Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Komen Gala Kennedy Center Saturday, Oct. 16

They made me feel like a rockstar. In fact, I even had a dressing room with my name on it backstage at the Kennedy Center. It was the Komen gala and I, as my friend Lila likes to say was a 'minor celebrity' (at least I could pretend as I put on my ballgown and ate from the spread they'd laid out for us in the Green Room. I sat and waited backstage and chatted with the likes of Carlos from Desperate Housewives (his mother died of breast cancer and two sisters were diagnosed in the past year - one with Triple Negative), Cynthia Nixon from Sex and the City (I told her how my girlfriends took me to see Sex and the City 2 on my last day of radiation in June), Olivia Newton-John, Lynda Carter (the real Wonder Woman) - all breast cancer survivors. Cynthia Nixon introduced me and I walked out on stage with the only person for whom I was really starstruck - Dr. Eric Winer of Dana Farber. I had stalked him during the past year. In fact, I was impressed how he remembered. I said I called you and he said, "I know - twice." Once at 11 at night. He had tried to talk me out of the double mastectomy after I had the complete pathologic response to the chemotherapy. He said I could get away with a lumpectomy. But that didn't sit right with me. Not in my gut. I wanted all of that tissue that tried to kill me (think of the t-shirt my friend Jennifer Patterson gave me knowing that I cover the Pentagon - "Get out of our racks!") I was not inclined to have to have mammograms in the future and to worry that the cancer could come back in the other breast. And besides as I stood next to him (he is not a tall man) wearing my sequined Nicole Miller strapless gown that only stood up as well as it did because of my very symmetrical and very large, almost perfect reconstruction, I wanted to say - see how wrong you were - even if medically he may have been right. He and I bantered onstage as we tried to educate the black tie crowd about how and why we must find a cure. Triple negative came up. Robin Roberts from ABC emceed and earlier in the day we had all been brought on stage to sing "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" in a somewhat "We are the World" kind of finale. Greg reminded me from his box seat, not to sing out loud (my family is constantly reminding me that I am not the next American Idol). But a girl can dream and it was the most fun I had ever had clapping and mouthing the words as Olivia Newton John and Lynda Carter belted out the words. I told Olivia how she had done a shout out to me at Greta's request during my treatment and that my kids had seen it as we watched when we were going through the depth of chemo. I thanked her for it. I did NOT tell her that I knew every word to Grease and that when we were kids we did a neighborhood production of Grease to raise money for Muscular Dystrophy and that I had to be Danny because I didn't have blonde hair and that Suzanne Schull had long hair and got to be Sandy. It was an amazing evening and most importantly my mom and sister Caitlin and my grandparents were there with me. I was given an award with other women in the media who had survived this scourge (Laura Ingraham, Robin Roberts, Anne Thompson, Jill Dougherty, Debra Chisholm. Andrea Mitchell). But the most memorable part of the evening was meeting Dr. Mary Claire King who discovered the BRCA1 and 2 genes. I handed her the Scientific achievement award, told her my family history at the brunch at the Italian Embassy the next day and she thinks she knows which of my my genes ("jeans") is broken. She plans to test me for CHECK2 - it could be a breakthrough for Triple Negative types like myself.