for the second opinion clearly laid out the criteria that I should use to determine if a hysterectomy is warrented. She said that there were three criteria that pertained to my case: 1) A large fibroid that can be felt abdominally that was causing pain. 2) Heavy periods that cannot be controlled by medication. 3) Anemia that cannot be controlled by medication. At that point in time (last December), I definitely had half of each criteria, but it remained to be seen if my heavy periods and anemia could be controlled by medication (pain was not a problem).

Then, in January, I went on the internet and discovered an alternative procedure for the treatment of fibroids called Uterine Artery Embolism (UAE.) An embolism is anything that blocks an artery. If the artery feeds your heart, it is very, very bad. In the case of UAE, the doctor blocks the artery that feeds the fibroid. Deprived of nourishment, the fibroid shrinks to a fraction of itís former size. This is good.

The procedure is actually done by an interventional radiologist, but a gynecologist must refer you and manages your care before and afterwards. Not many gynecologists are recommending this procedure. In fact, my gynecologist actively discouraged me from considering this procedure, despite the fact that the UAE procedure is a 1-2 day hospital stay and a 1 week recovery, while a hysterectomy is a 3-4 day hospital stay and a 5-6 week recovery. However, there is a doctor at UCLA who is a proponent of the UAE procedure and in February I went to see him.

He thought I was an excellent candidate for the UAE procedure, and a couple of weeks later we did procedures called a laparascopy and a hysteroscopy to view the fibroid, determine its placement, whether itís on a stalk, perform a biopsy to double check for cancerous cells and generally look for abnormal conditions. These procedures confirmed that I was an excellent candidate for the UAE procedure.

Now it was decision time. The medication I was on was still not controlling my periods, and the fibroid seemed to me to be growing. I had an MRI, which confirmed that the fibroid had grown. I decided that I needed to either have a hysterectomy or the UAE procedure. Although a significant drawback to a UAE is that there is significant pain for a few days after the blood supply to the fibroid is cut off (which is treated with pain medication,) I decided to go ahead with the UAE procedure.

After a delay, where my insurance decided whether or not they would pay for it (they will), we scheduled the procedure for the last week of June. It will be done as an outpatient procedure at a surgery center, and I will go home the same day. I expect to be up and around within a couple of days (but I may fake some extra pain just for the sympathy).

Until I made the decision to have the UAE procedure, I was pretty stressed about the whole thing, which is why I haven't been talking about it much. However, making the decision, first that I definitely needed to do something, and second that I would opt for the UAE procedure, has greatly reduced my stress level. I am confident that I am doing the right thing.

February, March, April 2001

Jackie volunteers her time on several fronts Ė Jonathanís school, Benjaminís preschool, our Synagogue, and the American Association of University Women (AAUW). One of the most rewarding things she did was to help AAUW put on Brighter Horizons, a one-day career workshop for middle and high school girls featuring careers in Math and Science. Brighter Horizons took place in Oxnard and was primarily put on by the Ventura County Branches of AAUW, but we here in the San Fernando Valley Branch helped out. The day generated so much positive feedback that the local school district encouraged the San Fernando Valley Branch to host a Brighter Horizons event in the Valley next year, and the Branch was inspired to do so. As lead of the Valley part of the effort, Jackie was very proud that it turned out so well.

The really big event in March, of course, was Benjaminís 4th Birthday. We held it at "The Farm," a local petting zoo with sheep, goats, pigs, rabbits, chickens, ducks, llamas, and even a couple of emus. We had three hours to see, pet, and feed the animals, and non-stop pony rides for an hour. Marc made cow cupcakes for the kids, and everyone had a blast. It was a big success.

Another big success was enrolling Jonathan in a Monart Art class after school on Mondays. Monart is a drawing method developed by Mona Brooks. The children practice making simple shapes and forms (circles, curved lines, etc.) which are then combined to make anything - a bird, fish, face, alligator,etc. It is a very step-by-step, teacher-led process that produces amazing results! To check out the art Jonathan made in class, see http://www.jmzconsulting.com/jonathan/artclass.html. Jonathan loved the class, and we were surprised and pleased at the quality of the work he brought home. You can see other art he made in his regular 2nd grade class at http://www.jmzconsulting.com/jonathan/art-2ndgrade.html.

