Thursday, January 29, 2009

South Beach Shrinkage

When your parents tell you that the circumstances under which you totaled your car make for a good "blog story," you know, well, that you have a good "blog story."

I had a 2:30 with the shrink, Dr. Melnick yesterday. His office is about 10 minutes from my house, just north of South Beach. Traffic in South Beach is always a bitch. The scooter-ers, bicyclists, speed freaks and old bags make for one big traffic clusterfuck of a neighborhood. Look away for one second and you've hit a pedestrian. Or, in my case, rear-ended a pickup truck on Alton Road. I looked away for a nanosec, looked up again and found myself too close for comfort with the Chevy Silverado in front of me. My car crumpled up like a piece of aluminum foil, which is what it's "supposed to do" to protect the driver.

I hop out of the car, apologize to the truck driver—who's of course pissed off—and drift into that dreamy 'oh, here we go again' mental state that I'm familiar with intimately. It's hot as hell out, and I'm wearing velour Juicy pants, a thick Lucky hoodie and a tank underneath that's too low-cut to enable me to remove the hoodie. Not to mention the fact that my hair is spiked up about four inches, I'm wearing no makeup, my prescription Chloe aviators, the whole nine. I'm looking hot. I call Shrink on his cell, tell him what's happened.

"Where are you exactly?"

"Alton and 20th in front of Wachovia."

"Okay, I'll drop these scrips off so you can have them."

"To the pharmacy you mean?"

"No, I'll come to you."

Five minutes later, Shrink pulls up and parks behind our little wreck.

"This has to be a first—"

"Well, you booked the time. . ."

We'd already called the cops and knew they'd take their sweet ass time getting to the scene.

I'm a little unnerved, pacing around.

"Come sit down," he says.

So I sit down next to him, he whips out the prescription pad and we proceed to have our session on the steps of a ghetto apartment/hotel building on Alton Road. He's assessing the damage to my car, I'm fretting about how I'm going to get a rental in time to drive home for mom's 60th bday weekend tomorrow. He writes out my scrips, hands me the paper; I give him all this insurance info that I need him to input for me to get reimbursed.

"Okay, well I've got a 3 p.m., but you're okay?"

"Yes, thank you soo much. This is why you're the best doctor ever."

"So, I'll be checking the blog for this I'm guessing?"

"Yeah, definitely."

He leaves and about an hour passes with no signs of la policia. The other driver, Jesse, had made the first call. So natch, I put in the second.

"Yeah, hi, I know the other guy who called said it wasn't an emergency, but I'm in Cancer treatment and my head's hurting, so you know I'd like to get to the doctor eventually, so can you put it in as like kind of an emergency?"

She tells me it hasn't been dispatched yet. I tell the dude Jesse what I told her, and of course he becomes a lot more pleasant to deal with. I feel justified in pulling the Cancer card, and I did (and still do) have a pretty bad headache. I call 911 again, whine again and this time she tells me they're on the way. We see a police car pass us and pull over in the wrong place. Finally he turns around and, not taking any chances, wild-haired, wild-eyed Steph waves the car down from the middle of Alton. The cop is—I kid you not—a gay character right out of central casting. I swear, this man's arms wouldn't extend all the way down; they were in perma-arm-wrist-bend mode.

I'm already in talks with the insurance co and tow truck co, multitasking as it takes Chip 1 and Chip II—who was clearly just bored cruising around South beach and decided to join Chip 1—about 45 minutes to fill out the police report. I call Laura who's willing to pick me up on her scooter. The cops leave, the tow truck comes and then Laura. After the luck I was having, I was a little nervous about being transported home via scooter, but it was a smooth ride.

Sooo, today. I wake up early as the insurance company had told me they reserved an Enterprise car for me and I just had to go pick it up this a.m. I had an 11:30 gyno appointment for a transvaginal ultrasound—the earliest and best device we have nowadays at detecting ovarian cancer. I've had to cancel on this doctor twice before. And it would be nice to know that everything down there is kosher (not that I have any reason in particular to worry, just routine maintenence when you're BRCA+).

