Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Round 7/8 "Halfway There, Living on a Prayer"

Round 7/8 “Halfway There, Living on a Prayer”

Greg reminded me after our last session yesterday that we were halfway through the chemo treatments. Eight down. Eight more to go.

I had so completely blocked out the now weekly treatments that when Joy Wallis called and offered us tickets to the White House Christmas tour for December 22 at 3:30 (a Tuesday) I immediately said “yes”, not realizing of course that Tuesday I would be a prisoner of the Georgetown chemo ward, or the infusion center as they like to call it. Can’t a girl have a reprieve for Advent? A psychiatrist would have a field day with the “denial” and oversight. Fortunately, Juliette stepped in with tickets for today and the girls have already showered and laid out their new Christmas dresses and charged their camera batteries with the hope of seeing “Bo.”

I forgot to tell everyone back in October that Annalise DID end up in People Magazine when she visited Michelle’s garden with the John Eaton kids when we started this process. You can see about a third of her head in the photo behind the White House chef showing the kids some organic cauliflower, or something. Her teacher had written to tell me to go buy People. Annalise was over the moon with pride when she came home from school and had five copies of the magazine on the entry table, but knowing it was just a “third of her head showing” added with a smile, “imagine how insufferable I would be if it were my WHOLE head.”

I will admit that this process is dragging on. In case I haven’t shared with you the schedule of treatments, it goes something like this, if life doesn’t get in the way: 8 more weekly chemo treatments of Taxol and Carboplatin until February 16. Then they wait 4 weeks until my white blood cells and other counts return to normal to do the double mastectomy (I know there are easier ways to get plastic surgery but let’s just say that my plastic surgeon and I have an understanding that at the end of this, I want something perfect. He promised I won’t have to run with a bra.) The surgery takes about 4 - 6 weeks to recover from. Then the piece de resistance: 5 or 6 weeks of daily radiation. Woo hoo. You do the math.

BUT the good news continues to be that the tumors have melted under this chemo regimen - I liken it to Agent Orange. My eyebrows seem to be the latest casualty - as in almost gone. Nonetheless, Dr. Isaacs literally could not feel the tumor when she checked me yesterday before round 8. All she could find was a line of what she said was likely scar tissue, necrotic tumor cells but nothing round or resembling a tumor. Hooray. Sadly, I can’t let myself celebrate just yet. Call it the Irish superstition in me.

In fact I am so superstitious that I nearly had a heart attack when the tiny ceramic Ganesh (elephant god) sculpture from India that I kept next to my computer broke recently. It was given to me for good fortune by my friend Jan McGirk when I was visiting her in Delhi from Islamabad 13 years ago. At first I panicked. “What did it mean?” It looked like it had been decapitated - his head broken off, likely by Luke. Should I glue it with what the kids call “hot glue” (Crazy Glue)? Or would that bring worse luck? Afterall, I had even managed to kill those pair of frogs that you buy at Child’s Play with the guarantee that essentially they can’t be killed because it is a perfectly balanced ecosystem. Well, it wasn’t so balanced. The little snail cleans the small tank and you really only have to change the water every 4 months and feed them twice a week for them to survive, unless you don’t. It was the perfect pet. Until it wasn’t.

Was it a sign? I firmly embraced my superstition and fear and asked my sister Cassie, if you are a Christian isn’t that supposed to trump this worship of “false idols” or Ganesh? In my living room I have a painting that Greg and I bought before leaving Russia for Jerusalem from Michele Keleman’s friend Oleg that depicts Moses’ brother Aaron with a golden calf sculpture attached to the bottom on a removable peg. Greg always used to like to hide the Golden calf because he didn’t ‘get’ its artistic significance. He even let the girls when they were little play with it. I always liked it because of its symbolism and saved it each time I found it lying next to the kids’ Hannah Montana dolls. Realizing how ridiculous that I was for having this “superstition” about the decapitated Ganesh, I suddenly felt empowered this weekend to throw my “ba’al” in the trash and haven’t looked back. (But I still read my horoscope because it’s fun and always right.)

December 20, 2009, Washington Post: Taurus (April 20 - May 20)

“Your progress has not been the work of easy luck or overnight promotions; it’s been one daily victory after another. Your track record of success will net you more of the same.”


