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Monday
Jan032011

A Picture Perfect Day

When you spend New Year's Eve in New York City, and follow that by going to a play with your favorite actress (and watching it from the front row), and follow that with a memorable time in Brooklyn with your best friend and your family, could you really expect to possibly top that series of days with an even better day?

Well, folks, my day today -- incredibly and amazingly -- topped the others. 

I had my consult with Dr. Sugarbaker, met Howard, ate incredible vegan food, spent time with Abe at the Lincoln Memorial, hung out with friends from high school, college, and law school, and capped off the day with a little kickboxing lesson and chamomile tea. This was one of WunderGlo's finest days, and I can't wait to tell you all about it, so I'll cut the prologue and start already.

I waited for Dr. Sugarbaker in the exam room with Will, my parents, and my second cousin Brendan, eagerly anticipating our meeting. Within a few minutes, there he was. In his late 60s, Sugarbaker looks fitter than a fiddle and utterly unlike a man in his late 60s. He was calm, professional, and one of those brilliant people whose intelligence and experience just seeps through every word he speaks.  We talked about my initial symptoms, my first surgery, my recovery, and how I feel generally these days. I did not ask him to feel my guns, but in retrospect, maybe I should have.

Then he kicked out everyone but Will and gave me a little physical exam. Listened to my lungs and heart, then gave me quite a thorough check of two of my orifices (and I'm not talking about my mouth, nose, or ears). I don't like to be coy so I'll come right out with it: no man, woman, or child has ever been that far up my rectum, and I'm grateful that Dr. Sugarbaker calmly explained what he was looking for as he rooted around up there. He didn't find any growths in those nether regions which is, as you could guess, a good thing.

Post-physical exam, I rejoined my crew in Dr. Sugarbaker's office, where he gave a full recorded dictation of my current condition, the ins and outs of my future surgery, and his prognosis. Once he successfully removes every visible speck of cancer and pumps the heated chemo through the ol' bod, my chances at a full survival (which means living cancer-free for 10 years) is 25%-50%. 50%! As if I need the survival percentage to be that high to be fully convinced that I'll dominate this cancer and be a hard-core, long-term, ass-kicking cancer survivor. 50%! You could've told me 2% and I'd be pumped and ready to go. WunderGlo is a survivor, people. We all know this.

After Dr. Sugarbaker finished his careful, thorough explanation, he opened up the floor for a little Q&A. We bombarded him with a lot of good questions (example: Where could my parents and Will stay during the surgery and when I'm in ICU? Answer: at the hotel on the hospital premises) and a lot of WunderGlo-style fun questions (example: Could I listen to my iPod as I'm wheeled into the operating room? Answer: Yes.) He patiently answered every one of them until we were all talked out and ready to go. Then I nabbed him for a picture without actually waiting for him to agree to one, because I'm always thinking about the readers and knew I needed a picture for the blog. 

As we walked out of his office, I turned around and asked, "Where can I find your wife?" because you know I needed to see Ilse. He told me where to find her -- at the Physicians Office Building -- and I did. Instead of the traditional handshake, I gave Ilse a big hug and then we took a picture. Ilse was great -- very impressed with my physical condition and very nice. Probably not ready for a big hug from me and a photo shoot, but she took it well. 

My date with the Sugarbakers was as positive, exciting, and confidence-boosting as possible. It's obvious to me that I'm in the best hands in the world, and I'm that much more excited for the "pick it out/pour it in" party that is now officially set to take place in just a month's time.

Soon after my Sugarbaker date, I got to meet my buddy Howard. We chatted for a while, agreed that the Sugarbakers were the best, and had a great time bonding as only two people going along the same cancer-killing path can bond. What an awesome way to end my visit to the Washington Hospital Center.

The rest of the day was just as memorable, if you can believe it.

We set off for a vegan restaurant, Everlasting Life, which was just down the street from the hospital, and feasted on a delicious meal. Vegan mac n' cheese, artichoke salad, potato salad, pepper steak (not actually steak but still very good), bean and corn salad, Asian noodle salad, cornbread, dinner rolls (I include the dinner rolls because they were OUTSTANDING), and peppermint tea. I've got a feeling that I'll be requesting the mac n' cheese when I'm chillin' at the hospital post-op.

With full bellies, we set off for the Lincoln Memorial because I was dead-set on seeing Honest Abe before I left D.C.. There was some confusion about where to park, some wrong turns, and a little driving-related distress, but we eventually parked, bundled up, and started on the very cold walk over to the Memorial. Will and I started to jog to keep the blood pumping, but after a few trots, we realized that my parents were no longer walking behind us. We retraced our steps and couldn't find them. We called their cell phones about half a dozen times each and nobody picked up. Did I start to freak out? Yes. Did we continue walking toward the Lincoln Memorial, hoping that my parents weren't mugged but simply taking an unseen different route? Yes. Did my parentsshow up about five minutes later, waving and completely oblivious to the fact that we were calling them obsessively and worried about their well-being? Yes. Did we then take some pictures in front of the Lincoln Memorial? Yes, indeed.

