Tuesday, May 25, 2010

My sister Cassie's graduation (from UVa)

OK so in Russia my Mom would have been considered a "Hero Mom", a designation by the Soviet state to encourage comrades during the Cold War to have more children. Last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia we celebrated my youngest sister, Cassie's, graduation from college. She is 19 years my junior and was 4 years old when I graduated from college. My mom will, for the first time in 40 years, not be paying tuition or carpooling. I remember her trudging up to our dorm room freshman year, very pregnant with Cassie, wearing a Laura Ashley dress and ignoring the smell of fetid spilled beers (fortunately it was not her first trimester and she wasn't feeling woozy). When she called to tell me she was pregnant freshman year, my response: "Better you than me." Well, that was many moons ago. Cassie is now doing what I did after I graduated, heading off to Africa. She won't be pursuing journalism, recognizing it as a professional dead end. She was accepted by the Peace Corps and will be working on HIV issues in Subsaharan Africa. She didn't tell me that she was writing her senior thesis on the use of UAV's or drones as a violation of "Just War." Ahh - the Ivory Tower. By Sunday, when the bars opened on "The Corner" in downtown Charlottesville so that co-eds could have one last drink before they walked away from Mr. Jefferson's Rotunda, it was starting to look like a Will Ferrell movie. En route to the ceremony, I was trying to give Amelia (7) a little history and regaled her with Thomas Jefferson's achievements. I told her that he had built the University. She didn't seem impressed, adding, "You mean his servants did." Despite the monsoon swells, it was a perfect weekend and the girls have already determined which sorority they will join and have decided to apply to UVa early (perhaps next year).

Where's Luke?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Oprah.com - profile

In case you missed it: http://www.oprah.com/health/Jennifer-Griffins-Battle-with-Breast-Cancer

Girls on the Run!

OK - so the 5K race was for 9 year-olds, but I had to test my theory that gravity does not affect my new 'friends'. So I ran like an impala and Annalise asked at the end of the race if she could finish alone. I fell back and let her have her moment all to herself. Sucking wind, I crossed the finish line (even though I had arrived late, didn't have a number and ran anyway. Greg said, the authorities would soon be looking for me. I told him that they were already looking for me for far worse.) More emotional than I expected, I got lost in the sea of 9 year-olds all wearing pink t-shirts this year - it looked like a mini-Komen race. I walked away from Annalise after crossing the finish so that she wouldn't see me crying. But it was my first 5K and I could still hear Helen and Doug Matthews (Harriet's parents) shouting my name, cheering anonymously in the crowd as I passed. Greg waited for Amelia and crossed the finish line with her. I met up with them and then became focused and a little angry when I heard over the loud speaker that Kellogg's Frosted Flakes was sponsoring the event (Luke had a free sample box in his stroller.) This was supposed to be a 'healthy' event for girls to improve their self-image. How dare they allow Tony the Tiger sponsor it. We are poisoning our children. Help, Jamie Oliver!

Found a Match!

It was a 1:200,000 chance but Devan's family found a match and he will be getting his bone marrow transplant. The match came from infant cord blood (remember your ob.gyn asking you if you want to store your child's cord blood at birth - it seems a little expensive - maybe like a racket - the pediatricians and OB's don't push it because they don't like that the genetics labs are making a profit off of it - but it could save your child's life if by chance he/she has leukemia or other childhood cancers. I wish I had banked Luke's cord blood. The option wasn't available for Annalise and Amelia.) Devan's match is not a perfect 6 out of 6 but it is good enough, according to his Duke medical team. Thank you to Natasha Mukherjee for trudging over to Turtle Park on Saturday with me and getting swabbed (that's all it takes to get into the national registry). The indominitable Rebecca Cooper of ABC is still organizing a pubic service announcement with stars getting swabbed. Such an easy solution for those who may need it. Get registered!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Urgent need for fellow journalist's child

A fellow foreign correspondent now at Bloomberg news here in DC has a 4 year old son, Devan, with a rare leukemia and he needs a bone marrow transplant. Everyone of us can help. Please take a moment and see how and spread the word. All it takes is a simple swab inside your cheek.

Click here (especially if you are of Indian/European descent) to see if you are a match. We only have 12 weeks to find match.

