Once More Unto The Breach
Tales of my second go-round with breast cancer before the age of 40, and everything since.

Double Four

It’s always a novelty to hit a palindromic age, as I did today—after all, they don’t come around that often.  And I just realized that my last one neatly divided my life into its pre- and post-cancer chapters.  I spent thirty-three full years on the planet before that first diagnosis—a blink or an eternity, depending on your perspective.

These past eleven years have felt much the same—speeding past or in slow motion, depending on the lens.  I remember what our lives were like eleven years ago with no effort—where we lived, what we ate, the preoccupations and dreams we had.  And then I think about all that has transpired since—two cross-country moves, two diagnoses, two graduate degrees, two houses bought, two fathers lost.

We have had countless joys and unaccountable sorrows.

And they have all, collectively, brought us to this day and this place.

Here’s to year forty-four, and to the next lap around the sun.

Sending Out 2010 in Style

Last night we hosted our 21st annual New Year Eve’s dinner party.  It’s one of our favorite traditions and a highlight of the year for us:  a chance to share a festive evening with wonderful friends, an opportunity to collaborate in the kitchen, and an occasion to reflect on the year gone by and the promise of the one ahead.

Wishing you all a spectacular 2011 filled with peace, hope, health, fulfillment, and joy!

New Year’s Eve 2010 Menu

Tête de Moine and Accompaniments

Miniature Brioche with Olive Oil Glaze and Cypress Salt Flake

Scallop Ceviche on Homemade Black Pasta Cakes with Cilantro Salsa

Indian-spiced Carrot Soup with Ginger

Zucchini Carpaccio

Pan-seared Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Apple Pan Sauce
Oven-baked Potato Galette with Fresh Rosemary
Haricots Verts with Caramelized Shallots and Fresh Thyme

Arnaud’s Bananas Foster over Homemade Malted Milk Gelato

Getaway

Zach surprised me with a weekend getaway to the desert over Christmas weekend. I have been drowning at work and could not possibly have asked for a better stress-buster than three nights in this gorgeous setting:

Moon Over Joshua Tree

 

Cotton Candy Sky

We slept, read, played Scrabble, did a little exploring of Joshua Tree National Park, and spent lots of quality time in front of the fire. The landscape is otherworldly, and the sky surreal. We will go back for sure.

Taking Five

Today is the fifth anniversary of my second breast-cancer diagnosis.

I didn’t quite make it to five the first time around—I was a few months shy when that second diagnosis completely blindsided us. (Not that the first one was any less of a surprise.)

Five years is a great milestone—a nice round number, an opportunity to pause and reflect and celebrate.

But truly, today is just a day—one of eighteen hundred and twenty-six days of getting up and getting through and putting that much more distance between me and that diagnosis.

And tomorrow will be one of eighteen hundred and twenty-seven.

Nostalgia

I got up early this morning and drove across town to say Kaddish for my father on this, the third anniversary of his death according to the Jewish calendar.

On the way back, I passed one of the only places in LA where we’ve found halfway decent bagels, and I was reminded of a ritual my dad and I had when I was a kid, when for a stretch of time we operated a bagel-delivery service for the neighbors on our block.

I have no idea how or when it started, or how long it lasted. But back then, we were the only Jewish family on the block, and I’m guessing we might have been the first to acquaint our neighbors with the glory of the bagel.

In any event, the two of us would get up on Sunday mornings, get in the car, pick up a bunch of bagels at a local place called The Pantry, then drive back and go door to door, making our deliveries.

I don’t remember the car my dad drove.

I have no idea how many houses we visited each week.

I can’t tell you whether our neighbors actually placed orders, or even whether they paid for their bagels.

I just remember it was something I used to do with my dad—just the two of us.

And this morning, as I was thinking about him and trying to honor his memory, I turned around and drove back to The Bagel Broker and picked up a dozen assorted bagels, plus two extra that you get for free when you pay for the first twelve.

I got plain, pumpernickel, poppy, onion, and sesame—all traditional varieties from my childhood. I got a couple of bialys, another family favorite. And I got a few “everything” bagels—these did not exist when I was a kid, but they do now, and Zach loves them.

