The Water is Wide

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If ever there were a beautiful image that will remain in my heart and mind forever, it will be this one: the last photo taken by a daughter or her parents before they tragically passed in a car accident. Ledell, my sweet friend, was perhaledellanddonps one of the kindest, gentlest souls I had ever known.  A teacher, musician, mother, daughter, sister, spiritual advisor, activist and friend to so many. Her daughter, Kat, was only 30 and just beginning to blossom as a creative artist. Don, Ledell’s warm and wonderful husband and Kat’s dad, survived the accident and held on for over a month with their only son Devan, his girlfriend Lucy and a tribe of love ones standing vigil.  This photo was posted with the news of Don’s passing. I stared at it for a long time.  First with weeping and then with calm.

For all of us who knew them, there is no doubt that Don and Ledell were fully present in that moment, taking in the amazing beauty of the water and sunlight. I know, in that moment, they felt their love of each other and perhaps the presence of their God. No doubt, Kat felt that, too, to be moved to capture it. How grateful I am that Devan shared this moment with us. I feel honored and compelled to share it with you.

This lake was their Lake. Silver Lake. A place where they shared their creative ministry with so many others. Like all lakes, it was formed by an ocean that became a river that flowed into a stream that became a creek that fed a brook that filled tributaries to join together into a lake – which in turn flowed with all its twists and turns back to the ocean.  I won’t be the first or last to use this metaphor, but as I struggle to understand this tragedy, I find peace in my belief that our lives are like rivers: endless, ever changing, moving in natural directions, changing forms, some times calm, some times turbulent.  We flow apart.  We join together. There is no beginning, no middle, no end.

I pray that Devan and Lucy will find peaceful waters to rest their boat upon.  That Don, Ledell and Kat have returned to their Source and are together again. To all of you – who take the time from your lives to flow by this blog from time to time, I thank you for your grace. Until we meet, or meet again.

Reigning Cats and Dogs

Here’s a piece of advise: if you are waiting for an infusion (and I hope you never will) and you have chest pain and your blood pressure goes from 120/80 to 178/99, be prepared for a day of blood tests and xrays and cat scans and lab reports and other circus tricks, and for the recommended treatment to be an overnight stay in a really uncomfortable bed with low sodium food and a noisy roommate and blood work every six hours. Of course, I’ve already read that it’s not impossible for this to be a side of effect of…you guessed it…chemotherapy – often six months later or from the Herceptin.  My oncologist says it cant be from the Herceptin even though I have to get an echocardiogram every three months because it has been known to cause chronic heart failure.  The good news is that all my tests are coming back normal and I’ll be discharged tomorrow.  Not exactly how I planned to kick off the new year, and honestly, I am a little concerned that the Old Jew in The Clouds was ticked about my post yesterday.  Kidding…I was kidding. I promise, I won’t even touch my closets till Succoth. 
 

An Open Book

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Tonight marks the beginning of the high holidays of the Jewish faith.  It begins tonight with Rosh Hashanah and ends with Yom Kippur.  Like all Jewish holidays, my family observed it by eating. Rosh Hashanah was a great meal, because unlike Passover, you can have bread.  That meant challah with honey, real matzo balls in the soup and judgeinggodkugel which is basically like a lasagna made with egg noodles, sugar, butter, eggs, and cream. (Tonight I had pork chops with peaches – not exactly kosher.)

I learned as a child that Rosh Hashana was a “no kidding around” holiday.  As a kid I was taught that tonight God opens the Book of Life and begins to decide whose gonna make it for another year. I found the God of my ancestors to be awfulyl judgy that way. But wait! There’s sort of a “C” card that you get — because even if you’ve been a total jerk for the entire year past, over the next ten days you can seriously repent for everything you did, ask forgiveness and make amends. Sort of the Jewish Ninth Step.  The holiday ends in 10 days on Yom Kippur when the Book closes.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of taking time to reflect on how you can be a better human being. I guess having a holiday that forces you to do at least once a year is better than not doing it at all.  For me, if I’ve wronged someone one, I prefer to promptly admit it.  Frankly, it doesn’t seem that sincere if you get an apology from someone, if they were doing it for the “soul” purpose of not dying in the next 12 months.

