Posts from June, 2013

Ann’s Diary: Chemo Strikes

I remember when Peter Jennings was diagnosed with lung cancer and had to leave ABC World News Tonight. I remember that like it was yesterday because I, who’d been fighting breast cancer for one entire year at the time, thought “OMG–cancer can get Peter Jennings?”

Having been a news reporter, I felt Peter Jennings was like the Pope to my Catholic mass cantor. Or the Supreme Court Justice to my paralegal status. He was the big dog and I was the runt of runt of the runt of the litter. He was Peter Jennings, the world famous news journalist and anchor! And there I was, having only ever been a piddly bureau reporter from tiny Lewiston, Maine.

And when he died–just 4 short months after his public diagnosis–you can imagine what I felt.

But what I want to mention today is Peter Jenning’s cancer blog; notes he took while he was battling his battle (which I wanted to link here but I can’t find online anymore.) And why I’m mentioning that is because I remember a specific line he wrote when referring to chemotherapy:  he said something like, “I try to walk across the room and then–I can’t. Chemo strikes.” He meant the exhaustion–the feeling like you’re not you, you’ve been squeezed from the inside out and you’ve got nothing to give, you gotta lie down…like all day long.

I’ve been thinking of the “chemo strikes” line all this week because chemo struck me this week but HARD.

I’ve had 10 rounds, one per week, of a drug called Taxol to help beat off the cancer in my lungs, liver and brain (and it’s been working!) and I’ve been lucky enough to not have the usual side effects.  I’ve worked out, run errands, been out with friends, traveled with my family–in short, other than the no-hair thing I haven’t behaved, looked like or felt like a stage 4 breast cancer patient in the least.

So last week (and in truth–the two days prior to my departure for the one-hundred 2 weeks ago) when I started feeling like I’d been run over by a truck, I thought I was sick with the flu or something.  Turns out it’s the side effects of chemotherapy finally catching up with me.

Here’s the thing: when I don’t feel sick, I don’t think that I’m sick.  Like before I lost my hair people would look at me working out or doing my usual strong thing and think, “she can’t be sick!” and I’d think, “yeah, I can’t be sick!”  Then my hair fell out and I looked sick, and people started treating me like I was sick.  Which, excuse the term but it fits so well, sucked.

So here I am looking AND feeling sick…and it double sucks.  I just hate this.

But I love the chemotherapy–I love that fact that after 10 rounds it’s beaten this beast down 2/3rds of the way–my tumor markers are almost 70 % less than what they were in April.  Ya-freakin-HOO!

But the emotional markers–the ones that gage how I’m doing in my mind as I work to get this body healthy–those have taken a hit with the side-effect-situation.

I will get used to it, I will.  For me it’s always about diving into the new stuff and finding a way to come to terms with whatever it is that’s happening that gets me through. Whatever the latest cancer crap is I can bear it after I take some time to chew it over, shed some tears, throw a few plates, take a breather–

then I get back in the game and push on. I did work out this week, by the way–and I will continue to; but my energy is half what is has been and my extra mojo is missing.

Feeling sick blows, whatever your problem.  And when it comes to chemo, people like Peter Jennings, everyone at my infusion center and the hundreds of thousands of cancer patients across this country and around the world know just what I’m talking about.  “Chemo strikes” and when it does, it knocks you down.

But then again, like they say in the sports world, three strikes and you’re out, buddy. Chemo may have me on the bench now but that will change. So take your best shots against me, chemotherapy side effects– because I warn you, I’m winning this game of life.

I’m winning it.

 

 

Posted June 17th, 2013 by
Ann's Diary:  Chemo Strikes
Posted in: Ann's Diary

Ann’s Diary: The One Hundred Event: Part Three

As I continue to write about my experience at the one hundred event in Boston on June 5, I get this overwhelming urge to don the persona of a Valley-Girl-Cinderella blogging about the ball–

Oh and there was this handsome prince and this beautiful other princess?  And they stood up for cancer on the red carpet?  And then, and then–there was this amazing rocker and his beautiful wife?  And there was a funny, handsome older man and his gorgeous wife whose son is a major film star?  And like, there was me, cuz POOF my Fairy Godmothers had dressed me up in a couture dress and a platinum wig and pushed me into the center of it all? Like, OMG!”

I had such an amazing time on so many levels at the one hundred that the entire night just blew me away.

First there was the venue. When I walked in early to practice my speech along with the other speakers I was almost knocked down by sophistication and elegance.   Rafanelli Events out of Boston put on the “show” in the ballroom at the Westin Waterfront and they knocked it out of the park.

Then there were the one hundred themselves; the 99 others whose actions, from collecting pennies to playing baseball for breast cancer awareness to bringing a dying college student his diploma hours before he passed away. These selfless people whose one goal is to make the cancer journey easier to bear for those of us on it: there they were, real Cancer Kicking Celebrities.  And I was one of them.

Of course, there were the other “Hollywood” celebrities, too:  

Tom Hamilton (my MAN) of Aerosmith. Kent Damon and his wife Celeste, whose son is actor Matt Damon. (no photo yet–Mr. Damon used his own cell phone.  Now how’m I gonna get THAT copy?)

