Saturday, April 16th Feel a knot on the underside of my right breast. Freaked out but had a funeral to attend.
Wednesday, April 20th Drove down to Manhattan Beach because I couldn’t wait for my gyno’s Beverly Hill’s office hours later that week. That, and I harbored some strange superstitious and entirely illogical belief that if I wasn’t in her actual office nothing could be wrong. She said I probably shouldn’t worry but should make appointment at the Pink Lotus Breast Center ASAP. ASAP to them was May 19th. I try to strong arm them into an earlier date, but they said they had to keep appointment times available for new cancer patients.
Wednesday, April 20th – Thursday, May 19th You know, the usual stuff you do while you are trying to be calm about the fact that your very own left boob might be carrying a tiny time bomb. Auditions for Hot Pockets, Best Buy and KIA etc., acupuncture, a third and final awful date at The Counter with Match.com guy, Big Sunday volunteer event, Mindshare LA, Dodgers baseball game – and long long hours working for completely insane boss.
Thursday, May 19th Finally – appointment at Pink Lotus. Worth the wait, don’t know how I would have gotten through/be getting through this without Dr. Funk. She would save my life. Plus she’s a looker. And she’s funny. She does an in office punch biopsy – first doing it in the air “see, it’s like an ear piercing gun.” I tell her it sounds more like a staple gun, like she is hanging dry wall. She suggests I bring someone back with me to my results appointment the next day. I ask her her honest opinion – “70/30 cancer.” I cry hysterically, embarrassing the valet. I know. Spend the night on M. and D.’s couch, stopping first at the spa to drop off rice crispies birthday cake I made for one of the girls. Then go to Sweet Lady Jane’s to pick up D.’s favorite dessert. I keep my sunglasses on. The guy at the counter asks if I want anything written on the cake. So many things I could say.
Friday, May 20th D. comes with me to my “It’s Cancer” appointment. It’s cancer. Dr. Funk schedules me for surgery May 31st, I say, “but June first is my birthday!” She gives me a half smile and says, “well, at least you’ll get to wake up on your birthday cancer free!” I love her, I hate her. I call Southwest and cancel my plans to go back east for the birthday party my best friend and family are planning for me.
Saturday, May 21st Also the “Day of The Rapture.” I appreciate the irony. Attend my friend M.’s annual Polo BBQ, even though I’ve spent another night on M. and D.’s couch, haven’t showered and have to wear my glasses because I’ve cried so hard I’ve ruined my contacts. Against all conceivable logic meet really Great Guy. How inconvenient.
Sunday, May 22nd Attend wine tasting – also attended un-coincidentally by Great Guy from BBQ. Still in a state of shock I eat tons of cheese and drink enough so that I have the liquid courage to tell him I have “The Big C” Oh my God, I have the Big C.
Monday, May 23nd – Monday, May 30th Do all the stuff you do when you find out you have cancer – call agents and tell them you have to take “a cancercation” – go to the Tao of Wellness for acupuncture and start drinking copious amounts tea that tastes (and looks) like it was made from stuff scraped up off of a forest floor. Be afraid to eat anything but whole foods. Get support from close friends – don’t tell anyone else, – it’s cancer and there’s no way to gracefully insert that into casual conversation. Tell a few people inappropriately. Because. Listen to boss complain about how tired she is – being pregnant, working at the spa and having to do a couple of last minute TV segments and all. Neglects to ask how I am. Realize working for her will kill me faster than the cancer and start developing exit “stategery.” Consume last Diet Coke.
Saturday, May 28th – Sunday May, 29th Memorial Day weekend! Starts out great, – going out with Great Guy on Friday night… having the best “first date ever” even though I had to tell him about “The Big C” because I chickened out the week before. Awkward. We stay in the next night – I bring sushi and we stop pretending to watch Empire Strikes Back even before the end of Snow Walkers battle and make out on his couch. “Best second date ever.” Sort of.
Sunday, May 29th 5:30 pm MRI at Cedars Sinai. The place is a a ghost town it being a Sunday night and a holiday weekend. It’s creepy – I don’t like it. My feelings about the place will not improve.
Monday, May 30th Pick up Mom at airport. Go to M. and D.’s for Memorial Day with the twins, and my Mom. Convince Great Guy that he should come too. Probably not the best decision.
Tuesday, May 31st 6:30am lumpectomy. Don’t sleep at night anymore – wondering if boob was ground zero or if cancer started somewhere else (cut to voice that says “she’s riddled with it!”). Waiting to hear if it spread to my lymph nodes. Waiting to hear if I need chemo. Start developing strange OCD behaviors. It helps. Don’t realize that the sound of my mother typing away in the next room is her updating everyone on her email list* about how I’m ‘doing great!’
Wednesday, June 1st My birthday. Celebrate with a visit to fertility doctor (chemo kills eggs) and a strange gathering at my friend’s house. It’s also a Farewell Party. I’m under the mistaken impression that I need to start radiation treatments in Maryland the following week. I’ve found a subletter for my apartment, a service to ship my car, and everything I think I’ll need for 3-4 months is packed in large plastic bins all over my apartment. Great Guy from BBQ attends party – brings perfect gift – a green and white Kate Spade scarf! From the Kate Spade store! Maybe there will be a silver lining… I might be leaving town indefinitely – abandoning my life as an actor, I’m still waiting to hear my cancer is stage 1, and if I need chemo, I may never be able to have children, but I’m dating! A great guy!
Friday, June 3rd Pink Lotus follow up visit. The good news – lymph nodes are clean! Margins are clean! Bad news – the MRI results came in, delayed by the holiday weekend and last minute scheduling, they hadn’t gotten there until after the surgery and there was something suspicious, upper right – hiding behind the nipple. A different spot. I get another biopsy and learn what it feels like to have a wire in during a mammogram. Dr. Funk leaves a ‘pin’ in so that it will be clear on the MRI when I go back to Cedars (ack! Cedars!) if she found the right place. Mom hides behind Guideposts Magazine.
Saturday, June 4th Mom leaves. I am sad/relieved… Hallmark will not be making a Movie of the Week from this visit. There were no magical heartfelt moments where mother and daughter look deep into each other’s eyes and realize they have become a new heart, a heart born from the bond of love and tragedy. In fact, this visit marks the first time I used the “F” word to her face, and meant it.
I withdraw $10,000.00 from my retirement account. Why not? Better put all my resources into being stress free. I don’t do anything crazy crazy, but there are definitely some bucket list thoughts. I want a camera. Not a point and shoot, but a sweet sweet real live welcome to the new millenium digital SLR. I was a photographer all through high school and college and for a split second I once had considered becoming a professional. Fuck it. I read the reviews and ended up at Best Buy for a brand new Cannon T-2 E05. Of course they only had T-3’s. What’s the difference? There was a viewer piece on the back of the T-3 that you could flip around to watch yourself, say if you wanted to vlog or something. The price of my mid level dream camera had gone up $250 in the past week because of the Tsunami in Japan… Really? Yes – it was great timing all around. I bought it anyway and returned it the next week. For a T-2 they must have found in the rubble.
Sunday, June 5th Want to get the hell out of town. To drive north until I can breathe. Great Guy sends an email that he just wants to get out of town. I send him a link to where I’m thinking of going in the Sequoias. There is a tree there named The General. It is the largest living thing. It’s 4-5 hours out of LA. He texts that that is too much of an adventure for him. Head up to Frazier Mountain myself, well, my new digital SLR and me. Great Guy sends a “let’s take a break” email. He needs to not be in a relationship for a few months. I counter offer with a witty “let’s be friends” offer. He accepts. We do both have a lot going on.
Tuesday, June 7th Another MRI of additional suspicious spot. This time with the ‘pin.’ Keep telling myself that everyone is just being careful, covering their asses, I mean what are the odds it’s more cancer?
Wednesday, June 8th Shoot a midday news segment for KTLA about my book – The Dysfunctional Family Funbook. Don’t remember much of it, – looking at my life priorities through a strange cancer kaleidoscope these days. Flinch when the production assistant pokes the microphone into the arm of my dress. Wonder if she notices the surgical tape and the purple marker line running along my armpit where they removed the lymph nodes.
Also – first appointment with “Theta healer.” I walk in and she makes a face – “do my intestines feel like they are digesting glass?” Yes! Yes they do! I lay down and she works to heal me energetically. Will this help? What the hell do I have to lose? (Besides $150.00 a pop?)
