Thursday, January 28, 2010

Monsieur Tofu vs. Mr. Bacon - May the Best Man Win...

Recipe for today

Yum. Yum. Yum. All I can say is that you need three cookbooks and only three: Rebecca Katz's "The Cancer Fighting Kitchen' and "One Bite at a Time" and now Terry Walters' "Clean Food" an ode to eating seasonally and close to the source. (Thank you, Lila and Ingrid - both put me onto this book simultaneously. Here's a favorite from Walter's book (I literally just drank the last bit of ginger sauce from the bowl of tofu.) So healthy. So delicious. Oprah had Michael Pollan ("The Omnivore's Dilemma") on yesterday to talk about, well, the omnivore's dilemma. And also to profile "Food Inc." (put it in your netflix queue). It skewers the big agro-producers who have literally poisoned our food chain. Watch it for yourself - we report, you decide.

Orange Ginger Tofu

16 ounces firm non-genetically modified tofu (not all tofu is created equally)

2 Tablespoons fresh grated ginger
3 garlic cloves minced
3 Tablespoons minced red onion
1 cup orange juice
1/4 cup brown rice vinegar
1/4 cup tamari
2 Tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 Tablespoons maple syrup

Wrap tofu in towels and press and remove excess liquid. Cut lengthwise into 4 rectangular slices and then into cubes. In shallow baking dish, combine all marinade ingredients. Add tofu in a single layer and turn process to completely coat. Cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Uncover tofu and bake in marinade 15 minutes. Turn pieces and bake another 15 - 20 minutes or until golden brown. Serve hot or chilled (on brown rice)


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The View today...E.D. Hill's decision to have a preventive double mastectomy

You must watch this....

The Today Show...rescheduled

OK Sports fans - we have a new date for our Today Show cameo. Thursday, February 11 (the day before the Olympics begin.) Fingers crossed that my blood levels get back to normal and I am strong enough to go to New York in two weeks. Greg trying to rearrange his schedule so that he and the kids can join me. Also, if you are near a tv today at 11 am, former Fox anchor E.D. Hill will be on the View to talk about her decision to undergo a preventive double mastectomy. She is going to document the process. Both her mom and grandmother had breast cancer.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

No go today

Sadly, my blood counts were so low today (0.8 absolute neutrofil count) that I couldn't get chemo. Instead I get to start daily shots of neupogen - yay! The nurse was trying to show Dr. Myre how to administer them at home. I may survive cancer but I am not sure our marriage will survive this! He looked all too gleeful. I guess the real consolation prize for not being shot with drugs that make my fingernails so dead that I look like I need some of that anti-fungal medicine advertised on cable is that American Idol starts in a few minutes. Reasons to live. Stay tuned.

Why Pilates?

Many of you know I have become a huge fan of Pilates since starting chemo. I knew that ballet dancers and those on the upper West Side seeking to look like Gwyneth Paltrow and Uma Thurman did Pilates, but I had no idea how it could literally save your life. Joseph Pilates, a German, came up with the philosophy to overcome his childhood rickets and developed it for hospital patients, not ballerinas. All of the machines are based on "hospital beds"... the springs, the position of lying down and doing these controlled movements that strengthen your core and boost your immune system. The unique way of breathing can literally increase the oxygen flow and raise your white blood cell count. I am using the controlled strengthening of every tiny muscle I never knew I had in my upper body, chest and arms to prepare for my double mastectomy. I am increasing the range of motion in my arms so that I will hopefully avoid lymphedema - a common side effect of breast surgery after lymph nodes are taken out. But more importantly Joseph Pilates who was placed in an internment camp when he was in England during World War I (he was German, remember) taught the other prisoners mat Pilates - and those who did the exercises with him survived the outbreak of pandemic influenza. Those who didn't, well, didn't.