Of course Enterprise has no cars. Of course the insurance operator made the reservation in Jacksonville, where my agent is even though I told him I lived in South Beach. Of course I have to cancel on the doctor again. Now I'm still feeling lightheaded, have no car—only a reservation—for tomorrow and am a little overwhelmed at packing, as usual. I'm also hoping the v-jay-jay will be patient with me for another month.

But a shrink who makes roadside assistance calls? Now that my friends, is surely something only this coconut can boast.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Omigod, I can't believe this is happening. In the near year that I've been visiting the MS Cancer Center for chemo and Herceptin, I've never once had to wait in the public area. The receptionist always says by rote, "Have a seat and if they haven't called your name in an hour, come see me."

As fucking if. I stride right by the old ladies and men waiting outside the doors of the chemo ward, inwardly laughing at their sheeplike mentality—couldn't they see that the chemo ward is empty and there's no need to wait outside? Outside the doors where it smells like hospital food and illness. Where the average age must be 70. Where the dirty old men stare at my tits to the extent that I want to scream out "They're cancer tits, okay?" And where the women wear orthopedic shoes, bandanas and polyester.

Well, I certainly got my comeuppance today, as I'm now sitting in the public waiting area typing this, trying not to breathe in the germy air. Thank god I have tights on under my dress or I'd be completely flipping out about my skin touching the nasty fabric of this chair.

An hour ago I sauntered in past the waiting area of sick sheep and took a seat in one of the chemo pods, as the receptionist told me there were no rooms at the moment. My usual room—room #1, the corner one with the best views—was occupied by an old man.

So I waited. And waited. And finally told her that I didn't need a room, just get me started in the pod. A few minutes later the managing nurse, who I'm friendly with, told me he needed my pod seat since they were so backed up.

"Where should I wait?"

"Out there," he said, motioning for me to exit through the glass doors into the area I scoffed at. (Jesus Christ, there's a maid sweeping the carpet under my feet at this very moment, what the fuck?)

"Out there?," I said with what felt like panic. Out there? Why, I never. Never had to sit out there in a whole year. They'll call me, he said. But I'd already Wet-Wiped down the chair in that pod, 'do I have enough Wet Wipes to start over?' I thought instinctually.

Let me explain how these infusion days work. I go to chemo ward first. They draw blood, send to lab—CA 125 and CA 153, tumor marking tests for breast and ovarian CA—and doctor waits to get the results. I then go in to see Dr. Schwartz, who looks over my bloodwork, checks my vitals, does manual exam and then sends me to scheduling. I schedule my next infusion, three weeks hence. I then go back over to chemo ward, usually head to room #1, sanitize that room—the table where I put my computer, the counter tops, all the handles and buttons I must touch and set up the bed height etc. I wait on the pharmacy to send up the meds, which can take up to an hour. Once the meds finally arrive, I'm hooked up to the IV via the port (catheter) implanted above my right breast. Then it's an hour and a half of infusion time.

I have these days and their machinations down to a controllable routine. Which has been thrown completely off course by me having been essentially kicked out of the comfortable chemo pad to the uncomfortable public waiting area. I'm typing so as not to have a panic attack and bolt. In a few more minutes, I shall see about rescheduling at a less busy time. I'm very, very uncomfortable by this change in my routine.

And even more uncomfortable being treated like 'the others'. Elitism aside, contributing to this out of control vulnerability is the fact that I'm still the youngest fucking patient here. Every day I hear of women my age being diagnosed in the area. So where the fuck are they? These young wome 'just like me'. All I'm asking for is someone under the age of 40.

And to get the hell out of Macy's and back into Bergdorf's. I do not like this one bit. Not at all. They'd better fucking call me soon or I'm out of here. This is way beyond my comfort zone and after the past couple of weeks, I'd been looking forward to nothing but the comforts of normality this week. Not a good start. At all. Seriously, this is not in the plan.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Getting to Know You

Or me, rather. You guys get a fairly accurate picture of my personality through this here blog, but most of you have never actually met the phenomenon that is Stephanie in person. I kid, but here's your chance.

