Saturday, December 29, 2007

3 down 1 to go

AMP had her third chemo treatment last Thursday. The two weeks leading up to this treatment were difficult due to the exacerabation of her eye allergies that we came to realize after many days of bemoaning allergies worse than cancer, was a nasty, very nasty wishing to cut out one's eyes-side effect of the chemo-therapy for which there is no known ameliorative agent save for the that over utilized and under-acknowledged, multipurpose steroid or morphine if you don't care about performance. Fortunately steroids are prescribed to frame the chemo. AMP not only felt relief from her allergies, but also had the steroidal effect of energy minced with a bit of grandiosity for which there is no pharmacological remedy.

Once again the culinary support was four stars. Thanks to all! It's lovely not to have to shop or cook at critical moments and comforting to feel the love.

I am saddened to report to AMP's fans, that she is no Patriot, and suffered her first cancer scrabble defeat. In spite of the steroids, the grandiosity and the overwhelming support of other cancer patients, their spouses, nurses, and oncologists she lost! The game was decided in the final moment of play as we had to prematurely end the game since the infusion was complete and the nurses wanted to go home. We counted our points, substracted the letters in our hand, and Larry won by two critical points, technically still a victory!

AMP's last chemo treatment is scheduled for January 17. We are looking forward to putting this behind us and holding on to what we have learned and benefitted from.

Friday, December 14, 2007

On the topic of Tupperware

Thank you so much for the generous dinners that you brought to our house. We felt cared for catered to and well-fed. Now we are inundated with all manner of tupperware and casseroles. Please don't be shy about picking up your wares.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Thanksgiving "Run" of Faith

I read this at our Thanksgiving meal, had meant to post it in thanks and appreciation and because it speaks to the element of faith that I feel I needed to take in the decision of my treatment and the way I need to live.

It is an excerpt from "Run" by one of my favorite authors, Ann Patchett (thanks and appreciation to Nick for the book). In this excerpt, an aging Catholic priest grapples with faith, even as he has "mistakenly" been identified as a miraculous healer:

Night after day, Father Sullivan was awake with his thoughts. The visit of the two women and all of the subsequent visitors that followed had shaken him. It made him realize how helpless he was to do anything of substance for anyone. It would be incorrect in every sense to say that so near the end of his life he had lost his faith, when in fact God seemed more abundant to him in the Regini Cleri home than any place he had been before. God was in the folds of his bathrobe, the ache of his knees. God saturated the hallways n the form of a pale electrical light. But now that his heart had become so shiftless and unreliable, now that he should be sensing the afterlife like a sweet scent drifting in from the garden, he had started to wonder if there was in fact no afterlife at all. Look at all these true believers who wanted only to live, look at himself, clinging onto this life like a squirrel scrambling up the icy pitch of a roof. In suggesting that there may be nothing ahead of them, he in no way meant to diminish the future; instead, Father Sullivan hoped to elevate the present to a state of the divine. It seemed from this moment of repose that God may well have been life itself. God may have been the baseball games, the beautiful cigarette he smoked alone after checking to see that the bats had been put back behind the closet door. God could have been the masses in which he told people how best to prepare for the glorious life everlasting, the one they couldn’t see as opposed to the one they were living at that exact moment in the pews of the church hall, washed over in the stained glass light. How wrongheaded it seemed now to think that the thrill of heartbeat and breath were just a stepping stone to something greater. What could be greater than the armchair, the window, the snow? Life itself had been holy. We had been brought forth from nothing to see the face of God and in his life Father Sullivan seen it miraculously for eighty-eight years. Why wouldn’t it stand to reason that this had been the whole of existence and now he would retreat back to the nothingness he had come from in order to let someone else have their turn at the view? This was not the working of disbelief. It would be possible to overlook just about anything if you were trained to constantly strain forward to see the power and the glory that was waiting up ahead. What a shame it would have been to miss God while waiting for him.

p. 131, Chapter 6
Ann Patchett
Harper Collins
New York

Decision To Go Chemo

I wanted to finally explain, as promised - and since many keep asking, the difficult decision to do chemotherapy. I was very borderline as to the need for this and in fact had differing opinions from doctors. One held that the cancer had all been removed, the markers were all very favorable - slow growing, early, etc. and no reason to blast myself with such a harsh sentence. The other held that the characteristics of mine were still unusual - presenting in many locations despite the good markers and therefore unknowable. The idea that the smallest seeds of cancerous cells could be lurking, unfindable was daunting, but plausible since the original "suspect areas" had been tracked for a while before they were deemed malignant. The regimen this doctor recommended seemed slightly less harsh than most and very short and after careful consideration, I decided that I would not live comfortably without trying everything I could to eradicate even the smallest risk. I did not want to make this decision further down the road and did not believe the choice itself would've been very much different.