Here is how one Peak pilates instructor describes the importance of Pilates methods:

Clare Dunphy: "What is Pilates. Here are a few of my thoughts in sound bites. PIlates called his method Contrology and in recent years it was named after him. You can say that PIlates is a set of regimented exercises that focus on using the core muscles of the trunk with roots dating back to the early 20th century when Joseph Pilates developed a system to help rehabilitate hospital patients during World War I. Years later dancers adopted it as physical therapy. The "Contrology" exercises are done with controlled breathing and performed on apparatus or a mat. The apparatus uses adjustable resistance to strengthen and lengthen the muscles and employ precise movements.

Why was the apparatus developed? Pilates used hospital beds at first and attached springs to work the legs and arms, a pioneer in the philosophy that people heal faster when they can move their bodies and breathe. He also attached springs to wheel chairs and that was the earliest "High Chair." The apparatus offers both resistance and assistance and are more suitable for rehabilitation, as a result."

Kevin Bowen, quoting Joseph Pilates: As Joe once said: I must be right. Never an aspirin. Never injured a day in my life. The whole country, the whole world, should be doing my exercises. They'd be happier."
- Joseph Hubertus Pilates, in 1965, age 86

I believe that every hospital should have a Pilates "wing" for rehab, every breast cancer patient should do Pilates and that Pilates can help our Wounded Warriors. (And in the process, as an added bonus, maybe I will start looking like Uma Thurman!)

video of the man himself:

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Round 11 Chumba Wumba

Round 11 "I get knocked down, but I get up again..."

My blood levels came back from the lab and if it hadn’t been for the East German judge I am certain they would have been higher. A 1.6 - borderline to get chemo but they gave it to me anyway. Just taxol this time. Easier on the system. I was feeling lucky. Greg couldn’t go with me at the last minute so my friend Ingrid stepped in. We were like two giggling school girls when we arrived to check in at the “infusion center.” “Mani-pedi?” I offered to the humorless check-in nurse. Ingrid: “Choose your color.” But I didn’t see the usual Opi stand. Instead we were escorted back to chair number 5. I felt like a game show contestant. Ingrid and I proceeded to act like a coupla teens doing whip-it’s in the corner while we waited for about an hour for my blood results. We conjured up a little match-making of two dear friends in the process. And being two gals who hadn’t exactly dated for a while (though Ingrid is a good “texter”) we consulted with Mary Ellen, my chemo nurse - herself a newlywed, as to whether we should tell the two we were setting them up or just text them to come out for dinner on Saturday night. On Mary Ellen’s advice, we decided to tell them. They were non-plussed - much more mature than Ingrid and me at that point. Pretty soon we looked around and all the chemo chairs were empty - either we were too noisy or they had cured cancer and not told us because usually it is standing room only at Georgetown on a Tuesday, especially after a holiday.

Some of you have asked what it was like having the Today show around the week before. (I see we were bumped tomorrow because of Haiti but they are still managing to squeeze in Brittany Murphy’s life story.) The funniest moment was when the girls were getting ready for school and choosing presentable outfits because the camera was going to be rolling when they walked through the door after school. Amelia turned to me in earnest and lowered her voice to ask me: “Do you think they will want me to do a cartwheel?” I assured her that in all likelihood they would and if not I would insist. So as the kids did their homework and we feigned interest in looking up yet another word en famille using Annalise’s dictionary, Annalise prompted Amelia. “Er, Amelia - about that cartwheel.” No sooner had the words left her lips than Amelia had whipped out of her chair and did a double cartwheel through my living room. In fact she was so fast the camera person had to ask for a do over.

Luke was not bothered, though Rose had him all dolled up in his favorite fire truck sweater. Luke is never bothered. I walked in the house from the gym today and he was listening to “Beat It” on his iPod and bent over the dog bowl eating Izzy’s food. 3rd child - no time to supervise the little man. He’s on his own. Speaking of iPods, I have had a few complaints from my “New York friends”, namely Greg Scholl, that I really should get better taste and lose some of the pop favorites that I occasionally quote in these missives. In fact he has promised to fill a new one with his indie music if I promise to listen to it and replace my favorite Jay -Z, Beyonce and Miley Cyrus. Well I lost my iPod this week and was in a panic heading to chemo - thought Greg Scholl had put one of my kids up to taking it. The culprit, of course, was Luke who had been listening to Shakira’s new album: She Wolf before naptime.