And yet, the Jewish Holidays are still special to me, even though I became a Unitarian over 20 years ago.  I love the annual walk I take with my Dad which becomes more important every year. Instead of the Book of Life, I open my Closet and take out all my summer clothes and bring out my fall wardrobe.  It’s always my intention to close that door before the last shofar sounds.   And I try, every Rosh HashanaScreen Shot 2015-09-13 at 10.16.33 PM, to come up with a new joke about blowing the shofar – but it gets harder every year, and now with Uber, well…forget it.

Not to go all theological on you, but I personally don’t believe that there’s a God that sits in judgment deciding who lives and dies, who gets cancer or doesn’t, who wins the lottery or sleeps on the street.  My Higher Power is a loving Great Spirit who weeps with us when we weep and gives us strength when it doesn’t seem like we have any of our own.

Tomorrow I go back to the Cancer Center for my 14th infusion of Herceptin. I’m hoping that counts toward Book points. And if it was up to me, you’d all be inscribed. But it’s probably up to you.

La Shana Tova. I wish you a sweet and healthy New Year.

Top Pop

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Having my father living just a few miles away from me has been a blessing throughout my cancer treatment. I hate to put anything in the “plus column” of this diagnosis but my Pop and I have become even closer through this experience. I’m not sure if he’d want it broadcast but he turcardforpopned 85 this year – and while he’s had some health issues over the last 12 months, he’s got one of the best attitudes of any elder I know. He greets most days with a lot of appreciation for what he has and finds happiness in the smaller things in life: sitting and reading the Times and watching the birds on his back deck, the pleasure of a good afternoon nap, a Met, Yankee or Giants game, or a night at the theater. I believe one of the only things he might miss doing is being able to haul junk to the town dump, and playing a round of golf. He and I played at least two or three times a year, and it’s interesting to tell you that, at least once a round, following a bad shot or an abysmal hole, one of us would say, “No matter what happens today, it’s not cancer.” Boy, wasn’t that the truth.

Brighton Beach brawnTo give you a little background: my Pop was born to a poor family in the Lower East Side of NYC. His parents had emigrated from Poland during the first decades of the 20th century; first his father, then his mother. It was disturbing to learn that my dad’s grandmother came to visit them in New York around 1938 with the intention of staying to live. She didn’t care for the U.S. and returned to Poland. Unfortunately, that didn’t end well. But that’s another story.

My dad only spoke Yiddish when he started kindergarten (ironically, a German word) Saul at breakfastbut quickly learned English, translating much of the world for his parents throughout his childhood. He grew up juggling two lives; one as the son of not-so-pious Jews whose lives centered around the Temple and home life; the other as a young American; playing stick ball, taking in a 10 cent movie and hanging out on the boardwalk. He taught me a very important Yiddish phrase, “S’iz shver tsu zayin a yid.”  It’s tough to be a Jew.

He was the first in his family to go to college and served stateside in the Army during the Korean War. He married my mom at 22, had my sister at 24 and me at 27. Saul fenceAs a physicist and engineer, he went to work for Picatinny Arsenal, a military research facility in New Jersey and would continue to hold engineering jobs before going into sales and marketing at a series of tech-type companies – moving us from Long Island to Connecticut. One thing I learned at an early age is that my Pop hated going to work. On Sundays, he would go into a serious funk about the work week ahead, something my family called “The Sunday Night Greps.” It was contagious …and by the time I was 8 or 10, we all felt like shit as we watched Lassie and Ed Sullivan.