Thursday, June 10 My first visit to the oncologist. Explain that I will be going back to Maryland for radiation and chemo (if I need it.) That’s where my family is. My immediate family has no room at the inn, but my cousin (aka Big Brother I Never Had) and his wife (BF) have started turning their downstairs into a ‘Catheryn’s Private Cancer Suite.’ A respite from LA. But cruelly – they won’t let me get a kitten. I tell Dr. G. this and he writes me a prescription. “Good for One Kitten.” I Immediately fax it East.
Tuesday, June 14 Chest and abdomen scans at Cedars (ack! Cedars!). Nurse sits me in a chemo chair in a long line of chemo chairs to drink gallon of orange contrast in 15 minutes. Thank God it is early in the morning and I am the only one there. It’s a huge open room with windows in the ceiling two stories above. Chemo Cathedral. Chug my orange goo and repeat my new 3-4am mantra – “I’m clean as a whistle.”
Wednesday, June 15 Back to Cedars (ack! Cedars!) for “Guided Biopsy.” Sounds better than it is. What it is – basically, with your face flat in a pleather donut you get slid back and forth into and out of the MRI machine like toast in a toaster oven until a Doctor – whose face you never see, clamps a waffle iron onto your breast vertically, then apple cores your breast with something they say sounds like a vacuum cleaner, but truthfully – it’s a drill. Thought this was going to be a cakewalk. Easy – like a biopsy at Pink Lotus, I was planning on going to Loehmann’s to find a new purse after. Recovery room nurse asks “did I bring anyone with me?” and refuses release me until my blood pressure lowers. Stumble to Loehmann’s anyway.
Fertility Doctor appointment at 4pm. It’s been 2 weeks since my birthday visit. Here was his proposal that day; on the second day of my period I would start 2 weeks of birth control pills, follow with ten days of injecting myself in the abdomen with hormones to plump follicles up to produce a bumper crop of eggs. Then surgically retrieve, freeze and thaw when needed, apply sperm and get to be a Mom. But it was the second day of my period I tell him. He sits and waits for my answer. I was going to be late for my birthday/farewell party. I said yes. Today he tells me to stop the birth control pills and to wait for my period. It will come Saturday – Sunday at the latest. Then email him immediately.
Friday, June 17th Bone scan with radioactive injection. Tech wears gloves that are very Dr. Emmett Brown in Back to the Future. Drive to Kings Road Cafe to wait the 2 hours for it to sink into my bones. Eat granola and drink water. Run into friends of friends who challenge me to drink mimosas with them. I decline.
Into another machine. Don’t mind when he tells me not to breathe, haven’t breathed for weeks. Image on tech’s screen is a tiny shimmering golden skeleton.
In the Trader Joe’s when the late Friday afternoon phone call from Dr. Funk comes. “Got your results back! It’s clean.” Woo hoo! Cashier asks, “How are you?” “I am having a great day thank you. How are you?” I beam and buy salmon and white lilies. Turning onto my street my phone rings. Pink Lotus again. (‘Boob Central’ on my phone ID) “They missed it” she says. “The report says it’s ‘healthy breast tissue’ and we know it’s not.” She has me scheduled for another lumpectomy before I can park. I guess it’s personal now.
Saturday, June 18th Great Guy and I go to my favorite and ridiculously romantic Italian restaurant on a “non-date.” I buy a new dress, we don’t talk about the “Big C” or his divorce, and my lips touch refined sugar and dairy for the first time since May. That’s all they touch.
Monday, June 20th Panic. No period Saturday. Panic. No period Sunday. Dr. B. says not to worry, we’ll start injections Monday. It won’t be too late. Panic. Can’t start the drugs the drugs today and have lumpectomy surgery tomorrow! I have one shot – the price tag – $17,003 not covered by insurance. $4,253.00 worth of drugs $4,500 Doctor’s fees, $8,250 egg removal surgery, (and $265 a year storage)! He says we can start Wednesday. It won’t be too late. I don’t believe him and tell him I will be in the next day.
Tuesday, June 21st Lumpectomy, The Sequel! I’m a pro by now. A friend from work drives and I get to keep a second set of fuzzy purple booties. They’re called ‘Bair Paws.’
I practice making words in the car so I don’t sound like I am in a post surgical anesthesia state and can indeed understand the lesson on how to inject the $4,253.00 worth of drugs into my abdomen… It’s a science class – 375cc’s of Follistrum delivered with the ‘Follistrum Pen’ after replacing with .33×12.7mm needle tip and inserting cartridge, (silver side up), mix 1cc of Menopur with the 22G 1 2/2 inch needle, take off giant needle, mix with powder, use 27G 1/2 needle to withdraw and inject, use 28G x 1/2 inch needle to withdraw entire vial of Garilex – insert all at 45 degree angle between belly button and bikini line at exactly the same time every day. Good luck.
Wednesday, June 22nd Oncologist follow up. Everything looks good – except my cvc – csc? numbers are off. Could be caused by stomach issues, I’ve been digesting myself since May so I’m not surprised. Fitting into all my skinny clothes. He schedules me for a pelvic ultrasound to check for cancer.
First day of injecting myself with hormones. I ‘break’ Menopur Pen and panic. Figure out how to reset it with new needle before Dr. B. calls back. Hope I haven’t contaminated the medicine… Takes about 20 minutes from start to finish. Try not to pass out.
Thursday, June 23 Pelvic Scan. Violated with a giant plastic wand and didn’t even enjoy it. Tech sees the eggs plumping – I tell her about the harvesting, she counts 11 fat follicles.
Friday, June 24th Another late afternoon phone call from Boob Central. I answer anyway. “Second spot is cancer too.” And the margins aren’t clean. I might want to “consider options” = MY LEFT BREAST IS TRYING TO KILL ME. It’s coming off. She gives me a plastic surgery referral – I call immediately.
Saturday, June 25th Saturday morning ultrasound with Dr. B. Looks like I have 13 follicles. He leaves and I want to grab the giant ultrasound wand and sing with the strangely ever present 80’s music that blares in his office at all times. He tells me to stop the injections Monday, only 6 days in – leaving $2,000 worth of fertility drugs in my fridge nestled between a carton of eggs and chocolate almond milk. (Still there.)
Monday, June 27th Dr. TG consult. I opt for “breast reconstruction with tissue expander.” My mastectomy is scheduled for Friday, July 29th. A month? It makes me nervous. My margins aren’t clean. I still have cancer in me.
Wednesday, June 29th 8:15 egg harvest surgery. Seven eggs successfully frozen. Only seven, they count on about 50% to survive thawing. 1.5 good shots at having a baby. Ever, if I need chemo. It feels like failure. Dr. B. offers to try another cycle in the window before the mastectomy. All I need is another $11,000.
Friday, July 8th The Hollywood Bowl. Great Guy joins me in friend’s box seats. We duck out early – it’s Westside Story and we both know how that ends. Walk down to Hollywood Boulevard. Stop at Natalie Wood’s star – I place my hands in her tiny hands. He opens up about his divorce, and in the cab I tell him my next step, the mastectomy but I don’t say that word. He grabs my hand. I don’t know how to stop squeezing back until we get to my car. “Best second non-date ever.”
Wednesday, July 13th Dinner at LOU (a secret wine bar/restaurant nestled between a Peruvian restaurant and a laundromat. Heaven in a strip mall!) with Great Guy. Great food, great conversation, great wine. “Best third non-date ever.”
Wednesday, July 20th – Wednesday, July 27th The beach with family in North Carolina. Oh thank God. Apparently cancer and fear is a great diet. I look better in my bikini than I have in years. The subject rarely comes up except for a few late night conversations and an accidental post breakfast meltdown. Not enough decaf to keep it together after a phone conversation with well meaning aunt who tells me I should just get them both removed! She did! And why not – her boobs are sewn in her nightgown! she announces proudly. Leave everyone 4 days early after a day of deep sea fishing that had 7 out of 11 of us throwing up all morning. Including me. I hold a shark and send the pictures back to D. BFF flies in same night from east coast and we meet at LAX.