Meanwhile, eating is proving to be more challenging for me because I had my first waves of nausea after the carboplatin last week and really could not stomach the smell of almost any food for about two days. I gnawed on ginger as much as possible. My dear friend and neighbor Adele surprised me at Christmas with a joke present - aware that I had this constant struggle with veganism and was missing a little bacon in my life. She bought me two gumby like bendable dolls and the box reads: “Mr. Bacon vs. Monsieur Tofu: Only one can remain at the top of the food chain!” (So far Monsieur Tofu is winning, but each morning in my kitchen Mr. Bacon attempts a comeback.)The girls have constant mock battles with these two frenemy’s. I can no longer enter the kitchen if Rose has cooked bacon because the smell I now associate with my first visit to chemo when Greg and I had turkey club sandwiches afterwards at Jetty’s on Foxhall Road. Bad move. I will ever associate the smell of bacon with chemo - so it will never again be a temptation. With the same philosophy in mind I told Greg I should try pepperoni pizza before the last round of chemo to see if I could exorcise this demon in the same way. May have worked. My stomach knots when I think of it right now.

Amelia, decided to write in her journal about the smell of healthy food from her perspective:
1/15/10 “My mom has brest cancer. When you have cancer you need to eat healthy or your toomer (sic) will get bigger” She goes on to describe the healthy ice cream that she likes where the milk is made instead of rice. “Healthy can sometimes taste good,” Amelia writes. “But not all the times like everyone brings my mom food like her friend Christine came today and gave my mom some mouse (as in mousse) but it wasn’t good chokolate, disirt mouse,” according to Amelia. “It was pumpkin mouse which is sortev healthy and tastes really good.” She concludes: “Another example is salad, it really taste good but it is healthy too. But sometimes healthy smells bad or give you gas.” True.

With American Idol on and so much gripping news from Haiti the girls and I have found ourselves curled up watching a lot of tv under the duvet and getting blown away by the rescue stories in Haiti. Take the one on Monday night shown on NBC shot by ITN correspondent Bill Neeley. The woman, Jeanette, had been buried in rubble for 6 days - no food no water. They finally get a camera into the hole so that they can see her face. They shout into the hole: “would you like some water? And this is where it gets amazing - she calls back: “if it would’t be any trouble, yes please.” She is then pulled out, sings a beautiful song on the ground and then sits up right in the front seat of the car - smiles and wavs as she leaves the home where she had nearly been entombed. I pointed out to my girls that even being pulled out from rubble after 6 days she was polite and said please.

That’s when they started their own telethon to collect money from friends and family to send to Haiti. We chose Dr. Paul Farmer’s website because he has been doing such amazing work in Haiti for 20 years. Then we went to Mission of Hope which had been mentioned on the Nightly News this week and we saw a number of children who needed sponsoring. We went through all their details and settled on Frendel. Amelia said “choose one who is making puppy eyes.” They all were. It was impossible. In the end they chose Frendel to support because it is his birthday in 2 days (if he survived the earthquake and is still alive.) From Annalise to Frendel: We hope your family is safe and you are too. Most importantly, “HAPPY BIRTHDAY!” We hope you have a great birthday.” Frendel is supposed to turn 5.

I, of course, was weeping behind the girls’ heads so they couldn’t see me. Then they broke into their Heifer Fund and found 70 dollars each to donate.

Back to our own reality, Annalise had a few teary nights this week - where she seemed to have taken a step back in terms of ‘handling’ the idea of me having breast cancer. First of all the word was driving her crazy. She burst into tears when she said it so we decided to call it something else. As of now, we call it my “Ruby slippers.” As in ‘before you got your ‘ruby slippers’, x was the case.” She said she was sick of hearing commercials like the one that is constantly on top 40 radio stations that introduces a woman who states sadly “When I got diagnosed with Breast Cancer at age 48....blah blah blah.” The girls and I quickly change the channel. We started by being so open about the cancer that now the kids need a break from it. Hence the “Ruby slippers.”
We still use a code word if my wig is pushed too far back and you can see the bank robber stocking cap underneath. The kids simply say ‘popcorn.’ And I adjust it. It works.

