Saturday, October 30, 2010

Race Day and Beyond...

I asked Dudi and Yonat to come by the hotel early before the race. We were staying at the David Citadel Hotel next to the King David and I had just finished having breakfast on the terrace overlooking the real David Citadel near Jaffa Gate. The Jerusalem stone literally seemed to float. I began lacing up my pink trimmed UnderArmour walking shoes and opened the envelopes that Komen had left - little pink notes that could be placed in the Western Wall, prayers for our sisters, prayers for the end of this scourge. The night before I had heard from Gary Zimmerman who had been given a tour of Haifa's Rambam Hospital where he had been told that there is currently a surge in breast cancer cases in Northern Israel. Why? My head began spinning - was it those 34 days during the Lebanon war that I spent on the border with Katyushas falling all around? Did that give me and others breast cancer? I had long thought that the stress of that period certainly may have contributed, in part. So much adrenalin. So little sleep. How much of this disease is environmental?

Anyway, the race was to begin at 12 noon at Sacher Garden - the same field where a bunch of ragtag journalists (myself and Greg included) used to play pick-up games of soccer on Saturday mornings (Shabbat) before the Intifada started in 2000 when we still had time on our hands. Those games got to be rough at times. A lot of aggression was taken out on the uneven playing fields as we all tried to still prove we had it - whatever it was. The competitive spirit was fierce.

I had to stop by Tsvi's before the Komen race began. After all, that is where I spent so many hours - the start of every day in Israel. A "cafe ha fukh" (Israeli latte) and a blow-out. We straightened and colored and highlighted my hair. It was a ritual. It's where I read the papers and transitioned from home and babies and diapers to work each morning. I saw Tsvi and Hanan more than I saw Greg in those busy years. I used to take Annalise in a Moses basket to Tsvi Michaeli's hair salon on Marcus Street just days after giving birth, so that I could feel myself again. I had to show him my new hair - silver and cropped. He patted my head as I walked down Marcus from our first apartment at Marcus Shteim (2 Marcus Street) above the Millers. Arnona, who was getting her toes done in the sunshine, squealed with delight when she saw me. Hanan and Tsvi and I hugged until all the years dissolved and it was as though I were living down the street, asking them to squeeze me in between clients.

But I digress. Dudi and Yonat indulged my need to stop by my other two Jerusalem apartments: Hagdud Ha Ivri - where Amelia was born and our last home - really a house on Mishmar Ha'am 22. The grass seed that Greg lay was still thriving and the pomegranate tree appeared to be well cared for. It is an old Arab style house with a garden. The number plate above the door was the same that I bought from the Armenian pottery place next to the American Consulate in East Jerusalem. It was as though we hadn't left. We snapped a few shots for the girls and went to the office.

The Fox bureau was still in JCS. And little did I know but the bureau had planned a surprise for me. Yonat had ordered t-shirts made that on the front said: "Fight like a Girl" and on the back said "Team Jennifer 2010." But I wasn't supposed to come by the office and see them. So Yonat called ahead and everyone, including Eli, took theirs off so that the surprise would not be ruined. I was oblivious. I kept wondering why they weren't walking with me to the race. It was about to begin. So I ran ahead. I did a few interviews and then I heard the announcer say, "Will Jennifer Griffin please meet her team by the stage?" That is when the bureau surprised me with the t-shirt. They were all wearing them and I put mine on over my pink Komen survivor shirt. It was amazing. Claudia Cowan, from the San Francisco bureau, joined us for the race with her girlfriends from Tel Aviv.

So many people who I had known in Jerusalem came out for the race. It was hard to even get started walking because there were so many people to hug. There were Lori and Marvin from my favorite bakery La Cuisine. I always bought my Shabbat sweets and cakes and quiches from La Cuisine. I especially loved and usually had to drive out to Talpiot to pick up the mini quiches that Lori made. After the babies were born I usually made my way over to Azza Street to see Marvin and satisfy my sweet tooth. Lori and Marvin were at the Race. Lori had breast cancer. We had never talked about it. She was still wearing her tell-tale lymphedema sleeve - the same one that I wore on the plane ride over. We hugged.

We started up the road. Israelis kept looking at our t-shirts and saying "Mizeh, Jennifer?" Everyone wanted one. We took over the streets and 7500 people wound their way through the narrow city streets and ended up next to Solomon's pools outside the Old City walls. Fox and Friends were nice enough to take us live. We used a fancy new technology to go live from a back pack while we were walking. It was amazing. And then suddenly I saw Oron Dan, son of my dear friend Uri Dan, who had written for the New York Post for years and was one of Ariel Sharon's closest friends. Oron was wearing a crisp pink shirt and we both sobbed when we hugged each other. Uri died of lung cancer in 2005. He had treated me like a daughter. Then there was Sharon who was very choked up as she explained to me that she had had breast cancer 5 years before but didn't know that it was Triple Negative until she read my blog - this blog - and asked her doctors and figured out that she was Triple Negative. She had brought a team. Their name…The Triple Negative team. Wow. That blew me away.

On stage at the end of the race was another survivor. Allen Wilson. Yes, he too had had breast cancer. Not once, but twice. Yes, ladies, men get this too. And Allen is bravely explaining that around the world. There is so much more to say but we got home and went straight to Amelia's gymnastics meet and Annalise's soccer game. And with jet lag it is now 5 in the morning. So good night and I will send another update tomorrow. Shabbat Shalom.