There are some of you on this list who may be hearing about this for the first time and for that I am sorry - it's been a bit of a whirlwind the last month - with this ridiculous diagnosis - Stage 3 Triple Negative breast cancer - the triple negative says it all - as my Dad used to say: the Trifecta! Yesterday was Round 3 of chemo and my only fear going into it was the cold that my kids had passed along might delay treatment. So I put on my best wig (think Catherine Zeta Jones in Chicago as a redhead) and a little extra Mac Tech foundation (NC30) and some blush - which I never wear - and a big smile and hoped my counts were high enough and that I could charm my doctor if she thought for a second about delaying treatment. There was no way I was going home empty handed. And besides I had gotten a pedicure the week before and my Opi color was "Don't wine, Yukon do it!) - no joke.
My blood counts were verging on perfect - so I suppressed my cough and kept smiling. (I know it was the Chia seeds, Lila!) But the real smiles came - and no I won't bury the lede this time - when the doctor was searching for the tumor (the one that started off dare I forget at a whopping 9 cm). She turned to her assistant and said if I didn't know which breast had been affected I am not sure I could tell which had the tumor. It had shrunk that much. Literally melting away after just two rounds. My doctor's assistant kept asking if I had any pain, nausea - I said no - just a runny nose that was KILLING me. She declared I should be a poster child for chemo (I told her about the Chia seeds. She looked at me like I was a kook.)
Anyhow - after stopping for a sandwich at Cosi, Greg and I literally danced up to the chemo ward, which is not a place where a lot of dancing takes place. In fact it's usually pretty sad. Everyone's eyes downturned with that distant gaze that reminds you of a hospital on Christmas Eve - with all the bald patients wearing some sort of "cranial prosthetic" or those who have just given up who don't give a damn and don't bother anymore.
We sat down and low and behold a friend of his from college was just finishing up with her father - it seems EVERYONE has cancer these days. We sat next to them and chatted. Then when the chemo nurse brought over the Adriamycin (known as the Red Devil) because it is blood red and comes in two vials that look like they should be in Frankenstein's lab and instead of dripping them into your veins from a bag on a pole - the nurse has to carefully and slowly at a specific rate inject you with a huge vial of this red stuff - the stuff that makes your hair fall out on day 17 - but that's another story that I'll save for a bit later.
To take my mind off things AND because I was again a captive audience, Greg focused on finishing his (our) book on our time in Israel. I was a tad groggy from the meds but he pushed on and said, "OK. Tell me about what it was like in Kiryat Shmona during the Lebanon war (summer of 2006).....I recalled Eli running up to the roof when the katyushas began falling while all of our visitors did the sensible thing and ran DOWN the stairs to shelter. And how we ate some of the best meals of our lives because Mark had catered from a nearby fish restaurant - so as the katyushas began lighting up the night sky - those of us between live shots ate the best surf and turf with red wine from the Golan Heights by candlelight that would have put Cirque 2000 to shame (avert your eyes Fox management and don't tell Rupert!)
It was much the same story this weekend when Greg and I celebrated Halloween with a trip to the ER because my doctors thought I had pneumonia. (5 hours fortunately before the Halloween crowd in Georgetown started to come in to have their stomachs pumped. ) No pneumonia but again Greg had me captive and had me start dictating my part of the chapter about Gaza and friends who had been kidnapped ... I was lying on the stretcher feeling a bit sorry for myself until I began retelling the story and suddenly - because Greg had never heard my side of the story - he had heard Steve and Olaf tell what they had remembered in their two by 4 apartment cell. I became more and more animated as I recalled some of the details. My mind back in Israel and Gaza to some of my favorite times - even the tough ones - the adrenalin surged I was sitting up and was talking with my hands so animatedly that I looked around and realized that I didn't FEEL sick - and I knew I didn't have pneumonia so I called the nurse over and told her I was going home. I told Greg to get me out of there. Too many sick people.
They wanted to put me in a wheelchair - I waved them off and told them I had 3 kids waiting at home to trick or treat and I didn't have time to wait for the doctor's signature. Suddenly the doctor appeared as did the signature as the ER automated doors were about to shut on them as they tried to keep up.
Sadly some poor little trick or treaters came to the door a little early that night - and because - at that point I didn't give a damn - I was standing there bald in all my glory, pale and resembling a member of the Adams Family. The look on the face of the father of these little 4 year olds face said it all - he knew it wasn't a costume - the kids were none the wiser. Sadly, I didn't care.
That takes me back to the hair issue...on day 17 - the day that Hans, my wigmaker, assured me my hair would fall out. I ran my brush through my long overly processed and highlighted hair one last time - but this time the whole back chunk pulled out (Amelia said she'd like to keep it for her scrapbook). I knew it was time - fortunately I had planned and had my appointment with Onder at my old stomping grounds _ George at the Four Seasons. (Greg reminded me I DID work at the Pentagon and that it would be a heck of a lot cheaper to have one of their expert stylists shave my head.) But Onder was the only one I trusted. So Lila flew in from San Francisco and Andrea ("The Rock" - I didn't cry until I saw her eyes fill with tears) and Eve and 6 year-old Amelia marched in to the Four Seasons - I hugged Onder. I didn't bother getting my hair washed (I do keep grabbing for a brush when I am heading out or packing a bag - some habits die hard.) Amelia filmed the whole ordeal - mostly we laughed - but there were a few tears as you'll see from the video - it really says it all.
Annalise has been a bit scared of my bald head - she tells me so - and has reverted to having me read her childrens' stories at night - usually about Christmas - something she had given up long ago - favoring her chapter books. But the bedtime stories have helped her cuddle up to me - even when she is scared. And she insists that I wear the same wig if I see her friends at school so that they might not notice. So I wear the one they dubbed "the Miley".
Overall, we are doing great. The emotional roller coaster has begun but it can be managed with a few more endorphins as soon as this cold is over. My family is my rock, particularly my sister Caitlin who has born the brunt of this wild ride and my mom and Cass and Barry and then there is Greg - who I dare say is secretly gleeful that I am a bit immobilized right now because we are finally having a lot of fun collaborating on this book which is very close to being done. I can't go onto thank everyone. You know who you are - you are all on this extraordinary list of close friends.
My only advice: Keep on, keepin' on.