can you allow yourself your dreams after you’ve seen your nightmares?

February 27, 2012


i didn’t have any understanding just how much a big ol’ bout of cancer would knock the stuffing out of me.  or maybe, it was less that i lost my stuffing (well, trust me that i gained plenty of stuffing over the past few years – then lost some – then…oy..) but that i battened down all the hatches.  almost every one.  i could not listen to music in any meaningful way.  i shut it out because my heart ached to want more out of it  – to let it touch me.  i shut out big dreams and oversized wants and certainly closed the door to seeing my life too far ahead.  it was too dangerous to crack that door open and get a glimpse of open sea – lest the door slam shut and you’re stuck back in the world of 1/2 drawn curtains and industrial lighting. 

but…time is a funny thing.  if you manage to stay in the game of time, eventually, slowly, you put some of it behind you and there is a glimmer that you might – just might – think about next year or plan for even a few years ahead.  i still ‘knock on wood’ (usually my head) and sometimes take a deep breath but slowly i find some more space between now and then. 

and, in a scenario i only allowed in my most private thoughts, i have allowed myself to not only dream but to do – to create and work on a life i have wanted to return to for many years – of making music and singing again and finding the discipline to be back on stage.  it has almost helped that i look nothing like my old former hot curvy sassy self because i am given the gift of not trying to recreate what was but to create and shape what is now and, more importantly, what will be because i want it.  that’s what i say to myself every week at each audition before i walk in through the door to face the casting folks.  quietly to myself i say:   ‘you are here because you want to.  have a pisser of a time.’  (the first part is mine; the second told to me once upon a hot-curvy-sassy-fling with a famous irish flutist who said he said that to himself every time he was about to walk onstage.) 

i now happily juggle my regular working life, my wonderful family (they might say they juggle me!); and the buds of a life of music and theater that is starting to, once again, belatedly, take shape.  what shape?  i’m not sure but i am determined.  and i’m here because i want to be.  i’m having a pisser of a time.


this is 54. (a partial list)

October 13, 2011

october 14th 1957 + 54 years = october 14th 2011

i’m alive.

i’m happy to be alive.

some days i’m 35 pounds lighter than i was 4 1/2 years ago and some days i’m 30 pounds lighter than i was 4 1/2 years ago.

i really notice those 5 pounds now.

i am the aging mother of an amazing high school jr.  she surprises me (in a good way) every single day even as she rolls her eyes at me.  i just can’t say how much love grows in my heart for this witty, caustic, quirky kid i helped bring into the world.

i am married over 20 years which is longer than i lived with my parents.  that says a lot about my husband.

i love my house and hate my neighborhood.

i have worked very hard to once again have real and meaningful friendships in my life and think i’m succeeding – of course, it’s all to my benefit.  a few are over 15-years-of-emailing dear friends whom i’ve never met in real life but whom i hold as my closest confidents.

when i look in a mirror i think my hair looks good.  when i look at a photo of myself, i think my hair looks like i survived cancer.

i remind myself that i’ve put over 5 years of surviving cancer behind myself on a daily basis. 

i need more sleep. 

i often can’t stay asleep.

i’m doubly removed of estrogren (age and medications) and it’s really not for the better as far as my femininity or my ability to concentrate on reading a book is concerned. 

i still try on clothes that i think look fabulous but quickly realize that i could have worn them 25 years ago. 

i can sing better than 25 years ago.  now to find out if that means anything when you’re aging and zaftig.

i finally left organized religion behind and concentrate on being a good person in this world. 

i think about food and cooking and travel all the time.

i still love new york city but there’s a teeny part that can imagine retiring in victoria, b.c.   i can imagine retiring.  bliss.

without lists, i would not survive. 

i’m alive.

i’m happy to be alive.

gardening and cancer

June 23, 2011


yes, i know.  it’s so beautiful in my little brooklyn backyard.  from the wet, muddy pit that it was about 22 years ago when i first moved in to the beautiful quirky yard filled with roses, basil and burgeoning tomatoes and cucumbers not to mention overgrown patches of irises – my backyard is our own little oasis.  when i was just out of treatment – 5 years ago this summer – i wasn’t up for much.  i remember walking down the street in park slope, brooklyn near my work, and seeing a beautiful flowering vine.  it wasn’t clematis…which are vines i have many of against the fences.  i bought it immediately and sometime in the next week, planted it near the foot of my climbing yellow roses.   i don’t remember much of that summer but i remember sitting on the back rocker just watching my garden and thinking that so few people took the time to sit in their garden.   late that fall, i finally looked up the vine that i planted and, much to my horror, found out that the red trumpet vine that i had purchased and planted was deemed to be one of the most invasive vines around…it would take over and strangle all else.  without a moment’s hesitation, i went to my yard, dug up the vine, and discarded it. 

last week, i took time out from a busy work schedule to delay heading into the office – i gave myself an hour in the cool morning to get down on my knees and really focus on weeding out a patch of the garden.  one by one i plucked out the usual offenders…the rain had made them easy to grab so that their roots came out – giving me hope that i was winning the weeding game.  then i looked over and stared.  there it was.  at the foot of the yellow climbing roses…the telltale green vine that said that my excavation 4.5 years earlier was a fool’s errand.  invasive vine.  it seemed the very definition of invasive.  it was still there.  and growing.  and probably spreading.  and i started crying.  in my own garden.  a cruel reminder that you never know that what you think has been taken out of  you isn’t still growing.  i hate cancer.   i’ve gone back into my garden … but it took a few days.  i hate cancer. 


it doesn’t matter who you are..

June 4, 2011

a very good post by the famous dr. oz.  i don’t particularly follow him in any fashion but happened upon this article he wrote in ‘time’ about being diagnosed with a precancerous polyp.  i encourage you to read it.  he speaks from an interesting position: meshing professional knowledge with personal issues. 

