Cosmically Perfect

Jai- the makeup genius!

Antwon, Wendy’s wigologist, was as cool as he looks!

Producer Stephanie- How YOU doin’?  

Producer Stephanie- How YOU doin’?  

Lucy, me, Darrell, Will and James after the show

Lucy, me, Darrell, Will and James after the show

Wendy- beautiful, funny, generous and warm.  

Wendy- beautiful, funny, generous and warm.  

I’ve had lots of requests for the “real scoop” on Wendy Williams.  Here it is, the inside dirt on the woman from Ocean County, NJ who made it big.  She is beautiful, funny, generous and warm.  Sorry folks, it’s the truth. 

I had such a great day- we all did.  At first the kids were just excited to skip school, but when they got to the studio and they had, believe it or not- bagels! in the green room- they pretty much lost it (never mind that there were half eaten bagels left on the kitchen counter that morning)! We were treated like rock stars and the energy was crazy positive and fun.  I recommend getting some tickets and going to a show- it’s a high energy dance party WOO WOO how YOU doin’ good time.

OK some behind the scenes dish.  Jai.  The make up.  He’s genius.  I’m not a big makeup wearer- not that I couldn’t use it- I’ve just been working in kitchens for the past 20 years.  Plus I’m lazy.  I thought maybe I could pick up a few tips but what I learned was doing great makeup is an art. The application of the different shades of foundation in order to create shadows and highlights, the precise brushing on of eyebrows, the mixing and layering of colors- it was amazing. So that’s not going to happen at my bathroom mirror any time soon.

The dark wig.  Here’s the confession, I’ve been coloring my hair for, well, ever.  But I decided no more toxic chemicals for me!- I’m going to go back to my natural color (the fact that my hair is now coming in grey is a bridge I will cross when I get to it ). So when we talked wigs it was decided that we would go for the dramatic dark hair. The hair was a little bigger than my fine, limp hair but I have to say it was fun to go over the top a bit.  It’s the Wendy Williams show for God’s sake- go big! And Antwon, Wendy’s wigologist, was even cooler and more fun as he looks in the pictures. 

The shoes were my fault.  I went into the city for the fitting and we picked out the dress, but not the shoes.  The stylist, the lovely Lauren, asked whether I’d like a small heel or something higher. Caught up in the excitement of the day I declared- I love high heels!  Apparently I forgot I’m still having trouble walking, period, much less in heels.  Surgery, paralysis, rehab- all forgotten in the name of fashion! So the morning of the show Stephanie hands me the shoes and of course they are gorgeous but honestly, I’ve never seen heels so high.  6 inches! They had a little platform and were (as at least I had the sense to request) able to be securely strapped on.  But as I was walking around hallways practicing in these things, I knew it was a real possibility that I could fall down on live TV.  That would suck.  So I walked very carefully, I did have a wobble, but the cameraman cut away, and I made it to the little star on the rug where I was instructed to stand.  After I got there I just counted my blessings and tried not to fall over in relief.

I had this great speech planned, thanking Wendy and saying that as much as cancer stinks, I’ve experienced such amazing gifts, like being here with my family…

But obviously, in the moment, seeing Darrell and the kids and feeling the energy and frankly the relief of not landing on my face, it was all I could do not burst into a full blown fit of sobbing.

So it was a great day.  Even though the whole point WAS breast cancer- I didn’t think about once.  We all just enjoyed the experience, (and the booty!) Again, I’m humbled and amazed by the gifts cancer has given me.  Crazy cancer, crazy life.

Will, James and Lucy at Sandy Hook today- now that’s what I call having fun!

Will, James and Lucy at Sandy Hook today- now that’s what I call having fun!

The picture I sent to Wendy- me and all my baldness!

The picture I sent to Wendy- me and all my baldness!

So I’m doing something that is the exact opposite of being a hermit- going on the Wendy Williams Show!  How (the hell) did that happen you may ask.  Well it’s really quite simple, and cosmically perfect.  I haven’t been having the best couple of weeks, no writing on the blog because all I had to say was “tired today, again”.  It was that long stretch after the hoopla dies down and you just have to put your head down and get through the thing that seems to go on way longer than you imagined it ever could.  I’m so done with being “sick” or “in treatment” but guess what- I’m so NOT done.  I just didn’t have the energy to be upbeat anymore, I was sinking into a self-pity slump.  I was crying all the time.  Now, I like to cry, it’s a release for me and I feel better afterward- I’m definitely a fan.  Sometimes, before I really had something to cry about, if I was feeling low I’d watch Steel Magnolias or Terms of Endearment just to bawl my eyes out and feel better.  But it was getting ridiculous, I’d wake up and cry, take a shower and cry, drive to school crying behind my sunglass- all day long this would go on.  I wasn’t really worried because I knew there would come a point where I just had to let it go and experience the anger and sadness.  But I was crying in front of the kids.

