Thursday, August 06, 2009


I've learned a lot this past month. Or maybe I've woken up more? Either way, I'm moving forward. Apparently it's time in the UK for students to get their A-levels back, so Radio One was taking their requests for songs that help them get through the limbo period. Limbo is the worst time in whatever problem you have—cancer, love, grades, work, real estate, whatever.

So as I was driving back from Jax yesterday, one of the Radio One DJs played the old spoken-word piece "Everybody's Free to Wear Sunscreen," the Baz Luhrmann's version. The lyrics will surely make each listener think about what he or she has done, whether they've followed the very simple rules of life, which this song seems to consolidate into a funky little ditty.

First I'll tell you what I've learned this month. The major things? Lucky, lucky, lucky girl am I, the more horror stories I hear about breast cancer. Was it sheer luck or was it a combo of luck, timing, my own awareness and intelligence? It was everything.

I'm at the post-treatment stage where it's been long enough for me to forget that I ever was a Breast Cancer Patient full-time. Nobody would know by looking at me, and guess what? I hardly notice the scars either. For the first time in my entire life I donned what I suppose is referred to as a 'string bikini.' It's Cosabella, of course, but it's still teeny tiny. White triangle top and skimpy bottom. The bottoms are a coupla inches lower-lying than any of my other bottoms. And still, the horizontal scar from the skin graft isn't visible. Even when I lie facedown, topless, you see no scars.

Pretty fucking amazing, huh? A lumpectomy, lymph node removal, bilateral mastectomy, reconstruction, nipple addition, liposuction and others I forget—and I can lie on the beach in a Cosabella string bikini for the first time as a result. Like I said I'm LUCKY, and it's healthy for me to 'forget' I used to be a cancer chick—in psychological parlance, I've stopped identifying myself as a cancer patient. But the not-as-lucky ladies are always in my thoughts, especially Ellie and now Meredith and all you other ladies who've had the courage to reach out.

I've learned that while I may need—merely to keep everything in working order—sex every once in a long while, I don't need the emotional drama that females can't help but attach to S.E.X. I've read that biologically (or whatever the right word is) certain chemicals are released in women's brains post-coitally that compel them to become emotionally attached after sex.

That while I'd like to find a man/partner/boyfriend, I don't necessarily think I will in this odd town.

I also learned that given what I've been through over the past two years and given my expressiveness and openness about it, that I can carry those communicative traits over into other areas of my life. Meaning, I've learned how to stand up to people who don't treat me right. Moreover, I'm learning how to detach myself from such people, knowing that I could hang on for the drama, but I have enough. Drama that is.

What else? I've realized that there's not much keeping me here, in Miami. (I don't even like saying that I live in Miami; I always say South Beach or Miami Beach. And when people ask me how I like living in Miami my answer is: I like the beach.) It's true. I try to leave the beach as little as possible, because people, Miami, as a city sucks. It does, it sucks. It's a pale imitation of what a city should be. So, think of the beach as Manhattan and everywhere else the outer lying boroughs. Some of them nice; some of them you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy, even if he or she did speak Espanol.)

I've learned that I value my lifelong, multi-generational family friends like Al, Lay, Dana, Nicole, Noah, Joni, Daryl, all the other boys and girls as much as I do my family. And that Dana should be here with us. She and her kids are missing completely what made our childhoods so special. She's missing everything and it makes all of us, especially me when I'm around Nicole and Gabe and all the other 4th generation kids, sad. Feeling that something big is missing and sad that our lives are going to pass without her there beside us. There's nothing as significant as friends who know your family from great-grandparents to you. Nothing is off limits. Everything is easy. And while we're at it, Lay get your fucking ass back here too. The next time your back goes out one of Al's four housekeepers/nannies can sponge bathe you.

What else? I've learned that I don't measure my own success by money any longer, rather the respect of my peers. I am completely humbled by my VIP friends and their willingness to help me, guide me, encourage me, and for their belief in and enjoyment of my writing.

I've learned to just do it. I've learned to push my body and mind to the limit. I even got mom to do a power yoga DVD with me Saturday. And, oh yeah, I've learned that 'Yoga' has too broad a definition. Last night I ended up in a "bird of paradise" pose that I didn't know existed. And since I'm SO flexible—it's freakish how flexi my limbs are—the instructors come over and guide me into these contortionist positions. So my key yoga words now are Vinyasa and Ashtanga. Period.