Friday, July 29th 11:00am surgery check in at St. John’s. Stand with my arms out as Dr. TG draws lines with a purple marker over my chest and neck. Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. She has prescribed to me a cocktail of pills to smuggle in and take exactly one hour before the surgery. Smuggle you ask? Yes – I have to palm valium and special antibiotic cocktail and sneak off to the bathroom to avoid all the hassles that come with ordering meds in the hospital. I feel like a criminal when the nurse grills me about what I have just taken (what? I had to tell her, she was about to prescribe more valium!) Dr. TG laughs and says they are used to her antics. Gulp.
Before I go under Dr. F. gives me the good news that the tumor profile on cancer #2 indicates no chemo! Bullet dodged again! I’ve made dinner reservations for BF and Great Guy at my favorite restaurant because it happens to be only a few blocks from the hospital. He brings me a Cashmere throw. I might be just a little in love.
Wake up wearing giant velcro surgical bra with lacy edges. Why the lace? It’s a surgical bra. I will wear one form or the other of such “battle bras” for the next 2 years 24 – 7. Except when I shower.
Tuesday, August 2 BFF leaves. I’m not sure how I’ll get up in the morning, literally. Finding it next to impossible to roll over I usually text her “TURTLE!” so she can come downstairs to my bed on the couch and pull me straight up by both arms. She has left me with two Excel spreadsheets- #1 for my complicated med and drain regimen, #2 for friends/scheduling. My breast is covered with large pieces of adhesive and I’m dragging around a ball of my own juices which I have to drain and measure twice a day.
Tuesday, August 2 – Thursday, August 11 I have no idea. Valium is a mind eraser… Can’t drive. Can’t lift. Doctor’s appointments… apparently went to the musical Hairspray at the Bowl and the twin’s first birthday party… Nothing from Great Guy. That I remember.
Thursday, August 11th Get boob inflated. Not as much fun as it sounds. Procedure involves Dr. TG using a (I kid you not) studfinder to locate magnetic portal in my inflatable breast, (yes, you can hang a refrigerator magnet from it – but only a very small one) then add volume into the appliance over a series or visits until reaching desired size. Then appliance is taken out and an implant is put in. Cake – right?
Friday, August 19th Black Friday – get email from Great Guy that he is “seeing someone” and one from crazy boss says I’m not welcome in spa – saying I was “beyond rude” to staff. She offers last treatment with staff nurse. The services are a joke – a fraction of what’s she promised from birthday and Christmas and overtime – and 3 years of being her on call idea machine, secretary, writer and producer. I’ve always known she was a lunatic, but now when my friend M. lobbies for sociopath and buys me The Sociopath Next Door I think she might be on to something. Box seats to Fantasia at Hollywood Bowl. Drink myself into oblivion and let friends drive me home.
Tuesday, August 23rd Oncologist starts me on Tamoxifan, an anti cancer drug that I will have to take for FIVE YEARS, which may or may not cause hot flashes, mood swings, fatigue, ‘restless sleep,’ and killer deep thrombosis, amongst other things. He tells me that “if they can get the patient through the first three months things are usually fine.” I fill at Target. My favorite WeHo pharmacy assistant John tells me he’s married his boyfriend and asks how I am. I say he can tell from my prescriptions. He smiles back at me sadly.
Wednesday, August 24th Visit spa for treatments promised. Know it’s probably a very bad idea, but feel desperate need to get put back together for reentry into world. Insane boss flies off the handle – hiding in the back office like the Wizard from Oz and firing angry texts at nurse citing my ‘selfishness.’ Has little wide eyed receptionist charge me full price. Not even our standard friends and family discount. M.’s right: Sociopath.
Monday, August 29th Another inflation. Good grief – 500cc’s now. Dr. TG suggests again that I consider an implant in righty to make them almost match. They do look uneven. I think. Maybe it’s me… but now I’m using two sides of a gel bra to even things out.
Wednesday, August 31st Wednesday, September 14th Maryland! Highlights – Baltimore Grand Prix, Table 21 at Volt, Sugarloaf Mountain and rain for almost 2 weeks! Cousin’s wife (BF) takes one look at me without surgical bra and bursts into laughter. So, it is noticeable. I nickname them Porn Boob and Sad Banana.
Thursday, September 15th ANOTHER INFLATION – OH MY GOD THIS THING IS HUGE! 600 cc’s – to stretch out the muscles for my new C cups. I have indeed decided to have implant in Sad Banana side so I have a prayer of them looking like they belong in the same bra. I’m getting a new C rack. Dr. TG. suggests I “pick out a pair.” Of breasts? I tell her, again, – “I just want them to look like each other.” She tells me boobs come in all shapes and sizes and that I should find some pictures I like. She tells me she puts them up on the O.R. wall and is “quite popular” at the hospital. I’ve promised the friend who drove me to my appointment that we’d stop for Zankou chicken on the way home. Now we’re stopping for chicken and porn. I buy a Hustler, a Playboy, a vintage Playboy (it was only $.65) and a Big Jugs/Busty Beauty 3 pack (because it was only $8.99!) Now padding righty with both sides of the gel bra and a sock. What’s next – oven mitt? Mattress pad?
Friday, September 23rd Porn Boob and Sad Banana go to Operation Smile. Asymmetrical dress and bow disguise Porn Boob and Sad Banana in a room full of world renowned plastic surgeons. Old guy tries to pick me up at Trader Vic’s saying, “I had to come over here to tell you that I love your dress.
It’s around this time I decide to address the stack of medical bills that have been accumulating. At first I just put them all in an envelope and sent them to my aunt because there was money left in a family trust for medical bills. Insane, I blame shock. As I start to open them I see that SAG is claiming not to be my primary insurance?!?!? This begins a journey of a thousand phone hours. Each SAG Health and pension employee is unreasonably patient as we go through every line item. Each time I hang up the phone I have lessened the bill by anywhere between $800- $10,000.
I also do the math to figure out that I need to make $___ by March __ to qualify for insurance benefits the next year! Since I am scheduled for surgery December 2nd won’t be able to use my arms that month I start a serious campaign to get work. I call in every favor and register with all the extras agencies…. Shit!!
Wednesday, September 28th Porn Boob and Sad Banana start auditioning again. Near impossible to hide Ms. Porn Boob, she rides high and wide to stretch muscles. Grateful for calls that involve “Mom” in description because a cardigan is genius master disguise.
Decide to start a blog about my days. Everybody says I should be taking notes, that one day I will wish I had written about the details. I basically tell them to fuck off – come on – don’t I have enough to deal with?
Thursday, September 29th Two auditions today. Back in the saddle! One is a classic “gas, bloating, diarrhea” lady and the other is a store employee.
Friday, September 30th Give up on jerry-rigging lefty and make trip to Intimate Images – the ‘All Things Cancerous Lingerie Shop’. $50.00 buys me a pair of size C/D gummy boobs. I only need one. Keep the other one in my glove compartment for emergencies.
Thursday, October 6th Sit com audition! Falls flat..
Friday, October 7th Audition for nurse on Major Medical Drama. Dark blue button up shirt is nursy and provides swell camouflage. My line is “She said if I didn’t help her she would walk. I was afraid she’d try.”
Monday, October 10th Callback for nurse on previously mentioned Major Medical drama. Nailed it! Well, it was one line. The director laughed at the brevity (come on – it took me longer to walk into the room) – so I offer to do an interpretive dance then demur because, “I left my unitard in my other purse.” She laughs.
Wednesday, October 12th 2 more auditions, why can’t I book any commercials? Visit my agents. I poke fun at my top agent and he says loudly, “Oh Brockett, you were so much funnier before the Cancer” loudly enough to silence every assistant and every other agent in every cubicle…
Thursday, October 13th Appointment with Karen. Have I mentioned I’ve been going for $150 a pop Theta Healing sessions? Whatever works baby.
Friday, October 14th Sequioas! Ahhhh. Go up to friend’s cabin and finally see The General. Did I mention it’s the world’s largest living thing. I’ve wanted to wrap my arms around it since June forever. Well, forever since I learned about it.
Saturday, Sunday October 15 – 16th The General! He’s everything I ever dreamed he would be. See – I didn’t need a stupid boy to want to drive up here with me. (Yes I did.) Sequioa National Park is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. The trees are as big as buildings. I want to breathe in the calm and majesty of my surroundings, it’s Narnia, I’m a Hobbit! But I made the tactical error of wearing my PJ’s to the park. Well, not really my PJ’s – the pants I slept in, no make up, surgical bra and hoodie. I figured, who’s going to see me? I don’t know anyone in the park… Why is this important? Because my lovely friends thought it would be fun to take pictures. How sweet is that, wanting to film me discovering the magic?… yeah, I know what I look like these days. (To this day I look at those pictures and cringe. Would a little mascara have killed me?) At the cabin I sit by the lake. I listen to the bullfrogs. I rake acorns for hours in gratitude for the respite. In retrospect this might not have been a great use of my abused upper body.
