July 14th, 2006
Supplement #2 - the truth about where I have been since June by Akiva Zablocki
So this update email will be a bit different then the last two, but bear with me, it does go somewhere in the end. For the new comers to my brain tumor / brain surgery updates, I added the last two emails on this website, if you have never read them, read them first. Here we go.
I awoke from the sound of Yaniv’s phone alarm, got up, and walked to the window. There was a slight hot breeze outside, the kind you only get in the middle of the desert. It was dark out, and I was tired, I looked at my watch, three thirty in the morning, damm I was tired. I put on my clothes, brushed my teeth and headed towards the door. Yaniv mumbled something about waking him up in twenty minuets. I ignored him and went to wake up the rest.
It was time.
Roughly eight months ago I checked into the NYU Rusk Rehabilitation Center in New York. I had gone through complicated brain surgery out in Phoenix Arizona, on a so called “inoperable” brain tumor inside my brainstem. It was not an easy quest, but I had found myself perhaps the best surgeon the world had to offer. Well actually my older brother found him, or maybe the folk at Google, but that is a different story. The surgery had left me somewhat disabled, and I needed rehabilitation before I got back to my life. That morning I was not very happy. After flying all night from Arizona, fixed to a wheelchair, and being nursed by my friend Ari and brother Yitzi, I was tired, dizzy and grumpy. Without the ability to move on my own, I sat in the wheelchair as we waited in the hall of Rusk for nurses to clear my room. Someone had just died on the floor, and for a second there, all I could think of was, “I hope they change the sheets.”
But that was not my room, and they called me into another. My journey began.
We stood in front of the dark cold mountain where many had died trying to reach the top. For thousand of years this place has stood as a symbol of human endurance. And once again this endurance would be tested. No, I was not at the bottom of Mount Everest, but at the bottom of Metzada, the site of the ancient palaces built by King Herod in 37 BCE. It took the Romans almost two years to get to the top of the fortified mountain. I was going to attempt to climb it before sunrise. The long snake path rose up high and the end could not be seen. I gathered the group; made sure everyone had water and a hat and waited for the signal to move out. The group looked at me with eyes full of questions. “What will the climb be like? Will we make it up before dawn? Should I wear flip lops? Where did we leave our room key?” little they knew that I was as lost as they were. The year before hand I ran up Metzada in thirty five minutes. But that was before; I was not the same person now.
We moved out silently; it was time.
The physical therapist came an hour after I checked in, she introduced herself, and told me she would not be my regular PT. She started asking me questions and filling out a form. She asked all the usual questions, which I had been through over and over again for the past few weeks, and the answers were the same. But then she asked an unusual question that I had not been asked before. “What is your goal?” she asked. “My goal?” I asked, hmm no one had ever asked me that one before, I thought for a second or two; and naturally I just said the first thought that came to me. “I have to lead a Birthright trip this summer to Israel, and climb mount Metzada, so I guess that is my goal.” She giggled a bit, and wrote some things down, and then with a big forced smile she explained to me that they do not work on goals like that there. She told me that they will do their best to get me walking again, and functional to a satisfactory level for an adult to get along on oneself in the real world. “Whatever that means” I thought to myself; I said fine, “I will have to do the rest.”
And I did.
Half way up I stared to get a little dizzy, Ari was behind me so I was not worried, but a rest was needed. Luckily, a participant had an asthma attack so I stopped to help her through it; the needed rest was good for me. “Only a bit more to go” I told her, while repeating it to myself while catching my breath. I was lying, and she knew it, but I think I might have convinced myself. It started to get a little light outside, and I reminded myself I needed to be up before sunrise. We set out again, and paced ourselves faster. Almost on top and I could feel my heart beating, not only out of physical stress (which believe me, there was a lot of) but out of joy. I was going to make it. Last few steps and I can feel the breeze that you get only when approaching the last few yards of a long climb. I was at the top, and behind me the most amazing site I could imagine. Far as I could see, the Edom Mountains in Jordan stood there welcoming the sun that was to rise from behind them. Under the mountains, the lowest point on earth, the Dead Sea stretched out before me. The sun came up, and was the most amazing sun rise of my life.
I did it.
Three weeks later I am sitting in Tel Aviv while a near-war is going on in the northern part of Israel. It has been a good summer so far, and I hope it only gets better. Life as a pirate is not easy, people in Israel are rude and blunt. Everyone wants to know what happened to my eye, from bartender to security guard, they are not afraid to ask (so much for the American political correctness). With kids I am either confronted with cries of “emaleh” (the Israeli version of o’ mommy) while they run away with fear, or stares and questions about my life as a pirate. I feel good. Still cannot smile, but that just makes it easier to say arrrrr. Dr. Spetszler and Dr. Posner say time is in my favor, and things will still improve and come back, so I am hopeful. The meds I take for my arm pain mostly work, and my energy level is high. I hope to spend the next month seeing friends and studying for the GMAT before I return to New York.
Yes, as if I have not done enough this year. My next goal is business school. I am hoping to have my applications for MBA programs done by September (yeah right) and do the GMAT in mid September. Deadlines are October and on, and as usual I am aiming high. My first choices are Harvard and Columbia, with Stanford, NYU and more not far behind. I will take this chance to shout out to all of you, if anyone knows someone who is either, a student, and professor, an administrator, or a gardener at any of these institutions or any other business school, I would love to be in touch with them, so let me know.
I would like to thank everyone who has been with me during this long journey. Family and Friends are the most important thing in life, and without you (and you know who you are) I would be nothing. I cannot end without some inspirational notes, as a reminder to you all to enjoy life. So set high goals, really high ones, I mean like Herzl high. And do not worry about how long it takes you to achieve them. Herzl wrote once “At Basel I founded the Jewish State.” Talk about a high goal, but it happened in the end. Basically don’t let ideas and dreams stay in there currant format, work on them and make them a reality. Cause if you don’t, there may not be a whole nation of maniacs who will.
I hope all are well, wherever you are. Feel free to write anytime.
I hope to have these emails, pictures and more up on a website soon, so stay toned.