To balance his work life, he pursued playwriting and photography and painting and stuff like transcendental meditation. It was the 60’s, and then the 70’s and he was definitely into “doing his own thing.” To move things along, he divorced my mother minutes after I left for college and went on to raise family number 2 with a terrific woman who has made him very happy. There were a number of years when we weren’t very close. Of course, we always loved and appreciated each other’s creative spirit and sense of humor and I came to understand his decisions and choices. I’ve learned that he and I are a lot alike. Mostly, as I began my own family, I came to respect how hard he had worked both professionally and personally to make himself happy. He never put that on anyone else. His last career was as a marketing professor at Sacred Heart University and yes, he taught me everything I needed to know to get my first marketing job. He’s also been my private business coach for the past 30 years. I’ll never forget what he said when I told him how nervous I was about leaving my corporate job to enter into my own business. He said, “Everybody is self-employed, they just don’t know it.”

meandpop2My Pop is a success in every sense of the word. He’s pursued his passions, made a difference in every community in which he has participated and accomplished one of the things that I think is most important: growing old with grace and gratitude.

I guess I don’t have to tell you how much I love my Pop. Believe me, I know how lucky I am that he has decided to live to be the oldest man on the planet. We’re planning on celebrating my 80th birthday together. I hope you’ll be there, too!

What’s in your lunch box??

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It’s that back-to-school, back-to-work time when we buy new notebooks and pencils and want a fresh start.  For me, that means getting back to the business of eating right – not only for cancer prev5692201294_e7c2c14e3e_zention and weight loss, but because it’s just the right thing for us humans to do.  It was hard to deprive myself, when everything tasted like wet cement, to not eat Frosted Flakes and Good and Plenty when they were the only things that tasted good. The good news is that my taste buds seem to have returned to 95% normal over the last month.  So, after allowing myself the August/birthday month to eat lobster rolls and black raspberry ice cream, it’s time for me to step up to making better dietary choices.  I think, by now, we all know what we should and shouldn’t eat. But I hit the books to remind myself of those things that I really need to grow-up and STOP eating.  If we all did that, perhaps the industrial food complex would stop making the stuff that’s killing us. So, if you want a quick reminder, here ya go (in no particular order.) I’ll call it “The Dirty Dozen”

  1. Processed Meat. That’s hot dogs, bacon, sausage, salami.  Unless you actually ARE an Oscar Meyer Weiner, your diet should stop being a lot of bologna.
  2. Red Meat – I love a great NY Strip and I’ll probably treat myself a few times a year. If you must, go organic, and sorry, but grilling meat is like cooking cancer.
  3. Non-organic chicken and non-organic milk. When it comes to milk, eggs and chicken, hormones and antibiotics are just bad news. Even if it takes a tough man to make a tender chicken, chicken skin is not yellow. Ya gotta go organic.
  4. GMOs – We’ve heard these letters so many times, they sound kinda fun.  Like “Old McDonald had a farm, G.M., G.M.O.!!” – Just keep saying to yourself, “Genetically modified organisms” “Genetically modified organisms”.  Picture bacteria, viruses, mad scientists. Soylent Green is people, people.
  5. White food – It’s no Wonder, that’s for sure.  White bread and white rice are bleached. Next time you’re in the laundry room, take a good whiff of Clorox and think, “Mmmm, should I drink this?”
  6. Farm Raised Fish – For some reason, I thought it was good thing that fish were being farmed instead of depopulating fish in their natural habitats. Wrong.  Gotta go wild here. And forget swordfish and albacore tuna, unless you like Mercury – and not the Freddy kind.
  7. Soda – Regular or diet.  It’s chemicals in a can.  And stay away from anything citrus flavored (Mountain Dew, Fanta, Fresca) which contains BVO’s – a chemical flame retardant. Damn! I loved a Fresca!
  8. Fried Food – I know you really want to stop reading this now. Don’t take away my clam roll, french fries, KFC. And donuts have the pleasure of being fat, sugar AND fried. Dunk that in your Dunkin.
  9. High Fructose Corn Syrup. HFCS are actually CCCC’s – chemicals, contaminants, chloralkai, crap. If you’re eating products with HFCS, you’re probably eating like a child. Good and Plenty and I must say goodbye. Sad. Sad. Sad.
  10. Kid’s Cereal – It’s sugar in a bowl – floating in bovine growth hormone. I admit I liked my Frosted Flakes in a Jethro Bodine-size jethroworst-foods-4 bowl. If you really have to eat it, have one serving.  That’s about two tablespoons.
  11.  Microwaved Popcorn – Who knew this was popping poison?  Google it yourself. I guess the movie stuff is probably not that great either. And I did like a little movie with my popcorn.
  12. Shelf-stable Condiments – What?  Those cute little packets of ketchup, mustard, relish and mayo are bad for us??? They are basically preservatives, additives, artificial flavors, colors, salt and transfats wrapped in plastic with no expiration date.  You’ll expire before they will.