Tuesday, October 18 Phone conversation with my East Coast financial advisor. How’d it go? Well, that $10,000.00 I cracked into the retirement piggy bank isn’t going as far as I hoped. I blame it on all the organic food.
Wednesday, October 19th Get a call from the wardrobe guy on Major Medical Drama. I know he’s going to ask my bust size so I decide to just leap in with the information like a big girl saying, “and I’m going through a breast reconstruction, for cancer, so one of my boobs is a lot bigger than the other, so I’m not sure what my old size card says – probably 34B, but I’m sporting a C… well, a D, a C/D rack these days. A ‘D’ I guess, for all intents and purposes… ” I keep talking, like it’s going to help. ”Righty is still a ‘B’ – but I had a gummy boob for the audition – so I’m sure it’s fine, but…” He asks me if I have time to just come on over to the studio. Sure.
Friday, October 21 Shoot Major Medical Drama! Call time is late. Really late, 9:30pm. At night. Huh, okay. It is the last scene in a long and grueling 10 day shoot and as nice as the crew tries to be it’s clear that the good will and cheer dried up by day 8. Hair guy says, “girl – they have a rain machine,” and pomades every piece my of my hair so close to my head that I look like a cross between a Robert Palmer girl and a bowling ball so that he will not have any reason to touch my hair again. When the make up artist sees me adjusting gummy I admit I have one boob under construction. She tells me I should just go ahead and get them both done, she had a friend who made the mistake of doing them several years apart and now they “don’t look anything like sisters, they don’t even look like cousins!”
Wednesday, October 26th Audition for Major Crime Show. Panic because the show is known for its plunging necklines and flimsy dresses. Though I am still sentenced to wearing battle bra 24-7 I take a step on the wild side for a couple of hours and wear a regular bra with delicate straps. This is only possible by cutting the right cup out of the bra, leaving only the underwire and stuffing padding on the other side. Lots of tape involved.
Monday, October 31 Audition for Major Crime Drama. It seems that I have a fairy Godmother over there at CBS. Someone talked to someone who knows my situation. This doesn’t mean anyone can get me the job, but someone is putting my headshots high in the right piles.
Friday, November 3rd On my way back up to the cabin I get the call I booked the Major Crime Show. Not for the big part I auditioned for, in fact it wasn’t even in the script. I don’t care, I am that much closer to making my health insurance requirement!!
Dr. G. puts me on Tamoxifan. It’s an anticancer drug that reduces my risk of other types of cancer and might include the nifty side effects of weight gain, restless sleep, joint pain, early temporary menopause, hot flashes and oh yeah, I certainly can’t get pregnant.
Wednesday, November 2nd 10:45 at Pink Lotus and 2:15 with Dr. TG I ask them both about something I’ve been secretly considering; mastectomy on lefty. Never breast feed, never feel a lover’s touch, never have to worry about more breast cancer… Surprise myself by figuring out I can ask them what they would do if they were me. Even more surprised when they both say they would do it. With Dr. F’s words, “there will be more false positives, there will be more biopsies,” ringing in my head, I choose to sleep at night and ask them to schedule the OR for both.
Thursday, November 3rd Audition for woman with gassy husband (at least it’s not me this time) and fitting for Major Crime Show. The wardrobe girls have several outfits waiting for me. I tell them I’ll wear anything, but need to keep battle bra on. One of the girls looks at me sympathetically and asks, “was it elective?” Yes dear girl – it was exactly what I thought would catapult my career to the next level: one gigantic tit. She follows up said dumb question with statement, “we did a walk.” (Yes, we’re assuming a breast cancer 5 miler or something, but I didn’t ask.) I end up in a tan jacket and leopard skirt.
Friday, November 4th – Book Major Crime Drama! Shoots the same day as plane ticket to go home for cousin and BBF’s surprise 40th birthday on the East Coast! Yay and damn!
Monday, November 7th Woo hoo – working actor’s dream day – 3 commercial auditions and table read for Major Crime Drama. Lunch with actors that I’ve been stupid over for years (even though the caterer informed me I could only have 2 coconut shrimp because the rest where for the stars. Dude, I have lines!) We all sit around a horseshoe shape of tables jammed into a double wide trailer. Everyone is there, from the actors to the producers, to the execs. I get a big laugh when I add a tag under my breath after my line :).
Tuesday, November 8th Shoot Major Crime Show! The sun is blinding and I am paired with the young daughter of one of the stars in my scene. They have changed the script completely since she’s seen it and freezes up like a rocket pop. Poor kid. I hide the lines for her under her dress and tell her that one day she’ll get to tell the story about how on her very first acting job she was given the script on set and did a great job anyway! It didn’t work! Thank God it wasn’t cut.
Wednesday, November 9th Callback for wife of gasbag.
Friday, November 10th Shoot Major Crime Drama. Fake blood on the shower curtain in my trailer makes me believe the last guest star didn’t make it out alive! I Facebook and take pictures and try to be in the moment – I’m shooting a Major Crime Drama! Still feel out of body. Can’t figure out why I’m not having more fun.
Saturday, November 11th Arrive late for birthday party and miss fun surprise part. She cries anyway! Get drunk and spend the night making out with friend on the couch. I am too interested in feeling sensations in my left breast for the last time to worry about how bizarre gigantor is over there on the right. My “date” is a sweet and lovely man who I’ve known for a couple of years. He would die suddenly of a brain aneurysm less than a year later.
My hair is coming out in large handfuls. It’s stress, I’m sure of it. I once heard that this can happen 6 months after a traumatic event. That’s about right. I have a lot of hair and it actually makes it more managable.
Saturday, November 11th – Friday November 25th Thanksgiving on the East Coast. No one mentions the cancer at the table.
Monday, November 28th Home in time for a crown on my tooth and another appointment with Dr. TG. I’m a total work in progress – a human Mr. Potatohead.
Wednesday, November 30 Pick up Mom at LAX at 2:55. We go to Costco. It’s closed due to a massive windstorm.
Thursday, December 1st Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, laundry, cookies, blow out and back to Costco. We leap out of the car to collect branches from fir trees that are being cut and piled by the road. The Mexicans with chainsaws look surprised not knowing the lengths my Mom and I will go to for a bargain, or free as the case may be. LOU for dinner. It’s a tradition now.
Friday, December 2nd 5 am check in for 7 am surgery. Righty gets the expander taken out and is replaced by a squishy implant and lefty gets “skin sparing mastectomy.” I imagine the inside of my boob has been scraped out with an ice cream scoop. Many friends come by. I assign them to my Mom’s care and feeding. She learns to use her new Mac from Susan and I send her home for the night. Best nurses ever – Malibu Jane, and one bad apple, evil nurse leaves flourescent light on and refuses to help me get up to wash my face. Narcotic nightmare.
Sunday, December 4th After being discharged we go to Whole Foods. Mom drives. My polite warning, “my car has a bigger front than your mini….van” is interrupted by the sharp scrape of my front left bumper under the Jeep Cherokee in the next parking space. Learn to wear my drains around my neck on a lanyard to shower.
Monday, December 5th I should be home. I should be NOT using any part of my torso but I need a Christmas tree and I need my mom’s help to get it. Mom’s never been to a Southern California Home Depot. She’s not a fan but I procure the worlds sweetest baby tree. I could start a line of fashion accessories for the recently deboobed. I think my Mom digs the dressing changes.
Tuesday, December 6th Concerned by the scraping sounds my brakes have been making since the Sequoias my Mom goes to Jim Faulk Lexus in Beverly Hills. Instead of waiting at the dealership she inquires if there are any .99 cent stores in the neighborhood… Here’s a bit of too much information for you – “skin sparing mastectomy” isn’t working and apparently I am not going to be able to save my nipple, how do I know this? It’s blue. During the surgery they injected a dye they wait to see if it pinks back up. Nope, still blue, on it’s way to black. I make an appointment at Pink Lotus.
Thursday, December 8th I put Mom on a 10:35am Supershuttle and feel not a bit of guilt for keeping all my friend airport ride cards for myself.
