April 26, 2010


35 years have passed.  35 years (you do the math) since i graduated that hotbed of social clumsiness called high school.  35 years ago i was a smart loud acceptably-social-but-no-where-near-the-top-of-the-middle-pack-of-peers brassy unibrowed child pretending i was ready to go onto college (but really just working on propelling myself out of my home with not much actual thought to the needs or wants of college).  and 35 years later, an informal reunion that put at least 50 of us all from our year – and another 50 from the year before us – in one bar/restaurant on a saturday night outside of philly.  aside from the insanity of it all, it was weird and cool to be in a room where EVERYONE was your age within a year or two.  good, bad, or indifferent, we were all about 52 years old. 

i had been to one reunion about 10 years post-graduation and i felt so unformed still.  even as marriages and babies and big careers were forming in my former classmates lives – mine was still just shaping with possibilities and left-turns.  and now, all these years later, i had to navigate which story – which timeline to tell to people – some of whom i remembered clearly and many of whom were foggy ‘i think i remember you’ moments.  lived around the world.  retired from showbiz. (SHOWBIZ?  REALLY?)  really.  jazz/cabaret singer.  really.  REALLY.  music teacher.  real estate broker.  mom.  wife.  breast cancer survivor. 

i wasn’t the only one.  survivor that is.  i had a huge hug with one woman who friended me on facebook – she remembered me distinctly (“i remember you in girl scouts and you walked pigeon-toed) and i remembered her vaguely – but we have both been through the b.c. mill – and my big hug and giant smile was because she was less an old friend than a big new friend and we were in the same dubious club.  i didn’t advertise my survivorship but there was the guy i dated at the end of high school (still with the same really cute impy smile that made you want to say ‘yes’) and the high school guy i dated post-high school who looked drawn in his physique and tenuous in his life – lots of almost-relationships and not much satisfaction from what i could tell – it was sad that perhaps his best glory days were in high school.  but to both of those men and a few women i knew well (and who friended me on facebook so knew from my very public profile what i had been through) i did talk about it as one of the chapters of my life.  but then i left the discussion behind because i was not going to have a neon i-had-cancer sign hanging over my head.  i said yes to going – but i had much apprehension.  for having been on stage for many years, i am not good at big social gatherings (perhaps that’s why i was always on stage instead of in the big group).  but i am very glad i went.  we were all of us there – beer or soda in hand – smiles on faces and in our 50’s.  some already weren’t – didn’t make it this far.  so it was good to enjoy that we were still here and had, in a way, known each other for all this time.  it meant something.  it wasn’t perfect.  there were still a few snobs.  a few exclusions.  but mostly it felt like a good connection.   onward ho.


make me

April 18, 2010


after 2 weeks so busy that i actually found myself working (big parts of) 9 days in a row, i made myself find time this morning to go walking on my elliptical.  one of the best things about freelance sales is that you can almost always choose your own schedule.  but sometimes, during a busy season, you cannot.  i have had lots of appointments and deadlines that all required me to be in my office early (8-9am) and that meant no walking.  city walking yes.   20-30 minutes concentrated on my elliptical, no.   by the end of the day, i’m just too worn out to try to walk.  so a long week went by with no extra exercise.  and i could feel it.  it’s hard to go back to it…a week off is like starting from scratch for me.  but start i did this morning.  20 minutes today.  hopefully 20 tomorrow.  and then back to 30 later this week.  if you had told me – almost 2 years ago – that i would write what i’m about to write, i’d have laughed in your face.  but here goes:  i feel better for the exercise.  it’s a safe run; a safe walk; and a safe place to sweat down in my basement. 



an ok day

April 13, 2010


no great essay today.  just reports of an ok day – saw my breast surgeon (gee, last time i used the word breast in a blog post, i got no less than 8 dirty spams [thank you word press for your spam filters] and found out that at least 5 hits on that entry were because someone was searching wordpress blogs for the word ‘breasts’!).  4.5 years since i was diagnosed, we’re down to a pretty quick 15 minute routine of ‘hold your arms like this above your head…now down at your waist’ and prodding fingers under my arms and a few quick questions about what meds i take now, etc.  i even like it that she’s starting to not remember so much about me — ‘you have a son, right?”  “daughter”  because it means that a whole lot of time has passed since i spent a whole lot of time in her offices and under her care.  sadly, there’s an army of diagnosed women filling behind my experiences. 

then on to a lunch with one of my dearest oldest new york city friends whom i have not seen in about 13 years.  he moved to l.a. long ago and has had his own medical struggles and yet here we both were, lunching in manhattan together and holding hands with big cheshire grins on our faces.  we were best buddies back in the day: singing at the same clubs and always on the phone with each other sharing our audition and gig adventures as well as a few ups and downs in the life of a performing new york artist back in the 80’s.  he famously showed up to save my butt when i was living for a short time with a roommate found through a roommate finder’s service and the woman turned out to be the most royally fucked-up human i’d met in a long time.  she owned a mean cat who would sit in my closet and claw the bottoms of all my dresses (she denied this so i guess it was me going in and shredding up my own hems).  she announced that she had an std (ewwwwwwwwwww) from her ‘jew boyfriend’ (uh-oh) and after that disastrous relationship ended, she’d fall asleep on her bed with a cigarette burning in her mouth having drunk too much or snorted too much cocaine or, my personal favorite, she left for a week to visit someone and left 1/2-filled chinese food containers out in the kitchen and on her bed.  when i decided enough was enough, she started threatening me and my dear dear friend – a really big and imposing guy who happens to be sweet as a pussycat (not the kind who claws your dresses) came to get me at 1am and told her in no uncertain terms that she wouldn’t be so lucky if *he* started threatening her and then helped me haul boxes of my stuff down the stairs (5th floor walkup) to a waiting cab and i bunked on his sofa for 2-3 months til i finally found my own 1st brooklyn home in brooklyn heights.   sitting across from each other today, i was reminded of how dear he is to me.  

