Thursday, April 29, 2010

Join the Fox Trotters on June 5 - Komen Race in DC

Either sign up and come out and run/walk with us. Or please do what you can to help support our team. Nancy Brinker - founder of Susan G. Komen for a Cure- is also Triple Negative and is already funding crucial research to end Triple Negative recurrence once and for all.

Tune into AC360 Friday night 10 pm

I know - it sounds odd, coming from a Fox correspondent, but Dr. Sanjay Gupta interviewed Cokie Roberts, Jill Dougherty, Debra Chisholm Charles and myself about breast cancer and the challenge that we have given each news bureau in DC to form a Komen Race for a Cure Team for the June 5 race. The Fox Trotters are already off and running and planning to win.

Also this is a 4-part series that is running on my cancer survival tips (thanks, Eva!) Here's Part I:


OK - I finally fell in love with my plastic surgeon. It was bound to happen. We just didn’t ‘get’ each other at first. And it certainly didn’t help when they showed me that “Silence of the Lambs” photo album of 'before' and 'after' mastectomy shots. When did things turn? Probably when I walked into his office, had my last drain yanked from my chest and saw that the “scars” were actually discreet lines that were already fading and if you looked down onto the top of the reconstructed breasts actually looked gorgeous. That’s what they do now (and have for some time). They reconstruct immediately so that when you look down after you come to from the anesthesia you see cleavage and nice cleavage at that. He also probably stopped seeing an emotional woman who was beyond despair and hostility at having to go under his knife. i was tired of hearing all of the statistics about how radiation messes up reconstruction - la dee da. I told him I was thinking of going to Barbados. It was a 40th birthday party for a friend. He gave me a high five - even though I could barely lift my right arm after they had taken 7 lymph nodes out and I was still in rehab learning how to relift my arms above my waist. I high fived him anyway. He said, “Go - go to Barbados!” Sounds fun. I said, “Are you sure I won’t get an infection?” He said, “Go have some fun.” I went for another set of photos in the Sears photo studio. This time I stood proudly. Dropped the hospital gown. Chest puffed out. He had filled them with 50 more cc’s and they had two band-aids across the middle and reminded me of the Get Well card that my Aunt Barb had sent that showed two bees saying “Boo” on the front. Inside it said, something about the “boo-bees” and how of course I don’t need them because I already have two new ones. In fact looking down they looked downright voluptuous. I bore my scars with pride - like a Masai warrior. I had been through the rite of passage. I was off pain killers and I thought I was heading to Barbados. Life is Good, as the label on my hat says.

That was the high.

But then reality set in. There were no direct flights and in fact much of the weekend was going to be mayhem and booze cruises - and since I don’t drink all I could picture was getting stuck in my hotel room half-way in or out of some bathing suit or outfit and being trapped because I couldn’t lift my sore arms.

And this has become the pattern of every day since. High. Low. High. Low. Tears. Manic energy. A few more tears. But why? You survived. Exactly. Survivor guilt. I can only compare it to how those lucky sods who stepped off of the Miracle on the Hudson flight captained by the invincible “Sully” Sullenberger felt in the days after their “miracle” occurred. I remember seeing one of the stewardesses who had been at the back of the plane, up to her knees in water. She had helped numerous passengers off the plane until she and Sullenberger emerged among the last. She was interviewed after the fact on '60 Minutes' and it was very clear that she had some form of post-traumatic stress. It was the same look that was in the eyes of the Wounded Warriors whom I met and interviewed. They should be happy to be alive - some were, some were faking it. Cheating death has its own psychology and I think I must be in the throes of it right now. And it didn’t hit me right away. I was numb to the original good news.

I pulled myself up and out the door to the kids’ school auction last Saturday night despite a roller coaster of a week. As I was getting dressed in my new Max Studio fare - and decided to throw off my red wigs and sport my pixie silver hairdo - and threw on a little extra blush - looking a bit and feeling a bit like Grace Jones in the metallic jacket with its collar up and some rock n’roll jewelry. I was grabbing my purse to head out the door with Greg when a little voice (from Annalise) piped in: “Bid on some hair, Mom!” She knew I was a sucker for school auctions. The first year I went around and put my name on the first line of every auction item assuming that would just be the starting bid to get the bidding rolling. Then to my horror the bids closed and I had dozens of bids that no one opted to bid up on: dinners at Thai restaurants, dog groomings, singing and yoga lessons that went unused. Greg was a little dismayed, as you might imagine. So this year, we decided on a limit and I wasn’t feeling very energetic - happy to just show up and smile. We hadn’t sold our raffle tickets. We hadn’t bought our tickets early so they were fifteen dollars more than if I had been organized, which I am not right now.