Saturday, December 10th Convince friend I am well enough to go to a cookie making party. Hide drains under sweater. I haven’t had refined sugar or butter since I can’t remember but can’t resist a hot powdered sugar covered Mexican Wedding cookie. The hot buttery nutty sweetness goes down so good I eat three.
Tuesday, December 13th Pink Lotus. Blue Nipple. It’s not even purple (get it – part pink, part blue…too soon?) Dr. Funk picks at it with a pin and makes a sad face. She schedules another surgery for the 15th. My plan to get home for the holidays looks like it might be in peril.
Saturday, December 17th Holiday party at mansion. Can anyone tell I’m packing gauze and no nipples in my party dress?
Thursday, December 22nd LAX! If I was smarter I would have asked to be shuttled around in a wheelchair. Here’s a genius thing I did, – I went to the drug store and bought a sling. Now I don’t feel bad about asking for help with my bags etc. Very nice gentleman in the seat on SWA flight asks me what I did. “Torn rotator cuff,” I tell him. What? It sounded better than “breast cancer.” I’m a great actress, but a lousy liar, turns out his wife just had rotator cuff surgery… I endure the next 7 or so hours skirting questions…
Friday, December 23rd Cookiefest! In Maryland. Not a big help seeings that I can’t raise my arms above a T or lift anything over 5 lbs. Cousin can’t seem to remember to stop asking me to pull things out of the top oven. Forget the no sugar no butter no blah blah blah – I eat everything!!
Saturday, December 31st Ring in the New Year with best friend in remote house in Jersey on the river. Tired. Spend lots of time changing dressings, packing and repacking. The skin on lefty doesn’t seem to want to heal. Should I be worried?
MADE IT TO 2012!
Tuesday, January 3rd Back to LA in time for more Dr.’s appointments – let the right side inflations begin! Or not… the nipple skin on lefty is still raw and open. I secretly think that she’s angry that she did nothing wrong and I cut her off.
Friday, January 6th Auditions auditions! Thank God they can’t see the nightmare under my shirt. Honda, JC Penny’s, why can’t I book anything?!?!
Wednesday, January 11th Dr. TG’s again – inflation? What about now? Let’s get this show on the road!
Saturday, January 14th Pick up high school friend from the airport to celebrate her 4oth birthday in LA. I’m sure I’m a bucket of fun.
Wednesday, January 25th Dr. TG appointment to expand. At what point will my left breast catch up with the right one on the way to overinflation? Maybe I’ll get a week or two where they are even!
Tuesday, January 31st Audition for a different Major Crime Show. I’ll be getting hit in the face and have to cry. Awesome!
Wednesday, February 1st 8am oncologist appointment. I pretend they’re not so bad. Ack! Cedars. Seriously – it’s a cancer factory and I love/hate that I know the drill. My cvs, no cvc numbers are off again. this means I either have some kind of abdominal distress, like stress, or uterine cancer. I point out that I am indeed under a bit of stress. Back to the gyno. She sees 3 cysts on my right ovaries and wants to monitor them. She actually answers her phone with one hand, the transvaginal wand in the other. It’s hard to raise on objection when she’s probably trying to save a baby, but seriously?!
Thursday, February 2nd Another inflation. I am a blow up toy. They are beginning to settle out but I do not like the permanent implant on the right side. She looks low and sad. Like a Grandma boob. Dr. TG isn’t exactly offended, but she’s offended. She explains the
Tuesday, February 7th I decide to take the commercial bull by the horns and start attending a commercial class run by Notoriously Hard Ass Commercial Teacher, “silence! You people will not be talking in the lobby!”
Thursday, February 9th I perform an essay called “Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn, Porn” at one of LA’s most prestigious spoken word venues associated with Comedy Central – thereby solidifying my identity as breast cancer girl. How do I feel about it? Eh. Work with what you’ve got I figure. At the party after the show one of the “edgier” comedians (and television writer) says cancer doesn’t matter, “is my pussy still tight?” “Yes,” I tell him, but do not offer him a chance to test the theory.
Monday, March 5th Ugh, my C whatever numbers… off again. but off to the gyno again.
Tuesday, March 20th Another transvaginal pelvic. Really? Ugh. Still 3 cysts, but hold the phone – they are on the other side. Yeah. My gyno concludes, “maybe this is just the way your body ovulates.” Thanks – because I need more stress.
(?check dates?) Wednesday, April 2nd Trip back to Maryland for my Dad’s 70th birthday! He is not well. Actually he’s a mess. He has a rare type of liver cancer can actually be cured (or at least put into remission) by a drug cocktail in about 80-90% of cases. But the drugs are sending him on a nosedive, his liver seems to be shutting down and his belly is expanding with fluid. They are making occasional trips to the ER to stick a tube into his liver to drain the fluid, a peracentisis. Crazy, huh? Mom is supposed to fly out Sunday the 15th for my next big surgery (replace expander on left with implant and swap out Grandma boob on right) on the following Wednesday. I tell her she needs to stay because he had her first. Not sure how I will navigate 3 weeks without being able to lift anything over 5 lbs, raise my arms above a T, or drive, but I’m sure I’ll come up with some way… Shop and leave everything on my counter tops.
Monday, April 2nd Pre op exam for surgery. Are we there yet?
Wednesday, April 18th 7am surgery at St. Johns. My friend the oncologist picks me up at my apartment at 4:40am for a 5am check in. She laughs and says we really don’t have to be there until 5:30! Silly patients. Smuggle in my Dr. TG. pre surgery drugs. Not as worried about being busted. My friend C picks me up and takes me to the mansion she shares with her boyfriend and his father. I am tucked away in a wing downstairs with a canopy bed that looks like a mushroom and a view of Los Angeles that can’t be beat. Taking a peek under the bra after surgery reveals lefty is high and taped above and below. With a similar tape job, righty is much lower – almost diagonal. I trust that Dr. TG knows what she is doing and the kids will settle out.
Saturday, April 22 Convince friend who is not in the loop of caregivers that I am so totally allowed to go out to a friend’s 4oth birthday extravaganza! Go ahead and just throw a shirt on over mounds of surgical packing and lacey surgical bra. Surprised that it looks just fine! Pictures posted from the event prove that my fashion judgment was seriously impaired… – I look like I’ve stuffed myself with Kleenex. Not just the tissues but the actual boxes.
Monday, April 1st Scripts with Wenona.
Thursday, April 26th My friend K. first drives me out to Santa Monica for a Post op appointment with Dr. TG and private session with Notoriously Hard Assed Commercial Teacher. He explains that my stance – me holding my arms crossed is an indication of cutting off from the camera. It’s actually because everything North of my belly button just hurts and the support feels like a relief. He then highly recommends that I take a strip dancing class. To loosen up. I tell him I really couldn’t, and he insists that I would be surprised, (It’s not me who would be surprised buddy!)
Tuesday May 1st Still can’t lift my arms, when I perform at another spoken word show – a piece about my frozen eggs called, “I’ll Take Mine Frozen Over Easy.” It doesn’t go too well, I’m not in the moment and the guy before me has a story about growing up as a friend of Lucille Ball’s son. Real live I Love Lucy stories! Can’t beat that. Afterward a guy comes up to me and tells me his wife is about to undergo a double mastectomy and that he is grateful to me for my perspective. I feel like a million bucks.
May Go through the motions, audition, hike, rinse, recycle…
Saturday, May 19th It’s time for the Annual Polo BBQ again… That means my cancerversary. I’m determined to make it so awesome that all memories of the year before will be replaced. I become obsessed with finding a new dress, and am distressed to find that I have grown 2 dress sizes, my boobs feel giant! I find a beautiful size _ black and white striped dress which I squeeze into. Pictures will later reveal that horizontal stripes were perhaps not my best choice. I go through all the motions and eat everything in sight but can’t escape the ghosts of BBQ’s past. I feel empty.
Saturday, May 26th Fly to Maryland. Oh dear God – I’m going to be 40. Dad looks awful.
