Wednesday, March 31, 2010

In case you missed it...

This is the link to Greta's interview with me On the Record tonight and also a link to the beginning of a 6 part series that Fox News Dot Com and Viewer Services did with me and my family about our breast cancer fight and Triple Negative. Please check it out when you have a moment.

I am going "On the Record with Greta" tonight!

Dear friends,
Get your air popper ready and your green tea brewed (or set your DVR - if you have a Nielsen box put it on all day :) Greta Van Susteren is interviewing me tonight on Fox about Triple Negative breast cancer, how we as a family have gotten through the last 5 months, 17 rounds of chemo and are gearing up for a double mastectomy on Tuesday. I'll share whatever I've learned to help others get through chemo and how to talk to your kids when you get this annoying diagnosis. Tune in at 10 pm Eastern tonight - you may even get to see me do Pilates bald - now that is Must See TV!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Must See TV

I'm guilty of it. You are guilty of it (though I have never made pizza for my kids for breakfast!) Jamie Oliver is trying to revolutionize how our kids eat. Let him. I know I am personally horrified when I look in our children's packed lunches at school. It's mostly processed, packaged food. I'll admit. I am guilty. This must stop. Watch this clip:

Sunday, March 28, 2010

You are what you eat!

* There are 500 new breast cancer cases a day diagnosed in America, 192,370 cases diagnosed a year and more than 40,000 women will die of breast cancer this year (I would describe this as an epidemic - 1 in 3 women will be diagnosed in her lifetime!)

* Survivors have a 200-600 percent chance of developing a second cancer compared to others. (That's why I am getting the double!)

* Low Vitamin D3 levels (the vitamin we get from sun exposure) can increase your chance of getting breast cancer by 70 percent. One study found low D3 led to a 200 percent chance of your cancer progressing and 73 percent greater risk of death. Get your D3 tested now - it is a simple blood test and if it is below 50ng/mL do something about it - now. Test it a few times a year. You need 50 percent of your body in the sun for 30 minutes a day.

* Studies show diets high in sugar (processed sugar and high glycemic index) cause spikes in insulin and stimulate tumors to grow and can contribute to breast cancer - especially Triple Negative.

* Drinking alcohol increases your risk of breast cancer. One drink a day increases your risk by 7 percent. Alcohol increases your estrogen. A study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology found that survivors who have one or more drinks per day have a 90 percent - 90 percent! increased risk of recurrence. Medicinal marijuana, anyone? Darn.

* When you get a mammogram and they say you have "dense breast tissue" you could be at a greater risk.

* Eat: raw carrots - Harvard researchers have found young women who eat 2 or more servings of carotenoid-rich fruits and vegetables (oranges, broccoli, carrots, romaine lettuce and spinach) had a 17 percent lower risk of breast cancer.

* Green tea consumption may reduce your breast cancer risk by up to 53 percent. 2 - 4 cups a day. Make a pot - and drink it cold too in summer. Univ of Southern Cal found green tea lowered breast cancer risk by up to 53 percent.

* A few apples a day may keep breast cancer at bay - eat them with skins.

* High fiber foods lower your risk by 42 percent.

* Omega-3 oils from salmon (wild caught only please) reduce your risk by up to 94 percent.

* Flaxseed may reduce risk by 54 percent, according to recent studies - eat your lignans! Chia count too.

* 2 ounces - just half a handful - of walnuts per day reduces your risk.

* Pomegranates - of which we had a beautiful tree in the yard of our Jerusalem home - may reduce breast cancer risk by up to 87 percent, according to another recent study.

* We all know about broccoli and cancer hates cabbage! Broccoli actually kills cancer cells, according to some studies.

* A low-glycemic index diet may lower your risk by 253 percent - extra stored fat produces estrogen - glycemic foods cause a cascade of hormones. Eliminate now: desserts, candies, cakes, sweets, sodas, ice cream (ugghh!), white bread, sugar, honey, jelly and alcohol - yep, alcohol. You may ask, "Why live?" But I can tell you there is truth to this.

All of this information has been compiled by Dr. Aaron Tabor, Winston-Salem NC
For more information, read Dr. Aaron Tabor's book: "Fight Now: eat and live proactively against breast cancer"
or e-mail him at:

Love is patient and kind...

While Annalise sweat, Greg finished editing our book on Jerusalem (tentatively titled: "Jerusalem: A Love Story"), Amelia continued working on her flips at MarvaTots, I went to Courtney Jewell's (St. Agnes Class of '87) and Brian Beveridge's wedding (SSS Class of ?? - let's just say some accused him of robbing the cradle.) Courtney was 4 years old when he and his high school friends came to her house in Belle Haven to paint one summer way back when! That was then...

Four generations run for a cure...

My sister Cassie's sorority ZTA at UVa in Charlottesville held a 5K run for a Breast Cancer Cure this Saturday. My grandmother, Loyce Johnson, my mother, Carolyn Griffin, and 8 year-old Annalise Myre and friend Ella Cain ran for a cure. My mother is a survivor and my grandmother survived Non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Annalise ran the 5K in 32 minutes and 17 seconds - the fastest in the children's group. ("Remember, Mom, we don't play for a tie.") She was wearing the pink t-shirt that said "Team Griffin" on the back sent to us from the students at Wadsworth High School in Akron, Ohio where my mom's best friend, Anne Mellinger has been sending us lots of love. Go team!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Get one and get one for your sister...

As most of you know I have begun working as an ambassador for Susan G. Komen for a Cure. I told Pam Stevens last week that they needed to adopt the slogan - "Don't let 50 be the new 40" as a push back against the new guidelines that mammograms only start at age 50....Komen is also planning the first Race for a Cure in Jerusalem on October 28 - a perfect marriage after all of our years in Jerusalem and my current passion for a cure. I plan on being there and I plan to take my daughters. If you have a sister, order this book for yourself and for her. If you ever thought one person couldn't make a difference, think again.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

An enviable life...

My mom has always liked to send me obits. She always had a pile of clippings waiting for me when I walked through the door of 500 N. View Terrace - our childhood home. I would groan but I would always enjoy reading them. She would quiz me and my siblings assuming that we did not read them. She clipped for each of us according to our interests and always with a point. Her obsession was not morbid by clipping the obituary. It was to say, "That was a life worth living." I came across this obit tonight and it took me aback because Margaret Moth had been a familiar face in the field whether we were in Jerusalem or Pakistan. I think I first saw her in Iran traveling with Christiane. I doubt she knew who I was. She had made a name for herself in Bosnia, a war that I didn't cover. Among the first female cameramen, she died today of colon cancer at age 59 - 18 years after many thought she wouldn't survive a sniper shot to the face in Sarajevo.