The oncologist recommending it was the one who had originally halted my initial planned surgery - a simple lumpectomy - in favor of doing more tests, including an MRI, which I had been insisting upon, unheeded by the surgeon. Without that MRI, I might gone forward with continued cancerous growth, more surgeries, more danger, etc. I found that oncologist to be thorough, dedicated, willing to answer my questions and totally on board that the decision was ultimately mine. Having birthed both of my children at home, this major medical intervention did not come easy to me, yet from that experience, I know there are risks involved in every approach. Eventually, I had to place my trust somewhere and decided to do it. And, in the process of coming to this decision, I realized that I am very lucky to even have a decision to make, lucky indeed to even be able to have chemo at a time when there are women in the world who are untreatable, or worse - untreated. I take this risk with an eye and a will to do everything else I can naturally and nutritionally to build back up.
- amp

Chemo #2

Ok - so, first the real news - of course, I won at Scrabble - swear I'm not cheating. In fact - I couldn't - there was an elderly Asian lady across the room from me that stared like a hawk every time it was my turn to pick letters from the little velvet bag (who I am sure my husband hired as a plant). When her "husband" came in to pick her up, she spoke in rapid Chinese or Korean or . . . whatever, every so often flashing a look in my direction with the word "amp" clearly sprinkled throughout the otherwise foreign conversation while nodding to the spot on the floor where the tiles kept falling out of the bag due to the IV on my right hand.

That said - the side effects are blessedly minimal once again and I am doing fine - in fact I won at Scrabble again while writing these last couple blog entries.

Shave + a Haircut - 2 bits

Dec 2: It began innocently enough, as the first flurries of follicles fell from my head one early winter day in the City of Angels

when a benevolent friend and neighbor with experience, the right tools and a keen aesthetic stepped up to the plate

Barry "Skywalker" Jacobson

Of course, even a light-saber barber needs proper supervision

Next - a lightly whipped chardonnay-laced scalp infusion

Actually, come to think of it - probably shouldn't try this at home

A job well done - may the Force be with you

And a good time was had by all . . .

No animals were harmed, maimed, teased or even slightly intimidated during this process

Not even this one

Now I'll have to consider Photoshop to erase dark circles - or learn to use make-up

Friday, December 7, 2007

Group hug + new look

Finally back on steroids and able to post again -

First - a little appreciation is in "order" (Dominican, Franciscan, Jesuit - you tell me) -

(may have to copy that into your browser URL address bar)

Then -

Thanks to Frank Guttler for expert advice in the Personal Appearance Rehabilitation process -
I never realized how much I look like my father!
Comments welcome -
(Note to self: see if there is anything in the budget at AFI for Frank to enroll in Photoshop classes - kidding - nice job, Frank!)


Thursday, November 29, 2007

No news means AMP is fine!

While nothing is back to normal, things are going well. The first chemo treament is behind us. AMP tolerated it well. We had a really nice Thanksgiving with friends and family. The 2nd chemo treatment is next Thursday. Larry has been studying two and three letter words in preparation for the chemo-scrabble tournament. Amp has been sitting on her laurels, and unfortunately dealing with a resurgence of her chronic allergies which has been more discomforting than the first chemo treatment. We are looking forward to celebrating our 22nd wedding anniversay this Saturday.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Por Que No Te Callas? Wig #4

Sorry Folks - Doesn't get any blonder than this! - amp

Ugly AMP - Wig #3

In the spirit of Ugly Betty and Flight of the Conchords, I give you a TV promo writer/producer for a new era -

How I long for the good old days, staying up all hours of the evening, squeezing credits and adding laffs and sfx to America's Funniest Home Videos . . . and then coming home to a baby and 5 yr-old. And you thought dealing with chemo and scrabble requires stamina!

On Strike - Wig #2

Who's Got the Bandwidth for This?

This one's for busy days back at the office contemplating the impact of the current WGA strike on my career. As I sidl
ed up to the red light at Paramount Studios heading west on Melrose the other day, my attention was caught by a megaphone plea to "Honk if you love TV" which was eliciting feeble - actually – NO, honking response of support. Now, if I'd been asked to honk if I loved writers, that would be one thing - but this required thought. Do I love TV? All TV? Cable TV? HiDef? Interactive? Mired in this dilemma, I floated aimlessly through the red light to the dismay of vehicles heading east, trying to turn left into the studio lot (most of which I'm sure were filled with studio executives). Well, of course they started honking furiously to the cheers of the picketing potential wage-slaves! You see - even on disability, one can make a difference!