There’s an amazing website and mobile app called EWG Food Scores.  Check it out. You won’t believe what’s in Kraft Mac and Cheese. (Sorry, kids – I didn’t know!!)

The world is full of amazingly, healthy, wonderful foods.  But that’s another blog…

Maine, Rain, Pain and The Strain

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It’s been a bit of time since I posted but my chemotherapy recovery continues, slow but steady.  My hands and feet are still numb, and my thumbnail is hanging on by a thread, but I wasn’t going to let anything stop me from heading off for a short vacation in Maine that we planned way back in April.  Back then, in the middle of chemo, I couldn’t imagine the day would come when I would be eating a lobster roll and TASTING IT, or having enough strength to window shop for a half a day. It felt great to do both.

The rain in Maine fell mainly on the lane.

The rain in Maine fell mainly on the lane.

The weather was kinda of a rain out, but Little John Island, Portland and Kennebunkport were all super picturesque.

The Colors of Summer

The Colors of Summer

The only real down side was that my tear ducts (stents and all) decided to stop working so I had to deal with water works and blurry eyes which is really annoying when you are trying to take photos to post on Instagram (ct_reality_girl).

So, upon my return home, I promptly called my eye surgeon, Flora Levin (or as I call her “The Eleventh Floor) and we agreed that it was time to remove the stents and see if my eyes could correctly go with the flow.  Today was the day. Dr. Floor 11 told me that I had two choices: (1) to snip the tubes in the corner of my eyes and see if I could blow them out of my nose (sorry) which was risky, or (2) snip the tubes and have her pull them out through my eyes which would be more painful.  I told her I didn’t really want to be part of this decision,  knowing that she wasn’t going to pick “risky” and I wasn’t going to chose “painful”.  Well, she chose. And then she snipped and then she pulled.  Imagine having a plastic string with a knot on the end being pulled through your tear duct. Don’t you love it when a doctor says, “You’re going to feel a little pressure.”  I think they must have a class in medical school where they get graded for how well they can say this with a straight face. Needless to say, yes – I felt pressure…the pressure to scream.  Instead I squeezed the shit out of Billy’s hand. Billy said it was a lot like watching The Strain. So without any more details, it’s done.  I can check this milestone off the list.  Right now, my eyes are still watering, but it will take a week or two to know whether it’s all going to work out o.k.  Until then, I’ll try not to complain or go insane.

Yea, it was a strain.

Remembering.

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It started last night with a scratchy throat, a cough and a few sneezes.  Today, it’s a full blown headache, cough, body ache parade.
I wish I could say that it feels good to just have a normal virus; something that isn’t caused by some horrible chemical infusion. And I should be grateful that I didn’t get any sort of flu or cold all through the winter of my treatment and a compromised immune system.  babycry And of course, it’s one thing when you’re suppose to be a BIG C warrior, and quite another when you just feel like a crappy, bitchy child who is angry that I’ve gotten a cold just days before going on the vacation with my dog.  Wah wah wah.

And then I remember.

There’s been a tragedy in our town, and among my circle of friends and family. And having a cold, or cancer for that matter, doesn’t seem very important.  My friend, Ledell Waterman Mulvaney and her beautiful daughter Katherine, were killed in a terrible car accident on Saturday. Her husband, Don, remains in serious condition in a medically-induced coma. Their son, Devan and his girlfriend, Lucy, are standing vigil with other loved ones. It was shocking news on Sunday when we found out. Now, the sadness comes and goes. You forget for a little while and you complain about having a cold.  Or that’s it’s too hot out.  Or that the ice machine is the refrigerator is busted. Or all the normal things that seem so important at the moment. It’s normal. We’re human. For some reason, that feels like a very small blessing, we get to go back to our lives for awhile.  It’s just too hard to comprehend.  It’s just too hard to feel it for too long. It’s just too impossible to understand how people deal with such hardship in their lives.  And then we make ourselves remember.