And other than looking more and more like a lab rat losing more and more eyebrow and eyelashes. Amelia informed me that I don’t need to get eyebrow waxings any more - to which I replied - yes. And Annalise lamented that I would not be able to wish on a fallen eyelash anytime soon and offered me use of hers. (However, after seeing Up in the Air today - I was in the bathroom and lo and behold an eyelash had fallen out under my eye - I cherished the moment to get one big wish. (Annalise still wishes every time she finds an eyelash that Izzy our dog could talk.) To me that says a lot. It means she is not worried all the time about my health. It was at the end of this conversation that they sprung on me their own little health surprise: they both had lice and the delousing operations - chemical bathing and nitpicking had already begun down in Rose’s room in the basement, I was told. I informed the other moms and then rested easy. The lice would eventually disappear and in the meantime I didn’t need to worry about getting them - my bald head and concentration camp close shave crew cut would give them nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. I could sleep like a baby while the rest of the house scrambled to get deloused. Ah - one problem that didn’t add to my anxiety. I reached over for a little xanax to help me sleep (as coming off the steroids they give me for anti nausea is a delicate balancing act. I reached for the bottle and it was empty. Darn. So I dipped into Izzy’s supply for when she has to get groomed and soon realized that her dosage was higher than mine and she is just a 4 pound cockapoo. Nonetheless, it’s sad when you have to steal xanax from your dog in my condition.

Here’s a link to Dr. Paul Farmer’s website if you are looking for a good cause to donate to in Haiti:

Monday, January 18, 2010

Stop the presses/pause the DVR - Today Show postponed

So I guess we won't be taking the Metroliner up to New York on Wednesday. Our segment for the Today Show has been postponed due to the crisis in Haiti (understandable.) The producer is down there as is Dr. Nancy so we will reschedule. The girls took it in stride tonight (though they did want to know what to do with Uncle John's sign - the one he was going to hold across from Dean and Deluca's) and they were disappointed not to be going skating in Rockefeller Plaza. And I did have a better looking "cranial prosthetic" than Willard Scott. Stay tuned.

Washington Post write-up on my doctor

Bravo, Claudine!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Today Show...set your DVR

Greg and I are taking the girls (poor Luke - he'll be Home Alone) on a train to New York on Wednesday. We'll appear on the Today Show (I'm told it is in the 8 am hour) this Thursday, January 21. My brother John will be the guy outside holding a sign next to Al Roker (psyche.) Anyway, they have interviewed my doctor, Claudine Isaacs at Georgetown, and Dr. Susan Love (breast cancer guru) about "Triple Negative". We hope to bring awareness about this particular type of aggressive breast cancer that strikes young women and shine a light on the need for research and funding for things like PARP inhibitors so that we can find a targetted treatment to prevent a recurrence. Tell your friends.
For more information on Triple Negative, click on the following web site for the Triple Negative Foundation:

Letter to a newly diagnosed to get through chemo

Dear ****,

Your fear and your anxiety are totally normal. Being in shock at first is totally normal. So you do need a friend/partner who can accompany you to every appointment and hear what the doctors are saying because it is hard for the patient to be little more than a deer in the headlights when you hear the big "C". I am not familiar with the FEC protocol but will forward to my doctor. How big was your tumor?
Your course may be absolutely appropriate and I don't want to cast doubt on that but I do want you to be sure before you start treatment because it's easy when we are in shock to just go with what the doctors say but in fact this is the most crucial time. So be confident, be strong but as Ronald Reagan said: "trust but verify." I trust no one and I double check everything. Again, I don't want to create more stress for you, but I want to empower you to feel 100 percent confident with your course - so these next days are crucial before you start. Also I HIGHLY recommend starting to exercise 45 minutes a day - it is the one proven alternative approach that for Triple Negative has reduced the chance of recurrence by 50 percent. It will help you handle the chemo effects too and just keep you strong through the chemo. And it will help the anxiety - which is huge - and will help you handle the steroids that they give you to counter the nausea. The steroids are a bit of a roller coaster.

