Stricken? Yes and No

Early August 2016– With the possibility (actually strong probability according to my internist) of an ovarian cancer diagnosis, my entire world is suddenly colored by cancer. The CT scans are pointing to it, but I have an appointment with a highly recommended (who’s not “highly recommended” these days?)  oncological gynecological surgeon in ten days. Can this BE? Radio spots for funeral arrangements and planning ahead for loved ones now have a new immediacy. My biggest concern is Kenny, whose own diabetes-related health issues require 24/7 monitoring. I actually help – by just being there if nothing else.  (As an aside, when he read this, his reaction was, “Help? How do you ‘help’ ?” But that’s another story.) What will he do without me? That’s really my only concern. Other than my immediate family, I have very few other family members that I’m fond of, but a zillion good friends. They will surely miss me – the one who’s the most fun in the crowd, if I do say so. Don’t worry, they’ve heard me say this with tongue in cheek, of course.

Seeing Woody Allen’s latest film, “Café Society” this afternoon was a great escape, but did I really have to hear the father’s line, “I’ll accept death, but under protest.” His wife, a hilarious Jewish mother, played by Jeannie Berlin responds, “Protest to who?” The movie was funny and as the credits rolled, I heard someone in back of me say, “Woody Allen gets better with age.” I watched the credits, but this time not for their artistic value, but to escape going back outside to face the real world. I never expected a nightmare to be real.

Car ride home after the movie: Was it really necessary to hear Seals and Crofts singing, “We May Never Pass This Way Again”? Gad! And then the “Midnight Cowboy” theme song with “I gotta keep going where the sun keeps shining/Through the pouring rain.” I strongly suspect I have a battle ahead- my first real battle in a very happy life.

For the past two days, when I see “Buy 2, get the second 50% off,” I have not gone for it. Yesterday it was Sensodyne toothpaste and today, Fiber One cereal. I did find a heads up shiny penny in the parking lot of Rite Aid. If only…

Thursday tennis game: Played hard in hazy, hot and humid weather for 90 minutes with the usual crew. Went to a tie break and won it at 10-8 with Sylvia (aka Sylrena as in Williams) as my partner. Felt great! Tennis, golf and running are so life affirming. “Life-affirming?” Since when do I even use phrases like that? On the down side, here I am, seeing all of the friends in my life and holding in this secret for the past two days. And I will spend tomorrow morning with Joan on the golf course.

August 12, 2016– Due to the extreme heat, golf was cancelled today, but I did meet Joan and Paula to swim at Joan’s East Hills pool. Oh boy, two more friends with whom I will have to eventually share my plight. But it was a fun day. Can’t let this get to me. We swam (I did 6 laps in the designated lanes), schmoozed and had lunch at the pool. I had also run on the dread mill this a.m. since I didn’t want to venture outdoors in the soupy, 90 degree early morning. Gotta keep up the exercise. Then Joan invited  us back to her house to watch the final two episodes  of  “Grace and Frankie” because she said they were really hilarious. Wait till you hear the subject matter: Estelle Parsons appears in the next to last episode as an aging California hippie whose “cancer has come back” and she has decided to end her life the very night she throws  a big party at and Grace and Frankie’s beach house. This is a bad joke. Did I really want to see this? On second thought, if I walked out, what would have been my excuse? I really didn’t want to raise any suspicion, so I mulled it over in my head and decided that gallows humor is okay. After all, I have an unfinished manuscript entitled, “Wake Me When Shiva’s Over.” Keep it light.

In the past three days, I saw my mother, spoke to Emily who’s vacationing in Mexico, called Andy and spent time with three separate groups of friends. NO ONE was told anything. I’m sincerely hoping I won’t have to. On Wednesday, after I had my blood test, I met Sharon and Ritta for lunch at the Bethpage Golf Course. I hit 80 balls at the driving range just prior to lunch. On Thursday I played doubles with Sylvia, Linda and Sharon C. More silence. And today, Paula and Joan. As of today, only Kenny, Diane and Glenn know anything and they have been sworn to secrecy.

One week later – Everyone who is anyone knows now that my surgery is scheduled for Monday, August 29 –  all but Bonnie, Risa and Barb Philleo. Gotta find a way to talk to them this weekend. Here is what I sent to the members of  my book club. Sande already knew because I spent Monday walking the Long Beach boardwalk with her.

Dear Bookies,
 If you notice that I am not at Mim’s on the 30th, I do have an excuse. (That black and blue yellow fin that I always order will have to wait.)
On Monday, 8/29, I am scheduled to have a radical hysterectomy to remove tumors in the ovarian area and a nodule on my right kidney. I will be in very good hands with the head of oncological gynecology at North Shore LIJ (too many ologies and ectomies for my taste, but what can I do?)
I will be hospitalized for about 4 days (NS/LIJ on Lakeville Road.) In the meantime, between freaking out and carrying on my fun-filled life, I’m doing okay. I played tennis this morning, have another game tomorrow and a golf game on Friday. On Sat. we will be celebrating my Mom’s and her twin sister’s 95th birthday! Sunday, golf with Kenny.
I’m busy all day and see lots of people. I have lots of support from friends and I include you in that group. Feel free to call me if you want. I’m very upbeat, but I do take 1/2 Xanax every night before bed.
Sorry I had to write this, but calling to announce the news is just not me.
Love, Melinda

Today I am seeing Marie D. and Ellen for golf. I need to leave shortly, but I have to tell you what Kenny called to tell me when he was on his way to work this morning: “Hit ’em hard, hit ’em long, hit ’em straight.” At first I thought he was referring to tennis, but no, how could he have been?

I played great (for me) with a “nothing to lose” mentality. Why stress over golf (which is what I’ve done for the past 6 years –  EVERY time I’ve played.) I seriously felt good about my game and had many really nice shots.

Prior to my surgery, I made a true confession to Kenny. For four years I’ve held it in. I lost his mother’s diamond wedding band – the one I wore everyday and constantly received compliments on. It was set in yellow gold and really was quietly striking. In case I didn’t make it through the surgery  I didn’t want him to go through my jewelry box only to find a cheap piece  of crap that I replaced  it with. God forbid he’d go to sell it and find out  “his mother’s” wedding ring was fake!  So I told him I lost it in the parking lot of the beach in East Hampton. At this point I wasn’t stressing over anything material and I hoped he wouldn’t be too upset. It passed. Whew! I am sorry, but there’s nothing I can do about it. I was careless on that day four years ago.

My August 29th surgery went according to plan. Hours later I found myself in a private room at a very fancy shmancy hotel-like hospital. I stayed there for 3 days. In the meantime, Kenny kept in touch with the people in my life via email blasts. Here is a beautiful one he wrote:

 Ok, first the answer. Yes, she had ovarian cancer. Now the details. This morning Melinda, Emily (Melinda’s sister) and I met with Dr. Menzin, Melinda’s gynecological oncologist to explain to us the results of her pathology reports and to check up on her healing. He is also the one who performed her surgery. She’s healing great. The surgical wound is terrific. She’s been walking for upwards of 45 minutes and doing some hills. And she is feeling great. Her healthy eating and physical activities clearly have gone a long way for her to be healing the way she is. Dr. Menzin removed both ovaries, the uterus and several growths in the abdominal area. The pathology report was exactly what he expected, no surprises. The biopsies of the lymph nodes were negative, which was great news. When I asked if her cancer was caught early, he said no. Early would have been a tumor in only one ovary, which wasn’t the case. We did not talk or ask about what the stage was. “Stage” was not in his vocabulary. We know this is serious stuff.

The next step is to see a medical oncologist and start chemo therapy, probably at the Monter Cancer Center, which is part of the LIJ network, and is very well-rated. When asked, the receptionist at Dr. Menzin’s office said the two doctors that were recommended to us at Monter would be the doctors she would send her own family members to. We’re calling Monter today to set up an appointment, for probably within the next 2 weeks or so.

Melinda is under no illusions as to what she had, and she has the strength and attitude needed to work through the next phase of treatment. As she said, “I’ll do whatever the f*** I have to do.” And those of us who know her well, know that she will. So in keeping with her desire to “write” her own story on this, again, she is not interested in hearing about someone’s neighbor’s third cousin and their experience. She will blaze her own path. She’s strong, positive, and ready to fight. Whatever they tell her to do, she’ll do. She may also have a French fry or two.

-This message has been approved by Melinda

Fast forward to September 29, 2016. Four weeks post-surgery. I will spare the details but yes, it certainly was ovarian cancer. Kenny covered the hospital experience deftly in email blasts to my nearest and dearest. And now when I get up tomorrow morning I will be headed to the Monter Cancer Center in Lake Success for my first 3-5 hour session of chemotherapy. The oncologist that I chose for this reviewed the pathology with us last Thursday. She said twice (once then and  once  over the phone) that there will be a good outcome. It is Stage 2 as opposed to an advanced cancer but a slight technicality really makes it Stage 3, according to Dr. Menzin. This I will explain because it initially freaked me out.  I should be inured already – bad news and  more bad news, but always with lots of hope for recovery. I do know I’ve recovered very well (and continue to do so) from the August 29 surgery. Lots of unfit people tell me how my fitness level has helped me. I’ll go with that. When the oncologist at Monter said I have Stage 2, we mentioned that my surgeon said the cancer was not caught early. We left it at that. On Monday, she called me to say that she met with my surgeon and discussed this. The fact that there were some cancer cells removed from outside the pelvis near the abdomen makes it Stage 3, but she said it’s just a technicality. “Your outcome is still very good.”

Friends have stepped up like there’s no tomorrow. I came home from the hospital on Thursday morning, Sept 1st  and have had non-stop company since Sept. 3rd (mostly 2 at a time according to my plan.) I just find that expending energy with more than two people at a time wears me out. Outpourings of generosity and love have boosted me up for an entire month. Yesterday Eileen Hudon gave me a sterling silver bracelet with “Strength” engraved on it. It will be on my wrist tomorrow. The cards, meals, food, visits, homemade Linzer tarts, my favorite sandwiches and wraps – OMG! It sounds trite, but it’s not: I feel the love.  But by far, the one who has been with me every step has been Kenny, my love. I just hope he’s not getting too run down – and I do remind him daily. I’m also there for him with his recent transition to the insulin pump. He keeps telling me we’re here for each other.

This is the email I put out on the day of my first chemotherapy session: It’s called “Piece o’ Cake.”

To my nearest and dearest,
     I called this “a Piece o’ Cake” because I was told today that I need to put on a few pounds. So, let me eat cake!
     Waiting to be called into the inner sanctum for my first chemotherapy treatment, I couldn’t help but notice the gray crewcut brigade of patients milling around. That won’t be me, babe, because I’m already “on it” with a natural looking wig about to be ordered, possibly as early as tomorrow. With a pair of sunglasses added to the mix, you will be permitted to gasp, “Is that Melinda Ehrlich behind those Foster Grants?”
     Today’s session was scheduled to last from 3-5 hours, but we were waiting for our car to return home in just under 4. That even included lots of detailed explanations every step of the way, including a visit from a nutritionist. So I now know that the longest sessions will be 4 hours every third week and the others, just over an hour.
     Regarding the nutritionist: Kenny and I could have been the nutritionist with all of the knowledge we’ve gleaned from his diabetes regimens. However, not to minimize her knowledge and oncology experience, she did recommend that I eat more broccoli, spinach, peanuts, walnuts, almonds and oatmeal. I have always shied away from oatmeal, but I know it’s good and fresh berries can be added to it so it’s not so bland. I’ve never been into sweeteners and I was reminded that that’s a good thing. Artificial sweeteners are definitely bad. I’ve been eating right for years (BFD – look where it got me.)  Green tea is out because it interacts with one of the chemo meds that will be dripping into me every week. I love black teas anyway. Whatever they suggest, I will comply with. It reminds me of something my beloved late father-in-law once looked at me and said,
“Melinda, if they told you pigeon shit was good for you, you’d eat it.” He was right.
     Finally, I need to use an alcohol-free toothpaste. Colgate and Crest make one, so it’s farewell to Sensodyne with whitener. I hope my smiles remain bright. As of today, I’m smiling an everlasting smile (a la The Bee Gees.)
Love to all of you.
   P.S. Please don’t forget, Nothing on Facebook.

Here is the 2nd installment of my chemo therapy session; A Piece o’ Pancake

To my fabulous friends and family,
      Accompanied by my dear friend Sande, my two and a half hour visit today could not have been smoother. This time the IV was placed in my left hand, so Sande was asked to forge my signature on the paperwork. No problema.
     It was characteristically cold in the center so I was given a warm blanket and I got one for Sande as well. And the drip goes on… In between visits from various personnel (social worker, my doctor’s nurse practitioner and the delivery from the pharmacy), Sande showed me stunning photos from her recent trip to Norway.
     I asked the social worker if she thought meditation might be used to help me sleep better. I really do not want to take Xanax or anything else if I can help it. I had to laugh (to myself, of course) when she recommended coming to a Gentle Chair Yoga session which incorporates meditation. Visualizing “chair yoga” got to me, but I will definitely explore meditation. The last time I meditated was in 1971 when my three college housemates and I were initiated into Mahararishi Mahesh Yogi’s Transcendental Meditation. We volunteered to have a guru stay at our house so we could waive the initiation fee. All of the students at the college were asked to bring the requisite flower and handkerchief for the initiation ceremony and they were, in turn, assigned a mantra. It was a real scene and we loved every minute of it. We had been instructed by the guru to never, ever disclose our mantras to anyone, but somehow, thirty years later we all discovered we had the same mantra. Oops. Glad we didn’t pay.
     This morning our friends Steve and Abbie also suggested preparing a banana tea with cinnamon that should act as a soporifc. Stay tuned. The water’s boiling as I type.
     Once I was unhooked and released today, Sande and I went out for lunch. I had a short stack of pancakes with real maple syrup. Yum. She then drove me home on this gorgeous afternoon and we decided to go for a walk at the beach in Oyster Bay. It was a full day but that’s what evening’s rests are for.
Love to all of you and again, thank you for your good wishes.

This is my email entitled “Chemo Session 3: Do You Want Fries With That?”

To My Loving Friends and Family,
     The day began with the good news that Bob Dylan, my absolute favorite singer-songwriter and poet, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature! To the naysayers who claim he sounds like a an alley cat in heat, I urge you to try analyzing his visionary poetry. Who can deny brilliant lyrics such as these:
“Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands
With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves
Let me forget about today until tomorrow.”
     Now to segue into session 3 of chemotherapy. Surreal, eh?
My good friend Ritta (a tennis and golf buddy too) accompanied me today. She went to park the car while I checked in.
     Today’s session at the Monter Center began with a visit with my oncologist. She examined me and is very pleased with my progress. Ritta sat with me for the infusion which took just over an hour. She entertained me with conversation and a book called, A Girl’s On Course Survival Guide to Golf. Once I was unhooked from the IV, Ritta drove us towards home and we stopped for lunch. Are you ready for today’s menu? Turkey cheeseburger sans bun for me, a spinach mushroom omelette for Ritta and we shared a small side of French fries! My maiden voyage in the world of fries – and I loved them.
Gimme a Head With Hair
     This past week I’ve had expert advice from my hairstylist/friend Joan in my quest for the perfect wig. We had lots of laughs and it could have been made into a script entitled “Looking for Mrs. Goodwig.” We wound up working with a rather eccentric Argentinian wiggest {sic} in her 70s. I made three visits to her studio before making my purchase. She trimmed it in the front and added, “If you wear it and you feel you need to have it thinned out, come back any time.” No problema. Gracias. I said, “How ’bout I make an appointment once it grows a little?”
Thanks again for all of your prayers and good wishes.
 Love, Melinda

E-mail sent out after Chemo Session 4:

Dear Friends and family,
     In keeping with the season, the leaves are falling and so is my hair. It’s par for the course, I am told (although I have never come close to parring a golf course. I have, however, hit many a tennis ball that was out by a hair.)
     So with a nod to Stevie W., here’s my little ditty I’m calling “The Wig Song”:
For good times and bad times
I’ll be on your head forever more
That’s what wigs are for…
     Kenny accompanied me to today’s double whammy infusion session, meaning that I had two separate drugs dripping into me, one following the other. My blood count was very good, so we went ahead with the treatment. (That’s the protocol – check blood first and if all is groovy, the show goes on.) It took 3 1/2 hours, all in. I was told from the get go that I could experience fatigue, but that hasn’t happened yet in the 4 weeks of this madness. We shall see what this week has in store. Today was routine, but I did have a reflexology session thrown in. A combo of the reflexology and the Benadryl that was added to the drip made me drowsy and I dozed for the last part of the infusion. Kenny was sitting by my side but I wasn’t very stimulating company. (Actually I’m sure he was happy to have a little peace and quiet for awhile. It’s like when Ellen tells me I need duct tape on my mouth when I play golf.) We went out to lunch and without going into my menu this week, suffice it to say maple syrup was involved. They did not weigh me this week. I could always weigh myself on my regulation Detecto scale, but I like to see their reading at the center.
     I am back to tennis – played friendly doubles games twice this week and I will return to two leagues next week. Doubles is very doable. It’s social and you’re not hitting every shot. Last week I hit some singles with my friend Barbara, but I felt as if singles was too demanding right now. Haven’t picked up a golf club since August 28, but the driving range is calling out to me.
     Just one comment on last night’s entertainment. It was a post-debate line from a talking head on CNN.  He said something to this effect: “Watching the debate felt like it was 11:30 on a Saturday night and I was watching Alec Baldwin on SNL.”
Once again, thank you for your thoughts, prayers and friendship.

October 24, 2016: Shaven. I know it’s fall, but it was too much work “raking” up the falling hair, so after six days… Hi Joan.  I actually had her give me a Pixie haircut two days prior, but the long and short of it is hair, hair, everywhere. So I got a buzz cut. Don’t ask how it looks because I haven’t had the guts to look – seriously. I wear my wig when I’m out and one of three head coverings generously sent to me by Debbie Bushman when I’m at home.

October 26, 2016: Who am I kidding? I got up the nerve to peek at my bald head and I look like the picture I have of Diane and Glenn’s twin granddaughters, Kayla and Sasha before they grew hair. We could be triplets. Honestly, though, bald has never been my cup of tea- on anyone but Yul Brynner so I cover my head- even to sleep.

October 27, 2016: Chemo Update # 5 Email- Infusion Not Intrusion *

My dear friends and family,
    (*attributed to Nancy G who used this in an email to me.)
Though it was a short infusion day, this a long email, so start reading. The blood work was a-ok, so the show went on. And what a show it was (just kidding.) This week I was accompanied my friend Barbara C. who is a neighbor and tennis buddy.
    I was promptly hooked up to the IV, got my hot blanket to cover me and let the games begin – literally. Barbara had read a previous email in which I described how Ritta brought a funny golf book to “entertain” me. The pressure was now on for Barbara to figure out how she would help me to pass the time. She brought a Scrabble game with a Lazy Susan-like rotating board. Perfect. It was a fine diversion, but we kept get getting interrupted by various medical personnel that I had requested earlier. They walked in to check on me and answer my questions. First, in walked the nutritionist and all of my concerns were addressed… Back to Scrabble. Next, in walked the reflexologist who asked if she could turn down the lights. No problema. After all, it’s a relaxation therapy. She was terrific for the second week in a row… Back to Scrabble. Next, in walked the social worker. I had met her two weeks ago and at that time she had only one leg and wore a dress! Brave. Today she had two legs and wore slacks. She is really lovely and runs support groups at the Center. Kenny and I plan to attend one in November. And  finally, in walked the lady with the alligator purse…Back to Scrabble.
Scrabble Interruptus
    We were doing really well when suddenly Barbara rotated the board and toppled it, scattering the pieces all over the floor. It was near the end of my infusion anyway, so we packed in the game.
    After inquiring as to whether or not I can have an occasional drink, each of the people who stopped in told me I’d have to ask my oncologist. I put in a call to her and just as I arrived home, a member  of her team called me to say, “I don’t know why not – but just an occasional drink. Not every day.” I’ll take it! Tired of being a teetotaler for the past five weeks, I will indulge in either a wine or a vodka on Saturday night.
    I know some of you are interested in today’s post-chemo lunch menu. We went to Bagel Boss and had a delicious bagel with smoked salmon spread.
Back to the Beloved Tennis Bubble
    I’m thrilled to report that I’ve returned to tennis – doubles only for now. Played two sets on Monday and a match on Wednesday. I’m looking forward to seeing some of you at the Friday league.
Hairless in East Norwich
    Being the lump of vanity that I am, I don my wig in public at all times. In the house I wear one of two head coverings and when I looked in the mirror last night, I saw Dopey from the Seven Dwarves.
Chemo Update #6: Wine-Boggling

 My dear friends and family,

    Let me begin by apologizing to my hairstylist friend Joan, who says she was “highly offended” when she read last week that my “hair” never looked this good.
    But truth be told, I have been getting compliments all week. On Halloween, my new next door neighbor escorted her kids trick or treating and when she saw me on the driveway, she exclaimed, “Wow, you look great. Fall must really agree with you.” I thanked her without sharing anything. She should only know this really is a costume. Then the next day, the cashier at Rite Aid said, “Oh, your hair looks so nice. Did you get it cut?” And, of course, my tennis friends…
    Kenny drove me over to the center this morning so that he could sit in on the appointment I had with my doctor prior to the infusion. All is groovy. I gained two pounds (although I hate that they insist on weighing me with shoes on, jewelry and clothes. My personal routine is to go on the scale first thing in the morning, naked without even a necklace on – before I even brush my teeth so the rinsing water isn’t even in my system. I know I’m nuts.) But hey, they know what they’re doing and they allow two pounds for the paraphernalia.
    After complimenting me on my hair (sorry ad nauseum, Joan) the oncologist said, “You’re doing fine. Your readings are good. Eat what you want.” That was after I had some questions about sugar intake. I really don’t overdo sugar, but I did have some concerns. Kit Kats, here I come! (I lost my loving feeling for dark chocolate, the “healthy” choice- ha ha ha.) On the way out of the wing where my doctor’s appointment was located, I spotted a witch’s cauldron of candy and I grabbed a Kit Kat. I even broke my rule of not eating chocolate before noon.
    After the appointment, it was hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work Kenny goes…Thank you, honey, for being there.
    Changing of the guard: Accompanying me to today’s session of the wide, wide wonderful world of chemo was my good friend Sharon C. (also a golf and tennis buddy.) She took her cue from previous emails to find some means to entertain me, and so she brought Boggle, Eno and a deck of cards. I chose Boggle since I used to play it. Of course, just as we were in the middle of the third round, in walks my new BFF, the reflexologist. This was her third consecutive weekly visit. Sharon quipped that she could use a pedicure but was told, “No, that’s not a service I offer.” Did that really merit a response? I don’t think so.
    So, we broke for reflexology (it sounds like a bad bumper sticker: “I brake for reflexology.”) and I groggily resumed it later.
    Although Boggle’s generally a quiet game, it gets noisy when you shake up the cubes – sort of like a Martini. But as loud as Boggle was, nothing beats the guy from the cubicle across from us. He was sprawled out in a chair, snoring his head off. His wife, hooked up to an IV, was forced to wake him up, to which he complained, “Whaaaat? It’s not as if I’m in a comfortable chair!” And to think he’s her designated driver!
    After my chemo session ended, Sharon drove me home and we stopped for some tuna sandwiches. We were both hungry by 2:30.
    Last Saturday night I had a nice glass of Chianti when we went out for diner with Emily and Susan to celebrate Susan’s birthday. It was a really nice evening. The doctor said today I can drink wine and vodka with a splash of grapefruit juice – in moderation, of course.
    Another nice gesture was made last week from my friend Bobby’s twin sister Leslie. She sent me a coloring book and pencils with a great message in the card: “I hope you don’t have time to color.”
Well thankfully, I sure don’t!
Thanks again for keeping me in your thoughts and prayers.
 Love, Melinda
Chemo Update # 7- Double Dripping
My dear friends and family,
    Today’s session involved the double drip (2 bags of chemo drugs) for what is scheduled as one of my “long sessions.” Kenny drove me to the center and waited with me until Diane arrived. Diane is our friend whom we consider family – and vice versa. It took her 2 1/2 hours to drive down to meet us. (Now that’s a friend – or is it family?) Once she arrived, Kenny went off to work ’cause as Springsteen croons, “It’s the working, the working, the working life.” But have no fear ’cause my Loverboy is “working for the weekend.”
    Diane and I had a great visit. We talked non-stop for the three hours we were there. No need for any games as there was so much to discuss – from the election upset (%$&*) to her son Keith’s upcoming wedding to Paula, to the recent visit with her adorable kids: Corinne, Lail, and 2 year-old twins, Sasha and Kayla.
    Of course, before I was hooked up with the IV drip, my blood work had to be checked. We’ve been keeping an eye on the to-be-expected depletion of white blood cells due to the chemo drugs for past 6 weeks. Surprisingly, they are low but not as low as they were last week. Go figure. All good once again and the drip goes on…
                                Patient Observations
    While waiting to be called in for my infusion this morning, I couldn’t help but notice a woman sitting nearby who was wheezing and sighing with every breath. Poor thing. She managed to wrench a sandwich out of her satchel, making weird sounds all the way. When I got called into the inner sanctum for my infusion, guess who was in the next cubicle? I heard her; no need for a visual. A few minutes later, she wheeled by with her walker on her way to the bathroom. She said to the nurse, “I may as well say goodbye now,” to which Kenny said  to me, “Is she planning to jump in?” I cracked up.
    Diane arrived soon after. She was really impressed with the way the center was run – nice amenities and gentle, caring treatment. I got my warm blanket but no reflexology today. The reflexologist was too busy to fit me  in, but I will call ahead next week.
    On the way home we stopped at Messina Market and I’m happy to report I can eat with the best of them. My appetite is as good as ever- if not better.
                                Physical Activities
    This brings me to a favorite pastime of mine: running. Several thoughtful friends called me this past weekend to say they were thinking of me on NYC Marathon Day. I thanked them. I was thinking of me too. The only one I knew running the race this year was Sharon Chernoff’s daughter. It was her first. Go, Michelle!
    Besides walking practically every day since my August 29 surgery, I’ve been trying to get back to running. I hadn’t been ready, but look out! Walking is effortless, but running has been my life since 1985 and that is precisely the reason I want to get back to it. This sounds pathetic (to me) but, as of this week, I can run 1/4 mile without stopping. I go to the track, walk and run a little. By the end of three miles, I can run once around non-stop. If I stretch out my distance to four miles, I run another 1/4 mile lap. Now to string them together.
    Since I returned to my tennis doubles leagues two weeks ago, I’ve won 3 out of 5 matches. I play on Wednesdays and Fridays with hours of chemo sandwiched in on Thursdays. I’m just so happy to be playing and seeing my friends on the courts..
    My friend Mary S. writes in a score each week: Melinda: 40, Chemo: 0
7 treatments down with 11 weeks to go. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers. They do not go unappreciated, I assure you.
Love, Melinda
     I’m finally looking forward to speaking with an ovarian cancer survivor.  She’s the ex-wife of our good friend in L.A. When he heard what was going on with me back in August, he offered to have me speak to her. We used to be very friendly, but I wasn’t ready. As you know from reading my posts, I do not do research (as per  doctors’ orders right from the start),  am not interested in statistics, and I take my prompts from my experienced medical team. I also find it painful to be told to speak to this one  or that because “she had ovarian cancer.” Well. guess what? No one’s had ovarian cancer – they’ve all had cervical or uterine. I do not want to minimize anybody’s life-changing bouts with cancer, but  since my diagnosis, I’ve had the need wanted to be able to speak to an ovarian cancer survivor and until today, I’ve been out  of luck. Someday I may be ready to talk to everyone who has a story, but certainly not at this moment amid my chemo therapy treatments.
     When our West Coast friends were still married, we partied it up with them in L.A. , Club Med and New York when they visited. Kenny and I have fond memories of her. I hear she  is looking forward to my call this weekend as well.
Chemo Update # 8: Single Infusion, Double Therapy
To my dear friends and family,
    Today my friend Ellen K accompanied me to the wide, wide world of chemotherapy. This reminds me of  “Better Living Through Chemistry,” the old advertising slogan for DuPont. Ellen is a former tennis friend who lives in my neighborhood. My neighborhood is like the Nick Bollitieri Tennis Academy – for seniors.
    Ellen and I were called in, I was ushered to my cubicle, and met the two R.N.’s  assigned to me as we awaited the results of this week’s blood work. Once it came in, I was told the Neutrophil # (white blood cell count) continues to drop, but my oncologist determined I was good to go again. Whew! I didn’t want to be all dressed up with no place to go.
    Ellen and I talked about books, book club recommendations and assorted other topics. When I was being hooked up to the IV, I noticed she was trying to meditate, but to no avail. As usual, too many interruptions.The social worker stopped in today and she remembered that Kenny and I signed up for a support group meeting next week. This is very different for me but we’ll give it a shot.
   A young man stopped into my cubicle (not sure of his title) to go over my new schedule of treatments for December and January. We went  over each date, but he was taking a very long time to figure it out. He was apologetic as he finally printed it out. While this was going on, I noticed Ellen meditating. With all the chatter, I’m surprised she was able to get a breath in edgewise, but she’s a psychotherapist and very focused. After the guy left, she did mention that he looked like he was working on his Master’s thesis for all the time he took.
  Well, finally this past weekend, the promised “fatigue” kicked in. I rested on Saturday but still went out for a 45 minute walk. Still tired on Sunday, but found some time to walk on the trail to the beach at Sagamore Hill with Kenny. The trail spills out into Cold Spring Harbor and it was beautiful. When it comes to being tired, all I can think of is Madeline Kahn in “Blazing Saddles.”
                                            I’m tired,
                                Tired of playing the game
                                    Ain’t it a crying shame
                    I’m so tired God dammit I’m exhausted.
    Tennis is tough, especially the long rallies, but with a little help from Gatorade and a PB & J sandwich at the changeovers, I’m doing fine. So far, I’ve won 4 matches and lost 3. So I’m not tired of playing the game.
    With a compromised immune system, I am advised to steer clear of crowds. That takes care of my participating in the massive Million Woman March on Washington on January 21, the day after the Inauguration. At this juncture, I’m not allowed to be at a gathering of 10 or more, so 999,999 other people is out of the question. I will still have another week of these chemo treatments at that point.
Thanks for reading and caring.
 Friday, November 18- Played another match with Marie, my doubles partner par excellence. We were on clay this week and won handily.  I took my Gatorade and PB & J regimen during the match and wasn’t tired (except during long rallies.) Afterwards I went to lunch with 3 of my singles league friends. Great camaraderie and lots to talk about. I would have had a Kirin Light since it was an Asian fusion restaurant (everything was delicious, by the way) but Mary had to return to work after lunch and that would be an issue if she drank at lunch. Next time.
Chemo Update # 9- Hold MY Hand and We’re Halfway There

My dear friends and friendly family,

Today marked chemotherapy session # 9. I would have preferred it to be love potion # 9, but hey, you can’t have everything. It is a significant milestone and as “West Side Story’s” Tony and Maria so passionately sang, “Hold my hand and we’re HALFWAY THERE

Hold my hand and I’ll take you there

Somehow, Someday, Somewhere.”

