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Staying Involved

Today, I got up bright and early to attend a yearly retreat for the Advisory Board of the Western Center on Law and Poverty. I'm going on my second year as a part of the Advisory Board, and really believe in this organization. The mission of the Western Center is to enhance the lives of low-income Californians through policy advocacy and impact litigation for all sorts of issues including housing, healthcare, and public benefits. The small but dedicated staff of the Western Center is truly impressive, and I'm proud to support the organization through my participation on the Ad Board. 

Once I received my diagnosis, I knew that I could drop a lot of my community-related obligations for a while and most people would understand, but under no circumstances would I ever do that. Instead, I'm not only fulfilling those responsibilities, but embracing new ones. Despite my current battle royale with "the cancer," I'm the chair of the Ad Board's annual cocktail party fundraising event called "The Fair Shake," which will take place in late June. Like cancer could stop me from throwing a great party. 

I mention my involvement in the Western Center and my retreat today because it felt really great to be with my friends on the Board today. I told them about my current cancer adventure and this blog, of course, but I was also active in our discussions about our plans as a group in the upcoming year. It feels good to be part of a group with goals that are larger than any one person's, a vision of a better world for everyone. This is part of the reason I became a lawyer (I also like to argue) and a big part of why I'd like to run for office one day. Amidst all the me-focused attention I'm giving myself these days, it's also important for me to remain engaged in my community -- not just because my community benefits from my efforts, but because I've always benefitted from being a part of it. 

I'm always inspired and encouraged by a quote from one of my heroes, Cesar Chavez -- a quote that I included in my graduation speech at Duke:

We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community. Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own.

Today reminded me that I've got other fish to fry besides killing cancer. Good thing I'm a multitasker.


Meet My Crew

As I've written these daily blog posts, I've made mention of some people quite frequently -- my husband, Will, and my parents (lovingly referred to as "my nurses" or "my other three"), my doctors, and some of my best buds. I haven't, however, made a proper introduction between you, the readers, and these folks. So without further ado, I give you my crew.

This is my best friend from OMM, Tim. As you can see, we're a mischievous pair. We work out together, sing karaoke together, and make each other laugh until we cry or feel the need to throw up a little bit. We are partners in crime and always have fun together.

Here's me and Dr. Ramos, my first surgeon. This picture was taken the day I was discharged from Good Samaritan, exactly two weeks after I was admitted as a patient. Despite the whirlwind craziness of that first hospital stay, I managed to find a good friend and a great doctor in Dr. Ramos.

This is Rhett, my best friend from law school, where we were pretty much attached at the hip from Day 1. Rhett has been tireless in his research of the best ways to combat cancer, from medical treatment to diet to mental mindset. A loyal and devoted friend indeed.

This is Anna, one of my oldest friends. We go back about 15 years, when we were both little teenagers trying to be the best volleyball players we could be. Anna is a great friend and we've had a blast together throughout the years, whether running around in New York City as teenagers or strolling in Santa Monica as the adults (are we really adults?) we are today.


This is Sabrina. She's a partner at O'Melveny, and even though we've only been good friends since last year, she's one of my favorites. You'll recall that she is responsible for hooking me up with 1) my oncologist (Dr. Lenz), 2) my surgeon (Dr. Sugarbaker), and 3) my acupuncturist (Mary Ellen). She's an awesome person. If we're not together on any given day, we're probably emailing each other.



This is Morgan, another one of my best friends from Stanford Law. She lives in Northern California, but has made it a point to come down to L.A. to visit me at least once a month since my diagnosis. We always have a blast together, as Morgan's saucy sense of humor can only bring memorable times. And if you need someone to watch the incredible film Monkey Shines with, she's your girl.

This group of fun kids on the right are my friends Aymee, Nick, and Jessica. We've all been friends since grade school, and we pretty much act like we're still in grade school when we're together. Aymee is a VIP over at MGM, Nick is a phenomenal music teacher for grades K-6, and Jessica is a compassionate and competent nurse. 

On the left, of course, is my loving dog Winston. He's a beautiful Yorkie, 10ish pounds strong, and is the ultimate cuddle buddy. And, as you can see, he's quite photogenic.




This is my oncologist extraordinaire, Dr. Lenz. He's not only brilliant and the king of GI oncology, but he's hilarious, fun, and kind. He's one of my favorite people, not only because he too is deeply committed to killing "the cancer," but because I can tell he's invested in me as a person, too. 


And here is the king of the "pick it out/pour it in" surgery, Dr. Sugarbaker. Although we're not best buds just yet, I'm already deeply grateful for his prowess and skill, and I feel comfortable knowing that he is the main man in charge of getting me 100% cancer-free.

Here are the parental units, my mom (Becky) and my dad (Mike). It would be impossible to describe how awesome these two folks are, but let's just say that I love spending time with them and I'm incredibly grateful to have them as my parents. We always have a great time together, they are the best caretakers in the world, and I love them tons.


And, finally, my hubby Will. We've been together for over 10 years now, and I've loved every minute of it. Who once was a skinny 18-year old cutie pie that I had my eye on from the first day of college has turned into an incredibly nurturing, supportive, fun, loving, and good-hearted man who also happens to be my husband. I always joke around with him and tell him he's lucky to be married to me, but I'm also lucky to be married to him.

And so, ladies and gents, there's my crew. Not the full crew, of course, but the main cast of characters that I reference from time to time. I hope you enjoyed getting to know them. I'm blessed to have them in my life.


You Are What You Eat

You know, I never thought I'd be a vegetarian. I saw some of my friends do it and just thought to myself, "How in God's name could I ever pass up a nice, juicy steak? Or a cheeseburger?" I didn't think I could ever do it.