Here are some tips for handling chemo - take them for what they are worth (toss them out if you think they sound too kooky) but I find in this situation where you have very little control that nutrition, food and exercise are extremely helpful in handling the chemo - so here goes:

1) Get your teeth cleaned before you start because you can't get them cleaned during chemo and you tend to get mouth sores - you can minimize these by brushing your teeth 3 - 5 times a day and rinsing with a mild mouthwash - I use a mild dry toothpaste and mouthwash called Biotene (baking soda and saltwater gargles work, as well.)

2) Get your wigs now - find a really cute fun one or two and go with your girlfriends before you start losing your hair. Have fun with it - no one in Hollywood wears their own hair - they are ALL wigs - I am a redhead right now and never was before and love it. I don't know about the drugs you are taking but the typical chemo drugs cause your hair to fall out on day 14 - 17 - shave it off before it starts falling out - it's much more empowering that way - invite your girlfriends to do it with you. Plan to have lunch somewhere fun afterwards. Embrace it. Bald is very powerful but remember to get a hat - a fuzzy fleece one - because bald is also breezy and you will will catch drafts that you didn't even know existed. You need to sleep in the fuzzy hat all the time. I like to wear cute knit hats over the wigs because they look a little less wiggy and a little more young. (Let your friends throw a hat party for you - like a baby shower but with hats.)

3) Get some nice body lotion and lip balm because the chemo dries out your skin (on the flip side chemo is better than botox and takes all the toxins out of your skin and suddenly your face is as smooth as a baby's butt.)

4) Get some powder bronzer so that when your face looks pale and drawn and a little green from the drugs you can throw on a little extra bronzer powder and blush and feel that you don't "look like a cancer patient." There is a reason that the American Cancer Society has what is called the "Look Good, Feel Better" campaign because if you get up each morning and shower and put on your blush and your wig, you literally feel better. It is so easy to start the downward spiral into feeling sorry for yourself. There's a great title of a book: "Why I wore lipstick to my mastectomy..." My husband Greg once asked me why I was getting so dolled up? "After all," he said. "We were just going to chemo...." I told him that was exactly why I was putting on lipstick and a bright scarf and great earrings. It's your body armor. Don't go out without it. Every time I have, I have regretted it.

5) Get some clothes that are your "chemo uniform". I went to Max Mara and got comfy leggings, long cozy sleek sweaters, furry boots (like Uggs) - cashmere everything. Anything to make you feel cozy and sporty. All easy to throw on - so you just reach in your closet and grab your uniform - taking all the stress out of what to wear.

5) Order from Amazon immediately two cookbooks by Rebecca Katz (a San Francisco chef) "The Cancer Fighting Kitchen" and "One Bite At a Time" and tell your friends about them so they can cook healthy things for you that help with the chemo side effects and not bring you donuts and cakes to make you feel better. I remember at the first "group" session at my hospital the women were all going around introducing themselves and consistently they talked about having gained weight through chemo. One woman said she had gained 70 pounds - I thought - no way - then I WILL kill myself. The drugs and the steroids can cause havoc to your metabolism so it's best to try to find a reasonable but pretty strict eating regime to give your body and immune system the strength it needs to fight and bounce back. Your mouth will feel like Chernobyl pretty quickly and your taste buds die so there are tricks in Rebecca Katz's books to make food still taste appealing and to stimulate your appetite so you can stay strong. Certain foods definitely boost your immune system.

6) I immediately eliminated all processed foods, all white sugar, nearly all dairy, (Triple Negative responds well to a VERY low fat diet - to be a vegan is ideal, but you will find that when you get anemic during the chemo you may have to bend the rules a bit on meat - at least that is what I have found and was tucking into some veal shank for the marrow at midnight last night. Also a low glycemic diet is very good for Triple Negative because there is some research that shows that Triple Negative may have something to do with insulin levels.