This musical is very dear to our hearts since Kenny played Tony, singing skillfully and dancing nimbly in a high school production (so I hear- I didn’t know him then) and I taught “Romeo and Juliet” followed by “West Side Story” at least 50 times. Who ever thought I’d be married to Tony? Te adoro Anton.

Today Kenny drove me to the center as he wanted to be there for the appointment with my oncologist. Although, as to be expected, I am anemic and my white cell count is very low, she was impressed with my strength and overall well-being. I told her I get fatigued but I do rest accordingly (when I’m falling on my face.) No, seriously, I am taking good care of myself. I gained a couple of pounds (with clothes on – gimme a break!) and I told her my appetite is outrageous. That’s good for the remaining 9 treatments. Numbers talk and while we were waiting for today’s blood count, we discussed options in case she decided my immune system couldn’t tolerate the single drip today.

Once the doc’s appt. ended, there to accompany me for the infusion was my good friend and tennis buddy Sylvia, aka Sylrena as in Williams. Bet you didn’t know I am known as Meltina Navratilehrlich – only on a very good day, might I add.

Finally today’s blood count came in and I was given 2 options: 1) go home and come back next week, giving the white blood cells a chance to build up or 2) have the infusion today and return on Friday for an injection of Neupogen, a common regimen for chemo patients. I was given the requisite documents on this injection and called Kenny to discuss. My decision was to get the shot. The R.N. and doc are confident that by next Thursday, the count should have increased. Lin-Manuel Miranda would be proud that “I am not throwing away my shot!”

Sylvia brought along a card game called Phase 10, taught it to me and we played it once the IV was hooked up. The time flew by and we didn’t even have a chance to finish one game. She too was impressed with the level of care at the Monter Center. The reflexologist was not on site today so she no longer qualifies as my new BFF. I haven’t seen her in 3 weeks, but then again, thankfully without any signs of neuropathy, I don’t really need her. Perhaps someday there’ll be a time for us…somewhere, someday…(all right, enough already!)

No tennis for me this week. The leagues are suspended for the holiday. Happy Thanksgiving and I send my love to all of you.


Chemo Update # 10- Detour/Recalculating

My dear friends,

    As Peter Noone sang with his band, Herman’s Hermits,
            No milk today, my love has gone away
The bottle stands forlorn, a symbol of the dawn
No milk today, it seems a common sight
But people passing by don’t know the reason why.
   Here’s “the reason why.” Well, it was bound to happen: my blood platelets are too depleted to have my treatment today. When I called Kenny to tell him, he started singing “No Milk Today.” All of the personnel I saw today (2 R.N.’s and a nutritionist) reiterated that this  “no drip today” is normal and to be expected. Hence, my new mantra: “This is normal, this is normal.” The white blood cell count improved from the last few weeks, thanks to the shot of Neupogen last Friday. Yes! If it weren’t for the platelets, it could have been biz as usual today. I’m still anemic and was advised to continue eating the super foods to fight it, which I happen to really love. Seven grain bread, tomatoes, seafood, raisins, hard-boiled eggs, spinach, spinach pie, peanut butter and nuts, particularly pistachios! What could be bad?
   Today my super, devoted sister Emily left her home on the Upper West Side of Manhattan at 7:30 a.m. She managed to beat the traffic and beat us there! She had left extra early (I told her she could arrive by 10 even though my appointment was at 9) but she’s been on the money throughout. Since Em was already there, Kenny left and it was hi ho, hi ho for him.
    I feel very well and strong, but I do get tired when walking up a flight of stairs and during a long tennis rally. Played a match yesterday and did very well. One game in which my friend Lisa was serving went to 15 deuces! Now that’s good competition. Since all of this nonsense started and I rejoined my tennis leagues, I find it necessary to routinely sit down during changeovers (after 2 games) for a hit of Gatorade and a bite of my PB & J sandwich. I was talking to Lisa and Andi, the opposing team, and I was apologetic about disrupting the rhythm of the game by sitting down. Andi looked at my partner Sherry, who was madly texting and really wasting too much time at every changeover and said, “Are you kidding? She’s on her fucking phone!” We all had a good laugh.
    My friend Ellen R. saw me yesterday and said, “Your skin is so smooth! Not a wrinkle.” I thanked her and told her what I really do on Thursdays is go for a spa treatment.
    My instructions before I left the center this morning were to listen to my body, continue doing what I’m doing, but if I feel tired, respect what my body is telling me and cut back. No problem. I get it. There is nothing I can do (barring a blood transfusion – seriously) to increase the platelet count. With a week off from the toxic drip, they should regenerate themselves.
    I am disappointed, don’t get me wrong, but Emily drove me home and we made lemonade out of a lemon. We stopped for a late breakfast and called our cousin Jackie who lives nearby. She met us to schmooze for an hour. Then it was hi ho, hi  ho for Emily, the Broadway music copyist. She hardly is a nine to fiver, so that works for her.
    So what did I learn today, boys and girls? I learned that I cannot pinpoint when this 18 week regimen will end, as it’s already extended one week. This is normal and I’m okay with it. I will restez calme and carry on.
Chemo Update # 11- 10 Down, 8 To GO
To my dear friends and family,
   It’s week # 11, but infusion # 10.
       With a nod to Sonny and Cher:
              The drip goes on. The drip goes on.
                        Drugs keep dripping
                        Silent like light rain.
                    La de da de dee, la de da de da.
    After a week’s respite from the potent chemotherapy drugs that have depleted my platelet count, it was deemed today that they not only regenerated, but they were out of the ballpark! “Great numbers,” I was told by the presiding R.N., so I have to thank not only the week off, but the super foods: the pistachios, the spinach, kale, fresh pomegranate seeds, seafood, peanut butter, hard boiled eggs, apples, 7 grain bread and a few more good eats. Man, can I eat! I’m so lucky.
    So here’s how I “rested” this week. Last Friday, December 2, I had a follow-up scan with the urologist who was part of the surgical team on August 29. Great news! The tiny nodule or tumor they saw on the right kidney is now nowhere to be seen. Apparently they made the right decision to monitor it and scan it 2-3 months post-surgery. That night we celebrated our anniversary (just the two of us) with a delicious dinner at Rialto. We made no plans on Saturday and Sunday. On Monday, I shlepped groceries into the city for my Mom and visited for a few hours. I know she appreciates the visits. Took a nice, long walk with with Ritta and Barbara C. on Tuesday morning. Rested afterward. On Wednesday (yesterday) I played a doubles match. I now have 7 wins and 3 losses. I’ll take it. In between all of these activities, I really did have down time. And of course, when I get tired walking up a flight of steps, I rest until the fatigue passes.
    Kenny drove me to the center this morning and my dear friend and former colleague Eileen met us there. Entering the premises, Ken wondered why the flags were at half staff at 9:30 a.m. We figured out they forgot to raise them after yesterday’s 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. Now they will probably be returned to half staff for John Glenn, whose death was announced this afternoon.
    This morning, Kenny waited with bated breath until we were told it was “a go,” at which point, it was “Auf Wiedersehen.” Somebody’s gotta work. Eileen and I talked non-stop, reminiscing and catching up. We hadn’t seen each other since September and her family is growing and thriving. We did take a break when Linda, my long, lost reflexologist showed up. Thankfully I don’t need her for neuropathy or pain, but it sure felt good.
    Eileen and I also  went through practically the entire staff at Richmond Hill, past and present, fondly reminiscing. Lasting friendships were forged at the “Hill.” It was a great place to work when we were there.
   As soon as I was discharged, we headed over to Shake Shack. Neither of us had ever been to a Shake Shack and probably will not go back. Very ordinary, unsubstantial burgers.
    I heard a TV commercial the other day that featured the song, “Keep on the sunny side/always on the sunny side” and it reminded me of how much I loved the soundtrack of  “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”  Keeping on the sunny side is what I am doing.
Thank you all for caring.
Love, Melinda
And Now We Are Six – A Reprise
To My Dear Friends,
    Channeling A.A. Milne once again, but this time, only six more to go. That means we’re two thirds down. I saw my oncologist this morning and all of my numbers and markers are quite good (still lowish on the white and red blood cell counts, but not enough interrupt today’s chemo.) My doctor was pleased, so if she’s happy, I’m happy.
    Kenny stayed for the doc’s appointment and then… you know the drill: Heigh ho, heigh ho, it’s off to work he goes. Linda Z. met me at 11 and sat with me in my spacious corner cubicle today. Unfortunately, there was no view.
                Everybody’s talking at me
Can’t hear a word they’re saying
Only the echoes of my mind.
    These lyrics from “Midnight Cowboy” are quite befitting since Linda, one of my tennis buds, is also a member of my friends known as The Walkie Talkies. There are four of us and this is not an exaggeration: We have been known to all talk simultaneously, interrupting one another ad nauseum. Linda is the most mild-mannered of the lot. We often tease her, “When Linda talks, everybody listens.” But not always. But today, the conversation flowed, as did my infusion. Today’s session was a short one – a little over an hour, so we never ran of topics to discuss. At the end, when a thermometer was popped into my mouth, I thought, “How dare they interrupt my conversation.”
    I was discharged and we headed out to lunch, this time  to BurgerFi. I had the veggie burger and yes, Marie E, it was great. I felt energized (perhaps from the cocktail of pills, including a mild steroid I was given before my treatment) so Linda and I ran some errands and she delivered me to my doorstep by 3:30.
Knowing  that all of you are out there and in my corner has really boosted my spirits.
Happy Chanukah and Merry Christmas to one and all.
With love,
P.S. Though all went well for me today, it is with a heavy heart that I write this, as our very dear and very funny friend Paul is lying in the hospital in a coma which stemmed from a brain bleed on Monday. We are devastated. Michele and Paul have been in our thoughts every minute of this day. Amen.
Chemo Update: Double, Double, No Trouble
Hi Everyone,
I got a peaceful, easy feelin’
And I know my body won’t let me down
‘Cause with 5 more treatments.
I’m already standin’
On the ground.
(In honor of The Eagles who were honored at the Kennedy Center this week.)
    Kenny dropped me off an hour early this morning and although I was expecting to read my Kindle while I was awaiting entrance to the inner sanctum (the treatment area), they were able to get me started a little earlier than 10. My tennis friend Nancy was kind enough to meet me there today. It was her maiden voyage to a chemotherapy center, but she proved to be a trouper. After this, she is more than a mere tennis friend. I was concerned that there may have been a paucity of platelets this week, but nooo, they were just fine and we were good to go again – this week for the double dose – two, two, two infusions in one. (Remember the Certs commercial?) I guess eating my super foods is paying off. I also played tennis only once last week instead of two (rest is good) because I had a follow-up appointment with my surgeon at precisely the time of my Friday tennis game. Last Wednesday we lost by two games. Could be worse in the scheme of things.
    The scheme of things to which I refer is tragically, our very close friend Paul wasn’t able to rally. He passed away on Christmas Day. In a week when Christmas and Chanukah are punctuated by the funeral of a very close friend, it should be harder to muster lightness of being. But with Paul being the funniest guy we knew, and often irreverant, he would embrace the tone of my weekly updates. So here’s to Paul, the most jovial guy with the infectious laugh who “didn’t have a mean bone in his body.” This comment by our friend Claudette was immortalized in the funeral eulogy. For years, when I said something that I thought was hilarious, Paul would say, “Melzy, when you’re funny, I’ll let you know.” We are all missing him.
    I think this is funny: You can let me know. This past week I was standing on line in the children’s department at Macy’s to pay for a gift when the woman in back of me says, “I’m just admiring your highlights. They’re really beautiful.” I smiled and said, “Thank you.” She should only know…It made my day, though.
    After three and a half hours at the chemo center, including a 20 minute Zen reflexology foot massage, I was discharged till next week. My relaxed feet were made for walking and Nancy was looking forward to getting some lunch after reading about my post- chemo weekly lunches. We went to Red Tomato and shared a wood oven Margherita pizza. I was at my doorstep by 2 p.m. Perfect.
    For those of you who are keeping me in their thoughts, a big thank you.
January 5, 2017- Four More: Chemo Update

To my dear friends,

Somehow saying “four more” is incendiary these days, but when it refers to my chemotherapy treatments, it’s not so toxic (well, it is, but you know.) Kenny drove me this chilly morning and accompanied me into the inner sanctum, remaining until the blood work was read and it was a go, go, go today! He then went, went, went. My platelet numbers have replenished themselves and are soaring. I’m still a tad anemic, but I’m packing in those super foods. They sure have made an impact on the platelets. I can’t close my pants, but my numbers are good.


I got platelets, they’re multiplying…

‘Cause the power they’re supplying

It’s electrifying!


They’re the ones that I want

Oo-oo-oo, honey

The ones that I want

Oo-oo-oo, honey

The ones that I want

Oo-oo-oo, the ones I need

Oh, yes, indeed

John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John in “Grease”


And who was the lucky person to keep me company today? Back by popular demand, it was Sande. (How a propos to “Grease.”) She even arrived at the center just before we did, so she was waiting near the baby grand piano in the lobby. Play it again, San.

Once I was comfortably ensconced in my cubicle, in walked the nurse’s assistant to take my vitals. I had to laugh (inwardly) when she introduced herself as Mitali. All I could think of was Mitali, a former tennis player friend I had from Alley Pond Park in Queens thirty years ago. She was a devotee of Sri Chinmoy, a spiritual leader and exercise guru. At that time, she changed her very Jewish name, Jane Schlossberger to Mitali and played tennis in something resembling a short sari. We were always afraid she was going to trip over her robes. Nam-Myoho-Renge Kyo.

Sande and I were having a nice visit (It was just a peaceful, easy feeling, hanging with an old friend) when in walked Linda the reflexologist – unsummoned, but great!  She went to work on my feet once again as a preventive measure to ward off any neuropathy, which thankfully, I do not have. Sande, who is interested and familiar with this modality, watched her every move while I closed my eyes. She was impressed with how thoroughly and deftly Linda worked.

Soon after, the buzzer sounded to let us know the treatment was over. I was slightly stoned (Benadryl in the cocktail) as we left the center and drove over to create our own lunch at Whole Foods. Now I realize why I stopped in mid-sentence on the way home a few weeks ago when Sylvia was driving. I couldn’t remember what I was talking about. And I’m vague about my lunch last week with Nancy at Red Tomato. I remember the Pizza Margherita but cannot remember leaving there or the ride home.

I’d like to wish everybody a Happy and healthy New Year. I know a number of you have been praying for me. I may not be religious, but I thank you and God bless you.



Three at Last, Three at last, Thank God Almighty We’re Three at Last

To the dear people in my life,
    There were 18 treatments ahead of me on September 29 and only 3 more to go as of today. I am thrilled to report that I am none the worse for wear. Go figure! (My girlish figure HAS gone because I was instructed early on to EAT!) Speaking of weight, I had an appointment with my oncologist AFTER the infusion today. I hate the way they weigh you – fully clothed and bursting at the seams from two bags of IV that ended ten minutes prior to the appt. I did remove my boots and rings, however. Big deal. (I’m exaggerating slightly- you will still recognize me – you know, the one with the great hair and nice nails.)
    Marie E., my tennis partner par excellence, volunteered to drive me to the center this morning. Kenny had an early appointment so he wasn’t able to drop me off, but Marie lives locally and it was easy for her to swing by (no pun intended) to pick me up. Got there with time to spare and while we were waiting for my blood work to be assessed, who shows up? Kenny! (Looking very dapper, I might add.)He didn’t want to miss the blood results but they took bloody longer than normal and he had to take off by 10:45. Marie was great company and we talked tennis most of the time. (If your ears are itching, we may have mentioned YOU.) We look forward to playing tomorrow morning.
    It is always so cold in the infusion area of the center, so I look forward to the warm blanket and Marie got one as well. Charlie Brown was right: Happiness is a warm blanket. (Sorry, John Lennon – no gun talk today.)
     My white blood cell count is now in range and my platelets are still way up there. The red blood cells are low but have been hanging out in that range for a few weeks. Nothing to fret over. I’ll just keep eating proteins. Too bad those little red pomegranate seeds don’t just turn into red blood cells. Countdown to a juicy shell steak in a few weeks and sushi galore (no, Sushi Galore is not a character from “Goldfinger.”) I actually plan to have sashimi galore, sushi’s paramour.
    My “hair” continues to draw compliments, this time from my Mom. At 95 with dementia, any real conversation has virtually ceased. HOWEVER, I visited her on Monday and she looked at me and said, “You’re VERY blonde.” I asked, “But do you like it?” to which she nodded and smiled. We had a nice visit, eating lunch and listening to CD’s of Broadway tunes. I can sing freely when I’m there because my Mom is hard of hearing. “I like to be in America/Everything free in America/ For a small fee in America!” She keeps tune with her hands like a conductor in an orchestra. I smell a talent show in the near future.
    I’ve been keeping busy with movies and am so pleased that “La La Land” swept the Golden Globes. Kenny and I absolutely loved this delightful romp. But on Tuesday, Ellen R. and I saw “Fences” and I’m wondering why Denzel was passed over for Best Director or Best Actor in a drama. It certainly was dramatic and August Wilson’s script is riveting. I guess I’ll need to see “Moonlighting” in order to figure this out.
  Tennis Update: My Wednesday doubles match was one for the Bethpage books. Margo, (in her “Half Full” wine glass T-shirt) and I were playing against a formidable team. We were down 0-5 (not a pretty picture.) Suddenly it was 1-5, 2-5, 3- 5 etc. until it was 6-6 and we were in a tie break. Libby and Eydie beat us, making the score for the first set 7-6. We had time for 4 more games before the 90 minutes were up and we were in the lead 3-1. I was definitely winded in the very competitive long rallies, but the peanut butter and jelly sandwich that I nibble on at the changeovers has proven to be a food of the gods and Gatorade, the nectar.
Don’t forget: The Australian Open starts this weekend. Watching the matches can either help our games or make us want to slit our wrists. I prefer to think they’ve helped my game.
    Marie and I drove towards home at about 1 p.m. and stopped at the diner for lunch. It was prime time and as we waited for a table, an overly friendly woman told us, “Get the turkey burger. They are the BEST.” Marie mentioned tuna salad and she said, “Their tuna salad is the BEST and we’re waiting for a table to open up in a certain section so we can get our waitress who is the BEST.”
    We were seated and I ordered a turkey club wrap (with real turkey as opposed to processed deli turkey). Marie ordered the “best” tuna. We looked up and who was at the very next table? She exuded positive vibes, but thank God she allowed us to eat our lunch in peace.
    Thanks to all of you who have offered me encouragement. YOU’RE the BEST.
Two Thursdays Till Paradise
My dear friends, family and friends who are like family,
Two more treatments to go and once this is all over:
Got a surprise especially for me,
Something that both of us have always wanted to see.
We’ve waited so long, waited so long.
We’ve waited so long, waited so long.
I’ve got two tickets to paradise,
Won’t you pack your bags, we’ll leave tonight,
I’ve got two tickets to paradise,
I’ve got two tickets to paradise.
I’ve got two Thursdays till paradise
Will unpack those IV bags, we’ll leave that night.
I’ve got two Thursdays till paradise.
Two Thursdays till paradise…
 (Thanks to Eddie Money for inspiring my ditty.)
    With today’s theme being “two,” I cannot help but thinking of an old joke Kenny used to tell (and probably every other guy did as well):
A guy walks up to the ticket booth at the train station. A buxom blonde was working at the counter. He took one look at her and asked for “Two pickets to Tittsburgh, please.”
     Back to reality. We were taken into to the treatment area to await the blood test results and on the way, somebody complimented Kenny on his tie. Between my “hair” and his ties… This time I was led to a private room rather than the usual cubicle. Wow! It made me wonder: Private rooms are usually assigned to problematic patients (definitely not me) or VIP treatment. VIP it was. My attending R.N. was especially nice. The results came in and we were good to go once again. Fasten your seatbelts. I was given my weekly cocktail of 4-5 pills, was covered with a warm blanket and Sylvia did a great job of distracting me so I was hardly aware of the IV being inserted. She deserved a warm blanket for that – and was given one. FYI: I never look at the IV. Thank God for conversation.
    It was Double Whammy day: 2 separate IV drips, one following the other, but this was my last “long” visit. Kenny had driven me over as per usual, waited for the blood results and left me in four good hands as he whisked off to work. First Sylvia joined me at about 11 a.m., followed by Sharon C at noon. The plan was for one to sit with me the first hour and the other for the last hour. As of January 1st, we were told that only one person could be with me at a time, but hey, in the VIP room, nobody said a word (except the three of us as we chatted away. They are both in my tennis circle and Sharon is also a pretty good golfer.) We were interrupted when my trusty reflexologist showed up. She asked Sharon and Sylvia to leave for about 20 minutes so she could dim the lights and set up a Zen-like aura. I closed my eyes.
    Once the buzzer sounded, the R.N. unhooked me, took my vitals and sent me on my way – till next Thursday. We had two car (two’s the operative word this week) and headed to an old-fashioned coffee shop called Hildebrandt’s.
    Thanks to the Aussie Open, there’s a whole lotta tennis going’ on   this week on ESPN2. Go Angelique (Kerber, that is, a lefty and ranked #1) and of course, my longtime fave, Rafael Nadal who returns, sporting his new follicular implants, according to the announcers.
    To my many friends who are marching this Saturday, thank you!!
E Pluribus Unum
Dear Friends,
Translation: Out of many, ONE (left)!
My ode to the IV: 
Still the ONE by Orleans
   We’ve been together since way back when
 Sometimes (always) I never want to see you again
And I want you to know
After all these months
You’re is still the ONE
I don’t want dripping in my vein.
You’re still the ONE
I want to throw out of bed
Still the ONE
That turns my head (away)
Everyone’s still having fun
But I still have ONE.
  Kenny dropped me off, stayed for the finger stick blood workup and had to get to work. The appointment was an hour later this week. My good friend Carol, a former colleague at Richmond Hill HS, was lovely enough to accompany me to this penultimate treatment. We always had a great connection through music and books. We saw Donovan together and we share a love for Richie Havens, Dylan and assorted other folkies. Today we talked movies, politics and even tried a little card game of thought-provoking questions. Before we knew it, the treatment ended and we were on our way to have lunch. (Once this is all over, I don’t want to see another diner or restaurant that’s open for lunch!) But nutrition and hydration is key. Today my platelets went UP as did my red & white blood cell numbers. Sitting on the couch the other night shoving in those pomegranate seeds must’ve worked. And the hard boiled eggs – even one is enough for me. How the hell did Paul Newman eat 50? My hemoglobin count was cause for concern today. It is low, but has been in the same range since at least December. I was asked if I feel more tired than usual. Negativo; I’m not generally tired – only after long tennis rallies. I was told to call the doc if I feel especially tired within the next few days. Apparently they want to monitor the hemoglobin.
    Whenever I hear “hemoglobin,” I think of my teaching days when snow was in the weather forecast. I would do a snow dance the night before in the hope that the NYC schools would be closed. Catholic schools would close, local Nassau County schools would close, but   the city NEVER slept – at least when I was there. Kenny would join in my dance and stomp around chanting “Hemoglobin, hemoglobin, hemoglobin.” Why hemoglobin? It just sounded funny according to him.
    This past Monday I decided to attend a make-up workshop at the treatment center so I can figure out what to do with my now non-existent eyelashes. Answer: Nothing. They’ll grow back. There were four other wigged women there and we were told not to wear false eyelashes because the glue can be toxic. It was a pleasant enough session run by two cosmetologists (not my former Maxwell Vocational HS students – believe me I checked.) It did have shades of Maxwell though, especially when one of the make-up artists said, “Some of yiz have more sensitive skin than others.”
    And now on a very sad note: My gorgeous, loving Aunt Charlotte, who is my 95 year-old mother’s identical twin sister (and second mother to me) passed away last evening of pneumonia. She was residing in a nursing home in Englewood, NJ and thank God we all visited yesterday, including my mother. Emily drove my Mom and her aide out and we all met at 1:30. The twins both have dementia, but my Mom, who usually says next to nothing, was shockingly lucid in the moment. She saw the oxygen tank and asked questions. After a little over an hour of visiting, she asked to speak with the doctor, and when the R.N. came over, she asked, “Is it all right if we leave now?” The nurse said, “Absolutely” and my Mom said, “Please take care of her.” She then added, “And call us if something happens.” Emily’s and my eyes welled up. If, in fact, Charlotte was aware of her presence, the cosmos provides.
Love, Melinda
Infusion Conclusion
Hey Everyone,
    It’s Groundhog Day. Think Bill Murray in the film (which is being aired today on AMC all day until 5 a.m. tomorrow.) For the past 19 weeks I’ve been caught in my own time loop, repeating Thursday again and again. Until today. NO more treatments!
    Now think Jim Morrison, oozing sex in his skin tight leather pants, the guitar imitating a sitar:
The End
This is the end, dutiful “friend”
This is the end, my Thursday “friend”, the end.
Of my chemo plans, the end
Of the IV stand, the end…
    I had an appointment with my oncologist immediately following my final infusion and she was pleased with my blood work and the way I tolerated my 18/19 week regimen. She still tells me that my playing tennis throughout makes her smile.
    Kenny took this momentous day off in order to accompany me today. Being the romantic that he is, he presented me with two gifts right in the doctor’s office. I got a little teary for a minute. Several weeks ago, Ken saw a piece on CBS news about a hospital that rings a little bell three times at the conclusion of a patient’s course of cancer treatments. He bought a small brass bell, wrapped it up and presented it with this poem by Irve Le Moyne:
Ringing Out
Ring this bell
Three times well
Its toll to clearly say,
 My treatment’s done
This course is run
And I am on my way!
    But that was not all: He also had a milk chocolate plaque made up with a photo of me sitting on the Rocky statue at the steps of the Philadelphia Museum. We both have our hands up in victory. It was taken the day after I ran the Philly Marathon in 2006.
    Here’s what’s up next: I will have two scans done in about 3 weeks. I opted to have the genetic test today to ascertain if I carry any mutations causing increased cancer susceptibility. The results will be available in approximately four weeks at my next doctor’s appointment. The scans will be reviewed at that time as well. I will continue to eat my super foods and even added beets for dinner tonight. All I remember is my Dad eating borscht with a wad of sour cream when I was kid, so I steered clear of beets all these years.
Since I am still considered to be immune suppressed for another four weeks, I cannot have my sashimi or a medium rare steak yet, but I’ll live. I will continue to wear my wigs and deal with the weekly compliments from strangers. I looked at my wisps of gray stubble this morning and told Kenny I look like an alien. He said, ” No, a baby chimp.”
    To all of you who have helped me these past five months, I love you and admire you for it.
Love, Melinda
Feb. 9, 2017- If It’s Thursday, It Must Be…
    Okay, okay. A number of you asked what I have planned for today- my first chemo-free Thursday. You’re lookin’ at it: snowbound. The groundhog was correct so far. We certainly had one week of winter and it looks as if five to go is a reasonable estimation. Timing is everything with Mother Nature. Just think – if I hadn’t had my last treatment last Thursday, then I’d be sitting around cursing that the snowstorm sabotaged my schedule.
    Just as the schools and many businesses are closed today, so too is the tennis center where I play; hence, the Thursday game I was all set to rejoin was cancelled for today. As Scarlett O’Hara’s last words were in “Gone With The Wind”: “Tomorrow is another day.” And it is. I’m hoping to play in my Friday league manana.
    Today’s a great day to plan our eventual trip to a tropical island.
    If you’re in a snow-coated area, be safe, everyone!
February 16, 2017: The Best Laid Schemes o’ Mice and Men
  Hey Everyone,
    So much for my quoting Scarlett’s “tomorrow is another day,” for tennis last week. Due to last Thursday’s snow event, the tennis center suspended our Friday league. I know Ritta, Marie and I were bummed out. When I wrote last Thursday, the snow was still a-flyin’ and the following hadn’t happened yet:
Dueling Shovelers
    We called Augie, the husband of our cleaning woman to do the shoveling. (Kenny had a terrible cold & cough.) He and two other guys were supposed to arrive at 4:30 or 5. At about 4:45 the doorbell rings and some Spanish guys are out there. Kenny asks one of them, “Are you Augie?” (Kenny had never met him before.) The guy says yes. “Is your wife Betsy?” Yes.
    “Okay, you and your guys can get started.”
    Twenty minutes later my cell phone rings. “Hi Melinda. It’s Augie. We’re here.” I said, “I know you’re here. My husband spoke to you when you arrived.”
    “No, he didn’t. We just got here.”
    Uh oh. We were swindled. The first crew either downright lied or didn’t understand English. Augie spoke to them in Spanish and told them to finish the job. Kenny and I felt terrible because Augie made the trip to our house. However, he had been digging out other houses before ours and he was just fine with going home to have dinner with Betsy.
    That’s our story.
And now, for another snow-related story:
    Last Wednesday night, pre-snowstorm, Emily called with a fantastic offer for us. She worked on the Broadway revival of “Sunset Boulevard,” managed to get two extra tix and invited Kenny and me to opening night. That would include great seats (mezz. first row just off center) and an invitation to a black tie affair at Cipriani. Kenny was really sick with an upper respiratory infection and a wicked cough (see above) and the weather forecast was, well, what it turned out to be. So, we thanked Em for thinking of us, but regrettably we had to decline. This is the reason people gravitate to warm climates in the winter. But then again, those in the warm climates don’t have Broadway! They have the real Sunset Boulevard. But it would’ve been nice to see Close close up.
     I bade farewell to chemotherapy two full weeks ago and I have been getting back to life as I knew it with shows, upcoming museum visits and tennis three times a week. It felt great to finally rejoin my Thursday friendly doubles game this morning. Good competition, but best of all, good people. As the saying goes, you can choose your tennis players, but not your relatives. (That does not pertain to any relative reading this.)
    I am even happy to report that my wispy peach fuzz is starting to grow back. (Don’t get excited; I still look like a balding monkey.) I leave you with a few lines from Clapton:
 Let it grow, let it grow
 Let it blossom, let it flow.
In the sun, the rain, the snow,
Love is lovely, let it grow.
February 23, 2017: Clear to Take Off – Over and Out
Hi Everyone,
I have scanned clearly now, the rain is gone,
I can see obstacles out of my way
Here is that rainbow I’ve been praying for,
It’s gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright)
Sun-shiny day.
    Despite Johnny Nash’s lyrics, the sun was already out when Kenny and I had a conference call with the doc’s office at 10:30 this morning. I had just arrived home from a wonderfully competitive tennis game in time to discuss Tuesday’s (aka Scan-day’s) results. On Tuesday I had a battery of tests that took almost three hours. First the mammography, then the bone scan followed by the all-important CT scan of the pelvic and abdominal regions. Oh, and what day is complete without a chest x-ray?
    All is groovy except for 5mm worth of scar tissue detected in the left upper abdomen. The oncologist’s P. A., who is attached at the hip to the doctor, says this is very common after surgery and more than likely just scar tissue the size of a pencil eraser. Of course Kenny quipped, “A pencil eraser? How a propos for a teacher.” (Looking back, I wish my students had used pencil erasers instead of that messy, crusty Wite-Out!)
    The doctor does not seem to be overly concerned since the markers in the blood are good and scar tissue is common, but in order to be definitive, she ordered a PET scan, which I have already set up for next Monday. (We’re “on it”. No kidding around here.)
    Once that is done I can concentrate on real celebrating on our trip to Aruba.
    It’s now three full weeks that I bade farewell to chemotherapy and I am no longer winded during long tennis rallies! Remember those peanut butter and jelly sandwiches? Right now the one that I made for yesterday’s game is rotting in my tennis bag.
    Enjoy the “balmy” weather if you are here in NY.
March 2, 2017- Footloose and Cancer-Free
All my scans are clear, I’m ready to go…
But the dawn is breakin’
It’s early morn
The taxi’s waitin’
He’s blowin’ his horn
Already I’m so excited I could fly.
‘Cause we’re leavin’ on a jet plane
We know when we’ll be back again
Oh babe, I can’t wait to go.
    We’re finally getting out of Dodge. It was a bated-breath wait from Monday evening at 9:30 till Wednesday afternoon at 4:15 when the doc told us that the PET scan detected nothing going on. That “pencil eraser” is indeed scar tissue and I’m cleared for take-off.
   A PET scan is much deeper and comprehensive than the CT scan was. It required a 24-hour prep beginning Sunday at 8 p.m. (during the Oscars.) I had an intravenous radioactive injection one hour before the scan. You know you’re radioactive when you have to use a designated restroom marked “HOT toilet.” Whoa! I’ve heard of hot yoga, but this was a new one to me. Kenny was with me and we arrived home at 9:45 Monday evening. He was tired; I was glowing. Actually I was freaking out, dreading what they would find. I know everything was great up until now, but what if? Do we still go to Aruba? What if I need an immediate intervention of some sort?
    But life goes on and so did I. I went out to a great dinner with my book club on Tuesday night to “celebrate” the end of my chemo treatments, played tennis on Wednesday morning and met Ellen R. to go straw hat shopping Wednesday afternoon. Gotta make sure my new crop of baby hair is covered at the beach. I now look like Baby Herman minus the cigar. We had a lot of laughs. But I still didn’t have the ^%$#*&^ results until…4:15 when I did. I am thrilled to be cancer-free, so wouldn’t you agree/ baby you and me, it’s high time to blow this pop stand?
    I’m loving life again.
P.S. Had my one month post-chemo doctor’s appointment this afternoon where I was told that the 67 genes associated with hereditary cancer all came back negative. No BRCA, no nothin’!
Slathered in Sunblock  March 8-17
    Eight days in paradise at the Ritz Carlton Aruba was just what the doctor ordered, but she could have ordered a few more. The main thing is that every single day I acknowledged how lucky I am to be alive and well. From the minute we arrived at this gorgeous hotel, we took full advantage of our long-anticipated R & R. It didn’t take us long to order our first round of drinks. Each day, after a lovely breakfast at the hotel, we swam in the adults-only pool where conversation with other guests flowed freely as did the drinks we ordered. When we tired of that scene, we walked but a few steps onto the sand and waded into the warm, placid Caribbean waters. Then back to the pool. Shade was at a premium but we were slathered in sunscreen all day. On some mornings, I ran on a designated path along the beach, past other hotels and back in time for breakfast. Running without getting winded- what a treat! Kenny joined me for a walk a few times and we had breakfast when we got back to the hotel – outdoors overlooking the ocean. And the buffet breakfast was delicious. You name it, they had it.
  One morning I came back from my run only to find Kenny talking to a gorgeously tanned young blonde in a blue bikini. It turns out he spotted an insulin pump stuck into her bikini bottom, so he struck up a conversation. They were birds of a feather.
    Our room had a western ocean view, with a spectacular sunset each evening. We sipped red wine (compliments of Andy) on our balcony as we watched the sun dip into the sea, spreading its pastel rays across the horizon.
    About 7 p.m. each evening we were taxied out for dinner. The island prides itself on fine dining and between lots of recommendations from friends and a few from the concierge, we ate well. Not exactly candidates for Gamblers Anonymous, but we did hit the Ritz Carlton casino each night before we went upstairs. Suffice it to say I did NOT lose and we played a few video poker machines for eight nights in a row.
   The biggest bummer is that I couldn’t get my hair braided (not). I’m still sportin’ my wig, and it always looked perfect when I stepped out for the evenings. I get dressed in half the time without having to do my hair. Kenny tells me my real hair is looking like Julius Caesar’s now. How a propos considering it’s the ides of March.
    We were scheduled to depart on Wednesday, but with flights already scrapped on Tuesday and schools closed all over the northeast, we opted to book an additional day. Twist our arms. Why ruin an idyllic vacation getting stuck sitting at an airport?
Blueberry Blooper
    Yes, we know better, but I decided to bring a cup of fresh blueberries to enjoy at the airport on Thursday. Bad move. We got all the way through customs via a computerized screen, but also had to be “interviewed” in person. I freely admitted to the agent that I had a cup of blueberries even though we were well aware that produce cannot be transported internationally. Again, I was planning to snack on them while waiting for the flight. The agent said, “Please step over here, have a seat and someone will be right out.” I said I’d gladly throw them out but there were intentionally no trash receptacles. We sat down. I was pissed; Kenny was really annoyed. We still had about an hour and a half before boarding. I got up and started pacing just as a guard came walking our way. He greeted us with, “I’m your man.” He took us into a room and read us the rules from a chart on the wall. For whatever reason, (probably because I was up front about it) he told us ordinarily there would be a $300 fine for this offense, but he waived it.
    As a result, Kenny and I are still talking.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day. We’re having our annual corned beef and cabbage tonight.
Love, Melinda
March 23, 2017- Study Hall
Hi Everyone,
 Ask not what the study can do for you;
Ask what you can do for the study.
    Okay, so now that I’m back to normal (no comments, c’mon!) I agreed to participate in a two-year national research study which is being locally conducted by my very own oncologist here on Long Island. It’s sponsored by the Gynecologic Oncology Group and funded by the feds through the National Cancer Institute.
     The study aims to find out if a change in diet and exercise in women who have undergone chemo for ovarian cancer has an effect on the length of time they are cancer- free following initial treatment. Based on the two-hour questionnaire I took on Monday morning, right off the bat, I’m assuming I need to eat more vegetables. I am also assuming I do not need more exercise than I already do. The research involves 1,072 women who are presently, by all test results, cancer-free.
    So far I had blood drawn on Monday, answered the lengthy questionnaire and as of today I’m wearing a monitor attached to the waistband of my clothing. I will be wearing it for 7 days and the data gets uploaded daily. A pedometer is on its way and will be worn once the monitor comes off. I’m jogging in place as I type this.
More Coif Kudos
Ever go somewhere where the people you see consistently make you feel good? That would be my dentist’s office. Okay, I do bring chocolate to the receptionist every time I go, but both the hygienist and the dentist always compliment me on the condition of my teeth. Today the receptionist says, “You did something different with your hair. It’s so becoming.” (Yeah, it fell out from chemotherapy, I wanted to say, but they are not privy to my recent medical history.)
I said, “Thank you, but what about my teeth?”
I hope all of you out there are healthy and happy.
April 6, 2017
Pedometry 101 & Broccoli Breath
    After wearing it for one full week, I kissed my activity monitor goodbye this morning and sent it off via the US Mail. Each evening I had to upload the data which was sent to God knows where and tomorrow I will begin to wear the pedometer that was sent to me by the LIVES study (Lifestyle Intervention for oVarian cancer Enhanced Survival.) Based on the one hour telephone conference I had today with my “coach,” just a few things nutritionally will have to be tweaked. I have to increase my vegetable intake to 4 per day and decrease the fruits (2 daily.) In the vegetable department, it’s not just ANY four a day, but a beta carotene, a cruciferous etc. Any one into nutrition knows this stuff. But do we follow it? I was thrilled to find out that drinking in moderation is just fine. Cheers.
    As for the pedometer, it will measure distance, especially physical activity. However many steps it measures the first week, I will be asked to do more. Not to worry: I already played back to back tennis and golf one day this week. Seriously, I will follow whatever the recommended or required regimen is if it will keep me as healthy and happy as I am today. Amen.
    I had a great birthday earlier this week. Kenny and I had a fabulous sashimi dinner at Kotobuki and I’ve been celebrating my good fortune and my birthday with lots of friends. I even got to spend some time with Emily who’s perpetually inundated with her work on Broadway musicals. We took a trip out to East Hampton for a few hours last Saturday, walked on the desolate beach, which is only this peaceful off-season and had lunch on a  picnic table at Luigi’s,  her favorite East Hampton Italian deli. It is so rare that we spend any quality time together, so this was a treat.
 Oh, and may Don Rickles rest in peace. He always cracked me up with irreverent lines like, “Who picks out your clothes – Stevie Wonder?” He once said his biggest fear on stage was that he might not offend every single person in the audience.
    As one of my favorite lyrics from the Sixties goes:
This is the time and life that I am living
And I’ll face each day with a smile…
April 20, 2017-
Pedometry Interruptus

