Welcome to the blog that saved my life. Kind of. Finding the humor in my breast cancer experience certainly made a huge difference.
The easiest way to navigate my posts is to follow the menu on the lower right hand side of the page (also known as "blog archive") from bottom up. OR, if you are only interested in the breast cancer content, you can begin with my Breast Cancer FAQ page and move forward in time from there.
Wishing you good health and laughter. And thanks for visiting.
Saturday, February 14, 2015
I often wonder how my life might have turned out had I not received such a crushing rejection at the age of ten when I sent off my first skit idea to Saturday Night Live.
Forget that crap Carol Gilligan writes about girls' confidence automatically taking a nosedive shortly after that age....I'll tell you what caused my nosedive: this rejection. This FORM rejection. Ann Beats - would it have killed you to at least put a little note of encouragement in there? Writer and teacher friends - you know what I'm talking about, right? A little "Came close, but no cigar" - or "This wasn't quite for us but we really like the phallic take on the noses...?" Anything for all this hard work?
(and yes, Ms. Beats - I'm spelling your name wrong on purpose, just as you spelled mine wrong on the envelope.)
I know what you're probably thinking now, readers: So NO ONE ever scooped up this genius idea? Seriously?
That's right folks. I gave up after that first rejection, joined a Jewish girl gang led by an Irish Catholic chick and became a mean girl, and this little gem has sat in an envelope collecting dust for the past 36 years. So if you're in show biz and you're interested in creating an Amazon series or a podcast about the trials of life for a family with big noses, let's talk.
Sunday, May 11, 2014
She’s been gone for 12 years, and sometimes I forget what it’s actually like to have a mother. To have someone (if you’re lucky) who cares about everything you do. I mean every single stupid thing that happens to you. Who will care for you without question when you’re sick. And continue loving you even when you’re, regretfully, a bitch.
There are times, many I bet, that my mother didn’t like me. She once called me the "black sheep" of her three daughters. But I always felt she loved me. Truth is, I remained a selfish “adolescent” daughter for a long time. I was 32 when she died, and our relationship remained similar to when I was 16…meaning I still showed little interest, patience or appreciation toward my mother. She died before I got married, although was alive long enough to see me get engaged and to look through one wedding magazine with me. She died before I had children, which is the biggest loss, for everyone. For my boys because I witnessed how much she loved her other grandchildren.
For my mom because she would have adored Ethan and Jonas.
And for me, because as a mother myself, I now get it. I get her, and how she felt about me. And with that knowledge, maybe our relationship would have been different.
I think of my mom, whose name was Carol, more frequently these days. And not just because of Mother’s Day. But because of cancer. For one, with my new shorter hair, I look more like my mother. When my sister recently posted old photos of my mom, Facebook tried to tag them as me.
We also finished treatment in the same season. My was mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the fall of 2001, right around the time of the terrorist attacks. She was 68. That November, she had a hysterectomy. I remember sitting in her hospital room while she was recovering. I remember her saying “I want to be a little old lady one day,” and me reassuring her,“You will, mom."
She did her chemo treatments through the winter, and was pronounced “in remission” that spring, in May I believe. It didn't last long. She died on August 26.
I’m pretty sure I’m not on the same trajectory as my mom; But it’s hard not to think about this similarity. She felt safe, and then she wasn’t. She wanted to volunteer and help other ovarian cancer patients, but she wouldn’t.
I think about this, but I don’t dwell on it.
The thing that bothers me the most right now, however, is how little I knew my mother. I mean as a person. Who was she really? What was she was like as a child? Or growing up? Or as a young adult who went to Israel, the Promised Land, and met the man who would later become my father?
|my mother as a child|
|on her wedding day|
Maybe this desire to know more about her is happening now because I’ve reached (gasp!) middle age. Or because I just had a brush with my own mortality and I wonder: what will my children remember about me? Will they care who I was, other than just their mother, when I’m no longer around?
So, after seeing my friend Betsy’s wonderful tribute to her first husband Joe, I am stealing her idea. She asked people to tell their favorite stories about Joe, and it was just such a lovely and funny and powerful way to bring him and his memory “to life” again, that I wanted to do it too.
I’d like to invite any of you who knew her, who remember her to share a word, or a funny story, or something about her that I might not have known, something that happened before I was born, or after but was too young to know (Kevin, feel free to make something up).