Check out Colbert for more on WGA strike:


Friday, November 16, 2007

Piersimoni charged with lying and
cheating under oath on steroid use

Times Staff Writers

Silver Lake – Anna Marie Piersimoni has admitted to charges of steroid use amid wide speculation that her power-hitting, cancer-blasting, spouse-whipping scrabble match was artificially boosted by one of the infamous steroid medications distributed to mitigate side effects of chemotherapy. After taking husband Larry Brooks by a whopping 3 points in a tightly contested, low-scoring, highly medicated game, AMP tested positive for steroids. She emphatically denied cheating or use of any other "performance enhancing substances" beyond the typical steroid dexamethasone, mangosteen juice, gardenia aromatherapy oil and some medical marijuana. This was Piersimoni's first chemotherapy treatment and first use of these steroids "What accounts for all those pre-cancer scrabble wins at the beach when we were just dating ? Or in those long sitter-less Friday nights during the early child-rearing years of our marriage? How come I won all those then, huh?" No further details were provided, but that revelation figures to complicate AMP's efforts to negotiate a free-agent contract for next season.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Just for the Record

The last two words in that scrabble game were "ego" played by Larry and "id" played by me - twice, which gave me 12 points. At that point I ran out of tiles and he had to subtract one. The nurses then offered him some chemo for the next time . . . just to let him get up to speed.

The first Chemo Treatment

First Chemo is behind us. AMP tolerated the treatment well. We played scrabble for the duration of the treatment. AMP cheated, used the cancer card, marshalled the other cancer patients who were getting chemo and the nurses to her corner and only beat me by 3 points. I am ready for a rematch. but will have to wait another 3 weeks. After the treatment, we went home, had a normal dinner, and helped Marc on an essay he was working on. We realize that we are only at the beginning, but it is reassuring that things started out so well.

A Clearing in the Would

Hi All - sorry it's been a while, but I've been busy with visits, home care and AFI FEST film festival (very wonderful festival btw), cherishing a few days with the semblance of normalcy between surgery recovery and possible chemotherapy - and reading, researching, "angsting" over that possibility which is no longer a just possibility.

After much soul-searching, I - really We, as Larry is my cohort in this as in life - have decided to go through with it - through the "would," so to speak. I will write more soon with details of the controversy and struggle, but it has been one of, if not THE, most difficult decisions of my life.

Here is the schedule so far, since inquiring minds want to know:

9:00 am massage
11:00 am mainicure pedicure
1:45pm chemotherapy

I really know how to live it up, don't I?

Larry is accompanying me to the chemo as he would never pass up an opportunity to have me tethered to an IV, medicated and vulnerable for a round of Scrabble - taking bets that the 2 1/2 hour infusion will expire before he makes that winning high point word.

Speaking of bets - did a little wig-shopping wiht friends Claire and Iris. Though I didn't involve the universe in the decision to do chemo, I will be taking comments (too lazy ot set up a poll right now) on styles and will send pics with the next post.

All for now - gotta go - chemo!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The In be tween

In between recovery from surgery and the start of chemo in another week we have had a reprieve. a pause allowing for the semblance of normality. AMP continues to do remarkably well emotionally and physcially. She has been getting out to films at the AFI film festival, visiting and communicating with friends, researching alternative treatments for cancer, and taking Marc to Orthodentist appointments. We are preparing for chemo, and hopeful that the ordeal of chemo will liberate us from the ordeal of cancer.

Friday, November 2, 2007

The good news difficult path

Thursday we met with the Oncologist and had a two hour informational class on the specific chemo treatment that is being recommended which is TC which stands for Taxotere and cyclophosphamide (tough choice.) This treatment has less long term health risks than AC chemo. Oh well to reduce the incalculable risk of recurrence somewhat and have 4 months of hell is the path that we are considering and most likely will take. This weekend we will continute to eat well (thanks to you all, hopefully take in a few movies at the AFI festival, and make the decision regarding the chemo. We tentatively scheduled AMP's first chemo treatment for November, 15th.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Good news is Good news

We received the semi-final (whatever that means) pathology report when we visited the surgeon. No cancer was found in the lymph nodes. Two tumors were found in the left breast, and no tumors were found in the right breast. The report shows much less cancer than the imagaing and biopy. We meet with the oncologist thursday and will have more to report. So for those of you can jump, jump for joy. We are pleased.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Riding Thorugh the Would


- Remy Charlip, from "Arm in Arm" 1969

posted by amp - am riding the would as fast as I could

sorry - we'll get back to business soon - think we're getting a little punchy from the wait

Friday, October 26, 2007

For those who question the value of waiting

I choose not to wait
Having learned its downside
Through years of waiting for godot
While gnawing on Ferlinghetti’s bones
And fondling Hamlet’s indecisiveness.
I choose to do
Clean and simple
I prefer stepping into the abyss
Its silver lining hid by despair and self-deception
But present in a moments daring action
Which clears the cluttered fear-filled soul
Draws strength from the stealth of darkness
Reads the message at the end of the rainbow
Its’ how you play your hand, man!


ps. we have our ducktors lined up, both surgeons next monday, oncologist on thursday and a chemotherapy class following the meeting with the oncologist.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

no news is

. . . well, no news.
Apparently, the pathology report will not be done until next week. So, I am bummed esp. that Larry rearranged his sched for nought. Next Monday is the target now, adn I will check with them Friday to see if it is imminent. - amp

fires and Nina - last post, promise

just wanted to note how stunning it is to be home recovering while Malibu (and San Diego and San Bernadino) is burning - it is frightening and only adds to my sense of appreciation for how much I have - and my desperation to cling to it.