Then we walked through the doors of the Harman Hall of the Shakespeare Theater - the new glass fronted theater on F Street and it was so glam and glitz and urban and fun that I felt like my old self. And then...I saw at the entrance the canvas photograph of individual portraits of Amelia’s 1st grade class - each one holding up their favorite thing - and suddenly I had to have it. I was “in it to win it.” I wanted to begin bidding but Greg hadn’t told me our number (331) and had disappeared to a safe part of the crowded reception - thinking I would socialize and forget about breaking the bank. No - I had to have it. Amelia’s sweet face with all of her classmates put me over the edge and suddenly I began bidding on all of the teacher offered items - “Principal for the Day” - I had won it for Amelia last year. This year it was Annalise’s turn. A limo ride with Ms. Gartrell with 6 friends to see the Washington monuments. The limo would pick them up from school. Amelia had been obsessed with limos since she first heard the theme song from Hannah Montana: “You get the limo out front...” She had always been so annoyed with my siblings for not getting married so that she could ride in a limo. This I had to have, but another mother was outbidding. I decided a little Mideastern negotiation was needed. I told her I would let her win it and we would split it for our two kids - each could bring 2 friends and it would be half-price! Collusion - price-fixing. Greed is good. Then there was the kayaking trip with Ms. Ramsey. I HAD to have it for Annalise - it was her favorite teacher, afterall. I thought I was in the running then some mother bid the top price - outmaneuvering all of us. That’s when Sarah Morgenthau stepped in and asked Ms. Ramsey to donate a second trip that we would bid top dollar for (for the school, of course) and Sarah and I would split it for our girls. Done. Chi-ching! Suddenly, the auction was closing down so I realized a new strategy - sometimes they closed areas but if there were no bids on the sheet - you could bid low and gather up all sorts of bargains. I did just that for a Waterford crystal candle. A jewelry box from India that I didn’t need. They will go straight to my gift closet. So if they end up wrapped for your birthday, please understand, it was for a good cause. I got home high as a kite. Some woman from the Fashion Chamber of Commerce stopped me and said - I have been eyeing you across the room all night - I LOVE your hair. I didn’t have the heart to tell her it was the result of chemotherapy and decided to act like it was a fashion statement.

My eyelashes had grown back in the last 3 weeks and my eyeBROWS had gotten downright bushy so I had had to go to see Erwin Gomez - eyebrow shaper to the stars in our very own Georgetown. Erwin was so sweet and dear and had a gentle manner - his winning elfish smile made me burst into tears when he signaled for me to follow him back into his studio after the lady at the front desk of his chic Georgetown salon had brought me a green tea. I started to explain how my eyebrows had just returned after chemo and he hugged me and we both cried. I dabbed my tears, as he applied the wax. He told me about his own initiatives to help raise money for breast cancer because he said: “Without my ladies, I’m nothing.” I told him to call on me to help and he - sensing how fragile I was - said ‘take care of yourself first.” I hugged him and left. I was still crying.

My dear friend Anamarija had flown all the way from Singapore to help me for the past 3 weeks. She left her own sons and family to be here with me and to bring me tea and what can I say. What friends I have! I accepted only because I knew she would insist and secretly I really needed her. She moved in like a whirling dervish, full of Croatian energy and can do, don’t take no for an answer. She started cleaning out my closets. Took my drycleaning to the organic cleaners. She drove me to my doctor’s appointments. Andrea Wilson - whose house she is staying at - now answers the phone: “Ronald McDonald House.” Yes, the Wilsons have set up their very own Fisher House. And I am one wounded warrior. All of my strength seems to have vanished all of a sudden and I cry at the whiff of the overwhelming sense that I am ok - but yet I don’t yet feel ok and I am about to have my chest singed with radiation.

Anamarija makes me do my PT exercises - so that I can lift my arms again. She gets mad when I giggle. She is a stickler for form and reminds me of myself trying to teach Ginny Taylor to ski at Seven Springs when we were in 8th grade. I got so frustrated with her lack of improvement that I took her poles away and taught her with a bit of tough love. Anamarija and Andrea took me to Lulu Lemon to get some new exercise pants - the kind that make your butt look awesome. I finally learned the secret of all of those ladies who lunch and do Pilates from Joshua, my pilates coach. He said, “unless you have Lulu Lemon yoga pants, your butt just isn’t going to look like J Lo’s or Beyonce.” Andrea found me some wraparound tops since I can’t raise my arms. An elegant silver/gray wraparound sweater. She wanted to see my breasts - scars and all. At that point I was pretty proud of them and having lost all sense of decorum, consider showing them to anyone who might feign an interest. Andrea slipped into the Lulu Lemon changing room and I unwrapped the sweater and she burst into tears and said, “They are beautiful!” We hugged. I cried. I don’t know if she just felt sorry for me. But I still felt they were beautiful. I still felt like everytime I breathed I was lifting a concrete block off of my chest. I was off the pain killers and all of the nerve endings that had been cut were reconnecting and the pain was getting worse not better two weeks out.

My mom had taken my dog Izzy for the first two weeks as well - to her house - to lessen some of the craziness and chaos at our house. Luke kept walking around asking with inflection: “Dogu?” As in, has anyone seen my Dogu? When Anamarija arrived he would ask her, “Dogu??” as if she were Cruella de Ville. Finally, Izzy returned and the chaos of our house returned. Luke gets frustrated that I can’t lift him and bangs his head on the floor sometimes. Greg went back to work and sleeps during the day and I know Annalise is on my computer when I am not looking because Skype was newly loaded and the password had been changed to dolphinlover123. Amelia, my most sensitive soulmate through this journey, offers to bring me water in the morning and last night left a little “I love you” pillow on my bed. It’s a game Annalise and I used to play. We would place the pillow back and forth on each other’s beds when the other least expected it. It’s a felt handmade pillow one of the girls made in pre-school. Now I am going to pick myself back up, get in the shower, warm up my muscles and try to lift my arms above my head.