Our lives get complicated fast, and we are very uncomfortable being uncomfortable. We detest the passage into the unknown — that feeling of being out of control, victimized. Numbers like 75% or 6% or 50-50 are abstract and conceptual. The sickly, swoony feeling you get when your doctor says, “Come see me in my office,” is something we can all imagine today. And so we avoid the test to avoid that experience — and that was precisely the choice I had made.

Read more:,28804,2075133_2075127_2075098-1,00.html 

the discussion of who has access to healthcare aside, it’s a touching read. 

spring forward

April 10, 2011

a marker post.  just like i feel that the last few weeks have been marker weeks.  marking the days until there was true spring in the air.  brooklyn has slogged through so much winter and then cold early-spring that it felt that it would never ever come.  but now, daffodils are peaking out and our flowering cherry looks like it will finally burst … and with each pink and white burst my sad lumpy sodden spirits will rise to the promise of spring.  and i said i didn’t like pink.  pink for cancer…not so much.  pink for the promise of spring?   turns out, context is everything!


instant gratification

December 13, 2010


i had quite an afternoon the other day.  facebook, the great social organizer, put me in touch with a high school classmate.  i found out that she had lost her teenage son, Michael, to a rare aggressive pediatric cancer in 2008.  as my daughter turned 16 and i walk my own path from patient to survivor, i reached out to give my belated condolences. 

michael was given one wish by “Make a Wish” foundation and he chose to use the money to buy age-appropriate electronics and then he gave them away to other pediatric cancer patients.    he formed the “Mikey’s Way” foundation and since his passing, his mom and dad have continued this work.  mike knew that many families cannot afford these items on top of their health care costs.  he also understood, all too well, that pediatric cancer patients spend an extraordinary amount of time laying around and the ‘leapsters’ to the netbooks to the nintendos to the portable DVD players help them cope with all the tedious hours of waiting during treatments, doctor’s appointments and hospital visits. 

 I had the very special opportunity to be at Maimonides Pediatric Cancer Center last week as Mikey’s Way gave away these electronics to over 25 pediatric cancer patients.  So simple in its conception and execution…Mike’s parents shop at stores (Mike’s dad told me that he IS that guy 1st in line at 4am waiting at ‘Best Buy” for the super-special deals on electronics!), then arrive with their own large rolling cart filled to the brim.  each child (and we saw them from age 2 to age 22) got a choice of age-appropriate gear and got to make their own choice.  Additional movies and games and batteries were supplied with each piece.  i wish i could say that i was of some help but truly, i just stood there and smiled.  if you thought being a cancer patient was sad, well, you never saw the kids i saw that day…and their parents. 

i acknowledge that foundations and charities are essential to helping out people with medical challenges in their lives.  but i also know the frustration with giving to them…they become expanding behemoth multi-armed well-intentioned monsters.  here was help in its most simple organized and helpful form.   donation buys product; product given to patient. 

Here are two ways to get your own instant gratification: 

1st:  Think about a donation.  You can read about Mike and Mikey’s Way here (donation widget on the main front page at top): 

2nd:  Mikey’s Way is up for a Pepsi $50,000 grant and all you need to do is CLICK!  Click your mouse once every day until December 31st to vote for them so that they can keep doing this wonderful work.  Click!  So simple.  So much good!  YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE.   

 Here’s the link:  

I hope you bookmark the site and click once a day until the end of 2010 to help 2011 be a good year for a lot of needy kids. 

 Happy Holidays!   (Click!)  



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worrying about someone i don’t really know

October 22, 2010

it was an internet-driven six degrees of separation kind of thing except this had only 1 degree.  my friend lisa – whom i have ‘known’ now for easily 10 years through an online email loop that started in the aol moms bb boards and has honed itself  to 8 or 9 women emailing daily for many years now – had a friend sean – who used to work with her as a journalist and who was diagnosed with brain cancer … gioblastoma multiforme…and was writing a blog.  i was writing a blog.  and starting to reach out in my reading to listen to other people.  i wasn’t looking for cancer blogs.  i wasn’t looking for a fellow cancer patient.  i usually haunt cooking and kitchen blogs.  but lisa wrote about him a few times and once quoted something sean wrote in a post and i was intrigued.  so i peeked.  i was so freaked out by the intense nature of his cancer and writing that i bookmarked the page but it took me weeks to come back and read it.  but i did go back and what i found past the ‘this is what is happening to me’ was a deeply smart witty writer who was capable of taking his own personal dire circumstances and fashioning posts that were far-reaching in their content.  and then i kept reading.  and posted a bit…mostly with bits of support from a stranger in brooklyn, new york to an ailing journalist in florida…one of many caring voices urging him on and wishing him more than well.  but now, the posts have stopped.  i noticed right after 9/11 when he posted a poem written by a friend of his that i was the only comment on that post.  as if everyone else knew something.  i hear from lisa that the chemo is kicking his ass.  i wish there was a way that i could do more than sit at my laptop in my bedroom hoping that he finds his way to a better place.  it’s odd that it hurts to feel for someone i’ve never actually met. 

in a cruel irony, one of the sweetest teachers at my daughter’s school was just diagnosed with the same cancer and perhaps sean’s blog has given me insight into this path so that i can understand her journey better and help my daughter cope with worrying about her beloved mentor and teacher.

i hope you read through his blog.  his writing is wonderful.  i hope he and i ‘meet’ again when and if he starts writing again. 

sean holton’s blog is ‘SAME TIME TOMORROW’ –   

(How Sean Holton Learned To Stop Worrying And Just Have Brain Cancer Instead)

and can be found at:   

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