7) I drink only water, bubbly water and green tea (don't want the sugars in the other drinks.) I put lemon in and on everything - it cuts through the chemical taste and you need 3 quarts of water a day to wash the chemicals through your system - staying hydrated also keeps you from being nauseated. They recommend 3 - 6 mugs of green tea a day to get maximum benefit from the anti-oxidants in the tea. Start eating all organic. Check out Jane Plant (British geologist's book) on how she survived breast cancer by giving up dairy.)

8) Don't touch any milk, eggs, or meat that have any hormones in them. I still eat eggs and fish - but only wild caught fish - salmon and white fish - don't want the swordfish and other things that are higher up the food chain because they have a lot of mercury.

9) Eat a lot of cabbage - "Cancer Hates Cabbage!" (Chapter 10) When you are eating this clean detoxed diet filled with Super Foods then you are going to be as strong as you can be to counter the tsunami like effects of the weekly, biweekly or triweekly chemo treatments. It's like girding yourself to take each wave head on - like body surfing. And even those days that you don't feel great - go out for a walk. Don't miss your exercise - the oxygen and endorphins will help so so much. And eat like a pregnant woman overcoming morning sickness - small meals 5 times a day - don't let your stomach get empty - helps counter the nausea. Sleep with a banana by the side of your bed and a pitcher of water - hydrate all night long and have the banana in case you are feeling a little queasy first thing in the morning. Demand that your doctor is giving you a wonder drug called Emend - best anti-nausea drug on the market. Insist on it. Look into getting Chia seeds from your health food store or on line. They are flax on steroids. They are wonderful on your oatmeal in the morning and have all the Omega 3s you need and fiber and calcium.

10) Ginger - best natural anti-nausea food. Chop fresh ginger into everything. Eat it raw. Make tea from it. It got so desperate the other day I went straight from the gym to a nearby sushi restaurant to eat a mound of pickled ginger because it was the only thing I could think of to settle my stomach.

I know there are more tips that I have found useful, but I'll leave it at that for now.

Be strong, kick ass and remember this pithy Australian cancer awareness slogan: "Cancer...a word - not a sentence."

Call me if you would like to chat.

You will get through this. Don't let the name Triple Negative scare you. This is beatable.
Love, Jennifer

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Got it! (Round 10)

Today is
Greg and I arrived early. They drew my blood. The Today Show was rolling and.... drum roll please: my white and red blood cell counts were up to 2.4 from 1.5 the week before. (1.5 is the absolute neutrofil number and is the minimum to get chemo.) I kicked back in my steel blue Laz-E-Boy and they plugged me in. They dosed me up. The pre-meds started flowing. The Benydryl kicked in and I turned up Lady Gaga. (I was gaga at that point.) Greg was by my side - we laughed out loud as we quoted scenes from Modern Family to each other. I heard the voice of Shepard Smith behind the curtain next to me. Then Jonathan Hunt. Almost thought they were there. Turned to Greg and said, "My friends are over there" and smiled and closed my eyes. They gave me both taxol and carboplatin. So I got all the drugs I needed today. Came home at about 6 pm. Luke was dancing to Shakira's She Wolf. Annalise was heading to St. Albans' gym after dinner for a quick game of dodge ball with the Carline boys. She told me Souper Girl had just been at our front door and had dropped off some black bean soup. I heated up some of "Top Chef" Christine Merkle's quinoa pilaf (thank you dear friends), threw in some extra olive oil and Chia seeds. Had a bowl of her spicy lentil salad - Jocelyn can attest to how deliciously healthy these meals are. Shh! I shared some root vegetable frittata and skewered salmon in tarragon with her last night and had a good laugh when the Today Show producer said she would like to follow me in the kitchen. I suggested that I make some oatmeal (one of the few things I cook very well each day - I jest only slightly thanks to the yummy food you all keep having delivered and, of course, Rose's invaluable help). But here's the real news: American Idol starts tonight! So now I am kicking back with the girls - curled up in bed watching our favorite show - full of protein and yummy vegetables. Life is good - which is exactly what the label says on the fleece hat that was a gift from Triple Negative survivor and friend - mother of two - Elizabeth Tsehai. I am wearing it in bed right now. Life IS good. (Except for poor Greg who right now is curled up in a twin iron bed with princess sheets on it in Amelia's room because he has to leave for work in a few hours - still working the overnight shift at NPR editing Morning Edition. But he never complains. He is definitely our best sleeper.)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Round 9