I’lll start with this:
She was kind.
That is the first word that comes to mind, the one I added to this cool Mother’s Day Cloud.
She loved Billy Joel.
And Engelbert Humperdink.
And the Mets.
She once got pulled over for speeding with me sitting in the front seat of the car. I was maybe 7, but it was like the wild west in the 1970s, B.C. (before carseats). I was holding the frog bulletin board she had just purchased for me and she begged me to cry so she wouldn't get a ticket, but I couldn't do it. I tried this with my kids a couple of years ago and they couldn't do it either.
When I was in my twenties and a friend of mine (whom my mother had never met) had surgery, she delivered a gift, a stuffed animal, to the woman’s hospital room. For some reason I always loved this story. Maybe because it was a stuffed animal, but also that she went out of her way for someone she didn't even know. And she did it because I asked. Thanks, mom.
|Eva, my father's mother|
|One of my great grandmothers (on my father side). Name unknown.|
Monday, April 14, 2014
Saturday, February 1, 2014
I started writing this blog at 5pm on December 31, 2013. In my adolescence, I'd sit on my bed at this hour with a clunky Sony boom box and listen attentively for my favorite songs of the year to come on the radio so I could make the ultimate mix tape (raise your hand if you did this too). Now thanks to MP3's and iTunes, I no longer have to waste my time listening for Chaka Khan and Brian Adams. I can write blogs instead (although if you must know, my favorite song of last year was a tie between Another One Bites the Dust by Queen and Basketball by Kurtis Blow, which means I'm officially middle aged and out of touch w/ today's music).
Trying to sum up 2013 for me is like trying to boil eggs with no water. It's like trying to tie your shoe while someone's tickling you. Or perhaps, more simply, it's like trying to play chess if you're me. It cannot be done. At least not yet. So instead, I'll just offer up this unoriginal but fitting sentiment: "It was the best of times. It was the worst of times."
If you require more specificity, I give you my 2013 Best of Times "mix tape" of sorts. What follows are my top 10 moments/events from last year in chronological order:
- Waking up from surgery on February 12th and looking at my Facebook page. You guys know who you are, and you rock. I was blown away by the number of people who checked in on me and offered prayers and positive thoughts, and who wrapped me in my moldy green pig -in-a blanket of luv. I think all that luv had something to do with my fast and nearly pain-free recovery. I felt similarly supported and cared for when I posted my very first I Had a Boob Once entry. I could barely sleep for fear of the reactions of putting myself "out there." I was still working for Lahey Clinic at the time and thought I might lose my job for talking about my boobs and my childhood glue sniffing habit but instead, the Human Resources Director emailed me about how much she loved the blog (and she's close to 70 I think...). So I felt much better. Then I left my job anyway to spread the gospel of family dinners, but I digress.
- Having my head shaved. I've already written about this in detail, if you want to review. Oh what a relief it was....
- The Mother's Day Red Sox game. I seriously wasn't expecting to enjoy that game as much as I did. Ben got us great seats and It was a beautiful day and despite feeling a little "off" from chemo and the kids getting really whiny by the 4th inning and getting in a near fist fight in the eighth, I had an awesome time. And I'd never been a baseball or a Red Sox fan. Now I am. Red Sox games were a close second to Will Ferrell movies as the best entertainment during my crummy chemo days.
- Listening to my kids talk about baseball. Another fabulous yet free and simple form of entertainment this year. Mostly it was Ethan, the 7-year-year old "expert" trying to teach Jonas, the rookie. Here's what was overheard as the boys watched baseball this year:
Jonas: If we’re voting for them, we clap.
Jonas: Big Papi’s really good. He’s hit a lot of home runs.
Ethan: Actually he’s not that good.
Jonas: What number was Babe Ruth?
Ethan: 50. (real answer: 3)
Jonas: Is Justin Pedroia dead?
Ethan: Yep. (real answer: uh, no. And his name is Dustin).
Ethan: "Yoshi" Berra was an MVP for both the American and National Leagues.
- The Vermont College of Fine Arts writing conference. In 2012 I passed on this conference, citing guilty feelings about leaving my family and money as the reasons. Last year, shortly after learning of my cancer diagnosis, I emailed Ellen, the conference director, and said, 'sign me up.' I went away for one week in August and had an amazing, soul-enriching time and I met some incredible people! (you know who you are if you are reading this). That conference gave me something to look forward to during treatment - But the real thing was even better.