The Radio And Television Correspondents' dinner

With my gals and my wingman, Justin Fishel, Pentagon producer extraordinaire. And with Geraldo and wife Erica Levy.
(Courtesy: Jenna Gibson, Heidi Noonan and Fishbowl DC)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Is this our Herceptin???

Breakthrough in Triple Negative targeted therapy in St. Louis (nice because that is where Greg grew up!)
This could be the Herceptin or Tamoxifen that those with Triple Negative have been waiting on.

Eat your turmeric and curries...

Turmeric spice seems to be the enemy of Triple Negative recurrence.

Here is the complete study:

The original article is from a great site run by Dr. Aaron Tabor in Winston-Salem, North Carolina with daily breast cancer news updates. Check it out.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

One to Grow On

Saturday, March 13, 2010

2 AM and I'm still awake, writing a song
If I get it all down on paper, it's no longer inside of me,
Threatening the life it belongs to
And I feel like I'm naked in front of the crowd
Cause these words are my diary, screaming out loud
And I know that you'll use them, however you want to

But you can't jump the track, we're like cars on a cable,
And life's like an hourglass, glued to the table
No one can find the rewind button now
Sing it if you understand.
and breathe, just breathe
woah breathe, just breathe,
Oh breathe, just breathe,
Oh breathe, just breathe.

-Anna Nalick

“Luck be a lady, tonight.” I felt like I was standing in front of the roulette table and had put all my money on lucky 7 - in fact, it ended up being lucky 13 - March 13 - the day of my last chemo, for real. As I got dressed that morning and waited for my friend Christine Spolar to pick me up in her Zip car, I dressed assuming we would stop by Georgetown hospital, my blood levels would be too low, we’d be turned away and we would go for a bite to eat in Georgetown. (After all, my absolute neutrofil had been in the .7 danger zone just two days before and my oncologist Dr. Claudine Isaacs had humored me by letting me ‘try again’, even asking a favor of the lovely Harella on 5N who schedules chemotherapy. The chemo nurses still remembered me and were part of my cheering section so it wasn’t a hard sell. Harella bent the rules and allowed them to give chemo in the infusion ward on a Saturday, even though they usually don’t.) I wanted to slip in before surgery the carboplatin that we had missed - to whack these tumors back into the Stone Age - one for good luck and one to grow on.

Dr. Isaacs knew I meant business when she called me on Thursday as I ate my vegetarian sushi lunch at Georgetown’s Epicurean with the bad news about my blood levels and options. She said she’d call me back, but instead with tears in my eyes, I e-mailed her back that I would be waiting for her at the bottom of the stairs in Lombardi’s lobby IF she wanted to talk in person. I set up camp and waited (not too long) and grinned as she poked her head down the staircase. “You can see how I used to knee-cap four-stars in the Pentagon hallways,” I said with a grin. I knew their schedules, anticipated their movements and intercepted them when they least wanted to see or hear from me.” She said, “I have learned that you must have been a very good reporter.” I told her she was, unfortunately, on the receiving end of a journalist with a little too much time on her hands and only one story.

So when Chris Spolar and I arrived at Georgetown 7N, the weekend chemo ward, it was slightly different from my experience downstairs - though Jennifer the traveling oncology nurse who I knew had a crush on Shepard Smith greeted me warmly and got me started. She has served in hospitals all over the country from Cedars Sinai in L.A., where one oncologist wouldn’t even treat breast cancer patients if they wouldn’t agree to exercise seriously. (That's so California.) Jennifer served at the Mayo Clinic and other well-known cancer centers. She has whispered to me the secrets of variations on treatment at all the different hospitals.

If you want to know the truth about reactions to therapies, which drugs work best, which protocols are handled best by the patients, you ask a nurse. (No disrespect meant to Claudine, or Eric or Lisa or the other wonderful doctors who have helped me.) The nurses have seen it all. They will tell you to put 97 percent pure Aloe Vera on your skin right after radiation so that you don’t get burned. Pack it on with gauze pads. The doctors don’t always share these friendly tips. Jennifer, who normally lives in North Dakota, scowled when I said I was getting carbo a few weeks before my surgery - thought it was risky that my blood levels wouldn’t be up in time for surgery on April 6 and didn’t think that my blood levels would be up today. She has hinted all along that in her experience patients can handle carbo in smaller doses on a weekly basis as opposed to a higher dose every 3 weeks, which I was getting. It often interferes with the schedule of treatment, she told me, because it brings the blood levels down so far. She may have been right. She also told me if she were diagnosed with cancer she would go back to North Dakota to be treated. I was surprised since she had been at all of the best hospitals in the country, but she said in her experience the hospitals in the smaller towns are more willing and able to do cutting edge aggressive treatment because they aren’t as constrained by protocols. Interesting. In Wyoming where she had been a nurse, all the Triple Negative breast cancer patients she said were getting AC plus taxol plus carboplatin. Huh? I told her I thought we were being so out of the box and cutting edge. We were, but so were the doctors in Wyoming (not, mind you, at Sloane Kettering or Dana Farber or UNC where they SAID they wouldn’t have given me carbo outside of a clinical study.) Interesting.

I knew it was good news when she returned quickly from the lab and held up the paper with my blood levels. The white cell count was underlined in yellow highlighter 3.0. Absolute neutrofil 1.9. Nothing could stop me now. Except perhaps the pole that I had to push with me that had the chemo drips attached. I drink so much water to keep my system clean the day of the chemo that I have to get up and go to the bathroom every few minutes. That requires unplugging the chemo machine and taking it with me. Greg used to look all too gleeful when he would pull the plug. I told him that is why he does not have power of attorney. Annalise piped in when we were arguing soon thereafter over nothing important, “You need the Marriage Ref!” Perhaps we all do.

Looking back through this process, I realized that there were a lot of signs along the way - propitious ones that made me think someone was looking down on me and smiling and that while it has been a very good life, it wasn’t over. There was the day my friend Jill Kamp, who used to teach me and my friends acting when we were awkward teenagers, came over and prayed very hard with me at the beginning of this journey. In those days I was running on adrenalin and telling everyone I was going to be fine. I had Luke on one hip and he was getting restless and she came right up into his face and began singing “Tulalulalula...It’s an Irish Lullaby.” I started crying because it reminded me of my Dad. Luke stopped his squirming and was transfixed. It reminded me of the picture I still have clear as day of Jill and my mom stamping the mailing for MetroStage - then called American Showcase Theater Company - with baby Cassie lying across Jill’s knees face down and Jill was putting the stamps on the letters that were balancing on Cassie’s diaper while bouncing her on my mom’s front stoop.