I need to back track a bit.  What brought on all the crying was a change in my diagnosis.  Some of my test results were conflicting and after some more pathology, it turns out my diagnosis is “triple negative”cancer, which just means that it doesn’t respond to any of the three hormones they test for.  The vast majority of breast cancer is estrogen receptor positive and can therefore be treated with an estrogen blocker like tamoxofin.  It also means this cancer is more aggressive and there are less weapons in the arsenal to fight it. But on the flip side it is especially responsive to chemotherapy and was detected early.  It is also the “hot cancer” among researchers because it is popping up more and more in unlikely populations.  So maybe someone will discover a miracle cure.  I wish they would hurry up with that.

Although it was not good news, it didn’t change my protocol- we all knew the cancer was aggressive and we were treating it aggressively.  One good thing the scary words “triple negative” did for me was get me back on track with my end of the healing bargain.  My plan, along with doing chemo and radiation, was to keep fighting this thing myself with diet, exercise, and “spirituality”. But during the worst parts of the treatment I just let myself go with the flow.  I couldn’t look at a kale leaf, much less actually eat it- I had an aversion to water for goodness sake.  I did whatever I could to get through the day and didn’t stress about what I wasn’t doing “right”. As I felt better I started to slowly get back into it, but honestly I was just enjoying being able to eat and feel normal again.

Once I realized that there was nothing to keep this cancer from spreading except what my body does to fight it off, I was ON IT.  Green tea, green juices, brown rice- I’m in.  The exercise part is proving challenging for me believe it or not- since I love my walks.  My left leg is still so weak from the paralysis that I get exhausted and wobbly instantly, it’s so discouraging.  But I did get the coolest ever cruiser bike from Kranky Cycles and have been riding with the kids on the trail.  The spiritual part includes meditation, letting go of any past anger (that’s a story for another day) and bringing joy into life.  I’ve felt a tremendous amount of support, compassion and love.  But joy? I have cancer- it ain’t fun.  But then I realized I better start having some fun because

1.It’s healthy.

2. None of us know how long we are “dancing on this earth” so I better start dancing.

 I put it out to the universe that I need some FUN in my cancer-consumed life.  And who calls but the American Cancer Society to see if I would be willing to be made over for the Wendy Williams show for Breast Cancer Awareness month.  Well as matter of fact I’ve been waiting for your call.  So Mike Boylan taped the corniest video ever of me asking WW for a makeover- “Wendy, will you make me over??!!” I think I laughed more doing that than I had in a month.  It should be hilarious and it’s on TV next Monday- on FOX!!  You can’t make this stuff up.

I stay away from sad movies now, but did cry watching Lord of the Rings with the kids (we are J.R.R. Tolkien obsessed since The Hobbit movie came out)- the part when Boromir dies gets me every time.  And sometimes the green juices I make are so gross I want to cry.  But other than that I think I’m back on track and again amazed by the gifts this cancer gives me. 

