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Finding Bliss in Santa Fe

We got off to a late start after sleeping in (Winston acquired a cough somewhere along the way, and kept us up all night with his hacking), but we were on the road soon enough and greeted the sunny New Mexico sky as we shipped off to Santa Fe.


I’d been wanting to hit up a spa while in Santa Fe, and had gotten a tip from my old pal from Duke, Kelly, that Ten Thousand Waves was the place to be. Will called the spa for me this morning, and luckily, there was space for me. I booked an hour in a private bath area called “The Waterfall,” which was an outdoor, wooded area that included a huge hot tub, a “cold plume” (which is a small circular pool of cold water that you’re supposed to jump into after you’ve been in the hot tub for a while) with its own waterfall, a sitting area, and an indoor sauna. After that, I was set for an 80 minute therapeutic massage. Ten Thousand Waves is in a mountainous area of Santa Fe, about 20 minutes from our hotel and the downtown area. I figured that it would be the perfect retreat for me.


My expectations were pretty high, but they were totally blown away when I got there. My time at Ten Thousand Waves was, by far, the greatest spa experience of my life. That’s saying something, people. Your pal WunderGlo is quite the connoisseur of spas -- from swedish to shiatsu to deep tissue massages, to the new age or classical music that fills your treatment room, to the dim lighting enhanced with yummy smelling candles, to the crisp white robes and the fancy cucumber-infused water. Historically speaking, I’m not great at relaxing, but I am pretty darn good at soaking it up at the spa.


Ten Thousand Waves was much better than your average posh spa. It was positively magical. I arrived there and was immediately impressed by the peaceful surroundings and how this place uses the natural beauty around it to enhance the spa facilities. The hot tub was sinfully relaxing, the cold plume was freezing (of course) and invigorating, and spending that enchanting hour completely outdoors made the experience totally unique.


As if that wasn’t enough, I had one of the best massages in my life by a Frenchman named Pascal. As he sat me up at the end of my treatment, he said softly, “It’s time to come back to Earth.” I guess he knows how awesome he is.


Ten Thousand Waves couldn’t have been a better place for me to relax, reflect, and rejuvenate for the rest of our trip East. This might just be my first vacation spot after I completely annihilate cancer. “The cancer” doesn’t deserve a second trip to Ten Thousand Waves, but I do.


Defying Death (and Cancer) at the Grand Canyon

 As we walked up to the first overlook point at the Grand Canyon’s South Rim, I wondered if it would be as beautiful as I remembered it. I had seen it once before during my first cross-country trip with Will, in those exciting days right after we graduated from Duke and just before I started up at Stanford Law. When I saw it then, during the summer of 2004, I thought it was one of the most striking and inspiring sights that I’d ever laid eyes on, and I looked forward to seeing my old friend again now, hoping that it hadn’t changed at all.


The Grand Canyon was as gorgeous as ever, filling me with wonderment and gratitude for a life that allowed me to see it with my loved ones not once but twice. The air was crisp and the sun was warm, a perfect combination as we walked along the rim, soaking in the vistas and snapping lots of pictures.


It didn’t take long before I started engaging in one of my favorite Grand Canyon activities: taking pictures that look far more death-defying than they are, but are (I’ll admit) slightly dangerous. I drove my parents and Will crazy with some of the places I’d stand and the poses I’d strike, but I was always in control of what I was doing and after we looked at the photos, we were all laughing. Whenever I pull these pranks, I never get too close to a steep embankment, or feign a loss of balance unless I am firmly rooted and not even close to losing my balance. I’m never afraid because I’m in control and I know that I’m totally safe.


Maybe it’s a little crazy to have this attitude when you’re several feet away from a bad accident at the Grand Canyon, but it’s exactly the attitude you need to have when you’re staring down Stage IV cancer. You can’t pick and choose when you want your WunderGlo to be fearless. It’s either all of the time or none of the time…and it’s of all the time, ladies and gents.

And it all worked out. I was rejuvenated by the majesty of the Grand Canyon and now I’m safe and sound at our Sheraton in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Day 2 of the cancer-killing cross-country trip was a rollicking, death-defying, sun-soaked success.


The Cancer-Killing Cross-Country Trip Begins!!

Today, my three nurses (and Winston) and I loaded up our big SUV rental car, bid goodbye to L.A. for the next month or so, and set sail on our cross-country adventure. Our first destination: the Grand Canyon.


We got off to a late start (not shocking for anyone who knows us) but made excellent time and enjoyed my iPod playlists and the Stephen King audiobook I downloaded moments before we left.  

As night fell, the sky lit up with stars and the full moon helped guide us through the darkness. When we had almost arrived at our hotel, we spotted a huge buck on the side of the road, with massive antlers, looming largely but looking relaxed, as if SUVs going 70 miles per hour were part of its natural habitat. This animal was massive and beautiful, and simply gazed at us while our car lights illuminated it and its surroundings. I looked at it in wonderment for those passing moments, marveling in its majesty. It was an incredible moment -- the first of many breathtaking moments that I'll experience on this trip, I'm sure.


Tomorrow, we’ll see the Grand Canyon in all its glory. 51 and sunny is the forecast, which will be just about perfect.