Hi Everyone,

     When I left off last Thursday, I was about to begin a new relationship with a pedometer. This is a phase of the clinical study. It is to be worn all day except in the shower, bath or pool. In other words, it’s not waterproof. Friday morning rolls around. I got up at 7:30 a.m., attached the pedometer to my pajamas and let it roll. I then decided to go into the hot tub which is outdoors and requires a bathing suit in the daylight. After dark, anything goes. So while I was preparing to go into the hot tub, I attached it to my bathing suit. Bad move.
    When I got out of the hot tub and went inside to change into tennis clothes, I couldn’t find the pedometer. Then the worst case scenario came to fruition. It was still attached to my bathing suit after soaking in the tub for 20 minutes. And this was only the first day! Some subject I am for this study!
    I immediately dashed off an email to my research study coach, Sarah, explaining my bonehead move. This was her response:
Good morning Melinda,
Thank you for the laugh this morning! :) If it decides to stop working, I can send you another one. It is okay to delay a few days in starting the baseline week, so don’t worry at all!
I hope you had a lovely soak in the hot tub! What a great way to start the day.
    Okay, it’s good that they’re so laid back. I looked at the pedometer and miraculously, it took a lickin’ and kept on tickin’… for four whole days! (That’s half of Chanukah oil.) I played tennis, walked the golf course, ran, walked the neighborhood and managed to rack up just short of 15,000 steps a day. And then, with the screen framed in moisture, it went kaput. A replacement is on its way.
    My social calendar is back in full swing with celebratory lunches with friends, tennis, golf and a visit to the Brooklyn Museum this past week. And of course, along with Emily and Kenny, making sure our Mom is safe and sound.
    A very happy Passover or Easter to all of you!
April 27, 2017-
Tonsorial Tales


Hi Everyone.
 I hope this Thursday evening finds each of you in a good place.
Joan, my friendly hairstylist (and hairstylist friend) has been with me throughout my ordeal – from shopping for my wigs to hearing about the compliments ad nauseum. (And you’re probably sick of hearing about it as well.) Well, it finally came the time when she was able to trim the real McCoy – my cottony white, slightly out of shape hair, what I teasingly refer to as my Mike Pence do (God forbid I really looked like him – or thought like him). Now the wig doesn’t have white creeping out at the temples.
    It was also Beauty Parlor Day for my Mom on Tuesday. Her wonderful aide Arlene happens to have a cosmetology background (as did Chuck Berry of all people! I read that in his obituary) and keeps my Mom looking nicely coiffed. But she needed a good haircut, so we made an appointment at her beauty parlor, the one she used to patronize every single week.
    Once she was in the chair, her beautician looked at my “hair” (yup, here’s another story) and said, “I want to cut it in layers like yours.” She was about to touch mine when I volunteered, “This is a wig, you know.” She then shared that since her husband died five months ago, her hair has been falling out. She pointed to an extreme receding hairline and asked me where I got the hairpiece. More biz for my lady in Great Neck.
    I’ve been successfully (and obsessively) following my low fat, high fiber food plan for about a week now. It’s been fine except for a dinner out on Monday with a group of tennis friends, and as I may have mentioned before, we have become closer friends over the past few months. We went out to celebrate two birthdays. Even though I ordered judiciously, you really have no control of how food is prepared in the kitchen. We had a grand ol’ time with a bottle of red and a bottle of white. I gained 2 pounds that night, but it’s come off already.
    I want to end with a copy of a beautifully-written essay that appeared in the Times on Tuesday: “Friends, in Sickness and in Health” by Deborah Tannen.
Have a great week.
May 4, 2017-                     “You Got To Have Friends”
Hello Darlings!
  Last week’s article on the value of friends in sickness and in health seemed to have resonated with many of you. It is a great article and I’m glad you liked it. You sure do “got to have friends” and this week has been all about many of you. And Bette is back on Broadway with 10 Tony nominations. How a propos.
    Last Sunday, I visited the Bronx Botanical Garden with a group of friends of 40+ years. We were looking for an adventure for April 30 and it was Zoe, all the way from the West Coast, who clued us in on the spectacular Dale Chihuly installation.Thanks, girlfriend!
    Chihuly’s glass works did not disappoint. As we stood near a fountain in front of “Red Reeds on Logs,” I teasingly queried, “How do these things grow?” to which Sue-Anne, without skipping a beat, said, “Glass seeds.” Touche. It was that kind of day. It’s always fun spending time with friends who knew you when…
    I lost a tennis match yesterday against two players who happen to be close friends of mine. We had great, never-ending points, but they were on fire! This is sick, but I get more upset over losing a tennis match than I did each week at my chemotherapy infusion, again, thanks to friends (and Emily and Kenny) who made it all bearable.
Notice I steer clear of politics in these weekly updates. That’s UNBEARABLE.
    And just when I thought it was safe to walk into a local store incognito, my friendly pharmacist notices me and blurts out, “Your highlights look so great. Did you just have them done?”
    “Yes,” I lied once again and moved on to buy some toothpaste.
    My food program for the clinical study is working out well. Something else for me to be obsessive-compulsive about. My daily step goal has been calculated by my coach to be (are you ready?) 26,000. Even if my actual pedometer reads 10,000 or so, I add several thousand for my aerobic activities according to a table. Running, tennis and walking a golf course shlepping the golf bag all count. Some days I’m under and some, a bit over, but it all averages out. Next week when I speak to my coach, I must ask what the other “students” are like. I’d be curious.
    Have a happy, productive and active week.
May 11, 2017-                                             Your Weekly Reader
Top o’ the evening everyone,
    Aside from the absolutely outrageous breaking news that continues to assault us daily, I managed to have a fairly copacetic week. (My Dad was fond of saying “copacetic.” Was that even on the SAT study list?)
    This week I finally asked my coach, Sarah, about the other subjects in the clinical study. There are over 1000 of us and since we agreed to participate in this two-year study, each woman is very motivated. Step goals and fat gram limits are varied according to the individual, but we all must have the 30 grams of fiber daily.
     My overall weekly step count averaged out to be just shy of my daily goal of 26,000 steps. I gave myself a lazy day (no aerobic activities) on Saturday. As a runner, I know that one day off to recharge the muscles is a good thing.
Pedometer Interruptus
    Late Friday afternoon I went out to cut the last vestiges of our lilac tree so I could bring a bouquet to my friend Rashi that evening. About an hour later, I discovered my pedometer was missing. OMG! It was attached to my waistband all day! The only place it could be was buried in the soggy pachysandra surrounding the lilac tree. I rushed outside in the rain and rustled through the leaves which were not just soggy, but waterlogged. We had on and off torrential rains all day. No luck. Now all I could think of was having to call Sarah to ask for another pedometer (this would be my third since the hot tub killed the first one a few weeks ago.) I would offer to pay for it. By now Kenny was home and he didn’t think this was funny. I lose things all the time and usually find them, but this was GONE! He even went out to look for it. Fuhgeddaboudit.
    The only other place it could be was my car. I had run out to do an errand earlier in the afternoon. Kenny checked and promptly located it between the driver’s seat and the door. My hero!
    Rashi is a former colleague and dear friend to whose home we were invited for shabbos dinner last Friday. Although Rashi has a tremendous family, it was an intimate, candlelit dinner for four (shabbos candles, of course.) We schmoozed, ate a delicious meal, prayed a little, ate more and schmoozed into the night. It was past midnight when we said goodbye to our gracious hosts, Rashi and Yaakov.
    That’s all the excitement for this week.
    Here’s to truth, justice and the American way.
    Shabbat shalom and Happy Mother’s Day.
May 18, 2017- Gimme Shelter
To the dear people in my life,
     With the arrival of gorgeous, warm weather and more outdoor activities, the classroom suddenly beckons. What?! If I hadn’t received a call to sub this week, I might have erased this entire school year. But now that my immune system is healthy enough to be surrounded by germs, I agreed to make an appearance. The administrative assistant (aka secretary) who called, is an absolute doll and she told me that I would be covering an English program on the day of my grand re-entrance. You know you’ll hear about it next week.
    Our Mother’s Day visit to my Mom’s was really heartening. It was such a treat that my Mom, with advancing dementia, was lucid for about 3 hours – conversational and fully aware of her surroundings. Her personality shone through which is a real rarity lately. If Kenny hadn’t been there, he’d never have believed how great she was that day, but he got to see it for himself. She began to fade as the afternoon wore on (a game of Rummikub knocked her out), but she took a nap so she could be refreshed for Emily and Susan’s visit later on that day. Show time.
    Golf, tennis and running are helping to rack up the required steps, but whose idea was it to play golf at Bethpage? My friends Marie D. and Ritta had played the Yellow Course (a tad easier, so I heard) last year, so having done well in a couple of recent rounds elsewhere, we decided to try Bethpage. The front 9 of the Blue Course was so way over our heads that we coined a new phrase on the green: “Almost a gimme.” Ordinarily a “gimme” is when the ball is just a few inches from the hole, but after a zillion strokes to just get up to the green, a foot and a half was “almost a gimme” and that was an accomplishment. Despite my complaining and even a threat to never play golf again, we had a fabulous day. Nothing like a great drive to get you back. It’s really like a drug.
    Marie E. (my doubles partner par excellence) and I challenged into a tennis ladder this morning. We had to give up our standing on the ladder last August due to my illness; hence, we were required to “challenge in” this season. It was our maiden voyage playing tennis outdoors this year and we had a very competitive match against two extremely nice women. We are now officially at the bottom of the ladder.
    While we were waiting for one of the players to arrive, an elderly man walked over carrying a collection of racquets. He asked us if anyone needed restringing. Negative.Then in the middle of out match he came by yet again and stood on the other side of the gate. It was very distracting. Marie, who was about to serve called to him, “No thank you. You already asked us.” The only thing I could think of was he has dementia and forgot.
    Wishing each of you a nice weekend and wouldn’t it be even more pleasant if we didn’t turn on the TV or radio? But we’re riveted.
May 25, 2017- First Day of School
Greetings to all of my dearest peeps,
    Yes, I know it’s almost June and school is almost out for the summer, but considering what my year looked like, Tuesday was my first day back at the local high school as a substitute teacher. And what did I learn? It’s still fun. Of course this school lies in a distant galaxy from the NYC high schools where I used to teach. Here, there are open cartons of multi-colored Magic Markers available for everyone’s use in the classroom. They’re not locked up in a closet and NO ONE seems to be defacing property. Baby, I’m amazed. In Simon and Garfunkel’s New York City (and mine) the words of the prophets were written on the subway walls and tenement halls – but here, walls are pristine and stay that way for the whole school year. Is this Lake Wobegon?!*
    It is a comfort, however, to know that the women teachers are not all towers of strength, all the men are not good looking, and all the children are surely not above average. In the four English classes and one ESL I covered, the kids were relatively well-behaved. They had assignments and once they knew I wasn’t going to give in to their request to play “Seven-Up,” they got to work. In one class I spotted two boys fidgeting with a small spinning gizmo of some sort. Little did I know that it is called a fidget spinner and it’s all the rage. Where have I been? (We know where I’ve been.) That very evening I read an article in the NY Times precisely about these coveted little toys. With the rate they are selling, they could rival the hula hoop, Cabbage Patch dolls or pet rocks. Sucker that I am, I treated myself to one the very next day.
    I’m always amazed when I hear about a teacher who assigns a novel in class without a proper introduction. The kids reading S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders weren’t even told that Hinton is a woman. They assumed S.E. was a male author. I then read aloud a letter to the reader from the author which explained how she wrote the book at age fifteen and got a publishing deal at eighteen! “No way!” several kids yelled out.
Lockdown Drill
    The next class I had was an ESL Global Studies class and the highlight of the period was an official school-wide lockdown drill. Lights had to be turned off, classroom doors locked  and every kid had to cramp into a designated corner of the room that was out of sight of the classroom door. A little too close for comfort, but it could save lives if a gun-wielding maniac got into the school. Peering into the darkened room, it would be difficult to see potential victims. That old “Take cover!” shelter drill of my childhood has been replaced in these violent times by periodic lock down drills.
    Nothing else new to report except that I’m on target with my steps, nutrition, sports activities, visiting my Mom, and reading for two book clubs. Kenny and I broke a wishbone yesterday and I’m hoping I wished for all the right things.
    Have fun this Memorial Day weekend and let’s not forget those who fought for our freedom. Let it ring!
*Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon is characterized as “the little town that time forgot, and the decades cannot improve. Women are all towers of strength, the men are all good-looking and the children are all above average.”
June 1, 2017-  June Tunes
Hey Everyone,
    It’s June! and one of my all-time favorite Simon and Garfunkel tunes comes to mind. Skip the ad and play this gorgeous song:
    It is now four months to the day that I kissed my chemotherapy goodbye. I’m not a sentimentalist who celebrates every milestone in life, but this one hit me. Go figure.
    My friend Ellen R and I had talked about getting tickets to see the musical, “Come From Away” and we attended a matinee performance yesterday. We were joined by Sande and a my long-lost friend Liz. It was a reunion of sorts in that I hadn’t seen Liz in far too many years. Of course she knew of my recent “adventures”, so when she met up with me on 46th Street, she blurted out, “That’s the best f—-ing wig I’ve ever seen!” We laughed throughout our entire lunch.
    The show was fabulous. It was a chilling reminder of 9/11, yet entertaining musical theater, if you can imagine that. It was chock full of talent in a smart, inclusive production and I never in my life heard so much cheering at a curtain call (myself included.)
    This was followed up by a visit to my sister Emily’s music copying office a couple of blocks from the theater in wild and nutso Times Square – and it seems to be getting crazier. I can only describe the area as a “dirty Disney World.” When I arrived, Emily’s crew were in full Tony mode, that is, preparing all the music that is to be played at the Tony Awards on June 11. Tres impressif! (and a ton of work.)
    With a little help from my friends, life has been getting better all the time. This is a nod to the 50th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album. Where were YOU when you first heard it? In 1967 I was a senior at the Rhodes School in New York and one of my artsy friends made a short film using one of the songs as her soundtrack. Very hip.
    I hosted a book club meeting at my house (outdoors in the bright sunshine!) late this afternoon which was followed by a delicious dinner out to celebrate two members’ birthdays. I just got home…
    Well, it’s covfefe time. According to Al Franken, that’s Yiddish for “I gotta go to bed” and the unnamed one got that from Jared. Coincidentally, the Scripps National Spelling Bee is in its second day in Washington, D.C. If they run out of words…
Enjoy the lovely “blue skies” of June and RIP Gregg Allman.
June 8, 2017-  The Boy With the Blue Hair
Dear Friends and Friendly Family,
 Just when we thought “the sun ain’t gonna shine anymore,” we are suddenly walking on sunshine. How novel! This has forced me to revise my weekly activity agenda. But do not fear: I still managed to average 26,000 daily steps with my pedometer attached at the hip. Rain was forecast on Tuesday, so what did I do? I subbed at the local high school. Walking around the classroom for the entire period kept me off the streets. But I made up for it the following day with both golf and tennis.
Putt Luck
    As far as golf  is concerned, it’s always fun for me now. What a difference a year makes. Marie D. sunk a 20 foot putt last Friday. “Wow! Nice putt!” I exclaimed, to which she said, “Thanks, but it was luck.” I then realized that at our level, most putts that are more than six inches away from the hole are, indeed, lucky.
Back to School
    I was covering an 8th grade English class and their assignment was to read independently for the first fifteen minutes. I noticed one boy didn’t have his book, so I asked, “And what are you reading?”
    “War and Peace, but I forgot my book.”
    “Ha Ha. Do you even know who wrote it?”
By now I had the whole class’s attention. After telling him it was Leo Tolstoy, I asked if he knew what country Tolstoy was from. Negative. When I informed him Tolstoy was Russian, a few kids perked up and one said, “Russia? Whoa!” I explained that even though we may not be on the best terms with Russia today, the country does have a rich literary history. I asked  if  anyone ever heard of Crime and Punishment to which a kid asked, “Is that TV show?” I decided to end the discussion right there. Kids are kids no matter where they are being educated.    In a senior class, there was a young man with a lovely shade of turquoise hair. For once I was able to compliment someone else’s coif as opposed to being on the receiving end regularly since last October.
    Me: I like your hair color.
He seemed pleased and thanked me.
    Me:  Does it run in your family?
    Boy:  Yes, on my father’s side.
Gotta love a kid with a sense  of humor.
    I suggested my Wednesday group play indoors one more week due to the weather prediction of possible rain with cool temperatures. Was I wrong! It was bright and sunny by the time we finished. No one seemed to mind, but no one can mistake me for a meteorologist either. There were five of us and one rotated in every other game. There was always one person alone on the bench for about a minute or two with nobody to schmooze with. It worked out really well because non-stop tennis was played for the entire hour and a half.
    We finally got to play outdoors today. We met at Cantiague Park which has several nice courts that are rarely used. But we had to deal with listening to a potty-mouthed woman playing singles two courts away from us. She was gross. And then a schizophrenic park attendant passed by singing at the top of her lungs “MEM’RIES- LIGHT THE CORNERS OF MY MIND” from “The Way We Were.” (Sylvia diagnosed her.) It was an interesting morning. AND I finally summoned up the courage to go wigless for tennis. I did wear a baseball cap but my “new look” did not go unnoticed.
     It’s been a fun week and tomorrow I will get my last licks in subbing at the high school. If classes didn’t start so damn early I’d walk the two miles and get a jump on my step count.
    Enjoy your weekend and don’t forget the Tony Awards on Sunday night.

