This is the face of someone with early stage breast cancer. It’s also the face of someone who is going to kick the sh*t out of cancer and give it nowhere to hide in my body. And in the process, I’m becoming a warrior of women’s health.
This is the longest I’ve ever been away from this blog since I started it in 2007. Now I’m back to tell you what’s happening. I have cancer, early stage breast cancer to be precise. I went for my biospies on September 28th and 29th, got a preliminary diagnosis of cancer, and then on October 5th received the confirmed diagnosis. 100 hours later, I had a full medical team, a surgery date, and a preliminary treatment plan that will be confirmed after surgery. NYU Langone Health moved mountains, and fast, to make it all happen and I’m so grateful.
It was the most terrifying week of my life. I wish none of us ever had to be on this journey at all, though since we’re here at this point I will make something meaningful and beautiful from it that helps me heal, helps other people heal, and helps the planet heal.
First thing’s first—I need this cancer gone from my body so here’s the plan:
– I will have surgery on October 27th. I chose to have a bilateral mastectomy with reconstructive surgery. I knew this procedure was right for me as soon as I was diagnosed. I will live a very long, healthy life and not give cancer any place to hide.
– After that, the doctors will run the pathology post-surgery and we’ll come up with a course of treatment. With all that information, we’ll be able to figure out a combo of chemo, radiation, immunotherapy, and/or medication.
– I will have a few subsequent surgeries in the coming year both for treatment purposes and reconstruction. (If, like me, you really geek out on the science, here it is in a nutshell: my cancer is estrogen positive, meaning cancer feeds it. To shut down its supply line, we’ll use a combo of medication and removal of my ovaries. In a world of crappy breast cancer this is a good thing because it’s an added layer of treatment that wouldn’t be available to me if my cancer was estrogen-negative. Small victories that actually aren’t so small at all!)
What I do know with absolute certainty is that I’m shutting down this cancer party with a top-notch medical team at NYU and that your love and support is what got me to this headspace where I feel strong and empowered.
I’m suited up for battle. Now let’s do this. The dawn after the darkness is coming and we’ll be ready to meet it when it does.
A little news. I went for my 3D mammogram and ultrasound on Monday. My doctors want to do further testing in 3 areas that look a little suspicious. I’m having biopsies on Monday and Tuesday.
To be honest, the news was a shock. I just didn’t expect anything to come of this second set of tests and I broke down in the doctor’s office. Then I was counseled by many very wise friends, family members, and doctors that this next set of tests may very likely prove to be benign.
For now I’m counting my blessings that I have incredible care at NYU Langone and Caremount Medical, health insurance, and many friends who have shared their experiences that are very similar to mine.
A younger me would have bottled up these fears I have. I would have just carried them on my own because I didn’t want to burden anyone else with them. Over the last few years I’ve been trying to be better about asking for help, even if it’s just for good thoughts.
Asking for help is hard for me but if 2020 has taught me anything it’s that we need each other to make it through. And reaching out to people to ask for advice and help really helped me today. Doing what was hard was absolutely worth it.
For the next week, I’m planning to compartmentalize all of this and keep living my life as I would have before this new testing recommendation. I’m sure scary thoughts will creep in here and there. I’m sure I’ll cry. And I’m also sure that I’ll keep going—enjoying each day, taking care of myself, and taking care of others.❤️
The GOAT. Forever. For always.
Justice Ginsburg will be the first woman to lie in state. Even in death, she breaks barriers.
Her fierce support of others, determination to beat disease over and over and over again, and passion for creating a better world for all people is a model we should all aspire to. We are powerful, in our own person and as a community. We matter.
She is gone now, and her memory must be both a blessing and a revolution. She stood up for all of us for so many years. Now it’s time for all of us to rise for her legacy and for each other.
Today I woke up ready to fight for a better world. We have 45 days left to replace president 45. First thing on my to-do list: contacting the 20 (!) GOP senators who promised not to replace a Supreme Court Justice in an election year. My first job out of college was as a legislative aid for a Congressman in his D.C. office. Every call, email, and letter is logged, reported, and responded to. Contacting them matters.
PLEASE FLOOD THEIR INBOXES ASKING THEM TO NOT VOTE FOR A SUPREME COURT REPLACEMENT UNTIL AFTER THE PRESIDENTIAL AND SENATE INAUGURATIONS.
Please be respectful, concise, and clear no matter which method of contact you use. Say who you are, where you’re from, and state your purpose for contacting them as succinctly as you can. Have a script.
I looked up all their contact info for you and below is a link to a story with their direct quotes and the sources of those quotes for most of them. Please share this information and contact them. We don’t have any time to lose.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah)
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine)
Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Col.)
https://www.gardner.senate.gov/contact-cory/office-locations (email link is at the top of this page above the office contact info)
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas)
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas)
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)
Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.)
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa)
Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa)
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.)
Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.)
Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.)
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.)
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Penn.)
Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.)
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.)
Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.)
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio)
Article from Mother Jones with quotes about by Senators about replacing a Supreme Court Justice in an election year:
10 years ago today I adopted this darling dog, Phineas, and he’s been my best friend ever since. I had planned to foster him and within 5 seconds of him wiggling his little self into the lobby, I fell in love. In Hebrew, Phineas means “oracle”. He was meant for me and I was meant for him.
He was about a year old when I adopted him and I made that day his birthday so today he celebrates 11 years of life just as the Jewish New Year begins with Rosh Hashanah. May the light that Phineas has brought into my life be something we all have in this year ahead. Happy birthday, Phin. L’shanah Tovah (שנה טובה) to all who celebrate this day.