Then I stopped off for some cream cheese and lox, and I drove home carrying two big paper sacks full of warm, aromatic bagels, just the way my dad and I used to do.

The bagels weren’t as good as the ones we used to get back in those days.

Neither was the cream cheese or the store-bought lox.

But it hardly mattered that the food fell short. The memory was all the nourishment I needed.

Thank You, Peggy Orenstein

And thank you, Lisa, for calling this to my attention:

Think About Pink in today’s New York Times Magazine

It’s good to know that it’s not just me.

A Different Perspective on Pink

Breast Cancer Awareness Month is finally over.

I swear, it felt endless this year.

A restaurant we used to like to go to had its entire facade painted pink for the month.

A show I like to watch had an obligatory breast-cancer subplot.

Even the book I read last week had a major character who’d had breast cancer. (I realize that was my timing, not the book’s, but still. Fiction is supposed to be an escape, right??)

I feel virtually pummeled all the time by the ads, the fundraisers—the pink this and the ribboned that.

And then I feel disloyal to the cause for feeling that way.

I’m the subversive survivor.

The one who hates the term survivor.

The one who feels alienated by a month-long movement that embraces me and my “journey” (another hated term) and is supposed to make me feel supported by the throngs of people walking and racing—and, above all, buying—for the cure.

I have to say that I don’t feel supported.

I feel suffocated.

I feel frustrated.

I feel irritated and aggravated and enervated.

I feel like I’ve been co-opted by our consumerist culture, the one that has commercialized—even fetishized—cancer.

We are so good at marketing and PR and logos and headlines and tag lines and swag. We can sell almost anyone almost anything if we package it the right way.

This is not the right way.

For me, at least, this is not the right way.

Periscope Up

I’ve been both under water and underground for the past few weeks.

(And I just spent five minutes thinking about why it’s “under water”—two words—and “underground”—one word, which is probably a metaphor for why I’ve been both.)

The obvious reasons: I’m still dealing with that WBT (just passed the 11-week mark). Zach and I have been traveling, although not together, for much of the past six weeks. And the combination of the two has put me behind at work, at home, and in life in general. Plus I came down with something other than the WBT the other day and have been home sick since mid-day on Thursday.

The less obvious ones: The WBT has messed up the rhythms of my life. It’s kept me from exercising. It’s kept me behind my desk at work. It’s kept me on the medical merry-go-round, going from doctor to doctor and test to test. It’s drained hours from my days—hours and energy and patience and focus. It’s made me cranky and frustrated and resentful.

And unwilling (or unable) to express all of that crankiness and frustration and resentment here.

Plus, you know, it’s October.

So I feel a special obligation to say stuff about that.

Even if it’s my usual cranky, frustrated, resentful stuff.

For example:

The building where I work features the Captivate “network”: an advertising-supported news feed on small screens in each elevator. Mostly the screens show headlines and the current weather and a stock ticker. But sometimes they have “You Tell Us” items that invite readers riders to submit their answers to various inane but generally innocuous questions.

But last week’s question—predictable though it probably should have been—pissed me off in the extreme:

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. What have you bought to support the cause?

What have you bought?? How about “What have you done to support the cause?”

I have been over this before.

But I am clearly not over it.

Just thinking about it makes steam shoot out of my ears.

I’m so angry I can’t even speak.

But maybe the steam will find its way into my lungs and make it easier for me to breathe.

Not to Leave You in Suspense

I got the mammogram results on the spot, and they were perfect.

I had no particular reason to worry, but it’s always nice to get good news—and get it so quickly.

The technician told me that the images were extremely high quality because I was able to tolerate so much pressure. Not that she asked one way or the other, so I have no idea how she gauged what I could or couldn’t tolerate.

In fact, I probably would have volunteered for even more squeezing had I known that there might have been a meaningful benefit.

A couple of seconds of marginally greater discomfort for a more accurate reading seems like an awfully good deal to me.

Only in LA

I valet parked for my mammogram today.

That may be the most absurd sentence I’ve ever written.

 

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