Love, Jennifer

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

From Rebecca Katz "The Cancer Fighting Kitchen"

Dear Jennifer --
I sat down and read your blog from the end (the tatoo) to the beginning, including your interview with Greta. I just wanted to climb through the blog, give you a big culinary hug and a bowl of soup. I was particularly taken with Izzy. He was so well poised and well behaved. It made me want to share a video that my Portuguese Water Dog, Bella starred in demonstrating her now famous “Bella’s Carrot, Orange Fennel Soup on page 65 of The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen. http://www.youtube.com/user/RebeccaKatz#p/u/4/klw85PvbV1c

Meanwhile — Here’s some incredibly empowering nutritional information which can be turned into tasty bites of YUM! Start loving mint, and the below they are now going to be your best friends.
Love, Rebecca

What’s in a carrot? Leteolin. It’s a powerhouse phytonutrient that destroys any rogue cancer cells roaming around, and you can get this by eating normal amounts of the below foods.

Mint peppermint It is a good source of a phytonutrient called luteolin. Other dietary sources of luteolin include, for instance, carrots, peppers, celery, olive oil, thyme, rosemary and oregano. When testing various herbs and foods against angiogenesis, many have activity only at high doses/concentrations (e.g., genistein at 150µM, selenium at 230 µg/kg, lupeol at 50 µg/ml), but luteolin is active at much lower concentrations (10µM), which means levels achievable via regular food intake! Another phytonutirent, apigenin (in celery and tarragon) is antiangiogenic at only 4µM. I like to make quinoa tabouli with lots of parsley (also a nutritional powerhouse), mint, and celery (and some diced brazil nuts for selenium) as a key antiangiogenesis recipe. Also "cream" of celery soup with lemon and tarragon (I use cashews for the cream). In general, all spices / herbs have very potent benefits for cancer fighting. “

Luteolin, a flavonoid with potential for cancer prevention and therapy.
Lin Y, Shi R, Wang X, Shen HM.
Curr Cancer Drug Targets. 2008 Nov;8(7):634-46. Review.

Luteolin inhibits vascular endothelial growth factor-induced angiogenesis; inhibition of endothelial cell survival and proliferation by targeting phosphatidylinositol 3'-kinase activity.
Bagli E, Stefaniotou M, Morbidelli L, Ziche M, Psillas K, Murphy C, Fotsis T.
Cancer Res. 2004 Nov 1;64(21):7936-46.

Distribution and biological activities of the flavonoid luteolin.
López-Lázaro M.
Mini Rev Med Chem. 2009 Jan;9(1):31-59. Review.



This video was sent to me by Gina Maisano - fellow warrior and bc advocate. It will be my theme song until further notice.

Walkin' on Sunshine

We can’t quite figure out where the back-lit poster advertising a tropical vacation under palm trees on a warm sandy beach with karsh cliffs on a small islet offshore is supposed to be. Barbara, my radiologist, says everyone asks her and so she makes up a different tropical locale each time. It’s like the game: “Where in the world?” that Conde Nast Traveler plays with its readers. She says to me ‘Hawaii.’ I say it looks more like Thailand. (I know Thailand because Greg and I spent a month there as an ‘out’ from snowy Moscow one February and we never quite got over going from ‘black and white’ to ‘technicolor’. Every tactile sense was awakened and forever remained a pleasant memory. Then there was the tsunami. I covered it from Phuket. And never quite recovered. Arrived in Khao Lak while bodies were still hanging from the trees and bloating in the sun before being lined up in rows outside Buddhist temples, the stench so thick that I had to throw away the boots and jeans and shirts I wore once back home because the smell never quite went away. So not every tropical location has pleasant memories for me.)

Radiation is truly a spa-like experience compared to the rest of cancer treatment. Talk about a non-event. I have no idea why I worried. The robes are nice. The waiting area has great, hip magazines like Self and More and W and would be perfect if you didn’t feel like you were looking in the mirror at all the other cancer patients. You actually feel like you look good until you look at them and realize you look just like them and that everyone probably feels sorry for you. I actually believed I was rocking the silver panther look until I saw myself on Fox News Sunday and was slightly horrified. I looked older than my mother.

