let’s make some plans

May 25, 2010


we are in the midst of playing the  ‘let’s make some plans’ game at our house.  for anyone who has ever faced a serious illness, it’s a bit of a dance.  i get close to it; sometimes i believe it; sometimes i discuss it to see if i believe it; or sometimes i can’t find the words to think about discussing it.  for some reason the period of 5 years was the magic number i was told for breast cancer survivors.  make it through 5 years and you’re past!  turns out, not so much.  maybe the doctors just have that amount of time in their agendas so that they can count you a success.  but i am constantly reading about people who say: well, the first time i was diagnosed 6 years ago…  my oncologist recently said to me: when you’re 90 i’ll consider you cured.  oddly, i appreciated her honesty but also the implication that she intended to get me to that honorable age.

ok.  that being said, i am creeping up on the 5 year mark – coming in late  october.  i have two 5 year marks.  late october 2010 for 5 years since diagnosis (‘the good news is that it’s garden variety breast cancer’ [yes…those words will haunt me forever…garden variety?  good news? ]} and late mid-june 2011 for 5 years post-treatment. 

with our teenage daughter finishing 9th grade and our car and kitchen both falling apart at the same time, i am being pulled into discussions of ‘let’s plan’.  and then suddenly, we’re planning not only the car and the kitchen and paying college but also ‘where will we be in 10 years’.  sometimes i have to stop myself from turning around and seeing if my husband is addressing some person behind me!  and sometimes, i play with the idea that i will be that person with plans for 10 years ahead.  i rehearsed it the other day, casually tossing off to a colleague that ‘we’re probably retiring to victoria, b.c. in 10 years.’ to see if it rang true to my own ears. 

so far, i’ve managed to plan 2 months ahead!  but i’m practicing for further. 


small observations

May 22, 2010


went to see ‘sondheim on sondheim’ tonite at the theater at studio 54 (an always odd experience in a now-defunct club that i went to once or twice when it was way past it’s heyday).  it was beautiful and sometimes painful for me.  everything was done with heads held high and a troupe of good singers including barbara cook.  i grew up listening to various barbara cook albums including her turn in the recorded concert version of follies from a few years back and for many years performed ‘i can cook too’ which she sung on one of her albums (from ‘on the town’.)  i was thrilled to finally have a chance to see her perform live.  she had a few moments in the show that were quite touching – those quiet moments they didn’t make her try to keep up with the rest of the cast – her walking is pretty bad and there was a lot of ‘sit and sing’ going on…lots of floating benches suddenly appearing so that she could be part of the ‘action’ but sitting down.  nonetheless, she nailed 3 songs…one at the beginning of the show (and i don’t remember which song it was), ‘not a day goes by’ – this was the song that made me cry — i have loved this song for many years but sing it only privately – it’s complicated tonally and needs some major quiet gravitas to do it justice – and, lastly, ‘send in the clowns’ – which my teenage daughter wept to -(which secretly made me so proud to see her cry to this simply sung, by ms. cook, simply and perfectly delivered (yes, sitting down) song). 

in the row in front of us (and easy to see as this theater pitches hard downward (or, i suppose, upward  depending on one’s perspective) was a couple in their 60s.  during a few of the quieter songs, he put his hand across her legs and gently stroked her knees.  it was a sweet thing to see – they were entwined. 

it was thrilling to watch the videotaped interviews with the master himself.  he understands that he is leaving a legacy behind him and it was wonderful to listen.  we had the real luck of having just seen ‘anyone can whistle’ about a month ago at the ny city center ‘encores presentations’ production and right after the matinee, mr. sondheim himself came on stage with members of the cast and we all sat and listened to a question and answer session.  you could see during that experience and tonite, the wheels of my teenage daughter’s brain going round and round as she found herself soaked in the sound of genius.  she has a true talent for songwriting – and these two shows really lit a{nother} fire under her. 

i am always reminded by these moments of inspiration (the sondheim songs more and less the entwined older couple) that i should be doing more and thinking less about doing more and just doing more.  i have to get on top of that. 

how much?

May 11, 2010


you would think that a person who has been through a diagnosis of a serious illness would have great insight into how to help someone else.  yes and no.  the hard part is when it’s a person you know but don’t know well.   ‘let me know if there’s anything i can do for you’ is, i know, a useless remark.  no one will ask for anything – and certainly not to such an open-ended remark.  

a person i know very casually had a test yesterday brought about by a previous test.  i have her email.  i sent an email to her telling her that i was thinking about her with positive thoughts and had kept her in my thoughts all weekend.  i know that the email has not been opened and i worry that this could mean bad news. 

i’m also skirting around a real but obnoxious issue that i often deal with:  the ‘feh’ quotient.  (think ‘spitting on the floor three times to ward off the evil spirits’!)   if she is diagnosed again what does it mean for me?  if elizabeth edwards was diagnosed again as a terminal patient what does it mean for me?  if lynn redgrave died – the incomparable lynn redgrave incapable of escaping this cruel fate – yes, you guessed it.  what does it mean for me?  i will be so honest here to say that i totter between my real compassion and caring and my worries about myself.  i don’t think i’m alone in seeing each diagnosis as ‘that could be me’.  there’s not a day that goes by that someone doesn’t say ‘cancer’.  hell, there’s not a day goes by that i don’t hear it at least 10 times.  it’s big business; it’s marketing money for for-profit and charities alike; it’s so common and i want to scream that i want a day, a week, a year without hearing about cancer.   there are days when i could just forget that any of it ever happened and i am never allowed to forget.  i know.  never forget so that we can build forward.   but some days i just want a vacation from the ‘c’ word.  and yet, i worry…about this woman i know…she had a test yesterday…i haven’t heard from her. 