June 15, 2017- Holding Hands With Rafael Nadal

Dear Friends, Romans and Countrymen too,
    Oh, what a dream I had last night. (Does anyone remember Conway Twitty’s 1960 hit with that title?) Kenny and I were at the French Open – courtside at Stade Philippe Chatrier. This part isn’t sooooo far-fetched as we were there two years ago – courtside. But in last night’s reverie, there was Rafa splayed flat out on a table, apparently stretching before his match. He looked like he needed help getting up, so Kenny said to me, “Give him your hand.” I proffered my hand which he took gratefully as he wedged himself up with a grimace, which I interpreted as a smile – at me. (That’s my glass-half-filled mentality speaking.) He nodded thanks as he stood up, jumped up and down a few times as he habitually does, and jogged out onto the red clay. He had my hand all of 15 seconds, but it was worth the whole “trip to the French Open” in my dreams. Naturally, with the 2017 tournament just a few days behind us, I had Rafa on the brain. Rafa -now with 10 French Open singles championships!
     This has been a theatrical week here in New York City. Besides the Tony Awards, don’t get me started on the “Julius Caesar” fiasco at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. For God’s sake, Shakespeare died 401 years ago and the message of his play still does not invite or approve of assassination. However, Oscar Eustis, the artistic director of the Public Theater, employs a sense of humor in staging the play, as did many directors around the world before him. He defended his choice to have a Trump-like Caesar by saying that “Julius Caesar is Julius Caesar. What we are doing is what we try and do in every production, which is make the dramatic stakes as real and powerful for contemporary people as we can, in our time and our place.”
     For the third year in a row, thanks to my hard-working sister Emily, we had the privilege of attending the dress rehearsal for the Tony Awards on Sunday morning. She worked on this project around the clock for over three weeks prior to the event and if it weren’t for Emily and her team of elves, there would not be musical accompaniment at the Tony Awards. Seriously.
     Being slightly preoccupied this past year, I hadn’t seen most of the shows that were up for awards. But this show was an extravaganza in and of itself, replete with the Radio City Rockettes. From our seats in the front mezzanine Row B, many of the musical numbers from the nominated shows were swallowed up by the vastness of this large music hall, but it all played out very well on TV on Sunday night. The Rockettes, however, synonymous with Radio City, filled the entire stage, high kicking to Sinatra’s “New York, New York.”
    What you saw on Sunday night, we saw that morning with theatrical stand-ins for the award recipients. The real winners are not announced until the live broadcast. This past year Emily also did the music copying for at least four of the nominated shows: “Hello Dolly” (4 awards), “Dear Evan Hansen” (6) “Bandstand” and “War Paint.” She attended the “Evan Hansen” after party which I asked her about the next day. Bleary-eyed, she emailed me:
The Dear Evan Hansen party was on the rooftop bar (indoor/outdoor) of the Empire Hotel near Lincoln Center. We got there around 11:30 and stayed until almost 3 a.m. while the party was in full swing. It was fantastically festive, since they were big winners for the eve. And it turned into a party where they welcomed “crashers.”  So, Kevin Spacey was there, Cynthia Erivo, and lots of non-DEH people (industry, of course).  When we first arrived, and still there when we left, was a DEH-branded ice cream truck serving free cups to everyone (there’s an ice-cream reference in one of Ben Platt’s big songs).  And then, upon leaving, everyone was given an Evan Hansen blue-striped polo shirt. (Branding is where it’s at.)
    Since classes are over at the high school, I won’t be subbing till perhaps next fall. On Monday I went kayaking for two hours at Marie’s south shore “resort.” We kayaked first in the inlets and then out into the channel where it became more rigorous. Marie knows the tides and at one point we had to disembark, walking the kayak along a sand bar until we could get out into deeper waters. Ritta saved the life of a beached horseshoe crab. It was upside down on the sand bar and baking in the sun. She turned it right side up, gently prodding it until it was able to swim into the tides. Nice touch. After lunch we were planning to hit some golf balls at a local pitch ‘n’ putt course, but wound up spending the afternoon walking on the beach. It was only 95 degrees that day so the beach was the place to be.
    What a fun-filled week it was.
June 22, 2017- The Pleasantries of Life
 Hi Everyone,
   I hope all of you had a great week. I know I did.
    You know what gets to me? Last Thursday I had an annual appointment at my retinal specialist. I picked up a copy of Runner’s World in the waiting room and read about various types of burgers in the nutrition pages. Out of all of the beef burgers, bison had the lowest amount of fat grams – 6 according to this article. I knew it was low but not that low. My brother-in-law Andy was joining us for dinner so I ran to the supermarket and bought ground bison to barbecue.  Then I read the package and it said 4 ounces has 11 grams of fat! A substantial difference. Oy! And to think Runner’s World  was my bible for so many years! (Remember that I’m allowed 22 fat grams per day as part of the clinical study.) Not a big deal, as I’m doing exceptionally well with the food program, but just sayin’.
    The week kicked off with a wedding in Poughkeepsie where we got to see all of our oldest friends since time immemorial. Kenny knows some of the guys in the group since junior high school and I met this crowd over 40 years ago. So, we-are-fam-il-y! We all wish Stan and Pam’s daughter Allie and son-in-law, Jared, a lifetime of happiness.
    Notice that I concentrate on mostly positive activities and the pleasantries of life. I intentionally steer clear of the lunacy that’s occuring in our homeland as well as around the world. There are enough political rants and postings to last four years, so you don’t need my two cents. Now, where were we?
    Hallelujah! My Wednesday tennis group finally got to play outdoors after four consecutive rainy Wednesdays. Not only that, there were 13 of us and we managed to nab three courts in a park that only has four! What a coup! Everyone was happy and we played for two hours.
    As for golf, hmmm. After a meltdown I had last Wednesday, I set up a lesson with my golf guru Jeff for the following day. I thought he helped me. I was so pleased with how I hit with him and subsequently at the driving range. But it’s been another story on the course. Jeff said from what he saw, my game looks like it’s been unraveling for awhile until it finally crashed. “Unraveling.” All I can think of its Joni Mitchell’s “All I Want”:
“…unraveling, it’s the unraveling
And it undoes all the joy that could be
I wanna have fun, I wanna shine like the sun…”
     I never even realized (or acknowledged) that I have masochistic tendencies, but golf sure does bring it to the fore! (get it?) A large part of the golf experience is the comraderie and I do love my golf friends, so I keep going back for more (and more lessons.)
    Today couldn’t have been nicer. I was invited out east with the friends I used to play with in my singles league. I dropped singles temporarily but I plan to go back. My friend Mary invited us to play tennis and have lunch at her magnificent waterfront home in a little town on the North Fork. There were eight of us and we played doubles for two hours, had a delicious lunch on the deck and took a long walk on the beach. It was a perfect day to drive out with Diane C. in her convertible and spend the afternoon in an idyllic setting.
    Now that it’s summertime, may the living be easy for all of you. Enjoy.
End of June, July Soon
June 29, 2017
Hey Everyone,
    Last weekend was a golf weekend. Played Saturday AND Sunday hoping that my lesson would have improved my game. I’m still waiting, wishing, hoping and praying. Just maybe it’ll kick in this week or next weekend or next. All I know is that practicing a new golf swing caused a muscle strain on my right side.
    Kicked off the week with a fabulous day at Fire Island with my Oyster Bay book group. They are also tennis buddies. The weather on Monday could not have been better and we trekked on the post-Sandy renovated boardwalk, then down to the beach and on to Kismet where we had a mostly seafood-themed lunch and drinks. Everyone always comments that they feel like they’re on vacation at Fire Island even though we were merely day-trippers. The Fire Island National Seashore is a treasure and it’s one of my favorite outings. We hiked over to Saltaire and on the way back to our cars, we stopped at the Fire Island Lighthouse and four out of eight of us climbed the 182 steps to the top. It was well worth the climb for the views (and my pedometer was happy too.)
    Tuesday was Doctor Day for my checkup with my surgeon followed by the oncologist. Charming day, eh? When I told my Mom I would be visiting her on Wednesday instead of Tuesday this week because I had a doctor’s appointment, she had the wherewithal to ask, “What kind of doctor?” I replied it was just an annual checkup. No need to go into any more detail. In fact, when I was buying my wigs last October, I still had a full head of hair and the first thing I told the wig people was that I wanted something so natural that my 95 year old mother would never notice. And she didn’t.
    To add a little excitement to Doctor Day, I witnessed a big auto crack-up in the parking lot. Just as I was pulling into a spot, right in front of me, a ridiculously large, three-sectioned flatbed truck comes barreling through one of the parking lanes. There were cars parked on either side, but he made a left, the back section of his truck whipping around and demolishing an electric blue Toyota SUV – as he sped off and out of the parking lot. Whoa! Did I really see that? There was a chrome bumper on the ground and the front end was accordianized with the hood sticking up like a grotesque sculpture. I could just imagine the car’s owner upon his or her return.
    I decided to report the incident to security and when I told them it occurred at 10:55, I was initially impreresed as I watched them scroll several screens to all corners of the parking field – all but the one where the accident occurred. They just couldn’t seem to locate it.  Gimme a break!  They turned it over to the Lake Success Police Dept. who later contacted me as an eyewitness. Turns out the car owner is a staff member as opposed to some poor chemo patient. But still…
    I made sure to point out my muscle strain from golf (?) to my surgeon. “Golf” was the magic word. His eyes lit up and he and I talked golf throughout my entire gynecological exam. He knew I would be having a CT scan in a few days, so he said if there’s a problem other than something musculoskeletal, it will show up in the scan which is scheduled on Monday. Wish me luck.
    Next stop was a visit with my oncologist. She and her PA greeted me with big hugs and they told me how much they’ve missed me. My conversation with the doctor seemed to have entertained everyone present. I didn’t realize I was doing a little stand-up routine. We had the RN in charge of the clinical study, the doc, the PA and two female med students – and a partridge in a pear tree.
Hair ye, Hair ye!
    “Oh, your hair! It’s grown back so beautifully!” That was from another one of the RNs  who works with my oncologist. She hadn’t seen me since February. I corrected her, “This is still the wig.”
    “But it looks so real!” Precisely.
    Speaking of the wig: Last night I was on my way to my “original” book club meeting. This group is in its twelfth year. I was about two blocks from home when I realized I forgot to put on my wig. If we were reading  “Julius Caesar,” my hair would’ve fit the occasion, but we weren’t. A quick U-turn and I was only five minutes late.
    Today’s activities consisted of an hour and a half of doubles with my Thursday tennis group, followed by an afternoon at Camp Marie. We had a foursome for kayaking, but the conditions were more challenging than ever with high winds, swells and a killer current. We spent two hours trying to avoid the reeds in the marshes. There was one capsizing calamity, but have no fear, Linda, the trouper that she always is, righted the kayak (under Marie’s guidance) and climbed right back in. Kudos to Linda.
Be safe, happy, healthy and enjoy the holiday weekend. Let freedom ring.
July 5, 2017
Tomorrow’s News Today*
*Title attributed to Kenny
To all the people who count in my life,
My golf game’s back and there’s no more trouble
Hey la, hey la
My golf game’s back.
    I have to thank a couple of Jeffs for this: my golf pro named Jeff and my neighbor Jeff who watched me play 2 weeks ago and said,”Stop thinking so much and just hit the damn ball.” I took his advice and it worked like a charm. Everyone’s happier, especially my golf partners who commented that I was a pleasure to play with recently. You can only imagine.
    We had a great dinner on Saturday night at BLT Steakhouse on 22nd Street in the city. It was about a block away from the loft in which Diane and Glenn lived many moons ago. Speaking of Diane and Glenn, we welcome the latest addition to Corinne and Lail’s family, Jamie Devorah, born on July 2. Who needs a mother’s helper with      3 1/2 year old twin girls in the house?
    Kenny’s been calling me “Wonder Woman” for these past few months, so just like people did in the 1950s, we went to an air-conditioned movie theater to see “Wonder Woman.” A few too many explosions for my taste, but it was a movie date with Ken. (Don’t tell him, but if we were really dating, I probably wouldn’t have gone out with him again after seeing this film.) Anyway, “fearless, brave and commanding” is how he describes me.
    Well, I will now certainly have to live up to that after my CT scan results that I received today. It’s a setback. The scan indicates cancer has recurred in the abdominal/peritoneal region. It was removed from that area along with the ovaries and fallopian tubes in August, but we were told it can recur within three months. Bingo. I do not yet know the extent or any other details but I do have an ASAP appointment with my oncologist on Friday morning. She told me that it is treatable with another round of chemotherapy, so I may need to enlist the help of my faithful and loving friends to drive me to my treatments. Other than that, I have no more to report as of tonight.
    I’m okay; you’d never know that I have cancer. It was obviously  most unexpected given the shape I’m in, physically and mentally, the sports, the food regimen, the kick I get out of living my life everyday…
    Pity me not. I will soldier on, do whatever is required of me and once again, hope for the best.
    I was on my way to visit my Mom this morning when I received the news. Mum’s the word with Mom, but we did have a lovely day. We went to lunch with her lifelong friend Shirley and then her aide and I walked from 53rd Street up to 72nd (with Mom in the wheelchair) along the East River. My mother held my hand for a good part of the walk. She rarely does that. I’m not sure if I’m reading into it, but it’s as if she sensed that something in her daughter isn’t right.
July 13, 2017                                                                     Cool Runnings
To my dear friends and family,
 This week’s title was suggested by my friend Diane Corey and inspired by the film, Cool Runnings which was loosely based on real life events surrounding the formation of the Jamaican Olympic bobsled team. For the record, I participate in various activities, but bobsledding is not one of them.
    What a week! Once I was diagnosed with a recurrence, my life was changed (again) but not my lifestyle. I had to hit the ground running, hustling to get my next round of chemotherapy in place asap. Doctor-driven, the treatments were immediately and efficiently scheduled for every two weeks until January, but in order to be cleared for Avastin (the new targeted therapy infusion) I needed an echocardiogram. The glitch is that we scheduled the first treatment for yesterday, Wednesday, but an echocardiogram appointment was not available until NEXT Wednesday. Luckily my oncologist’s R.N. asked me if I had my own cardiologist, which I do. In fact, he’s my hero, Dr. Appelbaum, the cardiology/internist who wouldn’t quit till he had an answer last July when I came to him with a persisting dull pain in my right side. If you remember, he ordered a chest x-ray followed by 2 CT-scans in a matter of three days. He had to break the news to me and referred me to the surgeon I wound up using. And on Tuesday of this week, he had me come in at 9 a.m., promising to fax the results over to the treatment center that afternoon, proving he’s once again “My Hero.”
How in the world would I (or anyone) ever get all this stuff together without being retired? I guess I’m lucky in that respect.
    They don’t call it an “echo” cardiogram for nothing. I heard several sets of slosh, slosh, wow, wow,wow, wow. Slosh, slosh, wow, wow, wow, wow.  Imagine if this is what we heard all the time without the amplification of this diagnostic machine. We’d never be able to have a conversation with that din. Or, my former students would never be able to “conversate” again, as they put it. I would say, “Excuse me, why are you talking during my lesson?” and they would answer, “Mizz Ehrlich, we’re just conversating about the book.” Yeah, yeah.
    Kenny, fresh off of his tooth extraction the day before, accompanied me to my first treatment and I love him for it. Since I felt so well afterwards (a double whammy of two infusions) it was in fact, cool runnings. I played tennis this morning without feeling at all compromised even in the oppressive heat. I did decide, however to hold off on golf for awhile until we figure out what is actually causing the pain in my right side when I take a deep breath. Nothing showed in last week’s CT scan other than the cancer cells in the peritoneum. I think that’s enough, don’t you?
    How could I leave off without another hair-related anecdote? At my treatment yesterday, the lovely R.N. presiding over me and my cubicle looked at my hair quizzically. “Is that a wig?” she asked.
    “Yes, why do ask?” She knew this is my second round of chemotherapy.
    “Because it doesn’t look like one.” I’ll drink to that.
Wishing a great weekend to all of you. For those who are traveling, I’m, jealous, but as Ruby and the Romantics sang, “Our Day Will Come.”
July 20, 2017                                         Candlelight
Greetings to friends and friendly family,
    I began this oppressively hot week playing some golf with Kenny over the weekend. I played fairly well, so no complaints. It reminds me of a man my friend Ritta and I met on the golf course a few weeks ago. He was in his late 70s, had trouble walking the course, but said, “ANY day out of the house is a good day.” He elaborated, telling us that he lives with his 97 year old mother who still yells at him. Okaaay.
    I spent the better part of Monday morning at traffic court, but it was well worth it since my fines were significantly reduced. No moving violations, no points involved –  just an expired inspection sticker and a parking ticket in a “No Standing Any Time” zone. Kenny likes to rib me, “And you’re an English teacher who can’t read signs!” Yup, guess so.
I have no recourse except to be more vigilant in the future. This should be the least of our problems.
    The Wednesday tennis group was out in full swing this week. Braving the humidity and temperatures in the 80s, there were two doubles games going for almost two hours, troupers all. Needless to say, I feel so invigorated when I’m out there. Played again this morning in my Thursday game which was equally enjoyable.
    This weekend will be dedicated to some of my former colleagues at Richmond Hill High School whom I will be seeing. In sickness as in health, I cannot wait!
    As far as my condition goes, I’m having a little tightness in the torso or cramp in the core, whichever alliteration you prefer. It’s nothing that cannot be managed as per my doctor’s instructions and thankfully it’s not “cramping” my style in the least. I absolutely appreciate the outpouring of love, daily affirmations, prayers, blessings and good wishes. (Did I include them all?) And to my Jewish women friends, if you so choose, you can light shabbos candles at 8:04 on Friday night. (Hi Rashi & Yaakov.) Enjoy this little anecdote which is attributed to
    On January 1, 2000, the New York Times ran a Millennium Edition. It was a special issue that featured three front pages. One had the news from January 1, 1900. The second was the actual news of the day, January 1, 2000. And then they had a third front page—projecting envisioned future events of January 1, 2100. This fictional page included things like a welcome to the fifty-first state: Cuba; a discussion as to whether robots should be allowed to vote; and so on. And in addition to the fascinating articles, there was one more thing. Down on the bottom of the Year 2100 front page was the candle-lighting time in New York for January 1, 2100. Reportedly, the production manager of the New York Times—an Irish Catholic — was asked about it. His answer was right on the mark. It speaks to the eternity of our people, and to the power of Jewish ritual. He said, “’We don’t know what will happen in the year 2100. It is impossible to predict the future. But of one thing you can be certain—that in the year 2100 Jewish women will be lighting Shabbat candles.
    In light of my theme, Kenny and I were introduced by two mutual friends in 1972 at a restaurant in Westchester called The Candlelight.
July 27, 2017-                           Cool Runnings, Hot-Headed Nurse
Hi Everyone,
    Wednesday, July 26, 2017- This is not funny, but it really is. I was having my infusion today, accompanied my dear old friend Michele F. We met Michele and Paul at a party in 1973, it was instant love and we were even at their son Hylan’s bris in 1980. So, lots of history. Michele’s been reading about the various friends who have found ways to entertain me at my chemo sessions, so she was feeling the pressure (unnecessarily since we could just talk up a storm all day if we had to.) So, what does she do? She put together a big, fat portfolio of old photos of our friends and brought them along. Paul was synonymous with photography and if this is any indication, we used to call him Pauleroid. We all miss him very much.
    I’ve had this nagging pain in my right side for weeks now, but I’ve been working around it – playing tennis, golf, walking, shlepping and generally, living my fun-filled life. But today, just as Michele was showing me the wild and crazy pictures, that dull pain that recently only hurt when I breathed in deeply, went into spasm – in the chair as I was having my infusion. Excruciating pain. The bottom line is I couldn’t laugh and every time I looked at Michele who had a big smile on her face, it hurt more. So poor Michele had to pack up the pictures, but before she did, she showed me one last one of myself from the 70s. I could hold back the laughter until I saw it was on the same page as a photo of Paul’s bald head with a face painted on it (Poconos circa 1985). I was a goner, but she put them away after that.
    The RN presiding over me and my infusion today was “on the rag” as Kenny would say. (I’m in laughing pain as I write this.) I recognized her from a previous visit and gave her a nice greeting. Michele was also very cordial to her, but this woman was clearly harried and immediately told me she would hook me up but she was going to lunch right afterwards. (Another perfectly lovely RN would take over.) The original nurse did her job, was very thorough in getting me started, but was obviously hangry. (Thanks Hylan for the new word, hungry+angry.) Normally when I ask for a warm blanket, the nurse graciously brings one or two and drapes it  over me. Not this one. She told Michele to get it and pointed in the direction of the blanket warmer. Nervy!
    It gets better. An hour later Nurse Ratched returns, all smiley, and stops in to greet us. “Hi pumpkins!” she says. Pumpkins! It’s amazing what a little lunch’ll do. I was dying to laugh but it was much too painful!!! Ordinarily, I would’ve cracked up. Michele was great company; she did the laughing for us.
    I did well with today’s single infusion and my doctor’s PA came in to examine me for this stitch or muscle spasm or whatever the %^&* it is. I will let you know once it’s resolved. It could be an impinged nerve from the thickening of the peritoneum; hence, this second line of defense in the form of chemotherapy. It could also be an oblique strain, possibly from my new golf swing.
    The worst news is because of this I reluctantly cancelled my Thursday morning doubles game. Just the day before, on Tuesday, I played singles for over an hour- sans pain.
Thursday morning:
Morning has broken like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken like the first bird
Praise for the singing
Praise for the morning
Praise for them springing fresh from the world.
-Cat Stevens-
    Kenny tells me sleep is a restorative. I slept and feel restored. Good thing I’m not the guilt-ridden, sleep-deprived Lady Macbeth. Speaking of which, skip that new “Lady Macbeth” film. It’s daaaark, unrelentingly ruthless and has nothing to do with Shakespeare’s tragedy save for the name. A review had this to say: Mr. Oldroyd, a first time feature filmmaker, said he and his producer, Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly, were drawn to the story because it turned any notion of female victimhood on its head. Claire, Carol and I (all former English teachers) aren’t so sure.
    Last Friday, Barbara G. and I visited our friend in Pennington, NJ (also a member of our department at Richmond Hill) who has been facing challenging medical issues, to say the least. I felt good about being there and I know she appreciated it. What struck me is how warm and loving a relationship she and her husband have. They truly take care of each other. In sickness as in health.
    The next day Kenny and I visited another department member and friend out in Shelter Island. What a fine time we had. The ferry is shorter than the time it takes to sneeze. I commented, “And they charge for this?” It was actually a pleasure driving out and back in a day.
    And now, a shout out to our friend Gerry in Albuquerque. Last week I mentioned thst Kenny and I had our first date at The Candlelight in Westchester way back when. I failed to mention it was Gerry and his then girlfriend Andi, who introduced us that night. Most of the details are sketchy except that how can I forget Kenny’s line to me, “Do you want to go outside to look at the stars?” If he had had etchings, that would have been the line. Yeah, yeah, until… we go outside on this starry, starry night and he begins to point out Aldeberan, Orion, the Pleiades, Sirius and he impressed the bell bottoms off of me (a slight exaggeration.) He really did know his planets and constellations. And that fabulous night was the beginning of many more to come.
    Candles can be lit tomorrow evening at 7:57 p.m. if you so choose. Have a great weekend!
August 3, 2017-  Mystery Solved
To the Dear People Who Count in My Life,
    “Convulsed in laughter” is a great phrase if you’re reading a critical review of a musical comedy or movie, but when you’re sitting around with friends on a Saturday night, you don’t want to be literally “convulsed.” This is a little more medically-oriented than usual, but it was one of those weeks. I just had to find out what was causing the excruciating pain and spasms on my right side near the rib cage when I breathe deeply. And, for my peace of mind, I had to be certain it wasn’t cancer-related.
    Kenny said all along (for 2 months) that it was probably an oblique strain. Fine, but the spasms last Wednesday and again on Saturday night, were unbearable. Both times I was laughing (or attempting to laugh) hysterically. I can’t help it if I have funny friends. So much for laughter being the best medicine.
    My oncologist ordered an additional CT scan scheduled for early on Saturday morning to take a look at the chest and the lungs (as opposed to the abdominal scan in early July which found new evidence of cancer cells.) With the breathing pain, I was pretty insistent about taking a further look. God knows what was going on! The down side is I had to wait till Monday morning for the results. In the meantime, we went out east and on Saturday night we were eating, drinking, and carousing with Babs and Dan, Diane and Glenn when the laughing sent me into spasm – twice. I never allow myself to go to a “dark place”, but I’ll tell ya- this was disconcerting.
But then, on Monday when I found out the results, just as in a Shakespearean sonnet when all was seemingly lost until fortunes turn, the mystery was solved. Nothing further was detected on the scan so wethinks {sic} we’re dealing with a sports injury – indeed, an oblique strain. Kenny was right all along. I immediately made an appointment with an M.D. who runs a physician supervised physical therapy center. I consulted with him for about a half hour. First he examined me and then went over all of the physiology, explaining how the skeletal system could be stressed from certain motions. Fortunately, he was also able to talk golf and tennis from a player’s point of view, recommending that if hitting a bucket of balls at the range isn’t painful, that I should use only my 6, 7, 8 and 9 irons for now. “Put me in coach!” I was all set to give it a complete rest for however long is necessary. Now I’m on a “partial DL” (as Kenny explained to me) as opposed to the DL list. I’ll take it. I did ask, “So if I continue to play, how will it get better?” He said it will heal itself assisted by some physical therapy. If I cut back on my golf and tennis a little, it should not aggravate the injury. Only time will tell, but as you can hear in my typing, I am thrilled!
     I was forced to pass on two of my tennis games this week, but expect to return next Thursday. Wednesday’s game will have to wait one more week since I have a treatment that day. Wish I could be a fly on the fence.
    On Monday I went swimming with friends Joan and Paula – wigless, naturally. I had toyed with bringing along the bathing cap I had bought for Aruba in March, but decided that looking like a Navy Seal was inappropriate for a Long Island community pool. So, I swam in my man cut – very attractive, I might add.
    This activity was followed by a book club meeting at 4 p.m. in Oyster Bay. The host, who had been working in the city all day, managed a sublime spread. People brought some of the appetizers. Here’s what was on the coffee table: a platter of baked clams fresh out of Oyster Bay from the clamdigger among us. There was guacamole and crackers, meatballs, a cheese board, red grapes, quiche and green salad with chunks of watermelon, and the most delicious canape made of a small phyllo shell with melted brie, a dab of raspberry preserves and dotted with shaved almonds. To wash this all down was a pitcher of peach sangria with fruit and bottles of red and white wine. And yes, everyone read the book. The next selection to be read  is A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman.
    On the following evening, my original book club met at our regular restaurant where we routinely eat dinner followed by a book discussion. This book club is in its twelfth year. Our next selection is A Gentleman from Moscow by Amor Towles.
    The best news is the pain has subsided today. And I even got to hit a few golf balls with Marie D. It’s been a good day!
    I am ever grateful for the love, support and positive vibes I receive from so many  of you.
August 10, 2017-              A Cute Man or Iron Maiden?
To my dear friends,
    Contrary to what everyone is telling me about my short-cropped white hair being so chic, it still doesn’t cut it with me. Not one bit. For fun, I donned a pair of black nerd eyeglasses and all I saw was Anderson Cooper. Maybe I’d be a cute man, but I’m still loving my wigs – and when the hair really grows back, you will see my old hairstyle, with some hairs out of place like everyone else’s.
    Sunday golf with Kenny was great fun. I’m starting to kill some shots with my irons-only game (recommended by the physical therapist.) My score is the same with woods, driver or just plain irons, so what’s the difference? At least I’m out there playing. Just call me the Iron Maiden for now.
    Monday was a rainy day so I made the best of it by wastin’ away in, not exactly Margaritaville, but Besito in Roslyn with two tennis buds, Mary and Susan. I think their food used to be better. Had the weather been sunny, we had big plans for a tennis game.
    What a treat it was that my friend Michele to came out to the Island to play golf with me on Tuesday. She’s a brand new golfer, but honestly, you’d never know it. She fit right in with my foursome. Initially we had planned to play alone, just the two of us, but who did we happen upon as we pulled up to the gate? Ritta and Sharon who were also planning to play alone. 2 + 2= a 4some. We had some laughs throughout the day – and I did NOT go into spasm this time with Michele. That “magic” hasn’t happened since Saturday, July 29 so I can safely say it’s healing and hopefully, history. Going for PT can’t hurt either. I have that twice a week at the moment.
    For this week’s treatment on Wednesday, my good friend Ilka accompanied me. Kenny dropped me off, stayed to make sure it was a “go,” and then heigh ho. I’m so grateful for this routine. Enter: Ilka. Ilka and I taught together at Maxwell Vocational HS back in the Seventies. Our most memorable day together (a day of hilarious infamy) was when she, Irene and I decided to go for drinks at the brand, spanking new World Trade Center’s Windows on the World. We went in after school and it was one of the first days it was open to the public – probably even the first week. (We were just so cutting edge!) I even remember what I ordered: a Tequila Sunrise and I think we had an order of potato skins with melted cheddar, typical bar fare of that era. Windows on the World was not operating like a fine-tuned machine, to say the least. We each had a drink or two and then tried to find our waiter (or any waiter) in order to settle the check. M.I.A.  One of us stayed at the table while the other two went to use the facilities which were located on the other side of a large, heavy glass door outside the actual restaurant. By the time they returned, we still hadn’t found our waiter – and we had an appointment uptown to meet Kenny who was working in a Kosher deli. Suffice it to say, the drinks were on the house. But don’t think we weren’t freaking out in the elevator all the way down the 107 stories to the street. We envisioned men in blue waiting for us as we exited the elevator. However, they just didn’t have it together yet. So it became folklore.
    Ilka reminded me that the next day at school, fellow teachers were asking us, “So how was the World Trade Center? Were the drinks expensive?”
    Ilka answered, “Not too bad.”
      Wednesday’s presiding nurse was night and day from the Ratched of two weeks ago. She was on par with Eileen Dunn, my brother’s own sister of mercy at St. Vincent’s Hospital in 1989. But that’s another story for another time. (If you’re interested, it’s a blog post at
    The nurse was named Mary and when she first took a look at my chart which apparently said I had experienced hair loss, she couldn’t help but stare at my “hair.” “I know you’re in your second round of chemo, so is this a wig because if it is, it’s the best one I’ve ever seen!” She said she could use one herself, so I gave her the name of the place in Great Neck where I got it.
    Ilka presented me with a thoughtful gift (totally unnecessary but certainly appreciated) of an historical novel entitled Lilac Girls. She had been to a book signing with the author, Martha Hall Kelly who explained the title. One year lilac blossoms are spare on a lilac bush and the next, they are much more prolific. The lilac is a very resilient blossom and it reminded her of me. Thank you Ilka. I’ll accept that.
     You may have noticed that I haven’t talked about running lately. Finally, without the pain in my right side, I mixed a little running into my 45 minute walk the other day. I’ve been concerned about staying toned, so this should help. It felt great and I plan to increase the distance incrementally on non-tennis or golf days.
    After my tennis game this morning, I drove into the city to see my Mom. We met her lifelong friend Shirley at the park and watched the water taxis and sailboats cruising up and down the East River. It was a relaxing afternoon and as you can see, I hardly ever relax. Sitting on the bench, all I could think of was Simon and Garfunkel’s “Old Friends” :
 Can you imagine us
Years from today,
 Sharing a park bench quietly?
    I’ll leave you with that.
Love, Melinda
August 17, 2017         My Wig – A Blog of Its Own?
Dear Friends,
    Man, who’d have thought my Si and Gar reference last week would have generated so much feedback? “My book club too is reading Lilac Girls. Great reading on the train” from my friend Fran. And from Joyce, “Melinda, We all have to sit on a park bench and watch the world go by to appreciate all we do and all we have, especially our friends.” By the way, a very happy birthday, Joyce. You certainly do not belong on a park bench yet!  Maybe a beach chair when you play outdoor tennis…
    I forgot who suggested assigning my wig its own blog. Please feel free to speak up and I will give you a proper shout out. What’s a week without new tonsorial tales? This time, I received an unsolicited compliment from the woman who was lying on the next table at physical therapy. “I really like your hair,” she said to me as I was packing up and ready to leave my session. Laughing to myself, I smiled and thanked her. Bizarre. Am I wearing a placard on my back that says, “How’s my hair?” Either the PT is really helping or this oblique strain is self-healing. Either way, the pain has subsided to the point that it’s hardly there. I’m back to golf with ALL of my clubs and tennis has never been better. Go figure.
    I hate the cliche, “Life is too short…,” but in case it is, I pack as much as possible into each day. (But I was like that before, so what else is new?) Last weekend we had dinner locally in Oyster Bay with our neighbors, Jeff and Ingerid. They frequent Wild Honey and honey, it was delicious! Our server presented me with a unique way of ordering. I was advised by my doctor to bulk up a bit (sweeter words regarding food were never heard in my entire life!) so I was torn between the slow cooked baby back ribs and the home made Pappardelle Bolognese with ground beef, veal and pork. The waiter, quite confident in the menu, asked me if I would like to be surprised. “Surprise me,” I answered. And the winner is…baby back ribs that fell off the bone if you just looked at them.
    On Saturday we drove up to Tuxedo to meet Corinne and Lail’s newest addition, Jamie Devorah, who is now 7 weeks old. And the three year old twins are a riot. It was fun to hang out with our favorite people. Diane and Glenn were great hosts as always at Party Central.
    Kenny and I golfed at the VA course in Northport on Sunday. There is a nice, warm vibe as the veterans really do appreciate people who play there. It’s on the grounds of the VA Hospital.
    I spent a relaxing, rainy Tuesday visiting my Mom.We listened to Van Morrison (my CD) and Michael Buble’s Sinatraesque hits as she ate her very favorite Dunkin jelly doughnut. Buble has a nice rendition of Morrison’s “Moondance.”
Can I just have one more moondance with you, my love?
Can I just make some more romance with you, my love?
You can always tell when my mother is engaged in the music because she “air” conducts, making sweeping hand motions to the beat. It stands to reason since I come from a musical family (myself not included.) Sure, I can name that tune, but try as I may, I can’t keep it. I did get a great card from Sara when I had my recurrence last month. It says, “You’ve been through hell and come out singing.”
    Tuesday was a non-activity day so I made up for it on Wednesday with two sets of tennis followed by 9 holes of golf. I rode in the golf cart with Ellen because we had quite a bit to catch up on. Her sister is seriously ill and I can only wish them better days ahead. Afterwards I had a PT session and thankfully, I have no pain.
    Today I kept Irene company during her 4 hour nuclear stress test and scan, but once I was there, I had reservations about possibly being exposed to radiation. The technetium heart scan is a noninvasive nuclear scan that uses a radioactive isotope called technetium to evaluate blood flow. The technician assured me that only pregnant women and babies can be affected by this, but she advised me to leave if I was concerned. I called my oncologist and was reassured that the small amount of radiation would not put me in any danger. So I stayed. Irene will be accompanying me to one of my future chemo sessions, so this was the least I could do for my friend.
    While I was in the waiting room, an elderly man in a wheelchair told the receptionist, “I’m here to see Dr. Fahcocktis.” OMG! Really?
    The receptionist told him he would not be seeing the doctor but the P.A.  instead. Baffled, he asked, “What’s a P.A.?” I find comedy everywhere.
    I’m thinking of my former rabbi from Temple Isaiah in Forest Hills when I write, “Let us pray.” But let us pray for and send out positive thoughts to my friend Claire who is suddenly facing a big medical challenge.
    Enjoy your eclipse experience wherever you may be on Monday. Mika Brzezinski caught my attention this morning as she quoted from Frank Bruni’s op-ed piece in Wednesday’s Times. “Americans always recognize a prime interplanetary {entrepreneurial} opportunity when we see one.” Prices have skyrocketed at even the fleabaggiest hotels just because they are in the direct path of the eclipse. He then describes the rareness of the eclipse in the following terms:” Imagine a sentence in which the president didn’t brag. Fantasize a speech of his that made you proud. The eclipse is that rare.”
   Until next time…
August 24, 2017 –      Color Me Melinda
Dearest Friends and Friendly Family,
    I gave up my Wednesday tennis game yesterday for chemotherapy, but strangely enough, nobody played. I’m certain it wasn’t a sympathy strike, but I am glad to know the 17 players on the roster have lives after tennis. I have a sneaking suspicion the U.S. Open qualifiers had something to do with it; after all, you get in free until Friday (tomorrow.) It reminded me of the Vietnam era poster I had on my college dorm wall: “Suppose they gave a war but nobody came.” It was more cerebral than the mere “Make love, not war” posters that a lot of people had. Suppose they gave a tennis game, but nobody came…
    Well, at least I got to play this morning in my regular Thursday game – and everybody showed!
    It was a busy week once again with dinners and lunches out, golf, physical therapy and a trip in to see my Mom on Tuesday. Monday’s solar eclipse was pretty much of a non-event for me as I never got a pair of those coveted glasses. I did, however, rush home after golf to see what I could see. I followed Diane and Kenny’s instructions on how to view it through a pinhole with my back to the sun and what I saw amounted to a three year old’s fingernail clipping.
    My weekly visit to my Mom’s was extra special this week since Emily, who recently returned from a long, well-deserved vacation, also stopped by. It’s always good when we’re both there together so we can assess our Mom’s care without phone calls, texting or emails. Fortunately we have in place two fabulous live-in caregivers on alternating shifts. And we’ll all be back on Sunday with Susan and Kenny in tow to celebrate Lydia’s 96th birthday. I can visualize the dripping Carvel cake already. We’ll have lots of napkins on hand.
    After we left, Em and I had dinner together in one of the old neighborhood haunts, La Gioconda on East 53rd. The food was disappointingly bland, but our spicy conversation, mostly about her travels with Susan, made up for it. I could have used a glass of wine but I don’t drink the night before a chemo treatment. They even had a wine special that night: If you bought 2 glasses, you get a third free. Damn!
    Last Saturday night we managed to have a spontaneous dinner date with Diane and Glenn. They traveled down to Little Neck and we dined at Il Bacco, a spot we hadn’t been to in many years. Diane loved the ambience, the great food and the adorable wait staff. Il Bacco is a keeper.
    And now for treatment day: Sande, an old pro at this, accompanied me once again. While we were waiting to be called to the inner sanctum, aka the treatment area, we spotted individual mandala-like coloring pages just waiting to be filled in. Next to the papers was a whole array of sharpened colored pencils. We were in business!  Even though coloring books are de rigueur, I must admit I haven’t colored since I was a kid. I did receive coloring books as gifts after my surgery last fall, and one clever message on a card from Leslie Cohen said, “I hope you never have time to color.” So far I hadn’t, but after Wednesday, look out!
    Sande and I each carefully chose a handful of pencils and we set to work. No sooner had we started than I was called in to be poked and prodded for this week’s single drip treatment. Coloring interruptus? Not to worry. Each cubicle is equipped with a table where we’d be able to continue our works of art.
    The R.N. assigned to me this time was sweet as can be, a millennial, who told us she loves coloring too. I told her she’d have to wait for her day off. Meanwhile Sande and I were hypnotized by it already. I almost didn’t even realize I was being hooked up to the IV. Perfect.
    As we colored on, I noticed Sande’s was looking very sophisticated. I told her she was very good colorer – far above me coloring-wise. She showed me the subtleties and nuances of how to fill in by shading rather than staying just inside the lines. Then I commented, “Look at the two morons coloring” and we cracked up. She corrected me, “No, two creative types.” She said, “We shouldn’t be laughing like this. We’re having too much fun in the chemo station,” but it was contagious. I said, “I hope I don’t get addicted to this because I have two coloring books at home that I haven’t even cracked open yet.”
    With the Avastin drip completed, I was asked for a urine sample  before leaving. I never had a problem with that in the past, but this time I urinated and completely forgot to use the cup! Why? Because I still had the coloring experience in my scattered head and was singing this Donovan tune to myself in the restroom:
Colour in sky prussian blue
Scarlet fleece changes hue
Crimson ball sinks from view…
Colour sky havana lake
Colour sky rose carmethene
Alizarian crimson
Wear your love like heaven
And once that one ended I began to visualize the lyrics to “Colours.” It’s worth a listen:
Sande suggested we go out to lunch locally, drink some water and return afterwards to give the sample. The nurses thought that was a great idea. Upon our return, it was a fait accom-pee!
Until next time, be well, enjoy life and maybe try some coloring if you’re bored.
August 31, 2017-           An “Open” Book
Dear Friends and Friendly Family,
    You know I’m an open book, but I promise this title will morph into some meaning as you read on. Riveted to ESPN this afternoon,  I’m forced to tear myself away from the U.S. Open matches to write my weekly email. Not to worry – it’s on in the background and Roger Federer is currently battling Mikhail Youzhny. But I’ll tell ya, that red and white outfit, (the colors of the Swiss flag) makes Fed look like a pre-school kid.
    Without losing sight of the chaotic world we live in, environmentally and otherwise, I’m still living each day seeing good friends, playing tennis and golf (often back-to-back), reading good books, eating great meals every single day and that includes my dinners with Kenny each evening.
    Last Sunday, August 27, was my Mom’s 96th birthday. We all visited her at home and Susan and Emily provided a delectable lunch of cold cuts and tuna and egg salad (soft) for Mom. I placed the egg salad in front of her and before anyone even sat down at the dining room table, she proceeded to make herself a sandwich with two slices of soft white bread and she even cut it in half. Old habits die hard – in spite of the soft foods.
    Mom graciously accepted a phone call from her dear friend Deanna and also thanked Susan’s parents for their gorgeous bouquet of flowers. (She also thanked Deanna for that same bouquet of flowers, but at least she was somewhat conversational over the phone.) After she opened her gift and read the birthday cards aloud, she was ready for the highlight: the Carvel ice cream cake. As she was working on her first slice which she cut herself, she was simultaneously double-dipping into the rest of the cake. Hey, it’s her party and she can eat if she wants to.
    August 29, the one year anniversary of my ovarian cancer surgery came and went and I am feeling spectacularly well. The one thing I did decide to do, upon several suggestions from some of you, is to print up my entire year’s worth of Thursday missives, edit them and put them into some kind of soft-cover publication. Staples may be the place to go for this project. Spending thousands of dollars to publish it is out of the question. For those so inclined, you can read (or re-read) about my entire cancer-kicking adventures on my website/blog Despite its title, “Stricken?” you know it is far from depressing.
    I’m looking forward to a fun-filled upcoming week with a book club meeting on Tuesday evening, a trip to the Open on Wednesday and a visit from Risa, a roommate from college who spent many years living in Atlanta and has now settled in Port St. Lucie, Florida.
    Have a happy and safe Labor Day weekend and don’t work too hard!
September 5, 2017-                       Caught Red-Handed