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

If you want to join us in the Jerusalem Race for a Cure...

Sign up at

Just back from the press conference where Nancy Brinker, Susan G. Komen's sister, launched the Jerusalem race. It will be open to Christians, Muslims and Jews, Palestinians and Israelis, and anyone from anywhere in the world. I asked Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat at the press conference how he planned to handle the political sensitivities in the city and he promised, "Everyone will be welcome." The race will be around the Old City Walls in Jerusalem. Let the games begin! Sign your team up now. Komen gave its first international research grant to an Israeli science team and the BRCA1 gene was first mapped and discovered in Israel.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Blueberries for Sal

has always been one of my favorite children's book. My father, before he died of Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, bought it for Annalise when she was a baby and wrote her the most beautiful inscription about not talking to "strange bears". Kerplink...kerplunk.
Now it turns out in mice blueberries may shrink Triple Negative breast tumors (and I ate a lot of blueberries this winter...hmmm). This article first appeared in the Wall Street Journal.

What You Can Do to Help...

ABC, Reuters, and poor CNN are competing against us...what they don't know is we have already won!
Please join us in the Komen Race this June 5. 5K - I plan on running it without a bra (though I'll probably wear a shirt).

A tribute to another warrior...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Make a Wish...

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Eagle has landed

I need some new wigs. My dear friends either are jealous of my new breasts and want me to look my age so they are telling me that my new gray pixie is "artsy" or they simply don't want to hurt my feelings. But all I know is that it's my birthday today (though I wrote this last night) and for some reason there are a lot of people who have April 20 as a birthday - weird. David Lee Miller for one. Phil Reeves. Sarah Williams' husband, Peter Mali. And then it is also Andrea and Scott Wilson's wedding anniversary. I remember one particular birthday celebration outside in the garden of the American Colony hotel in Jerusalem in which both were there - the intifada was raging but the smell of the orange blossoms were fragrant as the water trickled out of the center fountain tiled with the same Armenian tiles as used to surround the Dome of the Rock. Annalise was in a car seat under the table and when it was time to nurse I sneaked off to the elegant Colony's bathroom and some kind person - likely a woman - had set up a nursing slash changing station for the babies. I nursed away (not that that helped prevent this rebellious, break all the rules cancer. My birthday is one that has an infamous association - it is the same as Hitler's and usually some whacky group does something horrible (Columbine, Timothy McVeigh) to coincide. My best friend, Lila Rifaat's birthday is 8 days later (the same as Saddam Hussein's). Go figure.

So let's say I go wig shopping. The problem is now that it is summer, wigs are pretty annoying. (Thank goodness I went through this in winter.) I still wear a cozy cap whenever there is even the slightest draft, but it's not a good look. Annalise listened to the beginning of the video that Fox did about our 'journey' (still haven't found a really good non-cliche way to describe some of these cancer 'issues') - Annalise immediately said, "Mom, you sound like one of those sad cancer commercials." She was right the editting was beautiful - but the music was meant to tug on your heart strings - a cliche that even a 9 year-old recognized. (But at least they got Amelia's famous cartwheel in the piece - the Today Show nixed it - so I explained to Stefanie, the Fox producer, how important it was to her and it was in. Her first question when I said they used her gymnastics video was "Did I land my flip?" "Well, sort of - but it was a perfect cartwheel, i added. Phew.

When going to bed last night after the girls described every moment at Disney World, Barry honestly said "if we'd just had two more days..." Glutton for punishment that he is. (I am actually not sure who enjoyed the trip to the Magic Kingdom more - Barry or the girls.) They brought back so many tchotchkes - even Luke got a straw in the shape of Mickey Mouse ears. Annalise wanted me to put her to bed tonight. She sleeps on a floor futon in the attic. I said, "Sweetie, I don't know if I can lower myself down and then get myself up again since I can't use my arms. Having seen the article on our family's fight in the Reliable Source section of the Washington Post, she said in disbelief and a bit of mockery, "You can't lie down on a futon and rub my back until I am asleep...Now that's a story." So of course I took the Pepsi challenge. I lay down and hoisted myself up again. That's when she informed me that she and her father have nicknames for each other - she is Big A and he is Little G and I , it turns out have a code name too: Bald Eagle. (Not sure when the two of them began working for the Secret Service.) The insults never stop but at least we still keep laughing. They are so brave that Amelia even held my drain while I showered and didn't wince at my scars - which I thought was mighty polite. She dried off my back with a towel and then helped me into my pajamas and into bed.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

One Day at a Time

I took my first shower. crazy as that sounds, it was as exotic and felt just like sitting under a waterfall on the back side of Oahu near Anne-Marie Johnson's brother's house in Hawaii (sans the wildlife). You may ask: how is it that you didn't shower for 10 days - don't forget I did Outward Bound and there is a little known fact in outdoor living that the longer one doesn't shower or wash one's hair (not that THAT was really an issue) - the more natural and odor free one's natural state of being really becomes (either that or you get a little delirious and don't REALIZE that you actually are quite dirty and offensive.) The only real problem is that I have not been camping outside. The plus side to all of this is I still don't have hair - other than the peach fuzz that is neither here nor there in terms of what one might consider a hair 'style'. And I am too scared to put chemicals on my head just yet and gray just isn't my color so I may have to do a little more wig shopping - though they are mighty itchy in summer.