June 1st Worst 40th birthday EVER. Woken up by Dad yelling up the stairs, “it’s time to go to the hospital.” We are on our way to the emergency room where I spend all day with him waiting to have an emergency pericentecis. All I want to do is make it to my favorite restaurant just outside of Baltimore where I’ve had hard to get reservations for months, and meet up with my best friend, cousin and his wife. Then everything will be fine. We’ll have some wine, I’ll wear a beautiful dress and unashamedly Facebook the fabulous evening. Tornado warnings are issued and the storm that rolls through keep us from making it to the restaurant in time, but that’s okay – the place is leaking like a sieve and in a bit of chaos. I look like a drown rat and no pictures of the event will be Facebook worthy. My best friend is kicked off her flight. And my cousin’s kid gets strep. I decide to catch the train up to Philly to meet best friend and salvage the last moments of my 30’s. Trains are delayed for 2 hours due to the typhoon. With my last shred of will I beg my way onto a car! It’s my birthday! Mean conductor let’s me have last seat in quiet car. “No talking or cell phone usage!” Two very sweet porters overhear and sneak me into first class. They deliver a tiny bottle of champagne – their kindness restores my faith in, well something.
I celebrate the rest of my Cancerversary with a Cancercation – soaking in the healing magic of my favorite place on earth I retreat to my family’s house in the Florida Keys and spend days laying in the sun like a gecko. I stare at plants. I still can’t seem to relax. My friend Captain Bill includes me in a private charter and 4 of us spend the day on the Channel Islands – I think I can see Cuba from here.
Wednesday, July 4th – Claudia’s Fourth of July Bash at The Mansion. Wear my Marilyn swimsuit and accidentally flash the gentlemen poolside with my Frankintits – they are too large for the suit and I can’t feel them… Oops.
The next step is nipples, but they are optional… It’s a whole ‘nother surgery and apparently a lot of women just skip it. Skin is taken from somewhere else on your body, (did I have any scars? No…) and folded into cones that heal into nipples. Three more weeks of not being able to get my heartrate up, lift anything over 5 lbs, and not list my arms above a Tee. Dr. F. recommends I skip the nips and just get some awesome 3 D tattoos. I figure, why stop know – when I am so close, and I want to be a real girl again. We schedule the surgery for September 16th because Dr. TG. books up fast and I am agin warned to stay away from December, “that’s when everybody wants breasts.” She also wants me to practice wearing nipples. Really. Back to Intimate Images. They are out of “medium almond” nipples as well. Linda offers to give me the sample ones from the case. Eeuuwww! I special order a pair. They will give me a call as soon as they arrive.
Thursday, July 19th – Saturday, July 28th LAX to Raleigh. Beach with cousins. Holden Beach and Faux Olympic Opening Ceremonies with kids. Word from Maryland is my Father is not well.
Monday, July 31st Meeting with major director about turning my blog into a webseries. Gulp! I mean, fuck yeah…!?…
I get a call that my Dad is in the ER. I thought it wasn’t that bad…
Sunday, August 5th Receive the call, “if you want to see your father alive, you need to get on a plane.” I pack three days of funeral clothes and 4 days of street clothes. I will not return for 2 1/2 months. Slept (or didn’t sleep) in the hospital for the first 3 weeks because he didn’t sleep at night and I didn’t want him to die alone. Ugly. His pompous oncologist who promised an easy treatment dodges us in the halls and gets taken off the case. Nights of applying balm to his dry lips and reading from Six Frigates, the Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy. Good book. The doctors said he wouldn’t make it home and stopped with medical care after the first week and a half. He is in almost complete liver failure. We lie to him about the hospice, but even in his nearly comatose state the man knew they had stopped testing his vitals every few hours. I suffer weeks of bad hair, and as my mother mentioned, “I don’t know if it’s because you are not sleeping, but your skin is really spotty.” We bring him home to die. The ambulance guy hands me the DNR over my Dad and tell me, “people usually keep this on the fridge.”
Series of night nurses are nightmares, maybe I’ll sleep when he’s dead. Against all odds he gets a little better every day. I spend my time trying to fatten him up – cooking with butter, cream and bacon, chopping wood and organizing 20 years of crap. I find 874 light bulbs, 237 batteries, 74 decks of cards and gain 12 more lbs. No time to write the webseries for Major Director. Crap.
I have to reschedule my September 16th nipple surgery. I get a call from Intimate Images – I know it’s about the faux nipples, I don’t answer to see what message Linda will leave. “Your goodies are here,you can come in and pick them up at your convenience.” I miss my oncology appointments and blood work.
Dad learns to walk again and even begins to feed himself. Hospice doesn’t believe he is getting better. “No one gets taken off hospice!” We have them over to see. They seem almost disappointed.
I receive a call to come back to LA to do a script reading. Seems a director has recommended me to the producer – Ms. C. Since Dad no longer needs a full time nurse it’s a good thing I’m finally getting the hell out of dodge. The normal dysfunction is creeping back. It was much easier to deal with the man when he was dying.
Thursday, October 18th Fly back to LA. My car won’t start, my coffee maker doesn’t work and my plants are dead.
Sunday, October 3rd Perform reading of “Mistakes Where Made” at the historic Los Angeles Ebell. Great fun was had by all and I learn that this Ms. C is a force of nature, – she wants to hear more about all my projects. “Do I ever speak about it? The cancer? Well, why not?”
October Time to get back in the swing, for realsies. Audition, temp, audition, temp. Rinse, repeat. Get a part time gig at a wine store folding Christmas boxes. Blissfully I sit for hours, silver, red, red, silver, bow bow bow. Fold fold fold. 50% off wine…
Thursday, November 1st Dinner with in Beverly Hills with Ms. C. At the time I have no understanding of what a significant part of my life and recovery she will become.
Thursday, November 3rd Callback for Box Store/Cellular Device commercial. Very fun. I book it! Thank you Jesus and Angels and anything that’s holy! Who is going to make their insurance this year? This girl!
Monday, November 5th Fly to Dallas to shoot box store/cellular device commercial. Ridiculously fun. At the end of the day everyone wants to know what I’m doing next. I’m a celebrity in Texas! Tell them I am working with a Major Director to make my blog into a webseries. “About what?” “About my last 2 years dealing with breast cancer.” By the looks on their faces you would have thought I said, “about my last 2 years raping innocent baby farm animals.” (Or, “my tendency to have explosive diarreha.”) I immediately regret it. Some one should have given me direction on the Plucky Cancer Survivor Girl thing… At least my financial troubles will be solved, right!?
(Not the best bar to be sitting in – in a hotel in Dallas the night O’Bama is reelected. I compensate by drinking one too many glasses of wine. Or maybe two.)
Wednesday, November 14th Cedars (Ack!) Cedars 8:20 labs, 8:40 appointment 12:00 audition for Major Credit Card, 4:15 audition for Grocery Store Chain. This is all going fine, right?
Thursday, November 18th MEETING WITH MAJOR DIRECTOR AT PRODUCTION COMPANY WITH HER EVEN MORE MAJOR DIRECTOR BUDDIES! ! 1 pm, I get there before she does, make the mistake of asking MAJOR DIRECTOR where the bathroom is… I bring cookies, I pitch the show. Awards everywhere – for movies I grew up on. They think I’m weird. That’s ok. They want my director to do whatever project she wants to do for their web channel. The series she just did based on another woman’s blog was apparently great! Holy shit – this could really be happening! Well, as soon as they finalize the financing. After Christmas for sure, can I get them scripts? Sure..!? Wait, how do you write a webseries?
I am so excited I call my friend the Literary Manager. She’s excited. We’re all excited.
Friday, November 16th Breakfast for dinner with M.and D. and the twins. We eat bacon and pancakes and those early days when I stayed on the couch seem like forever ago.
Wednesday, November 27th I buy a baby Christmas tree to keep me company during my upcoming weeks of inactivity.
Thursday, November 28th Pre op appointment with Dr. TG. I ask again to see pictures of reconstructed nipples. I am again assured they will look great, but do not see any. Have I been wearing my nipples? No. Never picked them up… Back to Intimate Images. Ugh – have I mentioned how creepy the place is? I did not mean to steal them, I just figured insurance was going to pay. Linda calls and tells me I owe them $42.00. $42.00! For a pair of nipples I only need for like a week!? I do not drive back out to Santa Monica and passive aggressively do not wear them. I leave them on the dining room table where they taunt me every time I go by.
Ms. C. tells me that they need a speaker for the Monday, January 4th luncheon, will I do it? “No!” “Why not?” I had no good reason – and as I have learned, you don’t say no to this woman. What the hell will I talk about? Like to 100 women eating salad? Do they drink at lunch? Can I?
