Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Will October ever end?

OK - I have been a bit paralyzed about updating my blog since I returned to work after Labor Day. I'll admit it. I am a perfectionist and I had so much to say that I just kept putting off my updates thinking that somehow I would get back in the swing of things, come home from work, get the kids in bed, get a second wind and tell you what it's really like going back to work after a year of treatment. I wanted to tell you what it felt like to take those first steps back through the Pentagon doors. I wanted to tell you how it took my breath away on that first day that I went to pick up my Pentagon pass which had expired. I walked through those doors - through the Metro entrance because I didn't have a pass. The fluorescent lights were the same. The squeaky clean overly polished floors had the same institutional feel. The walls closed in on me as I walked down the corridor back to the press hallway - the same hallway that I had left on a Friday, carrying my gunmetal gray Container store lunch pail, only to be told on a Monday, September 28, 2009 that I had stage 3 breast cancer. Now my hair was gunmetal gray, my resolve after a year of treatment was steely but my knees were shaking and I kept telling myself, if you just get back on the horse, it will be like riding a bike - or whatever the correct metaphor is. I figured if I went through the motions and told people I was psyched to be back at work then suddenly I might actually get psyched. Well, no such luck. I smiled and spent that Friday before Labor Day getting back into the groove just logging into my computer and trying to remember my passwords and telling Mik from NBC that yes I was really psyched to get back to work, even though it all seemed remote and difficult to get too worked up about. And how was I going to drop Luke at his first day at pre-school on Tuesday and then head in for 10 hours inside the Pentagon to my windowless pod which I have compared on more than one occasion to working on a submarine or being assigned to Gitmo - though there is more light at Gitmo. I spent the first week sneaking out to the courtyard for 20 minutes at a time to get some sunshine. Vitamin D3 - I am sure the absence of light inside the Pentagon contributed to my disease. Or maybe it was that microwave that Justin sits in front of, propped on top of the National Geographic atlas. No one had cleaned the mini-fridge since I had left on that Friday not to return on the Monday I was diagnosed. All that was there to remind me of those who had filled in were the salt packets that Steve Centanni had left behind from his many lunches at his computer. There was a new backdrop that they installed replacing the cardboard paper cut out that said "Pentagon" and looked like Annalise and Amelia had made for a school project. It was replaced with a new flat screen tv that played a fancy video graphic of the Pentagon that looked mighty fancy and was the envy of the CNN staff next door. Justin and Louis from ABC had installed a DVD that resembled a fish tank replete with the blub, blub, gurgle of such a tank. It was very relaxing, except it made me and Justin constantly fall asleep.

The stories hadn't changed nor had most of the spokesmen. There were the two wars, North Korea and Iran, China, cyber attacks, you name it, and it can fall under my beat. Take today for instance. I went to work thinking I was talking about Iran's invitation to talk with NATO in Rome, ended up covering that and a shooting that took place at the Pentagon - lockdown for 45 minutes until they found the 7 bullets - 4 of them lodged in the bullet-proof windows on the 3rd and 4th floor. And then just as I was catching my breath, the Pentagon announced that gays and lesbians could openly serve in the military. Don't Ask Don't Tell was suddenly suspended and this was just by noon.

I didn't get a chance to tell you how I spent my first week back at work crying everyday as I left Luke at preschool. He was not happy at all. It felt as if I were dropping him on a church step, leaving him in a basket for someone else to care for or arriving at a Romanian orphanage. He knew no difference and he and I wailed like it was a scene from Sophie's Choice. I nearly didn't make it. I nearly pulled him out of school, which would have marked him for life as a pre-school drop-out. Somehow I kept my wits about me, God knows what I said on the air each day. Annalise and Amelia got so teary dropping Luke at the pre-school catty corner to their school that we had to devise a system where they would walk on the opposite side of the street for the last block so that it wouldn't be so hard to say goodbye. Luke, we were told by Debbie and his teacher "Miss Vanessa", was having one hour of Spanish two times a week, which seemed a bit ridiculous since he didn't speak much English yet. On one of those early days back at work at the start of school, Amelia called very upset that Luke was still upset going to school. She said, "Mommy, Luke does not need to go to school. He does not need to learn Spanish. We don't even speak Spanish. He's going to learn a language that we don't even understand." She was adamant that this little social experiment, i.e. school, must end.

I held my ground. I knew things would get better, though I had to enlist Rose to drop him off because it was too traumatic - mostly for me.

And low and behold October began. And the pink came out. Last year I spent my first month of treatment surrounded by shop keepers who wanted to know if I wanted to buy something for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I told them "I'm aware." And that pretty much shut them up. There is only so much pink that a girl can stomach.

Anyway, the month is almost over and Greg and I leave for Jerusalem on Sunday. To take the Komen Race for the Cure to Jerusalem for the first time. Remind me to tell you about the Dream Ball, Living in Pink and this weekend's Komen Gala at the Kennedy Center in which I presented with Dr. Eric Winer from Dana Farber along with Cynthia Nixon from Sex and the City, and Ricardo Chavira who plays Carlos on Desperate Housewives. It turns out his mom died of breast cancer when he was 14. And his two sisters were diagnosed this year. One has Triple Negative. Olivia Newton John and Lynda Carter "Wonder Woman" sang. And we all sang Ain't No Mountain HIgh Enough at the end of the evening - though I lip synched and was told by my mom that I didn't know how to clap properly to the song. On Saturday, I am going to help lead a breast cancer walk in Alexandria (where I grew up.) And then we are off to Jerusalem. Wake me up when October [sic] ends....