Category Archives: Friends

A Wyoming Weekend

Over the fourth of July, I traveled to Wyoming to see my beautiful friend, sorority sister and one-and-only “Gyps” Caroline get married to the man of her dreams. The last time Caroline and her amazing fiance (husband!) Joey were mentioned on this blog, she texted me to let me know that Joey was excited about his shout-out on “the blog of the year.” They always know how to make a gal feel special, and my weekend away was no exception.

First of all, can you get any further away from New York City than Wyoming? Much like on my road trip, I was struck by the sheer amount of space that still exists. And while I love NYC (and there will be a post on that coming soon), there will always be a strange little conflicted part of me that wants to move to rural Montana and live in a cabin on a ranch with horses and buffalo and do nothing all day but stare up at the blue sky and marvel at the miracle of existence. I know that this is in direct conflict with my current status as a resident of a dark, cramped New York apartment, but whatever. I am vast, I contain multitudes.

One thing that often strikes me about New York is how immediate things are here. Do you want some obscure, bizarre ethnic cuisine from a tiny country you can’t even point to on a map? You’re probably a 10 minute subway ride away from a restaurant that specializes in it. The other day I was doing a little Googling to see if I could find some live music to enjoy, expecting just to come upon a bar with an open mic where I might perchance stumble onto some unknown who happens to play covers of some songs I like, when I accidentally discovered that I could actually go see a band I’ve liked since I was 18, The Old ’97s, for $15, that very night, 20 minutes from my apartment.

Of course, when you can’t swing a dead cat (or, more likely here, rat) without hitting some insane one-of-a-kind cultural phenomenon, it tends to breed impatience. In Wyoming, however, patience is everything. Serenity is a way of life there; in NYC, serenity is nonexistent. Check out the background of this picture of my friends and I at Caroline’s rehearsal dinner and try to imagine feeling frustrated or angry or cramped or impatient or irritated when you’re looking at that view.

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I’ve always been amazed at Caroline’s loyalty, her calm, level-headed demeanor, her incredible kindness and empathy. I’ve always felt so lucky to have her in my life. Now that I’ve seen where she comes from – a place where people are just nice, probably at least in part because you’re guaranteed to see everyone again so you can’t be a piece of shit and just expect to get away with it, but mostly because they’re just nice – I think I understand a little bit better how she came to be such a great person. I mean, can anyone be a giant jerk when they wake up every morning and see sprawling plains and blooming wildflowers and grazing livestock and my absolute most favorite thing ever, trains? Plus, her family is incredible – my dance with her dad was one of my favorite moments of the whole weekend, and her cousins and relatives were all wonderful to meet. I, by contrast, was raised in a place that values vanity, greed, anorexia, plastic surgery and the absolute worst in people (LOL, Los Angeles), so no wonder I suck so much comparatively.

(That’s a joke, Angelinos, and Mom and Dad – thanks for raising me in the sunniest place in America. My only complaint is that I have no idea how to scrape ice off a car windshield, which was a problem in Virginia.)

Oh, and then I got back to New York and was chillin’ at the taxi stand at LaGuardia and the guy running it was just screaming profanity at all the taxi drivers, banging on their hoods and generally being an insufferable douche. So I guess there’s really no hope for me.

Anyway, I don’t know how comfortable Caroline and Joey would be with me posting their weddings photos on this blog – and in any case, they are not mine to post – so just close your eyes and imagine the most beautiful and loving couple you’ve ever seen. Then imagine one 1,000x more beautiful and loving than that, and you’ll have them.

In lieu of a pic of the newlyweds, enjoy an image of these buffalo I got to pet and feed! While riding on a TRAIN. I was in heaven, you guys. Slightly smelly but vast, beautiful, breezy, green heaven.

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My favorite thing about weddings is everything. I love all of the care and thought that goes into creating all the small details, like choosing a signature drink and picking out bouquets and buying little colored chevron straws. I was mocked endlessly in graduate school (and by my boyfriend) for checking wedding blogs all the time, but I JUST LIKE LOVE AND HAPPINESS AND NICE PHOTOGRAPHY, OKAY? I love the exchange of vows, especially when the groom cries. I even kind of like being in church, because I feel like it absolves me of the responsibility of going to church again for at least several months, so I can sleep in on Sundays.

But the best, best, best thing about weddings is seeing all my friends again.

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It may seem odd to say, since a fair amount of bad luck has come my way in the past year (cancer at 25?), but it’s hard not to feel like the luckiest girl in the world when I’m surrounded by the most amazing people I know, in one of the most beautiful states I’ve had the good fortunate to visit, waving a sparkler around on the Fourth of July and still fitting into that cobalt blue dress I bought when I was running 15 miles a day.

Life is good, and every day I’m glad to still be living it.

Ten Things I Learned Between Richmond and Los Angeles

You guys.

YOU GUYS.

I knew road trips were cool and American and sort of a rite of passage for adventurous, creative types like myself, or at least like I imagine myself to be. But I had no idea they were SO INCREDIBLY AWESOME.