Friday, November 3oth I Meet my Major Director for lunch. I come with huge graph sheets that I have developed with the arc of the series – episodes and everything . She has a little bit of a different vision, a little darker, a little edgier… but that’s okay – we’ll figure it out!
Monday, December 3rd Fine! I’ll wear the stupid fake nipples! They actually look pretty good! Pretty perfect. Little round discs of adorableness! I put to a cute little black a line dress and skip the bra – because why not! Spend the day running pre surgery errands; commercial agent’s office, theatrical agents, casting director, friend’s apartment, post office. Arrive home to find that I only have ONE NIPPLE! Here’s a story I wrote about this… (Legend of the Lost Nipple Link)
Tuesday, December 4th 5 am for a 7am surgery. It’s a little surprising to me that I am discharged the same day. Even more surprising is the incredible burning pain in my right and left upper groin area. I knew that is where the skin for the nipples was going to come from, but highly underestimated how much it would smart. I feel filleted like a fish and walk round looking like I have to take a dump.
I can’t help but take a peek. OH MY GOD THEY LOOK TERRIBLE! Like miniature fleshy red bloody Cinnabons with angry black stitches, and they are HUGE! Ok, Dr. TG warned me they would shrink as the skin died, BUT REALLY?
I stay a night with Ms. C. She watches me. Then I stay a night with friend in Sierra Madre trying to knit scarves for Christmas presents without disturbing the flesh cones. Not easy. Doable, but not easy. Well, it’s not like I have any money to buy anybody anything yet. Waiting in that commercial money…
?Tuesday, December 11th Post op with Dr. TG. They are still pretty much HIDEOUS! And they don’t match. I don’t get a chance to see the doctor, but Dr. TG’s assistant assures me that they will heal into proper form. Her PA teaches me how to do the elaborate dressing project I will have to master to keep my nipple grafts protected and perfect. Here’s how it works – you get a stack of 4×4 gauze, like 10-15 of ’em about as tall as a burger, then you pull two off at a time, fold them in quarters and cut the middle out. Make larger cuts at the top of the stack and top with a solid piece of gauze. Then, add a giant dollop of ointment to the new nipple to keep it moist and flip the stack over and tape the square to your boob. Like a nipple donut. She recommends we stop at the pharmacy next to the hospital and purchase several large sleeves of gauze. I didn’t know the stuff came in foot long sleeves!
Saturday, December 16th It’s the annual Christmas party at The Mansion! Johnny Mathis is coming! I have his song “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” starting in November! I want to have fun! I want to look pretty! I don’t fit into anything I own! Crap!! It’s the boobs, the weight, the gauze nipple tents. I buy a sassy little silver sequin dress. In the pictures I look like a disco ball. Someone should have just hung me from the ceiling and given me a spin.
December Fly home without use of my arms. Use my genius arm sling disguise. Stranded in Denver airport. My Baltimore flight is cancelled due to fog. Cancelled. A minor Christmas miracle occurs when the Southwest Gate Attendant puts me on a fully booked flight for no reason at all except that I must look like I’m also mentally impaired standing there stunned in my stupid sling. I am so touched by her kindness I admit that the sling is just a disguise, that I am recovering from breast cancer and that she has no idea what she has done for me. She says she’s a survivor too and we both start to cry. Every time a bell rings, a Southwest Gate Agent gets their wings, right!? (Southwest Christmas Story Link)
At home Mom is fascinated with how disgusting my nipples are and has a ton of fun cutting stacks of gauze.
Another annual cookie party where I can’t be of much help.
Christmas is no fun without being able to hold my rambunctious nephews – no matter how many times my sister-in-law tries to hand me the baby…
Wear sling and don’t use arms to Amtrack up to see best friend in rural Pennsylvania again for New Years.
MADE IT TO 2013!
January I know I have to be writing a web series, but my first order of business is to put together my hour talk/lecture. I decide to read some of my essays and am given the option of using a projector (hells yes!)
Monday, January 7th Post op with Dr. TG. She thinks they look great?! Does she not see that righty is TWICE the size of lefty?
Wednesday, January 9th Audition for very cool Major Sit Com. When casting director (who I know, but don’t know know) asks me where I’ve been, I tell him. He is awesome about it!
Friday, January 11th Callback for Major Sit Com. Spoiler alert – I don’t get it. Such is the heartbreaking life of an actor.
Monday, January 14th Give talk at luncheon. Attended by about 85 women I think. Salad was good, and yes we do drink wine! “Welcome to my cancer luncheon, I know you had many other cancer luncheons to choose from and I thank you for picking mine.” I put together some essays and put in some funny photoshopped pictures with some ‘splaining in the middle then answered questions. It was good.
Checks from commercial finally arrives (late and all at once – highly unusual) and – it’s probably half of what I was expecting. No – less than half. Seems the tension I gleaned between the creatives and the agency translated into a spot no one really wanted to run. Though I’ll probably still make my insurance, I am again – financially in the toilet.
Thursday, January 24th Another callback for same Major Sit Com. Don’t get it – again.
Monday, February 4th Dr. Funk, Dr. TG.
Wednesday, February 13th Cedars (Ack!) Cedars! for an oncology appointment. You’d think I’d get used to these and not stress out. Nope. 8:20 labs, 8:40 appointment. My numbers are off. WTF? I need to get a liver scan and another pelvic scan. Grrrr and eeeeeke. I TRY not to worry, but I’m beginning to feel like I’m on a worse case scenario water slide.
Tuesday, February 19th Liver scan. I feel tech going over a spot repeatedly, pushing down so hard I swear she’s reading the upoltstry beneath me, while she’s making an I’m trying “not to make a face” face. I’m may be a little scared. I know she found SOMETHING.
Wednesday, February 27th Post op with Dr. TG. She still thinks they look great. She’s incorrect.
I sign up for a meditation class with a psychic. It’s expensive, but what the hell. It’s great. All I want is for her to tell me everything will be fine. I sit with my classmates for the weekend and paint glass and listen to the lecture. It’s pretty great. No one psychics that I’m going to die or have new cancer careening around my body.
Still no word from my oncologist. Ms. C. is ANGRY. How dare he not not return my calls. Feels nice to have a champion. Crappy to need one, nice to have one…
Thursday, February 28th Audition for (ok – I know I usually don’t say the actual show or product – but it’s too ironic not to tell you it’s for…) the show Anger Management! Don’t worry – I don’t get it.
Friday, March 1st I’m in Gelson’s after work when I FINALLY hear from Dr. G. – yes – that’s right – 10 DAYS AFTER THE LIVER SCAN – he sounds tired, tells me I have what looks like a hemangioma that has probably been there my whole life. Which does not explain why it wouldn’t have shown up in the original cancer search. But the numbers and the findings add up to nothing to really worry about. I duck into the cracker aisle to let him know that “I was really freaked out.” He tells me that he couldn’t help that and that he called as soon as his schedule allowed. Ms. C is relieved and furious at the news. She INSISTS I get a new oncologist. Isn’t that nice!
Saturday, March 10th Bra Mitzvah! My friend’s throw a party for me now that I have new boobs, I need new bras! I get measured and find out that I am a 32 DD, or a 34 D. Seriously. About 30 women attend, everyone from my agents to friends to Major Director. Ms. C’s Beverly Hills House is filled with laughter and fun. Great idea right? Right down to the nipple shaped pastries. I end up with a ton of gorgeous bras and Victoria’s Secret gift cards. Time to stop wearing the battle bras and maybe sleeping on my side again! I put my old bras in a box outside with a sign, “free to a good home.”
Tuesday, March 12th Great commercial audition and great commercial callback – why can’t I book something? I need to book something – when is this going to be a success story?
Wednesday, March 20th First appointment with Dr. D., my new oncologist. She’s gorgeous. really – how does this happen to me. She decides I need ashit ton of tests that Dr. G didn’t give me; bone density (apparently Tamoxifan causes bone loss), and here’s a fun one – another breast MRI to see if there is any tissue left. REALLY?! WAY NOT FAIR! There were supposed to be some perks with this whole shitty deal – one of which was going to be that I no longer had to get mammograms – breast MRI’s are MUCH WORSE! Seriously, they put you in a giant machine, face down and for AN HOUR clackity clack the damn machine with your face squished down in a donut! One of the other perks I thought I’d get is freedomfrom those pesky nipple hairs that spring up around a ladies areola, my friend calls them nipple lashes, but no – since Dr. TG. used skin from my groin area I didn’t even get to have that! Damn it – if I had only been insistent about getting free laser hair when I worked for the crazy nurse I wouldn’t have to pay for 2 laser hair areas in the future! Whatever.