 

 

Actor John Krasinski and his beautiful actor wife, Emily Blunt…

Howard Weinstein, Unit Chief of MGH’s Pediatric Hematology and Oncology (with me and my sister, Ellen)…

 

but the TRUE CELEBS?  THE ONE HUNDRED THEMSELVES…

 The ages and stages of the close to 1,000 people sitting at multiple tables of 8 in the Boston Westin Waterfront ran from the healthy to the sick and spanned from the single digits straight up to 96 years old (that was T. Berry Brazelton, the famed pediatrician.) Some were young and never had cancer but were standing up for someone who does: others had cancer and were fighting back. Still more were working to end the dreaded disease, and others were there to shine a spotlight on the cause. And these special folks were all brought together  for one magic night to revel in the fact that they make a difference every day in the fight against cancer.

And of all of those there, this Cinderella–seen below with my mom–had to have been one of the happiest princesses at the one hundred ball.

Posted June 12th, 2013 by
Ann's Diary: The One Hundred Event: Part Three
Posted in: Ann's Diary, News

Ann’s Diary: The One Hundred Event, Part Two

The one hundred event–the yearly fundraiser for the Cancer Center at Massachusetts General Hospital–rocked my world.

I’ll be blogging regularly about my magical night at the Boston Westin Waterfront because so much happened in one evening I can’t possibly recount the entire wonderment at one sitting.  But for now I want to bring you some of the visual highlights of what has become what I call the 7 Wonders of My World: The one hundred event, 2013.

To begin, I needed to get my wig on.  Unlike my groove, to get my wig on I needed someone really good to style it.  And I found her: Michelle.

Michelle does my sister’s hair, and was the perfect woman to look at photos I’d brought with me from home and match to a tee what my California stylist did for me when she styled my wig last month.

Once the wig and dress were on, it was off to the event to practice my speech.  My wingman,

 

 

 

 

C and I took a cab and enjoyed the awesome calm before the inevitable storm of success that was about to enfold.

 

When I walked into the grand ballroom at the hotel, I was blown away by the meticulous work it took to make a large, vacuous space come to life with color, class and cancer-kicking costuming….

 

right down to the gorgeous flowers on the tables and the jumbo-tron-like screens illuminating the future speakers who were just hours away from taking the stage and standing up for the fight against cancer at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Posted June 7th, 2013 by
Ann's Diary: The One Hundred Event, Part Two
Posted in: Ann's Diary

Ann’s Diary: The One Hundred Event: Part One

I’m on the plane headed to speak at the one hundred event in Boston tomorrow.  But before I even get there, this has already been a magical trip.

It started when I got dropped off by my girlfriend–I’ll call her C –at the airport.  She’s one of those people who never falters in her belief in me as I battle the cancer beast.  Even on my worst days, when I don’t even believe in me, she’s there with her smile and her attitude of “this cancer isn’t getting you.”  Only with her it’s “ain’t getting you” spoken with her I-grew-up-in-LA-don’t-mess-with-me pose; cuz that’s how she rolls…

So today, she and her husband get out of the car curbside because after they dropped me off at the airport they were heading to lunch–

–and as I grab my suitcase to roll toward my airplane, she says to me, “I’m going with you.” And I’m laughing because she’s been saying that since I got selected as a one hundred award-winner three months ago.  But then…and this is where I lose my mind…she goes to the trunk of the car where she just pulled out my suitcase, and pulls out her own.

She really IS coming with me! Cleared her schedule at work, dropped 800 bucks on a plane ticket, kissed her husband and son good-bye–so she could watch me speak at this event. If magic moments healed cancer I’d have been cured right there on the curb. (photo on my phone–will download later.)

An hour later we were waiting at the gate for our plane to board when I caught sight of an older man waiting for the same flight.  And he stood out to me because his shirt sported the name of the exact battalion of the exact corp of the exact division of the army that my 88 year old father was in.  I’m talking World War II.  As Tom Brokaw wrote a while back, this Greatest Generation is fading fast.  There aren’t many of these men around–from World War II, anyway. Then to have one from the exact division as my father is almost unheard of. AND to have him standing 10 feet away from me:? MIRACULOUS.

I rushed over and introduced myself and explained why I wanted to know him. I got his name, his email and promised him I’d write when I got home from Boston (photo later.)  I even emailed him via my phone to make sure we didn’t lose touch.  Still reeling from the chance encounter I walked down the gateway to find my plane seat and guess what:

He’s seated right next to me on the plane. (photo later.)

I chewed his ear off on the flight and wrote as much of his story down as I possibly could without looking like a random stalker freak.  I showed him this photo of my dad (photo later) and he pointed out that my dad had the same paratrooper symbol on his cap in this photo that he was sporting on his belt buckle right now.  He told me stories of paratrooper training in 1943 and was certain, as am I, that he and my dad must have trained together.  He didn’t remember my Dad per se but he said his face was familiar.  70 years later I’d say that’s a good sign they were side by side at some point back there.

As I heard more of Al’s story–his name is Al–I realized that though he trained with my dad they then separated and didn’t fight together.  Dad went to war soon after training and Al stayed behind and became an officer, going to Germany later that fall.  When he did go, Al had left my dad’s company and was  in another division–likely not seeing my father any more.

But still: what an amazing, random connection.

We parted ways and my friend and I hopped on this flight that I’m on right now.  I wasn’t planning on coughing up 8 bucks for wifi this trip but so much has happened already I’m bursting, and wanted to write this blog.

And as I pulled out my credit card the wifi network screen said “the wifi’s on us today.  Enjoy the ride.”

Which of course I am already doing. Very much.

Boston, here I come.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted June 4th, 2013 by
Ann's Diary: The One Hundred Event: Part One
Posted in: Ann's Diary