On Monday before my first radiation session I went back to see Joshua Dobbs, my Pilates guru. He is Joseph Pilates reincarnated, I am convinced. And more in tune with my body than most of the doctors and PT specialists I have met. He knew exactly how far to push and stretch it. I had gone back to Pilates about 2 weeks after surgery, but it was too early. I felt like I pulled a stitch under or between my ribs. It was in my head and yes pulled but was not a stitch but it was sharp and so it scared me so I backed off. I was miserable. I also could tell by the look on Joshua’s face at that first session that he was amazed at how in 3 short weeks I had lost all my muscle tone. The rock hard core had dissipated and I saw it in his face because as much as he can read my body, I could read his face. We had to start all over - and that was just the breathing.

But when I went back two days ago I was more than ready and I needed someone to start pushing my body again. I didn’t know if I could reach over my head, but somehow I did. I grabbed the canvas straps and started doing the ‘100’. Somehow I could do it. And instead of shying away from the stretch or stopping when I felt it stretch as my PT was saying for weeks. I was pushing through it and warming up the pectoral muscles and I was starting to feel good. In fact, much of the class was stretching. And strangely somehow my core had come back in the weeks that I left Joshua and Pilates. Perhaps it was muscle memory or perhaps as I did my PT stretches on the floor watching “Brothers and Sisters” I tightened my core and suddenly I was back! He was amazed. But the breakthrough came when he put me on the foam cylinder that is designed for stretching one’s back and under my weight it began massaging my shoulder blade area and in exchange loosening up the pectoral muscle in the front. Unbelievable. I might as well have had Amelia massaging my knotted back with her little knuckles. It was PERFECT.

Then he made me visualize detaching one arm and reattaching it to the other side and turning the hand palm up then palm down - a way to stretch out - through mind body work - the tight tendons and pectoral muscle that had stiffened where it connects to the upper arm. The visualization started actually with him asking me to lie on the cylinder and visualize a thumb kneading the base of each implant - going around in a circular motion and relaxing that gripping tissue and muscle. He could actually tell me which side I was mentally working on by watching as the encapsulating muscle relaxed. THIS I told him was our goal in the next 6 weeks during radiation to do whatever we can to keep that muscle from encapsulating (tightening and gripping) the implant - to save the plastic surgery and prevent the side effects that radiation is known for. I think we have a shot. I am heading to my Alexander technique massage therapist right now to learn more about self-massage.

But let’s just say when the machine hummed and the radioactive beam struck my right upper chest wall on Monday, all I could visualize were those little Al Qaeda sleeper cells emerging from their caves under heavy bombardment - maybe in someplace like Tora Bora (not Bora Bora as the back-lit poster seemed to advertise) and they were screaming as they ran for cover: “Allahu Akbar!” I had to catch myself from actually chuckling so my shoulders wouldn’t shake at my ‘inside’ joke. I had to be careful to keep perfectly still and ‘just breathe.’ But inside I was laughing out loud. The mopping up operations, as my friends in the Pentagon call them, have begun and I feel like each morning I have an appointment at the tanning salon (nothing more, nothing less) to get ready for summer.

Fox News Sunday...

Power Player of the Week - my Mother's Day gift.
In case you missed it - thank you, Chris and Judy.


Saturday, May 8, 2010

A day at the beach


It wasn’t exactly the day at the beach that I envisioned (that one came and went in Barbados). But when I went to Sibley Hospital today to get the final work-up and do a dry run before my radiation begins on Monday they led me to a room with a ‘linear accelerator’ and a back-lit poster and ceiling of a tropical beach and palm tree. That is how you remember which machine you are on each morning for the next 6 and a half weeks of radiation (33 sessions, excluding the weekends, to be exact.) Another friend of mine who just finished her radiation was in the ‘Cherry Blossom’ room at Sibley. When they wrapped the warm white sheet over me as they stuck a pillow under my knees, the nurse said: “Just like a spa.” I told her I thought they had undersold their service. This was going to be easy. I had been telling people (anyone who would listen through my choked tears) that all I really wanted to do this summer was to be with my kids at the beach. That, to me, represents the height of luxury. Instead, I get a ‘linear accelerator’ with a fake beach back drop.

So radiation is the third leg of this stool. Flew through chemo, double mastectomy (love my new breasts!) But now comes the hard part. You think you should be over, but you aren’t. Your scans say you are cancer free, but the next three years you get to bite your nails with worry fearing a recurrence (3 years is the danger period for Triple Negative.) You are supposed to smile and look relieved because in everyone else’s minds, you are done. And you are, sort of. (What I have come to realize is you are never done.)

