Monday, September 29, 2008

a shout out to my peeps

a few weeks ago, i was lucky enough to have a visit from my goddaughter, destiny, and her mom (my cousin), jeanette. they brought so much sunshine during their whirlwind weekend that i'm still glowing from it.

this was their first trip to new york.

i was happy to join them for special moments like this one.

my mom and i got tattooed.

and then we all hung out at Hawg House with the motorcycle boys.

we had beautiful weather for our adventures.

like getting caught in the act with our invisible spray cans.

des and i at the brooklyn bridge.

new york pizza was on their list of things to experience. we had to pay extra for the brooklyn guy to provide atmosphere in the background.

three blind mice

what i'm left with in the end.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

spoke too soon

ok, yesterday, soon after i wrote that the effects of chemo usually hit me 3-5 days after treatment, i was hit with hot and cold flashes, the fine line between nauseated and hungry, and the overwhelming need to lay down. i just want to be accurate in my reporting here.

Friday, September 26, 2008

halfway there

my goodness, i've got a lot of catching up to do. the latest is that i had my third round of chemo yesterday and it went well! once again, the same two potential obstacles were not a problem: my white blood cell count was good and the cost of the treatment was fully covered by the Fund (thank you to all the donors looking out for me. you made this possible!). hopefully, medicaid will kick in before the next round on oct. 16.

we got to the chemo unit at 9:30 and i was done by 4:30, which is a two hour improvement from the last time. there was television, reading, lunch to keep me busy. and there was a visit from dear dr. weinreb, the surgeon for my first two surgeries. it's always great to see his smiling face. my mom was with me in the morning and ej took the afternoon shift. the only snafu of the day was that the first needle for my iv slipped out before the nurse had a chance to tape it down. she was unable to get it back in, so she had to poke me again in another vein. other than that, it was an easy day in chemoland. actually, i felt pretty good afterward and walked all the way home with ej. and i'm feeling pretty darn good today. must be all the steroids i'm taking. i've learned that the dip for me as far as feeling chipper usually happens somewhere between days 3-5 after chemo.

it's raining here today!
a perfect day to catch up on blogging and watch dvds. i love the rain, but i hope it doesn't make my hair too frizzy.

my left hand at the end of the day yesterday. wave to the bears.

Friday, September 19, 2008

me and my chemo brain

so, there is a side effect of chemotherapy called "chemo brain". this is when the drugs from chemo make it difficult to focus, remember things, or multitask. other than the occasional word accidentally omitted from an email, i figured i was doing alright. most of my life, i've been challenged by my short-reaching memory, so i figured, really, how much worse could it get? do you see where this is going?

on wednesday, i was standing in line at a produce stand at the union square farmer's market. as i was waiting my turn to pay for some beautiful chiles, i was catching up with my sister on the phone. when i reached the cashier, i asked my sister to hold for a moment. i paid for the chiles, put my change in my wallet, got out of the way of the other customers (it was a very popular stand) and was feeling like quite the functioning part of society. as i walked through the rest of the market with ej and my mom, i enjoyed the sunshine on my face and the cool breeze blowing through the stubble on my head. what a beautiful day. then i realized that for some reason, i was carrying my cell phone in my hand. there was no one on the other end. that was weird. i put it in my purse as we decided that it was time for lunch. fast forward to the three of us sitting at a table at a lovely korean restaurant on 13th street. the window was wide open, lush plants decorated the room, the anticipation of a good lunch hung in the air. gosh, it was good to be out!

and then it hit me. at least half an hour must've passed from the moment i bought the chiles to the moment i remembered that i had been in mid-conversation with my sister when my mind decided to walk away. i never even had the nagging feeling that i'd forgotten something. not once! after lunch, i called my sister to apologize and she laughed it off.

sheesh. pretty soon, anytime i leave the apartment, they're going to have to pin a note to my shirt saying, "my name is sandra. if found, please return to...".

