On this last day of 2020, I’m reflecting on the clarity this year’s given me. Because of all its difficulties and my own personal challenges, I now feel more gratitude than ever before. My heart has grown 3 sizes, holding more love than I ever thought possible. Thank you for seeing me through it all. Wishing you the very best for 2021. May it bring us all back together in good health. ❤️
I’m so grateful for the holistic care I’m receiving at NYU. Part of that care is a music program called Music That Heals run by Kathy Nicolosi where professional musicians record a personalized 20-minute concert for people being treated at the cancer center.
Violinist Victoria Paterson and cellist Carlo Pellettieri, both Broadway musicians, recorded this concert for me based on my hobbies, interests, and music preferences. They also give a shout out to my medical team, friends and family who have been supportive and helpful during this time, and even to my dog, Phineas! Such a beautiful gift!
I hope you enjoy this personal concert as much as I did.
It’s been a week since my first chemotherapy infusion and I’ve had no side effects yet! While some of the effects can be cumulative, being able to keep them at bay this first week is a huge win for me.
In case you know someone going through chemo, here’s what seems to be working for me so far:
– acupuncture. Ryan Smith and I went into these treatments with the goal of limiting or eliminating side effects. I go right after I’m done with chemo and will keep that up for the next 3 months of my treatments.
– nutrition. I’ve read a few books and talked to a few registered dietitians about how to eat for health during chemo. I have 5-6 small meals per days, drink plenty of non-caffeinated fluids, and eat only whole food. No junk food, no processed food. Lean protein and a mix of grains, fruits, and vegetables are incredibly Important. Smoothies with high quality plant protein are terrific supplements to meals. I also try to keep the flavor content up with a balance of FASS (healthy fat, acid, salt, and sweet). This helps keep my appetite stoked and my body and mind constantly fueled. To make sure my digestion is in tip top shape, I drink Smooth Move tea and also have plenty of fiber. The last thing I want is stomach pain in the middle of all of this.
– I rest when I’m tired and get 8-9 hours of sleep each night.
– I exercise every day, even if that just means light yoga and stretching. I also do a daily dance break for about 20 minutes, which feels great!- morning and evening meditation. A strong mindset is really helping. Even though what I’m going through is scary, I acknowledge the anxiety but I don’t dwell on it. I balance it out with powerful, strong images, soothing colors, and naming all of the things I’m grateful for. I have also told myself from the beginning that I didn’t want to have any side effects. Our minds are powerful!
– mental health counseling. I’ve been with my therapist Brian for 11 years off and on this month. That support has been crucial to every area of my life, especially now. I can’t overstate how vital therapy is when we’re dealing with difficulty. If more people went to therapy, we’d have a better world.
– breathing exercises. I have a little bit of congestion left over from surgery and the fact that it’s freezing here in NYC. For a few minutes each day, I sit and focus on breathing deeply. This helps the tightness that I always feel in my chest and it helps fight the congestion. I am also taking in about 10 minutes of steam every day with a cleansing essential oil.
– brain games. I’ve heard people talk about chemo brain where they feel foggy and confused. To counter that I play brain games, do jigsaw puzzles on my iPad app, watch science documentaries, read, and listen to podcasts. This is helping to keep my mind sharp and engaged.
– modern medicine. I am following every bit of advice my doctors have given me. They have me taking anti-nausea medication for a few days after the chemo to head off nausea I might feel. I take one pill in the morning and I’m good all day. I take an immune boosting medication, and then Claritin to combat the bone pain that can sometimes accompany the medication. That’s working, too. I also rinse my mouth a few times a day with biotene mouthwash to prevent any mouth sores. It’s doing the trick!
If this all sounds like a lot, it is. I’ve never had to track what I do and consume so thoroughly in my life. One thing I’ve learned is this journey is that my health is more important than anything. I’ve said that for years but now I know at my core what this truly means. I’m determined to crush cancer and close this chapter of my life healthier than I was before my diagnosis, and I’m dedicated to doing whatever it takes to make that happen. Thank you for all your love and support on this wild ride!
On the first full day of winter, I always read the short essay Winter by Nina Zolotow. It’s my ritual to ring in this season as one of rest, creativity, and reflection. I love winter, and this essay perfectly explains why. Nina wrote it in Ithaca, New York, where the fullness of all the seasons is present, each in its turn, in its time. I hope you find as much comfort, peace, and joy in these words as I do.
Winter by Nina Zolotow
“In their garden there was always a wild profusion of tomatoes ripening on the vine, and leafy basil, arugula, and lettuce, and glossy purple eggplants, and red and yellow peppers, and zucchini with its long, bright blossoms, and there was always lunch at the wooden table on hot summer afternoons, with plates of pasta and bread and olives and salads with herbs, and many bottles of red wine that made you feel warm and drowsy, while bees hummed and the sprawling marjoram, thyme, and rosemary gave off their pungent fragrances, and at the end of the meal, always, inexplicably, there were fresh black figs that they picked themselves from the tree at the garden’s center, an eighteen-foot fig tree, for how was it possible – this was not Tuscany but Ithaca – Ithaca, New York, a rough-hewn landscape of deep rocky gorges and bitter icy winters, and I finally had to ask him – my neighbor – how did that beautiful tree live through the year, how did it endure the harshness of a New York winter and not only survive until spring but continue producing the miraculous fruit, year after year, and he told me that it was quite simple, really, that every fall, after the tree lost all its leaves, he would sever the tree’s roots on one side only and, on the tree’s other side, he would dig a trench, and then he would just lay down that flexible trunk and limbs, lay them down in the earth and gently cover them with soil, and there the fig tree would rest, warm and protected, until spring came, when he could remove its protective covering and stand the tree up once again to greet the sun; and now in this long gray season of darkness and cold and grief (do I have to tell you over what? for isn’t it always the same – the loss of a lover, the death of a child, or the incomprehensible cruelty of one human being to another?), as I gaze out of my window at the empty space where the fig tree will stand again next spring, I think, yes, lay me down like that, lay me down like the fig tree that sleeps in the earth, and let my body rest easily on the ground – my roots connecting me to some warm immutable center – luxuriating in the heart of winter.”