And hats off to my mom. The day I adopted Phineas my mom kept him for the weekend because I was going to a friend’s wedding. I will never forget when my mom and Phin first met. It was like they’d known each other forever. She took the picture on the right above on this day 10 years ago which is the first picture I have with Phin!
Every piece of writing ever written by anyone starts life as a sh*tty first draft. My PhD research proposal is now in this sh*tty first draft phase. When I submit it with my applications it’ll be polished and shiny. It’s important to remember that all beginnings are messy. Editing makes the mess meaningful.
Giving blood is one of the fastest, safest, and easiest ways to help others. Start to finish, it takes less than an hour and your donation saves 3 lives. At New York Blood Center you get to be a hero, you’re required to eat cookies afterwards, they give you a very cool mask, & they have an amazing staff!
Blood supplies across the country are critically low because so many blood drives have been canceled due to COVID. If you’re able to please contact your local blood center to donate.
Today I watched an interview with the Copenings, a family of five who are all essential workers in New York City who have gone to work every day since March: mother works for the US Postal Service, father and one son are bus drivers for the MTA, one son works in a nursing home, and daughter works for the Department of Education in a capacity where she had to go to her office every day.
We will never be able to say thank you enough to the Copenings and all of the people like them who have taken care of all of us during this time. It’s wonderful to see them receive a gift of gratitude and thanks from Drew Barrymore on The Drew Barrymore Show.
I went for my first routine mammogram last week. Yes, the exam is a little bit uncomfortable but it saves lives. My mom’s stage 1 breast cancer was found via a routine mammogram. She got treatment and has had clear scans ever since.
Today I found out I need to go for more testing. This is because my tissue is dense so I also need to have an ultrasound and is exactly what happened 9 years ago when I had a baseline mammogram.
1 in 5 breast cancers are not found among people who have dense breasts because they stop at a mammogram without further testing.
I’m grateful that NYU Langone Health recommended further testing so that we get an accurate result. This is one of the many reasons why everyone needs access to good care. Affordable high-quality healthcare is a human right, not a privilege. Friends, take care of yourselves. Get your routine medical exams and tests.
Today is my Alive Day — the 11th anniversary of my apartment building fire when I almost got trapped inside. Every day since September 5, 2009, I’ve thought about my own death. The fire started in the first floor apartment directly in my line, and it grew so big that eventually it burned through the ceiling, out into the first floor hallway, and up the stairs I ran down just moments before. The fire fighter who later spoke to me as the EMT checked my lungs told me that if I’d hesitated even a few seconds longer, I would have run right into the flames. “You’re very lucky,” he said to me. Those words have never left my mind.
For years PTSD and massive depression tortured me. I was watching myself fall into madness. So much so that one night I climbed out onto the roof of my new apartment building because I wanted nothing more than to stop thinking about the worst day of my life. A handful of things kept me from jumping — the enormous full moon, the water towers in my neighborhood that looked like guards standing watch, and a little girl name Emerson Page who started to form in my mind. A scrappy triumvirate, the three of them — the moon, the water tower, and Emerson — protected me from me. And I started to write it all down.
Shortly after that night I was on a plane that was hit by lightning (right on the wing near my seat) and we made an emergency landing just before the wing fell off the plane and onto the tarmac. I was deep into therapy at that point, working hard to shine a very bright light into all the dark places of my mind. My therapist, Brian, saved me many times over the years that followed until finally something changed, something shifted. Not in the world or in my circumstances, but in me. In my bones I internalized that the fire didn’t destroy me; it set me free. Every day after that fire has been a gift, and not one that was promised to me but one that I was so fortunate to be given. These days are extra, in the truest sense of the word.
I’ve certainly had bad days since that fire. Just look at this year we’re living through. I’ve had broken hearts and dreams that fell apart even when I tried so hard to hang onto them. I’ve lost a lot of people I love. I’ve lost, and lost, and lost. And I’m grateful for all those days and losses, too.
At one point about a year after I started therapy, I told Brian how much I hated going to therapy. He looked at me very simply and said, “Well now we’re getting somewhere.” We were getting somewhere. Freedom isn’t free — it takes work, time, and patience. You have to crawl through all the muck if you want to leave that muck behind. And I did. So I crawled, inch by painful inch until I was free of it.
Oliver Wendell Holmes famously said that many people die with their music still in them. If I hadn’t survived that fire, my plane hit by lightning, and that night out on the roof of my new building with the moon, my music would have died in me. People would have said things like, “How sad. She was so young. She had so much left to do.” They would be right. But I didn’t die on those days or any days after. Today I get to be here with all of you, in our socially distant, masked up weird ways of 2020 but still here. Still breathing. Still living. It’s some kind of miracle, and every day I work to make the miracle matter.
It’s a strange feeling to look your own death in the eyes and live to tell about it. I had lived through the death of family members and friends, but living through my own was different. It’s given me an unimaginable strength, an unending sense of joy, wonder, and curiosity. There’s a deep peace that lives in me now that I never had before. Building back my mind, body, and spirit from that level of devastation made me fearless, grateful, and happy to just be. We really can build back better, even and especially when all the odds are stacked against us.
At the end of every day, I say thank you to that drive to survive that was there in me that day 11 years ago today. I opened my door to pitch black smoke so thick I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. I had a split second to decide: should I chance it and run blind down flights of stairs not knowing what I was running toward or close the door and hope someone would come rescue me? I took the chance and ran. I rescued myself, and all these days since I’ve been trying to make that rescue mean something. Making meaning of my survival is exactly what I intend to keep doing every day that I’m given.