The bottom line is I am back! Greg was kind enough to step into the shower and hold my drains while I put my head back under the pulsing hot water. Having a glass shower and far too many mirrors in one's carefully renovated master bathroom with all of its Jerusalem stone seemed like a good idea at the time. That was before breast cancer and before I started to look like a member of the Avatar cast. They rebuilt me but there are still a few odd lines and a disproportion that I thought we had dealt with in the 70s when Gloria Steinem pointed out that Barbie really wouldn't be able to stand up if she were proportioned that way in real life. These "expanders" are hard as rocks - like the torpedoes Madonna wore on her Like a Virgin tour and they don't move. It's a little unnerving (and the valium had worn off so I found it a little freakish.) But Greg reassured me and I crawled into bed and propped my arms on the two pillows that hold them up on each side of my body. The mornings are the worst because you stiffen up overnight by staying in one position and all of the muscles tighten. Perhaps I need a cup of coffee to get moving. If you or any friends are going through this - buy two sets of silk button up two piece pajamas - like something Audrey Hepburn would wear in Breakfast at Tiffany's. A) They allow you to slip in and out of bed with ease and without using your arms and B) they button up - I have to step into any shirts that don't button up because I still can't fully lift my arms over my head.

The girls called from Disney World and sounded as if they were on crack cocaine - it was 7 pm and they were heading to Thunder Mountain one more time. Of course, Annalise had already lost her retainer. I asked them if they were tired - "no". I asked them if Uncle Barry was tired: "yes". They said his mistake was by trying to make them dizzy on the Tea Cups (I am telling you the Tea Cups are deceptive!) In the process he made himself sick on the Tea Cups. The girls were fine. But the most exciting thing this morning for Annalise when she called en route to the Animal Kingdom was the fact that they had "housekeeping" in the room where they stayed. She said, "Mom, you know how they turn down your sheets? Well, they left us those little chocolates on our pillows. And you know because we are at Disney World? They put a chocolate in the form of "Sleepy" from the Seven Dwarves." She couldn't believe it.
It's the little stuff.

OK well Anamarija has flown in from Singapore to keep my spirits up today. And Luke is already asking where his "Dogu" is? Izzy went to puppy sleepaway camp at Grandma Carolyn's (where all cockapoos go to destress - it's like a day spa. But Luke doesn't know that so he keeps looking for her. Poor guy.

Just Say No

Of course, we as teens mocked Nancy Reagan when she started her "Just Say No" anti-drug campaign when we were surly high school students in the 80s. But drugs weren't our problem (the public safety announcement that showed a raw egg being dropped in a frying pan with the words "This is your brain...." And then the sizzling frying egg with the words "This is your brain on drugs..." had a pretty indelible impact and pushed us into "but it's ok to drink alcohol" mindset. But was it? And were those weekend runs to Third Edition and Mr. Smith's in Georgetown with our fake i.d.'s as innocuous as we thought? There is more and more research suggesting that what is occurring in the adolescent years for girls as their breasts form could be the culprit in this epidemic rise in breast cancer. Take a look at this study about alcohol, teens and breast cancer later in life.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Dr. 90210

Well, the girls just left for Disney World with their godfather Uncle Barry (everyone needs an Uncle Barry!) Luke looked a little confused as yet another family member walked out the front door and didn’t take him with them. We have to put the girls’ framed photo face down in the living room while they are at school each day or he gets sad and points at it because he misses them so much. I told the girls to send me a picture from inside Space Mountain - how totally 1970s, but supposedly it is still one of the most popular rides - I remember going on it the last time I was at Disney World in, say, 1976 wearing a fiberglass walking cast having fractured my left ankle. I also remember throwing up in the Tea Cups). So here I sit a little sad, a little lonely looking at the grenades that are still hanging from the left side of my new bionic frame draining all sorts of unattractive liquids from my healing wound. When I went to see Dr. Spear, my plastic surgeon, at Georgetown today, I was assuming they would take all 4 of the drains out of my underarms and chest. They took out three. Let’s just say I haven’t had a shower for 9 days because I am too scared to get them wet and for them to get infected and let’s just say that even on Percocet I know that is not totally acceptable from a personal hygiene point of view.