HOLD the curtain; there’s a bomb!

May 2, 2010


i rarely have been right in the middle of a news story but last night my parents and my daughter and i managed to find ourselves exactly at the scene of the times square bomb scare – at exactly the same time it all happened!!!  my parents are visiting for a week and as a bday gift, i wangled amazing house seats to ‘billy elliot’ – my husband subs in the pit and he was able to request house seats – it was worth it as it was a gift for my father’s 80th bday and my mother’s 79th – both bdays just having passed in the last month.  mom isn’t the best walker in the world – although i think watching new yorkers of all ages negotiating the streets and the subways as a ‘i just do it daily’ thing may have inspired her to be up and about more.  i planned the evening carefully.  we did take the subway in from brooklyn and, though it isn’ t really my thing – the giant touristy restaurant, i picked virgil’s bbq with a 6pm reservation exactly because it was 1 block from the theater and right off times square.  (i don’t like bbq or anything smoked but i had a burger and it was a pretty darned good burger.)   we scored a lovely table upstairs by the window and we were all happy – especially mom and dad with a gooey rack of bbq’d baby back ribs. 

Out the door again at 6:40pm we turned left to walk around on bway – my father was fascinated with the new walking section with no cars.  we turned right to walk up a few blocks and, at first, it looked like we couldn’t walk in the middle due to some construction for a block.  but, as a city girl, you hear and start picking up little odd signals that, even in such a huge crowd, something is a little ‘off’.  one of the comedy club hawkers made a reference to ‘that explosion over there’ and i noticed that our uptown walk (of only 1/4 a block) suddenly felt intensely dense – denser than it should be.  i wasn’t paying as much attention up and out because i was herding my particular group of cats – my dad strutting ahead and wanting to be first at anything that might be interesting; me in the middle looking forward toward him (who forgot his cell phone at home so i couldn’t lose him in the crowd); and back behind me to my teenage daughter who was kindly holding her mom-mom’s arm – my mother walking slower than most people.  but i did look up and forced myself to focus and in a few moments, my brain formed the realization that there were a whole lot of emergency vehicles appearing around us and above us and i realized that, very quickly – really really really quickly, a lot of times square was being locked down…cordoned off with police tape and the metal rails they use to pen in new years eve revelers.  and we couldn’t move forward – even as people were turning around to walk the other way.  i got us turned around but trying to negotiate down a few streets and around toward our theater was difficult – we didn’t know quite what was happening.  my father wanted to stay and watch and didn’t want to listen to my now-barked instructions to follow me.  i, who had watched the 2nd plane hit the world trade center from a roof in park slope, brooklyn, simply had a singular instinct…get out of here as quickly as possible.  (and i really hate crowds.)  but it involved pulling him along to stay with us and keeping mom moving and not tripping over the many rail-feet and curbs and gabillion other people.  i realize now that in moving back downtown, we actually went right past the original bomb/suv site.

i got us down to 43rd street where, miraculously, we were able to turn west and down to shubert alley – cut through and cut through and across 45th street to our theater.  we arrived at 7:10pm and you could feel the tension.  of course, it turned out that the car was right there or right near there but we didn’t really know.  after a bit of gawking and counting ourselves lucky for slipping and sliding to get there, we went in.  and sat.  and sat.  and sat.  i saw that at least 1/4 of the seats were empty for this usually-sold-out show and figured that many people couldn’t get there due to the streets being closed off.  an announcement came that the curtain was being held due to ‘the activity in times square’ and around 8:20 a number of people slid into their seats.  the curtain finally went up at 8:25pm – the latest i’ve ever seen it held.  in the middle of a quiet moment in the 1st act, a distinct blaring police megaphone barking some kind of universal instructions and then hidden again by the soaring orchestra in their next number.  i think i’m not the only theater patron who quietly worried  – unable to quite slip completely into the world of this northern england town of miners. 

we left at an ungodly 11:25pm and a cheery announcement came from the stage that we were all to exit to 46th street (the back of the theater).  the street was cordoned off  – hundreds of people straining at a police barricade – perhaps many gawkers and some people hoping or needing to get down that block – but onlythe theather-goers were being allowed on the block and, then, only to be let off the block.   we trekked to 8th avenue with my plan to walk to 42nd street and then back over to bway to catch the q home.  it essentially worked – though we had to cross over two times to go around the ‘ground zero’ of the emergency.  in true big city style..we passed loud vibrant restaurants and clubs with partying people having no idea nor any interest in what was happening just a block or two away.  times square on it’s best day is one of my least favorite places in all of new york city and here i was finding myself in the middle of it on a looney saturday night in some surreal drama. 

home by 12:45 – everyone passed out but me – not quite able to ramp down and watching what had now become big-time news.  thankfully, a failed explosive.  but – ohhhhh – my parents will have quite the story to tell their albuquerque friends and our relatives – out for a night of theater and they got a major incident as well and more walking than they thought possible!  which, of course, weaves it together into the regular big night of theater that is new york city.

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