No talisman, no amount of flowers, cookies, chicken soup can possibly touch the wealth I feel from all the care of friends and family. I am blessed so many times over, I've lost count.

Last week, my daughter Nina interrupted her studies to fly down and be with me through the weekend - Nothing has meant more and somehow with all the stories and thank you's posted here, I never got that across -

Just having a momentary cuddle with her, watching "The Lady From Shanghai" - was spectacularly healing. Should make us all realize that we shouldn't wait for sickness or crisis to take those moments in our lives. (ok - delivery crew from Hallmark is removing my soapbox now)


Let the Dogs Go Loose - Last post for a while

This poem was sent to my husband by a friend and colleague, Nazare, with the accompanying note: Poetry for light strokes when heavy is like led. Thinking of you, wishing you well.

It is astounding and I have really been touched by it. It represents my own conflictual relationship with the acts of "creating" and "being."

All of us dogs need to be let loose - to be present, enjoy and engage in what exists, look up from our "piecework" and let creativity spring from that.

Hope I'm reading that right - but it works for me - thanks Nazare:

Letting the dogs go loose

Let the dogs go running

They’ve been down too long

Let the dogs go find herbs

Let them make new scents

Let them run the park

To Hide or to bark

Let them, El Retiro

Let them, Central Park

Go by the museum

Find their own Picasso

Let them mix with Gray

Juan would be so happy

If they were what may

May, so full of flowers

Let them now break loose

Mess up Bugambilias

Let the dogs run freedom

Let the dogs now roam

Make some great Kandinsky

Run amuck in Rome


October 20th 2007

The Potato Rock

Story as told and written by Gretta Keene Sabinson (Grett- Larry said it'd be ok to post this here)

(Note: for those of you following from the previous blog - you can keep the David Allen Coe cue'd or switch to Yoko Ono's "Kiss Kiss Kiss." That's what I'm doing.

The Potato Rock

My mother had a relationship with potatoes. Not surprising since she had bright red hair and was covered in freckles so large they looked like droplets of butterscotch. Young children, who didn't know yet what not to say, would ask to touch her skin. She was Irish and her people had died for that tuber. She loved potatoes and believed in their power. There was no problem that a big helping of potatoes couldn't at least temporarily cure.

We ate a lot of potatoes.

For spitting anger, only mashed would do. She sat at the kitchen table, newspapers laid out over plastic cloth, her trusty rusty potato peeler in hand. Fast and furious she would flick those peels until sometimes, without thinking, she rendered an entire sack of potatoes white and newly nude. She mashed those potatoes with a vengeance; creating a mound so large it rose up twice as high as the pale green bowl. There were always leftovers. Some she mixed with egg and served as breakfast fritters. The next night she might smear the rest into a thick layer of crust for her tuna casserole or shepherd's pie. My younger brothers and I would cry -- “No more mashed potatoes!” So a few times, to make them “fun,” she dyed them bright colors - turquoise, orange and pink.

It didn't really matter to my Mom, as long as when the sadness got too big, she had her potatoes. She made tiny new red potatoes boiled until the skins popped open, slathered in buttered and rolled in minced parsley. Those helped soothe the days when there was no money. She made scalloped potatoes with cheese melted to a golden crust and the milk cooked to a creamy clabber. Those eased the days of endless tutoring a son with “difficulties” so severe no amount of learning would ever cure.

On a hot day each summer, she would make her vichyssoise, using leeks, homemade chicken stock and the stretch-the-budget expense - a pint of real fresh cream. She would ladle out the cool smooth soup and grind a smattering of nutmeg in each bowl. “You always pronounce the 's',” she would instruct, in case we had forgotten. And maybe that rich potato soup numbed the pain of a husband who did not love her.

My mother's life always seemed a story out of some dark fairy tale or Dickens. Felled by infantile arthritis when she was 6, she spent her childhood in and out of hospitals, wheelchairs and crutches. On Christmas Eve, when she was 13, her parents were killed in a car she was supposed to be in. The Catholic side of the family didn't want her because she wasn't Catholic and couldn't kneel. The Protestant Pilgrim side didn't want her because her red hair and freckles revealed a son who had married low. So my mother was sent to the care of her older brother, in the Army, stationed in Arizona.