Passover was crazier than usual this year with first Seder with Jackieís family, second Seder with Marcís father, dinner on the third night with Marcís mother, and dinner with the Havourah on Friday. We were also invited to dinner on the last night, but we already had plans to go to Santa Anita, so we missed out on a 5th night of Passover food! There were nine young kids running around at our first seder, which, for Jackie, brought back memories of when she was the one running around the very same house during Passover with the other kids. The second Seder was much smaller, with just us, Marcís sisterís family, and Al & Irene. It was fun to experience both the large family Seder and the small one back-to-back! This year, we were lucky and Passover completely overlapped with spring break, so we didnít have to stress about getting the boys to bed early.

The last weekend in April was Family Camp, a temple-sponsored retreat for families in the Angeles Crest Mountains. We did this last year too, and we all loved it. The kids talk about it for weeks afterwards. This yearís theme was "Jews around the World" and we took a look at what it means to be a Jew in places such as Cuba, Ethiopia, India, Poland, and Israel. Jackie got a better education than most, because she was on the committee to make Family Camp happen, and her responsibility was to do the research for some of the various countries that were presented. The camp was held at the same location as last year, and once again, both Jackie and Marc climbed to the top of Isaiahís Perch and jumped off. This year we got pictures! Jonathan and Benjamin had fun on the zipline and the trampoline. We have pictures of them too. Check out the pictures at http://www.jmzconsulting.com/zev/pictures/familycamp2001/

For Jonathanís 8th Birthday, he insisted on a Harry Potter party, so we asked a Wizard from Hogwarts to come and entertain the kids. We served wizard hat cupcakes and Marc made a Snitch cake (round with wings!) Everyone made a wizard hat, and we held a potions class and made goo, and sent everyone home with a goody bag from Honeydukes (the candy store in the Harry Potter stories,) in addition to the hat and the goo.

About September of 1999, Marc developed a hobby of making these "guys" out of wire. His early creations included guys rock climbing, fishing, juggling, reading, dancing, etc. Lately heís started making business card holders and flowers. People love his stuff and heís sold several of the pieces, which are very reasonably priced. Last April, he entered into an agreement with Artful Style, an online gallery, to sell his work. To check it out, go to http://www.artfulstyle.com/ArtfulStore/products_by_artist.asp?artistid=386. Heís sold a few pieces through Artful Style, but not enough to quit his day job. Artful Style only carries a small fraction of his work. You can see more at http://www.wireartstudio.com/ and http://www.jmzconsulting.com/wirewolf/.

Last year, the kids took swimming lessons at the JCC, and much to Jackieís disappointment, neither kid seemed to get anything from the lessons. So this year, we decided to send them to lessons at Mrs. Bís, the swim school that taught Jonathan to swim. Mrs. Bís is pricey, but effective. A session at Mrs. Bís is a half-hour lesson every day for two weeks. It was so much fun to watch Benjamin, because you could see change day to day. He went from a boy who would not put his face in the water, to one that was swimming in every sense except that his kicking and arm motions donít propel him forward. We expected much less from Jonathanís lessons, because he could already swim, but in that we were mistaken, and his improvement was also dramatic.

We asked the boys for comments to go into the newsletter. Jonathan talked about his Monart Art class, and Benjamin talked about Cousin Ericís Bar Mitzvah. Here is what they said:

Jonathan:

"I started a Monart Art class on Mondays, just before spring break. When I do Monart I never use a pencil. I always use a pen. Then I add details and color. Sometimes I get to put color and outline and details and stuff in a pen that writes in gold. Although itís supposed to be really wet, it doesnít smear much. Sometimes I used chalk, pastels and sometimes oils and sometimes both but we always make the same picture as everyone else. Then we add details and color differently. We also have free draw. If you donít finish your art one Monday you can finish it the next week in free draw."

Benjamin:

"We danced with our lighted up things."

"We got in our Var Mitzvah clothes and put our Var Mitzvah jackets on."

"We went to the Bar Mitzvah. We went to the temple and we didnít get our treats yet."

"We read all the books and sang what was inside."

(Did you try any new foods?) "Yes Ė mashed potatoes." (knishes)

"We got to the party and we lighted the candles and I helped. His mom and dad lighted a candle and the little boy whose name was Eric lighted a candle."

"I liked what the man told us to do. My partner was Samantha. I ran left and right"