Cosmically Perfect - Part Five - The Hermit

Fossil hunting with Aunt Debbie at Poricy Park last week

Fossil hunting with Aunt Debbie at Poricy Park last week

It seems like everytime I pick up a book or magazine lately there is some reference to cancer.  Was it always like that and I didn’t notice?  I am so consumed with C-A-N-C-E-R and bored with it at the same time.  I was so happy when the first part was over and I wasn’t nauseous anymore- woohoo! Back to work! Let’s go fossil hunting! Yes to that party, that lunch date, that outing!  Then the exhaustion set in.  Wow. Now I’ve been tired and wiped out before, three kids and a bakery will do that to you, but this is new.  I had been warned about it but was just cocky enough to think I could handle it.  Scramble an egg, take a nap, write an email, take a nap- this is my life.  Now I’m a big fan of napping, and reading books in one sitting and watching six movies back to back or the whole Lonesome Dove mini series in one sitting, but enough is enough already.  I have things to do! Wait, like what? Go to Costco?  Clean out Lucy’s closet?  Organize the Tupperware cabinet?  As worthy pursuits as these all are, why on earth should I feel like a failure because I just can’t get to them?  This is life? Wouldn’t my few precious energetic hours be better spent biking with kids, playing in the garden, visiting friends?  And when I’m tired do I have to feel bad about being in bed reading during the day?  Where did I get this ridiculous notion that the busiest person wins?  How about the happiest person wins?  As my friend Allison said- stop the glorification of busy!  So I was thinking about what really makes me happy- my family, my friends and neighbors, the bakery. Being a part of our community. Cooking and eating great food, traveling, being outdoors. Reading, watching movies, talking about books and movies. I love dreaming up and taking on a new project, I love creating things.   I love ideas, and people who love talking about ideas.  I love the bigger picture, and people who are willing to discuss it without judgment.  I love farms, bakeries and bread, great restaurants and great wine. And farmers and bakers and chefs.  I love being part of something that’s creative, exciting, growing and changing - that’s why I love Atlantic Highlands so much.  I love that I get to be a part of it, that there are so many opportunities to be useful and actually make a difference.  I love road trips and the idea of camping (I’m more of a well- stocked cabin girl though).  I love hearing my kids laugh hysterically and would like to laugh so hard I peed in my pants at least once a day.  Looking over the list I can do almost all of these things even with cancer!  The only thing that’s stopping me is poor planning and my bad attitude.  I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.  I say this to myself a hundred times a day, and out loud almost as much.  So how would it be if I took a guilt free power nap then packed a picnic and went to the beach to watch the boys (all of them) surf?  Or went out to dinner and a movie with Darrell? Or taught Lucy how to make chocolate chip banana bread?  Or hung out at the bakery schmoozing with my lovely customers, or threw together an easy dinner with friends?  I have cancer, I also have allergies and ugly toenails and unsatisfactory hair.  I guess all these things are just going to be part of the package and I will have to live my life regardless.  The key here is LIVE.  Now, after treatment, whatever the future holds.  The happiest person wins and we need to get started on that banana bread.

Remember Jack Nicholson’s line from the movie As Good as it Gets: “you make me want to be a better man”?  I know I’m being super corny but that’s how I feel being the recipient of so much support and effort.  I’m amazed by people every single day- from the beginning I’ve felt that I am not in this alone.  I am so grateful for the kindness I’ve experienced, it again is one of those extraordinary things we may not get to experience in ordinary life.  It’s a gift that cancer gives me.  My friend Rosemary Pappa told me that the other day- this cancer, as awful as it is, brings gifts too.  And I know that, I’ve experienced it, but I admit I did forget for a while there.  My doctor Dina McHeffey was the driving force behind my getting the fateful mammogram in the first place.  I tell her all the time that she saved my life because she did- if I waited until I could feel the lump, it would have been too late.  My surgeon couldn’t feel the mass even though she knew where it was!  Neither could the oncologist- that mammo saved my life.  When the results came back that yes, I had cancer, Dina didn’t miss a beat.  She told me she was going to be with me every step of the way and she was going to get me in yesterday to see the best doctors.  She got on the phone and became my advocate and my strength.  I was in shock, it was inconceivable to me that I had cancer.  I don’t smoke, I don’t drink (ok that is totally a lie, but I usually don’t drink too much…), I eat organic food and exercise- how the hell do I have cancer???  My next thought was, if I have it there do I have it everywhere? We need a PET scan! But my crappy insurance, crappy because I pay for it myself and I never, well before this, get sick, didn’t want to authorize it.  I wish I could have heard the conversation Dina had with the insurance company- this woman was not taking no for an answer- needless to say we got the authorization, we got the PET scan and I could stop freaking out and focus because it showed no other cancer.  We went over all the different results together, she explained things and kept me positive.  She tied all the medical craziness together for me and took the feeling of helplessness out of the equation.  I had an advocate and a friend to guide and support me every step of the way.  She was by my side just like she said she would be- she brought me soup in the ICU!  Whose doctor does that?  When I think about how this person has affected my life I am humbled and amazed. My children will have their mother because this woman uses her life to make ours better.  Pretty damn cool.  It makes me want to be a better person- maybe I won’t save a life, but I sure know from experience how love and support can change a person’s life.  I know I’m going to die, someday, and I want to be able to look back and say that I, in some small way, made a difference too.