Heat and sun and wide open skies were healing and fifteen years later, when my father, the hoped-for Prince arrived, my mother had long been standing on her own two feet. They met, married and not quite 9 months later, I was born. She loved being a mother, a role she had been repeatedly told she could never, should never, attempt to play. There were three of us children, plus one who died. My father, the college professor, always had a student he was romancing. The year I left for college, my father was the one who abandoned home and went to live with a student not quite my age.

My mother's despair filled the house like the smell of scorched potatoes. We had stumbled through Christmas. It was New Years Eve. My brothers and two neighbor guys decided on an evening of pool, poker and knock-hockey. I made popcorn and my mother made clam dip. Midnight loomed, marking an end of the year that held the last few tattered remnants of our lives “before.” Dazed, my mother walked as if towards gallows. I felt hopeless, did not know how we'd get through.

My mother mentioned she had never seen the sun rise over the ocean. And that became the plan. We would stay up all night, then head out before dawn to our New York coast. Mom joined in our homemade Olympiad. We laughed and kidded, prodding ourselves to stave off sleep. By 4 AM we were gathering scarves and gloves and filling a thermos with hot coffee. Crammed into the car, we headed out through darkened Long Island suburbs on our pilgrimage to sunrise on Jones Beach.

Now, those of you familiar with Jones Beach have already envisioned the problem. There are parking lots and then a seemingly endless expanse of beach before you reach the water. My mother's crippled walk was unsteady, painful and slow. Not only that, but a dense fog had descended as we approached the shore. “You go on,” my mother said. “I'll be fine in the car. It's too dark, too far.” We would not have her refusal. With two strong guys on either side, we led her on, through dark, fog and eternity of sand. Propelled by feeble promise, each step questioned our desperate, now foolish-seeming plan. Slowly, slowly we approached, as the crash of waves grew steadily louder.

In the still cottoned landscape, colors of our clothing began seeping back. The water arrived at our feet almost before we could see it. We had achieved our destination. And then it happened. I'm not making this up. The fog disappeared as if blown away by some celestial breath. Over the distant edge of ocean, the sun peeked up, shooting rays right out of some children's book depicting Heaven. We stood at the meeting of vast sand -- and vast sea -- and vast sky and took in the gifted moment. The surf was the only sound.

And then, my mother cried out - “Look! A potato!” She hobbled over and picked it up. We all turned and stared - at my mother, standing there, on the beach - holding a potato. I went to her, reached out to touch, and she handed me the potato. I agreed. “Sure looks like a potato,” I said, holding the potato-shaped and potato-colored rock. I smiled and handed it back to my mother. She held it with both hands, holding it close to her face to better see. She began to cry. “I know what this means!” she said. “It's a sign for me.”

“The Potato Rock is telling me - my life may not be fancy -- like cheese fondue - or strawberry parfait - but it will be good enough - just like a potato!” And it was.

A girl just can't have too many talismans

Ok - today is the day I get my final pathology report. I probably could've bugged the doctors to give me some hint of it yesterday or even Monday, but I was too busy bugging them for meds and holding court with lovely and generous visitors.

Plus, I didn't want to know yet. Why find out over the phone after multiple times on hold w/o the actual paperwork in hand? If it was the good news we are expecting - then hurrah! - it's confirmed, need to discuss next steps in person anyway. If it was bad news that we are aware is still possible - then there wasn't anything else we could do about it between Monday and Wednesday except feel anxious and miserable. So, decision was made to take things in their own good time. With that in mind, I want to put some things out there while I'm still riding this crest of optimism.

Note: This is a bit long-ish, so save it for later, or if you don't have the bandwidth, don't be shy about skipping it.

(cue "Would You Lay With Me in a Field of Stone" perferably by David Allen Coe, but Willie Nelson'll do in a pinch)

I just received a Chinese Stone from my cousin, Connie, in New Jersey. It is smooth and grey with a pictogram of a person standing with arms outstretched in a field of tall grass (a place of wilderness and wild animals according to the attached note), representing courage, strength and confidence. Although Connie is of the Italian-raised-Roman-Catholic persuasion, this stone proves that the eventual take-over of the United States by China will begin in Jersey, quite possibly Tom's River (as opposed to the Russian take-over who we all know almost took place on Cape Cod).

When it arrived, I placed it carefully near two other rocks that I carried with me to the hospital:

A small, shiny Tibetan Healing Crystal sent from my friend Ophelia (not Italian - at least not openly, but now suggesting a Chinese take-over on left coast s well). Anyway, this is a Polished Smokey Quartz Egg.: Tibetan Quartz Crystals gather, hold and release a very high energy and tend to contain a very powerful "OM" vibration. According to O, these are excellent crystals for intense work on mental, personal, emotional, and spiritual levels.