I am going to attribute the tumor shrinkage to a little chemo and to a lot of prayers (not necessarily in that order.) Fox has more Prayer Warriors than you can believe: Shannon, Megan, Molly, Cal, Kelly. I could go on. Then there is Amy Kellogg who sent me from Damascus a note saying that she had been to the convent of St. Thekla in Ma’loula and offered a little prayer. It was in Antioch (Syria) that the Disciples were first called Christians and Thekla, converted by Paul, survived lions and being set alight because of her faith.

Then there are all of my dear friends in Jerusalem (where as my friend Uri Dan used to remind me, ‘it’s a local call’ to God.) Claire Kosinski sends up an Irish prayer each day and Linda Rivkind continues at the Western Wall placing prayer notes in the Wall (thank you, guys.)

Another dear friend here in the U.S. wrote to me after the Florida-Alabama game recently and recalled how Florida quarterback Tim Tebow had entered that game with a bible verse number written on the black streak under his eyes. It was John 16:33. Here it is:

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

Tebow lost the game and was passed over for the Heisman, but his faith remained intact. My friend didn’t know that I have long ties to the Crimson Tide because of my grandmother’s Alabama roots. Where she grew up in Petrey there were small altars to “Bear” Bryant in the homes of her family members who lived in the town named for them. Nonetheless, I felt for Tebow (sorry Petreys!) and was touched that he would quote John going into that game.

Speaking of eyes I woke up with quite the bruiser a few days ago. I looked like I had been punched in the eye (of course, that mirrored how I felt). Even Mac NC-30 had trouble covering the black eye. (It seems I am bruising easily because my platelets have been hit hard by the chemo.)

My friend Jim Mills likes to quote “Rocky” to me and “Eye of the Tiger” keeps running through my head so I thought I’d include the following hysterical e-mail exchange between Mills, me and James Rosen.

On Dec 6, 2009, at 10:04 AM, wrote:

I want to be the guy who stands in the center of the ring when the PA microphone is lowered from the rafters so the final outcome of the fight can be announced in grand style.....Please Don't let Rosen have that job -- he is strictly a corner man holding the three-legged stool, the spit bucket and hollering "two lefts and a right...two lefts then the right. BAM BAM BOOM"!

----- Original Message -----

From: Jennifer Griffin <>

To: <>

Cc: Rosen, James

Sent: Sun Dec 06 21:57:56 2009

Subject: Re: Round 5 (Road Trip...Go Tarheels)

You got it. I picture the Rocky episode where I authorize the trainer (whose name escapes me but will come to me in the middle of the night) to slice my eyeballs with a razor blade. Just remembered, of course, it was Paulie. James can be Paulie. You get to announce the winner.


Per James Rosen:

It takes a special brand of pest to correct a cancer patient on "Rocky" trivia...But one feels on safer ground doing so in this case, knowing, as we all do, the compulsion for historical accuracy that resides within the heart of this particular patient...To wit: Whilst there was indeed a "Paulie" in Mr. Balboa's corner (the lowlife, played by Burt Young, who says of his own sister to Rocky, "Why don't you take her to the zoo? I hear retards like the zoo"), the cut man whom Mr. Balboa implored to cut open his eye, the better for Rocky to absorb more fantastical buckets of Hollywood punishment, was Mickey, played by Burgess Meredith ("Cut me, Mick!")....Okay. Now that that's settled, let's get down to some real our daily activities....


James Rosen

Fox News Washington Correspondent

OK so cut me, Mick.

It’s getting late (steroids) so I am going to go to the upper left hand corner of my new Mac computer and hit “Sleep”. It seems to listen to me more than my body (it’s 3:30 am). Need one of those buttons myself.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Here is Annalise’s Christmas list:

  1. Animal Ark books (NOT Dog at the Door)
  2. Chocolate
  3. To have a white Christmas
  4. A new soccer ball
  5. Bigger shin guards
  6. Winter boots (poor kid)
  7. Luke to dress up as an elf
  8. My mom to get better (I like that I am eighth!)
  9. My dad to finish his book (looking iffy, but on track for other nine)
  10. To have the best Christmas EVER