 Hi Everyone,

    Well, I think I have my first side effect from this second round of chemotheapy: Redness in the palm of my hands. Yippie-ki-yay. On Tuesday my palms looked as if I burned myself. It was not particularly painful except when I used hot water. It was suggested that I put Eucerin on and wear cotton gloves to sleep. Worked like a charm.
    I spoke to the supervising RN on Tuesday (I scheduled chemo for Tuesday this week due to US Open tix for Wednesday) and after she complimented my wig and my gel manicure, she confirmed that the sore palms can be a side effect of the Doxil which I had 13 days prior to this week’s session. It can appear on the feet too, but it hasn’t. I’m still footloose. And neither my golf nor tennis grip is affected. It doesn’t know who it’s messing with! My neighbor Ingerid (also a friend and occasional golf partner) accompanied me this week and all went like clockwork. We were out in just under three hours for a double dripping session. We went out to lunch and I had my pancake fix to last me for awhile.
    I took a golf lesson last Friday which was great for my game and subsequently, my head. The main thing is that Jeff, my golf pro made me believe and in my case, when I believe I can play, I can play.
    Tuesday night was book club night at Mim’s in Roslyn. This never happened before, but I think I much preferred reading about the adventures of the ever-resourceful, elegant Count Rostov in Moscow’s grand Hotel Metropol rather than discussing it. It was such a delightful, rich and well-written read: The Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles.
    And on Wednesday at the soggy U.S. Open, thanks to the new roof on Arthur Ashe Stadium, we got to see Coco Vanderweghe topple the wobbly # 1 seed, Karolina Pliskova.  All the while, this Lovin’ Spoonful tune kept going through my brain:
“You and me and rain on the roof
Caught up in a summer shower
Dryin’ while it soaks the flowers
Maybe we’ll be caught for hours…”
    As it were, my group of six did remain indoors for 5 1/2 hours, but we were also treated to Rafael Nadal handily beating 19 year old Andrey Rublev. As the crowds thinned, we were able to move down en masse to Section 108 for a women’s doubles match. As doubles players ourselves, what could be better? We had a fine time watching, talking and eating and laughing, but the absolute best line of the day was from one friend who shall remain unnamed who said, “I love my grandson, but I think I love tennis better.”
    When we first arrived and got wind of the location of our nosebleed seats, we opted for the nearest empty row, which is what people traditionally do at the Open. Then we ran into Mary from my singles  league sitting in the same row of a 23,000 seat stadium!  What are the chances of that?  “Are these your seats?’ I asked. “No, she said, “are they yours?” Of course not. Naturally we were all eventually evicted and had to find our real seats because Nadal was coming! Nadal was coming!
    Always competitive, Linda S. and I argued over how to pronounce the Canadian Denis Shapovalov’s name. I knew it had four syllables, but it’s tough when you don’t know how to spell it. He lost anyway, so what’s the difference?
    Today I spent part of the afternoon at La Guardia airport awaiting the arrival of Risa who was coming in from Florida to spend the weekend with me. She may be moving in with us (shades of Zoe during Hurricane Sandy?) thanks to Irma. We have a fun-filled weekend planned beginning with a walk along the High Line tomorrow as we make our way down to the New Whitney Museum on Gansevoort Street.
    I hope all of you enjoy your weekend. Be well, be happy and have some fun.
September  14, 2017-  Hand to Red Hand
To my dear friends and friendly family,
    I’ve got to hand it to the organizers of the one-hour multi-network “Hand to Hand” telethon on Tuesday evening. Thanks to being able to text in a monetary donation, millions were raised for domestic hurricane relief.
    Aside from my sore, red hands that I mentioned last week, a more than century-old statue of Columbus inside Central Park was defaced, its hands stained with red paint. I’d say I was in good company, except Christopher Columbus is another figure with a controversial past. It would be fun to be teaching Journalism at this time with this hot-button national debate on statues – and everything else.
    This past week was particularly packed with activities. Every week is, but this one included going into the city three out of four days with my out-of-town friend Risa and once she left, my normal flurry of daily activities resumed. As expected, Risa was stranded here for two extra days, but it made absolutely no difference to her since we were constantly on the go. At one point I thought, gee, it would be nice to relax a little. It never happened.
    I immediately set up a golf date for Tuesday morning (Risa left me at 5 p.m. on Monday.) By the way, don’t believe what you hear about La Guardia Airport being a nightmare. It was a piece o’ cake when I picked her up last Thursday and when I dropped her off on Monday. It was actually like a ghost town. Gho figure!
    On Friday we took the LIRR into Penn Station and made our way to the High Line just a few blocks away. We strolled down to the Village and had lunch across the street from the New Whitney. We had a really nice day, but aside from the current Calder mobile installation on the 8th floor, the rest of that museum (consisting of 7 other floors) is rather barren and ultimately, disappointing. I’ve had that impression the two times I’ve visited. However, the building itself is something to behold, with each floor offering pleasant views of the Hudson and downtown. But shouldn’t there be more to a museum?
    We took the train home and had a nice dinner at a local Italian restaurant with Kenny and his brother, Andy.
    After breakfast on Saturday, Risa and I took the train back into the city, had brunch (lots of eating, not to mention drinking) and saw “Hello Dolly” with Row 7 Orchestra seats. The show was flawless, the perfect Broadway musical – sans Bette, who was on vacation last week. That evening we had a delicious dinner with Kenny at a restaurant in Oyster Bay. I had a good night’s sleep in order to re-charge for some golf with Kenny on Sunday. I played well again (surprise!) and we joined a father and son team at hole #7. At the end of hole 9, the 88 year old father said to me teasingly, “Please don’t cremate me for saying this, but you play well for a girl.” He was a sweet guy with an obvious sense of humor. No offense taken. And he walked the course!
    On Monday I drove into the city with Risa in tow. She went to MOMA and I went to see Mama. Emily managed to steal away from her office and we visited Mom together. We tended to some business and took our Mom out for a walk in the neighborhood. When we went back upstairs I broke out a box of Mallomars, Mom’s favorite. There’s always room for Mallomars and we had to take the box away before she devoured the whole thing.
    I finished my PT sessions on Tuesday. The pain on my right side is gone and I agreed to do the regimen of core stretches and exercises on my own. Upon my physical therapist’s recommendation, I immediatley went out and bought a thick yoga mat so I can pick up where I left off.
    On Wednesday I visited my friend Claire who had undergone breast lumpectomy cancer surgery on Monday. Amazingly, she was up and running by Wednesday and when I called to ask if I could bring her some lunch, she said, “Come on over. I have three other friends who are coming for lunch.” It’s an understatement to say it was a very lively group and thank God she’s doing so well.
    This morning I played tennis with my Thursday group and in the afternoon, my friend Ariella picked me up to show me her stunning, panoramic, future waterfront digs on Huntington Bay. I was blown away and it wasn’t even windy. Wishing Ariella and Scott all the best with their construction.
    As for my own red hands, they are still on fire, but I use ice packs and Udder Creme (also used on cow udders) under white cotton gloves at night. Kenny calls me Minnie Mouse. So far, not so good, but it’s only been three days.
    Next week begins Rosh Hashanah. A happy, healthy and sweet New Year to those who observe.
September  21, 2017-    Extremity Remedy?
Hi Everyone,
    Never did I think I’d be describing myself when quoting “Mr. Tambourine Man,” one of my all-time favorite Dylan songs,
 Take me on a trip upon your magic swirlin’ ship
My senses have been stripped,
 my hands can’t feel to grip
My toes too numb to step
Wait only for my boot heels to be wanderin’
But things could be worse. At least I got to grip my clubs on Saturday, all the while ignoring the palm pain (a definite side effect of the chemotherapy drug, Doxil.) We played at the beautiful golf course at Sunken Meadow. Kenny played really well; I played okay, but you’re not hearing me complain. This course, the Red 9 holer, is my new fave, so you know I played fairly well for me to say this. And last Friday was opening day of my Friday doubles league. My partner was sorely missed (no pun intended) as she is out for another two weeks with tendinitis. Sitting in for Marie E. was Andee, an excellent player. We had a super competitive match on clay against an older,  seasoned team. I wore a golf glove on my left hand. My swollen feet (shades of Oedipus, whose name translates into just that) feel as if I’ve taken to walking on hot coals. Now I’m gearing up for a party weekend to celebrate Keith and Paula’s wedding and I’m praying I’ll be able to dance with the stars on Saturday night.
    Note: In Greek mythology Oedipus was the son of the Theban King Laius and his wife Jocasta. Laius received a prophesy that he would be killed by his son, so he left the newborn to die of exposure. Oedipus was however rescued and raised in the home of the Corinthian king Polybus.
    On Sunday Kenny and I went to see “Rebel in the Rye,” the new J. D. Salinger biopic. Being that Salinger forbid any studio to ever make a film version of “Catcher in the Rye,” this is the next best thing. I had forgotten about Salinger’s connection to Zen until now and I had even written a paper in college on how Zen Buddhism informs so many of his short stories. We both really enjoyed the film.
    Yesterday, after numerous phone calls back and forth earlier in the week, to see what could ease my extremity pain (turns out NOTHING), I had my scheduled appointment with my oncologist, followed by what was to be a single infusion. Joan was kind enough to chauffeur me back and forth and Kenny left work and met me for my 11 a.m. doc’s appt. I came armed with my list of questions: yes, get a flu shot and don’t worry about drinking a little more than usual this weekend. I absolutely cracked her up when I asked if I can kiss people at the wedding and that there will be 220 people there. She could hardly stop laughing to answer me. Finally, she managed, “Don’t kiss 220 people – just your closest friends and give everyone else a hug or an air hug.” Okay people, if I see you this weekend, let’s see who makes the kissing cut!
    Due to elevated blood pressure (also a definite side effect of the very toxic chemo drugs) I was given my walking papers (wished I could actually WALK) and was told the treatments would resume in two weeks as scheduled. I’ve been a 110/70 gal for years and now suddenly this! Skipping the treatment will give me a chance to take the three-day steroid regimen of pills, the prescribed blood pressure medication and to monitor my bp for two weeks. I’m on a mission.
     Joan even brought along a cute spelling cube game made by Levenger which we didn’t have a chance to play during yesterday’s non-chemo event.
    This just in: After taking just two of the steroid pills, my feet and hands are markedly improved and if this continues, it looks like I’ll be dancin’ with the best of them on Saturday night! (Maria Sharapova may have been onto something. I should be back to non-professional tennis next week.)
September 28, 2017-                         Great News
Dear Friends and Friendly Family,
When, in disgrace with itchy, sore red hands,
I alone beweeped (past tense) my outcast state
BUT one phone call reset the scene:
My abdominal/pelvic CT scan is clear
And I am responding well to this round of chemo.
For thy sweet news remembered such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.
Honestly, what’s a compromised grip these past few weeks? I can easily handle it and will catch up with my golf and tennis friends hopefully next week.
But back to this past week: I danced at Keith and Paula’s wedding IN MY SILVERY HIGH HEELS and kissed and hugged those closest to me – maybe half of the 220 attendees. It was a spectacular weekend with an ecstatically happy couple and those who love them.
    Whenever I am in doubt about something related to my current treatments, I call in to my team. The doc’s P.A., Jenny called me back to let me know that vodka with a splash of grapefruit juice (my fave) is just fine to drink over the three-day wedding weekend. “In fact, it sounds good!” she said. I always liked her (and so does Kenny ’cause she’s very cute.)
The wedding weekend  kicked off when we arrived at the hotel with the initial greeting I received from the female concierge at check-in: “You’re here for the Laxman wedding. Your hair is so beautiful. I wish mine looked like that.” Wow!
In addition to having most of our oldest and closest friends under one elegant roof, I also loved visiting with Lizzie from Florida, who happens to be Diane’s (mother of the groom) best friend for 54 years. There were non-stop laughs with her and our dear friend Zoe who flew in from LA with her daughter, Alana. We spent Saturday afternoon sitting in the lobby sipping wine, meeting and greeting. Between the rehearsal dinner and the actual wedding, enough alcohol was consumed by the crowd to form a second Niagara Falls.
You already know about my feet. A highlight for me was when I was getting dressed for the wedding, I did the Cinderella thing with my glittery silver high heels and they fit – comfortably! I got to walk in with them and even dance for the first hour before slipping into something more comfortable (a patent leather wedged flip flop.) “I’m so vain/I probably think this wedding is about me…” We had a ball, to say the least and Keith and Paula had the wedding celebration of their dreams.
Monday was back to reality with a visit to my Mom in the city. We took advantage of this unseasonably warm weather. First we stopped at the fruit stand on First Avenue and 57th. His prices are insane – a latter day Crazy Eddie. Then we watched the girls file out of Cathedral High School, located up the block from my Mom’s apartment. As a former teacher, I couldn’t help but notice how well-behaved, civilized, and nicely groomed they were. Nothing like the kids I taught in Brooklyn and Queens with their shouting, cursing and smoking at dismissal. It was a breath of fresh air. My Mom has always loved to people-watch and this was no different. She’s really very friendly as she waves to her neighbors. But the icing on the cake came in the elevator on the way upstairs. A well-dressed gent, probably in his eighties, entered the elevator in a suit, tie and pocket square. He took one look at my Mom and blurted out, “Hi ya, gorgeous!” (She actually did look great in a smart blue and white blouse and thanks to her home care aide, Arlene, who has a license in cosmetology, her hair is always well groomed.) Then the man proceeds to tell us his own mother died at 102, but was still having sex in her nursing home. “When she died, you know what I had put on her gravestone?  ‘Eva Rosenberg, they took her too soon.’ ”  Arlene and I were hysterical.
   Later, as I bucked the sclerotic traffic jams for two hours, I couldn’t stop thinking of that funny man.
    Tuesday was the day of my abdominal/pelvic CT scan. It went smoothly but of course, was cause for concern, given what was discovered in July. Jenny called me the next morning at 10:45 with a great report. I headed down to Jones Beach and met my good friend Sylvia to walk the boardwalk. We noticed the dangerously high tides and vast expanses of beach erosion ravaged by Hurricane Jose. Maintenance crews have their work cut out for them. But in spite of nature’s global wrath, being down at the beach is always great for the soul.
 I am still unable to comfortably grip a racquet, so I had to forgo tennis for today and tomorrow. I’ve slathered on about 10 different creams and ointments, but to no avail. As they (who’s “they?”) say, “If one doesn’t work, try the udder.” Nuttin’ works. According to the docs, this skin upheaval is running its course. Wish could be running the course but I’m relegated to walking this week. So far I’ve gone 4 miles at the Jones Beach boardwalk yesterday and 2.5 this morning down at Cedar Creek – and tomorrow’s another day. Yay.
I’m with the late James Brown when he sings “I Feel Good.” What a positive way to start a new year. Happy New Year.
And remember, good vibes only.

October 5, 2017-                                Old is the New Young

Dear Weekly Readers,

For fear of sounding trite with regard to my fight this past year, I never considered using these lyrics, but now that Tom Petty’s gone…

Well I won’t back down, no I won’t back down

You could stand me up at the gates of hell

But I won’t back down


Gonna stand my ground, won’t be turned around

And I’ll keep this world from draggin’ me down

Gonna stand my ground and I won’t back down.


Tom Petty is the singular artist who has never had a song I didn’t like. Even Dylan and Springsteen had a few I couldn’t listen to, but not Tom Petty. If fellow Wilbury, George Harrison were still alive, I’ll bet he would’ve chosen “All Things Must Pass” to eulogize Tom. As for the remaining Traveling Wilburys, then there were two (Jeff Lynne and Bob Dylan).

We spent a perfectly intimate evening breaking fast on Saturday night with Emily and Susan at Susan’s parent’s home in Westchester. Iris and David are the most gracious hosts and we always enjoy their company. Now why was this night different from all other nights? No traffic! We zipped up and back in under an hour each way. That’s unheard of on most other nights. Was it Jackie Mason who riffed on Jews who, upon arriving anywhere, must discuss the traffic. “So how was the traffic?” And it goes on and on till someone interrupts with another topic.

As I said, and Frank Sinatra once crooned, it was a lovely way to spend an evening. David is a longtime song parodist and the conversation just flowed. Iris, among her many talents, is also a master baker. It didn’t hurt that she had a few heart-shaped Linzer tarts on her platter of homemade cookies.

On Sunday I caddied for Kenny (without carrying his golf bag) as he played nine holes.  He was able to put his recent lessons into practice and played really well. I had a great time walking the course and the weather couldn’t have been better. My palms look like I have leprosy (don’t gasp – it’s a slight exaggeration) and I’m warned by my medical team that even gripping with a glove on may cause further irritation. So, as Lawrence Ferlinghetti wrote so deftly in his poem, “I Am Waiting,” I, too, am waiting…waiting for my skin to heal. Perhaps by next week.

You know by now that “sick” is not in my vocabulary, yet I cannot fathom the downright sickening news out of Las Vegas on Sunday. We are living in a cowardly new world where innocent souls are all too frequently being cut down, many in the prime of their lives. God help us all!

The week began with a routine visit to my surgeon on Monday morning. He was very pleased that my CA 125 numbers are way down as a result of this latest chemotherapy regimen. CA stands for cancer antigen, a protein that is found in high amounts in patients with ovarian cancer. Normal value is 0-35. My number is now 16. It was 144 in July.

On Monday, my local book club met for a discussion and hors d’oeuvres at Ellen K’s home, followed by dinner out to celebrate Barbara S’s upcoming birthday. Lots of wine and food makes it always fun. There were mixed reviews about A Man Called Ove. That took me by surprise as I thought it would’ve been a sure shot crowd pleaser. It will be interesting to see my original book club’s take on the same book. Up next for local club: Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime.

On Tuesday I went in to see my Mom and we went to lunch with her friend Shirley. Mom ordered a grilled cheese sandwich and the waiter commented, “That’s what she always used to order.” A very pleasant day.

Yesterday was treatment day and my oldie but goodie friend Irene met us at the center at 9:30. With two infusions, we were still out by noon. Irene and I go back to teaching at Maxwell Vocational High School together in the 70s. She was Laverne (from da Bronx) and I was Shirley. She even showed up once in a bowling shirt with a script “L” emblazoned on the breast pocket. We tap danced to “Over There” in the 1976 Bicentennial Student-Faculty show, wearing fatigues and olive green T-shirts. Hers said, “Over” and mine said “There.” For a full description of our hilarious antics, see pages 73-76 in Take Off Your Hat and Spit Out Your Gum (Sorry for the plug.)

Kenny stayed with me until we got the clearance for the treatment at which time Irene arrived. Suddenly an elderly volunteer walked into the cubicle and introduced himself as Arthur and told us he is 100 years old! Why do I keep meeting ancient men every week? This one could’ve done stand-up. He opened his mouth, to show us all his teeth were intact and he doesn’t wear glasses – even to drive! And he drives at night! What a catch! He asked if I wanted a warm blanket. Of course I did and thanked him. He went to get it, but by the time he came back with it, (he does shuffle slowly) the nurse had already given me one. Thank God, because this place is always in a deep freeze. He then offered the blanket to Irene. “Is there anything else I can get you?” he asked in such a sincere manner, you could die! I answered, “A vodka with a splash of grapefruit juice?”

Realizing Irene and I could kibbitz with the best of them, he found his audience. “Oh, vodka’s for drinkers (he pronounced it “drinkiz”). You know drunks drink vodka ‘cause it has no odor. I myself, prefer whiskey.” We eventually got his life story. What a delightful man.

In addition to her comedic skills, Irene is an accomplished water colorist. She studied with an art teacher up in the Berkshires and her work is quite good. So what was yesterday’s chemotherapy entertainment? A lesson in water color. She toted her entire brush collection, a couple of trays to mix colors and her best tubes of water colors. Who even knew water colors came in tubes? Using a gala apple as our model, we set to work painting it. She demonstrated the subtleties that are involved in getting the color to pop and I did pretty well. However, an hour was not long enough to complete painting even one apple, so my work is unfinished. It’s on my kitchen table winking at me.

Today is another gorgeous day and Sande drove out so we could trek through the Muttontown Preserve. The trails are soft on the feet so I suggested it over the Jones Beach boardwalk. We walked for about an hour and a half and managed not to get lost on the serpentine trails. We landed up at the Chelsea Mansion and we explored and admired the gorgeous grounds. To top it all off, we drove down to the beach in Oyster Bay and need I say any more? What a treat.

If we just had peace, love, good health (mental and otherwise) and good vibes only, what a wonderful world this would be.




My friend Rashi’s response to this week’s missive:

May you have all the blessings that you wish for the world.

October 12, 2017-          Hair Scare

To my dear Weekly Readers,

I haven’t written about any tonsorial tales in the past couple of weeks, but here’s a good one. Because the wig is generally uncomfortable, a little cumbersome and confining (complaints, complaints) I take it off as soon as I get into the house. The other day I brought the wig stand downstairs and when I got home, I placed the wig on it. I then stuck it on the staircase so I wouldn’t forget to bring it upstairs. Later on, I approached the staircase and EEEK! I caught a horror (as my friends would say back in the Sixties, probably a drug-related expression similar to a bad trip.) I saw this head with hair and didn’t expect it – and it’s not even Halloween yet.

Kenny got some golf in on a warm and sunny Saturday and I just walked the course again (It’s better than walking the streets if you know what I mean.) With my palms still continuing to peel, who knew I had this much skin?