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

food + football = friday night fun

it feels strange to include anything about fundraising in this blog, but i love my sister and this is a favor to her, who as been working so hard on my behalf. so for those in southern california...

Please join us, Friday 9/19 at The Corner Office Sports Bar & Grill, 580 Anton #201, Costa Mesa (across from So Coast Plaza) to eat, drink and enjoy the televised Mater Dei High School football game! TELL YOUR SERVER YOU ARE PART OF "THE MATER DEI GROUP" AND A PORTION OF THE PROCEEDS COLLECTED THAT NIGHT WILL BENEFIT SANDRA'S FUNDRAISER! Our family is a group of MD alumns, Louie '57, Sally '61, Sandra '83, Deanna '87. Thank you Mater Dei Alumni Association for your amazing generosity! Come as early as 5pm and enjoy dinner from the full menu, or simply relax with a drink! Game starts at 7:30pm!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

it's shearing season and guess who's the lamb

this one goes out to eric.

the time came for a new look. i wanted something sassy, yet easy to manage. this in-between look, this fright wig fiasco i had going on was just not working. i mean, who did i think i was fooling?
it certainly wasn't enough hair to go out in public without frightening young children, yet it was more than enough to annoyingly leave renegade hairs all over the apartment, so i decided it was time to go kojak.

it was ej who played barber. i was not at all concerned that he had just finished a mug of highly caffeinated italian coffee. his nerves are like steel.

i don't know how this picture of a crotchety old man getting a haircut got in here.

"please let my head be a normal shape. please let my head be a normal shape."

i get my "must take photo" gene from my mom.

i laughed when i saw this because it looked like ej was conducting a ritual, but i'm realizing that it was a sort of rite of passage.

and voila! the finished product yet untouched by the elements. 42 years and that scalp has never seen the light of day. until now.

old chipmunk cheeks would like to thank her stylist...

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

a day in the new life

going on auditions was never quite like this.

not once did i leave the apartment today, and yet the day exhausted me. hours were spent on the phone. randy at the american cancer society signed me up for a local workshop of "Look Good, Feel Better" so that i can learn to feel better about how i'm looking these days. gayle at the patient advocate foundation sat with me on the phone as we navigated through government offices trying to learn the status of my medicaid and disability applications. which twisted humans composed that hold music? and if i weren't saturated with chemotherapy, i'd have never stayed on the phone through multiple menus where you not only push buttons, but have to say carefully articulated words to an automated operator, just to have the live operator (if you're lucky to get to him/her) ask you the same questions over again and then not offer up any new information in return.

the good news is that i did get one call back. "hello, ms. whole-gwin. i checked on your application and your case was adjudicated just today. you have been found by the state of new york to be disabled. congratulations!" well, she didn't say "congratulations", but why not? the world is upside down because one day i'm excited to be pumped with toxins and the next i'm thrilled to be legally disabled. is it really that far from the director's call saying, "you got the part!"?

and now, i lay on my futon, joints aching, intestines confused, and i feel quivery and weak as if i've been carrying bags of bowling balls up and down the stairs all day. i know the view from here very well now. a peek at the buildings across the street. the ceiling fan. and the camera that's always with me.

looking out window#1

turn my head slightly to the right, and there's window #2

my friend, the fan

she looks vaguely familiar...

Friday, September 5, 2008

2 down, 4 to go

yesterday, i visited the chemo unit for my second round of chemotherapy. i was a little apprehensive because a couple of variables were up in the air. since we were footing the bill, i was concerned about what the exact charge would be. luckily, we were armed with a fair amount in the benevolent account that was set up for this, and because so many friends, family members, and complete strangers donated to The Cause after they received my sister's letter, i felt we had a good chance of not being turned away due to lack of funds. and i was right! we even have enough for future rounds of chemo! i can be healed! i never thought i'd be so eager to be shot up with toxins, but i was. thanks again to all who have contributed and continue to lend their support not just financially, but through comments on this blog, funny emails, photos, and voice mails that cheer me on. my recovery is possible because of every single one of you. jeez, i'm getting misty-eyed again.