Below is the link to the video of my 'performance' at Heeb Storytelling in November at the Miami Int'l Book Fair. I'm finally uploading video, however most of them are incriminating, so often people tell me not to post them.

Speaking of Heeb, you all canbuy the issue with my story on newstands. That hot mess Courtney Love is on the cover. But this is the coolest—Chelsea Handler actually held up the issue and quoted from the Courtney Love interview on Chelsea Lately Friday night. I DVR her show already, and nearly dropped the vaporizer when I saw her hold the issue up. Deducing that if she is in possession of the rag, she just may read my story. You know how much I love me some Chelsea. So just in case she didn't read my feature, I shot her an email telling her to—she's my Facebook friend. Ha. I figured it's about drugs so pretty good chance she might read, given her loving relationship with Grey Goose.

Anywho, let's see if you like me as much on camera as you do in writing. And it's a story you guys haven't heard, so enjoy.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Fashionista Follows the Signs

You all know I believe in the significance of signs and I try to recognize, pay attention and interpret the really important ones. Fitting then, that the most recent one came in the form of one of my Dior bags. I kid you not.

At dinner Saturday night with the 'rents and Daryl—Dana's older bro and my lifelong best straight-guy friend—somehow a conversation about investments devolved into my form of securities—wardrobe investment pieces.

Investment Piece Function: noun
Usage: often attributive
A luxury good, item of clothing or accessory that merits its high cost by standing the test of time.

Examples given: Classic Manolo Blahnik slingbacks, sophisticated pair of designer jeans, Chanel handbag, Cartier watch, diamond stud earrings.

"Jesus, this Vuitton bag is $1,200, but it is a classic investment piece. ..."

You get the drift, ladies. Men, well, they don't get it, so if hubby, father or lover insists on knowing the price, slash it by 50 percent. (They always buy the 'sale excuse,' no matter the season.)

—many of my less sartorially inclined friends, in fact—sees my fashion obsession as trivial perhaps, so I schooled him at dinner.

"Okay, so tell me what the value of that handbag is," he says, pointing at the Dior bag hanging on my chair.

Ooh, I chose the right bag that night.

"Actually," I say, feeling the endorphins rising up, "this particular bag is very significant."

"Tell me," he scoffs.

"About six years ago, mom got me this bag as a gift for getting my first literary agent. And six years later I still use it and it obviously has sentimental value."

So there. My mom obviously gets the theory, and dad, thanks to 35+ years of being with mom, has learned through osmosis.

"Okay, I can get that. So it has major sentimental value."

"Of course, most of my clothing does. In fact, I wore this exact shirt to the engagement party we had for Dana! That was what, about six years ago too. And this heart pendant? Also wore to the engagement party."

Now he really got it, so we got back to talking about other stuff. The bag in question is a pretty rare sight on other people, as it is from many seasons ago and was not a part of a classic Dior collection, rather a seasonal one. Therefore, not too many girls are sporting this exact bag nowadays. Even less in Miami.

Saturday night, Orlene and me at the Gansevoort South Beach:

Dawn and me, six years ago at the Hudson hotel NYC:

So last night Hemley and I took in The Wrestler, which I had been dying to see. Who doesn't love a good comeback? And especially a Mickey Rourke one; he's a fixture on the Miami scene.

The movie did not disappoint. His performance, and especially the history behind the uphill battle to get backing for a Mickey-Rourke-fronted vehicle, was both inspirational and fable-ish. (Fantastic director with a passion project and a steadfast belief that a "washed-up" star was the actor made for this film.)

As we exited the movie, I stopped in my tracks and began hitting Hems on the arm.

"Oh. My. God!"


"See that girl with that red, yellow and green strapped bag? Oh my God!! I wore that bag last night. This is such a big sign."

"You wore that bag last night? I don't remember that?"

We had a late, debaucherous night with the crew at the NWS Friends after party.

"Damn, you were that wasted?"