You'd think the walk back to the car couldn't be as heart-stopping as the walk to the Memorial, but it was. As we crossed the last street before getting to our car, Will was almost hit by a car. Luckily, he's a secret ninja on the side and jumped away. Even more, though, the dude stopped his car before barreling into my hubby. Within about 10 minutes, I could've lost all three of my nurses to shadowy criminals (that weren't there) and a bad driver (that was there). Craziness. 

We bounced back from the feared and actual near-death experiences and headed back to Vivian and Brendan's house, where I knew my friends were waiting. Did we get lost more than once on the way back home? Yes. Does D.C. need to invest in better street signage and lighting on the highways? Yes. But did we finally make it back? Yes, indeed.

I walked into a full house -- not only was my family there, but a good group of my buddies came by to visit me, too. I had all phases of my educational life covered -- friends from high school (Meghan), college (Katie and Don), and law school (Jon and his wife, Raquel). I had a great time catching up with them and telling them about my rectal exam experience. You'd think people wouldn't want to hear about a rectal exam, but I have good friends and they know me well (that is to say, they are good sports about the kinds of things I like to talk about).

After my pals hit the road, I put on boxing gloves for the first time and trained with Vivian. I have a new love, and it's boxing. I'm planning on buying all the equipment I need the minute I get home tomorrow. 

So like I said, I had a pretty excellent time today. I learned about exactly how I'll triumph over cancer, I visited our nation's capital, I spent quality time with friends and family, and I got to throw a punch or two. A picture perfect day. 

Sunday
Jan022011

Week in Review/Week in Preview

After successfully finishing Round 6 of chemo and ringing in the New Year in New York City, it's hard to see how this coming week can compete in the exciting department, but I think it will!

Week in Review

  • * Chemo Round 6 - crushed cancer and had a great time doing it. Laughs with Dr. Lenz, quality time with my parents, Will, and Sabrina, catching up with my old pal Tiffany and her mom Carol, all while being pampered by the best nurse at Norris.
  • * Grabbed dinner with another old pal, my best bud from middle school Cindy, and her mom Marcia. It's funny how you just pick up where you left off with old friends. It's awesome, too.
  • * Had a beautiful Tuesday with my bag o' chemo -- gym, acupuncture with Mary Ellen, strolling around Santa Monica with Anna and my mom, fancy tea and scones, and True Grit with Will. 
  • * Took it easy on Wednesday and successfully dodged any real chemo-induced fatigue. Had a centering reiki session, pumped iron at the gym, watched my Blue Devils win, played DJ Hero 2, had a gift exchange with my friends Aymee, Nick, and Jessica, and saw Black Swan. That list of activities doesn't actually sound like taking it easy, but I was very relaxed and rested all day. I promise! 
  • * Got up at the crack of dawn (6:40am is the crack of dawn to WunderGlo, at least) and slept most of the way to D.C. Had dinner with my second cousin Vivian, her husband Brendan, their awesome kiddies Erika and Erin, and my great-aunt Katie. It's sweet to have family on the East Coast.
  • * Headed to New York City on New Year's Eve. Quick pit stop in Jersey to see my mother-in-law, Carol. Dinner with my "other three" plus Rhett at Klee Brasserie. Shed a little tear of gratitude and happiness when the clock struck midnight. Snowball fight on the way back to our hotel.
  • * Spent the first day of 2011 in beautiful, 50 degree New York City. Saw Laura Linney's play from the best seat possible, squeezed through the crowds in Times Square, and spent the night in Brooklyn at Rhett's place. Got acquainted with his roommate's cat (her name is Senorita Pumpkin), then we (which also included my mother-in-law Carol, sister-in-law Marie, and cousin-in-law Justin) grabbed dinner and desserts on the mean streets of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Just kidding - the streets of Williamsburg are far from mean. Hipster and unique, yes. Mean...no.
  • * Wrapped up my time in Williamsburg with Sunday brunch (where I met Rhett's friend Didi, who is now my new friend Didi). Headed to the East River Park to admire the view of the city. Hit the road and headed back to the D.C.-area. Got to Vivian and Brendan's house just in time to watch the Tivo'd Duke vs. Miami game (we won) and munch on some gluten-free mushroom pizza.

