Grey Matters

My hair is here.  So thrilled.  But it’s @#$%%@# grey.  Are you kidding me Chemo Gods?  Is it not enough that you robbed me of my hair but now you’ve taken the color too?  Sure, a few grey hairs would be expected, maybe even a cool Anne Bancroft stripe a la The Graduate, but the whole head?   Muther.  Or should I say Grandmuther.

Talking to My Kids about Cancer

While I may never know the full impact my diagnosis has had on my children, they have been a great source of strength for me—always—but especially these last few months.   The two year old has shown her support by nuzzling the few remaining feathers on my head and by expressing her dissatisfaction that the chemo box I had to carry during treatment was often in the way of a good hug.  She is a happy, capital “T” toddler and continues to provide us with great comic relief.

My eldest, an old soul of 8 years, has been a pillar of strength.  She is old enough to understand all that surrounds this disease and has taken it all in with genuine grace.  She has shed very few tears and has been my strongest and most vocal cheerleader.  I know all mothers think this about their children, but she is a special child.

Talking to her about cancer was very difficult for me but after reading and talking to several experts, we believe that telling her frankly, without too much detail, was and is the best course.  She understands that I had cancer, that the medicine would make my hair fall out, and that I would get better.  I did, it did, and I did.    I am glad that we chose to be honest with her and so grateful that the events are turning out as we had promised.

The Candyman and Cancer

I love sugar.  My friend and trainer says it’s my crack.  It’s not just that I love the sweetness, sugar runs in my blood literally and figuratively.   My father worked for a large sugar company for many years, he sold sugar, and he was good at it.  My education, vacations, shoes, wedding, all paid for by sugar.   As a child I remember large packages from Hershey and Nestle and the Coca Cola Company arriving at our door—tokens from my father’s business contacts.  Sugar has been good to my family.   So I don’t like the haters.    But now I’m a cancer survivor and there is a truth about sugar that I have to face:  in excess—like most things—it isn’t great for you.

All cells, good and bad, need sugar to grow.  But when you’re fighting cancer, you have to be careful about the type and quantity of sugar you eat because you don’t want to fuel the bad cells.   The Caring 4 Cancer website has an easy one-pager that lays out the nutritional details and cites legitimate studies that I post it here for other cancer patients who are trying to separate fact from fiction:

This is all to say that I’ve had to cut some (but not all) of the beloved sweet out of my diet and am finding alternative ways to appreciate food (Trainer reads and jumps for joy).

The Upside of Positivity

I’ve gotten many private comments about my positive attitude.  Thank you.  I am grateful that I have the ability to see the positive aspects of this chapter, because I like feeling happy, isn’t it better than the alternative?  But just in case you thought it was all rainbows and unicorns, here’s a something that I’m feeling pretty crummy about:

Radiation.  It’s coming.  I knew it, but I have an innate ability to block out things I don’t want to think about.  I think the therapists call this denial, and I have a highly developed sense of it.   So while I’m happy that this is another step towards putting a bullet in my dead cancers head, I have been thrown back into the reality of therapy, and the ramifications that it brings.  They say I will be tired, and nauseous due to the location of the radiation, and those are only the short-term problems.  Long-term problems can be worse, but those problems are very rare, and they say that the benefits outweigh the risks.  So here I go, for three or four weeks, every day, for 20 minutes under the magic beam.

I can do it.  I can do it.  But I don’t want to.  Luckily, my father, a WWII veteran, quoted Churchill endlessly, and there is always something I can remember that reinforces my resolve:

The optimist sees opportunity in every danger; the pessimist sees danger in every opportunity.”  Winston Churchill

Hair, There and Everywhere!

Family and friends have referenced the CHIA pet more than once this week referring to the sprouting going on atop and around my head.  My eyebrows are quickly returning to their pre-cancer Brezhnev bushiness.  Na zdorovje!   

To Zap or not to zap! That is the question.

Tomorrow I will see a radiologist to discuss a possible three-week affair with radiation.  We are stuck between the disparate preferences of two of our brilliant doctors.  Doctor A thinks radiation is superfluous, Doctor B thinks it wouldn’t hurt to “spit on its grave” by undergoing a final radiation round.  This is the first time our doctors have not agreed on a course of treatment, so we are confounded.  Hoping we will get some clarity tomorrow.  Would love opinions if anyone reading this has them! 

All the Tools in the Shed please…

During my treatment I was fortunate to be introduced to Dr. James Gordon, a psychiatrist who has devoted his practice to cancer patients and learning and teaching how the integration of conventional and alternative therapies can be productive in the fight against cancer.  I LOVE the idea that no possible therapy is disregarded.  He believes that a positive mental state, Chinese medicine, acupuncture, good nutrition and standard western medicine are all useful tools for the care of cancer patients.  My father used to say when tackling a problem one should use all the tools in one’s shed.  I couldn’t agree more.  For those who aren’t lucky enough to live down the street from Dr Gordon’s office, he has written a book “Comprehensive Cancer Care, Integrating Alternative Complimentary and Conventional Therapies” and he is the director of the Center for Mind Body Medicine:   He is terrific. 

The ins and outs of the power port…..

Tomorrow I will have minor surgery to remove my “power port.”  Such a funny name, as if it should be a sports drink or computer application, but in many ways it is a very powerful device.  Implanted slightly below my collarbone, the power port allows the oncology nurses to administer the chemotherapy drugs directly into the port via a small needle, which prevents vein damage and possible burning that can occur if the chemo drugs get on your skin.    The port doesn’t show outside the skin but for a small bump you can feel if you run your hand over it.    

 I am grateful to have had this device, as it has made my journey through chemotherapy a little bit easier, but I am thrilled that it will be gone tomorrow.  It is yet another sign that my recovery is real.  Hallelujah!  Also, they give you really fun post surgical medicine and for the afternoon I will be happily asleep and with any luck, dreaming about a milkshake. 

New Year’s Resolution

The universe has jump started my New Year’s resolution by temporarily blocking the use of my credit card.  While one of my goals was to spend less in 2012, I didn’t intend for someone to steal my credit card number, as Chase Bank reports has happened.  Husband is not entirely unhappy as he is confident that thief will spend less than wife.  Here’s to a healthy and thrifty New Year!

A Day of fun in New York

The husband and I drove my mother in law home to NYC and decided to make a night of it at the Crosby Street Hotel in Soho.  I cannot tell you the love I feel for this hotel, where I first stayed with my 7-year-old daughter last year for a mother/daughter weekend to visit a dear friend and fancy interior designer, Amy Lau (, and to see Mary Poppins, which was magical.  Crosby street has 91 rooms, each decorated differently and the first time we were there they let my wide-eyed daughter pick the color of our room (purple with yellow flowers, what else?).  If you ever are lucky enough to get the chance, STAY there.

We wandered the streets and soaked in the multicultural beautiful people of downtown New York and stopped to buy a few treats for the girls (Pearl River, Canal Street treasures), whom we missed, but from whom we were happy to have a night off (hope this doesn’t sound terrible, other parents understand this I think).  Slept 10 hours and ate breakfast and read the entire paper without a single interruption, spill, or jelly disaster.  Heaven.