Well, the only thing worse than getting chemo, I’ve decided, is not getting chemo. Many of you know and some have wondered why you didn’t hear from me last week. What should have been round 9 last week never happened. I received a call from Karra in my doctor’s office on Monday as I was picking the girls up from gymnastics camp. We were stuck in traffic on Rockville Pike (I always remember that R.E.M. song ‘Don’t go back to Rockville....Waste another day.”) As if driving to Rockville in rush hour traffic isn’t annoying enough, Karra called on Monday, December 28 to say that my blood counts were too low to get chemo the following day, meaning my marrow wasn’t producing enough white blood cells or red blood cells to be safe to receive another dose. It’s such a fine balance. And the golden number (what they call your absolute neutrophil number) is 1.5 - you need to be above 1.5. A normal person is about 7.0. My counts were 1.0 (not a long way to drop to zero). Essentially, I was immuno-suppressed, susceptible to infection and a bit anemic (not a good combination). I felt like I had just gotten my SAT scores back and I had failed and I wasn’t going to get into college. That number - a 1.5 became a 650 - the bare minimum you need to get in somewhere decent. At first I accepted the call at face value. I knew this was standard for chemo patients and frankly was lucky it hadn’t happened until now. I knew it was not the end of the world. I knew the carboplatin that they give me does this. But then it started to eat at me. How could I fall below a 1.0 - afterall, I was eating well, exercising, maybe not resting quite enough. What could I do to get the levels up? Nothing I was being told.

So I muddled through the week. Greg and I worked on our book about our time in Jerusalem over New Year’s. The girls spent New Year’s Eve in Charlottesville with their great grandparents and my mom and my sister, Cassie. I finished the introduction and afterword to the book - tentatively titled “A Jerusalem Story,” drew a thumb nail sketch of the first time I had met Zachariya Zubeidi - at the time one of Israel’s most wanted - recounted my last interview with Hamas’ Sheikh Yassin before an Israeli missile incinerated his body as he was being wheeled out of a mosque in Gaza in his wheelchair. Good times.

Then Monday rolled around. The girls started back to school. I went to Pilates. Danced a jig - probably because the girls were back in school. Stopped by Georgetown to get my blood work done on the way home. Never felt better. Sensed something was up when I didn’t hear back with the all clear from Karra. On my way home from dropping late Christmas presents off at Sarah Williams’ house, I get a call from Dr. Isaacs who says my counts are 1.1 - blah - not good enough for chemo and only up a bit since the week before. Impossible, I think. Not going to take this lying down. I beg her for the chemo. “C’mon, I am really tough,” I tell her. “I can take it. Don’t worry.” I suggest we just do one of the drugs at least, the taxol, which is easier on the system. She says that’s a possibility and we decide to try again tomorrow (as in this past Tuesday, January 5). We would draw the blood, see if the counts are any higher and take it from there. Deal.

So I went home and started looking for all the red meat I could find - I decided I would simply trick the phlebologist by having so many iron rich foods running through my system. I craved a bloody steak. Ran up to Whole Foods and found the most grass fed, hormone free piece of meat that I could find. Yum. (I know it is no kale and barley, but a nice piece of steak sounded mighty good and again I thought I could trick the phlebologist.) Christine Merkle (my wonderfully attentive personal chef thanks to all of my naughty dear friends) had also dropped off some veal piccata that at first I worried might cause me to lose my membership in PETA and my standing as a vegan. (I guess I am a fallen vegan.) So that morning January 5, I hopped on the exercise bike in my bedroom, got my endorphins up, and then raced downstairs to have some steak and veal piccata for lunch before heading to the hospital. En route Molly Henneberg e-mailed me. “If it’s’s...” That’s when I called in the big guns. Molly put out the word that I needed a little help. The prayers went up. Greg and I marched up to the chemo ward (a few minutes late - I needed a little extra time for lunch.) And there were my Dad’s great friends (our dear family friends) Neal and Cathy. Cathy had stepped into the hall because Neal was getting his chemo and they couldn’t find a vein. He had been getting it for a year for esophagal cancer (inoperable, metastisized) and somehow before Christmas had been given clean scans - suggesting the cancer was in remission. He was a cowboy from Kansas who had had polio since he was a boy and he was still fighting back stubbornly, refusing to yield. HIs wife told me what Neal’s approach to his diagnosis had been. Instead of becoming a vegan (he was a cowboy don’t forget) he opted for single malt for breakfast and a quick trip to Georgetown Cupcake whenever he felt like it. It was an anti-cancer diet I could learn to like. His wife decided Neal and I should write a cookbook giving cancer patients a range of recipes and options to combat this annoying disease.