The Next Chapter

I'm packing up my stuff and getting ready for a month on the road, in the hospital, and recuperating at my cousin's house in Maryland. Today was my last full day in L.A. for the next 30 or so days, and it was jam-packed. Got my CT scan results (which were good  -- "the cancer" knows better than to move to my liver or lung), chatted on the phone with Ilse Sugarbaker (who was very happy with my CT scan results), had my last pre-surgery acupuncture session with Mary Ellen, hit the weights hard for the last time in a while at Educogym, met one last time with Fr. John (the pastor at my parents' church), and said goodbye to all of my awesome friends (that actually started yesterday at OMM and last night when some of my crew came over).


The time has really flown by -- it feels like almost yesterday when I was discharged from Good Samaritan, nursing my fresh incision wound, 14 pounds lighter, struggling to finish an In 'n Out burger and fries (the appetite wasn't too big back then), but charged and ready to beat the hell out of cancer.


And now, here I am. All healed up, in peak physical condition, 14 pounds heavier, much stronger (I've gained an inch and a half of muscle on each of my quads and half an inch to each of my biceps), 7 rounds of chemo tougher, a vegan who eats like a horse, and still focused and determined to thoroughly embarrass cancer.


I've learned so much in these past few months -- about diet, exercise, meditation, managing stress, among other things.


I've also met so many fabulous people -- from Dr. Lenz to Mary Ellen to Judy Worsley (leader of the Worsley Institute for Classical Five-Element Acupuncture) to Buzz (the Duke alum in Seattle who hooked us up with tickets to the Duke/Oregon game) to Howard to all the cancer warriors who have emailed me about the blog to none other than Coach K himself.


I've also strengthened my relationships with people who were already in my life -- my hubby Will, my mom and dad, my family, my OMM family, and my buddies -- Rhett, Tim, Sabrina, Anna, Ruth, Aymee, Nick, Jessica, Erin, Morgan, Dan, Jillian, Jon, Carla, Junior, Tope, and many others (yes, I’m very, very lucky to have so many good friends).

I do believe that cancer has changed me. It's made me stronger, calmer, more grateful, more focused, and...if you can believe it, happier. Happier because I know how precious life is because I fight for every minute of it. Happier because I know how much I am loved. Happier because I know that, though my journey, I'm helping others find courage and strength and joy. Kind of the opposite of what "the cancer" had in mind, right? What an idiot cancer is. Foiled again, you stupid idiot!


I'm a stronger and better person because of this disease, but now it's time to get rid of it once and for all. While I'll truly miss my beautiful city and all the wonderful people that live in it, I'm not leaving L.A. with a heavy heart. Instead, I'm leaving determined and ready to slay this dragon and get my butt back home to my family and friends, where it belongs.


It's officially time to leave my beloved Los Angeles and hit the road for my next big adventure. The blog posts will keep coming, rain or shine. We will continue on this journey together. I wouldn't have it any other way.


My Love Letter to O'Melveny & Myers

Today, I had my going away (for now), pre-surgery, bon voyage send-off at O'Melveny. I had been looking forward to this day and also not looking forward to it for a while. Looking forward to it, obviously, because I love my colleagues and my OMM family and enjoy partying with them more than most people on Earth. Not looking forward to it because it meant that I was about to leave on my journey east and I wouldn't be able to see all of them for a month, which seems like way too long for me to be away from the firm.


I knew it would be a great party, and that I'd get to see all of my buddies, but had no idea that it would be such a huge gathering with such a wonderful surprise.


The surprise, dear readers, was that my mentor and the managing partner of the L.A. office, Carla, planned that today would be a "Jeans for Charity" day. That meant that attorneys and staff could wear jeans to the office today (jeans are not proper attire for a normal Wednesday at the firm) if they contributed $5 to the chosen charity. The charity for this “Jeans for Charity” day  -- the Colorectal Cancer Coalition, a nonprofit organization dedicated to winning the fight against colorectal cancer through research, empowerment, and access -- was chosen in my honor. Dr. Lenz is on the Medical Advisory Board of the C3 Coalition, so he'll be happy to know that O'Melveny raised nearly $5,000 for the organization in honor of little old WunderGlo and her big old bon voyage party.


If that wasn't enough to make me love my firm endlessly, the Firm bought 250 WunderGlo shirts (designed by my dad's good friend and an awesome dude, Derek, who had made the first printing of them a couple of months ago) that were distributed to everyone who wanted one. They sold out immediately, and now I hear they are being marked up considerably on the O'Melveny black market. :)


I walked in to the conference room on the 13th floor (the location of my shindig) at 3pm, and was blown away by all the people who greeted me. Attorneys and staff from every department, all wearing WunderGlo shirts, all there to wish me well in the next chapter of my cancer-killing adventure. I had to fight back tears many times throughout the day because I was so moved by how loving and kind everyone was to me. If you think I'm inspiring, spend a day at O'Melveny.


It's one thing to be confident in your abilities to beat back cancer. It's wonderful when you have an incredibly supportive family and fabulous friends who also believe in you. But when you've got that AND you feel that your colleagues are part of your family, and know that they believe in you, too, you are living the dream.


Today reminded me in a big way how lucky I am. I’m truly blessed to have so many incredible people in my life, and despite “the cancer,” I really am living the dream.


To my O'Melveny family: thank you so much for everything, today and always. I miss you already, but I'm taking you with me in my heart on my road trip, to the operating room, to the ICU, and until I'm reunited with you again next month. I love you guys! Kick butt while I'm gone, and prepare for a monster party when I'm back in L.A.


Cancer doesn't stand a chance when I've got a support system this strong and so much love in my heart. Today was a beautiful day, and I'll never forget it.