Dust off the Cobwebs

Hello friends. It’s been a long while since we last visited!  Sorry for the major hiatus.

Returning to work has been good. It’s been a pretty smooth transition, I have to say. I was extremely worried about going back — but am amazed at how respectful everybody has been about my part-time schedule.

I never, in a million years, thought I’d say this — but practicing law again has been, well, downright rewarding and fulfilling.  Utilizing that skill set and pushing myself intellectually – has been great.  It’s so funny how losing a year to cancer can make you re-evaluate everything.  It’s also funny to me how practicing law feels so right at this point in my life. I like the fact that it’s so structured and rule-based.  I take comfort in that — and, it doesn’t hurt that I was on the business side of Stella & Dot pre-cancer, and fundamentally understand how the company works/operates. So applying legal concepts to the business comes naturally to me.

The absolute hardest thing about going back to work has been the fact that I have to remind myself that it’s 2013.  I keep thinking it’s 2012 (from a business perspective as well) — but then need to remind myself that the past year has been a black hole for me — and that the company has grown a ton since I was last there.

Let me qualify that last statement, remembering what year it is, is not the absolute hardest thing about returning to work.  Rather, it’s the physical and mental endurance piece that’s been the hardest.  After three days (Mon-Wed) in the office, I literally need two days (Thur-Fri) to lay in bed and recover.  By Saturday I feel like myself again — but it’s dang rough on me.

This past week was particularly hard b/c we had company for Thanksgiving and we hosted Thanksgiving dinner for 8 (and went to a friends holiday party and my niece’s Nutcracker ballet performance).  When I’m on the go non-stop and don’t have a couple days built in to relax, it all sort of goes to hell in a hand basket.

On Monday I was whining to Paul that I went back to work too early, and that I couldn’t possibly get through the work week.  Well, true to form, Paul was having none of it. He pushed my ass right out of bed and wouldn’t allow me to make excuses. So off to work I went, and it was difficult for me, but I muddled through (and made the wise decision to outsource a few projects to outside counsel).

Sadly, this week was no better for me. I’m coming off of a crazy Thanksgiving weekend, just finished a crazy three-day work week, and am now jumping into more craziness.  We had dinner with friends last night, a holiday party tomorrow night, a wedding in LA on Sunday, the Warner Brothers back lot tour Monday, and then back to work Tues-Thurs. Whoosh, I got tired just typing all of that!

In any event, I know from my WordPress stats, that most of you really enjoy seeing pictures. So let me indulge ya’ll (read the slideshow captions).

xoxo,
A

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11.12.13

Today marks my return to work at Stella & Dot as their Corporate Counsel. It’s like the first day of school!

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Hoopla 2013 Recap

I had a blast at Hoopla this year and would be remiss if I didn’t thank Tracey S. and Julie S. for making me an honorary Gem Fatale for the event (they even let me crash their team picture at the VIP dance party!)

I’m happy to report that I did a decent job of pacing myself. The first day I pushed it, I mean, who wouldn’t — it’s the fashion show and the new line reveal. But it was so nice to see all of the Stylists and Home Office team — I just was running around like a crazy person visiting with everybody.

After the fashion show I went back to my room to change and rest, then hit up the Gem Fatale’s team party.  Tracey let me escape to her room to lay down for a spell before we pushed on to Tysh’s Diamond Jubilee (thank you to Tracey for letting me use your tempurpedic pillow and to Christy G. for giving me the bracelet off your wrist to get into the party — it pays to know people, and Tysh’s sister, in particular!!).  Tysh’s party was off the chain — she and her hubby are a real inspiration!  Tracey and Julie, always the mama bears, made sure I was in bed at a decent hour. They walked me back to my hotel room and had me there by 10:45. I then proceeded to order room service and talk on the phone until midnight. Win some, lose some!

On Day 2, I attended a ton of training. It was awesome to be able to sit through the actual training and not be running around behind the scenes as a HO employee. I really learned a lot about my personal business and got pretty amped up! I had lunch and dinner in my room and got into my jammies. I was dragging and knew my body needed the break. But, then at around 8:30 it was time for the DJ-O dance party at The Chateau.  Katie (my pal and Dir of PR for S&D) and I walked over together. Sadly, I got carded and was stupid enough not to bring my ID with me. What? This is Vegas, do they really card people? Apparently, yes they do. So we got split up b/c I had to head back to my room to get my license.