"Oy, Chihuauha!"

"What's the sign?"

I told him the agenting story, the convo with Daryl the night before and as a gay, he got it without me having to explain the investment-piece/significance of fashion.

"So what's the meaning?"

"The meaning, is: It's time for my comeback, bitches."

On the way home we passed this Chinese restaurant Kim's.

"So is that place decent or is it cat food?"

"Oh, nay nay Heeba. Stay away."

I dropped him off and he called me shortly thereafter.

"Talk about signs, Heeba! I got in the elevator with a food delivery person and he handed me a menu. Guess what it's for? Kim's!!"

"Oy vey. So what does that mean?"

"I don't know, I'll work on this one. You've got yours covered."

Yes, I do.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

I'm super busy right now so we'll have to settle for a look back, as Jan. 19th marks the yahrtzeit of a dear family friend. Stage IV lung cancer. A look back at Eddie's obit that I wrote last year. Not by the Hebrew calendar (which I think it's supposed to be), but by Western dates.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Gorgeous Genetics

You all well know that I don't often get into philosophical and social issues here unless they are related to me, myself and I—and even then, I just eloquently foam at the mouth.

However, any and all things breast cancer-related pique my interest. Actually, that's not true. We're inundated with info and misinfo, so I pick and choose. The BRCA-related information I do pay attention to, however. Normal BRCA genes in people actually fight cancer; the mutated ones such as mine, up the cancer ante. Therefore, I do remember Norton and Schwartz talking about genetic engineering regarding BRCA genes. I glazed over the topic, as you know I'm not religulous and therefore when it comes to tinkering with genetics in the interest of health, I say "Hell, fuck yeah."

So I wasn't that surprised—but was rather pleased—when Brother emailed me a link to a BBC story headlined: "Breast cancer gene-free baby born." (I guess the Brits do not follow AP Style.)

Yup, due to the familial history of this unborn baby's predecessors, these parents took the ultimate proactive step. And it worked. This is huge. If I wanted a baby, I'd tell him to excise that fucking gene from the embryo or whatever too.

It's quite an interesting story, for those of you new to the subject. And it definitely portends the amazing new discoveries that will continue to improve our opportunities when it comes to health.

Read it, bitches. There is a factual error—so ya'll know I had to comment and correct: BRCA+ people do not have a guaranteed 80% chance of getting breast ca; they have UP TO an 80% chance. Big diff.

Monday, January 12, 2009

No Future Politicians Here

Great weekend. Family friends Friday night and locals Saturday night, not the least of whom is Hemley, back from his Indian sabbatical. He surprised the drunken lot of us at Ben and Laura's, after Ben, Laura, Maggie, Gabe and I'd witnessed the locomotive wreck that was "Shakespeare in the Park;" had downed a bottle of rum, two bottles of wine and that 1980 magnum of Dom that I rescued from the 'rents 3rd fridge between us—all by 9 p.m. (Yes, Macbeth was that painful.)

Defense Exhibits A, B, C and D:

A still bright eyed and bushy tailed Ben

Things went rapidly downhill from there.

The girls were faring a little better.

Hemley's reunion with his beloved Ishkabob. And me.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Time Flies When You're Having Cancer

Last year at this time I was headed to Sloan NYC to consult with the indescribably wonderful Dr. Larry Norton about my options regarding treatment. I'd yet to begin treatment. Had only done the lumpectomy (which had technically rendered me cancer-free already). Was unhappy with that bitchy oncol I consulted with down here, and was slightly on the fence about lopping off the tatas.

Mom, dad, brother and I piled into Norton's office.

"You know we could've done this over the phone," he said.

"Yes, but I wanted to meet you. And it's the perfect excuse to head to Bergdorf's and our jeweler afterward."

"Ahh, my kind of people," he said, in his Larry David-esque way.

He was the final word on my treatment protocol. Hell, he and his team invented the Sloan Protocol for BC treatment that's used throughout the US.