Let’s talk drains because if - God forbid - you or your spouse ever has to go through this nightmare, you are going to need to know what to expect. Rewind to the first time that I walked into Dr. 90210’s office. He kind of has the affect and wry humor of Wallace Shawn in Princess Bride - though Dr. Spear is taller. The first time I met him was the same day that I was diagnosed in September. I was in shock. I had been shuttled from radiology and some bone scan machine from Dr. Willey’s office into Spears. I was in tears as I told him I had a 9 cm tumor growing inside of me. He cavalierly - as is his style - and with just enough tough love to be funny said, “We all have something growing inside of us.” I stood in front of him with the gown open and he lifted each breast unceremoniously as if he were lifting a dead slab of meat. He had an antiquated ruler that looked like he was going to measure the hypotenuse of some invisible triangle and come up with some elaborate algorithm. The nurse handed me a pair of disposable white string bikini underwear (which she apologized for but which I realized were not all that much worse than my not-exactly Perla underwear that had sufficed through my child-bearing years when I stopped really caring.) Note to self: it is bad when your plastic surgeon’s disposable lingerie is better/as good as your own. Need to rectify asap.

They sent me across the hall to some photo studio that looked like it was out of Sears. There is a picture of Rachel Hunter shaking hands with one of the surgeons in a framed photo as you walk in that is supposed to make you feel as though at the end of this it will be ok because you will look like Rachel Hunter (marketing lie). It’s such a Sears photo studio setting with the big umbrella lights (you almost expect a fake leaf backdrop or some toys to keep the children in the family photo “occupied” while the photographer tries to get the winning grin from your nine month old who really doesn’t want to be there. (I really didn’t want to be there.) And you are wearing these disposable white string bikini underwear and you are told to drop your gown on the chair and stand there with your hands behind your back like you are being booked for a crime. Let’s just say it’s a little uncomfortable as you stand there in all of your glory for the “before” set of photos. You feel a little violated. But that is at the beginning of the journey. By the end you just don’t care anymore and you have pretty much lost any sense of modesty and you are willing to lift your shirt and show just about anyone your new breasts - even if they have a few scars across them - just because you can’t believe that you made it through this rite of passage and because you really are still on so many drugs that you don’t really know what is appropriate anymore.

The second time I went to Spear’s office, there was a snafu and my mom was supposed to join me - I had finished chemo and was gearing up for surgery. The appointment started early. I was there alone. I made the mistake of asking to look at the photo album of before and after photos of mastectomy patients. I thought it would help me prepare for the surgery. Boy was I wrong. NEVER look at the photo albums of before and after shots. NEVER. The nurse explained how the procedure worked. They toss a sling made from a corpse’s tissue into your breast and fill it with a sack of saline or something hard as a placeholder - these are called expanders. The corpse part threw me - did I really need to know that? They then offered as an alternative to make the sling from a pig’s tissue. Haram! No go. Can any of this be on a need to know basis please? Way too much information. Because I really did not need to know. I forgot all of my questions and sat there in shock. Dr. Spear tried to console me but I was inconsolable. This was the week about 3 weeks before surgery when the penny dropped and I started mourning the loss of my breasts. The pictures (even the good outcomes) were horrifying. I was told if silicone didn’t work and the radiation messed up the outcome I could always gain a few pounds around my belly and they could suction it up through my sternum and place the fat from the “tummy tuck” into each breast. Or they could take a “flap” from my back and hope that worked (again after a little fattening up (presumably in a darkened basement dungeon with a crack FBI profiler named Clarice looking for me). It was so Silence of the Lambs. I was told I wouldn’t have any feeling across the breasts forever basically - but that doesn’t seem to be true because I can certainly feel something when the Percocet wears off every 6 hours). Then they sent me down to the Sears studio for another set of photos. I was a bit disoriented, clinging to my hospital gown and then I made my way back to the examination room and studied the family photo album of before and after mastectomies. The nurses kept bringing in more tissues. I was in shock. They weren’t sure I would ever leave.

I had to come back a few days before the surgery to get marked up with a black Sharpie so the surgeons would know where to cut the next day - a very imprecise science it seemed to me. Amelia could have drawn a straighter line and then Greg was told to retrace the lines after my shower that night and first thing in the morning before surgery. What was this? Painting by numbers? Fortunately, we had a rainbow assortment of Sharpies at home because they are Amelia’s pen of choice. She couldn’t find the black so she brought me the purple. The whole pre-op experience did not inspire confidence and when I asked about a little valium to take the edge off the morning of surgery, Dr. 90210 said he really didn’t understand or feel the need to indulge pre-surgery jitters. I realize now that was the turning point. I wasn’t going to cry that day. In fact I didn’t the entire time I was in the hospital. I thought I would be a wreck during the 4 hour pre-op check in on the day of surgery. Especially when they stuck three needles in my nipple to inject the radioactive dye for the lymph nodes - many women scream from the pain - it felt like a slight bee sting to me. No big deal. I was joking with Greg - riding on adrenalin and damned if I was going to give Spear the satisfaction of being a girl about all of this. I was like a prize fighter going into the ring. They even handed me a robe compliments of the Ritz that was supposed to make you feel like you were actually heading for a massage. I was laughing with the nurses. Telling them I needed a private room because I am actually a little bit “difficult”. Sassy to Greg - totally ready to get this show on the road. Spear helped me by not indulging my worries. I toughened up and you know what? It was a piece of cake. They didn’t even make me count backwards. I slept like a baby through the whole thing. Dr. Jackson, the anesthesiologist was a pro, and when I made it to post-op, I began doing Pilates deep breathing exercises to get the last bits of anesthesia from my lungs. I whispered to Shawna (Willey) my very fine surgeon - to go to the waiting area and tell Greg it was the Pilates that made all the difference and got me through surgery because I knew he would soon start to balk at the cost of these private sessions which saved my life as soon as we left the hospital. They laughed at me and he laughed when he heard I was negotiating and outmaneuvering him even under the effects of anesthesia. (In a weak guilty Mommy moment the day before surgery I had sent my mom on a hunt for two iPads for the girls without telling him - she bought the last two at Pentagon City and almost let them slip through her fingers while I spoke with the Apple salesman on the phone about whether a 7 and a 9 year old need 32 or 64 gigs - what was I thinking? These were their consolation prize for me being in the hospital on Annalise’s 9th birthday. “It was as if Steve Jobs and God got together and got Phil (Annalise) a birthday present.” Modern Family from the week before - Annalise got the joke.)