The other rock looks like a potato - pretty much a plain ol' Idaho russet-type, none of those red, blue and black-skinned new-age farmers market varieties. This "good luck" rock belonged to my friend Gretta's mother, which she loaned to me when I gave birth to Marc 14 years ago. Sally has since passed away, but the Potato Rock lives on and is shared by close family and friends in crisis. It arrived, shipped by Gretta in New York, the day before my surgery.

Needless to say, the good doctors and nurses at St. Joseph's were a bit perplexed as they wheeled me on my gurney past crucifixed-afixed hallways, one hand gripping a little crysta, the other - a potato, with my obvious-to-anyone-Jewish-non-believer husband, tears streaming down his cheeks, breathlessly trying to keep up with them as they sped to the OR (which was curious in itself as this was not emergency surgery).

Needless to say - everything seems to have worked - the crystal, the potato rock, the crucifixes, my husband's tears (prayers), the doctors and nurses (thank god!) and when I got home a healthy helping of Mother Gazzale's chicken soup sent all the way from Zabars in New Yawk. Well worth skipping out of St. Joes and missing their Santa Maria Tri-Tip!

The Potato Rock has its own story and deserves its own post which will be next. But here is a footnote to illustrate it's remarkable healing power.

The first few days home from hospital, I experienced remarkable nausea in the morning caused by multiple meds (swear I'm not pregnant). On one of these ocassions, my concerned son, Marc noticed the Potaoto Rock on a nearby nightstand, made a dive for it, shoved it gingerly into my palm and closed my fingers over it- this, after 14 years . . . of course, all bad symptoms of anything disappeared.

A girl just can't have too many talismans

So - after no posts (I've had a LOT of visitors), there is now a backlog (backwash?) and I need to occupy myself while waiting for the good word.

Love and thanks to all.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


The blog has been quiet, not to worry - only the quiet before the onslaught, at least that is what I suspect. For you easterners who might be worried about the fires that seem to be burning most of southern california, we are distant from the fires and comparatively safe. AMP is recovering which means dealing with the pain which continues to be poorly understood by the medical community, I think every doctor should have a mastectomy or open heart surgery before getting their license to practice, since many of them lack empathy in the more sophisticated sense of being able to feel something for another than they haven't experienced themselves. While AMP continues to cope amidst a sea of support, I have returned to work and feel a little distant, the slight pain of removal from AMP's moment to moment experience.

Wednesday is a big day. We will be meeting with surgeon and oncologist, get the final pathology report as well as develop the treatment plan;

Sunday, October 21, 2007


We are settling in to post surgical life. The weekend for the most part has been positive. There have been a few bumps along the this road of recovery. Nausea comes and goes. Pain is getting less, requiring less meds. The flowers, the food, the visits and the bountiful support has been wonderful.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

AMP is still home

AMP's first evening went smoothly, pleasantly, and uneventfully. We are surrounded by beautiful flowers, community love and support, and the salivating promises of food dishes and exotic treats to come. We will need some company/coverage over the first week that AMP is home. We will need help during the following time periods:

Tuesday 10/23
Morning – covered
Wednesday 10/24
Morning - covered
Afternoon - covered
Evening - covered
Thursday 10/25
Evening - covered
Friday 10/26
Morning - covered
Evening - covered

Just because certain time periods are covered doesn't mean we wouldn't welcome a visit and aditional help. Sometimes too many cooks are an enhancement

Friday, October 19, 2007

AMP is home

AMP is home and is comfortably sitting in the living room eating chicken lentil soup prepared by Val, started by Tim, dear old friends. Everything feels good and hopeful. AMP looks like she just came back from a weekend at a spa. So if you wish to visit, I recommend visiting soon or else she might have to visit her at work.

Departure is imminent

As I blog, AMP is changing into her civies and we will be leaving the hospital shortly. AMP is doing wonderfully. Outside of the mishap with doctor-accountant, the only other problem we encountered was trying to order and upgrade cellphones and try to get the online alleged deals that were advertised. So please call email to say hello and let us know when you are planning to visit.

Will she or won't she

It has been three days since AMP was admitted and I imagine you are wondering when she will be going home. She has the option of leaving today, leaving tomorrow morning, or staying through tomorrow evening when they will be serving Santa Maria Tri Tip for dinner. What do you think AMP will do? Whoever guesses correctly will win a bundle of pastries from Joan's and all other pastries that haven't been eaten.
btw - am hoping I get out in time to be home to see my friend Paul Jacque's band on tv tonight on a decent screen and ok sound system - this one in the hospital truly sucks. His band "Honkystomp" is vying to be THE NEXT GREAT AMERICAN BAND on Fox TV tonight at 8.