What does one do on a rainy day? You go to the movies. On Sunday, like good tennis (and Emma Stone) fans, we went to see “Battle of the Sexes.” We both enjoyed what amounted to a period piece chock full of nostalgia. The outfits, the hair, the racquets, the sneakers…And on Monday, my friend Diane C. and I went to see “Victoria and Abdul” in what is another class act film starring Dame Judi Dench. Victoria wasn’t the only one who was attracted to young Ali Fazal. This is one film I can readily see again with Kenny – on the next rainy weekend day.

Water, Water, Everyday

Tuesday was Mom Day. We took a walk around the neighborhood and ended up in the park at Sutton Place and 54th Street. We watched a pair of antique sailboats making their way down the East River. Nearby was woman in a wheelchair with a small dog whose every bark sounded as if he were choking to death. He could’ve used the wheelchair. We’ve seen this duo before and the dog is apparently not choking, but talk about annoying!! Give it the hook, as we used to say.

My almost two hour drive home was broken up by nice, long phone calls (hands-free, of course) from my two former college roomies, Bonnie and Claudette. Bonnie shared highlights of her very recent trip to Australia and New Zealand and I heard all about Claudette’s activism on the Santa Barbara Democratic Women’s Board and hosting political fundraisers at her home, most recently for Sen. Kamala Harris.

On a balmy Wednesday afternoon I took myself down to the Jones Beach boardwalk which runs along the Atlantic Ocean. I purposely wore my running shoes and felt strong enough to run a decent stretch of the boardwalk. The wind was at my back going west but coming back, there were strong headwinds so I didn’t push myself as much. I remember having to push myself in 2010 when I was training for the NYC Marathon and this boardwalk was part of my very long run.

My original book club (12+ years and going strong) met on Wednesday evening and all five of us enjoyed reading AMan Called Ove. We appreciated Ove’s integrity and the way the author’s sense of humor imbued this character with a sarcasm and an innate goodness that made it a delightful read. Of course Ove’s deep-seated sadness never left him, but thanks to his neighbors, on he lived and spent his life doing good deeds. But the highlight of the evening came when near the end of the meal, Sande discovered a paper clip at the bottom of her water glass. She called the waiter over and showed it to him, at which point he told us dessert would be on the house. (Ordinarily we don’t order dessert.) He brought us each a dessert menu and we had him clarify that it would be one dessert “for the table.” We decided to go for the only healthy choice which was fresh strawberries with whipped cream on the side. A few minutes later, the waiter returned to inform us that, “We’re out of strawberries.” Okay, we’ll take the S’mores then. We were then presented with a platter of eight marshmallows, a dozen graham crackers, two Hershey bars, skewers and the flambé halfway up to the ceiling – and a partridge in a pear tree. So much for the healthy choice. Next up for this book club: Hot off the press, Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan.

Today began with a drizzle but cleared up in time for Marie E., Ariella and I to hike at Caumsett State Park with gorgeous views of Cold Spring Harbor. We must’ve done 4.5 miles of paved roads and some trails down to the water and back. It’s always fun to get together with tennis friends in an alternate setting.

I am fortunate to be feeling very well and plan on returning to my Friday tennis league tomorrow. I’ll be sporting golf gloves over my chapped hands. I’m not sure if it’s the wisest thing to do, but it feels like the right thing to do. Wish me luck. Marie E. (in absentia) already warned me to go easy and not to hit so many killer shots. Yeah.

Have a great week and thanks for being there for me if not in body, in mind.



A comment by my friend Sylvia: “I’m so glad your wig scared you, now you know how we feel when you pull it out of the truck of your car! I don’t feel so silly now.”

October 19, 2017-                 Give Me Some Skin

            I would be remiss if I didn’t include this addendum to last week’s comments about the film, “Battle of the Sexes.” I certainly didn’t miss it, but I missed acknowledging Billie Jean’s contributions to 1) the women’s movement and 2) gender equality on the courts. My friend/former doubles partner Linda S. reminded me and I quote: “It was not only nostalgic but such a fascinating look at Billy Jean King’s life…how admirable was she in getting equal rights for women tennis players and handling Riggs so admirably – with humor and strength and of course toughing it out with the higher ups in tennis. I read that one of King’s favorite films is ‘A League of Their Own.’ Wonder why.”

I did rejoin my Friday doubles league and partnered with Andee. Marie E. is still on the mend. We played really well and my hands handled it handily. What’s a little redness when they’re always red?

Saturday evening saw a lovely interfaith wedding overlooking the Hudson in Westchester. Our friends Sara and Bob’s son Evan married Laura Perdomo and there is no doubt they are an extremely happy couple. They have both taken the surnames Perdomo-Cohen. The dancing was mostly to a Latino beat and the Cubans set the tone. It was a challenge for all of us gringos who can’t seem to move our hips the way they do. But Lord knows, we tried! I have to admit we were most successful on the conga line. I remember on one of our Windstar trips overseas we had a group of Canary Islanders on board and man, could they dance! We just wanted to hold onto them to feel the beat.

I visited my Mom on Monday. It was a bit too chilly and nasty to go outside, so we had the quiche I brought for lunch and played two games of Rummikub afterwards. This used to be her favorite game. Now it’s “assisted” Rummikub in that I play my own hand and help my Mom along with hers. She does remember some of the moves and occasionally surprises me by correctly placing a tile in a spot I hadn’t even seen. And believe it or not, she managed to have the right combination of tiles to win both games! She loves winning. I must be her daughter.

On Tuesday Marie D. and I had a great afternoon walking/hiking at Caumsett Park. We did about six miles of paved roads and soft trails which spilled out to a gorgeous stretch of beach. It was sunny, cool and crisp – just perfect.

I had an early morning appointment with my oncologist yesterday prior to my chemo treatment. She is pleased with my blood work etc. The numbers are good. I have been meticulously monitoring my blood pressure and the pills are doing the trick for now. Hopefully once the treatments end, so will they. My hands have stopped peeling for the most part and the doc says I have all new skin on my palms. Did I ask for new skin? I was perfectly happy in my own skin. And now THIS breaking news: As my hands are finally healing, my feet are peeling like there’s no tomorrow. As I said two weeks ago, who knew there was so much skin to shed? I now know from experience that this condition needs to run its course.

I was really hoping to see that reflexologist during my chemo session yesterday, but alas, she was scheduled to lead a chair yoga class during the precise time that I was being infused. In the past, my feet were totally fine, but I still enjoyed the reflexology sessions. This time around she would have really had something to work on. Next time I see her I’ll greet her with “Om shanti.”

Kenny accompanied me to the appointment and then left for work. After the doc’s appointment, I thought I’d have a little time to sip some tea and read Trevor Noah’s book as I waited for my noontime infusion, but The Monter Cancer Center is very accommodating and they were able to move it on up to 10 a.m. I was out by 11 a.m. – record time. My neighbor Ingerid, who lives right across the street, was with me and we both decided to pass on lunch this time since it was much too early. My waistline is grateful, especially since I had lunch dates planned for the next two days – after a long walk today at Caumsett Park and after tennis tomorrow.

Today, after my early morning tennis game, I had a very special visit from my old friend Liz who lives in Connecticut. She is just so upbeat – a true breath of fresh air. And we talked non-stop for hours – without coming up for a breath of fresh air. I should mention that Liz and her family have had a lion’s share of their own serious health issues and more than once she said, “You deal with it and you move on.” And she truly has. Very inspirational for me.

Liz and I go back to the 80s. Because of her, I ran all of those marathons. She ran her first NYC Marathon in l988. I went in to cheer her on and wound up jumping in to run the last mile with her. Security was much more relaxed than it is these days and no one stopped me. I looked around at the finishers and said to myself, “I can do this.” I signed up the following year and the rest is history. Today I took her up to Caumsett Park, my new go-to walking destination, and we repeated the beautiful loop that I did on Tuesday.

We have one more wedding to go this coming weekend and just thinking of it makes me feel like dancing. Those silvery heels are getting a real workout this month. A little tennis tomorrow, perhaps some golf with Kenny on Saturday and my week will be complete.

Embrace life and avoid watching the news, but if you do, check your blood pressure.



October 26, 2017-           I Found My Thrill

            Ain’t That a Shame that we must bid farewell to legendary Fats Domino? Reading his obituary, I learned that “Blueberry Hill” had been originally sung by Gene Autry. Gene Autry! One of my favorite cowboys when I was kid. I even had a Gene Autry guitar. I seriously wanted to be a cowgirl, but after learning how to horseback ride in camp, I shattered my wrist after being thrown from a horsey when I was 13. Alas, the closest I came to the Wild West was taming the wildlife in the New York City schools.

R.I. P. Fats Domino 1928-2017

My grip may be compromised but my feet are nimble. I played tennis in my Friday league with a golf glove on each hand. Being challenged is always fun, but Andee and I were outplayed. Let’s hope for better results tomorrow. Afterwards, a small group of us went out to eat at cute breakfast/lunch spot in Amityville. It’s a sweet town with a stunning waterfront and Connie gave us the grand tour after lunch.

As if I didn’t eat enough for lunch, Kenny and I were invited to dinner to sample some expert cooking by my friend Diane C’s husband Kyle. The theme was Mexican. We only own one sombrero, so I insisted Kenny wear it, which he did for about a minute. (We’re so corny.) The food was superb and Kyle introduced us to a new, rather mild tequila called Espolon Reposado.

This tennis junkie wound up playing three days in a row – two doubles matches and singles with Diane C. on Saturday morning. I’m happy to report I got my groove back. (She and her partner Sharon C. were the ones who took us down on Friday.)

We stayed home on Saturday gearing up for yet another wedding which was to take place on Sunday. This was our third wedding since September 23rd and this time it was relatively local – on the water in Babylon with views of the Fire Island lighthouse. This one was an authentic Russian-Jewish wedding. My grandparents would’ve kvelled (Translation: literally bursting with pride). Our dear old friends, Lynne and David’s daughter Jessica, married Anton in fabulous celebratory fashion. The dancing was dizzying from a never-ending hora to other fast-paced circle dances. At one point, immersed in the maelstrom, it was like tempo training for a marathon. Whew! Mazel tov to another couple who are madly in love.

Sue-Anne and Phil stayed over after the wedding on Sunday night and I had a great visit with them over breakfast. We go back to the New Paltz days and then in the 1990s, Phil’s Mom married Kenny’s Dad. So we were fam-i-ly! (Wonder who was responsible for that?) I felt a little guilty throwing them out by noon, but I had to visit my Mom on Monday.


It’s Not Ove Till It’s Ove

On Tuesday and again, today, I hosted a screening of A Man Called Ove for both of my book clubs. Those who could be there, were. Both book groups read the book last month. The movie stayed true to the book and some scenes made you laugh and cry at the same time. Refreshments were served and we even had a pitcher of Sangria on Tuesday, compliments of Ritta. Popcorn (salted and unsalted), fruit salad, a home-baked apple pie, M & M Peanuts, almonds, pretzels and a few Linzer tarts rounded out the movie fare. It put movie theaters’ refreshments to shame.

On Wednesday night I had dinner at Bella Notte with a few friends with tennis (among other things) in common. Just seeing everyone in street clothes as opposed to the usual tennis garb was a novel experience. The food was delicious and it was a bella notte.

As you may have picked up, my mantra over this past year has been to stay busy, to remain upbeat and to surround myself with only positive people. For those who celebrate, have a festive Halloween.



November 1, 2017-                Happiness Loves Company             

Andee and I managed to play better last Friday, beating our opponents 6-0 (aka “bagel”), 6-3. It was a lovely way to start the weekend. And what a weekend! We hosted a relatively intimate Halloween get together this year – just what the doctor ordered: stick with smaller gatherings. It was made up of our group of closest, oldest friends, who looked as if they just stepped out of Central Casting. The theme was, after all, Broadway. The following shows were represented: “Phantom,” The Pajama Game,” “Wicked,” “The Book of Mormon,” “Hair,” “West Side Story,” “The Pirate Queen,” “Peter Pan” (Kenny was Captain Hook), “Hamilton,” “Into the Woods,” “Cats,” “The Producers,” “The Addams Family” and even a stage manager. The prize for Most Obscure Character and Show was Norman Paperman from “Don’t Stop the Carnival.” Truth be told, I never even heard of that show. I was told it was a short-lived musical based on a Herman Wouk novel and later, a Jimmy Buffett album of the same name.

Remember junior high jive talk? I know I described everything as “Boss” and when someone was stressed out or angry we’d say, “Cool your jets” or “Don’t get a rash!” Well, I got a rash. My hands and feet are finally cooling their jets, but my mid-section has been red and getting redder for the past three weeks – red enough to postpone this Wednesday’s treatment till next Wednesday. What can I do? Nada. My oncologist called me personally on Monday morning to discuss it with me. I also asked her for my latest CA-125 reading and thankfully, we’re still at sweet 16.

On Tuesday I finally got in a golf game with Sharon C. It was a sunny, cool and crisp morning – and we were practically the only ones there! My putting was a disaster but the rest of my game wasn’t too bad. I hadn’t played in five weeks. While my hands were sore, I figured if I had to choose between the two, tennis was my preferred sport. But now I’ve resumed golf for as long as the courses are frost-free.

With no treatment, I met Marie D. and played 9 holes on Wednesday afternoon. It’s not the greatest feeling to have the chemo postponed a week, but hopefully it’ll give my skin another week to calm down.

Last Sunday’s New York Times ran an article in the “Review” section entitled “Happiness Is Other People” by Ruth Whippman. She’s the author of “America the Anxious: How Our Pursuit of Happiness Is Creating a Nation of Nervous Wrecks.” Catchy title, but I’ll never read it – not with two book clubs’ selections tugging at my free time. But the article’s title grabbed me, so I read it and once I got past descriptions of all the positive affirmations apps they have out there (gag me!) the last three paragraphs resonated with me. In essence, “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.” (Funny, I just heard that song at my Mom’s on Monday. My mother regularly listens to music and the Streisand CD was cranked up, followed by Ella Fitzgerald.) Some food for thought from the above-mentioned article: “The most significant thing we can do for our well-being is not to ‘find ourselves’ or ‘go within.’ It’s to invest as much time and effort as we can into nurturing the relationships we have with the people in our lives.” Works for me.

This week prayers go out to my cousin Adrienne Palley who is in the hospital in Connecticut, as well as to the families who lost loved ones in the attack on the Hudson River Park Bikeway in Lower Manhattan this week. And let’s hope it doesn’t rain on the marathoners this Sunday. One year I ran it in torrential rains and poor Kenny got blisters on his feet as he waited to cheer me on. That’s love if I ever saw it. But above all, let everyone be safe this year.

Love,  Melinda

 November 8, 2017-    And Miles to Go Before I Sleep

Tennis Update: Last Friday Andee and I double bageled our opponents. It was fun for us, but not exactly the most competitive team we’ve ever played. At one point I was cringing every time they missed an easy shot. I felt their pain. One bagel is enough, but two is gluttony.

Golf Update: On Saturday I played 9 holes with Kenny and, are you ready, I birdied Hole # 3 at Cantiague. I hit a 140 yard drive. That’s big for me. The only other time I ever birdied was at that same course on Hole # 2 – and that was two seasons ago. {For the uninitiated in golf: A birdie is when you sink the ball in one under par. So on a par 3 hole, your first shot lands on the green and then you putt it right in.} The pros do this on a regular basis.

On Sunday, Kenny dismantled our Halloween haunted house and as that old Shake N Bake commercial went, “And I helped!” It was a joyous, proud day at the NYC Marathon as Shalane Flanagan came in first in the women’s race, the first time in 40 years that an American woman has won.  It was emotional and even brought some tears to my eyes as I watched her bask in her glory, draped in the stars and stripes. Go, Shalane! You did us proud.

On Tuesday, with my golf game cancelled due to frigid temperatures and with no prospect of tennis, I started the day by casting my vote, followed by a 3.5 mile run at the local track. This was the first time I ran that distance non-stop since my surgery last year. I just felt like this was the time and I feel great. The marathon may have had something to do with it. But with only 3.5 miles, I still have miles to go…I then spent the afternoon editing what will become a hard copy of what you are reading now. So far my weekly missives that I began in August 2016 amount to 87 pages.

Yesterday was Treatment Day and it never fails that Kenny gets complimented on one of his ties. Today a greeter at the center liked his orange and navy paisley. I think I should take the credit since I’m the one who picks them out. I really happen to like nice men’s ties (and nice men too.) Prior to the infusion, I was in the lab having my routine finger stick blood workup and the technician commented on my perfume. He said whatever scent I was wearing brought him back to his elementary school days in the Dominican Republic. His kindergarten teacher wore it and he told me, “She hugged all the kids and I’ll never forget her scent.” I told him it was Light Blue by Dolce Gabbana. My elementary school teacher’s perfume, however, had the opposite effect. We wished we had nose plugs to avoid her smelly Eau de Stinky. The culprit was Mrs. LaVeness who was rather homely and wore entirely too much makeup. In fact, whenever she gave us “busy work,” we second graders watched her as she made her way to her mirror on the “Teacher’s Wardrobe” door and reapplied powder with a powder puff. Hence, her nickname was Powder Puff of P.S. 99.

This week my dear friend and former colleague Rosalie kept me company for my treatment. Rosalie and I go back to the 1980s and she is also a member of my original book club of 12+ years. The conversation never waned and it was kind of nice and unique to talk one-on-one when we almost always socialize in a group. It’s pathetic that it takes an experience such as this to get to learn new things about a person you’ve known for years!

The cheery R.N. walked into my cubicle announcing, “Hi, I’m Jane,” to which I quipped, “And I’m Tarzan.” She said I was prettier than Tarzan. Whew! Now I can live with myself. She was actually delightful as she related stories about her daughter, a recent Tisch School of the Arts grad in musical theater (just like Liz’s daughter Julia who is a freshman in the same program.) Thankfully my rash is finito and my doctor was right on when she said to give it another week in which to calm it down. In addition, all of my numbers are still in range.

Remember the reflexologist from my first round last year? I’ve been requesting her for weeks and she finally fit me in to her schedule yesterday. This time around I feel I could benefit from a little reflexology given the condition of my feet, although there are patients with serious neuropathy who get priority treatment. Fortunately I’m not one of them. As usual, it was très relaxing with the dimmed lights and the lavender moisturizing lotion. And just as the session ended, the bells went off on the IV stand announcing the drip had dripped – good to the last drop.

Okay, lunch time…We went to Messina Market not far from my house and had fresh turkey breast sandwiches on even fresher whole grain bread. Then Rosalita drove me home and I was relieved to hear she didn’t hit any traffic on her way back to Queens. We had a very pleasant afternoon considering the occasion, but that’s what it’s all about. We do the Hokey Pokey and we turn ourselves about…

After a couple of sets of doubles this morning with my regular Thursday group, I came home to write and relax. In yesterday’s Times Op-ed, a new Netflix film was reviewed about the writer Joan Didion. It looked interesting, so that’s what’s on tap for this afternoon. The film is called, “The Center Will Not Hold.” I will comment on it next week.

Just musing here, but how can it be that mass shootings have come to define our beloved country? At this rate, there could be yet another one before I finish typing. God forbid. As for the Almighty, what ever happened to the sanctity of a church? A church! Again! These weekly incidents spark national debate, but we are in deep trouble with no end in immediate sight. R.I. P. The Sutherland Springs, Texas 26 and this week’s prayers go out to those they left behind.

Love, Melinda

November 16, 2017-  While We Were Eating…

To my dear weekly readers,

When I sat down to watch the Joan Didion documentary entitled “The Center Will Not Hold” * last week, I have to admit it was with little more than vestigial interest. I had read her White Album collection of essays back in 1979 when it was published and have certainly been aware of her work, but I wouldn’t ever call myself a Didion groupie today. However, the opening line of her essay “White Album” reminds me of what I’ve been doing in these weekly missives this past year: “You tell yourself stories in order to live.” I’ve actually been living my stories in order to live. Do I recommend the documentary? I found her hard to watch – so frail and probably not, but she looks over-Botoxed. There is very sad stuff at the end. I did not read The Year of Magical Thinking, nor have I read her most recent memoir, Blue Nights about her daughter Quintana, but I am glad I saw it and really appreciated her celebrity and the celebs with whom she rubbed elbows. The film celebrates Joan Didion’s very comprehensive resume as a memoirist, social critic and journalist.

* My friend Carol G. jogged my memory when she reminded me that the title comes from “The Second Coming,” a poem by William Butler Yeats as does the title of the beautiful narrative Things Fall Apart by Nigerian writer, Chinua Achebe. Many of us taught that book years ago.

Last Friday’s tennis league was suspended for Veteran’s Day, but some of us didn’t take no for answer and put together our own game. It’s always fun to play in a tailor-made game with friends and to shoot the breeze afterwards at lunch.

On Saturday evening Kenny and I went out for Portuguese food at Lisbon Café in Carle Place. We enjoyed the heaping amounts of food (leftovers for at least one other dinner) and the generous wine pour. It was different dining for a change and next time we’ll try their other location which is closer to home.

Monday was Mom-day and nothing new to report on that front. It’s all under control. It was cold and nasty so we spent the afternoon listening to “Music Choices,” a great feature on Time Warner TV (which her fabulous aide showed me). We chose “Stage and Screen” and heard familiar songs from “Hair” to “My Fair Lady.” It’s easier than popping in CD’s all afternoon. (I know- what else do I have to do?)

On Tuesday I had such a nice time with three good friends from my department at Richmond Hill H.S. We decided to hit Brooklyn Heights and walk the storied Promenade. All of us have been there before but it was a perfect way to spend this crisp, cool autumn day. That panoramic view of Lower Manhattan and the bridges to the north – no wonder it’s been in a zillion movie scenes. And just around the bend is the Brooklyn Navy Yard which has housed the Steiner Studios on 20 of its 300 acres since 2004. Strolling through Brooklyn Heights you get the feeling of being in old New York (as opposed to being old in New York.) Of course in Dutch it was known as Breucklen.

Lunchtime was rolling around by the time we finished promenading, so we made a beeline to the bustling, commercial Montague Street with its vast ethnic culinary offerings. We decided on Theresa’s, an authentic Polish eatery. So what do you order at a Polish place? Kielbasa? Yes. Blueberry blintzes? Yes. Mushroom barley soup and stuffed cabbage? Yes – all good choices. Now we had to walk off some of the calories, so we toured the neighborhood, marveling at the imposing architecture and the ancient churches on practically every corner. We saw the building where Arthur Miller wrote, but we decided to save a literary tour for another day. We probably should have set one up for Tuesday.

As an aside, far right nationalists are attempting, and all too often, succeeding in rearing their ugly heads here, there and everywhere. On Saturday 60,000 of them marched through Warsaw with torches and racist signs like, “White Europe of brotherly nations.” The only ones who were arrested were the pro-democracy counter protesters. Poland has made great strides post-Communism in spite of this demonstration, but with the right wing ruling party, it seems to reflect the national sentiment. All of this while we were eating. Who knew? I never would have but for an article in the news that caught my eye with “Poland” in the headline (and the delicious Polish food in my stomach.)

On the way home, Carol was driving and Eileen was giving directions once we got closer to Kew Gardens where I had parked my car. Kew Gardens – my childhood home. When we were approaching the exit for Queens Boulevard on the Grand Central, Eileen said, “Get off here. I’m an exit savant,” to which Claire came back with, “Good portmanteau, Eileen.” Ah, English teachers. Our day ended with hugs and kisses and a vow to “do this again – in another city neighborhood.”

This morning’s doubles game was especially challenging as Sylvia really lived up to her nick namesake, Sylrena. She must’ve been channeling Serena Williams.

Have a great weekend and if you’re in China, don’t think of shoplifting. Sheeesh!



November 23, 2017- I Heart Thanksgiving – APHILosophical Musing  

It’s Thanksgiving 2017. I never take anything for granted anymore as I’m just grateful to be here, thriving and living each day to its fullest. I do nothing I don’t want to do. When I saw my doctor yesterday, she confirmed that I’m tolerating this round of chemotherapy very well. She even said I can return to substitute teaching at my local high school if and when I want to. So much for the so-called compromised immune system. Whew, because I did something last Saturday that I wasn’t so sure about after the fact. Kenny and I stopped into a 5 year old’s birthday party with 50 little maniacs bouncing off the walls at a Pump It Up gym. It was Michele’s little grandson Nate’s party and we wanted to visit with Grandma Michele. It was great to see her kids Hylan and Brookie as well. I actually made little or no contact with the kiddies and so far no sniffles, so I’m fine. Ta da.

We spent an exceedingly pleasant Sunday afternoon at the home of our friends Cathie and Brian in Westchester. They are such gracious entertainers and the conversation is always lively and fun. We go back to the Maxwell Vocational High School days in the 70s when they had only one daughter and lived in Brooklyn Heights. They now have three grown children and twin grandchildren.

As I was approaching the city to visit my Mom on Monday morning, I was musing on the thousands of soon-to-be-occupied (or not) apartments in the new expensive high rises in Long Island City. Will they ever get enough tenants and if they do, as Butch Cassidy queried, “Who are those guys?” But sitting in traffic, what I really wonder (metaphor alert) about is how many red lights I will have to endure before it turns green for me.

Since I am not seeing my Mom Thanksgiving, I did make sure to bring her a sweet potato pie to enjoy for lunch with a delicious crab cake. “Soft” is the operative here. We took an Access-A-Ride van to her routine doctor’s appointment for a checkup and Arlene and I walked her home from Fifth and 61st in the wheelchair. The Christmas decorations on Fifth Avenue are as glittery as ever.

On Tuesday morning Ritta, Sharon and I played 9 holes of golf. I’m so happy my friends are troupers. It was cool but we dressed appropriately. I played fairly well again but putting was impossible. I’m never one to make excuses, but the greens were aerated recently and it’s like putting on a pegboard.

And this brings us to Wednesday, November 22nd. Some of us don’t remember where we were yesterday, but I’ll bet almost everyone reading this remembers where they were 54 years ago yesterday. No need to rehash the Kennedy assassination, but for me, social studies class at Russell Sage Junior High School. Teacher: Mrs. Minnov. Kenny is the one with the great November 22, 1963 story. He will make it available upon request. You should read it.

Since my treatment was scheduled for 2 p.m., I managed to get a morning tennis game in beforehand. There was no pressure since it wasn’t a league game. It was great – competitive and fun. I’m so grateful for my tennis friends. And today, exchanging so many texts from my tennis buds does a girl’s heart good.

Diane C. was my designated companion for my treatment yesterday. We both showered (not together) after tennis, met for a quick bite for lunch and then she drove me to get my infusion. She gave some thought as to an “activity” and came up with good ol’ Mad Libs. We had some laughs with it and the fact that my R.N., a millennial, never heard of Mad Libs, added to the humor. She did, however, know about my Light Blue by Dolce Gabbana because she commented on how much she likes it. Happy to report that my blood workup numbers are still good and I await the latest read on my C-125 blood test which was drawn yesterday. I had an appointment with my oncologist just after the infusion and we were at the center for a total of 2 ½ hours. Diane is nurturing and just plain nice. I feel lucky.

As you read this, our good friend/almost family member Philly is in the hospital in North Carolina recovering from emergency triple bypass surgery. Philly, whose Mom was once married to Kenny’s Dad until death did they part. Philly, my kindred spirit who ran two NYC Marathons with me. Sending hugs to Sue-Anne, prayers and get well wishes to Phil.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Our duck, not turkey, is ready…



November 28, 2017-              Who Knows Where the Time Goes?

To my dear weekly readers,

Across the morning sky, all the birds are leaving

How can they know it’s time for them to go?

Before the winter fire, I will still be dreaming

I have no thought of time

For who knows where the time goes?

Who knows where the time goes?…

But I will still be here, I have no thought of leaving

I do not count the time.


I recalled these lyrics (written by Fairport Convention’s late Sandy Denny and sung like a songbird by Judy Collins) under a clear, birdless Wednesday morning sky. That would be yesterday at the Syosset High School track. It was an unseasonably mild day and I ran three miles as I listened to The Beatles, the Stones, Santana and the Moodys on my good ol’ iPod. With the wind resistance, it was more like 3 ½ but who’s counting? I picked off the laps the way I used to pick off the miles in a marathon. As I rounded the section of the track closest to the school building, I could smell the vegetable soup followed by Tiny Taters being prepared for lunch. It reminded me of my junior high school which had a full kitchen setup in the cafeteria. But what did I get every day? A tuna hero followed by a Scooter Pie for dessert. The sandwich cost 43 cents circa 1964. That was my routine except when my mother packed a salami sandwich with mustard from the Turnpike Delicatessen. It never made it to lunch, as I picked little pieces of it hidden in my desk in English class. If you see mustard stains in Kidnapped or Silas Marner, they’re mine.

Let’s backtrack a few days: On Friday we had a post-Thanksgiving celebration with our besties, the Laxmans. We ate, drank, laughed and played with the twins and Baby Jamie. Diane and Glenn, ever the hosts, put together another great day.

On Saturday Kenny and I saw the fabulous new black comedy, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” You could mistake it for a Coen brothers’ film with the opera in the background and the violence at the fore. And it stars Frances McDormand, whom I see as an Oscar contender, along with Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell. See it and I’d love to hear what you think of it.

I visited my Mom on Monday and there’s nothing new to say (and she hasn’t been saying much either.) We are just grateful for her wonderful home care.

On Tuesday I felt like the retiree that I am. It was a day for me to take care of biz: four miles on the dreadmill, a dishwasher repairman, important phone calls, a manicure, a visit to the dermatologist and a chance to finish Jennifer Egan’s latest novel, Manhattan Beach for the book club that meets this Friday. Not very exciting, but you need productive days like this.

You already know I ran at the track on Wednesday morning, but the golf course was beckoning on this gorgeous day, so I met Joan in the late afternoon to play 9 holes. This way I could tell her in person that my “hair” color was once again complimented, this time by the receptionist at my dermatologist’s office. (Joan will cut my hair when I have enough to style.) The highlight (no pun intended) is that our round was on the house! The young man at the registration desk said, “The computer’s down, so I can’t take your money. Enjoy your round.” We’ll take it – especially since we had to play fast to finish before sundown.

This morning at my Thursday tennis game, Sylvia showed up with a face mask, a pair of gloves and some Purell so I wouldn’t contract her cold. I already wear golf gloves on both hands so any germs on the tennis balls wouldn’t have been a problem, but it was very cute and very considerate of her. Feel better, Sylvia.

I’m glad I’m a note-taker so I could write this because it’s been difficult to concentrate with so many unsavory distractions from the White House on down. And now NBC-gate (you heard it here first) and a head on clash of two bullying so-called world “leaders” just furthers the disintegration of civility.

