Stricken?

Early August 2016– With the possibility/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 How 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

 

 

 

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

 

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