On this day last October, Jill followed me upstairs to my bedroom where she wanted to hold my hands and pray. We sat on the edge of my bed and Jill prayed like a warrior. Suddenly, we heard a huge crash outside in our back garden. Our entire brick wall that separates our yard from the Nepalese Ambassador's residence had crumbled. There had been a light rain but no branches fell. No lightning. The wall simply crumbled. We looked at each other. From that point forward we called it our “Jericho Wall.” “And the walls came tumbling down....” (John Cougar Mellencamp) I didn’t even hear the shofar. Jill said God would always use big signs to speak to me because after all I am really Jewish (after years of being in the Holy Land and being somewhat stubborn.) It did make me stop and think. Then there was that one day waiting to get my blood work done in Lombardi the day before chemo - should have been a simple in and out - but it was taking FOREVER as per usual - and that was before the snows paralyzed Washington. I saw a Gideon’s Bible in the waiting room. I picked it up and looked up the story of Joshua (who also happens to be my Pilates' instructor's name) and Jericho (where we spent many a weekend with the kids and their friends while living in Jerusalem). Thought I should refresh my memory since I now had a pile of bricks in my backyard and it was going to cost a cool $10,000 to fix the mess. Sign or no sign. As I read Joshua, my Dad’s dear friend Neal McCoy came in for blood work behind me. I hadn’t seen him and his wife Cathy in years.

There is also no coincidence that "Souper Girl" who brings me soup every Tuesday night thanks to my foodie friends, is the daughter of my deceased father’s favorite law partner. Her parents were at my wedding. And then there was the time in Lombardi when I looked up at the monitor and there was a nature video playing and suddenly a soundbite from Nisar Malik - a dear friend from when we lived in Pakistan - whom we called Cookie. He had been a producer for ABC and then I guess reinvented himself as a conservationist and was speaking in this video about the spotted leopard. He reached me by Facebook not long thereafter - I hadn’t spoken to him in more than a decade, but he found me. Greg and I smiled when we saw his face in the monitor smiling out at us as we waited in the oncology waiting area.

Then the day of my appearance on the Today Show turned out to be the 20th anniversary of Mandela’s release from Robben Island, my first real news story as a self-proclaimed journalist (at that point I didn’t even play one on TV). I was just a college student and used my Harvard student ID (and a little Hutzpah to get through any security checks along the way.) Greg and I were in our early courting phase there together in Cape Town that historic day when Nelson Mandela walked to freedom after 27 years. Will never forget it and will never forget being in Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s back yard when Mandela gave his first press conference. February 11 also brings me to another coincidence that is not a coincidence. Out of nowhere I heard from a college friend, Mike Patterson, who in a strange twist has an aunt - his mother’s sister who is a dear friend of our family friend Barry Roy. Mike had just put together the connection with his aunt Jody about the family connection. Mike, who was from California and had been very cute in college, sent me the most heartfelt note via Facebook about how he had seen the Today Show appearance and after a number of nostalgic memories from college, he told me that February 11 had been his mom’s birthday. She, I knew, had died of breast cancer shortly before we all started college together. He never got over it - I could see it in his eyes.

Then there are all of the holidays that passed since we started this hellish and very bald journey (you saw the picture of Izzy on the blog - shaved by her groomer because we never brush her - nearly as traumatized as I was when Onder shaved my head for the first time.) We are now in a race to see whose hair grows back quickest. Actually, if I had listened to Izzy - she was always very protective of me during my pregnancy and when Luke was first nursing. She would bark and growl at anyone who came near to us. I thought she was protecting Luke, but since I have weaned him, she still barks at anyone who tries to get close to me and she has been so sad and sickly looking since I started treatment. I swear she is a tumor-sniffing dog. You hear about them. I should have listened better.

Back to the holidays: Halloween - one of my favorites, except now I can’t eat those little mini Reese’s cups or Nestle Crunches that I loved (new health kick, you know). Halloween was the only day that I had to go to the Emergency room to check for possible pneumonia. I’ll never forget the girls coming back from their trick or treating and I looked like Herman Munster and they counted 119 pieces of candy a piece from their Halloween haul on my bedroom floor. They were so wired on chocolate and sugar that they were levitating. Then I stayed up late one night doing the most elaborate Valentine’s with the girls when I would have so much preferred hugging my pillow. Amelia piped up, “Mommy, you have NO idea how important this holiday is to me.” That’s why I was still sitting up clipping doilies.

Perhaps the most vivid memory - that now is a bit haunting given my mammary obsession - was when I went to meet my friend Juliette for a quick sushi lunch up on Wisconsin. Sushi Ko. I was in a hurry - running a tad late as usual. I rounded the bend and opened the door to the restaurant next door. A pulsing beat was coming from behind the door. I squinted coming in from the light to a darkened bar. It was Good Guys, a strip club two blocks from my house and two doors down from Whole Foods. I thought it was like Five Guys - a burger joint. It turned out it did specialize in meat. But instead had topless women hugging poles on the bar. Realizing my mistake, I turned on my heals and went next door to Sushi Ko. Perhaps I should have stayed to research my "reconstruction" options. But I was running late.

When I got back home from Georgetown Hospital after my last chemo (really this is the last, no more superstition, no more Murphy’s law - I am done...because I said so) I eventually crawled into my bed and flipped on the TV. Not much on on a Saturday night but “Top Gun” was replaying. Took me back to high school but also back to one of my first assignments at the Pentagon - flying with the Thunderbirds and pulling 7.1 Gs and throwing up all over the cockpit and for hours afterward while a remote dashboard video camera captured the whole thing for broadcast on Fox News. Thank God I have not had a single day of nausea since chemo began. Really a miracle since I threw up so much flying with the Thunderbirds.

Top Gun was the perfect antidote to chemo...the cocky bravado of the flyboys with the catchy call signs. “Tower, this is Ghost Writer, requesting a flyover?” “Negative, request rejected.” We all know what happens next. Greg has been my Goose. I just hope he survives in the end. He’s been a good wingman, even if he has blocked tear ducts.