Once back at the party, I headed up to the VIP rooftop (again, pays to know peeps and work for HO!). I saw a bunch of my friends from Home Office and was hanging with them for a few minutes before my mama bears swooped in and nabbed me.  They took me back to their team’s banquet and I mainly hung out there (b/c everybody else was dancing on top of the banquets, I had a nice cushy seat for my lazy bum!). I also hung in Tysh’s section, with my HO peeps and at the bar 🙂

I promised myself I’d leave at 10:30 latest. Yeah, right. At a little past midnight, I got a text from Katie (who I still hadn’t seen since the ID debacle). She was in the DJ booth and wanted me to join all the other HO peeps. I passed (so mature of me, right?!) and went back to my room to rest. Proud of myself for making grown up decisions. It’s really hard when you’re in such a fun environment. And those of you who know me — know I love to paaaaart-hey!

Good thing I didn’t go to the DJ booth too, I saw Maddie the next day icing her foot and, ultimately, I saw that she ended up with a cast before she even left Vegas. I suppose I just broke the cardinal rule of “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”. Whoopsies!

After the club, on my walk back to my room, I ran into Dana, who BTW, was a dancing machine together with Ha! It was nice to catch up with her for a bit.

Day 3 saw more training as well as my 38th birthday. I didn’t tell anybody at Hoopla it was my bday b/c I didn’t want to make a big deal. But I did duck out of training early to grab some vino and play the slots. Happy to report that after feeding close to 80 bucks into the damn Wheel of Fortune slot, I won it all back plus a little at some other slot. Yay me!

Then I flew home to Paul and Lucy and we went out for a birthday dinner (and, as you know from my previous post, my real birthday surprise was yet to come!)

So, what did I take away from Hoopla? Well, for one, I’m able to make the right decisions for myself in order to care for my post cancer body. Two, it’s always amazing to be surrounded by such an inspiring group of people. Three, the training was AH-MAZE. Danielle is fantastic at her job. D, you’d be proud of me — I just reached out to three potential hostesses and planted the seed for future Trunk Shows! Four, if you are going to spill a glass of wine on the CEO, Jessica Herrin, you pray that she doesn’t remember it was you who did it (yup, party foul by me on Day 1 — maybe I can play the cancer card if she remembers?!).

To the amazing and incomparable Home Office team and a special shout out to the Field Dev team, in particular — HOORAY to you. Congratulations on a spectacular event

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Last Chemo – Recap

Hi everyone! We’re back from our two week escape post-chemo.  I wrote a few blog entries while in Hawaii but didn’t feel like editing and posting them. So keep in mind that the next few entries were written a few weeks ago.  Once I get all of these up I’ll start posting real-time again. xoxo

Here I am — one week out since my last chemo. I’ve had a lot of firsts and milestones to acknowledge (maybe not celebrate).

At my last chemo, I woke up like I did on any other given chemo Tuesday. With a deep sadness and tears welled in my eyes.  As always, I looked over to Paul and said, once again, “I can’t possibly do it again. I don’t want to do it again”.  Ever the supportive husband, he kissed me and said, “You can do this. This is the very last time you will have to do this. Ever.”

My final chemo was bittersweet. I hadn’t had a massage prior to my last 3 chemo’s because Lisa was enjoying a well-deserved vacation. So, this, my final chemo, started with a relaxing, lovely massage. Then, off I went to Jelly for blood work and Garrett for my final consult before my final Benadryl nap. What’s crazy is that it was all sort of sad and anticlimactic at the same time. I felt that I was losing a HUGE chunk of my life and my new cancer family, yet I was gaining my independence again (whatever that means).

I’m proud to say that Garrett and his team asked me to be one of the new faces of his practice (my pic and bio will appear on his website). It just so happens, that the professional photographer for their website was coming in on my last infusion day. So it was a BIG day. Can’t you just picture it, I’m totally zonked from a massage and Benadryl. I wake up and try to re-apply my make-up and sit for a photo shoot! Ha! I was a hot mess. I planned my outfit very strategically so that I had three separate looks for the photographer. Sadly, I was in such a daze — it was all I could do to let her just take my picture — forget about transitioning looks! End of day, I was wearing my Stella & Dot breast cancer awareness scarf in the photo. I’m happy about that because I was wearing it the day of my mammogram when this entire journey began. It felt fitting to wear it as chemo came to a close.