After I asked him what he would advise his daughter to do if she were in my situation; after he said a bilat mastectomy with four months of chemo was my "safest option;" after he told me he trained my now-oncol Dr. Michael Schwartz in Miami Beach; after he gave me the name of the most superb wigmaker in the country (if not the world); after I vetted my surgeons through him; after he told me that yes, Mesko, Rosenbaum and Schwartz would be my BC dream team; after watching mom, dad and brother jotting down notes furiously; and after seeing the anxiety in their eyes—imploring me to have the bilat mastectomy and chemo, my decision was made.

I'd chop 'em off. I would go see Ralf for the wig. I would get Dr. Schwartz. I would endure four months of chemo and countless surgeries to protect my own life for my family's and my sake. I was 100 percent confident that what Norton said went. And so it went.

And, as you know, I sailed through last year, and finished up treatment and all surgeries in eight months. I made the right decision. I don't live in fear of recurrence. That slight, eight percent chance of recurrence doesn't haunt me. It's not even an option, I knocked that fucker out of my body and that fucker will stay away for good. Women with the BRCA gene who elect merely lumpectomies, single mastectomies and no chemo live in fear of the cancer returning, and it often does. As I know from countless women reaching out to me.

I read their emails, "I had a lumpectomy and now it's back, years later."

Or, "I had a unilateral mastectomy and I'm unhappy with my reconstruction, do you know surgeons in NY?"

My heart aches—pardon the cliche—for them and I *know* that I made the right choice. I'm cancer-free and plan to stay that way. My tatas are beautiful and scar-free. I go bra-less. I feel great. And short, Jewfro aside—thank god for my Ralf—I am back to my pre-cancer self. And my, how time has flown. Time flies either way, having fun or not. I worry less about the future now than I ever did. I've hit bottom and am back on top. It wasn't all fun, but it wasn't all bad either. We partied and celebrated and laughed our way through a year. My friends and family kept me happy and sane and awash with beautiful gifts and cards and thoughts. My vanity kept me looking good.

So for all you ladies reading, especially those of you who think you *may* be BRCA positive, I urge you to explore all your options. To let your health and future outweigh your vanity and fear. To know that breast cancer can be beautiful and humorous and educational. And to know that so many of you can take preventative measures to kick cancer's ass before it knows what hit it. And, perhaps of the utmost importance, save yourself from losing your beautiful hair and having to start from Jewfro scratch. Get tested. Get a mammogram. Do those self-exams that I never did. Educate yourself by following these simple links.

Take advantage of modern medicine that our mothers and granmothers didn't have. Some doctors *are* miracle workers; and so are some of us Cancer Chicks. That's all.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The good news is that after about five years of having remaining cancerous cells in his prostate, dad's officially cancer free. He was diagnosed several years ago—at such a young age that my oncologists said that was a red flag regarding me and the BRCA gene—and had treatment in the city.

Natch, I was so freaked out when I learned of his cancer that I took it upon myself to find him THE best doctors in New York and practically forced him to go up there for treatment. I think this was around the time that Giuliani and DeNiro were fighting the same thing, so I sent him to their doctor. Since dad's cancer was encapsulated, he was a candidate for a really cool treatment wherein radioactive seeds are implanted in the area where the cancer is. The entire operation took about an hour at Mt. Sinai NY. His doctor, Nelson Stone, biopsies dad's prostate every year. And—though Brother and I did not know this—there have been cancerous cells in every yearly biopsy. I just found that out like last week. But dad said the doc said this is normal; that they could be old ones dying off. Anywho, everything is gone now and the doctor said he doesn't even need a yearly biopsy anymore. (His PSA tests were normal every year despite the remaining cellular anomolies.)

So now, the Green family is officially cancer-free (no kinaharea intended) whereas before two out of four of us had cancer.

The bad news: Dr. Christian Troy on Nip/Tuck has breast cancer and had a unilateral mastectomy on the season premiere last night. I have to say, I was lol the entire time even though I know breast cancer in men is serious. But I am the queen of cancer-induced laughter as you all know. Fucking Sean's in a wheelchair and Christian has breast cancer? I think these writers need to put the bong down.