I wish you a happy, healthy and peaceful week. We will be celebrating our 44th wedding anniversary this Saturday. Who knows where the time goes?



December 7, 2017-   Sprinting Towards the Final Stretch

So on our anniversary, I come downstairs and Kenny’s at the kitchen table crying. I ask, “What’s the matter, honey?” to which he replies, “If I had killed you when I had the chance, I would’ve been out by now.”

He’s been telling this joke since time immemorial – and I still think it’s funny. That is why we are still happily married.

We did celebrate our 44th on Saturday night at Avra, our favorite Greek restaurant in the city. (Actually Estiatorio Milos is THE best, but at upwards of $200 per person, it wasn’t happening this year.) Diane and Glenn joined us for a delightful dinner followed by a walk to see “the tree” at Rockefeller Center. The sheer size of it was breathtaking as usual and it was hilarious to watch people trying to ice skate. Maybe one in sixty knew what they were doing.

But the highlight was across the street at Saks. Every ten minutes like clockwork, there is an LED light show with lights in every color dancing across the entire building and accompanied by Christmas music. It was a WOW! WOW!

All’s Not Well That Ends Well

At the end of the evening we made our way back to our cars. Glenn was lucky enough to have nabbed a spot on the street, but we had to park in a garage near the restaurant. As we entered the garage, the same attendant who had checked us in said, “Sir, I have some bad news.”

Mild-mannered Kenny: What the &^%$ are you talking about?”

Sal: The lift where we stack the cars fell on yours and the hood is damaged. But the owner says he’ll pay for the repairs.

Kenny: How can that happen?!

Sal: It happens all the time. But we’ll take care of it. We got a great body shop in Long Island City.

Once Kenny corrected him and it was understood that it will be repaired closer to our home and that a loaner will be provided, he felt a little relieved. Me? Hey, it was our anniversary and this was merely a little fly in the ointment, but in the scheme of things, it is minor. It will be repaired.

The next day Kenny called Glenn to say, “Hey, you aren’t the only one who got free parking last night.” (The garage didn’t have the heart to charge us.)

This scenario reminds me of what happened to my sister-in-law Susan a few years ago. Emily told me that Susan was out to lunch with a big Broadway producer and found a piece of glass in her sandwich. When the waiter was told, he slapped his palm to his forehead and exclaimed, “Not again!”

Met With Sande

Yes, I met with Sande on Tuesday and we went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Michelangelo was calling to us, but so was Auguste Rodin. We marveled over his bronzes and then Michelangelo’s marbles! How fortunate we are to have these masterpieces in New York.

“In the room women come and go

Talking of Michelangelo.”

That’s one of the famous lines from Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” that has stayed with me forever and finally I got to see it in action.

The Michelangelo exhibit is a once in a lifetime collection of 300 of his drawings which, in effect, are really blueprints for the sculptures he was commissioned to chisel. I was impressed with the fact that this exhibit can run for only three months with no extensions because the drawings can take just so much light before being overexposed. We spent four hours on our feet just soaking up the art and the background information. When we first arrived, and saw the breadth of the exhibit, I said, “Maybe we shouldn’t read every single description as we usually do, but that didn’t happen. We’re both too curious. When we realized it was already 4 p.m., I was thinking, “Are we there yet?” No, so we opted to skip the last three rooms of Michelangelo, but we’ll be baaack.

Double Dripping Treatment

Remember last year’s “In walked the doctor/In walked the nurse/In walked the lady with the alligator purse?” Well today, we had visit from Diane, the R.N. in charge of the clinical study I participated in prior to my recurrence in July. (Remember that pedometer- the one that I accidentally took into the hot tub with me?) Diane is really nice and caring, but her ulterior motive was to have me fill out a bubble sheet to report on how I have been feeling in the past month. Super, thank God. End of story. Next: A social worker. Ditto, but I did say to her, “Would you prefer if I said all was doom and gloom and I need counseling?” Thankfully she laughed and said that most of the chemo patients don’t need counseling and they are in good spirits. (Hmm, is it something in the drip?)

With two or possibly three more treatments remaining, the final stretch of this round of chemotherapy is in sight. I will know more in two weeks when I see my doctor.

This week my dear friend Eileen kept me company. I even lucked out with a private room as opposed to the routine cubicle. Talking non-stop was a great distraction from the business at hand (and arm.) Eileen and I taught together from 1990 until I retired in ’05 (and you know how teachers can talk!) I know Eileen’s large, beautiful family and it is her husband Paul and son, Noah, who are our contractors. They have deftly modernized our home over the years. The time flew and we were out by 1 p.m., went to Messina Market and ordered crepes for lunch. Let’s put it this way: Paris, it’s not. That silver “Strength” bangle that has adorned my right wrist for over a year is from Eileen. Thank you, Eileen for making the big trip back and forth yesterday. Much appreciated.

With the weather turning colder, indoor tennis continues to be one of the highlights of my week. I played this morning in my Thursday game which acts as a warmup for Friday’s doubles league match. Andee has been a sure shot stand-in for my still-injured regular partner, Marie E. We had a very good match last Friday and won 6-2, 6-1 against a very decent team. Afterwards my book club #1 met for lunch at a Greek restaurant to discuss Jennifer Egan’s Manhattan Beach. I didn’t think of it until much later, but it would’ve been fitting to find a restaurant in Manhattan Beach itself or in nearby Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn.

Pearl Harbor 1941: American flags should be flown at half-staff today to memorialize the 2400 who died in the surprise attack 76 years ago. Kenny and I made the mistake of not visiting the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor on our 1995 trip to Hawaii. We didn’t know you needed a reservation. It would have been so convenient to see the memorial since Oahu was the hub for the four flights we took on puddle jumpers to other Hawaiian islands. Oh well. We hope to see it on a subsequent trip. In the meantime, this afternoon I came home and watched a documentary, “Tora, Tora, Tora – The Real Story of Pearl Harbor” as my personal remembrance of “a date which will live in infamy.”

Wishing a very happy Chanukah to all who celebrate.



December 14, 2017-       Keeping the Faith, Baby

To my dear weekly readers,

Another dizzying week has passed. For some reason, “Sweet Home Alabama” suddenly appeals to me – just when I was really losing faith. I was also heartened to hear that “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” received a half dozen Golden Globe nominations yesterday. Politics and the arts are dominating the headlines.

No infusions scheduled for this week, and I wasn’t needed to sub in the high school yesterday, so I played some tennis in the morning. I have an important appointment next Wednesday with my oncologist, to be followed by a single (piece o’cake) infusion. The doc will most likely schedule my next CT scan which will be all-telling (not a piece o’ cake). Please keep your fingers crossed for me. Quoting from Peter Pan: “All the world is made of faith, and trust, and pixie dust.” A little magical pixie dust can’t hurt.

Last Friday’s doubles match was a great workout with exceptionally long rallies. If I were to get winded, this would have been the match, but thankfully that wasn’t the case at all. I think my little bottle of Gatorade at the changeovers works wonders.

Kenny and I were so relieved that the first “snow” of the season turned out to be pretty much of a non-event (meaning no snow blower necessary and no back breaking shoveling session.) With party season ramping up, we decided to spend this weekend quietly at home, making believe that we were snowed in. I had seen the award-winning film “Lion” last year, but Kenny hadn’t, so I watched it with him and was moved to tears once again. Man, that kid went through so much – and in such abject poverty!! The recurring theme of impoverishment informs Trevor Noah’s memoir, Born a Crime, which we discussed on Monday afternoon at Book Club # 2. When his mother mixed red clay from the earth into river water to create a milky substance to fill herself up, you can’t get poorer than that. We all agreed that he needs write a sequel to describe how he immigrated to the U.S. and landed his own late night show in New York City!

Lynn B. graciously hosted the book group with a holiday flair. Her home, all dressed up for Christmas, is decorated beautifully. The hors d’oeuvres, elegant and delectable, were washed down with red or white wines. Next up: a field trip to see Trevor Noah taping “The Daily Show.” Oh, if we only could get tickets…I volunteered to try to get them.

This cocktail party/book discussion was held after I spent the day subbing at Oyster Bay HS (my maiden voyage for this school year.) This, like Richmond Hill High School was in its heyday, is a school that time forgot. I’m not kidding; it feels as if it could be 1955 – and it’s still only four minutes away from my driveway!

Just in case I forget I’m wearing a wig, there’s always something there to remind me. No sooner had I walked into the Teachers’ Lounge than a teacher who remembered me from last year exclaimed, “Your hair looks great.” Ditto from the clerk at our pharmacy. She added that it brings out the color in my face. Thank you one and all. But by far the biggest conversation piece has been my silver Issey Miyake handbag.  Don’t ask! It’s been the center of attention ever since I got it. And the kids in school commented on it as well. It’s liable to upstage my “hair.”

On Tuesday Emily cut her workday short and met me at our Mom’s apartment so we could celebrate the first night of Chanukah together. I arrived earlier (the happy retiree that I am) and Mom and I were watching “Hairspray” starring John Travolta as Edna Turnblad (Oy!) and joined by an all-star cast. She was glued to the TV, mesmerized by the singing and dancing. Afterwards we went into the dining room to light the candles and have some latkes. It was great even though my Mom tried to dip an unlit candle into the applesauce. Since Em and I were there at the same time, we got some bookkeeping done as Mom, a bona fide former bookkeeper, looked on.

Book Club # 1’s Field Trip

Due to the early morning snow, my tennis game was cancelled, but at least I played yesterday and plan to play tomorrow. I had to resort to running on the dreadmill this morning, which is what I’ve been doing on most non-tennis days. Later today, four of us are going into the city to celebrate Rosalie’s big birthday. Unfortunately Barbara G. is under the weather and had to decline. We’ll miss her. First we’re having dinner at Pappardella on Columbus and then going to the New York Historical Society to hear author Elizabeth Strout speak. Elizabeth Strout is probably best known for her short story collection, “Olive Kitteridge.” Our book group had a lively discussion following the reading of My Name is Lucy Barton and I recommended it to Book Club # 2 who also read it. Anything is Possible, her latest novel, was not so memorable for me. So tonight anything is possible. The program is titled, “Elizabeth Strout- Portraits of America.” I can’t wait.

This week I send out prayers for our friends in California who are making all out efforts to stay safe and out of harm’s way from L.A. up to Santa Barbara.



December 21, 2017-              Sunrise to Sunset

Morning has broken, like the first morning

Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird

 Praise for the singing, praise for the morning

 Praise for them springing fresh from the word…

Cat Stevens (when he was still Cat Stevens)

I was marveling over the lilac skies as the sun rose this morning (yes, I am up and out at 7:15 for my Thursday tennis game) welcoming a glorious new day. But I couldn’t help but imagine a far different reaction to the same in California as they wonder if what they are seeing is a sunrise or more dreaded fire encroaching on their neighborhoods. Hard to imagine…

Let’s change gears. Another Laxman Christmas party has come and gone. Diane and Glenn decorated their house inside and out so that it is a virtual Christmas wonderland, replete with LED comets to mechanized deer in the backyard, The 11 foot tree was resplendent with the most gorgeous collection of ornaments you’d ever want to see. There’s even a sprinkling of ornaments from Diane’s childhood and every year our friends traditionally add to the collection. She even has a few glass bubbling lights from the 1950s. I remember my local Chinese restaurant in Kew Gardens had those very same ones in the window for Christmas.

We kicked off the party on Saturday night with tequila shots, but compared to Christmases past, it was relatively sedate. Diane and Glenn’s kids, Keith and Paula, Corinne and Lail and their legion of friends were missing this year. So it was a grown up party if you can call us grownups.

How did I spend 40 minutes of my Sunday afternoon? Waiting on the queue at the Apple store. I finally agreed to upgrade my dinosaurish iPhone 4S. But not on a Sunday just before Christmas! Kenny was with me and they told us it would be a 35 minute wait, but the line hadn’t moved an inch after 40, so we left. While I was waiting, I witnessed a man forking over $900 for two Apple watches for his daughters. It’s a technological zoo and I felt like a flip phone out of water. There’s always January.

On Monday I visited my Mom. Nothing new to report. We went out to lunch with her lifelong friend Shirley. To make some conversation, I told my mother that I had a bad cold and asked her what she thought I should order. Matter-of-factly she answered, “Chicken noodle soup.” Done. We both had that.

On Tuesday I subbed at Oyster Bay High School – this time Chemistry and Earth Science. Complete lessons were left for me by the absent teachers. Once again, the kids were very well-behaved except for a couple of clowns who put on latex gloves and offered to do a gynecological exam on anyone who wanted it. They did this surreptitiously, thinking I didn’t see it. On a free period in the Teachers’ Lounge, I received another compliment on that silver handbag I’ve been carrying. So I wrote a little ditty with a nod to Robert Frost:

Ode to the Handbag

Whose bag this is, I think I know

It’s a copy from Issey Miyake though…

The bag is lovely, silver and deep

But I have promises to keep

And miles to wear it before I sleep

And miles to take it before I sleep.


I was planning on going it alone to my treatment on Wednesday. My appointment with the oncologist was scheduled for 12:30 to be followed up with a short infusion of Avastin. No Benadryl to cause drowsiness with this treatment, so I figured I wouldn’t bother anyone and I’d drive over myself. But a few days earlier my good friend Barbara Gray called:

“Who’s going with you this Wednesday because I’m not teaching this week and it’s the first Wednesday I’m available to go with you.” How can I argue with that? You’re never alone/you’re never disconnected. Barbara and I go back to the Richmond Hill HS days when we were colleagues. We’ve been friendly for 35 years, but have grown closer since we’ve retired. She’s also in my longstanding book club. I was there for a total of two hours and as it turns out, her company was very much appreciated.

Barbara was impressed that everyone seemed to know me. Spend a year and half of your life going to the same cancer center week in and week out and yes, everybody knows your name.

The doctor was pleased with my progress. She said the numbers are good – blood workups, blood pressure and the C-125 marker remains at sweet 16. “That’s your number,” according to the doctor. This treatment marks the end of a cycle and the doctor ordered my CT scan. We set it up for next Friday. She says she’s not expecting any surprises. Start praying, guys. Seriously, I am forever grateful to you for that. I have another double infusion treatment scheduled for January 3, but the doctor says if anything, it will be a single infusion of Avastin again – to be determined and discussed after the scan. I also got the go ahead to color my hair when I am ready.

I took a good look at my stark, white locks today. Remember Silas the albino from The da Vinci Code? I could play his sister. Since I prefer not to look like an albino, Joan and I will research some color, again, when I’m ready. But I’ll sure miss all those compliments on my wigs. It’s like the Stockholm Syndrome.

Early morning tennis this morning was on clay. Normally we wince to think of what we call “Mudville” for the often soggy conditions, but today we were pleasantly surprised to have freshly groomed courts. We were the first to play on them and they were smooth as a baby’s backside.

I was invited to lunch with the women in my singles league even though I haven’t played in it in a year and a half. But I’ll be baaaack, hopefully in January if all goes according to plan. We met at B.K. Sweeney’s in Bethpage, not far from our tennis center and I had the best turkey burger I’ve had in a long time (God knows what they put in it.) There were ten of us and it was a really nice holiday get together.

That’s the end of this week’s activities. We’re now gearing up for a festive Christmas weekend at Diane and Glenn’s. The whole immediate family will be there. Kenny and I are honorary family members. As Flounder exclaimed at the frat party in Animal House, “Oh boy, is this GREAT!” A very merry Christmas to one and all and remember: Good friends are like stars. You don’t always see them but you know they are always there.



December 28, 2017-     December’s Children

Andee and I played what could be our last Friday match as partners since Marie E. is scheduled to make her comeback (as is Serena Williams) in January. The difference is Marie didn’t have a baby, but rather a nagging injury. I fully enjoyed my run with Andee, but I would hate to play against her. Last Friday we started out at 3-0, became a bit complacent and it was suddenly tied at 3-3 until we settled down to win 6-3, 5-1 when we ran out of time. We’re two Type A’s but we made it work. Thank you Andee, for sitting in.

Who Let the Dog Out?

We began our Christmas visit by letting ourselves into Diane and Glenn’s house and finding only the two dogs at home. It was late afternoon and the family was at a Christmas Eve cocktail party next door, which is up the hill about a quarter of a mile away. We carelessly left the door open while unpacking our car, and Homer, seeing the opportunity, just took off – unbeknownst to us. The other dog, a little black Chihuahua named Zara, was still in the house just barking her head off. Suddenly Kenny said, “Where’s Homer?” He belongs to Diane and Glenn’s daughter Corinne and son-in-law Lail, Pangs of horror and guilt consumed us. How the hell would we explain losing their dog?!

“Ho-mer! Ho-mer!” we called out, but to no avail. A few minutes later we heard voices which materialized into Lail, Keith and Paula. Homer was frolicking happily by their side. His acute sense of smell led him up the hill to find his family. Whew, is all I can say. Paula was frantic that her little Zara had gotten out, but the pup was safe and sound, still barking her head off in the house.

‘Twas the Night Before

And what a night it was. Once our friends returned from next door, the festivities began…and didn’t end till we left the next day. Cocktails, vino and a fabulous beef tenderloin for 8 was served with all the fixin’s. Everyone was in good cheer as we played a party game that Paula and Keith brought called “What Do You Meme?” Look up “meme” if you don’t know what it means. Players compete to create the funniest meme by pairing caption cards with the photo card in play. A rotating judge picks the best combination for each round. It was kind of silly, but you had to be there.

Christmas Eve would not be complete without Glenn’s reading of “The Night Before Christmas” to a captive audience which included Kayla and Sasha, the 3 ½ year old twins. The eleven foot Christmas tree, the roaring fire – it was all there. I should mention that Glenn, a jack-of-all-religions, is equally adept at conducting a Seder in Hebrew. And to all a good night.

White Christmas Day

8 a.m.: Gift-giving in PJ’s and red clown noses that lit up, followed by a scrumptious breakfast of Eggs Benedict, slow-cooked egg and peppers casserole, bagels, lox and whitefish salad.

“Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents, grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.” This opening line of Little Women is describing the sentiments of the dreadfully poor March sisters. Fortunately, that certainly wasn’t the case at our friends’ house for Christmas – where love, good will and gift-giving abounded. We only wanted to know who got the coveted cardboard contract for those Amazon boxes! I asked it as a rhetorical question, but Kenny later surmised it’s either Rock-Tenn (RKT), Sonoco Products (SON), Packaging Corp (PKG) or International Paper (IP). There you have it: everything you ever wanted to know about cardboard but couldn’t care less to ask.

You rarely if ever hear me tout the joys of parenthood or grandparenthood, but this day was an exception to the rule. Sasha and Kayla dominated the day, along with baby Jamie who’s barely six months old, but surely taking mental notes. Everyone’s patiently awaiting her first words in the coming months. Because the twins are so adorable and engaging, you just turn to mush and play along. As a non-stop activity person myself, their day tired me out.

After breakfast everyone donned their ugly Christmas sweaters which Paula had suggested (rather required) we get for the occasion. Next up was a short tap dance recital by Kayla and Sasha. We had to give them imaginary tickets for admission and it took them longer to get into costume than the entire five minute show. This was short attention spans in action. With the help of Corinne and Lail, an ice cream cart was assembled and the girls then went about “selling” us ice cream cones and cupcakes. It was hilarious to watch them swiping a little toy credit card. After this, everyone bundled up and went outside to play in the snow, sleigh ride, snowboard and build a snowman. When they came in, the twins had cups of hot chocolate and we had either egg nog, wine or Bailey’s Irish Cream on the rocks. Diane put together some hot and cold appetizers and the girls tried on their new skates (Babies’ first roller skates). As if this weren’t enough activity, they then sat at the table with Uncle Keith and the three of them decorated gingerbread houses.

By the time they were finished, Diane and Glenn were ready to serve an Alaskan King Crab Christmas dinner. English Christmas Crackers (a brightly wrapped cardboard tube, which when pulled apart, makes a snapping sound and you find prizes inside) and a scratch off lottery ticket were on each plate. Nice touch. Kenny and I left shortly after dinner just as the girls were going in for their baths. Traffic was light so it was a really merry Christmas day. And the next day when I drove into the city to see my mother, I zipped right in. There was more traffic in the Bed, Bath and Beyond on First Avenue than on the roads.

This morning’s tennis game was so totally competitive that we only had time to play one set including a tie-break in 90 minutes! Afterwards we went out to breakfast at a local bagel shop and schmoozed for over an hour. I guess we had plenty to say since you really can’t talk during tennis. It was a great way to end our Thursday games for 2017.

I got another silver handbag compliment in my travels this morning: “I like that bag. Is it expensive?” This time from Kenny’s tailor Eduardo when I went to pick up his coat. Is it expensive? Yes and no. The real one is.

And tomorrow brings my CT scan, the type of test I can’t study for but the radiologist will do the studying after the fact – probably not until Tuesday because of New Year’s. Speaking of which, Happy New Year to you and your nearest and dearest. And a special shout out to my phalanx of angels who have been by my side, lending me support either in person or from a distance. Until next year…



January 4, 2018                   A Good Outcome

Happy snowy New Year to all of my dear weekly readers! I don’t mean to sound like Captain Obvious, but my tennis games had to be cancelled for today as was Kenny’s day at the office, so we’re enjoying a cozy day at home, that is, until the snow stops and we have to go out to shovel and plow at least a foot of snow. I was disappointed about tennis since I was set to rejoin my singles league this morning.

As many of you already know, I had my CT scan of the abdomen and pelvis last Friday morning and miraculously, I received the results the same day – in time to really enjoy celebrating the New Year! The scan was CLEAR which gives me another new lease on life – not that I ever stopped living for a second. Live every day… It’s also those prayers: Apparently everyone in my corner is doing something right. The tears of joy have dried and now we move on.

I will share with you what I’m calling “Waiting Room Blues” of last Friday morning from 8:15 to 9:15. Those who know me know that I absolutely always carry something to read when I have to wait for something – even on the deli line at the supermarket. Well, I brought along two sections of the Times last Friday, but I finished reading the newspapers too quickly. OMG! What was I to do without some reading material? Like a drug addict, I started to go into withdrawal. Seriously. The Imaging Center is located in the same building where I get my treatments and I remembered they sell newspapers at the café. So I alerted the woman with the clipboard that I was going to find something to read and would be right back. I scurried over to the café only to find copies of the New York Post for sale. No thank you. Think fast, Mel. I then remembered the array of magazines in the treatment area so I practically ran over there (you avoid running in a hospital setting or they might think there’s an emergency), said hi to my favorite greeter, Ryan, and asked if I might borrow a Time magazine. I was back in the waiting room within five minutes and the clipboard lady noticed. I started flipping through the magazine and she called me a few minutes later.

The procedure went smoothly; I even had my favorite Imaging Center R.N. who hooked up the IV since I was having a scan with contrast. The entire staff couldn’t have been nicer – even the tech who removed the IV at the end.

“Good Outcomes”

This was the phrase that my oncologist used on the day she first explained to us the chemotherapy regimen. That was in September 2016. It is now January 2018 and I’m still hearing and counting on those two precious words.

The next step is a maintenance program of sorts. Hopefully it will be a short regimen and so far we’ve only scheduled three sessions over the next ten weeks. So here’s the program: I will have three 20 min. Avastin infusions three weeks apart. The first one will be on January 10. Three weeks later, the second, with a doctor’s appointment on that day as well. Three weeks later, another infusion and doctor’s appointment. (All of the appointments are in the afternoon so I can still play tennis on those mornings if I have a game.) Another scan will be scheduled and then que sera, sera, what will be will be. Travel plans are in the works already.

On Saturday, my brother-in-law Andy, our three nephews and Andy’s 7 year old grandson visited us. Kenny and I cooked up a storm (five guys can really pack it in) and we had a great afternoon and evening with them. Andy hadn’t yet heard the results of the scan, but the gift he gave us was particularly a propos: a bottle of Perrier-Jouet Champagne with two matching flutes to be opened on New Year’s Eve.

Low key was in order for us again this year. We decided to forego the party at Sara and Bob’s and to spend it with our dear friend Michele who wasn’t in the mood for a party scene this year. Understandable. The tragic loss of Paul is still with all of us. Last New Year’s, Diane and Glenn did the same for us. I felt I didn’t want to expose my compromised immune system to the possibility of germs at the party, so they came to us for New Year’s. These are small sacrifices with bigger payoffs and this is just what good friends do for one another.

After a late breakfast, Michele left us and we watched the Vienna Philharmonic which performs the Strauss family waltzes annually. Kenny loves this and we always watch it on New Year’s Day.

I thoroughly enjoyed my afternoon with Sande yesterday as we went to Kew Gardens to see Guillermo Del Toro’s film, “The Shape of Water” in lieu of a Wednesday infusion at the Monter Center! I always love going back to the charming neighborhood of Kew Gardens where I grew up and I made sure to stop at Dani’s to pick up my favorite baked eggplant parmesan to take home for dinner.

With NBC’s naming of Hoda Kotb as co-anchor with Samantha Guthrie, a first for “Today,” and the women at the Golden Globes set to make a bold statement on Sunday night, it’s time for good, qualified women to take over the world, dontcha think? Happy New Year to all.



January 11, 2018-                                          Just Friends

Open the door and come on in

I’m so glad to see you my friend

You’re like a rainbow comin’ around the bend.

~Judy Collins~

There’s so much to write about this week, I don’t know where to begin (Brace yourselves; this could be a long one). I just got the results of yesterday’s bloodwork and now my CA-125 (the ovarian cancer marker) went down to 13! Sixteen was a great number, but 13 is even better. So much for even thinking about being triskaidekaphobic. Thirteen is my new BF. I can go back to drinking green tea, eating medium rare meat and my ultimate fave, sashimi and sushi. Tonight book club #1 meets at a restaurant and I plan to order a medium rare cheeseburger. I don’t make a habit of hamburgers, but I can’t wait for this one.

My chemo regimen ended three weeks ago and now, as I explained last week, I’m on what I hope is a short maintenance program. I had a 30 minute Avastin infusion yesterday and two more are scheduled, the last one being on February 21. I guess I am destined to not go it alone. I was all set to just go for this relatively short appointment by myself when my friend Ilka insisted, “I’ll meet you. Why be there alone?” As it turned out, the whole affair lasted an hour and a half and Ilka’s presence by my side was a great diversion.

Ever since I began chemotherapy in 2016, I made it a rule not to drink alcohol the night before and the day after a treatment, but last night I broke my self-imposed rule by having a glass of wine with dinner (and a Prosecco toast to a friend who is moving away.) It was worth every sip and my doctor would agree. In fact, she asked me why I even made up this rule! Our toast was “To moving on!” in more ways than one. When you find good people who can also play tennis, what could be bad? Game, set, there is no match for tennis friends.

 Gee, but it’s great to be back home

Home is where I want to be…

~ Simon and Garfunkel ~

I finally got to rejoin my Thursday singles tennis league. First I played my regular doubles game for an hour and a half. I used to call this my “warmup game” but until this morning, it was my only game on Thursdays for a year and a half. Today I played for a total of three hours.  I didn’t play my best tennis in doubles, but managed to have a narrow win by one game in singles.

At one of the changeovers I happened to glance over at another court where one of the pros was teaching a group of what seemed to be late 20s, early 30s women. Their kids were probably in school and so the moms can play. They were beginners and I commented to my partner that if they stick with it, they will look like our league in 30 years. The next tennis generation…

The Week in a Capsule

Last Friday: Sharon C. and I took Paula out for a birthday lunch. We had some delicious Greek fare. Since golf season doesn’t exist right now, we toyed with the idea of “trying” pickle ball one day. This would be in lieu of golf if we like it. Personally, I have my doubts, but we’ll give it a try.

Saturday began our weekend movie blitz as we geared up for the Golden Globes. Sunday morning brought an impromptu treat. We had breakfast with Diane and Glenn, Corinne, Lail and their three girls. Glenn’s sister and brother–in-law also joined us. They were on Long Island for a Saturday bar mitzvah and met us at a local diner on Sunday on their way home. Kenny and I sat directly across from Kayla and Sasha so we could interact with them.

Over the weekend we saw “The Post,” “The Darkest Hour” and “Ladybird.” “Phantom Thread” with Daniel Day-Lewis is on tap for this weekend. The Golden Globes did not disappoint. I was thrilled to see Frances McDormand win Best Actress in a Drama for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” In her speech she credited those who may be old-fashioned but still patronize brick and mortar movie theaters. But even more importantly, she referred to the “tectonic shift” in thinking and conversation within the industry’s power structure with regard to the treatment of women.

Once Kenny and I saw the performance Gary Oldman turned in as Winston Churchill in “The Darkest Hour,” we were hoping to see him win for Best Actor and he did. Bravo! But Oprah Winfrey’s acceptance speech for the Cecil B. DeMille Award for Lifetime Achievement was the big news of the night. She deserved the award, but Oprah for President? Granted, she is smart, compassionate, generous, spirited and outspoken. She even has great leadership qualities, but that doesn’t necessarily mean she is presidential material – yet. I do not mean this as an insult, but successful experience in the political arena should be a prerequisite.

If all goes according to plan, Marie E., my regular doubles partner, is gearing up to make her comeback in January after a long, drawn out tennis/golf elbow injury. She picked up a racquet for the first time in months and we hit for a half hour this week. She said it felt “weird at first but great.”

From Christmas till this past Tuesday’s thaw, we’ve had temperatures hovering in the teens or in the single digits, but with the warm presence of friends in each of my day’s activities, who even noticed the cold? Not I. I keep thinking of what Joan wrote to me just before my last CT scan: “May the angels continue their journey with you.” It’s still January, so I can safely wish all of you a happy, healthy and prosperous year. And it’s so comforting to have you in my corner.



January 18, 2018-                  Good Vibes All Around

This inspired quotation is dedicated to you, my weekly readers:

“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”

~Marcel Proust~

Last Friday afternoon I was talking long distance to my friend Zoe from California when at 4:33 I asked her if I could call her back in five. I had to stop talking to light the Shabbos candles. No problem, it was then that she told me I am in her daily affirmations. Another corner of good vibes. I am grateful for this. For the record, I did call her back and we “visited” for another hour thanks to the L.A. traffic which she is always in.

Wig-Washing Tennis

My doubles game earlier on Friday was so rigorous and I perspired so profusely that when I got home I had to wash my wig. That’s a sign of good tennis, but probably the humidity on the clay courts contributed to the heat. The competition was so-so, but obviously we had a good workout. However, I still prefer the hard courts.