The entire day was surreal. I don’t think there were any other patients in the infusion room that day. So it was really quiet in the office. Paul and Tasha did a lot of hootin’ and hollerin’ as the very last drops of Taxol dripped into my veins (See Paul’s blog post — I am super out of it, it’s pretty hilarious!).  Then, during my photo shoot, everybody sort of came out of the wood works to congratulate, high five and hug me.

My clearest memory from the photo shoot was of Lisa literally screaming at me “You’re done!” and DAMN, that felt F’ing good! I know she was partly trying to get me to loosen up in front of the camera — but it was all so bittersweet to me — every single day since last December, I’ve counted on Smith Integrative Oncology — the entire team, to help me get by. Everything from a paper cut (which is actually no joke when you’re undergoing chemo) — to my 10 day hospital stay. They’ve been there for me. Through think and thin. My new family.

Now, our regular dates are done. I’m happy to break up with them on the one hand, but I’m sad to know that I won’t see all of these wonderful people on a regular basis.  They saved me. Together with Paul, all of these people saved me.  They made me find the strength to go on when I had no idea that any strength was left. They made me want to put on a cute outfit and pair it with some cute Stella & Dot each infusion day so that I could make them smile.

All I can say to SIO, Paul, and all of you who have supported me along this road, is a heartfelt THANK YOU. I don’t know what else to say. I know my fight isn’t quite over yet, but you all carried me this far, and for that, you get a giant THANK YOU.

xoxo

I’m Feelin’ Hot…Flashes, that is (and other ramblings)!

Now that my fever is gone, I am really feeling my hot flashes. They are brutal.

Here are a few observations I have on hot flashes:

  • depending on my mood, I will suffer through a hot flash with my head covering on because I don’t want the world to see that I don’t have hair — therefore they’ll know I’m “sick”
  • my hot flashes tend to increase overnight
  • having a tempurpedic mattress and pillow SUCKS when you are having hot flashes — the damn things just absorb all my heat and throw it back in my face
  • you too can devise a very scientific solution to the above problem — just do as I do, and keep a wet washcloth on a plate on your nightstand — when the offending flash comes on, place washcloth on top of your head, on your neck, on your back, behind your knees! Hell, wherever you need it 🙂

In other news, spring is in the air here in San Francisco. We’ve had some beautiful days and I’ve done my best to get out there, go for a walk and enjoy the fresh air. Paul and I have also been availing ourselves of all the farmer’s markets. My latest farmer’s market obsession is freesias. I love having fresh flowers in the house!

While spring has sprung outside — it’s also sprung in my BODY people! Yup! My hair appears to be sprouting! I have a baby fine five o’clock shadow on my head (much of it is white to my dismay!) and my eyebrows, eyelashes and nose hair are reappearing too (I have to say, not having eyelashes and nose hair is one of the more distressing things about cancer).

Let me end this post by addressing the elephant in the room. Said elephant being Lincoln Financial Group. After reading my post, my momma bear at work, Anita, escalated the issue internally and I got a call from a manager at Lincoln the very next day! The manager said that she was happy to inform me that they’ve determined my cancer was not pre-existing and they’ll check back in with me in May. Thank you Anita and S&D for jumping in and holding them accountable on my behalf.

What I really want to address, however, is the fact that I had such a visceral reaction to the whole experience and that I shared it on my blog. I’ve waffled back and forth the past few days and have, at times, regretted sharing my true emotions on this blog. I feel that some people don’t really want to hear about the bad/frustrating stuff that patients have to deal with. The fact of the matter is — this process is not easy on me. Not on my body or my emotions. This blog is a safe place for me to say what I need to. If my rant made you uncomfortable, I think that’s good. Because you probably felt some of what I’m living. Yes, screaming and shouting takes energy, and that was negative energy the other day. But screaming and shouting also helps me. I’ve walked a long road and still have a lot more walking to do. I’m human and I have bad days, some are worse than others. But I need to vent or I’ll explode. I’m allowing myself the space to blow up, to get mad, to cry, to even scream and shout — you know why? because this. just. plain. sucks.