But as a writer, I can see this new storyline being a useful transitional device into the duo taking on more life-threatening surgical issues. Who knows, maybe Christian Troy will become the new, cable version of my genius plastic surgeon Gary Rosenbaum.

Monday, January 05, 2009

I wrote 13 pages today, so I'm done working for today. I'm sitting in Sinai, getting my Herceptin drip.

When I saw Shrink Melnick last week and told him about my manuscript procrastination, his first question was whether I thought Ritalin would help me focus, since I told him I'm completely organized and focused in all other aspects of my life. And then I had to go into the whole debacle about my first book experience, wherein I got sued, mocked on Page Six (two or three times), Gawker (six times), WWD (three times), the Daily News not to mention scores of other un-noteworthy blogs. Some of you may not know of this saga, so forgive my laziness and follow these links. Though I did win a precedent-setting case against that sleazy company American Media, which publishes The National Enquirer and every other tabloid including Star, where I worked.

Anyway, my procrastination is due to the fact that I'm scarred by my first foray into publishing and have a deep-seated fear of rejection this time around as well. Even though I have much more support and a much better work this time around, not to mention the assistance of powerful authoress Laura Zigman, whose latest book is ready to help you find love. I'm the first one to admit that Dishalicious was a piece of chick-shit, which I wrote in three weeks when I was 28. Also, it was fictional, which simply isn't my forte. Cancer is the New Black is a no-holds-barred memoir.

I forgot where the hell I was going with this post. My other cancer friend is sitting down the hall from me in another room getting her last chemo. Oh, what a world. I'm broke. I didn't lose any weight since last time here, and this new year is not off to a very auspicious beginning. I'm blah today. Tres, tres blah.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Well. This was an interesting beginning. I had a baking request for the beach party, so I headed over to L.'s apartment around 6:30, knowing the brownies take about 2 hours start to finish and stressed because I had to hangout till they were done, then go home, change, walk Wally and get ready. So we baked and had a good ol' time. Ironically, our friend from college who, 10 years ago, was our go-to guy for baking materials, was in town. I hadn't seen him in 10 years, so not only was it fab to see him, but appropos that he was there while we were baking. Also appropriate that he was there while I took my first bong hit in many years. Like, a two foot one. One hit and I was done for. Really. So high.

"Yeah, you used to like my four-footer," J. said.

"Really? I can't fucking remember."

J. remembered Wally, said I used to come over with him in my arm and chill out at his place, with his beloved, deceased pit bull, Sage. I vaguely remembered that as well.

So it's like 8:30 by the time the brownies are done. I'm high as shit and dreading going home and getting ready. But I do, and it's like 10:30 by the time I leave the house. No cabs, natch. So I drive a few blocks east toward the ocean and park several blocks from the party. Walk another ten minutes—did I mention I'd eaten a brownie by this point?—and see the party. Darkness surrounds the drum circle. So I walk with my bottle of cheap champagne—wasn't bringing the magnum of Dom there, obv—my sheet, water, etc., falling deeper into the sand with each stumbling step. I couldn't find those bitches anywhere, and nobody was answering cells. So I plopped down, spread out the sheet and lay prostrate, thinking that was the easiest option. Finally they call me back and Linds walks over to collect me. They were literally right next to the drums. About 10 of them. In my defense, a.) it was really dark and there were clumps of people everywhere and b.) everyone looked the same. Seriously, everyone dresses the same here—in white. But yes, I'm sure the brownies had something to do with it. I found the crew like 20 mins shy of midnight. Had a teeny cup of Veuve after tasting the crap I brought, chilled out. Apparently people were actually requesting my brownies, so I felt quite popular. Not really. I tend to get antisocial when I eat the brownies, while my friends typically get giggly. So I lasted about an hour and a half and was home by 1 a.m. I was with my friends, which is the most important part. But it doesn't really seem like a new year to me. I think my 'new year' was probably the end of the surgeries or Dec. 4, the anniv of my diagnosis. Anyway, hope ya'll had happy ones.