I wouldn’t have survived this period without the 80s to serve as my running soundtrack (sorry Greg Scholl, there was some back sliding even though you sent me that great iPod filled with Indy tunes. Tom Waits and co. were just too depressing after a while - I told Greg not to tell you I still occasionally listened to my OLD iPod with all of my cheesy anthems. Others have picked up on my need for the 80s soundtracks. Catie (Meyer) Peterson sent me a homemade 80’s mix yesterday. To which I wrote back to her:

Dear Catie,
Thank you so much for the CD.
I am still an 80s gal. Love the songs you chose - like a scrap book. I have a story for almost each track: Back in the High Life reminds me of Courtney Jewell and Steve Frambes and playing quarters at beach week. Radio Free Europe reminds me of Sarah Williams going onstage and kissing Michael Stipe at some movie theater where REM was playing before anyone knew who they were - they were opening for the Police that week and we had tickets to both. Of course, I think Stipe is gay, but I think Sarah almost turned him. Alison - reminds me of Rob Lindsey and when we came home late from an Elvis Costello concert and my parents were furious. Black Coffee in Bed - which I am having right also so Sarah Williams' house on Pegram Street - as is Annie Get Your Gun. Fast Car - Tracy Chapman and Harvard Square with Lila - not that we saw Chapman there but she started off busking there and it always reminded me of her when I walked to class and stopped at Au Bon Pain for a ham and cheese croissant on the way to class (I didn't drink coffee then and those microwaved croissants probably gave me cancer.) Grateful Dead will always only remind me of Episcopal boys and UVa. Van Morrison - an Episcopal party at some random house on Russell Road - weird. Yaz - freshman year of college - living in total squalor in Wigglesworth H with Ceci Kurzman and Gretchen Peters and Frances Hu. Joe Cocker - saw him stand up at some random bar in NYC during some visit to our NY roommates one Christmas and now my son Luke looks like Joe Cocker when he dances barrel-chested - I don't think he is doing drugs yet. Solsbury Hill - Peter Gabriel - favorite song ever - reminds me of Sarah W probably because she and Rob Lindsey listened to it and liked it before I stole him away from her ;) Or maybe it was when she went to Spain for the summer and fell in love with Tuck Grinnan. Can't remember. Solsbury Hill takes me back to my favorite movie from that period “Birdy” with Matthew Modine and Nicholas Cage. I sat next to Matthew Modine at the White House Correspondents' dinner last year and told him how much I loved Birdy. He does a lot of good work for Wounded Warriors so he’s a good guy.

Then Della Pace Patteson shows up with her brood last night and she and husband John had taken every song referenced in my blog and put it on two CDs. It is now the official soundtrack to this horror flick.

That being said, life is sweeter having lived and felt as deeply as I have through the years. Perhaps that is why I chose Velvet Underground and Niko to quote on my senior page in high school: “I’ll be your mirror - reflect what you case you don’t know....” On and on.

But if I had to choose one anthem for my 40th year it would have to be “The Climb.” It always brings me to my knees - not in any small way because I first heard Miley sing it live at the Kids’ Inaugural last year and since I was so pregnant with Luke, Fox didn’t give me much of a role in the real Inaugural - too cold and they were so worried I would go into labor and then be stuck unable to get to the hospital - so I warmed the bench. But I got to go to the Kids’ Inaugural. Miley and Hannah Montana will always have a warm place in my heart because when I flew to Pakistan in the hours after Benazir Bhutto was assassinated, I had to return the next week because I had pulled major strings to get Hannah Montana tickets for the girls. (Thanks, Cec.) So when President Musharraf’s office called to say I could have an interview on Monday (the day of the Hannah Montana show) I said, “No, thank you.”
Now her songs run like a soundtrack in my head wherever I go, especially The Climb. And what a climb it has been - still clinging to the precipice with bloodied knuckles, but I now have some great Aloe Vera and I know they (I'll) eventually heal.

I can almost see it

That dream I am dreaming

But there's a voice inside my head saying
"You'll never reach it"

Every step I'm taking 

Every move I make feels

Lost with no direction

My faith is shaking

But I gotta keep trying

Gotta keep my head held high

There's always gonna be another mountain

I'm always gonna wanna make it move

Always gonna be a uphill battle

Sometimes I'm gonna have to lose

Ain't about how fast I get there

Ain't about what's waiting on the other side

It's the climb

The struggles I'm facing

The chances I'm taking

Sometimes might knock me down

But no, I'm not breaking

I may not know it

But these are the moments that
I'm gonna remember most, yeah

Just gotta keep going

And I, I got to be strong

Just keep pushing on

'Cause there's always gonna be another mountain
'm always gonna wanna make it move

Always gonna be a uphill battle

Sometimes I'm gonna have to lose

Ain't about how fast I get there

Ain't about what's waiting on the other side

It's the climb...

Izzy and Me

Izzy the Cockapoo, a.k.a. my tumor sniffing dog who hasn't left my side since I got diagnosed, had a bad experience at the groomer who opted to shave her body because she had become so matted. I tried to console her by telling her I knew how she felt. Izzy and I are now in a race to see whose hair grows back first. Vegas odds are on me!

My horoscope today

Washington Post March 14, 2010
TAURUS (April 20-May 20) Timing is everything. You have felt a shift coming, but you haven't known what form it was going to take. Here it is now, and it couldn't have come at a better moment.

Amen. (Had my very last chemo yesterday - against the odds and at the surprise of my doctors. My blood levels rose from a .7 to 1.9 in just two days. Farewell to chemo, though it has been a good friend through all of this. I'll miss you - but not too much.)

Friday, March 12, 2010

Hello, Kitty

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Well I guess I don’t have Stockholm Syndrome anymore because I am starting to hate my captors. (I am currently plotting a David Rohde-style escape). The secretaries in my oncologist’s office have all changed. Janet Nihan - her nurse coordinator who arranged for my meds and ran interference with the health insurance company - went to transplants. Shelly, who always greeted me with a smile at the check-in desk at Lombardi, was off today and no one knew who I was when I went in search of orders to get my blood drawn. It didn’t help that I had fasted since the night before to get my cholesterol levels for my cardiologist (as if I will ever die from a heart attack - not my genetic propensity right now - never had a cholesterol problem, never will.) So I was hungry, dehydrated and cranky from the fasting and all I tasted were chemicals in my mouth from residual chemo. The friendly smiles and upbeat ‘what can we do to make you more comfortable while you get through this’ - gone.

That morning I had put on my meanest pair of stiletto boots, my rockin’ 1969 blue jeans (which I bought at the beginning of this journey because after pregnancy my Paige and True Religions weren’t fitting quite right). The 1969s were a reminder of the year of my birth, after all, and must have SOME coincidental meaning - though I don’t believe in coincidences - they really are ‘signs’. Now I need a belt to hold them up. I am also wearing my sister Caitlin’s cable knit cashmere turtle neck sweater that fits like a glove because I am meeting my plastic surgeon today and I don’t want him to make any mistake that I don’t want a nice set of breasts when this is done. I am not going to survive this hell and then NOT retain a few of my feminine curves. In fact I want them to be a bit “in your face” when this is all over. “Go big or go home,” that is what Caitlin tells me Georgia Bulldog fans say about everything.