Now that I have some distance from the incident, I can better articulate what really pissed me off about the whole thing — and it was this — the woman who was managing my case, we’ll call her Kelly, thought she was being sly in asking me all sorts of leading questions. It was as if she was trying to bait me into saying that cancer and my treatment are such a breeze, so much so, in fact, that I am literally bored sitting at home awaiting my next chemo infusion. I was also so caught off guard by the fact that she even knew I’ve been doing IVF. That has nothing to do with my cancer disability, so why question me on it? Obviously, it was to bait me into once again saying, oh, my cancer is such a breeze, so much so, in fact, that I’m going to start a round of IVF.

Nope Kelly, there’s no lie to catch me in here. I am just trudging through chemo and all of it’s lovely side effects as best I can. Contrary to what your “chemo flow chart” may indicate, I assure you I do not feel like running a 5K tomorrow!

Ultimately, I know she was just doing her job and trying to boot me off LTD as quickly as possible (heck, she probably gets some sort of incentive prize from Lincoln if she does boot me off in record time), but she was so transparent about it — it was downright cruel.

And, YES, don’t worry, when the manager reached out to me I gave her my constructive feedback on Kelly. She was pulled from my account and I recommended that the manager pull the call recording and listen to it as Kelly was highly inappropriate and unprofessional. I said that Kelly should not be talking like people to me until she has been properly trained. I let her know that Kelly rendered me to tears all afternoon and that was not OK. The manager was very receptive to all I had to say.

I feel that I was listened to and, ultimately, that’s all I really wanted. I have so little control over what’s going on with me right now. My treatment is out of my hands. My side effects are out of my hands. My body, the one that betrayed me and got cancer in the first place, is out of my hands. My emotions are clearly out of my hands! So, to feel heard was really important to me. Yay for small victories. And, thanks again Anitra for the assist.

If you are easter bunny kind, Happy Easter weekend to you. If you are passover kind, Happy Passover to you. If you are none of the above, happy spring weekend to you!

xoxo

Who needs chicken soup when you have Stella & Dot!

I just spent the day at work (Stella & Dot’s Home Office) and had so much fun visiting with everybody. It’s hard to believe that I’ve been on a leave of absence since October — time really flies. While cancer is a full time job for sure — I do miss seeing all of my friends at work on a daily basis. Chatting with everybody really re-energized me. Like the title of this post implies — you don’t need chicken soup for the soul when you have amazing friends and co-workers at S&D. (That — and I was totally hopped up on a ton a vicodin to combat the extremely painful bone aches my latest nuelasta shot is causing me!)

The whole reason I went down to San Bruno today was because, Ha, our VP of Product Management, arranged for a brown bag lunch and learn on breast health awareness. How amazing right? The event had a great turn out — in fact, I’ve never seen the fish bowl conference room so packed — people were sitting on the floor!

Ha invited two women from Check Your Boobies (CYB) to drop by and discuss their survival stories, the importance of self-exams and a whole lot more. I gave a brief overview of my story as well — but that was sort of a broken record since everybody in the room knows me and most are reading this blog. Egh, what can I say? I like the sound of my own voice!

On a more serious note though, I really do want to become more involved in this community that I am now a part of. So much so, that Paul and I have decided to attend the C4YW conference in Seattle next month. C4YW is the Annual Conference for Young Women Affected by Breast Cancer. While it’s no Hoopla (!) I am excited for all of the break outs they offer. They have sessions on fertility after cancer (as you know, an issue near and dear to me), clinical trials, healthy eating, employment during and after cancer, sex and cancer etc. They also have sessions for caretakers — which Paul will def be availing himself of. Like, Hoopla, there will be lots of dancing and parties too! So needless to say, I am pretty stoked to get up there and meet some fabulous people and figure out what I can do to help bring more awareness to this issue. I feel moved to do something — to help other people — somehow, in any little way that I can. Hopefully I will figure out how I can channel my experience into advocacy at this conference. I am ready to take action people!