And then, I found out I had cancer. And red meat went bye bye quickly. 

It was easy, really. Dr. Lenz mentioned that I should probably try to stay away from it, and I'd heard enough about red meat and cancer to know that I wouldn't touch the stuff again. Since starting chemo some three months ago, I've had red meat only once -- in the form of one incredibly delicious cheeseburger from In 'n Out during a chemo week when my appetite was less than monstrous. All in all, I don't miss it that much -- it's just not a necessary ingredient to living life in HDTV for me. 

As the months have unfolded, I started doing some more research on diet and fighting cancer, and started to realize that red meat wasn't all I needed to cut. I needed to cut chicken, and turkey, and fish, and eggs, milk, and cheese. Yes, ladies and gents, I've decided to become a vegan.

For those of you who know me well, I know this is pretty crazy news, but drastic times call for drastic measures. And I'm doing everything I can to make sure this cancer goes away and stays away forever. And eating a plant-based whole foods diet is key to that, as far as I'm concerned.

So far, it's been pretty easy. Veggie burgers on whole wheat bread, corn chowder, tomato soup, peanut butter, peas, hummus, black beans -- even a few vegan cookies and some coconut milk ice cream thrown in there. I just had a protein shake with rice-based protein powder, almond milk, and some pineapples -- it was delicious. Luckily, there's a vegan substitute for pretty much all of my favorite foods, which is very important since cheese is one of my favorite things in the world. 

So much of this cancer-killing adventure has been about embracing change and learning how to live differently -- that means managing sleep and stress, faithfully exercising, focusing my mind and spirit on healing, and being vigilant about feeding my body only the best things. Beating Stage IV cancer is a monumental challenge, but your pal WunderGlo is up to the task.


Not Afraid

The next song to add to my cancer-killing soundtrack is Eminem's "Not Afraid." I've liked this song for a while, but didn't actually think it would be so important to me until recently...until my meeting with Dr. Sugarbaker, actually.
During my meeting with Dr. Sugarbaker, he spent about 15 minutes reciting my medical history, previous surgery, chemo treatment, and upcoming surgery. This portion of our meeting wasn't a discussion between the brilliant surgeon and yours truly, but an audible recording all of his thoughts. Given the fact that the transcript of this dictation would guide Sugarbaker when he reviews my file next, there was no filter between his medical impressions and what I heard. He said some pretty serious things on that recording, including the survival rate for my particular brand of "the cancer," which organs he expects to remove during my surgery, how many days I'd be spending in the ICU and the hospital, the various complications which could arise after the surgery, etc.
I sat and listened to him, bright-eyed and completely unshaken by the gravity of his comments. Meanwhile, a song started playing in my head: "Not Afraid." One particular part of the chorus especially: 

I'm not afraid (I'm not afraid)
To take a stand (to take a stand)
Everybody (everybody)
Come take my hand (come take my hand)
We'll walk this road together, through the storm
Whatever weather, cold or warm

Honestly, I'm not afraid of "the cancer" or any of the physical challenges it has forced me to endure. My first surgery was easy, chemo has been easy, and while I know this next surgery is not for the faint of heart, it's going to be fine. I trust Dr. Sugarbaker completely and I know that he'll pluck out every last bit of cancer and restore my body to cancer-free status. And the pain, discomfort, etc. that'll result from my surgery are only temporary and I'll handle it like a champion. There's really no room for fear in this equation.
I'm not afraid because I know I'm tougher than cancer. I'm not afraid because I know my will to live is stronger than any disease. And I'm not afraid because, as Eminem's lyrics say, I know that we're walking this road together. The love and support I feel from all of you -- my friends and family -- fills my heart with courage and strength, and I felt all of your support during that meeting with Dr. Sugarbaker. And I know I'll feel it even more on the day of my surgery.



On Boxing

In my previous post, I mentioned that during my whirlwind of activities yesterday, I had the opportunity to do a little boxing. I gave it short shrift because my Sugarbaker meeting and Will almost being hit by a car were dominating topics, but today I'd like to take a moment to elaborate on my boxing experience because I'm in love.


My second cousin, Vivian, and her entire family are into kickboxing, MMA, etc., so when I told Vivian that I wanted to work out, she pulled out her boxing gloves and started wrapping my hands. She taught me some punch combinations and we ran a few speed drills. I immediately loved it -- not only does it get the heart pumping, but it gives me an opportunity to actually use my guns instead of just asking friends to squeeze them. The picture on the right is from last night, while I struck my best imposing boxer pose.


The minute I got off the plane tonight, I headed straight to Sport Chalet and bought myself some boxing gear -- pink hand wraps (for breast cancer awareness, not because I particularly identify with the color pink), Duke Blue boxing gloves (now there's a color I identify with), and target pads (or "punch mitts" as the packaging says) so Will can prevent his hands from being crushed as I unleash my jabs, crosses, hooks, and upper cuts.


I've always been inspired by the training montages in boxing movies -- Rocky, Million Dollar Baby, and The Fighter -- and now I've got the opportunity to create one of those montages for myself. Now that I'm at full strength and feeling incredibly fit and healthy, I'm going to go all out on my training regimen. I think that adding a sparring routine to my daily workout, and following it with some sprints or a longer jog (to get myself winded, as prescribed by Dr. Sugarbaker), then capping off my daily training with weightlifting at Educogym will be a perfect beast-making recipe. Can you sense my excitement? I'm so excited.

You know, cancer really did mess with the wrong person. Seriously, cancer? You picked the person who laughs at pain, who prefers bigger challenges to smaller ones, who hates to lose and enjoys discipline, sacrifice, and sore muscles? Cancer, I've got news for you. You're stupid. And I'm going to make you pay.