First of all, America is amazing so I’m going to include some tunage here to get you in the right mood to read this post. As a general rule I keep this blog pretty PG in terms of language but I simply cannot pass up this opportunity. Press play (make sure no kids and/or people who don’t like swearing are around) and come with me on a magical journey. U-S-A, U-S-A!!!!!!!!

I wanted to tell you all about my experience on the road, but there’s simply too much – and too much that’s just inexpressible – to relate in a linear, chronological way. So instead, I made a list of what I learned during the last seven days on the road.

A few disclaimers about the post: It’s going to be long. It has absolutely nothing to do with cancer, perhaps because (happily!) cancer is playing less and less of a role in my life these days. And if you follow me on Instagram, you’ll have seen most of these pictures before – but I hope you’ll enjoy them again!

Ten Things I Learned Between Richmond and Los Angeles

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Our weird Freaky Friday outfit switch was not intentional.

1. Only road trip with someone you love and who loves you, no matter what. Y’all, things are going to get weird. Think you’re normal? Not after 8 nonstop hours of driving, you’re not. You will be losing your mind. Not in a bad way, either – you’ll just be laughing your head off at the stupidest things, shifting around in your seat like you have hemorrhoids and letting your freak flag fly.

Driving into Nashville, Katie’s phone GPS started scolding us for pulling off the interstate into a gas station and she cradled it like a baby while stroking it and whispering, “Shhh, shhh.” The next morning I absolutely insisted on eating a Bojangles biscuit and self-soothed by murmuring to myself, “We’ll get biscuits…we’ll get biscuits…” (We did; it was our only fast food stop, and the woman looked at us like we were insane when all we ordered was two biscuits. She was like, “And…?” And we were like, “NO JUST BISCUITS. BISCUITS FOREVER!!!”) Pulling into Albuquerque, after nearly 11 hours of driving, we rolled down the windows and just yelled at nothing like the goats in those “Goats Screaming Like People” videos.

You’ll be sleep-deprived, hungry and you’ll have to pee for long stretches at a time but when you pull over to pee on the road you’ll step on some grass and a million grasshoppers will leap out of it and you won’t be able to do it and you’ll have to hold it forever and ever and just when you think you’re going to die a magical rest stop will appear but wait is it a mirage no it’s a real rest stop OHMYGOD and then you’ll FINALLY be able to pee. You’ll argue occasionally, but more often than that you’ll laugh and talk about how lucky and happy you are to be doing this amazing thing together.

If you’re not road-tripping with someone you’re actively in a relationship with, it will feel like you are by the end of it. Katie Bo and I started telling stories as “we” the way a well-established couple does – “We were talking about that today!” “Do you want to come to dinner with us?” “We were just laughing about that silly thing Katie does.” She also has short hair, because she cut it for me when mine started to fall out, which does not make us look any less like a loving and functional lesbian couple, not that we care.

At one point we shared the road with some bikers and Katie Bo mentioned that she’d like to get a motorcycle one day, to which I replied that I had no desire to own a motorcycle but that I’d totally ride on the back of hers.

“Okay, no, that’s where I draw the line,” she said. “That is just TOO lesbian.”

2. The only liquid more important than gasoline is coffee. I probably spent $500+ on gasoline for the trip, which is about the same amount we spent on coffee. If you didn’t know this about me, I’m a caffeine junkie – the front page of my professional portfolio website is a shot of the neon sign in front of Champ’s in Brooklyn that says “Death Before Decaf” with my face reflected in the glass below it. Here is our daily coffee schedule:

7am-9am, depending on the length of the day’s drive: Stop for coffee before hitting the road. Probably order a red-eye. Or a JFK, so named because it has three shots in it. Tasteless, yet clever. My favorite.

11am: Have finished the first coffee. Stop for second coffee. Probably iced because now it’s 10,000 degrees outside and I’m getting a shorts tan/sunburn from sitting in the car with the sun streaming in through the window.

1pm: Need more coffee. Perhaps too jittery for another espresso, might switch to iced tea.

3pm: Chug a giant smartwater.

5pm: One more coffee to power through the end of the drive. You might think we’d switch to decaf by now, but you’d be wrong. NEVER.

I discovered my new favorite thing at Cafe du Monde in New Orleans, part of the original marketplace in the French quarter – chicory coffee. Chicory is a root that is sometimes added to coffee to cut the bitterness, and while I like my coffee absolutely midnight black with no cream or sugar, I have to admit that the chicory root makes it substantially more delicious, almost like a dessert. I’m hooked, and now I’m screwed because it can be tough to find it outside of NOLA. Fortunately, you can order it online – although I’m not sure if I’m happy that I can sustain my addiction despite being 2,000 miles from Lousiana or sad that the internet has made this regional treat something I no longer have to earn by driving 16 hours to the bayou.