We remember their faces, and voices and all the lovely memories.

And then we remember. We remember all the people WE loved and lost, and all the people we still have here, right now, to love. And we promise ourselves, once again, that we will tell all of them just how much we love them and not take anything or anyone for granted.

And then we have to reach for the Robitussin, or take the dog out, or figure out what to eat for dinner. Because we are really quite helpless to do much else but continue to live our lives – with just that much more awareness and love.

Just know I am thinking of you, and remembering you.

There is one small thing we can do, and that is to give what/and if we can to lighten the burden of Devan and Lucy, and Don . Here’s the link to the fundraiser.

You can take the girl out of Brooklyn…

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There are plenty of things that are worse than a cancer diagnosis, but the one that comes to mind today is being the parent of a child with a cancer diagnosis. That’s something I pray none of us ever experience – because no matter how old you are, or how old they are, there are few things that would be as difficult. So, if you will indulge me on the day before m3052_1020945898549_1672249546_28719_3972827_ny birthday, I’m sending a shout out of love and gratitude to the person that brought me into this world – and who has been there for me all these months…my mom, Harriet Haffner Hethrington.
Many of you know Harriet, and she tends to be a “fixer” so you can only imagine that watching “her baby” go through this “ordeal” hasn’t been easy. I know it was very hard for her to go to Florida for the winter when I started treatment but I insisted that she keep with her yearly schedule.
Not to go into a long story, but to provide a little background: In 1957, the year I was born, my mother was all of 23 years old. World War II had ended only 12 years earlier. My mom grew up in Brighton Beach during the war, and as you’ll recall, it wasn’t such a great time to be Jewish. My grandparents were poor and uneducated, and life, as my mother would say, “was no bed of roses.” She’ll tell you she went to work in a doll factory when she was 15 – a time when the polio epidemic in New York was at an all-time high. Her brother (my Uncle) contracted the disease at 8 years old, and luckily survived. Needless to say, it wasn’t an easy time. My mom got engaged to my dad at 16, married at 18 and had my sister at 20. The year I was born they were living in New Jersey, and my mom came to live with my grandmother for the last few weeks of her pregnancy – which is how I came to be born in Brooklyn.
The year I was born, Eisenhower was president, West Side Story opened on Broadway, the Russians whandmaddieere testing long range missiles, and Harriet was one of the first working moms to be a salesperson in a New Jersey car dealership. She was always a woman of firsts. When we moved to CT, she was the first woman in Fairfield County to open her own real estate business (Sherlock Homes) and the first woman to join the Norwalk Board of Realtors. Self-taught in almost every area of life, my mom went on to be a super successful Realtor, lecturer/speaker and teacher. She was a divorcee during the disco years and went on to find love, travel and golf with a sweetheart of a man named Nelson. Unfortunately, we lost him a few years ago to Parkinson’s – something else no one should have to endure. At yet, Harriet lives her life with what any Brooklynite would call “moxie”. Through the loss of hemeandhr lovely canine companion, Maddy last year; through back surgery, and the other aches and pains that go along with living into your 8th decade; she’s one tough cookie.
I am blessed to have my mom in my life today and I know this year has been as hard for her as it has been for me. I completely understand. When Emily had Lyme disease, I would have done anything to make her better – and yet, we’re all helpless when it comes to the health (and everything else) of our loved ones. All we can do is be there – and I thank God that my mom…and my dad (future blog topic)…are here to celebrate this birthday with me. I know my wish on my candles tomorrow will be to be able to say that as long as possibly possible.

 

I gotta roar.