This week we had another television shoot in our living room. The kids called the neighbors, James and Nicholas, and told them to swing by early before school so they too could be on TV. Poor Luke. The poor guy is going to grow up thinking he is part of the Truman Show. Every morning when he wakes up he expects cameramen to run wires downstairs and producers to direct the kids to make him dance to ‘Rockin’ Robbin’ one more time. This time the Fox News Sunday team and Chris Wallace have made us this week’s ‘Power Player of the Week,” (for Mother’s Day). It’s a segment that runs at the end of Fox News Sunday (9 am Eastern on local Fox stations, repeated on Fox News Channel at 2 pm Eastern and 6 pm Eastern). I was shocked when I got the message. And then when Rose walked in with Luke and I introduced her to Chris, I told him, “This is the REAL Power Player of the Week.” To which he replied, “No, she is the Most VALUABLE Player.” So true. Tune in and see how Chris tries to make me cry when I talk about my kids (old TV trick for which I should have been prepared!)

Looking back the weeks after the mastectomy were a blur. In fact, the only way I know that it happened at all (because my brain has already neatly tucked those memories into a place of denial for which there fortunately is no key). On Monday I sat face to face with the young Saudi Arabian doctor, Wafa, who is doing her rotation with Dr. Shawna Willey - my brilliant breast surgeon at Georgetown. I showed her my breasts (I show everyone) - because they are so UNreal and I lost my privacy when I became a number in Georgetown’s medical recording system. (In fact, did I tell you there is another Jennifer Griffin in the Georgetown system who is 4 years older than me, also being treated for breast cancer and the only way they keep the two of us apart is because we have different birthdays? What are the odds? I must meet her someday. Tell me this isn’t an epidemic.)

I asked Wafa if she had been in my surgery. And she had. That’s weird. Because I don’t remember a moment of it. She said, ‘You went out quickly - really quickly.” I didn’t even have to count backwards. I told people beforehand I couldn’t wait to check into the hospital because I was SO tired and I couldn’t wait to meet my anesthetician (who by the way was named Dr. Jackson and explained to me that she would be giving me ‘propofol’ which had a ring to it because someone else famous by the name of Jackson used to use it to go to sleep at night and you know what happened next...) I went out fast, yes, because I was exhausted. I still can’t believe she was in the operating room and watching me be cut and lie there and I didn’t even know it. Weird. And corpse-like - like the guy who I had to share an elevator with on the way to PT in the bowels of Georgetown Hospital this week who was still unconscious from anesthesia, looked a little green and was snoring. I tried to wait for another elevator but he went down and then caught me on the way back up so I had to sneak past his dangling foot to pass into the elevator and stand there awkwardly with the orderly who was moving him somewhere.

Again, the only reason I know I had the mastectomy (because I really don’t remember it or the weeks afterwards) is that when I look for my jeans, they aren’t where I left them. My closets are so clean and my jeans have been stacked on the top shelf by a well-meaning Croat (Anamarija Muvrin) and it hurts for me to reach for them. (By the way, she also put all of my favorite exercise clothes on the top shelf just out of my reach.) The way I know that I am improving at Physical Therapy is that it hurts less and less to reach my arm up above my head to reach those jeans. (I can still punch, by the way - because that is a short jabbing action.)

Speaking of exercise, I still chuckle when I think of the kind e-mail that I received during my treatments (chemo, that is) from General David Petraeus back in March. He said that a little bird had told him I was nearing the end of my treatments. I thought, what a guy, with all that he has going on with CENTCOM, two wars and more than a few wounded warrior families to think of, the fact that he remembered this wounded warrior made me smile and warmed my heart. So I wrote a smirky little note back saying. “Thank you, sir. I am feeling great. In fact, I am in the best shape of my life. Let me know when you are up for a run and I will lap you around the Mall. Yours, Jennifer.” Well, less than 24 hours later his scheduling secretary had written me an e-mail trying to schedule that run at the end of April. Imagine my horror. I am in good shape for a CHEMO patient but not to run with CENTCOM CINC. So, fortunately, the run was around the time of my surgery so I bowed out gracefully and put it off for another day (and invited him to Pilates - but he said he was scared of the equipment. Scared?!) We all have our phobias!

Running without a bra was always mine.