So I guess when I walked into Georgetown Thursday to get my blood work drawn somehow I didn’t look like a cancer patient anymore and I got the same cold, real world “who do you think you are, lady” reception that you get when you aren’t ‘sick’ anymore. I was suddenly a member of the cold, real world. I guess that’s good. Certainly, no one was feeling sorry for me. In fact it made me laugh. Ha - that’s good. No more nostalgia about leaving this place and my weekly date with the chemo ward. The receptionists who didn’t know me kept looking at me skeptically when I asked for parking vouchers or to page Dr. Isaacs’ assistant. They kept saying, “Are you a patient here?” My sense is they have already moved on to the really tough cases. Not a bad thing. Mine is looking somewhat garden variety at this point.

But I had the wind knocked out of me as I was waiting for my blood work and looked over at the parents taking their children into the children’s oncology section. I overheard one father stop his pig-tailed little girl at the door where a large stuffed cookie monster holding a balloon awaited the children before they went inside. He stopped her and said in a firm voice, “You are going to see some kids in here who don’t have any hair and who look sick. They are not like you. You are brave. Ready?” To which she nodded. His tone was a bit hard hearted and cruel, I thought. I also thought, thank God it is me who is going through this and not my children. Later in the day I saw the child walking out following two steps behind her father clinging to the roll of stickers that they had given her to “feel better.” She did look brave.

In terms of my own “treatment” I don’t want to give the impression that I am not grateful or that I am taking anything for granted. In fact on the cancer front, the news continues to be good. When I went to see my surgeon Dr. Shawna Willey on Monday they did a mammogram and a psonogram. The humorless, petite Asian radiologist kept putting more and more K-Y jelly on my breast in the darkened examination room lit only by the fluorescent monitor of the psonogram. I held my breath. She kept saying without enthusiasm and without looking me in the eye, “Well, I don’t see anything”. She kept pressing harder and turning the head of the psonogram probe that really has a similar feel to a cold roll-on deodorant. She repeated over and over again. “I don’t see anything.” As though she were disappointed. She would say, “Here is the titanium clip from your biopsy.” She would push and twist the ultrasound head across my breast one more time. I apologized to her that my underarms smelled a bit since I no longer wear deodorant since getting diagnosed - fearing the aluminum or whatever anti-perspirant does to block the ducts under your arm where your lymph nodes are might contribute to breast cancer. And I haven’t had time to get the crystal stick that everyone says is a natural healthy deodorant option from the health food store.

She said it again, “I don’t see anything.” And for the third time, I said, “That’s good, right?” To which she still refused to answer. I nearly rose up and shook her by the shoulders to say just a little louder, “THAT’S GOOD, RIGHT?” Six weeks ago when we did this procedure, Dr. Willey had found a 1.2 centimeter by 7 mm tumor - and the second tumor was visible but much smaller. The MRI had shown something similar last week but I am told MRI’s have some false positives and pick up a lot of different ‘things’. The MRI was good shrinkage but not the complete response that I had set as a goal in my head. Did they not know by now I was a perfectionist? And that even a large percentage shrinkage wasn’t good enough. That’s the same reason that I didn’t apply to back-up schools when applying to college. I don’t accept second best. Didn’t they know that?

The psonogram screen looked exactly like the one that you look at when you first find out you are pregnant. I remember the first time Greg and I sat in the small examination room at Hadassah, Mount Scopus in Israel looking down over the Dome of the Rock and the old city of Jerusalem and staring at the ultrasound screen as we were awaiting Annalise’s arrival. Like all anxious first parents we had no idea how overwhelmed with emotion we would become when we looked at that first image of the heart beating on the screen. Tears rolled down my cheeks then - just as they did this time as the radiologist looked for the tumor in my breast. I looked harder and harder at what is usually a Rorschach test on the psonogram screen. But now I was a pro about what to look for and it wasn’t the baby heartbeat and kidney shaped fetus that I normally like trying to imagine on these machines. This was an alien inside me - except now it was hiding. And like Freddie Kruger I wasn’t convinced it was really gone. I demanded that the humorless radiologist take her K-Y jelly and squirt it under my armpit and check the lymph nodes. She said, “But, but Dr. Willey didn’t ask that they be checked.” She knew I wasn’t joking and that I didn’t want to have to do the exam myself so she got the jelly. Lymph nodes normal.

And some of you may be saying, “Wait a minute, I thought you had your last chemo?” To which I will remind you, I am Irish and I warned you about Murphy’s Law. There was one carboplatin treatment that we were trying to sneak in before surgery and it was scheduled for today (Friday). We’ll try again tomorrow. And if that doesn’t work we will try again on Tuesday. “Give me the carbo and no one gets hurt.” Kapeesh?

Amelia is already a pro and helping me with the neupogen shots (to get my blood levels up.) She gets the rubbing alcohol, the cotton balls and the Hello, Kitty band-aids out and lines them up on the side of my bathtub. Annalise gets scared when she sees the red bio-hazard red disposal unit where we store the used needles so that we can return them to the hospital (because it reminds her of when she got a flu shot). Amelia hands me the band-aid when I have finished the slow burning injection so that I can remember which side I put it in on so that the next night I can use the fleshy part of the other leg.

The crazy thing about this week is that during most of it, I was on a high. I started out on Monday at the “MORE Reinvention Convention” - an event sponsored by MORE magazine where stylish women in power suits kept asking me where I got my hair cut. Ha! (“It’s a wig” I would whisper to them as if I were letting them in on my secret and laugh.) I was the guest of my friend Geralyn Lucas (former 20/20 producer who wrote the best-selling “Why I Wore Lipstick to My Mastectomy”) whose book title pretty much sums it up. She lay the ground work a decade ago for us young breast cancer patients who still wanted to feel pretty and look sexy through this ugly process. She taught us to fight back against a disease that does it’s very best to steal all of your femininity and beauty. Within minutes Geralyn had worked me through the crowd and the indomitable Pam Stevens, who had started at America’s Talking, worked as a booker at Fox, then for Larry King, then at the State Department and now heads communications for the Komen for a Cure folks, gave me a huge hug out of nowhere. Before we knew it we were brainstorming about how to do more with Komen in Israel where many women have the same propensity for Triple Negative as I do (and let’s not forget the young African American women in this country who have a 3 times greater likelihood of getting Triple Negative than even young mothers like me.) Boom - then I turned around and there was Louanne Rourk, the National Director of Look Good...Feel Better, who I was scheduled to have lunch with the next day. Nobody could get a word in we were all talking over each other and so fast. Next week I am meeting the folks from Under Armour to help them design caps and upper body camisoles for chemo and mastectomy patients. Perhaps we’ll add a zipper because I am told it is a good number of weeks before you can really lift your arms and put a shirt over your head again. Under Armour has a “She’s a Fighter” campaign and they are also designing gear for the military so that when they deploy they have “Under Armour” to go with their “Body Armor.” The same concept works for breast cancer patients. It is the marriage of the two things most important to me. The synergy is beautiful.

From the MORE reinvention convention I had to dash from the lunch where Mika Brzezinski was interviewing Anna Quindlen to get to Lombardi in time for my mammogram. I promised Geralyn a picture of me putting on my lipstick in my hospital gown as I prepared for battle. As I was changing in the set of stalls that are as open as a locker room I could overhear eight women sitting in a horseshoe awaiting their mammograms. They were already in their hospital gowns tugging them closed in an attempt at false modesty. It was the day after the Oscars and I could hear from behind my curtain one woman explaining the story line of “Precious”. “You needed to be in a strong emotional space to see it.” Not me. The other women were talking over each other. I stepped out and smiled to myself and said to them that I felt as though I had just stepped onto the set of The View. They laughed.

The leader of the group who was talking like a minot bird because of her nerves - throwing out questions for the group to consider - said she hadn’t slept the night before her mammogram - never does. Was so scared they would find something. Again, I had a secret smile as I scanned voraciously the literature on the different kinds of flap reconstructions. She was speaking, assuming that we were all living in fear of finding that lump. I was in a different place (they couldn’t tell I guess that my hair was fake and I had no eyebrows. “I have breast cancer and I can’t wait for the mammogram to see how much the tumor has shrunk,” I said proudly. Talk about being a skunk at a picnic. What they didn’t realize that I did is that the tall elegant African American woman seated across from me smiling beneath her baseball cap probably also was going through treatment. I could tell by her perfectly drawn eyebrows, but she didn’t speak up. It’s like once you’ve had botox, you know who else is in the sisterhood because you know the tell tale signs - the squinchy three or four wrinkles that bunch on the person’s nose when they smile or laugh. She gave me a knowing half grin from under her cap. I spoke for the both of us and rallied the troops about why mammograms are your friend.

I held my orders (for the scans). They had the tell-tale health insurance code at the bottom - as did all of my blood work requests - 174.9 handwritten in ballpoint ink. It is the code for “she has breast cancer.” There was a 40F in the right hand corner of my other paperwork - 40 years old and female. That’s me. A biblical 40 years - that’s when I got my diagnosis. Everyone else I know spent the year planning which island or spa they would invite their girlfriends to celebrate this milestone that they dreaded (turning 40). I somehow never dreaded 40 - Luke was my 40th birthday present - a present to myself from myself. That’s all I had ever wanted. Instead I got 174.9 (and that isn’t my post pregnancy weight. Not anymore.)

Then I thought of the women who aren’t in the US getting this diagnosis. Greta told me about when she travelled with Laura Bush to Saudi Arabia to raise awareness about the importance of mammograms and how the women there can’t get a mammogram without the permission of their husbands. And since most of them aren’t allowed to drive, you can imagine how many actually get mammograms each year. Then a few weeks ago, I had lunch with my friend from Pakistan, Ahmed Rashid who wrote the best-selling book on the Taliban. And he said, “Darling, are you really going to reconstruct them - can they do that? In Pakistan they just give you two plastic ones to stick in your bra.” Like the pregnancy belly that they give you to try on with a velcro belt to see how clothes will fit at Pea in a Pod.

So I guess my reconstruction options aren’t all that bleak. The scars will be my war wounds, like a Masai coming of age ceremony. (They look about the same and just as violent.) And besides I already mourned the loss of my breasts last weekend. (I am sure I am out of tears.) And I have already chosen the color of the lipstick that I will wear to my mastectomy. Thanks to Geralyn.

This kind of sums up my day yesterday...

After having a day of not so fun meetings with doctors at Georgetown Hospital all day, including being told I couldn't get what is really my last chemo today because my blood levels were too low (a 0.7 neutrophil count which puts me at serious risk of infection) and then meeting with my plastic surgeon who instead of showing me how he was going to work miracles and reconstruct these bad boys who nearly killed me, showed me a book of before and after pictures of other patients in which even the best outcomes of those who hadn't had radiation (which everyone tells me messes up the cosmetic outcome of any breast plastic surgery making one breast higher than the other.) The pictures confirmed my worst nightmare that these mastectomy breasts are disfigured, look a bit like hatchet wounds and have an unbearable likeness to what I imagine it looks like to have been attacked by a wolf. When I got home, Luke threw up all over me as I tried to put him to bed. That pretty much sums it up.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The View from the Chair last Friday

As I was having what I thought would be my last chemo administered last Friday, this was the view from my hospital Laz-E-Boy as I was hooked up to the chemo drip. Suddenly the sweetest violin sound from behind the curtain separating me from the next patient. Then the serenader, a violinist, appeared. He looked something like Roberto Benini with his elfish grin and a weepy violin that was so sweet that it brought tears to our eyes, especially when he played "Lord of the Dance," which, of course, was played at my Dad's funeral. "Dance dance wherever you may be..." The sound from the chair was at once beautiful and wrenching and matched the feeling of chemicals running directly into our veins.

Here is the video link for you to see for yourself:

Thursday, March 4, 2010


My dear sister, Caitlin, is running a marathon in June in San Diego to raise money for Lymphoma and Leukemia research. As many of you know our father passed away from non-Hodgkins lymphoma the day after Christmas 7 years ago (two weeks after Amelia was born.) It changed our lives so raising money for a lymphoma cure is near and dear to our hearts. If you can donate anything at all to try to help Caitlin meet her goal and raise money for this valiant cause, please connect to her website for the event:

From: Caitlin Griffin
Thank you in advance for your support in helping me reach my fundraising goal to find a CURE for blood cancer. I hope to see you in San Diego this summer!
With love,
Caitlin Griffin
Studio Griffin - Interior Design
Savannah, Georgia

If you know someone going through chemo...

This is a free housecleaning service to help moms through this period.
Cleaning for a Reason
If you know any woman currently undergoing Chemo, please pass
the word to her that there is a cleaning service that provides FREE
housecleaning - 1 time per month for 4 months while she is in treatment.

All she has to do is sign up and have her doctor fax a note confirming the treatment. Cleaning for a Reason will have a participating maid service in her zip code area arrange for the service.

If only Popeye had known...

This is from Cheryl Barnes. And thanks to my Foodies, chef Christine Merkle delivered this platter of asparagus to me this evening. I already feel healthier!

Subject: Asparagus -- Who knew ?
This is from a friend
My Mom had been taking the full-stalk canned style asparagus that she pureed and she took 4 tablespoons in the morning and 4 tablespoons later in the day. She did this for over a month. She is on chemo pills for Stage 3 lung cancer in the pleural area and her cancer cell count went from 386 down to 125 as of this past week. Her oncologist said she does not need to see him for 3 months.

THE ARTICLE: Several years ago, I had a man seeking asparagus for a friend who had cancer. He gave me a photocopied copy of an article, entitled, Asparagus for cancer 'printed in Cancer News Journal, December 1979. I will share it here, just as it was shared with me: I am a biochemist, and have specialized in the relation of diet to health or over 50 years. Several years ago, I learned of the discovery of Richard R. Vensal, D.D.S. that asparagus might cure cancer. Since then, I have worked with him on his project We have accumulated a number of favorable case histories. Here are a few examples:

Case No. 1, A man with an almost hopeless case of Hodgkin's disease (cancer of the lymph glands) who was completely incapacitated. Within 1 year of starting the asparagus therapy, his doctors were unable to detect any signs of cancer, and he was back on a schedule of strenuous exercise.

Case No. 2, a successful businessman 68 years old who suffered from cancer of the bladder for 16 years. After years of medical treatments, including radiation without improvement, he went on asparagus. Within 3 months, examinations revealed that his bladder tumor had disappeared and that his kidneys were normal.

Case No. 3, a man who had lung cancer. On March 5th
1971, he was put on the operating table where they found lung cancer so widely spread that it was inoperable. The surgeon sewed him up and declared his case hopeless. On April 5th he heard about the Asparagus therapy and immediately started taking it By August, x-ray pictures revealed that all signs of the cancer had disappeared.. He is back at his regular business routine.

Case No. 4, a woman who was troubled for a number of years with skin cancer. She finally developed different skin cancers which were diagnosed by the acting specialist as advanced. Within 3 months after starting on asparagus, her skin specialist said that her skin looked fine and no more skin lesions. This woman reported that the asparagus therapy also cured her kidney disease, which started in 1949. She had over 10 operations for kidney stones, and was receiving government disability payments for an inoperable, terminal, kidney condition. She attributes the cure of this kidney trouble entirely to the asparagus.

I was not surprised at this result, as `The elements of materia medica', edited in1854 by a Professor at the University of Pennsylvania , stated that asparagus was used as a popular remedy for kidney stones. He even referred to experiments, in 1739, on the power of asparagus in dissolving stones. Note the dates! We would have other case histories but the medical establishment has interfered with our obtaining some of the records. I am therefore appealing to readers to spread this good news and help us to gather a large number of case histories that will overwhelm the medical skeptics about this unbelievably simple and natural remedy.

For the treatment, asparagus should be cooked before using, and therefore canned asparagus is just as good as fresh. I have corresponded with the two leading canners of asparagus, Giant and Stokely, and I am satisfied that these brands contain no pesticides or preservatives. Place the cooked asparagus in a blender and liquefy to make a puree, and store in the refrigerator. Give the patient 4 full tablespoons twice daily, morning and evening.
Patients usually show some improvement in from 2-4 weeks.
It can be diluted with water and used as a cold or hot drink. This suggested dosage is based on present experience, but certainly larger amounts can do no harm and may be needed in some cases. As a biochemist I am convinced of the old saying that `what cures can prevent.' Based on this theory, my wife and I have been using asparagus puree as a beverage with our meals. We take 2 tablespoons diluted in water to suit our taste with breakfast and with dinner. I take mine hot and my wife prefers hers cold. For years we have made it a practice to have blood surveys taken as part of our regular checkups. The last blood survey, taken by a medical doctor who specializes in the nutritional approach to health, showed substantial improvements in all categories over the last one, and we can attribute these improvements to nothing but the asparagus drink. As a biochemist, I have made an extensive study of all aspects of cancer, and all of the proposed cures. As a result, I am convinced that asparagus fits in better with the latest theories about cancer.

Asparagus contains a good supply of protein called histones, which are believed to be active in controlling cell growth.. For that reason, I believe asparagus can be said to contain a substance that I call cell growth normalizer. That accounts for its action on cancer and in acting as a general body tonic. In any event, regardless of theory, asparagus used as we suggest, is a harmless substance. The FDA cannot prevent you from using it and it may do you much good. It has been reported by the US National Cancer Institute, that asparagus is the highest tested food containing glutathione, which is considered one of the body's most potent anticarcinogens and antioxidants.
According to Rebecca Katz's "Cancer Fighting Kitchen" cookbook:
Asparagus: Anti-Inflammatory. Inflammation in the body is now thought to contribute to cancer proliferation. Many foods such as asparagus, have anti-inflammatory properties. In fact, the phytochemicals in asparagus mimic a type of anti-inflammatory called a COX-2 inhibitor. Asparagus is also rich in potential cancer-fighting nutrients such as vitamin A (in lab and animal models it takes on skin, breast, liver. colon, and prostrate cancers), vitamin K (prostate and lung cancers, and folic acid (many cancers including colorectal, esophageal, stomach, and breast.)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


A discovery by our good friend Dr. Bert Vogelstein and his team at Johns Hopkins...
a simple blood test to screen for tumors that will save lives. It involves genome sequencing and could be available to cancer patients and eventually be as inexpensive as a CT scan. These personalized blood tests for cancer could revolutionize cancer screening.

Read on...

Will the real Slim Shady, please, stand-up?

Lookin' Good and Feelin' Better...

OK so S.I. never called, but the highlight of my week was meeting up with 5 other women (3 of them coincidentally diagnosed with Triple Negative breast cancer). All of them, mostly bald and at various stages of finishing up their treatment - chemo, radiation, the works. We had been invited by the American Cancer Society and the Personal Care Products Council Foundation to "model" the 'before' and 'after' of how the right make-up techniques and the right wigs and scarves can make you feel like a human being again through cancer treatment (which, on more than one occasion, I have compared to 'napalming' one's body and soul.) Amelia (7) and I made our way over to Alexandria (my old stomping grounds and where my mom is still living in our childhood home). I dropped her at "Gramma Carolyn's". We pulled up to 500 N. View Terrace and my mom was bent over with a shovel and digging something out of a bush. Amelia asked me, "What is Gramma Carolyn hunting?" Who knows. She is, as I have often said, "a one-woman show" with the theater that she built in Old Town and very funny to watch from afar. I gave them a Target gift card and told them to go wild looking for party favors and plates for Luke's first birthday party. The Look Good...Feel Better session was in an office actually just two blocks from my mom's theater, MetroStage.