- Our one trip to the Beach this summer. In Gloucester and despite the $45 parking ticket.
- Similarly, this one day with my family and my friend Jeanna at the lake house.
- The Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. I never wrote about this, but in October, our friend Sara walked in my honor in New York (her mother had also been a breast cancer survivor). It's touching and also very strange to have someone walk for you when you're still alive (i can't really comment on what's it like when you're not). What is an honoree supposed to do, exactly? We went down to New York and met Sara and her family at the finish line. Her father, who I had never met before, gave me a great big hug. He'd read my blog, so he knew I was neurotic. Listening to the survivor stories, I cried. Quietly, behind my sunglasses I heard variations of my own story. Those stories and the incredible number and diversity of people at the walk made me feel part of something much bigger than myself...even if I didn't want to be part of it. There was no getting out of it. I was now a life-long club member. And I found some comfort there.
What I realized most looking while back at the last year is how things or events that I'd taken for granted before or may have been just a blip in my mix tape the previous year, stood out the most. A trip to the beach and standing in the water up to my waist. A baseball game with ice cream. A boat ride with family and friends on a beautiful day. Just feeling good. It would be nice to hold onto that appreciation in 2014 (although not nice to have to go through treatment again to do so...).
Wishing you all a healthy and happy new year (and hope your January was lovely). xo
Friday, December 6, 2013
I know what you're saying.
I apologize that I never announced this one. I planned to have a 2nd annual contest. I've had this book The Stench of Honolulu by Jack Handey of Saturday Night Live fame sitting on my desk for months. Remember his "Deep Thoughts" series? Here's one I live by:
"The first thing was, I learned to forgive myself. Then, I told myself, "Go ahead and do whatever you want, it's okay by me."
(BTW, this is where you can just skip to the hair update if you're really not interested in anything else I have to say)
My friend Martha (the very same Martha who bought me the Anchorman DVD I gave as a prize in the first annual I Had a Boob Once contest because I already owned it) gifted me this book after I'd already bought it on my Kindle. And here was the crazy thing, folks: she bought it on the very same day that I bought it on my kindle! Wowee, right?
And when Amazon sent it to me, they sent it without a gift card, which could be Amazon's fault or it could be Martha's ...I'm just sayin Martha. So when I got it, I was very confused. I called Amazon and they were of no help. Together,the dumb person at Amazon and I surmised that Amazon had accidentally sent me the book twice, once virtually and once hard copy, so I should send the hard copy back.
Fortunately, I am a lazy person and the book continued to sit on my desk for a couple of weeks until I actually talked with Martha and she asked, "Did you ever get the Jack Handey book I sent you?" and then we laughed until we cried and it was the best moment I'd had since the Star Wars original release in 1977 (there's no fact checker here so don't get on my case about the date).
So, I finally decided to have contest #2 to give away this gripping adventure tale for the ages, which includes prose passages that make you go hmmm, such as this one:
I pretended to be perfectly relaxed and even interested in what Doctor Ponzari was saying. Then I threw my drink in his face. He screamed in pain as I ran to the door. It was locked. Desperately I fumbled at the latch, until finally I got it open. "This is the stupidest party I've ever been to!" I shouted as I ran out into the night.
But then, instead of having an actual contest because as I stated earlier I'm lazy, I decided to just give this book away to my my friend and loyal commenter, Kevin!!!!!
I decided Kevin deserved this honor: a) because he commented on every post I wrote through my treatment AND always made me laugh (if you haven't read his comments I urge you to go back and read every one of them right now because they are better than my blogs and I know you are looking for something to do), and b) his mind works similar to that of Jack Handey with a little bit of Lucille Ball or Liza Minelli rolled in...take your pick.
So let's all congratulate and celebrate Kevin today!! Here he is in action when I met him back in the eighties. Go Kevin!
If you have any special words you'd like to share with him, please put them in the comments.
And now, finally, what you've really been waiting for: a hair update (did I mention that this whole hair growing back thing is very awkward?) Now i'm entering the heat miser phase:
Wednesday, November 6, 2013
A year ago today, my phone rang.