So one drain still hangs by my side - it looks like a plastic grenade, Greg has been emptying and measuring the output of all of them each day. He is never queasy. That’s what I like about him. (When I had all four around my waist, I looked like a suicide bomber.)

Now I have taken enough valium to sleep and relax the chest muscles, enough to perhaps kill a horse. So I will close out this missive with just one thought:

“I may not know it
But these are the moments that
I'm gonna remember most
Just gotta keep going
And I, I got to be strong
Just keep pushing on...
Ain't no matter what's waiting on the other side...It's the climb...”

When Amelia left tonight I said, “Have fun in Florida” to which she replied: “I hear they have a lot of oranges there.” How true and how odd that that is what popped into her mind as she headed to the Magic Kingdom.

But she was right, as always. Vitamin C - good for healing. We all need a little healing after the winter we have had.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

My horoscope from Monday (when we got the news!)

Washington Post Monday, April 12, 2010
TAURUS (April 20-May 20)
You'll do a stellar job, and the fruits of your labor will be something you can stand up for. Colleagues want to be a part of your work team in order to learn what you know.

(Reading between the lines, perhaps my colleagues, a.k.a. friends want to join me lead the Fox bureau to victory in the 3-day Komen Race for a Cure this October in Washington (before we head off to Jerusalem) - we are challenging the other news outlets and bureaus to come up with their own teams. Too bad they don't stand a chance. And all of us reconstructed survivors will be burning our sports bras at the end of the race. Not that we'll be wearing any during the race! Friends and family and St. Agnes alum - even out of towners - are welcome to join me and the Fox team...more to come.)

That's my boy!

A few post-mastectomy hugs from my favorite little man.

If you have Triple Negative dial into this conference call tomorrow

Thursday Teleconference on Triple-Negative Breast Cancer

Register now for our next free teleconference, Triple-Negative Breast Cancer: Genetic Risk and Treatment Updates, from 12:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) on Thursday, April 15. This program is presented by Living Beyond Breast Cancer in partnership with The Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation. Learn more.

Rebecca Dent, MSc, MD, FRCP(C), of Sunnybrook Odette Cancer Centre, will explore the latest research and treatment options for triple-negative breast cancer. Lisa A. Newman, MD, MPH, FACS, of the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, will discuss various risk factors associated with triple-negative breast cancer. She will also offer suggestions for how to possibly reduce your risk of recurrence by making lifestyle changes.

Jean A. Sachs, MSS, MLSP
LBBC Chief Executive Officer
Toll-free Survivors’ Helpline: (888) 753-LBBC (5222)
354 West Lancaster Ave, Suite 224
Haverford, PA 19041
(610) 645-4567

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Survivor guilt

I know this may sound crazy but I have shared so much with all of you for the past six months (thanks to my webmaster, Ginny Taylor Scott!) that I feel the need to say a few more words so that nobody misconstrues my silence or lack of returned e-mails as any form of ingratitude or disrespect. My family and I are still numb from the good news. Greg and I went straight from Georgetown Hospital to a sushi lunch yesterday after getting the pathology results. We hadn't cried and then suddenly as the green tea arrived and I had checked off a few salmon rolls inside out with the extra wasabi and ginger (which always cut through my chemo nausea) the tears began rolling. I couldn't catch my breath. (Greg didn't cry, but I knew he would have if he could have.) We were on an adrenalin high - such a high that I walked all the way to school and back to get the kids, even though I still have 4 drains pouring unsightly and unmentionable liquids from my newly constructed breasts. I felt no pain. Luke kept standing by the front door and saying, "Mama? Bye-bye?" Of course, I packed him up to take him to the school. (Again, I was feeling no pain - ok maybe it was the Percocet - but I felt like Hercules (and of course I had the help of Saint Rose pushing the stroller.) I got home realizing that I had overdone it - a few chills - "darn, was I getting an infection in the remaining drains?" I slept. When I woke up this morning and got the children off to school, Greg and I simply were at peace. For the first time, we just sat around with nowhere to go, sipping coffee and watching Luke try to find the Koi fish in our outdoor pond - the miracle fish who somehow survived the heavy snow and freezing winter (Greg says they are his favorite pet - probably because they don't talk back.) Luke seems to understand that I can't pick him up right now. He just puts his hand out to me and says, "Mamma" in the highest pitched sweetest little voice - he's just started saying it. I put my hand out and walk and hold his hand and he shows me the fish, which he calls, 'dish'. He seems to just "get it" right now. Then the door bell rang and more of the most beautiful, exquisite flowers that you have ever seen arrived. Then the phone rang - I almost didn't answer it because it said, "Ruby Devaras." Who is "Ruby Devaras?" But I did and it wasn't Ruby. It was Dr. Claudine Isaacs from Georgetown Hospital, my genius oncologist, who took that chance of throwing in some carboplatin to my chemo cocktail just to make sure this cancer knew who was boss. Even though others who will remain nameless said they wouldn't give it to me outside of a clinical trial.