Here I am hoping to get out of the hospital early to watch Fox TV - what has my life come to??!!


ok - this place gets better all the time! Actually, they are treating me very well here at St. Joe's. There was really just one doctor (accountant)from the medical group (HMO) who came in the day after my evening surgery, reiterated that I had been slated for discharge that morning and then ordered my Vicodin cut in half. Since then my own surgeon (or his clones, rather ;-} ) have been in and have been very caring and concerned. It became more a matter of finding which meds would help rather than hurt the process. Now , just making sure the pain and nausea are really down and a few other issues that I'd save for a time when more scatological humor would in be order. Later -

Having a good time now

Nick took this a day or two ago - as you can tell it's a real laff/riot up here at St. Joe's! Larry and Nina just showed up, so the fun continues . . . more later -thanks for all the wonderful posts and comments- it keeps me smiling!
- love amp

To Depart or not to depart

Hopefully today is departure day. The pain has really been painful and pain management is critical. We won't know whether AMP will be ready to leave till later this morning/afternoon. In the meantime calls to 213-272-3391, emails, and blogments are welcome.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Enjoying Burbank for yet another day

Hello all - Well, there was I - begging for an extra ovenight, and now it seems they just won't let me leave. I've been helping all the nurses check my vitals and fixing their web and email issues, so I just might have to break out.

Actually - things are getting better. Had a lot of pain yesterday and the meds made me ill, so the surgeon thought I should hang out one more day. So - a few more laps around the 7th floor and I should be good to go tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Planning for the immediate future

To the best of our knowledge AMP will be discharged from the hospital tomorrow morning, ready or not. At this moment both the HMO and AMP are on the same page. Hospitals are not happy places, eventhough this one is across the street from the Disney studio. Recovering is no easy process, even for individuals as capable as AMP. Managing the pain is a challenge,made much worse by arbitrary medical decisions like cutting the vicodin in half. Tension followed as we waited for the doctor from Lakeside who Larry has aptly called doctor-accountant to respond to a page from nursing. Three hour later no response. We had to push the nursing staff to their chagrin to page other physicians to override the doctor-accountant. AMP was understandably pissed as was I.

We will be contacting all you wonderful friends to enlist your aid over the next few days, weeks, how about years. We thought a random system where we will place your names in a basket and blindly pick names as we need help. Alternatively we thought of asking you for your strengths so that we can maximize your effectiveness and our benefit. We will keep you posted.

The morning after

AMP continues to do well and look well. She is eating, walking, and even had a taste of a cannoli. She is still in pain, a little naseous, still on morphine and still making the dopey jokes. However i do recommend that you ask her to tell her joke about Nina and the chinese boyfiend.

I would like to share an image of healing that came to AMP while she was getting a massage the morning before her surgery. She imagined two breasts that softly fused into one breast that became a third eye. This image dissolved leaving only the eyelash that became the scar of the mastectomy.

back to pragmatics - AMP should be home tomorrow.

The never-ending night

AMP is awake despite massive doses of morphine. I am curled up in a chiropractic twist on a recliner that can never fully recline. I am there to be supportive of AMP who is in a great mood, save for her desire to sleep as I periodically nod off. The nursing staff was kind. AMP's pain for the most part was adequately treated with morphine. Now its morning I left the hospital to try to sleep a little, leaving AMP still awake, but hopefully on the verge. The sleepness restless nights takes nothing from my joy at the outcome of the surgery. I am sure that AMP would love visitors. To minimize the flood, please call her cell phone 213-272-3389. Thanks for all your suppport.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

AMP says hello

AMP is out of recovery as opposed and doing greattttt! The jellow is delicious, my family is delicious, I am happy about the nodes. I am doped up, and not sodopey I can't make dopey jokes. Life is a plastic cup of jello.

The good news continues

I just spoke with the plastic surgeon. All these doctors think I am a Piersimoni. If the news wasn't so good I would be upset. The plastic surgeon said that the tissue expanders surgery went well. When I asked him what that meant, he said it was a good surgery. This means there were no problems during the procedure. He seemed pleased and so I stopped my questioning. I got the impression that further questioning would have pointless. He did say that AMP will be sent home tomorrow. I was surprised. Door to door this means that AMP will have been in hospital less than 24 hours. Wow!

The Good News

I am totally pleased to announce that the double mastectomy has been completed and the surgeon says it went well. At this stage there is no cancer in the lymph nodes which is the best news that we have received in along time. AMP is still in surgery, the second proccedure which should last at least another hour. The plastic surgeon is installing tissue expanders. We might have a bionic amp in our lives, sounds formidable.

the waiting

AMP was taken to surgery around 4pm. She was calm, more calm than I have ever seen her (and this was before they started the IV) She looked young and beautiful. It was difficult for me to say goodbye. And now the wait.

Greetings from Beautiful Downtown Burbank

I mean - really - can you believe NBC is moving? Turncoats.

Anyway - It's a lovely day and I'm all decked out in my hospital finest waiting for the fun to start. My dear husband is with me until he can't be any longer and we're finding blogging a lot more rewarding than watching commercials for junk food on an empty stomach (ok - mine is empty).