it really was an ok day. 

this doesn’t look right

April 7, 2010


if you are prudish, look aside now.  i could get much more graphic but the fact is, i’m discussing breasts.  my breasts.  my weird changed breasts and how i became a sister with any woman who has had breast surgery – in my case, breast cancer surgery. 

i had a great (if hyper) plastic surgeon at the time of my surgery 4+ years ago.  really.  we got him through a referral from sloan kettering but needed someone at nyu because that’s where my breast surgeon was and they needed to be a team.  he is highly-sought after by women (maybe men too??? no idea) who want to enhance their original shape – or sculpt it in a specific way.  at the time of my diagnosis and before my surgery, i was given some choices – all of which were dependant on the medical outcome of my surgery.  if the tumor could be removed with ‘clean margins’ (which, for the unitiated means that not a microbe of cancer can be found in the outer circle of tissue removed), then i could look at a lumpectomy.  if not, or if the tumor was larger than anticipated (and it was anticipated to be large and ended up, thankfully, being a little bit smaller than expected.  still large but smaller enough that i staged into stage 2 instead of stage 3 – one becomes personally competitive for lower staging when faced with one’s own cancer diagnosis) then i was facing a mastectomy.  i gave my permission for the mastectomy if necessary but i came out of surgery and found out that i had had the lumpectomy (“the largest one ever’ said my plastic surgeon”) and, as we had decided, a bilateral  (both sides) reduction.  “i tried to make you a c cup but needed to make them the same size”.  in 8 hours i went from a 38dd to a 38b.  let me be clear here:  i’m not complaining.  i’m not complaining about that at all.   [at this time i cannot/am not ready to discuss my feelings about whether i should have had the mastectomy … that’s just still a little too raw.  hence, not discussed by me here.  i know you’re wondering how i feel about that.]

oddly, in some ways, it’s been better.  my chronic heartburn disappeared.  my shoulders felt better.  at the time, as my weight was ballooning up due to steroids, chemo, , radiation, painkillers, and seemingly endless mindless burgers and pizza, my belly was bigger than my breasts.  oh well.  as instructed, i bought and wore (wear) non-underwire bras.  and who needed the wires?  i had pert smaller breasts – an unintended plus!  at 47 (my age at the time of surgery), i was sporting two increasingly-flattening downward descending pendulous breasts that still looked good nestled (read: stuffed) into an underwire bra – giving me ample cleavage.  but oh…..please no one see me nekked.  i was a picture of sag.   

over the past year, as i managed to drop some weight off my 5’3″ frame and get some acceptable (to me) shape back to my body (which means, less bloated and not worried that i’ll never be a skinny girl), i’ve made a few attempts to find an underwire bra.  and there’s the rub.  my resculpted breasts look great …but they don’t fit any standard under-wire bra ever made.  i know.  i think i tried on every one at bloomies one day.  (which comes with it’s own emotional baggage – having to explain to the saleslady that you had breast cancer (oh!  the sad eyes) and that it would take some effort to find a bra to fit (oh!  oh…this is going to take some work and may not result in a sale).) first of all, 38b barely exists in an underwire (big rib cage, small breasts) so the 38c’s are unfilled by me.  and because my plastic surgeon was working with a breast cancer patient who had lymph node issues (all of which HOORAY turned out clean), he didn’t nip and tuck under my left arm (did you know that much of that tissue under there is breast tissue?) and now, no matter what i do, have a puff of stuff that pops out over the wire of any underwire bra on my left side.  it’s not a good look. 

and you might be saying to yourself right now:  oh who cares?.  you shouldn’t care.  well, mostly i really don’t.  at all.  but as i try on clothes, i keep getting salespeople and other people who look at my outfit or directly at my top and say: it would look better with a better bra on.  ok.  but i haven’t found one yet.  there are certainly worse problems in life.  and i understand why ‘women of a certain age’ start wearing billowy overlay sweaters and jackets!  i feel right.  i just don’t look right. 

can you feel it now?

April 4, 2010

back from a much-needed vacation – an emotional break from new york and life here – and trying to get back into some exercising regime.  (it turns out it’s possible to walk 6-7 miles a day and still come back from vacation having gained 5 lbs.)   it’s always a battle in my head where i say no-no-no but keep putting my sneakers on and then just make the step onto my elliptical.   i used to teach ‘music together’ – it’s an orff and kodai approach to teaching a music class for very young children and toddlers.  basically, a kinesthetic approach to music – which is a fancy term that essentially means that you process the music through your body.

i have been tangling with the song ‘hallelujiah’ for about 2+ months now.  in a previous post  – – i wrote about this version that was performed on the ‘benefit haiti’ concert and since that time, have listened to a number of versions of it.  the timberlake version sounds like a haunting prayer to me.  The kd lang version something much more carnal.   i haven’t been able, however, to wrap my own arms around it and integrate it.  i often sing out loud to whatever is on my ipod while i’m walking or running.   but this song didn’t find a place in my voice..i wondered if the sheer fact that i am not religious nor steeped in any tradition of ‘hallelujah’ was making for a poor fit.  then, today, i changed the walking.  i took the pedal resistance up a good amount and used the arm pulls and suddenly, my body was working and pushing slowly and purposefully through the words and the song and … i sort of got it.  i had to make my body understand the base feeling.  it needed resistence and slow effort and then it started making sense.

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