Oncologists, you'll find, always have a lot of caveats. Not today. Claudine kept saying, "it's over - you can breathe again. You can celebrate." I queried her extreme confidence just to make sure no one was getting overly confident and she said, "no, you really can relax now - it's gone." Through choked tears and in a whisper, I thanked her for saving my life. We determined that i would come see her on my birthday April 20 just for good measure. (And just in case anyone was wondering - let's just say the ones I saw on Dancing with the Stars last night - including Pamela Anderson's - have nothing on my new set, thanks to Georgetown's Dr. Scott Spear - there is a reason plastic surgeons are a little cocky. He gets the bragging rights, no doubt. He was so pleased with the results yesterday he invited a visiting Korean surgeon in to see them in person. I have no shame anymore so I was ready to show the world (again I was on a little Percocet.)

So I guess what I would say now is that "Yes, I have a little bit of survivor guilt." I guess it's normal. I guess it's why I cried when I saw Phil Mickelson hug his wife Amy at the end of the Masters - she had been going through treatment all year and he wore the pink ribbon and nothing was said as they hugged and hugged. I watched as their two girls and son looked on. I feel badly for having worried so many of my friends and family. I appreciate all of the amazing bouquets and letters and gestures of extraordinary kindness. I can't go through all the people I'd like to thank now or it will start to sound like a Sally Field Oscar acceptance speech. Please know each gesture was received, fully appreciated and added to my willpower. If I had to thank one or two people, it would be my mom who slept upright in a mighty squeaky hospital Laz-Z-Boy the second night after my surgery, Greg, who gave the girls and Luke a sense that everything would be alright and has sat next to my bed for the past week delivering me food, hot tea and meds and was nice enough to say that my new pair were already better than before (adding that they weren't that bad before!) Thanks to my siblings and grandparents and to Aunt Barb who sent a mighty comfy wedge for me to sleep on with my arms elevated, and, of course, longtime friend Barry Roy who is taking Annalise and Amelia to Disney World on Thursday. He's your very own "Make a Wish" Foundation. Love, love. love to all of you and to Fox for giving me the time to fight this and recuperate with my family without worrying about anything. Now go hug your children, or your dog or your best friend because one day you'll hit a bump in the road and you'll be overwhelmed by how much good there is out there and how much you don't even know you are loved.


This is the rest of the 5 part series that Fox put together on our journey

Part 1 many of you saw earlier
Part 2 deals with nutrition for cancer patients
Part 3 gives tips to those with Triple Negative - what is it - what can you do
Part 4 talks about Greg and the kids - the reason I fight
Part 5 is a word of thanks

Click on the above then scroll down for the different segments. Thank you, Stefanie and Viewer Services.

From our friends at TVNewser...thank you

Monday, April 12, 2010

We won the lottery!

Dear, dear friends,
I am going to keep this short because the keyboard is getting soaked from my now infamous crocodile tears. But I can honestly say that Greg and I now know what it feels like to win the lottery. We went to see my doctors at Georgetown Hospital today and while we had been optimistic for some time - it was nice to see the pathology report in black and white. (And I have never seen doctors grinning more from ear to ear! Thank you, Dr. Shawna Willey and Dr. Claudine Isaacs.) It is now official: there was no cancer in my lymph nodes (7 in all were taken out last Tuesday - none had cancer and if none had cancer then none of those Al Qaeda cells had a chance to spread. And there won't be a need for any Gitmo lock-ups - these cells are dead, dead, dead and we didn't even need to use the water board.) But here is the kicker...the tissue that they took out of each breast had what they call "a complete pathologic response" to the chemotherapy - that is the Holy Grail when it comes to Triple Negative. That means that yes it was me that you may have seen clicking my heels like a leprachaun if you were driving past Georgetown this morning - and I wasn't even on THAT much Percocet. That means that in 2 - 3 years time if there is no return (which is statistically almost impossible at this point) then they can declare me "cured" - not a term they use lightly in the world of oncology. I am officially "cancer free". (And boy do I have some beautiful new breasts to boot.) More later when I come down from this high. Thank you and thank God. And, yes, I now believe in miracles.
Many have written asking which color lipstick I wore to my mastectomy. It was a gloss. "Lovechild" by MAC. Lots of it.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Better than a Snuggie...