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Feeling a little hyper, anxious, ansy, energetic? I am. And I think I found out why.
From a purely spiritual perspective, today is supposed to be a really important day. Each year, the Lion’s Gate Portal, a stargate, opens from July 26 to August 12. This powerful portal of light transmission reaches its peak on August 8th (8/8). Well, today its potency and frequency are even stronger because in numerology terms it is 8/8/8 (2+0+1+5).   A triple 8 stargate. The number 8 is also associated with harmony, balance and abundance. When placed on its side, it is the symbol of infinity.
This is a powerful time that gives us the opportunity to make very big changes and transitions in our lives, in particular to move toward our most authentic selves, our truth or own light.
lionsgateWith the sun in LEO, this week also begins the last cycle of the moon, culminating in a powerful LEO new moon on August 14th – which also just happens to be my birthday. It is also the historical moment when the constellation of Leo aligns with the Pyramid complex at Giza. Plus, today is the midpoint of astronomical summer, halfway from the June solstice to the September equinox.  That means there is still a whole half of summer before us.  And this huge tidal wave of energy will continue to grow and prepare us for September eclipses. And I love me an eclipse.I searched around on the interweb of things and there’s a lot of talk about how the passing of Cecil the Lion may fit in to this specific time alignment. Many believe that Cecil’s passing was a message about life and sacrifice and love and compassion. It certainly brought my attention and appreciation to the preciousness of all divine creatures. Except maybe dentists.
So how can we tap into this energy to allow for our evolving consciousness to get full benefit during this time. I don’t know about you, but I could use it.

Here’s some thoughts:
Be present
Where are you right now? It’s all that there is. Be there with open eyes, open ears, open hearts and open minds. Bring your best self to every moment.
Focus on the Path In Front of You
The 23rd Psalm tells us that we have a shepherd and there is no reason to want anything – for it is all laid out before us. In green pastures and still waters. (Makes me want to go golfing!) If we let go of what limits us, we can put one foot in front of the other and follow our inner GPS. Don’t be afraid (fear no evil) to listen to how you feel and move toward your best thought. You are being guided. Take one day to really believe that and you will be amazed at what happens.
Roar like a Lion
This is the time to speak your truth. That’s doesn’t mean to rip anyone’s head off. It just means to make sure the voice that you are using is yours. Not the critic that lives in your head who sounds a lot like your mother. Be gentle and kind with your words, but never compromise what you are saying.
Don’t go back into the Lion’s Den for your hat
The expression means if you get out of a difficult situation, don’t go back to it. Not even in your mind. There’s no need to replay old movies in your head. Move forward. Release the people and the things in your life that are no longer serving you. You’ll make space for all kinds of new relationships and adventures.
Hang out in your den with members of your soul tribe
You know who they are. The people who make you feel loved, make you laugh, give you their shoulder. Your soul needs all the nurturing you can muster.
Show Your Pride
Do everything that you do that makes you feel good about yourself. Eat well. Sleep well. Exercise. Wear your good jewelry. Light candles. Let your freak flag fly. Be proud of who you are and what you have accomplished. Personally, I feel pretty proud of myself, like I have just hung up my gladiator sandals and no animals were harmed. Now, if I could just get my mane to grow back, I’d really roar.

I’ll give you something to blog about.

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It’s been a week since I wrote a post here – and guess what? For the first time since I was diagnosed, I feel like I have nothing to blog about.

Now, THAT’S something to blog about.

Especially because this past week was an infusion week. Instead of focusing on treatment, my daughter and I took off for an overnight spa/casino trip on Tuesday. Then, I spent the rest of the week working on projects for my pals at The Westport Library and a cool tech client in Pittsburgh called HyperActive Technologies. On Friday, I rode my new recumnothingbent bike for ten miles (ok, you don’t really ride anywhere but even so…). I did an hour+ of yoga with my lovely instructor, Lea, went to Compo Beach for a bit with my bestie, Mary Ann, and swam laps for 40 minutes. This weekend, Billy and I went to see Mission Impossible (liked it!), I hung out at the beach with my sisters-in-law, Martha and Kathy, took Boo to the dog park several times, and had dinner at my mom’s for my sister’s birthday (HB, Debra!)

Look at me…talking about trips and work, and exercise and movies, and friends and fun.

I guess it’s not too exciting for a blog post – but boy-o-boy, it feels great

And so I turn away from my three least favorite words (I had cancer) to my most favorite words…life is good.

xo