I've learned that my dreams can come true—it took 17 years but soon enough I will be in a chair talking to one of my idols, Oribe.

I've learned that teeth fall out in dreams and in daylight and that if I don't stop grinding all my teeth are going to fall out. So that's cool. And the most important thing? I learned that my skinny jeans fit again. It's all relative.

Anyway, as I heard the Sunscreen song—actually, sunscreen is very bad, people; it causes cancer they're now learning—I couldn't help but comparing what he was preaching and what I already know. So below are the lyrics and my self-centered notations. If you do the same, it may make you feel good or it may prompt you to get off your ass, stop reading blogs and go for a walk outside. Or read a book. Or call your best friend who lives abroad. Or dance. Your choice.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the class of ’99
If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be
it. The long term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience…I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth; oh nevermind; you will not

understand the power and beauty of your youth until they have faded. [I'm finally enjoying this after having gone through a rather unattractive phase and ending up looking like I did at 30 again. Thanks to Equinox, Botox and working my fucking ass off.]

But trust me, in 20 years you’ll look back at photos of yourself and
recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before
you and how fabulous you really looked….You’re not as fat as you
imagine. [Yeah, you probably are, so go to the gym.]

Don’t worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as

effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum. [Hell yeah, one day at a time.]

The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that
never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday. [I was diagnosed on a Tuesday, sometime in the afternoon.]

Do one thing everyday that scares you. Sing. Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts, don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours. [I'm not putting up with those people, anymore.]

Floss. [Duh, my teeth are fucking falling out.] Don’t waste your time on jealousy; sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind…the race is long, and in the end, it’s only with yourself. [So true; mom always said, "Someone will always have more than you, no matter how much you have.]

Remember the compliments you receive, forget the insults; if you

succeed in doing this, tell me how. Keep your old love letters, throw away your old bank statements. [I've kept the few I've ever gotten and my bank statements go right in the trash.] Stretch. [Twenty minutes a day for three years.]

Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your
life…the most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they
wanted to do with their lives, some of the most interesting 40 year
olds I know still don’t. [I've found that I can't really relate to people who don't know or make attempts to follow their passion. Surely it's something that gets you young in life, you just may deny it. I was a writer from my first journal on.]

Get plenty of calcium. Be kind to your knees, you’ll miss them when they’re gone.
[Lo-fucking-l.] Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t, maybe you’ll have children,maybe you won’t, maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary…what ever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much or berate yourself either – your choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s. [I love this and will say this the next time my mother's friends try to set me up with an in-the-closet 40-year-old Jew.]

Enjoy your body,
use it every way you can…don’t be afraid of it, or what other people think of it, it’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever
own.. [Learned that the hard way thanks to Cancer.] Dance…even if you have nowhere to do it but in your own living room. [My apartment is the only place I do dance with reckless abandon. It hurts for other people to look at.]

Read the directions, even if you don’t follow them. Do NOT read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly. Get to know your parents, you never know when they’ll be gone for
good. Be nice to your siblings; they are the best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future. [Both of these so important; in the end it's all we have.]

Understand that friends come and go, but for the precious few you
should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle [this is the part that got me about Dana] because the older you get, the more you need the people you knew when you were young. Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard; [Brother, that's why I left.] live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft. [No thanks—SoCal was good for me.]

Travel. Accept certain inalienable truths, prices will rise, politicians will
philander, you too will get old, and when you do you’ll fantasize
that when you were young prices were reasonable, politicians were
noble and children respected their elders. Respect your elders. [And listen to their stories. They are the greatest sources of history and advice.] Don’t expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund, maybe you have a wealthy spouse; but you never know when either one might run out. Don’t mess too much with your hair, or by the time you're 40, it will look 85. [That's directed at you, my color-obsessed friends.]

Be careful whose advice you buy, but, be patient with those who
supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth. [So true, especially when marrieds are advising singletons.] But trust me on the sunscreen…

Listen to the song now. It will speak to you, whether you're hooked up to an IV or chained to your desk.