Not anymore. The other day when I picked Annalise up from Girls on the Run after school and she dashed down the street after a friend and a friend’s mother and before I knew it, I was running after her. And before I knew it I felt light as a feather because my breasts weren’t moving. I could run and even without a bra my two rocks didn’t move a millimeter. I was so excited (and so liberated) that I kept running like Forrest Gump. I went home and got my iPod (won’t tell you which one) and ran down Massachusetts Avenue to Sheridan Circle (without a bra.) I felt like a million bucks.

“You have one chance....do NOT miss your chance to blow....this opportunity comes once in a lifetime.” (I have reverted to Eminem as I gear up for phase 3 - radiation. The tears flow just as readily but somehow don’t sting quite as much or last quite as long as in the beginning because I am starting to see the light at the end of this tunnel.)

It was so easy (running without a bra). I passed a woman riding her bike down the hill past the British Embassy. I just caught a glimpse of her t-shirt, which said “Race for The Cure.” A sign. Or a symptom of this epidemic.

It reminded me of another sign last fall that I saw on a lamp post when I ran my Mass Ave route one Saturday just after I was diagnosed - it was a mile marker for the Komen 3 day walk. And it said, “Don’t forget to stretch.” I have never bothered to stretch enough.

Exercise. Nutrition....

I tried to explain to Annalise (9) the other day why it was so important for her not to eat sugar (i.e. candy) on an empty stomach. (There is research suggesting Triple Negative breast cancer has something to do with shooting insulin levels.) She had just sneaked up to her room to steal from her ‘secret’ stash of candy. I intercepted her on the stairs. I sat her down and tried to explain to her and to disguise my fear and horror how with her body chemistry (which is so similar to mine) she shouldn’t eat candy on an empty stomach. I put it in terms she could understand. “You know how Nick Jonas has diabetes?” She nodded. “Well, he also can’t eat candy.” She nodded and looked at me as if I were a little nutty. And I said, “Sweetheart, I don’t mind if you eat candy after dinner when you have a full stomach.” I then added, “I will always be honest with you. I don’t want to scare you. But I will always be honest and please feel free to talk to me about boys, alcohol, drugs...” That’s when she cut me off with a very pre-teenage look and a raised finger. “Mom,” she said. “Stop right there. I will never drink alcohol, do drugs or abandon small puppies...” Puppies? Who ever said anything about puppies? That made me laugh and then I realized she was really too young for any of this talk. I realized I was getting ahead of myself. But I now see white sugar on the same plane for teenage girls as alcohol and drugs.

Monday I turn my body into Chernobyl. In the meantime, I will celebrate Mother’s Day with my kids and Greg and my mom, who lives nearby. (Not that everyday now isn’t Mother’s Day. This one will be particularly sweet.)

Happy Mother’s Day... and don’t forget to stretch.

Friday, May 7, 2010

My horoscope for May 6

The Washington Post May 6, 2010

TAURUS (April 20-May 20) You are unknowingly working with others to bring about a truly wonderful happening. By simply going where the energy moves you, you wind up in the perfect place, doing the perfect thing.

(I did not make this up - check Wednesday's Style section, if you don't believe me.)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Tattoo You

Tattoo You

It’s not the kind of tattoo that Jesse James’ girlfriend favored. This one is discreet - in fact there are two of them (my mom had five, but that was more than 10 years ago). They more resemble the subtle (or not so subtle) blue tattooed numbers that you might have seen at one point in time on the wrists of some cab drivers in New York two decades ago. The blue ink and serial number always remained emblazoned on their skin, forcing a certain generation of Holocaust survivors to “never forget”. You would see that tattoo sneak out from under a lifted sleeve. It would take your breath away because you knew you could never imagine what they had been through and survived. How did they survive?

My tattoo is just a dot - one in the center of my chest - the other under my arm near my right breast. They are permanent so the radiologist can know each of the 33 consecutive days (except weekends and holidays, I just found out) that I lie under their radiation beam - that I am lined up correctly - in the exact same position every time that I enter Sibley Hospital and put on those two hospital gowns. The first one that opens in the back and the second one to cover me modestly so that the first one covers me modestly. I lost my modesty long ago - after two Al Qaeda tumors took my body hostage for 6 months and I began showing EVERYONE my breasts. They suddenly weren’t breasts. They were the scene of a crime and became war zones. And I was proud to show anyone who cared to ask after we deforested and then rebuilt them. They’ve been through a lot. I don’t really feel like hiding them. (And they are so perfectly round right now - it’s freakish. Or as Rose’s friend, Susan said tonight - ‘they are like a teenager’. True - but bigger.

