Stricken?

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.
                     Melinda
   P.S. Please don’t forget, Nothing on Facebook.
Thanks

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.
 Melinda

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.
Love,
        Melinda

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.
 Love,
  Melinda
 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.

Melinda

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.
Love,
Melinda
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,
             Melinda
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.
Love,
Melinda
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.

Love,

Melinda

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.
Love,
Melinda
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:
Melinda:
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.
Kenny:
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.
Melinda:
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!!
Love,
Melinda
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!
Love,
 Melinda
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.
Love,
            Melinda
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.
Love,
Melinda
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.
                                 Melinda
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.
 Love,
Melinda
April 6, 2017
Say kids, what day is it?  It’s Thursday Update Day.
    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…
Love,
 Melinda
April 13, 2017-                           Pedometry 101 and 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. 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. 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 great sashimi dinner at Kotobuki, our favorite.
  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.
April 20, 2017-
Pedometry 101

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!
Love,
Melinda
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. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/25/well/family/womens-friendships-in-sickness-and-in-health.html?_r=0
Have a great week.
 Love,
Melinda
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.
Love,
    Melinda
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.
Love,
Melinda
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.
Love,
Melinda
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.
    “Way.”
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!
Love,
    Melinda
*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.
 Love,
Melinda
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.
 Tennis
    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.
Love,
Melinda

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.
Love,
    Melinda
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.
 Love,
            Melinda
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.
Love,
     Melinda
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.
Love,
    Melinda
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.”
Love,
Melinda
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 Chabad.org:
    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.
Love,
Melinda
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!
Love,
         Melinda
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.
Love,
Melinda
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 melindaehrlich.com.)
    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…
Love,
    Melinda
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.
Love,
Melinda
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 melindaehrlich.com. 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!
Love,
    Melinda
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.
 Love,
Melinda
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.
Love,
    Minnie
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.)
Love,
        Melinda
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.
    Love,
            Melinda

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.

Love,

Melinda

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

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