secondly, i was concerned that my treatment would be postponed if my white blood cell count was too low. it wasn't! i believe that my mom's good cooking and a visit to Josh the Fabulous Acupuncturist were what put me in prime condition to receive the chemo. and receive i did. we were there from 9:30am to 6:30pm, but it went well! (the only down side to the day was that i didn't get the scheduled visit from either of my oncologists while i was there.) i even felt good enough to walk home, eat dinner (homemade papas con chorizo tacos), and catch up on some emails. this morning, i still feel good and i haven't even had to dip into my special stash of happy anti-nausea pills yet! i'm resting and relieved that it's going this well and i'm optimistic that it will continue to go well.

this really is a team effort. it takes a village to heal a sandra.

at the chemo unit they handed out snacks. it doesn't take much to make me happy.

at the beginning of the day, all these chairs were filled with cancer patients in addition to two other rooms of chairs and people in the waiting room. by the end of the day, this was my view. being the party animals that we are, we were the last to leave. nothing like closing down the chemo unit. dude.

ninja warrior princess as seen by skye

skye steele is a tremendous violinist, but i've learned that his creativity leaks into the visual arts as well. here is what he sent me and i just couldn't keep it all to myself (please click on the photo to see it close up and truly appreciate his artistry).

easy ways to feel good


as much as i don't want to be defined by my cancer, there's no denying that it has taken center stage in my life for the moment, so today i'm passing along some tidbits that i have found to be easy ways to help The Cause.

my mom and i have joined gilda's club. it's a national organization founded in memory of gilda radner

(comic actress who died of ovarian cancer) that offers social and emotional support to people affected by cancer - patients, family, and friends - all for free. we visited the clubhouse in manhattan and were met with such a welcoming, comfortable environment that i can't wait to indulge in a restorative yoga class or maybe the chi gong or gourmet fitness classes. gourmet fitness! apparently, you taste yummy food and workout in a chair! finally, a health regime that makes sense to me!

it was at gilda's club that i learned of and if you need to search for things on the internet, you can do it at (powered by yahoo search) and every time you do, they'll donate to the charity of your choice. i chose gilda's club-new york city. it's so easy!

and if you ever do online shopping, maybe even more exciting is the chance to shop through every time you make a purchase through the stores listed at (good ones like amazon, ebay, target, and zappos, for example), goodshop will make a donation of up to 30% of your purchase to the charity of your choice. again, so easy!

lastly, you may have heard about a special being aired tonight called "stand up to cancer". it airs for one hour starting at 8pm pt/et without commercial interruption on all three networks simultaneously. that alone is amazing. since our government has continually cut back on cancer research every year, SU2C is raising money that will sidestep bureaucracy and get funding and resources to the most innovative and talented cancer researchers out there, while facilitating collaboration between these scientists. sounds good to me. and there'll be plenty of celebrities that are easy on the eyes to make it even more worth your while to watch like salma hayek, jessica alba, and halle berry. or, if you prefer funny, homer and marge simpson, ellen degeneres, and jack black will also be making appearances. i figured i could spare an hour tonight to check out what this organization has to say.

mind the gap - if you dare

this one goes out to my friend, donny.

i think it helps me to know the reality of what's going on with my body, and aren't you lucky? i feel compelled to share that with the world. the gaps in my hair are spreading.

who is this old lady??

Monday, September 1, 2008


oh dear.

my sister sent out a letter about my current situation to people who know me and i am floored by the waves of love, kindness, and generosity that have been sent back to us in response.

i really start to get weepy just thinking about it. so does my mom. and my sister. and my dad. we've got waterworks going on both coasts. even people who have never met me have reached out to me.

crap. i can't even type this without getting teary.

at this moment, i feel as if nothing at all is wrong with me. i feel invincible and it's only because of all the love that's holding me up.

how does "thank you" even begin to be enough? i have no choice but to fully recover. jeez, this post is not the smoothest i've ever written.