It was the "Combat Woobie"sent to me by the 1st MEF as they deployed to Afghanistan last week that did the trick!

Pilates anyone?

Well, they brought me up from recovery at 9 pm last night and by 10 pm I was doing a lap around the ward. They had two orderlies who accompanied me up to the 7th floor last night in order to lift me into bed but I asked that they not because it looked like they were going to grab my arms, which looked like it could be mighty painful. Instead, I put my fists in front of me in a boxing pose and wriggled using my core across the divide into the bed! Piece of cake. Thank you, Joshua! Five months of sit-ups and core work really paid off. I've done two laps this morning and I might be released this afternoon (though it will be hard to leave the morphine!) The scars are elegant and I have two lovely breasts this morning. I even caught the end of American Idol last night (though I must admit this season is a bit of a snooze.) Greg read to me all of your messages - thank you from both of us. We felt very loved last night. And, yes, I buried the lead again: it looks like my lymph nodes are clean - meaning no sign of cancer, meaning it didn't spread. Today is Annalise's birthday. What a present!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Jennifer Just out of Surgery

Tuesday Evening

Hi Folks,

Greg just called five minutes ago. Jen had about five to six hours of surgery and is in the recovery room. He has not spoken to Jennifer yet, but has spoken to one of the surgeons. Greg says it "it's good news but not final news" but overall, *so far so good.*

They did a preliminary scan of the tissue and lymph nodes and there was no sign of cancer. No sign! However, and this is the big however, they have to send everything out to pathology and do a full pathology report that will take one week. But the very good news is that they did not immediately find anything, which was one of the fears about today.

Greg is staying with Jen at the hospital the next two nights, and if there are further updates I'll send them.

All bests,

Monday, April 5, 2010

Next year in Jerusalem...

It is fitting that Komen is taking the Race for the Cure to Jerusalem for the first time this October 28. Imagine ending the race outside the Old City walls with the sun setting on all the Jerusalem stone. I picture Zubin Mehta conducting a mixed Israeli-Palestinian orchestra as the finale on the Mount of Olives - breathtaking. Anyway, my dear friend Reena Ninan - Fox correspondent in Jerusalem - and Dudi - our cameraman extraordinaire, covered my bases on Sunday - leaving prayer notes in the Holy Sepulchre (takes my breath away that it was on Easter Sunday) and in crevice at the Western Wall. The indoor photos were in the Sepulchre built by St. Helena above Golgotha (where the tomb was found and excavated). The outdoor light was at the Western Wall (the remnants of Solomon's Temple). Of course, the notes were pink. Gives me chills to be honest.

And then a few pals surprised me...

by winging their way down from NYC for a long lunch this Good Friday. The weather had just turned in DC. The cherry blossoms were out. Ceci, Eden and Anna swept me out the door and it felt like we were in the Harvard Union again (sans butter pats threatening to fall on our heads.) That's what friends are for.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

8 going on 9

We had to celebrate Annalise's birthday a few days early due to my surgery next week...these are a few pics from the festivities. (My dear friend Andrea Wilson will have the real celebration on the real birthday at her house with her three kids on Wednesday, Annalise's actual birthday.) Christine Merkle, who has been cooking vegan delights for me thanks to my foodie friends and the great organization of Eve Conant, made some yummy chocolate flourless cupckaes and a lemon tarte with raspberry coulis. A slumber party for even a few 8 year olds has made me say more than once to Greg, "I can't wait to check into Georgetown Hospital on Tuesday - can't wait for the anesthesia, a comfy hospital bed and the forced rest - no rest for the weary at my house!" I took the girls to play soccer at their school, John Eaton today - and decided not to go easy on them. I took off my wig and there was a young blind woman with a seeing eye dog who was very chatty and Amelia said later, "at least she couldn't see that mom was not wearing her wig - at least she wasn't scared." Whatever - it was too hot to play soccer with a wig on and I had to tease the girls as I outran them and scored - not pretty to be beaten by a cancer patient, I told the girls, who were expecting me to let them win - what don't they understand? Luke went to bed tonight cuddling in my arms - his fist firmly placed in my cleavage as he finished his bottle. I am devastated I won't be able to hold and lift him for weeks - a little weepy about this at bedtime tonight, I'll be honest. And even sadder that even with my Dr. 90210 reconstruction I won't be able to feel anything in a wide swath across my chest for the rest of my life. That makes this more of an amputation that an augmentation, I told some friends on Friday. A little sad, I might add. As a result, I spent bedtime cradling Luke longer than I should have tonight. I eventually lowered him into his crib and he immediately rolled to his tummy, butt in the air, and is sleeping like a baby. I plan to join him now.

The latest breakthroughs on Triple Negative

Click here:

And has one of the best summaries of the latest Triple Negative breakthroughs - click and scroll down:

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The full interview with Greta...

Click here:

In addition...

This is the first installment of a 6 part web series that Fox and Viewer Services put together on our family and Triple Negative breast cancer...thank you Stefanie Smith!

Here’s the link: