Friday, March 31, 2006

Cool Things About Today

If I had my act together (instead of in a million little pieces), this post would be a photo essay rather than boring old prose. Here's what you would have seen in the intact-act scenario (close your eyes and use copious amounts of imagination):
  1. A photo of my toes, adorned in a deep-red polish, peeking out from my sandals, juxtaposed against a close-up of one of those old-fashioned, one-date-to-a-page calendars with March 31 in big, bold type.

  2. A photo of Zach and me in our wonderful old VW Cabriolet, driving with the top down en route to Phoenicia and rocking out to a crazy assortment of drive tunes, from Stephen Sondheim's "A Weekend in the Country" to Rickie Lee Jones's "Danny's All Star Joint" to Blur's "Song 2" to Lou Bega's "Mambo No. 5."

  3. A photo of what I can only describe as a Cheshire moon—the tiniest sliver, oriented horizontally so it looked like a very knowing smile.

  4. A still from Zach's appearance on tonight's episode of Conviction.

  5. A photo of my spoon, tucking into a pint of Ben & Jerry's Vanilla, with a few frozen Junior Mints sprinkled on top (a can't-beat combination).
O. Happy. Day.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Two Brief Updates/Teasers

First: I remembered the name of the film! All by myself! Just minutes ago! Hooray!

I'm beat, though, so the promised post will have to wait a bit longer. But here are two tidbits:

1) I was deluded about Roy Scheider being in it. It's someone completely different and un-Roy-Scheider-like.

2) It was six letters, not five.

(That doesn't help you a lot, does it?)

Second: The link to the footage of my TV appearance has now been fixed, thanks entirely to my not-only-incredibly-handsome-but-also-wonderfully-effectual husband. (A phone call from me does nothing; a phone call from him gets a return call, a solution, and an I'm-just-confirming-the-problem-has-been-solved call.)

And yes, in my case, the camera appears to have added 10 pounds per second of screen time. (If you know me at all, you know that I am not the weight-conscious type, but this is just ridiculous. I'm not on that many steroids.)

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


I have been wanting to write a post for two days now that likens the whole chemo-fog thing to this effect I saw in a weird, futuristic film sometime between the late 1970s and the early 1980s.

The problem is that I can't remember the name of the film, or enough specifics to deduce the name.

Of course, I initially tried to come up with the name in the midst of the fog itself (a very meta experience) and was therefore convinced that it would come to me once the fog had cleared, but here I am, two days later, fog-free and still completely unable to figure it out.

I thought, for the life of me, that the film starred Roy Scheider, so I spent all kinds of time (aside from the 18 hours I spent sleeping) doing all manner of IMDB and Google searches to come up with it. No dice.

Then I spent eons paging through a directory of all the films released during those years, but I still didn't find it. (And now I'm pretty convinced that the directory couldn't possibly have been comprehensive, so it was doubly a waste of time.)

The plot revolves around a futuristic device that is known by a five-letter acronym, but I can't come up with the acronym, either. (Why I know it's a five-letter acronym is beyond me, but I do. Actually, maybe it's six letters. DAMN!)

So here I sit, completely frustrated and yet more determined than ever to come up with the damn title so that I can write the damn post, knowing, of course, that it will end up being completely anti-climactic for everyone, including myself. (Plus, I will then drive myself crazy trying to find a copy of the damn movie to watch in order to confirm that it does, in fact, bear some likeness to my chemo-fog.)

Stay tuned.

Oh, and if you are well versed in futuristic films of the '70s and '80s and think you might be able to release me from this little mental prison, shoot me an e-mail and let me know.

(You know that it's going to come to me as soon as I hit "Publish Post," don't you?)

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

What One Does After the Steamroller Strikes

Monday, 7PM: Fall asleep on couch.

Midnight (or thereabouts): Register return of incredibly handsome husband. Remain pre-verbal. Move to bed.

Tuesday, 7:30AM: Wake up.

Return to couch. Endeavor not to wake incredibly handsome husband.

Open laptop. Check headlines online. Close laptop.

Knit four rows of scarf.

Walk to kitchen. Make bowl of cereal.

Return to couch. Eat cereal.

Hear incredibly handsome husband stir.

See incredibly handsome husband bury face under pillow.

Wait for incredibly handsome husband to exit bed.



Walk to dresser. Don lymphedema sleeve. Grab hand weight and elastic exercise band. Attempt physical-therapy exercises.

Sustain crippling cramp.

Double over in pain.


Remove hand weight and lymphedema sleeve.

Swear louder.

Allow incredibly handsome husband to massage cramp.

9:30AM: Return to couch to wait out cramp.

Fall asleep.

3PM: Wake up.





If you're counting, that's 18 hours of sleep (out of a possible 20).

Monday, March 27, 2006

Hold On

I got home just past midnight tonight after having a crappy, crappy day. Hungry and tired, and totally fried, working a temp job.

And yet, I don't want to complain, because at least I've got my basic faculties about me. Jody on the other hand is, as expected, in the middle of her fog. Barely able to utter words, barely able to move. She seems completely wiped. I asked her how she felt, and she grogged out the word "steamrolled". Which was exactly how I felt.

The two of us, totally spent, totally wiped out, reminded me of a day back in December, which I never wrote about; so flashback with me for a moment.

This was early, early December, before we'd even started this blog. It was within the first week after we got the news that we were going to go through this awful wringer again. It was some Saturday morning around here, probably December 10, both of us having put on brave faces for each other since we got the news, but underneath it all very tense and fatigued and anxious about the future and terrified of what might lie ahead. I think we didn't realize it at the time, but we were both completely bottled up.

So we're doing our usual Saturday thing of laundry and cleaning up the apartment, and I put on some music to keep us going and to lighten the mood. Just ran my iPod through the stereo and picked a playlist and didn't think about it. And a moment later, a song came on which just unleashed the gates for me and Jody both. We found each other in the middle of the apartment, burst into tears, and clung to each other for dear life; we rocked quietly all the way through the song and released 5 hellish days of pent-up frustration and anguish and let each other see, for the first time, how affected we were by the news that we'd gotten.

And when it was over, I think we both felt a ton better: by being honest with each other about our fears and acknowledging our own frailty, we were able to move on and gird ourselves for battle again. I'm not sure, but I think the idea of this blog came out of that day.

The song? you ask.

The song was Everybody Hurts by REM. But it wasn't REM's version; it was the Unplugged version sung by The Corrs.

You may know this song, and if you do, you're probably familiar with the original, which had Michael Stipe wailing for all get out. And that's a great version of the song—I won't take anything away from that piece of music. But the cover version done by Ireland's most famous band (after U2, and the maybe the Chieftains) is haunting and melancholy, and will turn you inside out. It features the heartbreaking vocals of Andrea Corr and the lush violin stylings of her sister Sharon.

So if you're ever in need of a good cry; if you need a little comfort; if, as the song says, "you feel like letting go", then you should tune in to this masterpiece. Tonight, when I got home and saw that Jody and I were both at the ends of our respective ropes, I plugged in the headphones and got lost. And doing so helped me to see the other side again.

And here's the deal. This will absolutely be a copyright infringement, but I'm going to hope that the powers that be interpret this post in the spirit it was intended, which is to heal; and I'm going to provide a link to this exquisite song. It's way downsized to make it manageable. If you like it, I suggest you buy the album (it's a great album, I highly recommend it). In any case, please keep this sound clip to yourself and don't go duping it and sending it to people, 'cause that's not what this is for.

We're going to get through this thing....just gotta hold on.

And remember: you're not alone.

Click here to listen to the clip.

Everybody Hurts, ©1993 by REM, sung by The Corrs
When your day is long
And the night
The night is yours alone
When you're sure you've had enough of this life
Well hang on

Don't let yourself go
Cause everybody cries
And everybody hurts

Sometimes everything is wrong
Now it's time to sing along

When your day is night alone
- Hold on, hold on -
If you feel like letting go
- Hold on -
If you're sure you've had too much of this life
Hang on

Cause everybody hurts, sometimes
Take comfort in your friends
And everybody hurts

Don't blow your head
Oh, no
Don't blow your head
If you feel like you're alone
No, no, no, you're not alone

If you're on your own
In this life
And the days and nights are long
If you're sure you've had too much
Of this life
To hang on

Well, everybody hurts
Sometimes, everybody cries
Sometimes, everybody hurts

And everybody hurts

So, hold on, hold on
Hold on, hold on
Hold on, hold on
Hold on, hold on

- Cause no you are not alone -

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Dark Side of the Moon

If you've seen Apollo 13, you probably remember the climactic do-or-die scene in which pretty much the whole world waits to see whether the astronauts and their space capsule will emerge from the earth's atmosphere and splash down to safety in the big blue sea. There's radio silence for several minutes, and it goes on for so long that it seems that all is lost, and then, well, there is much exhaling all around when that first crackle of static comes through.

What you might not remember is an earlier scene, after the accident has crippled the astronauts' ship, in which the trio is catapulted around the dark side of the moon in order to build up enough momentum to make that fateful journey home. There's radio silence during this sequence, too, although there's much less anxiety—we (the audience) and they (the astronauts) fully expect that the ship will stay on course and come back into the light. But there's still an eerie quality, and we (the audience) feel it as the camera lingers while they (the astronauts) delve into the darknesss and the silence.

I feel a little bit like those astronauts right about now. I know that the fog and the fugue state are coming—in fact, I can feel them coming on right now. And while I'm confident that they will pass, it is nonetheless unsettling to sense myself slipping away. The feeling of powerlessness is profound.

Wish me bon voyage—I'll be back as soon as I can.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Week 1/Day 2 Haikus

No nausea per se,
But feeling a bit funky.
Bad taste in mouth sucks!

Went with discretion
Over valor this morning.
Did not go upstate.

Zach to Phoenicia.
Carpet guy came to measure.
Will have flooring soon!

I communed with couch.
And TV. And internet.
Then went to knitting shop.

Good news: scarf survived!
Bad news: my form is all wrong.
Will have to re-learn.

Fog on horizon.
Several projects to be done.
Maybe tomorrow. . . .

Friday, March 24, 2006

Highlights from Chemo #3

When Zach and I went to bed last night (later than usual, because I was hopped up on steroids), we knew that we had to be at the cancer center by 8AM this morning, so we planned to leave by 7:30AM—"a German 7:30AM," as I put it.

"Planned" is the operative word.

We woke up at 6AM, so I could take the first of my four pills of the morning. Then I headed to the shower, and Zach to the kitchen to concoct his wonderful cornmeal pancakes—some festooned with blueberries—and bake a bunch of extra-delicious Niman Ranch bacon.

I got dressed (starting with the orange panties, of course) and took my next pill at 6:30AM. We sat down to breakfast at 7AM, I took my last two pills, and then Zach hopped in the shower.

When he emerged at 7:25AM, we moved from the goal of "a German 7:30AM" departure to "an Italian 7:30AM" departure.

We finally had to come to terms with "a Jamaican 7:30AM" departure.

We made it, eventually, with the following items in tow:
  • one laptop apiece, plus power cords

  • my fabulous new iPod nano, pre-loaded with 550 fabulous songs

  • one cell phone apiece, plus my charger

  • Zach's digital camera, plus cable

  • my Palm Pilot

  • a lovely cashmere-covered pillow and beautiful hand-knitted throw to keep me comfortable and warm

  • a bandana (i.e. back-up headgear)

  • Thursday's and Friday's New York Times

  • a nearly finished New Yorker

  • a nearly finished Atlantic Monthly

  • a new Atlantic Monthly

  • a thumbed-through Metropolitan Home (for ideas on kitchen renovations and paint colors)

  • three pads of assorted sizes, containing various notes and to-do lists

  • my second-ever knitting project, which I started during radiation treatment 4-1/2 years ago

  • stationery for writing thank-you notes
We had pretty much every contingency covered. (And I'm not even counting all the stuff I carry around in my bag on an average day.)

The treatment went like clockwork. I had my blood drawn, got weighed, and had my temperature, blood pressure, and pulse-ox reading taken. Everything looked good, so our delightful nurse, Donna (hi, Donna!) flushed and accessed my port (which I still loathe—more on that in a future post), and we were off and running.

Today's menu included, in order:
  • 8:52AM: 2 Tylenol tablets (650mg total)

  • 9:08AM: saline (500mg)

  • 9:20AM: Decadron—the same steroid I'm taking at home (8mg)

  • 9:41AM: Benadryl (25mg)

  • 10:07AM: Herceptin—a monoclonal antibody, aka a targeted therapy (365mg) + normal saline (275ml)

  • 11:58AM: Taxotere—the first chemo drug (125mg) + normal saline (275ml)

  • 12:52PM: Carboplatin—the second chemo drug (850mg) + normal saline (550ml)
We finished at 2PM on the dot. Donna flushed and "heparinized" the port. (Heparin is an anti-coagulant. To keep the port from getting blocked with a blood clot, this is done at the end of every chemo session.)

The highlight of the day was a visit from Randi (hi, Randi!), who provided us with wonderful company for almost three hours. Randi, along with my Grandma Ida, taught me to knit 15(!) years ago, when I was a first-year law student aching for some kind of creative outlet amidst the cerebral confines of Civil Procedure, Contracts, and Torts. I made a sweater, then bought a bunch of black yarn for my next project and immediately proceeded not to use it for the next 10 years. (Mostly because I moved in with Zach and his four cats, whose hair didn't blend so well with the yarn.)

Then, in 2001, when I started radiation treatment, it looked like I was going to be spending a lot of time in the waiting room—every Monday through Friday for nearly six weeks—and I wanted to have something to show for it. So I dug out the black yarn, found a pattern for a nice scarf (winter was coming, so I figured the timing was perfect), and started knitting again.

About three days later, my appointment time was moved from mid-morning (translation: guaranteed delay) to first thing (translation: in and out, no waiting): great for me, not so great for the knitting. I put it away and didn't take it out again until about a week ago. Winter is going, not coming, this time around, but I still thought it would be a good project to finish, even if, for the life of me, I couldn't remember how to get started again.

Randi to the rescue!

She reminded me how to knit, how to purl, and how to read a pattern. And she made sure I was on the right track with the new rows I added to my Mock Cable-knit Scarf.

I really am knitting—it's just that the black yarn is hard to see against my black pants.

No, really!

See, I told you so. (Click on the picture to enlarge it if you don't believe me!)

All was well as long as she was sitting within two feet of me and my little project.

And then I came home and tried to continue on my own.

Bad, bad idea.

I have no idea what happened, except that I made all kinds of mistakes, and then somehow made them worse in the process of trying to correct them.

So I now, once again, need professional help. <sigh>

But someday, I have no doubt, I will finish the Mock Cable-knit Scarf. And when I do, you will get to see it, in all its homespun glory, right here.

Oh yeah, and here's the really great news of the day:

We are officially halfway through this round of chemo—three down, three to go! And, so far, with just one prophylactic Zofran on board, no nausea.

(And no, I didn't qualify for the special Merck program. But so far, Plan C seems to be working, and I still have Plan D in my back pocket. . . .)

We're Live from Chemo Central....

...and we'll be taking your questions until 2 PM today.

Seriously, if you have anything you've been wanting to ask, we'll be happy to enlighten you. We're not going anywhere for a while. :)

Just post in the comments below.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

A & Q

I'm anticipating questions, so here are some answers:
  1. Yes, I was on the local news last night.

  2. Yes, the footage is supposed to be available on the WB11 website.

  3. No, the link doesn't work.

  4. No, I don't know why.

  5. No, it really isn't your computer. (The links to other stories work.)

  6. Yes, I will post an update if and when the link gets fixed. (It's really not that exciting. I think I say two whole sentences, several minutes apart.)

  7. Yes, it was an interesting experience to be the subject rather than the reporter.

  8. Yes, that was one of the meanings of the title of yesterday's post.

  9. Yes, there is another meaning, too. (Just think about it—you'll figure it out.)

  10. Yes, I would have reported the story entirely differently. (Shocking, I know.)

  11. Yes, I called my insurance company yesterday.

  12. Yes, there is an explanation for why the co-pay for one of my anti-nausea drugs went from $30 to $287.65. It seems that under my primary insurance, I have exhausted my prescription benefit allowance for my coverage year.

  13. The allowance is $1,250.

  14. My coverage year ends July 31 (as opposed to December 31—it started on August 1, with the school year).

  15. Yes, I do have secondary insurance through Zach.

  16. The secondary insurance wants to charge me about $175 for the three-pill package, although if I order it through the mail, I can get three three-pill packages for something like $150.

  17. No, I don't have time to order it through the mail in time to take it first thing tomorrow morning.

  18. Yes, I have a plan B. Merck, the company that makes the drug, has a special program that provides the medication to patients who qualify.

  19. No, I'm not sure if I'll qualify. The program is income-based, but the application doesn't say what the specific criteria are—it just asks for annual household income and annual out-of-pocket medical expenses. But the fact that I haven't had an income in eight months, plus the fact that our medical expenses have been astronomical (mostly due to IVF, which was not covered by our insurance), makes me think that I might have a shot.

  20. Yes, the timing still doesn't work for this go-round—even if I qualify, I won't know that (or be able to get the medication) before tomorrow's treatment.

  21. Yes, I have a plan C. My oh-so-wonderful oncologist has loaded me up with three other anti-nausea drugs (in addition to the one I will be getting by IV tomorrow morning). I'll take one of them on Saturday and Sunday, and I'll have the other two as back-ups if I have any of that inaptly named breakthrough nausea. (The steroids I'm on—from today through Saturday—will provide some protection as well.) And I'm hopeful that the fact that I had no nausea at all five years ago—before this very pricey new drug was available—means that I'm unlikely to have any this time, even if I don't have the very pricey new drug on board. (That's a little medical jargon as well as a shout out to Andrea—hi, Andrea!)

  22. Yes, I have a plan D. If Plan C doesn't work, and Plan B falls through, I will order the very pricey new drug by mail and will have it for the last three sessions.

  23. No, I do not have a plan E.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Shoe, Meet Other Foot

It's not up yet, but I imagine that by some point tomorrow (March 23), there will be a video available at the other end of this link:

(It will be about breast cancer and genetic testing.)

If you watch it, you will understand the title of this post (I hope).


Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Channeling Kafka

So this is fabulous Week 3, and I am, in fact, feeling pretty great. But I'm also well aware that Week 1 is just a few days away, which means that the fog will be rolling in again pretty soon. (There's got to be a Brigadoon reference here somewhere. Help me out, fellow theater fans—leave a clever comment or something, won't you?)

Hence my effort to do all of those tasks that require lucidity now, while the fog is still on the horizon rather than in and around my head. Which means that I spent the whole of yesterday going through the latest stack of medical bills and insurance statements and calling various medical billing departments in order to straighten out the latest set of snafus.

My current favorite is the statement I got from Zach's insurance company (which is my secondary insurance) showing that they rejected a claim from the outpatient surgery center where I had my first surgery back in mid-December. I'm not sure why the center billed them in the first place, because our coverage didn't start until January 1 (and that's why, in fact, they rejected the claim). But I was especially surprised to see that Zach was listed as the patient.

Actually, that was my current favorite, until today. (Things move fast around here.)

Today I went to my local pharmacy to pick up a prescription for Emend, which is one of the new anti-nausea wonder drugs. You take one pill an hour before treatment, another the next day, and another the day after that. My doctor warned me that it was kind of expensive before he prescribed it back in early February, so I wasn't surprised when the co-pay was $30. (With our insurance, Rx co-pays are usually $10.)

Now, $10 per pill is pretty steep, but the stuff seems to work (although it's hard to assess cause and effect because I'm taking a couple of other anti-nausea drugs, too), and I've been happy to ante up. I paid the $30 before the first treatment, and I paid another $30 to refill the prescription before the second treatment. So when I walked into the pharmacy today, to pick up another refill in time for Friday's treatment, I was fully expecting to fork over another $30.

Not so fast.

The very nice lady behind the counter fished out my prescription, looked at it, then looked at me with a straight face and told me the price: two hundred eighty-seven dollars and sixty-five cents. (I had to write it out because it's so absurd.)

My eyebrows went north. My jaw went south. My brain momentarily short-circuited.

I tried to reason with the very nice lady behind the counter. I explained that this was a second refill, and that it wasn't possible for the price to increase more than 800% from refill #1 to refill #2. And that nearly $100 per pill was completely outrageous.

The very nice lady did the only thing she could—she handed me off to the very nice pharmacist. He explained that this was the price quoted by my insurance company, and that I'd have to call them—not to straighten it out, mind you, but to get an explanation for the increase. He told me that he spends all day on the phone with insurance companies, dealing with situations like this, and that there was probably some cockamamie reason for change in price. He also told me that if I had no insurance at all, the three pills would cost $357.99. (I'm sure that folks who are uninsured are just lining up to pay almost $120 per pill to keep from puking their guts up.)

I'll be calling my insurance company first thing tomorrow.

This ought to be good.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Gratuitous Sleeper-Hit-of-the-Turin-Olympics Post

"According to a CBC feature, curling at the 2006 Winter Games has drawn 5 million [Italian] viewers, eclipsing ice hockey and figure skating. "
Curling, often described as "chess on ice", is the new black. I got interested in curling during the Salt Lake City Olympics in 2002, and officially became obsessed this year.

Some links:
And some pics (all descriptions lifted from the USCA website):

Drawback. Pull the rock straight back on the line of delivery and draw back the sliding foot. Simultaneously elevate your hips and draw them back behind the hack. At the peak of the drawback, your body weight is anchored and about evenly distributed on both feet. Your sliding foot is now about toe to heel in relation to your hack foot, with space between. Maintain the rock’s "turn" position.

Release. The rock is released during the last few feet of the delivery. Until that time, your throwing arm remains comfortably flexed and the position of the rock handle is still turned as it was during set-up. Using the good grip established at set-up, turn the handle from the turned position to 12 o'clock as you simultaneously extend your arm. Release the rock cleanly and follow through so that your hand finishes in the "handshake" position. The rock should rotate about two and one-half times during a draw shot.

Sweeping. The more speed and pressure applied to the broom, the more friction is generated to affect the ice surface. But it’s impossible to achieve maximum speed and pressure at the same time. When a rock is first released, most curlers cannot move the broom across the same spot on the ice more than once because the rock is moving too quickly. The focus should be to put as much pressure as possible on the broom. However, when a rock is coming into the house, rapid sweeping will allow the broom to be swept repeatedly across a given spot. So, as the rock slows down, increase the speed of the brush head and "finish" the rock.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Another One from the Archives

During my first go-round with breast cancer, I didn't write anything at all about the experience (unless you count e-mail, in which case I probably wrote a lot). Then, a year or two later, when I had some distance—and perspective—I took a personal-essay writing class, for which I wrote "Words Failed Me" and the piece below.

The class turned out to be a very discouraging experience, which is probably why I've been sitting on these two essays ever since. I also wrote most of a third one, which I would like to revisit—and finish—at some point. It's much funnier than the first two. (A low bar, I know.) If and when I do, you'll see it here.

Meanwhile, I offer up the following as another window into my world (and the strange contraption known as my brain).

No Contest

Whether the currency is SAT scores or mortgage rates, golf handicaps or lost pounds, by our nature we can’t help but compare ourselves to those around us. There are ratings and rankings for everything: sports teams, television programs, book sales, selective colleges, even a website where visitors are asked to rate other people’s photos on a scale of “hot or not.” And in social settings (whether human or animal), it’s fairly easy to pick out the alpha males and queen bees.

I discovered not long ago that this compulsion toward comparison exists even in the world of breast cancer. Since my own diagnosis in 2001 at age thirty-four, I have met dozens of breast-cancer patients and survivors—some through a support group, others through activism efforts, still others through mutual friends, a few by chance. In every case, without fail, these encounters follow the same pattern: after introductions and the usual pleasantries, medical information is exchanged like business cards. But instead of title, company, address, and phone number, it’s cancer stage, surgical procedure, number of positive lymph nodes, and type of treatment. And, as with a business card, those few facts tell you most everything you need to know to quickly size up your new acquaintance. There’s an unspoken pecking order—one based on diagnosis and, by implication, prognosis.

This pecking order was obvious to me the first time I attended a breast-cancer support group. We started by going around the circle, introducing ourselves and giving the medical equivalent of our CVs. At one end of the spectrum was the woman whose breast cancer was diagnosed so early that it was technically Stage 0. At the other were those with metastatic disease (Stage IV), whose cancer might be contained but never cured. These women had the most arduous treatment regimens, punctuated by regular CT scans, bone scans, blood tests for specific cancer markers, and who knows what else. With their unforgiving medical schedules, it was a wonder they were able to attend the support group at all.

I fell somewhere in between, with a Stage II diagnosis and what I have come to call “the deluxe package”—mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiation, and breast reconstruction. With me in the middle were breast-cancer patients of every stripe. For some women, breast cancer was a family trait. They had gotten a preview of their own experience by observing their mother’s, sister’s, grandmother’s, or aunt’s. Others were dealing with a recurrence. These women thought they had defeated cancer, not knowing it would come back like a weed.

Still others had one of the BRCA-1 or BRCA-2 genetic mutations that dramatically raise one’s chances of developing breast and ovarian cancer. Not only did they have to contend with treatment for their current diagnosis, they also had to decide whether to have their ovaries and all remaining breast tissue removed prophylactically. They were walking around with a time bomb in their cells.

Some women had treatment plans very similar to my own but were dealing with some complication or having especially severe side effects. One woman vomited profusely, day after day, despite a slew of anti-emetic drugs. Another was so weak she ended up in the emergency room after fainting in a department store. A third was diagnosed mid-pregnancy, and went through chemo during her last trimester. Every time I saw this trio, I felt lucky, then guilty. Both were reactions to the same thing: the reflexive mental calculation that although we were all in the same basic boat, I was better off. Even just a little. I don’t remember being so aware of my place in the world since high school, when you just knew where you ranked in the social caste system.

While I was busy comparing myself to other women with breast cancer, the rest of the world was comparing me to the healthy young women they knew. Sympathy and pity were offered to me in great quantities, but I couldn’t accept. Hearing about other patients’ tribulations, it was hard not to feel grateful for my lot in the great cancer sweepstakes. Sure, I was diagnosed at an age when most women worry about breastfeeding, not breast cancer, but didn’t that mean that I was stronger and better able to tolerate the rigors of treatment? Wasn’t it a blessing to learn that I had a well-shaped head under all that formerly curly former hair? And hadn’t it been convenient not to have to shave or wax anything all summer long?

To most people, though, my circumstances were nothing short of tragic. I remember vividly the night I bumped into another young woman, a casual acquaintance who had been contending with a degenerative illness for several years. She’d been forced to stop working and spent most days at home, taking heavy doses of pain medication. I hadn’t seen her in several years and was taken aback at the sight of her struggling with two canes to walk a short distance. In that instant, I knew exactly how other people felt when they saw me for the first time without hair: stunned, then incredibly awkward. Should I ignore the obvious change in her health or acknowledge it right away? Conceal my shock or let her see my honest reaction? As she headed my way, I tried desperately to prepare something hopeful and reassuring to say.

I never had the chance. She embraced me and exclaimed, “You poor thing! I heard all about your situation, and I just wanted to say how sorry I am.” I could see the grave concern in her eyes.

My situation?

What about hers?

To my mind, I was in much better shape. Breast cancer was terrible—really terrible—but it was just a temporary setback. I’d finish treatment, my hair would grow back, and I’d get on with my life. This young woman had no expectation of recovery. Yet she felt sorry for me. How could that be?

I realized, much later, how she and I could have such different perceptions of our relative well-being. A diagnosis of cancer is a death threat. Whether you heed the threat or not, whether you survive cancer or die from it, you are forever marked. Some will see it as a mark of courage, others a mark of shame, still others a mark of doom. It is how you see it, and how you wear it, that counts.

I see it as a battle scar, a reminder of human frailty, a reason to hope.

I wear it with dignity, not disgrace.

And I can tell you that it transcends all the pecking orders and comparisons in the world except the one between those who wear it and those who don’t.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Home Soon-to-be-sweet (Second) Home

It took us forever to get out of the house, only to hit all kinds of traffic before we even crossed the Brooklyn Bridge (not to mention after), but we made it upstate with no other hitches. (OK, one hitch: We got a parking ticket that we wouldn't have gotten had we left as early as we'd planned. But one of the things that delayed us was having a very yummy breakfast of homemade cornmeal pancakes—so good!—and a side of extra-good Niman Ranch bacon, so at least we were well fortified for the day.)

This is my first trip upstate of 2006, so I wasn't sure what to expect when we got to the house, what with the kitchen and every inch of wall-to-wall carpeting (plus these very bizarre built-in banquettes in the living room) having been ripped out in my absence.

Turns out (and this wasn't a huge surprise) that the place looks about a jillion times better without the hideous (mildew- and previously mouse-infested) kitchen and the super-ugly (fraying and dog-hair-infused) dark-grey industrial carpet.

This is despite the fact that their absence points up a couple of other problems that need to be addressed. First, our sub-floor is some kind of super-cheap particleboard (as opposed to, say, slightly less cheap plywood) that is wet—and therefore swollen—in several spots. Which means that although we stopped on our way up to look at carpet samples and were all set to have the place measured and put in an order, we now have to have some of the sub-floor replaced (and, of course, make sure that whatever caused the leaks in the first place is, or has already been, abated) before we can move ahead with that.

Second, the half-wall that separates the kitchen and the living room is not exactly secure (as Zach discovered when he leaned against it and nearly went over the side).

But in the grand scheme of things, we (where we = our various contractors) have made a great deal of progress on the place. Soon the rebuilding (and re-carpeting and re-painting and re-furnishing) can begin!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Little Victories

After more than a month of being unable to concentrate long enough to read anything beyond a takeout menu—and watching my stacks of The New York Times and The New Yorker grow to heights that might best be measured in elevations—I have succeeded in reading the paper cover to cover for the last three days in a row and am within striking distance of finishing a double issue of The New Yorker.

It may not last, and it will almost certainly be interrupted during the 2-4 days of intense fog that I expect to recur after each of the remaining four sessions of chemo, but it is a very welcome development. Now if I could only read an actual book. . . .

Meanwhile, on the food front, I seem to have shed the layer of paste that had taken up residence on my tongue, and my digestive tract has rediscovered its nerve. I have no illusions here: this is just the good part of the cycle, and the bad part will come around again (and again and again and again). But at least it is a cycle and not a one-way progression from good to bad to horrendous, which it certainly might have been.

And did I mention that lovely Week 3 begins tomorrow? And that Zach and I are headed up to Phoenicia for the weekend?

And may I say: Yippee!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda

I can't see the back of my head, but Zach told me a few days ago that I was sporting, as he called it, a reverse bald spot. Apparently the follicles at the crown of my head felt a stronger sense of attachment than those everywhere else.

I thought you might like to see this phenomenon, so I had him snap a couple of photos a few minutes ago and . . . well, um, it's gone.

Sorry about that.

I promise that if any other phenomena—like, say, crop circles—decide to appear, I will act quickly to document them for your viewing pleasure.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


Language matters to me.

A lot.

Which is why I chafe at the way certain words are used. And why I have a shelf full of usage books sitting just over my left shoulder.

Here is my favorite entry from The New York Public Library Writer's Guide to Style and Usage, from the chapter called "Misused and Easily Confused Words":
impact, influence. All but the most punctilious of grammarians have given up the fight over the use of impact as a verb synonymous with "to influence or have an effect on." However, a caveat: editors and readers who hate to see impact used this way really, really hate it. . . ."
I am very punctilious.

I have not given up the fight.

I really, really hate it when I see "impact" used as a verb.

But I digress.

I also continue to be bugged by the term "breast cancer survivor."

Let me digress again.

Below is an essay I wrote about three years ago. It'll give you some sense of why "breast cancer survivor" bugs me. And a further sense of my punctiliousness. (It also happens to be the only piece I ever tried to get published. It was rejected by the New York Times Magazine—I submitted it to the "Lives" column—in less than 12 hours, which I think must be some kind of record.)

I have no illusions about supplanting the term "breast cancer survivor" in everyday usage—it's way too entrenched. (You might think I should give up the ghost with "impact," too, but that's just not going to happen.) But I kept thinking for the past five years that there might be an alternative out there. And just the other day, I finally came up with one: breast cancer veteran.

The good old Oxford American defines veteran as "a person who has had long experience in a particular field." (The military definition is secondary.) "Long experience" is in the eye of the beholder, but I have to say that in this particular realm, I think any experience qualifies.

So I'll be calling myself a breast cancer veteran from now on.

I feel much better.

Words Failed Me

Once someone in a white lab coat uses “you” and “cancer” in the same sentence, it’s not hard to predict the spectrum of unpleasant physical and emotional experiences you’ll have. Shock, fear, anxiety, pain, weakness, discomfort—these are all to be expected. But when I was diagnosed nearly three years ago, I had no idea that cancer would pose such a linguistic challenge.

Those who know me are well acquainted with my penchant for precision and accuracy in language. I can’t help but interrupt friends who unwittingly use “irregardless,” “a whole nother,” or any of a long laundry list of other malapropisms that my sensitive ears just can’t bear. My husband knows that any time we watch TV he can count on me to shout at the screen, correcting a character’s or news anchor’s grammar. I write letters to the editor when favorite publications commit what I consider to be egregious errors: using “women” as an adjective or “impact” as a verb.

During my bout with breast cancer, however, there was no editor to whom I could complain when I tried to describe my situation and found myself tongue-tied. I had a serious disease, but saying I was sick didn’t seem right. Like many cancer patients, I felt absolutely fine until the actual treatment began—no pain, no symptoms, just a really unfortunate lab result.

And if having breast cancer was tantamount to being ill, I’d been sick for all the time it took that first cancer cell to spawn a detectable colony of offspring—up to ten years, by some estimates. Did that mean I’d been sick on my wedding day, eight years earlier? At my law school graduation? At my last college reunion? I kept thinking of the proverbial tree falling in the forest. If I’d had cancer all these years but didn’t know it, had I really been sick?

If it was difficult to figure out when I first got “sick,” it was even harder to determine when I got “well.” I yearned to use the past tense with cancer, but I couldn’t figure out when it would be legitimate to do so. It wasn’t like my teenage years, when the transitions were obvious:

“I had braces.”

“I was a virgin.”

When would I graduate from “I have cancer” to “I had cancer?” This wasn’t just semantics: I needed to know when would I be able to get on with my life. When could I go back to answering “How are you doing?” with “Fine, thanks—and you?” instead of rattling off my white blood cell count or the number of chemotherapy or radiation sessions I had left? When would everything stop having a medical connotation?

My surgeon had an optimistic approach: presume the surgery was a complete success and all of the cancerous tissue had been removed. By her logic, I could start using the past tense just two weeks after my initial diagnosis—less time than a bout with mono. Another doctor drew the line nine months later, after I’d completed chemo and radiation. In the end, I took his approach: no matter how favorable things might have been at the cellular level, any stranger on the street could see that something was wrong. Bald may be beautiful, but on me it was a dead giveaway.

For months and months after I had finished treatment, I resisted saying, “I’m a breast cancer survivor.” The word “survivor” is just too loaded for me. As a Jew, I associate the term first and foremost with the Holocaust, and I couldn’t compare my plight with those who had lived through the horrors of that time. Of course, “Survivor,” the reality television show, is now part of the vernacular. When I was diagnosed, the show was sweeping the nation, and any use of the term conjured images of scantily clad contestants trying to win “immunity” and avoid getting voted off the island. If cancer were an island, I would have done anything to get off.

The term “survivor” also seems more suited to events that have a definite beginning and end, like high school or a really bad date. While I hope that I have survived cancer, it’s honestly just too soon to say. Are those rogue cells dead or merely dormant? Will cancer be part of my future, as well as my past? How ironic that only those who survive me will know if I was a true cancer survivor: if I die of something else someday, I guess I’ll have earned the title.

Family members, friends, colleagues, and even acquaintances can’t help but ask if I’m okay now. It’s the hardest question to answer, because I can’t bring myself to give them what I know they want to hear: an unequivocal “yes.” One could argue that it’s a legitimate response—my treatment was successful, by all accounts—but I just can’t manage it. So when someone asks if I’m okay now, I always say the same thing: “As far as we know.” It’s the most precise answer I can give.

Monday, March 13, 2006


What, you may be wondering, does a lady of newfound leisure do with herself all day? (When she's not eating bonbons, that is.)

Here are some things:
  • Checks headlines online. Reads "Today's Papers" column on Slate. Checks and answers e-mail.

  • Having made the decision (again) not to wear a wig, tries to figure out how to look halfway normal to self and others. Well, more than halfway. Remains stymied.

  • Makes breakfast for incredibly handsome husband. (Yes, really. It's not entirely a one-way street around here. Nearly, but not entirely.)

  • Has breakfast out so incredibly handsome husband can prepare for an audition. For the first time in a month, musters enough concentration to actually read at least some of the newspaper. Hopes (probably in vain) to finish later in the day.

  • Takes the long way home, picking up lox and our favorite cheese along the way.

  • Spends no less than three hours organizing medical records to send to radiation oncology guru in Boston, whom we will be seeing for a third opinion next month. Calls various doctors to request additional records. Goes to nearby copy shop to make copies and FedEx records.

  • Makes lunch, incorporating newly acquired lox.

  • Takes a 90-minute walk, ostensibly to pay off a traffic violation at a city office building, but really to get some exercise. On the way back, buys socks and a sweater for incredibly handsome husband and two shirts for self (one of which looks hideous on and will be going back tomorrow).

  • Answers door sans hat and startles Con Ed meter reader.

  • Catches up with parents, sister, and three different friends (hi, Deb! hi, Mindy! hi, Jan!) by phone.

  • Makes one dinner and two lunch dates.

  • Empties wallet and enters receipts into Quicken. Plans to balance checkbook and pay bills but discovers that internet connection is down, so can't do either. (It's online banking or bust around here.)

  • Orders Chinese food for dinner (incredibly handsome husband is out doing a reading of a play).

  • Watches random assemblage of TV shows, including half an episode of Gilmore Girls, a recent rerun of The West Wing, and an encore showing of the pilot of Big Love (based on Mindy's recommendation).

  • Goes through the dozen messages that have accumulated on cell phone. Is relieved to discover that all have been returned. Plans to go through answering machine next.

  • After suitable interval, has ice-cream sundae (with homemade whipped cream left over from Zach's trifle). Gives thanks that ice cream is one of a very small group of viable food options these days. Is amazed that Chinese food seems to be another.

  • Starts writing this post.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Gratuitous Dessert Post

A mere trifle.

Ha ha. Trifle! Get it?

Saturday, March 11, 2006

All Gone (Almost)

Thursday, March 09, 2006

What's Going On

First, the good news:

After being socked in for large parts of Monday and Tuesday, my brain has been fairly fog-free for the past couple of days. There are still moments, mind you, but for the most part, the synapses are firing again (although the words "cranberry juice" eluded me for several long seconds over dinner tonight).

Also, I got to spend time with a couple of out-of-town pals yesterday (hi, Heather!) and today (hi, Steve!), and that was a tremendous treat.

Second, the less good news:

The hair thing is driving me crazy. Remember a few weeks ago when I couldn't figure out whether I was nauseated or not, and I didn't want to eat anything until I was sure I wasn't? Well, now I can't figure out if my hair is really, truly falling out or not, and I haven't wanted to get it buzzed until I knew for sure. It's like some perverse game of chicken—I don't want to cut it all off unless it's about to come out anyway.

Normally, I would have gone to get it buzzed right away, but the fates intervened. You see, Dave, my gifted stylist (and champion buzz-cutter), doesn't work on Sundays or Mondays, so when my hair first started coming out in the shower on Sunday, I knew I'd have to wait until at least Tuesday to deal with it. When Tuesday came and it hadn't all fallen out, I started thinking that maybe it was just thinning—thinning very aggressively, but still just thinning. And then it turned out that Dave was out sick, so I was stuck in limbo a little longer. Meanwhile, I've been shedding all over the place (putting our cats to shame, by the way) and having this strange sort of existential crisis to boot.

Now it's Thursday night, and I've had several shower scenes worthy of their own horror film, but there's still a decent amount (not a lot, but still a decent amount) of hair on my head (and on my pillow and on my scarf and on the bathroom floor, but still). So I'm still not sure if it's really all coming out, but I'm probably going to see Dave tomorrow and come home looking like G.I. Jane.

And if that's not enough, there's the food thing. Pretty much everything—up to and including bottled water—tastes terrible to me right now. Imagine a coat of paste on your tongue (yum!) and you'll have a sense of what's it like. But that's only half the fun. The other half is that pretty much everything I eat "disagrees" with me. (Gotta love those euphemisms!) And, lest you forget, I remain an incorrigibly picky eater.

So the chances of my having a meal (or a snack or a beverage) that a) I like, and b) likes me, and c) actually tastes good?

Really, really small.


Practically non-existent.

So, ladies and gentlemen, it's fair to say that I am a bit of a mess right now, functioning synapses or no.

But I did wear my new fedora for the first time today, and it looked pretty damn cool. (Even if I looked a bit like a refugee from a 1940s film noir. . . .)

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

One More Haiku

Thinking more clearly,
But molting by the second.
New hats on standby.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


A little over a year ago, Zach and I took our first trip to Hawaii. Not far from where we stayed on Kauai, we were able to drive up to a gorge called Waimea Canyon and see an amazing vista from one of the lookout points along the road. The only tricky part was that the view was often obscured by thick mists, and you had to time it right to actually get a few clear moments to see the glorious valley below.

Our guidebook warned us to be patient:

Clouds are always moving in and out of the valley, so if it's cloudy, wait a while before you give up. It's well worth it.

The same could be said of Week 1 after chemo.

For the past 48 hours, anyway, I have felt like that valley on Kauai—surrounded by fog, with occasional breaks that feel like salvation. (I started writing this during one of those breaks, but the mists have begun to roll back in, and now I am struggling mightily to get the words out.)

When I'm foggy, I'm very foggy. I think in slow motion. I speak in drawn-out sentences with lengthy pauses that threaten to become full stops. Then a missing word appears—from the mists—and I plunk it in, with great gratitude and relief and satisfaction. Maybe I am not a blithering idiot after all.

Oh, wait, yes I am.

Metaphors and analogies leap to mind, but I can't express them. Yesterday, I trotted out a line from Of Mice and Men ("Tell me about the rabbits . . .") to try to convey how I felt, and Zach said something like, "You're in pretty good shape if you can come up with an obscure quote from Steinbeck." And I said, "It took me five minutes to come up with that quote." And even then, I couldn't remember how it ended. ("Tell me about the rabbits, George. . . .") Just now, trying to write about it, I had to ask him what I had quoted from. I couldn't remember Of Mice and Men.

I know it will pass. I know that Week 2 is only a few days away. I know that the fog will lift, and I will be sentient again for a stretch.

But I've still got the rest of Week 1 to get through.

And four more Week 1's to go after that.

Cue the foghorn.

And please be patient with me.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Bald is the New Black

a.k.a. Bald=Genius

I mean seriously.

Look at what we've got for inspiration here:

Wouldn't you want to be in their company?

Some people get all the luck.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Mea Culpa and a Truly Brief Update

Next time I start a post (like yesterday's) with the words "Just a quick note . . . ," I will try to remember not to make it one of the longest posts of the entire blog. Sorry about the false advertising—and the very likely overwhelming level of detail. My bad.

In recompense, here's today's accurately characterized very quick update (only 11 words—I counted):

My hair started coming out in the shower this morning.


Saturday, March 04, 2006

Two Down, Four to Go

Just a quick note to say that yesterday's treatment went swimmingly.

Once again, we got our own little room (as opposed to my own little La-Z-Boy recliner and Zach's own little non-reclining chair out in the bull-pen section of the treatment area). It's basically the difference between having your own office and sitting in a cubicle: lots more room, the ability to close the door to keep out noise (although it wasn't too bad yesterday), a couple of prints on the wall, a private closet, and even a semi-private bathroom.

Imagine a hospital room that is much less institutional (no smell, for example) and even a bit cozy, and you'll have a sense of where we spent 6-1/2 hours yesterday. (Next time, though, before I let Zach take an action photo, I will remember to remove the lovely blue-and-white drape that made me look like I was waiting to have a two-pound lobster served to me. Sooo attractive.)

Other bonus attractions:
  • A visit from my pal Danielle, which was a lovely treat.

  • The wireless access, not to mention the delight at learning that Zach's recent brainstorm was likely responsible for it.

  • My oh-so-wonderful oncologist halving my dose of Benadryl (one of several "pre-meds" I get—this one helps prevent allergic reactions to the heavy-duty drugs), so that instead of being completely zonked for the next 4-5 hours, I was actually awake and alert and clear-headed and able to do things like read (a triumph!), feed myself (an even bigger triumph—poor Zach had to literally spoon-feed me chicken soup last time), converse intelligently (I think) with Zach and Danielle and my oh-so-wonderful oncologist and several different nurses, make a few phone calls, and check my e-mail (on Zach's laptop, while he was out procuring snacks and lunch—next time, I'll bring my laptop, too). Put simply, other than being tethered to an IV pump through the port that I continue to hate (more on that in a future post), I felt pretty normal. Unimpaired and independent, you might say. And those are two very, very wonderful states of being.
As swimmingly as things went yesterday, this is still chemo we're talking about, and there are, of course, the inevitable down sides:
  • The few minutes when I thought I might, in fact, be having an allergic reaction to one of the chemo drugs, despite the five different pre-meds I was on (steroids, Benadryl, Tylenol, and two different anti-nausea medications). I had this weird feeling in the center of my chest—sort of a warming sensation, like you get when you take a sip of Scotch (which I have done maybe once or twice in my life, but it's a pretty memorable feeling). See, the port that I continue to hate goes from just below my clavicle straight into my heart, which means that sometimes I feel whatever is coming through the IV pump right in (or near) my very own, very important pump. And, well, it's a little bit freaky. Last time, of course, I was pretty much unconscious when this particular drug was being infused, so I couldn't have told anyone if I'd had this strange sensation. This time, I was exceedingly conscious, and that meant that I quickly had two or three nurses at my bedside, stopping the chemo drug, re-starting the saline drip, and watching me very closely to make sure I wasn't, say, going into anaphylactic shock (a very bad thing). And asking me to describe what I was feeling, which proved more difficult than you might think (until Zach came up with the very apt Scotch analogy—he has, it is safe to say, drunk more Scotch in his lifetime than I ever will). The fact that I had no reaction to the drug last time around was a good indication that I wasn't, in fact, allergic to it, but the fact that my Benadryl dose had been cut in half this time (to the standard dose) meant that we couldn't be absolutely sure. So everyone stared at me for a while to make sure I didn't have any telltale signs of an allergic reaction (like my face turning deep red or purple—yikes!). Then one of the nurses slowly re-started the drug, and—you guessed it—I was perfectly fine. Group exhalation all around.