Friday, March 22nd Perform in a sketch show for a friend at Improv Stage that has nothing to do with cancer. Nope, not a thing.
Saturday, March 23rd Perform essay about cancer at small theatre as part of a show. Goes well. Really well. But it was a pretty small audience.
Monday, March 25th 2:25 Breast MRI at Cedars (Ack!) Cedars. 3:15 audition in the Valley. You see this coming don’t you…?
Tuesday, March 26th Bad news. My agents are breaking up. I have a meeting at 4:00 to meet the new blood.
Thursday, April 18 Lunch with Big Showrunner!
Monday, April 22nd Gyno again. It’s the only action I get these days…
Wednesday, April 1st Visit possible new agency. Maybe it’s time to turn a new leaf. Just because I’ve had an actor’s dream of being supported by one of the best agencies in the biz through thick and thin… Do I stay? Do I go?! I hate it when Mommy and Daddy fight!
Thursday, May 9th Lunch with Major Showrunner and Ms. C. Amazing. The woman is a genius and even better has great ideas about my project. We talk for 4 and 1/2 hours! It feels great to “work” with someone brilliant. She tells me I have to write a tv pilot. Wait, how do I write a tv pilot?!
Thursday, May 16th Meet with new agency. I can’t believe I’m going to do this. “Leap and the net will appear, right?”
Perform “Please Ask Tom,” (Please Ask Tom Link) at Comedy Central Space. I’m not gonna lie, it was really fun.
Thursday, May 23rd Another appointment with Dr. TG. She thinks they are great and the last thing I need to do is schedule for tattoos. I’m not happy. I have taken to wearing a band aid over my right nipple so I don’t look like lopsided sue. The left one is pretty non-existent, not sure why I even bothered. She offers another revision surgery. Seriously? Every time I do one of these I have to pay $750.00 out of pocket! Ugh! I tell her I’ll think about it.
Saturday, May 25th Fly home to Maryland early for my birthday. No Polo BBQ this year. Spend several days in the hospital with my Dad getting his transfusions. Just like old times. Buy my own birthday cake. Dad tells me I look fat. On my birthday.
Wednesday, June 12th Send finished pilot to Major Director. Don’t hear back from her – she’s in the middle of a real live feature film deal. Hope I didn’t miss the boat…
The bill comes from the fertility clinic where my eggs are frozen. It hurts to pay the $600.00. It would hurt more not to.
Saturday, July 20th Beach vacation! Short and sweet this year. That’s ok, I’m worried about being away from my new agency for too long. Not that they’ve sent me out… That’s ok – I’ve been busy writing.
Monday, August 5th Liver ultrasound at Cedars (Ack!) Cedars. Hemangioma looks the same. At least there’s that.
Monday, August 5th Throw the incomparable Ms. C. an impromptu birthday celebration. People just keep showing up with food – she’s furious with me, and delighted. (That’s what she gets for not telling me when her birthday was s0 I had to bribe her daughter.
Friday, August 9th I can’t live with the band aid thing for the rest of my life… Another nipple revision! From the email I sent my Mom; “Friday’s procedure went off fine – though there was some last minute panic because my appointment was Friday in Santa Monica at 11:00 and I got an audition Friday morning in the Valley at 10:30! Thank goodness there was a cancellation at the Doctor’s office and they fit me in at 12:30!! Ms C. had made her whole day available to be my medical care giver so she was flexible. (Although she does blame me for the $$ she spent inTuesday Morning buying things she didn’t really need while killing time waiting for me to be finished at Dr. TG’s. I have 10 stitches because believe it or not Dr. TG. took skin from the big nipple and grafted it on to the little nipple. Robin Hood – steals from the rich gives to the poor – I cannot make this shit up…..”
Monday, August 19th Dr. TG’s assistant takes the stitches out. Let me tell you, these nipples, not worth the fight. Perhaps I should have listened to the good Dr. Funk.
Saturday, August 24th – Wednesday August 28th Cross the country with crazy evil genius lawyer and his two Labradoodles because his wife won’t let him drive alone. And they won’t let the dogs fly. This experience is a whole ‘nother book!
Surprise my folks for their 50th Anniversary. They thank me with the news that they have lost the Key West House in a law suit with my Uncle. I can’t give details, but it’s basically all their fault. For real. The only place on earth I felt safe. It has been a season of suck – turmoil with my agencies, uncertainty with my oncologists, the scripts in flux – I haven’t heard from the Major Director
Monday, September 9th Oncologist visit. Eveything looks A-OK.
Thursday, September 17th Perform “Legend of the Lost Nipple” at Comedy Central Space.
Wednesday, September 18th I start taking commercial classes again.
Thursday, September 19th Audition for “Mrs. Claus” for series of grocery store commercials. It’s fun. I also have a FANTASTIC callback for “Mrs. Claus.” I don’t get it.
Monday, September 23rd New primary care Dr. I go to Dr. A. as a 4th choice – she’s the only one who will take my insurance. I want to go on t a different blood pressure medication. The one I’m on causes birth defects. Not that I’m getting pregnant anytime exactly soon. I just don’t want not to be able to. I have like 1 1/2 years left on this womb. I decide to stop taking the Tamoxifan for the same reason.
Tuesday, October 1st Audition for KMart Mom #2.
Friday, October 3rd Callback for KMart Mom #2. Guess who booked KMart Mom #2. This girl!
Thursday, October 10th Shoot KMart commercial – Woot! Really fun (except for the part where I look big as the side of a barn on camera.
Thursday, October 17th Perform “But You Gotta Eat” at Comedy Central Stage. I feel comfortable, like I’ve hit a good stride. It’s not the greatest piece I’ve ever read, or the funniest one that night. But it’s good.
October 22nd Meet with Major Producer/Showrunner “friend” of Ms. C.’s! She has had a hand in some of my favorite shows of all time. She seems genuinely interested in the show but doesn’t know if she can sell a show about cancer these days. Tells me sned the pilot. I rename it “And Then That Happened” because I don’t want the show to be about cancer – I want it to be about a group of friends, with a main character who has cancer.
Work like a dog with the constant help of Ms. C. until the thing is done
November 7th Email pilot to Major Producer/Showrunner. Fingers crossed!
December Fly back home to Maryland. My blood pressure has spiked out of control. My Dr. A. insists I go back on the birth defect medicine. It’s not fair, everybody else has a family. Christmas is out of control. Dad has grown healthier and more bitter at roughly the same rate.
MADE IT TO 2014!
January My blood pressure is still out of control. Dr. A. suggests an anti depressant. Really? I’m supposed to be wise by now – been through the fire, right?
All that’s left boob wise to do is tattoo these bad girls – anybody got $1200.00?
And this is where we leave off.
FANTASY TIME LINE
FEBRUARY Write a book.
Friday, February 14th
May 31st Lumpectomy Pink Lotus
June 21st Lumpectomy Pink Lotus
June 29th Egg retrieval surgery
July 29th Right mastectomy and expander insertion.
December 2nd Left mastectomy and expander insertion, right expender removal and replaced with implant.
April 18th Left expander replaced with implant, right implant swapped out for one that looks less like a Grandma boob.
December 4th Nipples!
Friday, January 25th First Nipple revision. Editing of righty.
Friday, August 8th Second Nipple revision. Rob from the rich (righty) and give to the poor (lefty).
Years sleeping on my couch = 2 +
Most # of doctors appointments in one week = 9
Years spent in a battle bra = 2 +
Rough rough spitball cost estimate = These boob? $489,000.00 paid out by SAG health alone – so yeah, they are a half million dollar pair of knockers.
Number of purple “Bear Paws” surgical socks I can’t throw away = 11
Boxes of fertility drugs still in my fridge = 4. Street value $lots!
Pounds of quinoia eaten = 1 square farm acre
Number of valium pills still in my bathroom cabinet = 31 (but who is counting??)
Number of Percoset in my bathroom cabinet = 17 (they make me puke)
Sets of gummy boobs and plastic nipples in my underwear drawer = 1 of each
Highest point of Credit card debit = $17,000.00 woot
Number of Blow Outs = 28+! and counting…
Number of new bras = 37
Bottles of wine = a couple +