I hauled my wardrobe changes and four mannequin heads with various wig options onto the site, but somehow I still was not feeling like Christy Turlington. (I had to wait til later for the 'transformation.') Waiting for me and the other models were Hans (my favorite wig master from Norway) and his father-in-law, Eivind, who used to do Rosalyn Carter's hair for 4 years and has had a prominent salon on upper Wisconsin Avenue for decades (Lucien and Eivind). Eivind has been volunteering his time with "Look Good, Feel Better" for 21 years since the nationwide program began. Hans has been donating his time and expertise for more than a decade and runs a class at Georgetown's Lombardi Cancer center once a month. Nearly every hospital in America does or should participate in the "Look Good...Feel Better" program. (If there is not one at a hospital near you and you have just been diagnosed, call them now and demand it.) It is one of the single best things that a cancer patient can do to minimize the side effects of cancer treatment and feel not only like a human being again (as opposed to a Kling-on) but also to feel beautiful. When you walk outside the house and don't have your "body armor" on - lipstick, blush, eyebrows and wig - people start treating you like a sick person, you start acting like a sick person and slowly you start losing your will to fight. I know because I have been there.

Lisa Burris - the program's coordinator - introduced the two make-up artists and, here's the fun part, we opened up a satchel of what must have been 250 dollars worth of the best make-up products money can buy. It was like Christmas! I am not supposed to mention product names because the program is brand neutral and all of the major cosmetics companies participate (Bobby Brown, Chanel, Mary Kay, Aveda, MAC, Estee Lauder, Avon, Revlon). OK, I just broke the rules - but I thought you had to know just how good this loot is that they give "free" to every cancer patient who comes to every "Look Good...Feel Better" session at any hospital in America. If you have a relative or friend who was diagnosed recently sign them up for a session ASAP. This is as crucial as scheduling chemo. So we played for a bit and learned the trick for drawing in eyebrows - three dots - one in the inner corner, one above the Iris, and one on the outer corner. Connect the dots and "Voila!" You are no longer a Kling-on. You saw women come through the door who had flat if not down-turned mouths suddenly grinning and squealing with laughter as we all put on a new persona with each color of lipstick that we might never have tried otherwise.

Then Eivind explained how he had literally taken a step off of Air Force One at the end of the Carter administration and never looked back as he dove into this incredible program for cancer patients. His salon still caters to the well-haired and well-heeled (dare I say well-healed should one include those of us who sneak into his back room with the wall of wigs and the backstage dressing room feel.) If you need a wig or have a friend who was diagnosed, make an appointment with Hans and Eivind. They see about 25 women a week who are about to lose their hair and they make you feel like a million bucks when you walk out the door.

The problem is "Look Good...Feel Better" needs more hair stylists and make-up artist volunteers to run the sessions once a month at all the local hospitals. So we need help.

But here is the beautiful part. During the all-day photo shoot - we took before and after photos - I met two other women who were Triple Negative (perhaps only a coincidence because this is the breast cancer that strikes so often young women). One told me how she had not found any resources that weren't too scary with awful statistics to tell her teenage boys and husband about what Triple Negative was. She, however, had heard about The Today Show segment and asked them to watch with her. That was the first time they understood what she had and what she was facing. She told me at the beginning of the session that she hadn't bothered to buy a wig. "What's the point," she asked? She had the most beautiful eye lashes (I had sudden eye lash envy since I now have none.) She started putting on the make-up - her eyes popped even more. She put on, first, the blond short Princess Di wig then an awfully stylish gray one with a great cut. She had worn jeans. I lent her my crushed suede jacket and she went up for her "close-up" and looked like she had been modeling all her life. She was full of confidence, laughter and sass. I gave her my coat to keep. It looked so good on her.

One of the other models we called "Tina Turner" because she brought her shortest mini-skirt suit, and go-go boots and an attitude to match. Every wig she put on, she looked like a different hot, Motown singer. She also was grinning as she walked out the door. Everyone was. There were hugs all around.

And then Hans told all the ladies they could choose their favorite wig to take with them - he didn't have to. That's not the norm. These are $500 wigs. But that's just the kind of guy he is. Amelia, when I picked her up, decided that an alternative name for the program (if you have cancer and don't participate) is "Look Bad...Feel Worse." From the mouths of babes....

Here is the official blurb on the program:

"Look Good...Feel Better is free, non-medical, brand-neutral public service program offered nationwide to help women cope with appearance concerns of cancer treatment. The program is made possible through a collaboration of three national organizations: The Personal Care Products Council Foundation, the American Cancer Society (ACS), and the Professional Beauty Association/National Cosmetology Association.

Look Good...Feel Better offers instruction, tips, suggestions and advice on dealing with hair loss, as well as changes in the skin, complexion and nails during cancer treatment. The two-hour group workshop includes complimentary cosmetic products donated by participating Personal Care Products Council members and is demonstrated by volunteer beauty professionals. Programs are offered in cancer centers, ACS offices, and other community settings. In addition, LGFB offers one-on-one volunteer consultations, self-help materials, Spanish language materials, a program for teens with cancer, and information for men with cancer. For more information about Look Good...Feel Better, or information about programs available in your community, please visit the LGFB Website (, call 1-800-395-LOOK or your local American Cancer Society office."

Luke Turns One

While it may seem that the little man has been around for at least a decade (for that is how long this year has felt), he in fact hit the tender age of one yesterday and celebrated in real style with a single candle and a banana bread cupcake (I know. I know. This is the new organic non-processed Griffin/Myre household - so no Betty Crocker cakes with sprinkles and that frosting that comes in a can that is so comforting and says 1970s birthday to me so clearly.) The little man didn't know how to blow so his mom (wearing the Miley) pinch hit for him, leaning in - even stealing his one wish. Now we have a cabinet full of "boy" birthday napkins with every form of ball (basket, soccer, footballs). Move over Disney Princess napkins that I carted with us back to America after years of outdoor birthday parties in the "Rose Garden" in Jerusalem. We left guns and ammo and a real war behind in Israel only to now enter a phase where every Saltine is bitten into a shape of a gun and turned into a weapon and our new war is inside my struggling body. To mark Luke's birthday I spent the morning at Georgetown getting an MRI to see where these bad boy tumors had gone after 16 rounds of chemo. Good news is we don't know what the flat 1.2 centimeter mass on the MRI is - and won't until surgery. The bad news is there is still a 1.2 centimeter mass. It's flat rather than round and it is no longer 6- 9 centimeters like an orange. So there is a lot to be thankful for (and maybe that wish I stole from Luke came in handy) but until the surgery on April 6 we won't know whether the cancer is really gone. So for any of you reading this from the Holy Land, we blew out a candle yesterday for Luke's first birthday, but if you are near the Holy Sepulcher or Church of the Nativity, please feel free to light a candle so that we can put this year behind us.
PS And, yes, Andrea, the Maraschino cherries and fudge were all organic and the ice cream from Whole Foods was milked from cows who hadn't been shot up with anti-biotics and hormones and was non GMO (genetically modified).