  • I did pretty much conk out for a few hours before dinner last night. That, combined with the steroids I'm on (two doses the day before treatment, two doses the day of—plus an extra dose by IV, and two doses the day after), made it impossible to sleep through the night, even though I took (as directed) an extra dose of Benadryl to try to counteract the upper effect of the steroids. I woke up about once every hour from 2AM on, but I managed to go back to sleep each time until around 7:30AM, when I gave up and started writing this post.

  • In addition to the steroids, I'm also continuing with one of the anti-nausea medications (until tomorrow), a thyroid medication (unrelated to the chemo), and an anti-heartburn medication (because chemo wreaks havoc on the entire digestive tract, as does a post-IVF drug—tetracycline—that I was on for several days, so I've been enduring the unpleasantness of heartburn for most of the past month). All of these drugs have very specific instructions about when to take them, whether to take them with or without food, etc., so just keeping all of that straight is something of a chore. I also have another anti-nausea drug as a back-up in case the other two don't work. One of the risks of lowering my Benadryl dose is that I'll have "breakthrough nausea" (two words that should never be juxtaposed) this time around, but so far, so good.

  • I have that funky, post-chemo (and, probably, post-pre-med and post-post-med) taste in my mouth, which means that some foods I really like taste just awful, and that's a bummer. Fortunately, this did not include the yummy dinner that Zach made for us last night. Hooray! And last time, the bad taste went away after a few days, or maybe a week, so I'm hoping it will skedaddle pretty quickly this time, too.
And now I am off to try to tackle the embarrassingly high stack of unread newspapers that I have allowed to accumulate over the past couple of months. (I have this very strange compulsion about the New York Times, and, well, the New Yorker—I can't bear to recycle them unread (or, in the case of the Times, at least un-skimmed-through). Yesterday, for the first time since probably New Year's, I came tantalizingly close to finishing the newspaper on the same day that it was actually printed, so I'm hopeful that I can make a dent in the stack this weekend, before the really unwelcome side effects (exhaustion and fuzzy-headedness) kick in.

Wish me luck!

Friday, March 03, 2006

Live Update!

Jody and Danielle celebrate the wonders of chemotherapy.

Today is Chemo #2, and we celebrate something seemingly minor that's actually pretty great.

Three weeks ago when we were here, I brought my laptop with me; I had figured Jody might be able to surf the web while getting her meds.

In her treatment room, my Powerbook sensed a network in the building, but it was password protected. Bummer.

So I mentioned it casually to a member of the staff: "You might want to think about getting wireless access here." Aside from the bonus for the patients, I thought it was a smart thing for the cancer center to do: they could have patients log on through a splash screen that would promote all the center's ancillary programs: support groups, nutrition counseling, whatever. Just another way to reach their patients. By the end of the day, Jody and I were talking about it almost as a cause. Every cancer center in New York should have wireless access! It would cost next to nothing, it could easily be funded. Why hadn't someone done this? We thought about hosting another fundraiser. We were inspired.

Then we went home and forgot about it 'cause, you know, we were dealing with other crap.

Imagine our surprise today when, as we sit here at the cancer center beginning the treatment (Jody reading her Times and me with my laptop), a guy pokes his head in and says "Are you getting the wireless signal?"

I assumed he was another patient or family member. "No," I replied, "there isn't one. It's password-protected. We tried last time we were here."

No, this was new, he replied. He was from IT, and they'd put it in three days ago. He asked me to check, and lo! A strong, free wireless signal was obtained!

We were stunned and exalted. Spending 5+ hours here, you look for ways to pass the time. Now Jody can read the news, check her eamil, all that stuff.

We asked how long the network had been planned. "Not long at all," the guy responded, "someone made a suggestion three weeks ago. We discussed it in a meeting, and it seemed easy enough to set up."

Wow. We're floored. Our suggestion-in-passing turned into a reality in time for our second appointment.

Can you imagine if the rest of the world worked this way?

Thursday, March 02, 2006


Zach here. Just wanna say:

I can't wait for chemo tomorrow.

Weird thing to say, isn't it? But it's true.

There is a minor, but obvious reason: every session brings us a little closer to finishing. After tomorrow, we're at the 1/3 mark on the chemo regimen; right now we're at the 1/6 mark which somehow seems much smaller.

There is also a major reason. Chemo means I get to see my wife.

You see, I've spent the last four days working 8-10 hour shifts at a freelance graphics job. I do this from time to time when the acting work is quiet; and this week was a busy week. 38 hours logged since noon on Monday.

Of course, I'm not the one who has to endure the dripdripdrip of the drugs through the port tomorrow. That honor is reserved for my beloved. But I'll be there all day with her, holding her hand, fluffing her pillows and fetching her goodies from Chelsea Market across the street (Fatwich brownies have been known to be popular). And spending some nice quiet time with her. And looking at her, awake, which I've hardly done since last weekend.

Nope. Can't wait.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

My Turn

Here in Knowerville, we have a lovely little tradition that Zach started not too long after we moved into the building. You've already seen evidence of some of his culinary handiwork (the New Year's Eve menu, the homemade bagels). He also makes very delicious cookies (the oatmeal-chocolate-chip variety is a particular favorite of mine). One day, he made a batch of cookies and set some out on a plate in the lobby of our building, along with a friendly little "help yourself" note to the ladies and gentleman upstairs.

Eventually, this turned into a building tradition and was dubbed "lobby treats" by one of the ladies on the third floor—as in, "Oooh! Lobby treats! My favorite!"

Ever since then, Zach and the aforementioned ladies have periodically graced the lobby with delectable baked goods. One never knows when a lobby treat might appear, or what it might be, and that's half the fun. (The other half is, of course, scarfing down the treat on the way from the lobby to one's front door—which, in our case, is about five whole steps.)

Up 'til now, though, each appearance of a lobby treat has caused me a twinge of guilt because, well, I have always been a beneficiary and never a benefactor. (Same goes for Bill, my good pal and fellow slacker on the second floor.)

Not anymore!

Today, in my I-am-now-a-lady-of-leisure-aka-a-drain-on-the-economy-so-the-very-least-I-can-do-is-bake-some-damn-cookies mode, I baked some damn cookies! And then I left six of them in the hall with a little note to my fellow residents.

They're just Toll House cookies with a little extra vanilla (Sara's recommendation), but still. I baked! I even mixed the batter by hand and everything!

OK, Billy boy, it's your turn to ante up.

(No pressure or anything.)