The Australian Open began last weekend and in the first four hours of play, six American women were dispatched including Sloan Stephens, Venus Williams and Coco Vandeweghe. The men seem to be doing well with lots of close five-setters and very few upsets.

Martin Luther King Day

This past Monday Kenny decided to make a special breakfast in honor of MLK Day, “Martin” brei, a variation on matzoh brie a real treat in our house.

As trite as this could sound, I have been living each day as if it’s my last, with an eye on the future in case it’s not. I lifted that from Jane E. Brody’s piece in Tuesday’s “Science Times.” This is not intended to make people jealous, but there is joy in everything I do on a daily basis – even sitting in traffic once a week to and from my Mom’s in the city. Hey, it’s my Mom. On Tuesday I visited and since she used to be a tennis fan and happens to have the coveted Tennis Channel, we watched a little tennis. My visit with her was very quiet and with her dementia, it’s apparent that her cognitive faculties are deteriorating. However, thankfully she is very pleasant and agreeable to everything. She never, ever complains and is getting excellent care at home. I left her and her home care aide watching “Ellen.” Yup, Ellen DeGeneres who once said, “You have to stay in shape. My grandmother, she started walking five miles a day when she was 60. She’s 97 today and we don’t know where the hell she is.” My Mom is 96 and we do know where she is.

Yesterday was a theater day for me. One of the Broadway shows Emily worked on is “Once On This Island” and she invited me to join her and her staff for a matinee. This delightful show was first performed in 1991 at the Booth Theater and is now being revived in the round, replete with beach sand and pools of water at Circle in the Square. In fact, the original was Emily’s first music copying job on Broadway, so she has literally come full circle (in the square.) She has gone on to do the music copying for over 85 shows including the annual Tony Awards. She knows how proud of her I am.

I watched the show with mostly a big smile on my face, yet it had its tugging-at-the heartstrings moments. It was a great afternoon coming in from one island to another.

This morning I played a fairly competitive singles match. I figured out early on that my opponent’s strength is her backhand, so I hammered her forehand and did well.

Love to all of you “charming gardeners.”


January 25, 2018-                  What’s New Pussyhat?

To my dear weekly readers,

Out With the New, In With Old

I bid a fond farewell to Andee last Friday since my longtime doubles partner, Marie is slated to return tomorrow. We had an “interesting” match, beating our opponents 6-1 in the first set and winning the tiebreak in the second. We ended our season with a high five and a hug. A few of us went to lunch afterwards at the Bethpage Golf Course clubhouse. Maybe because it’s dead of winter and we were the only ones there, but the place, has lost its charm. Of course lunch with the group was, as always, a fun time.

January 20- One Year Anniversary of the First Women’s March

A year ago I had to steer myself away from crowds, so I was so pleased that I could participate this year. I hooked up with Joan and company and we took the railroad, which was filled with a sea of pink wool pussyhats and creative, meaningful placards. Once we hit Manhattan, it was more of the same everywhere you looked. The message was loud and clear: Power to the Polls. Amid chants of “This is what democracy looks like,” with approximately 120,000 marchers, I was thinking this is also what the Hajj to Mecca looks like – minus the deadly stampedes. Crowd control really was of paramount concern and we were funneled into a barricaded pen on Central Park West for about an hour until the floodgates opened. Due to the congestion, meeting up with Emily and Susan was out of the question. But the company was good and the causes cannot be ignored, so sign me up. Saturday’s mild temperature also cooperated. (What a difference a couple of days made!)

I finally upgraded from an antiquated iPhone 4S to a spiffier new model. I didn’t really feel the urgency, but it made my family members and some close friends happy. Now that I have it, I do appreciate the clearer, larger screen and it is faster than a speeding bullet. So what took me so long? About a year and a half ago, I could’ve used the upgrade, but call me crazy, and I don’t mean to shock you, but I wasn’t sure how long I was going to live. Well, I’m still here and thriving all the way. So don’t call me crazy; just call me.

Thankfully the televised Australian Open rages on so I can escape the mostly horrifying news feeds. School shootings, a short-lived government shutdown, monster doctors, a fake U. S. “president” – each story as it unfolds from day to day is mind-boggling. Turning from all of this, I was listening to Pam Shriver and Chris Evert announce the match between Angie Kerber and Su-Wei Hsieh the other night. Taiwanese Hsieh sports some very unconventional strokes and Chris sounded so elitist when she commented, “That’s a club shot” or “That’s a grandma shot.” Hey, this is us – the lowly league players of the world. Yesterday my friend Fran who I hadn’t seen in a long time, invited me to play tennis with her and her crew. It was lots of fun as were my doubles game and singles match this morning. I broke even in singles. Kudos to Libby’s impeccable placement of the ball.

This weekend we will celebrate Kenny’s birthday on Saturday night and we’re still planning our trip to someplace warm and beautiful. Enjoy your weekend.



February 1, 2018-                 Baby It’s Cold Inside

Just when I thought I could be clever and play with this 1944 Frank Loesser lyric to describe the frosty conditions inside the Bethpage tennis bubble last Friday, did I then realize there’s current and understandable controversy over this song. We were forewarned on Friday morning that the heat had shut-off in the bubble and to dress warmly. Okay, no problem. I was looking forward to having my partner Marie return – which she did, and we played a great match. But baby, it was cold inside! Here are some of the real lyrics of this famous duet and you tell me:

The neighbors might think (Baby it’s bad out there)

Say what’s in this drink? (No cabs to be had out there)

I wish I knew how (Your eyes are like starlight now)

To break this spell (I’ll take your hat, your hair looks swell) (Why thank you)

I ought to say no, no, no sir (Mind if move in closer?)

At least I’m gonna say that I tried (What’s the sense of hurtin’ my pride?)

I really can’t stay (Baby don’t hold out)

Baby it’s cold outside


Tsk, tsk, what a shameful world we are living in. But on a more positive note…

They Say It’s Your Birthday

We began Saturday morning with a tradition in our house. As soon as Kenny came downstairs for breakfast, I cranked up the CD and we danced to “Birthday” by the Beatles. It may sound hokey, but it’s been our thing ever since I can remember. We do it for each of our birthdays. Then, over breakfast, we watched an unbelievably competitive women’s Australian Open final. At 3-3 in the third set, it couldn’t have been more exciting to watch. After twelve years on the tour as a big-name tennis player, Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark won her first Grand Slam. Simona Halep’s day will have to come some other time.

Kenny received a few birthday phone calls, but the one that absolutely made his day was from 3 ½ year old twins Kayla and Sasha. “Where’s Kenny?” they chimed into the phone. They wished Kenny a happy birthday and simultaneously went on to inform us of their day’s upcoming agenda with Mommy and Daddy. It was very touching and brought a tear to our eyes. But the cacophony of it all cracked us up afterwards.

We had dinner that night at a great steak house with Kenny’s bro, Andy, and I was able to order a streak the way it should be eaten: medium as opposed to well done! (which had been dictated by my erstwhile chemotherapy regimen.) The personable wine steward at Rothmann’s helped make our festive evening even better.

I visited my Mom on Monday and was happy to see that even though she hasn’t been in the driver’s seat for several years now, she does get around the apartment with her walker on her own. I do the best I can to entertain her during my weekly visits, but Emily was there on Sunday and they were listening to music and playing maracas. Leave it to Emily- a true music maker.

On Tuesday we woke up to almost four inches of snow on the driveway. So much for the forecasters’ “light dusting.” Kenny’s severe bronchitis came just in time for him to stay home without having to think about digging out. Fortunately all of the snow melted by the afternoon, Out, out, damn snow!

I got called to sub in the Wednesday morning doubles league. With Ritta as my partner, we beat a potentially strong team. A good way to start the day. From tennis, I scurried over to the Monter Center to see my oncologist at noon. Never mind me, but my doctor loved my silver handbag. What’s with this bag?! My friend Paula told me Bloomies is selling the real ones for $1000.

The doctor’s appointment was followed by my short maintenance infusion and my friend Sara came down from Westchester to hang with me. By the time she finished showing me her son Evan’s wedding photos, we were outta there and went for a light bite at the local diner. Nothing fancy at 2:30 in the afternoon.

I took a bit of a licking but kept on ticking this morning in my Thursday tennis games. With Sylvia and Sharon out, we invited two superb players (Hi Stacey, Hi Linda S.) and I humbly admit I was outplayed in doubles. But I did manage to win my singles match that immediately followed. Hence, no wrist-slitting for me today.

It was 13 years ago today

I retired and began to play…

            This afternoon someone asked me how many years I’ve been retired from teaching and I realized today is the thirteenth anniversary. It was on February 1, 2005 and February 2nd was garbage pick-up day at our house. At the curb, I left two slightly eroded metal file cabinets which used to contain years of lesson plans. Teaching was great but retirement is even better.

Wishing everybody a great weekend, enjoy the Super Bowl if you watch it (I don’t) and to those of you who are in warmer climates, I’m jealous.



P.S. Kenny said, that after reading this,  there should be a vocabulary test.

February 8, 2018-                 There Is Nothin’ Like a Game

Nothin’ in this world

There is nothing you can name

that is anything like a game.

Dear Weekly Readers,

I am pleased to report that while my toxic chemotherapy may be receding, my hairline is certainly not. In fact, if I’m not vigilant, little white wisps are starting to peek out of the wig. When I’m out with Kenny, we have a secret signal (well, now it’s not so secret) where he whispers to me, “White.” At that point, I stealthily tuck the little suckers in. (Yes, the hair is Anderson Cooper white.)

Two dinner dates with friends filled up our weekend social calendar. I finished my book club selection while Kenny watched the Super Bowl on Sunday night.

Monday was wall-to-wall activities. First I drove in to see my Mom. She was still asleep when I arrived at 11:45 a.m. Her aide, Arlene explained, “She was up late last night watching the game to the end.” The game? Football? In my lifetime, my Mom never set eyes on a football game. In fact, in her adult life, she was pretty much asportual (think asexual). She was, in her youth, a dancer along with her twin sister Charlotte, so maybe she enjoyed the Super Bowl commercial with Eli Manning hoisting Odell Beckham, Jr. a la “Dirty Dancing.” It was pure entertainment, choreographed, incidentally, by Stephanie Klemons of “Hamilton” fame.

I left the city and beat rush hour traffic so I could get to my Oyster Bay book club meeting at Ritta’s by four. The book selection was The Throwaway Children by Diney Costeloe (Diney who?) I’m a bit of a snob and when I saw that the book hadn’t been reviewed anywhere of note, I was hesitant to read it. BUT, I’m glad I did and so were the other members of the group. I never would have even known about the book if it weren’t for Lynn who had suggested it at our last meeting and I could hug her for it. It engaged me from the start and I couldn’t wait to see what would become of the two little sisters who were placed in an orphanage in post WWII Britain.

It was Lynn’s birthday so afterwards we went to dinner at Canterbury’s to celebrate. With a bottle of white and a bottle of red on the table, we had a grand ole time. Platters of good food, more book talk and lots of laughs. I’m so glad I’ve been welcomed into this genuinely nice group of women (all tennis players, might I add).

On Tuesday Sande and I literally caught the tail end of the Michelangelo drawings at the Met before the show closes. We had been there exactly two months ago, but it’s just such a comprehensive exhibit and after over three hours, there still wasn’t enough time to see the last three rooms of drawings. So on Tuesday we whisked through the entire exhibit until we got to where we had left off. This time we marveled at Michelangelo’s collaborations. The master’s drawings, some very detailed and some not, were realized by other painters who brought them to life in oils. It was all so impressive and hard to believe how these chalk and ink drawings survived, intact, through the centuries.

We also made it a point to visit the David Hockney exhibit. Truthfully, the only familiarity I had with Hockney are his famous Los Angeles swimming pool paintings. Although he’s a classically trained artist (Royal College of Art in England), he had me fooled as I strolled through the first two rooms of the exhibition. Are we having fun yet? I was hoping this wasn’t going to be like a Jackson Pollock or Mark Rothko show of what I call questionable “art.” But suddenly as we entered the third gallery, new vistas unfurled. His work morphed into some very beautiful and brilliantly colored works of art. From that point on, I thoroughly enjoyed everything I saw, from his Matisse-like color patterns to the photo collages he did using a Polaroid SX-70 back in the 80s. I couldn’t help but think of our late photographer friend Paul Fenster who used precisely the same camera when it was cutting edge back in the day. At age 80, David Hockney remains prolific, still painting and making some stunning animated creations on an iPad – which were displayed on three separate screens at the end of the exhibition.

Yesterday morning I was asked to sub in a doubles league game. My partner and I managed a narrow win but we’re certain we would have done better had we not had some baseline confusion. (I know, what were we both doing at the baseline? That’s another story for another day.) No matter what, I was amongst friends and hey, it’s tennis.

This morning’s tennis was quite the workout. I played my Thursday doubles game which was fantastic – great rallies – followed by an extremely challenging singles league match. It was a neck and neck battle in the first set, but I prevailed in the second, winning the match. I love doubles for the camaraderie, strategy and skill, but there’s nothing like a singles game. Nothing in the world.

Enjoy the Olympic opening ceremonies. Wouldn’t you rather see a parade of athletes entering the stadium in South Korea rather than a parade of martial pageantry down Pennsylvania Avenue?



February 15, 2018-               Carpe Diem  

“Thank you for being our sub.”

That’s music to any teacher’s ears. I was able to find two free days in a row (in the busy life of a retiree) so I began the week at Oyster Bay High School. It’s such a small school that I think I’ve met every kid in the building in just a few scattered days of subbing.

At the end of the 2nd period on Monday, as a parting shot, a kid says to me, “I look like a girl, but I’m really a boy.” (His name was Jamie.) She was probably pulling my leg, but it was my first encounter as a teacher with a gender ambiguous student and it turned my head around. (Truthfully, I still think she is all girl.)

Visiting my Mom yesterday wasn’t a totally silent affair this time. She borrowed my reading glasses to read the Valentine’s card I gave her which was signed, “All our love, Melinda and Kenny.” She then looked up and asked, “Where’s Kenny?” I told her he was working. With the card I also gave her a heart-shaped box of Ferrero Rocher chocolates which made her eyes light up. She’s known for having a major sweet tooth. She re-read the card and smiled, “Thank you.” She’s also a major card person and I’m her daughter in that respect. Later on she looked at me and said, “You got thin.” Not necessarily true. I’m exactly the same weight I’ve been for several months, but I never turn down a compliment. I’ll take a chatterbox anytime over the silent treatments of my last few visits.

Lockdown Drill

  Last May I related my first experience with a “lockdown drill” while I was substituting in my local high school. Well, as of yesterday, the urgency of such a drill has been re-emphasized, this time in south Florida.

In recent years official school-wide lockdown drills have been made mandatory. Lights had to be turned off, classroom doors locked and every kid had to cramp into a designated corner of the room that was out of sight of the classroom door. A little too close for comfort, but it has been proven to save lives if a gun-wielding maniac got into the school. Peering into the darkened room, it would be difficult to see potential victims. That old “Take cover!” shelter drill of my childhood has been replaced in these violent times by periodic lock down drills. No family should ever have to experience a “safe haven,” turning into a hellish bloodbath. An ordinarily “happy” Valentine’s Day turned into a latter day “Valentine’s Day Massacre” and this country is still scratching its head over what to do to avoid more. We will always have disgruntled, dysfunctional individuals who are filled with hatred, and with a paralyzed Congress, it’s a deadly mix.

Exercise takes your mind off the ills of the world and tennis fits the bill. Counting tomorrow, I will have played three times this week. This morning we had an exciting neck and neck doubles game with Stacey filling in for Sharon. Then I was crushed in singles by someone I usually beat. She has really “upped” her game. Reeling from being bageled in the first set (6-0 is known as a “bagel”), I couldn’t help but discreetly share the score with my friend Mary on the next court. She reminded me that I had written about today’s opponent in a former blog post. “You said she has a weak forehand but a wicked backhand.” Eureka! I went on to win the second set by hitting hard shots whenever possible, to her forehand. Now I see the advantage to having a courtside coach. The pros often consult their coaches during a match. Thanks Mary.

Earlier this week an article by Clyde Haberman appeared on the editorial page of The New York Times: “Last Things First for Patients With Bucket Lists.” I hate the term, “bucket list” and avoid using it, but he writes of a friend who proposes a “reverse bucket list” – activities he never wants to pursue and places he never wants to visit no matter how long he lives. Since Kenny and I are already planning a great vacation in March, I thought it would be fun to ponder this reverse bucket list. The first thing that comes to mind is: Not spending time with people I don’t want to see or not doing anything I don’t want to do. The article says that “pessimism in the face of one’s mortality is probably more common than sunny carpe diem.” I feel so lucky that I have been able to seize the day this past year and a half.

Enjoy the weekend and let’s pray that in the future, assault rifles will not be available to the general populace and there won’t be any more shootings anywhere!



Postscript: I just read that in 1884 Teddy Roosevelt also had a horrendous Valentine’s Day when both his mother and wife Alice died that same day.
































our More: Chemo Update
My glass of red, red wine, makes me feel so fine…


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Is a Graphic a “Novel?”

Welcome to the world of graphic novels and young adult (YA) lit. I never knew James Patterson has a whole series of young adult novels, but there they were on the desks in an 8th grade English class. I noticed a few of the kids had graphic novels that they were reading during the 20 minute “Independent Reading” segment. Before I could even get my question out, a boy defended himself, “Our teacher lets us read them.” I’m old school where graphic novels are equated with (God forbid) comic books. Anyway, an adorable boy was stumped about how to express the mood that was created in his book. He said it was “kind of like when you eat a Tic Tac and it has a lot of flavor at first, but then it wears off.” Hopefully he can find some textual details to support this great imagery. This Tic Tac Queen never thought of that one.

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Sub Stories

Melinda Ehrlich

April 5 at 7:30pm ·

In a World History class the kids were working on Document Based Questions (DBQ) about Gorbachev and glasnost. I was circulating around the room when a hand went up.
Me: Do you need some help?
Girl: No, but my friend really likes your nails.
OMG! Flashback to my Maxwell days where hair and nails ruled.


“But soft! What light through yonder window breaks?
It is the East, and Juliet is the sun!” Wow! When was the last time I taught “Romeo and Juliet!” It had to be around the Millennium since I didn’t teach freshmen for a few years before I retired in ’05. But I’ll tell ya, it’s like getting back on a bike. You never forget. The kids have a quiz tomorrow and reviewing the 6 scenes of Act II with them felt so natural. The best part is that I may “exeunt” today and need not be thither on the morrow.

Talk about spacing out! A class was taking a practice Living Environment Regents exam (better known to us as Bio.) The real deal is scheduled for next week. Fifteen minutes in, I noticed a girl totally immersed in splitting the ends of her hair. I went over to remind her to start her test and she looked up and thanked me. The kicker is I can relate to this behavior. True confession.

Here’s a very heartening story. There is a young man with whom I have had a less than warm relationship whenever I’ve substituted in his classes. In fact, he was such a hostile presence one day that I “wrote him up.” (OMG! He hated me even more after that.) Nothing too serious; he’s just a senior who’s had senioritis ALL year. Today I covered a self-contained special ed. class for 3 periods and who shows up to have one of the school aides in the room sign his yearbook? You guessed it. We ignored each other and I allowed him to get his book signed. But while he was waiting, I couldn’t help but notice how he fraternized with the 8 developmentally delayed kids in the class. He was high-fiving, even hugging a couple of them and they all knew him. I went over and said, “Joe (not his real name), I’m seeing a whole other side to you right now and it’s really nice.” He smiled (at me – wow!) and said, “This is the field I’m going into.” He’s planning to minor in special education in college. That’s all.

Covering science classes today when a young lady walks in with a full head of purple hair. “Aren’t you the teacher who wrote the book?” she asked. Flattered that she remembered, I said, “Yes, but did you have purple hair the last time I saw you?”
“No, it was green,” she answered matter of factly.
ROY G BIV lives.



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It’s Greek To Us

One day last week I covered a math program – Common Core mathematics, which confuses the issue in a new and improved way. I never saw more baffled students as they left their math class and went on to their next subject. I know because I’ve talked to them. I sat in on a geometry lesson (an Inclusion class) in which the teacher was introducing pre-trig. concepts. She appeared to be a good teacher – well-prepared and familiar with the subject at hand. She presented well. She incorporated the good old SOHCAHTOA formula for finding tangent, sine and cosine. I got those concepts, but not with the method that was being scrawled all over the Smart board. My deepest sympathy to the struggling students. Thankfully, many of them have a math review class in their schedules. Just don’t ask me to help; Common Core is Greek to me: Sigma, delta and theta.

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Take Off Your Crown and Spit Out Your Gum

Covering a great English program today. Honors, A.P. English and Creative Writing. What could be bad – and how can one teacher be so lucky to have this program? (And with a program like this, why is she absent?) Meeting an 11th grade Honors class in the computer lab, I assisted with “memoirs,” really one-page autobiographical essays. They had been previously written and edited and had to be printed and ready to be submitted to a contest tomorrow. Semicolons, or a lack thereof, posed a problem in every paper I looked at. They just didn’t use them, but who did in high school? When I was teaching writing, I always made it a point to teach usage and punctuation, even when it was out of favor in the dumbing down of America’s curricula. Oh well, these kids will survive. Their stories were otherwise nicely written. The A.P. English class was reading about Nietzsche’s theory of the Ubermensch. They actually sat quietly all period and concentrated on this. Their homework assignment was to read Part I of Crime and Punishment. Very lofty, but it’s Advanced Placement with the exam coming up this spring. On the flip side, the class clowns are in their glory whenever there’s a sub. In today’s Creative Wriitng class, a senior (yes, a senior!) was sporting a Burger King crown. The weird thing is, I think I was the only one who noticed it. It’s been 11 years since I walked away from the classroom and it feels nice to be back on this very limited basis. No strings attached, no emotional investment and best of all, no papers to grade.

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Relax, It’s Only Tennis

At my Friday doubles game, Marie, my partner extraordinaire, was playing very well. I was just okay. We were neck and neck with our opponents, but every time I made a stupid error I became more aggravated with myself. Marie knows me so well. She said, “Relax – it’s only tennis.” I joked, “If I’m like this with tennis, imagine me in real life.” So I heeded her advice, took a deep breath, but  lost the next two points! That was it. My intensity (aka tension) returned and we closed out the set 6-4. We looked at each other and Marie sheepishly admitted, “It’s never only tennis.”

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The Difference Between a Teacher and a Sub

Setting: The hallway on the second  floor of the local high school in which I have been substitute teaching. This period I am assigned to hall patrol in a school where the halls are dead for the most part.  There’s really nothing to patrol. I brought a book with me and would have read a few pages during the period, had it not been for the friendly fellow substitute teacher I met. I didn’t know he was a sub until we introduced ourselves. He told me that he is a retired cop with a teaching license  (wait a second – shouldn’t he be doing the patrolling?) who has been working per diem in this school for a few years. He loves it, he says, and “they know can call me as late as 7:35 in the morning (school starts at 7:50) and I can get here because, hey, I don’t have to blow dry my hair (he’s pretty bald) and I live right across the street.” All this I found out within the first five minutes of our conversation. He was walking down the hall and stopped at my post – and didn’t leave until the bell rang! I mentioned the word “golf” in the conversation and bingo! He talked golf for the rest of the period. Golfers can do that. I managed to get a few words in edgewise, but he was fired up about the birdie that eluded him. I get it. I sized him up as the type of guy who knows all the ropes at this school; hence, a good person to know.

Now here’s my point. If I were working as a regular English teacher, would I have time to schmooze for 40 minutes? Never! So as Diane Keaton liked to say in “Annie Hall,” la di da.

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Marji, Allan Ginsberg and Me

Marji & Me @ the Museum
Back in college, Marji’s dorm room was decorated with the sensuous posters of Maxfield Parrish. How do I remember that? Posters were important statements of who we were in those days. I had a “Suppose they gave a war and nobody came?” poster whose slogan was ascribed to Carl Sandburg. Of course we can’t forget that black & white pop art poster of Paul Newman in a T-shirt hanging on the ceiling over my bed. (TMI?) We had good times, no doubt.
Recently the Nassau County Museum of Art mounted an exhibit of Maxfield
Parrish’s work. I contacted Marji and we made a date to see it. A docent-led tour filled in the blanks on Parrish’s technique of achieving that luminosity and the cobalt blues that he used have come to be known as “Parrish Blue.” His posters, magazine and calendar illustrations are really stunning & Marji & I are glad we reconnected for the occasion.

As for the posters that adorned our rooms, many were wavy, psychedelic abstract designs painted in Day-Glo. If you had a black light, it would glow in the dark, often providing an evening’s entertainment. We didn’t need much. Peter Max was big, as my friend Barb reminded me when she read the above post on Facebook. So was artist Milton Glaser, whose now-iconic Dylan poster was included as a bonus in the album cover  of Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits in 1967. Lots of vinyl record albums included posters as bonus material and they were decorating the rooms of a whole generation of baby boomers. My roommate and I even took a trip to the Village expressly to buy posters for our room. Hendrix and Jim Morrison were prominently pinned up on walls, as were any band you can name from the Sixties. Posters of Jefferson Airplane from the Surrealistic Pillow days and Fillmore East and West concert posters were everywhere. Marijuana was still very illegal and you had to be careful about the posters you hung up. In fact, paranoia struck so deep (sic) that I removed a poster of a peace march featuring Allen Ginsberg flaunting a sign that said, “Pot is Fun.”  Getting busted for a poster would not have been fun.

The ubiquity of peace signs and anti-war messages reminded everyone that the Vietnam “conflict” was a-raging. Picasso’s famous bouquet of flowers (Fleurs et Mains) and Maxfield Parrish’s mellow, sensuous landscapes…Dorm room décor included them all.


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A Can o’ Worms

Oh my! That last blog opened up a can ‘o worms. All the funny stuff that happened while I was a teacher is rushing back. Stuff that was not included in my book like that overweight teacher who wore a sweat band while she was teaching. What a workout! And it was not in the gym!

I had commented on the “Wizard of Oz” poster that adorned the French classroom at the local high school in which I am currently subbing. Well,  I had forgotten to point out another – a take-off on that familiar morale boosting poster: Restez Calmes et Parlez Francais. Originally “Keep calm and carry on” was a British slogan/poster, created in 1939 at the outbreak of World War II. As I carry on calmly, I have a new ploy. Next time I face a new class, I don’t introduce myself in the mundane manner I have been doing: Hello, my name is Mrs. Ehrlich and I taught English in New York City for  over 30 years.” Bor-ing! My new line is,”Hi, I am not a sub; I am here to gather material for my next book.” Let’s see how this is received…

Ah, to be in a suburban English classroom filled with lots of book shelves and class sets of the books you plan to teach for the term at your fingertips (instead of trudging down the hall or even to a different floor to count out books and pray that there are enough. I refer to NYC.) I saw neatly shelved copies of “The Crucible,” “Death of a Salesman,” “Macbeth,” “A Separate Peace, “The Odyssey,” “The Namesake,” and “Sophie’s World,” a new one for me, but billed as “a page-turning novel that is also an exploration of the great philosophical concepts of Western thought.” Good stuff. In today’s subbing assignment, the classes were reading Michael Chabon’s “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay” and “One Hundred Years of Solitude.” After meeting these classes, I think those last two books may be a stretch, but one never knows. It all depends  upon the teacher and how ambitious he or she is.

Kids are kids and they are intent on seeing what they can get away with once they get wind of a sub in the room, but look out, ’cause I’ve got “skills” from years of classroom management. I could easily wing it, but thankfully the teachers leave detailed plans for every class – even enough photocopies for every student. There seems to be a nice camaraderie amongst the teachers who share the rooms and everyone I’ve met has been helpful. I had to laugh when I saw a young teacher writing an “Aim” and a “Do Now” on the whiteboard. I noticed the Aim began with “To read Chapter One and discover the main characters.” I told her in New York City, that structure went  out the window 20 years ago. Instead, it would have to be written in the form of a question: What have we discovered about the characters we met in Chapter One?” Such nonsense. She agreed.

We acted out the screenplay of “A Few Good Men” – expletives and all – in one class and those who read parts were really good! In any other class, a kid who used such language would be written up, but not here. They could “handle the truth.” Now I have to see the movie again.  Another class took a quiz and once it was handed in, they were instructed to read a chapter from the Chabon novel, which segued into talking amongst themselves. Since there were only a few minutes left, and being the talker that I am, I jumped right in. Then the bell rang. School’s out till next week…

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Pimples, Pimples Everywhere

Now that golf season is just about over (who can complain when it extended well into December – in New York!), it’s time to go indoors for a little something different. So I interviewed at a local high school to work as a sub two days a week. Ha ha, a sub, you laugh. But it’s a very civilized little school with polite kids, a courteous, well-dressed (no jeans) staff and four minutes from my house.


Day 1: I haven’t seen this many pimples since I retired ten years ago.

Spent one period on hall patrol (they seem to assign regular teachers this period of R & R) and in 40 minutes, only two Ugg-clad students shuffled by my post – and both had cameras for the yearbook. What happened to the stragglers and the cutters I was so used to seeing in the city? They don’t exist here.

During the first period, which runs from 7:50 a.m. to roughly 8:35, the halls were alive with the sound of music – not piped in, but band practice around the bend. (The school layout is square-shaped.) On my first morning I was instructed on how to take attendance on the computer and I had to do very little in most classes whose teachers had left detailed lessons for the kids to complete. (I did come prepared with a couple of my own emergency poetry lesson just in case. ) And get this: In 5 class periods that I covered, only 2 kids were absent! I don’t want to ever hear a teacher in this school district complain how hellish the teaching profession is. They are truly sheltered and can be considered blessed, in some circles. Of course, I thrived on the daily challenges thrust upon me for 33 years in the NYC public school system. It made for great material – and in retrospect, something to be proud of. This is not to say the teachers aren’t teaching here; they most certainly are.

A few kids even thanked me as they exited the room at the end of the period. Were they thrilled that they had a sub or did they thank me for providing them with some entertainment? I read the French classes an excerpt from my book, Take Off Your Hat and Spit Out Your Gum – A Teacher’s Memoir. I carry a copy to school since it’s about high school and for the French classes, I read a section entitled, “The Only Thing To Fear is the French Teacher Herself.” The French teacher who was absent has a beautifully decorated classroom, adorned with knickknacks and souvenirs from France and even a magazine rack stocked with French magazines and comics for the students to read. My favorite poster was one of Dorothy that said, “Toto, je dois le sentiment que nous ne sommes pas plus au Kansas.”

Let’s see what the New Year brings in the wonderful world of substitute teaching. All I know is it feels great to leave the building without a care in the world about having to come back the next day.

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