Since I am feeling so inspired today — I also want to tell the blogosphere some AMAZING news. As you may or may not have noticed, I haven’t mentioned anything about our donor in awhile. That’s because we have been selfishly enjoying the incredible fact that our donor was a friggin’ roskstar and we have 17 (yes, you read that correctly, SEVENTEEN) Day 2 embryos on ice. AAGGGHHHHH! Finally some good news, right!? Thank you for all your prayers and good donor vibes — they totally worked! We couldn’t be more thrilled and whenever I have a bad day now, Paul reminds me about our little totsicles and that helps me push through to the other side. I think the tide is finally turning for us. I can feel it in my bones (or, again, that may just be the nuelasta ;))

Thank you Ha for organizing such a great event today. I was out of the house from 11-4, which is a HUGE deal for me these days! But I was having too much fun — I couldn’t leave (hope I didn’t get anybody in trouble with their boss :0) Shout out to Ha, Shannon, Kellen, Patsy, Meg, Julie, Maddy, Jessie, Kylee, Rand, Brian, Josh, Tom, Annie, Jacqueline, Lisa F., Lisa T., Meredith, B-Lee, Deanna, Amber, JD, JR, Anthony, Skye, Nina, Tina, Saveena, Rebecca, Amy, Paulina, Lucy, Maddie, Olga & Anita — I apologize to anybody I left off, I blame chemo brain! I miss you and love you! Thank you all for making me laugh and smile for hours straight! Never thought I’d say it, but I miss working (lol)!

Maddy, Julie, Shannon, Kylee & Patsy — this one’s for you: Fuck you Elaine Levinson — you are a horrible person. (sorry everybody else, it’s an inside joke).

It's usually too cold to go full on bald -- but here's a pic of me sportin' my Mr. Clean look!

It’s usually too cold to go full on bald — but here’s a pic of me sportin’ my Mr. Clean look!

It Takes a Village

So many people have come out to show their support for us, it’s been incredibly moving and amazing.  In an act of solidarity, my hubby, my mom and my dad all shaved their hair off too.  In addition, I was blown away when Tracey Schwartz, a Stella & Dot Stylist and friend, who lives in Texas, also buzzed her hair off.  Tracey and I have been in constant contact since my diagnosis — she’s been a great source of support and strength for me.  She told me early on that she was going to chop her hair off alongside me, but I thought she was bluffing.  Below is the picture to prove she that she says what she means and does what she says! Go Paul, Mom, Dad and Tracey — you all are my heroes.

We had a number of visitors over the past few days — each brought with them little treats for us.  Tom and Melissa Yu-Gac brought us light-hearted conversation and laughs, Angela (our wonderful nurse from NOVA (our IVF clinic)) brought hugs and a cashmere hat and gloves to keep this baldy warm.  Shadin and Marwan brought food for the soul in the form of Little Star pizza and salad! And, last, but certainly not least, Melissa Trousdale dropped off two handmade soft ‘n fuzzy hats for me. She took the time to make me a fleece Bills hat! It must’ve been a challenge to match up the pattern to get it just right. I LOVE this hat and wear it around the house all the time! Thank you to all of you for helping re-charge our batteries over these past few days. It is so much appreciated.

Me? Well, I pushed through my “bad” days and am up and about again. I’ve been diligently doing my PT exercises daily and I go for a walk daily as well. In general, my body sort of aches and I’m tired a lot of the time now. It makes me question what’s going on with my white blood cell counts. So far, my counts have been fine, but I wonder if I’ll be able to keep that track record up much longer.  I suppose only time will tell.

Today I may head over to the mall and window shop a bit — or I may just walk around the ‘hood and then come home and watch more episodes of Downton Abbey (I just got the first season on Apple TV!).  Oh, I forgot to mention that my brother Bob stopped by for a bit yesterday, we were plotting which slow cooker recipes to make (we’re nerds, I realize). He’s been really great about stopping over at least once or twice a week. It’s a nice break for Paul especially, because the two of them can talk about golf etc. Thanks Baab, your visits really do help 😉

Other than that, I’ve been playing around with tying head scarves onto my head — because starting tomorrow –I have a full social calendar that will force me to leave the house in more than just sweats!

On Wednesday, I’m having lunch with Cindy Hess, a partner at my old law firm, Fenwick and West.  Thursday is Paul’s birthday — so I am taking him out to dinner in North Beach and then to the Buena Vista Social Club for a proper Irish coffee.  Friday brings a number of doctor appointments followed by a stop off at Stella & Dot’s Director’s Retreat! I can’t wait to see all the Stylists and my work pals. It feels like it’s been ages!

Well, that’s really it for this post. Not much to report other than slogging through cancer. Sorry!