Week in Preview

  • * On Monday, I get to meet the man who will save my life: Dr. Paul Sugarbaker. It doesn't get much more exciting than that. We'll chit chat about my surgery, I'll probably ask for a hug, and after that, I'll get to meet a fellow cancer warrior who is also a patient of Dr. Sugarbaker's: my pal Howard. He's a big shot over at 60 Minutes and a very cool guy. The fact that we're on parallel paths to rubbing
  • cancer's face in the dirt is absolutely awesome. I call him my cancer killing tag-team partner, and I finally get to hang out with him tomorrow. If there's anything more exciting than meeting Sugarbaker, it's meeting Sugarbaker AND Howard on the same day. 
  • * Planning on catching up with my roommate from Duke, Katie, while I'm in DC. Will also chill out with my high school friend, Meghan. Am also open to seeing any other of my DC homeys -- you all know how to reach me. 
  • * Flying home on Tuesday. I love the East Coast, but I love L.A. even more. 
  • * Acupuncture with Mary Ellen on Wednesday, followed by a trip to the Self-Realization Center for some mid-week meditation. I should call it Zen Wednesday.
  • * Working on the book...like a madwoman, actually. I've got many chapters to go before I get to the topic of my next surgery, and only a few weeks in which to write them. I am a woman who abides by deadlines, even self-made ones.
  • * Painting some more "Love Life" paintings - I love that moment right before I start to paint and the canvas is completely blank, just waiting for me to make the creation I've dreamed up real. 
  • * Reiki on Thursday and perhaps another trip to the batting cages 
  • * Reading Louise Hay's You Can Heal Your Life, another awesome book about mind/body techniques in preparation for surgery, and The China Study
  •  * Hitting the gym hard this week - only a few more weeks left to train for this surgery, and this lil' Rocky Balboa is going into serious lil' Rocky Balboa mode
  • * Taking all my vitamins, getting all my Lovenox shots, getting lots of rest, drinking lots of water, and continuing to murder cancer. And loving my life.

Have a great first week of 2011, everyone!

 

Sunday
Jan022011

A Love Affair with New York City

 

Last night's NYE/NYC revelry was memorable and fun - Will, Rhett, my parents, and I dined on a delicious five-course meal at Klee Brasserie in Chelsea (yes, I indulged in a little wine and bubbly). I knew that spending my first day of 2011 in one of the best cities on Earth was the best way to kick off the new year right.

My first few moments of the new year was spent hugging and kissing my loved ones, calling and texting and emailing other loved ones, and engaging in a raging snowball fight on the way back to our hotel.

I woke up today with a renewed energy and optimism, looking forward to the fresh new year that lay ahead.

The day did not disappoint. The sun was shining, the bagels were warm and fresh, Laura Linney was brilliant in Time Stands Still (she was about three feet away from me during the entire performance - front row center is the only place to sit, trust me), and New York City was as bustling and brilliant as ever.

When I was a kid, I always dreamed of visiting (and even living in) New York City. I had a piggy bank in the shape of the words "New York" and figured if I filled it up about 100 times, maybe I could afford a trip to that fabled place. I still feel an awe for and kinship with the city, and today as I walked around, I felt more connected to the energy and promise that permeates the city than ever before. All in all, my first taste of 2011 was very sweet. I couldn't be more excited for each day and each moment that this year holds.

To all would-be travelers: New York City is best viewed in super-HDTV.

 

Friday
Dec312010

Year In Review

As the clock winds down and the end of 2010 fast approaches, I've taken time to reflect on this past year. The events of 2010 have profoundly impacted my life and have presented new avenues and experiences for me. Of these events, my cancer diagnosis obviously wins the prize of most dramatic and life-changing. But it doesn't define my year, and it doesn't define my life.

This year, I joined an incredible gym in downtown L.A., lost 30 pounds, got buff and strong, and did it all with one of my best friends in the world, Tim.

This year, I worked hard at O'Melveny, co-chairing (with Tim, who else) our annual Diversity Day, drafting briefs and memos for my mentors Mark and Carla, and throwing some seriously fun parties for the 13th floor (my floor).

This year, I became good friends with Sabrina, and renewed old friendships with Aymee, Nick, Jessica, and Anna.

This year, I played pinball with Will (and celebrated our 3rd wedding anniversary and 10th year together as a couple), had spa days with my mom, and played Rock Band with dad. I celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas with my entire family at my loft in downtown L.A. I went to Disneyland on my birthday, threw a Halloween party, and rang in my 29th birthday with 80 of my closest friends.

This year, Duke won the National Championship and the Lakers won it all, too.

This year, I met Coach K. And I got a hug!

And yes, this year I had an intestinal blockage in mid-September that led to a diagnosis of Stage 4 colon cancer. From the moment I learned that diagnosis, I've embraced it -- the physical and emotional challenges, the lessons on healthy living, and the sheer joy and triumph it will be when I utterly annihilate cancer.

Thank you, 2010. For everything.

And 2011? I can't wait to meet you. You're going to be the best year of my life.

Thursday
Dec302010

Greetings from D.C.

Your pal WunderGlo is on the East Coast and ready for some New Year's Eve and Sugarbaker fun! I slept like a baby for most of the trip East, and I'm now about to retire for the night. Rabble rousing during a chemo week requires a lot of rest, and I intend to do both. Here's a pic of me at Dulles shortly after we landed.