Mostly just wanted to send a note of appreciation for all the lovely calls, emails, cards and posts - I feel truly surrounded by love and light and goodness of family, friends, colleagues and community and I know it will get me through this -

just wish they'd get on with it already . . .


The Afternoon of

We have arrived and checked in to St Joseph's, quite a contrast to the Bacara, a 5 star resort outside of Santa Barbara that we spent one extravagant night at over the weekend, but not that dissimilar to Nordstroms, if you measure a place by the piano music in the lobby. (Something for you visitors to look forward to) We are waiting. I confess that this is the first time that I've ever blogged which leads me to the belief that blogging and waiting are two passionately connected activites. Now to the important stuff - We are still waiting...AMP is looking special in her hospital gown and I am blogging and waiting. Will keep you posted

Morning of

Well, doing my best to keep busy and not eat or drink anything, even water until 4pm. I did try to muscle my way into a "penthouse" suite on the 7th floor in the new building at St. Joe's, but was told - no -surprise - that it "depends on availability." Here I was thinking I'd be entitled to the jacuzzi room with a big-screen, High-Def TV and the new Wolfgang Puck line of hospital cuisine. Looks like it'll be Netflix and my laptop.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Night Before Surgery

Everything that can be done has been done. There is nothing left to do, but sleep and awaken. Given the difficulty of tomorrow the house is remarkably calm. AMP is wonderful, masterful, and special and courageous. AMP is love. We are surrounded by a sea of love.

My favortie movie

nobody seemed to know I posted this, but either way, whether this is really my favorite movie is debatable in my own mind , but I wanted to do one that was on the AFI list and a big one . . . so this is what I wrote a while back when we first created AFI's favorite movie blog - and oh, yes - I borrowed the image - so sue me.

make sure you look for a "brooks' author

Friends & Family Update Letter = First Post

Hello all - many of you have already seen the letter below, but it seemed apropos of a first post since it really tells the story pretty succinctly. Other than that, all I have to say right now is that the title of this blog was inspired by the American Film Institute by way of Mr. Todd Hughes (the man, the mind, the office clutter) Larry and I are co-authors and one of us will post all the new news that is fitting. We invite you to comment, but mostly this is a good place to look if you haven't heard from us in a while

so, here goes - This is the letter I sent to friends and family on October 11, 2007, once I finally knew my surgery date . . . and so it begins.

Dear friends and family -

Well - the verdict is in:

Double Mastectomy on Tuesday October 16 - check in at 12N Providence St. Joseph's Medical Center in Burbank

I'll probably be in the hospital for 1 or 2 nights, recovering at home anywhere from 2 - 6 weeks, maybe driving in a month, working from home sometime before that, doing a little light yoga and bungy-jumping by week 8.

Officially I have been diagnosed with a combination of invasive ductal and tubular-lobular carcinoma. The good news is that we think it has been found early, it's very small and has favorable markers for treatment. The bad news is that it's all about location, location LOCATIONS - there are multiple locations - it is a multi-focal disease - meaning there is not a lot of study and literature on it. "I'm special" as my oncologist put it (take that, Chrissie Hynde!). It also means that there are many places from which these little devils may launch and create more havoc. Therefore, a more aggressive treatment may be indicated than would normally be done for either ductal or lobular cancer with favorable markers. sigh.

I've seen 3 oncologists and 3 surgeons, a radiation specialist and a plastic surgeon. I've done my homework and feel comfortable with my doctors and St. Joe's, which is also close to home. So, it's been a long time getting to this point since the original suspect mammo of july 26th, but well worth taking the time to question and learn - tell your friends and neighbors. As many of you know, I was originally slated for a lumpectomy of a single lesion on the left, until an MRI which I requested presented all the different spots. Who knew my multi-tasking would lead to multi-focal. Was it the stress?

After Tuesday, email my dear husband Larry, cc'd above or call him at 818-243-0839. In the next few days, we will also set-up some phone trees and a blog or other web-based notification system, so we won't have to e-blast all the time and junk up your in-boxes. I know, I've been saying that for a while, but the diagnostic process has taken up much of my priorities - in fact, Larry has compared this ordeal to a ride at Raging Waters - you know - waiting in long, an excruciatingly long, slow line in the hot sun - then you get to the top and whooooosh!

Anyway - now it's time to do that and we will. We will also post a few numbers of friends you can call besides Larry as he may need help in handling them.

So - that's my story and I'm sticking to it - "fortunately, unfortunately" - as one of my favorite artist/authors, Remy Charlip might put it - in fact his book of that title would make a great template for this cancer story, for all cancer stories.

Thank you all for your love, positive thoughts, shoulders to cry on, walls to bang, prayers, chants, cards, letters and just for being here.

All my love,

My Blog Is Here

Stay tuned!