So I got my tattoos today. Some people said it hurt when the needle went in. Not after what I have been through. I am not even needle phobic anymore. (I also don’t have a lot of nerve endings in my chest anymore.) But no, it didn’t hurt. Again, not after what I have been through.

I start radiation on Monday. I had wanted to go to the beach with my kids the week after I finished - that is the same week they get out of school. But I was told that in fact I had miscounted on the calendar and that since the office is closed on Memorial Day (how scientific is this anyway - that you have to have X radiation in X days to mop up any leftover sneaky sleeper cells left in the tissue beneath your skin or in the lymph nodes but you can take the weekends and holidays off?) Nobody really has a good answer for that. But because of Memorial Day. And a few anticipated delays (possible burns from the intense radiation) I can’t book a beach house.

My days are still filled with doctors’ appointments. Usually, two a day. Follow-ups. Physical therapy - to get the range of motion in my arms back. Different doctors tell you different things about whether I can lift anything or drive. My plastic surgeon’s office says go back to Pilates and lift your 25 pound son. The stitches are healed. No damage can be done. Hmmn. That’s not what the physical therapist at Georgetown Hospital said a day after I had done just that: lifted Luke, pushed him in the stroller, put him to bed with a bottle and lifted him into his crib. I had even chased the little man around St. Albans’ field and lifted him up and down to pet his other favorite “Dogu” - the bronze bulldog that serves as the St. Albans’ mascot at the entrance to the field. Well, I could do it (don’t forget the Pilates). I was strong enough. But because I had no range of motion all of my pectoral muscles tightened up like an angry fist and you could see them stretched like tendons on the back of a chicken leg. I broke the bad news to Greg and Rose. One year old Luke is so confused that I didn’t bother telling him. But he’s noticed. I sometimes have to hide from him in my own house when he is with his baby sitter just so he doesn’t get upset and lift his arms and I can’t meet his needs. It breaks my heart.

He’ll be ok - as long as no one tries to bring him in from the park or the hose in the front yard. I on the other hand...

So slowly I lift my broom stick (not the one I usually ride) but the one Anamarija Muvrin disconnected from my mop and brought up from the basement to force me to do Croatian rehab. She counts and I have learned not to disobey. In fact I sometimes travel with my broomstick in the car so that just like last Saturday night when most Washington correspondents were at the “Prom” yucking it up with politicos and listening to President Obama upstage Jay Leno - I can do my rehab exercises. I did them at Andrea Wilson’s house with Der Fuehrer counting slowly in Croatian last Saturday night.

But it seems to be working. Amelia even videotaped me tonight as we watched American Idol (yes, I want Big Mike or Lee Dewyze to win) - and I had the stick halfway over my head - about twice as far as I had the week before. The third week after the mastectomy was the hardest - emotionally and in terms of pain and helplessness. No one is feeling sorry for you any more so no one offers you a cup of tea. Your emotions (the letdown from the surgery, the forced menopause the chemo puts you in). It all adds up to pain and sadness.

Then it gets better. But before it got better Anamarija and Andrea had to pick me up off the ground a few times. They didn’t listen to me when I said, “Don’t come over. I’m ok.” And instead found me in the shower - crying like a baby. I didn’t know they were there but I am glad they didn’t listen to me. We then proceeded to clean out all of my old make-up and decide which containers I really did want to keep and which I did not. My bathroom is so organized I can’t find a thing. All of my “Look Good...Feel Better” make-up has been taken carefully out of its boxes and put in neat rows and to good use. And some has been given to my friends because really who is going to wear baby blue eyeshadow or bubble gum pink blush (Andrea and Anamarija, I guess.)

And in my free time between appointments in which doctors give me contradictory advice (such as, ‘Go ahead - fly to Barbados’) and forget to tell me that I need a compression sleeve made to wear so that I don’t get lymphedema. Good thing I didn’t go to Barbados. My arm could have swollen up like a balloon. It’s like an Easter egg hunt gathering information again from my doctors. Lymphedema is serious but no one has really told me what I can or can’t do. They say, “Avoid the heat.” Where exactly does summer in Iraq or Afghanistan fall under category of “avoid the heat.” Or you can take a bath, but not a whirlpool. How about a jacuzzi - because my bathtub is one and I truly don’t know if I can ever put my arm in it again.