The nurse found a vein in Neal’s arm and Greg and i made our way to our seat. #9. Neal had the more private seat #12. Mine was by the nurse’s station. Whenever we arrive at chemo I feel like we come prepared for a transatlantic flight. I have my laptop, my iPod, a few magazines (thanks to Jacqueline, Katy and Juliette!), a book (right now I am reading “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougal about the Tarramahura tribe in Chihuahua, Mexico and their obsession with Chia seeds, and, of course, running - needless to say none of them ever get cancer.) Cathy came to visit us in our economy seats. We waited for my blood counts.

Before long the nurse returned with the pronouncement. Drum roll please: 1.5. Up from 1.1 the day before (I had tricked the phlebologist with my veal and steak) and the nurse handed me the phone. It was Dr. Isaacs. At first I begged her again to give me both the chemo drugs (taxol and carbo). The oncology nurse shook her head and put her fingers together to make a zero - suggesting that if they gave me carbo my counts would go to zero - not smart, I could likely be hospitalized. Not smart. So we agreed we would do the taxol this week and we would give my marrow one more week to recover before zapping it with both carbo and taxol next Tuesday. It just so happens that next week the Today Show is coming to follow me around for two days on Monday and Tuesday. They have invited me to appear on their show on Thursday, January 21. They are putting us up in New York for the night and Greg and I will take the girls up on the train (if all goes as planned) for a little outing. So let’s see what a little rest and lots of calves’ liver (Christine brought me a whole pan of calves’ liver in balsamic vinegar on top of a pound of spinach tonight) will do for my red counts on Tuesday.

My Aunt Barbie sent me a favorite quote from our grandfather (my Dad’s dad) who was known as “The Eagle”. Born to Irish immigrant parents in South Boston and called Eagle because of his “eagle eye” down on the docks where his father worked as a longshoreman. My grandfather worked as a customs inspector until Congressman Joe Moakley of Massachusetts and later Speaker “Tip” O’Neil helped him rise to Commissioner. My Dad’s godfather was Speaker John McCormack. Eagle liked quoting Winston Churchill, especially the Harrow speech of 1941.

“Never, never, never, never.

Never yield to force and the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy, never yield in any way, great or small, large or petty, except to convictions of honor and good sense.”

Reminds me of the Outward Bound motto: “To strive and search and not to yield.” I loved Outward Bound. I did its 3 week survival course which included three days in the woods without food when I was a high school junior. It wasn’t exactly no food for three days. They gave you an emergency supply of GORP (good old raisins and peanuts). I picked out all of the M & M’s on the first day.

One last thought: my dear friend Mary Boies sent me a FedEx package over the holidays. In it came a note that read: “It was either Lord Kitchener or Gordon who said that if a soldier going into battle tells you he is not scared, he is either 1) lying or 2) a Gurkha.” Inside the package was a Gurkha knife (for close combat, carving, if you will.) I laughed out loud and put the knife on my desk. Annalise walks in the next morning not long after the news of the Detroit bomber broke and says as she walks past my desk: “What’s with the knife, mom? You’re not Al Qaeda.”

Darn right, but with another round of chemo under my belt, those little Al Qaeda cells are nearly gone from my body. And Gordon was right. I’m not a Gurkha, though I sometimes like to play one on tv.