A woman on the other end said , " Can you come back in this Thursday, just so we can take some more pictures? Don't worry about it, though. It's probably nothing."
I hung up the phone slightly rattled, as I'd never received a call back after a mammogram before. Still, one tends to go with what one has already experienced. And the majority of my health scares (except for a little white pimple on my nose that wouldn't go away and turned out to be a basal cell carcinoma) had turned out to be nothing. At 1pm, I picked my boys up from an early release day at school and took them to the movies, where we documented the moment in a photo booth. I definitely remember feeling a little spooked at the theater. Still, I really had no concept of awaited me just around the corner.
Yesterday I dug back into an old journal to see if I had written about this time. Here's what I found:
"One week and the world has done a sort of tilt on me. A simple test, a mammogram, the day before my birthday. Well, who planned that, you might ask. I did. Bad plan. Bad, bad plan. On my birthday, I got a call. Calcifications, she said. "Probably nothing but want to take more pictures." On Thursday, I'm back in the one-sized fits all pink robe that barely covers my upper body nakedness, waiting in a room with a bunch of strangers, my comrades in their matching pink robes watching a TV show called "Steve." Steve is wearing tall, springy shoes on his feet - some sort of new fitness device. Another man is also wearing these strange shoes and is bouncing around rhythmically in them, doing something akin to aerobics on steroids. They are jumping , laughing, looking ridiculous, when a woman calls my name.
I follow her into the mammography room. I stand before the machine and the nurse begins contorting my boobs and arms into all sort of unnatural positions, like a Gumby toy. When we're done, I thank the woman (what I am thanking her for? I think. But it's automatic).
I'm back out in the waiting room now. Even though it's just been a few minutes, some of the faces have changed. New soldiers in the ranks. This time I don't watch TV. This time I dig through the bounty of outdated magazines on the table for something recent and find the October issue of Vogue. Other women get called and disappear behind the door. For some, it's judgement day; others will never even remember being here. A blip.
A woman I remember seeing and smiling at during the Steve show comes back from the abyss and takes a seat again in the waiting room. She's my soul mate for the moment, the two of us waiting for the radiologist to read our results while others simply come and go, onto the next thing on their to-do list today. The door, the gateway, opens again. A nurse calls my soul mate, who stands up and walks toward her.
"You can get dressed and go," the nurse says. The woman smiles, then escapes.
For some reason, this makes me think the odds are not in my favor. She got off, so I won't. I text my husband, "This waiting is getting to me. " I try to watch TV again. And then I'm called. The nurse does not say "You can go now." Instead I pass through the gateway into the first circle of hell--a small, sparsely furnished room that smells like antiseptic where I'm left to wait. Shit.
The radiologist appears with a young a man, a medical student. I know the radiologist. Her name is Betsy. She looks a little bit like Big Bird. I'd interviewed her before, many years ago, for the newsletter when I was still a Lahey rookie. She tells me about the findings, microcalcifications that look suspicious. Could be a sign of early cancer. Or not. She explains about the biopsy. How it's done
I ask lots of questions.
"We've got a journalist here," Betsy jokes to the medical student. He's still smiling. I wonder what he's thinking.
This is where the entry ends. Fast forward through biopsies, genetic testing, MRIs. It's before my surgery and I'm sitting in a room with a doctor at Lahey who is telling me what I might expect moving forward. Surgery. Chemo. Radiation. Maybe Herceptin.
It's just a year of your life, she says.
And so here I sit, one year later. I'm somewhere between who I was in that movie theater a year ago, and who I want to be. Mostly I'm stunned how quickly a year can pass.
My friend Rachel used to joke with me when I complained about my birthday, about getting older: "It's better than the alternative." A sentiment that has never felt more true.
Yet how does one celebrate such a momentous birthday? I'm not really sure, but I think I'm going to stretch it out for a while. It may involve a massage, a new wardrobe, Anchorman 2, and a 2nd annual I had a Boob Once contest. I'll keep you posted. It will involve starting Tamoxifen,
When I was 11, I wrote my father a b'day card with a poem, or rather rhyme, inside.
"51 and still having fun," it read.
I must have been very proud of that card to still remember it all these years later. So, leveraging that complex rhyming structure, I write myself a similar "card" today:
"45 and still alive."