The news that Lynn Redgrave died on Sunday from recurrent breast cancer did nothing for my psychology. It took my breath away. Her cancer originally diagnosed seven years ago had also responded to chemo and ‘disappeared.’ I remember when Lynn’s book with her daughter Annabel’s photos of her going through chemo and her mastectomy arrived at my mom’s house. Annabel used to go to Nantucket with us. My mom got to know Lynn through the theater and when Lynn was working on “Shakespeare for My Father.” I didn’t pay much attention to the book. My mom’s approach to breast cancer had been different (a lumpectomy and radiation - a pretty easy kind - I never even saw her cry about it. It was caught early with a mammogram - in fact the mammogram had saved her life - and guess what? She hadn’t turned 50. So don’t listen to the guidelines.) But when I heard Lynn had died, it stopped me in my tracks, a reminder that even with a great pathology report you can never be sure, and with Triple Negative, my surgeon confirmed yesterday just before I heard Lynn’s news, the first 2 to 3 years are the most dangerous in terms of recurrence, even if there is no evidence of disease at the end of chemo. That’s the fine print.

I guess just like Hakimullah Mehsud (the resilient Taliban leader that US spy plane drones thought they had killed not once but twice now in Pakistan’s Tribal Areas - only to have him reemerge and give a press conference). Just like Hakimullah - you never know if this bad visitor is gone.

And so I picked myself up again today. Anamarija called me on her way to the airport back to her family and to Singapore. Neither of us could really say goodbye. We burst into tears at lunch the day before when she handed me back my car keys (she had been driving my car for the three weeks, taking me to appointments.) We made Andrea’s husband, Scott, take a picture of the three of us that night because I had been too vain to take a picture at lunch because I didn’t have any make-up on and I wasn’t going to have my picture taken with two blonds without a little make-up. I even managed to get Anamarija to Onder at the Four Seasons to get her hair colored and cut (in Singapore it costs $500!) and we met Eve there and she had a pedicure and then I asked Onder to cut her hair too. (I figured if I couldn’t get my hair done - missing the ritual - at least my friends could.)

And there are starting to be more ups than downs. For instance, I was able to go to Amelia’s ballet recital at her school (the Washington Ballet had been giving free lessons to the entire first grade at John Eaton school and Amelia looked like the little girl in my favorite book, “A Very Young Dancer.”) I have never seen anyone so proud. We took Luke (probably a mistake) because during the recital he saw a broom that the janitors had left behind and all he wanted was that broom - he loves to clean. The first graders did a beautiful performance and they combined a few things they had learned from their Chinese teacher. There was the expected dragon dance and a ribbon dance (which one parent misconstrued from his lisping daughter and was disappointed that it wasn’t “River Dance.) But you haven’t lived until you have seen an entire first grade class do the “hokey pokey” in Chinese. I have and I did.

Lynn Redgrave


To see how her daughter, Annabel, documented her breast cancer journey - click on the video on the site below.


My horoscope for today

The Washington Post May 4, 2010

TAURUS (April 20-May 20).
When you bite off more than you can chew, you put yourself at risk of choking. Take small bites today and you'll still get it all done. Cut your tasks into tiny chunks, and savor each one.

The Day of the Oaks

At Churchill Downs this weekend, Uncle Barry and all of his friends wore pink ties and ribbons in honor of my fight this winter. But since I had already won the lottery I couldn't pick the name of the winner - I'd used up all of my luck.

The Oprah series...and Fox News Sunday

Here is the link to the first two pieces that Oprah.com did on my approach to chemo and cancer. There is a great link on this page to a piece that Oprah did on Triple Negative a few years ago that they reposted with our series. Over the next few days they will post more of my interview. Check it out. I found the article on Triple Negative particularly interesting. They first traced it in a study of Nigerian women.


Also, this Sunday please tune into Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace has been kind enough to make me the "Power Player of the Week" and his team is coming to shoot Greg, me and the kids tomorrow morning. What a Mother's Day present! (Fox News Sunday appears at 9 am Eastern on your local Fox channel and is repeated on Fox News Channel at 6 pm Eastern. Check it out - especially if you want to see Luke chase his "Dogu" and dance to Shakira's "She Wolf" - his new favorite song!