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Seriously, though, gasoline is more important than coffee. Do not run out of gas. There were some very long and desolate stretches on our trip, especially through what is essentially still the Wild West in western Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, where we didn’t see a single town, let alone a gas station or a bar of cell phone service. Sometimes we’d get so caught up in singing along with our favorite songs or listening to a Louis C.K. set while I practiced my bad stand-up in preparation for the act I may or may not do in NYC hoping to be discovered by someone from Saturday Night Live that we’d forget to check the gas gauge and find ourselves genuinely distressed that we might run out and be stranded and die in the desert and our bones would be discovered clutching each other helplessly by anthropologists in 2513 or something.

Basically, what I’m saying is, if you go on a road trip, keep your priorities straight. Gasoline first, then coffee. Then somewhere way down the list, water, I guess. Whatever.

3. Couch surf; beds are overrated. We were fortunate to be able to stay with friends in every city we visited, except for the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas. We visited friends on small stopovers in between cities, too – like my friend Julia in Knoxville, Tennessee, or Katie Bo’s cousin Crisman in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

In Nashville, we met up with a friend and fellow UVA alumna named Carly at a local bar where we watched three boys with guitars and cowboy boots sit on stools and play covers of our favorite country tunes. We bought them a round of longnecks and they played my favorite song, Take It Easy by the Eagles, and came over to do a Fireball shot with us after the set was over.

In New Orleans, we stayed with Ann Marshall, also a fellow Virginia alum who now literally works for the New Orleans tourism board. She was incredible, taking us on a tour of the city that included an authentic dinner of gumbo and alligator sausage (described on the menu with nothing but the tagline, “It is what it is!!!”), a ride down the mardi gras parade route on the streetcar (where we could see multicolored beads hanging from the tree branches and power lines) and a walk down both Bourbon Street, the strangest collection of debauchery and nudity I have ever seen which is somehow still bizarrely appealing (perhaps it’s the alcohol served from to-go windows?), and Frenchman street, where we watched street musicians play creole jazz on tubas and trombones.

In Dallas, we stayed with our amazing friend Rebecca – not a Wahoo, but a semi-Charlottesvillian at least; good thing we went to college or we wouldn’t be nearly so well-connected – who took us out to a lake by her newly-purchased home (adulthood!!!!!!) before we all went out in her massive truck for agave margaritas and brisket tacos at a cute tex mex place where we dined on the patio in the warm summer air.

In Albuquerque, our friend Leslie and her boyfriend Matt took us on a walk to a ridge by their apartment overlooking the entire city, where we watched the sun set bright pink and light up the Sandia Mountains (so named because they glow rosy like watermelons in the dusk) before night fell and the whole city glistened below us, a sparkly oasis in the vast desert. We had elk burgers on Route 66 and huevoes rancheros in the morning to bid adieu to an old town made of old pueblos and signs in Spanish.

In Las Vegas, we met up with my brother, his friend Pat (who shaved my head!), my friend Hayley and her boyfriend Peter, where general Vegas debauchery was had – but not as much as in my younger days, since, as Hayley put it, “Most of the time I’d rather be home with a sandwich.” Amen, sistah.

The places you’ll see on a road trip are great, but the people are just as good.

4. “i carry your heart with me(i carry it in my heart)” is a quote from an e. e. cummings poem oft-quoted in Facebook profiles. To me, the line is about the power of memory: that it can take something ethereal and fleeting by nature, like love, and make it permanent in the mausoleum of one’s own heart.

In the Petrified Forest in Arizona, there are signs all over the park reminding visitors not to take pieces of petrified wood with them when they leave, as thoughtless souvenir hunters doing this in the days before the site was designated a National Park resulted in the loss of many of these irreplaceable treasures. Naturally, however, when I found a little shard of petrified wood glistening on the path in front of me…well, that’s different. I can just slip it into my pocket and take it home, right? It’s different, right? It’s only a tiny sliver; no one will know.

I honestly considered sneaking my little piece or memorabilia out of the park, but ultimately thought better of it. I don’t need the wood because I carry it in my heart. I saw it, and I’ll have that forever. It’s better, I think, if I can’t show you the wood. You’ll have to go and see it for yourself, so you can carry it in your heart, too.

I carry the whole trip in my heart, and I always will, now. There are some things that a souvenir can’t replicate, that a photograph just can’t capture – things you can only carry with you.

5. Eat everything. Back in our college days, Katie Bo and I used to go to iHop for some inexplicable reason (gross, I know) and we’d joke that calories didn’t count there, despite the fact that they obviously did and that’s probably why I literally gained a zillion pounds as a first year. Anyway, I didn’t learn anything and CALORIES TOTALLY DON’T COUNT ON ROAD TRIPS. We ate gumbo, beignets and “voodoo” flavored potato chips in New Orleans, margaritas, brisket tacos and roadside pit barbecue in Texas, Mexican food smothered in green chiles in Albuquerque, and $80 worth of sushi and cocktails in Las Vegas and it was worth every love handle and extra chin I’m gonna pay for it with.

In fact, we originally conceived of this road trip as a gastronomic tour of the United States, and we were amazed at every stop at the local flavor (pun intended, deal with it) that we encountered. The differences between say, New Orleans and Albuquerque, culinarily, were so stunning as to feel like they belonged in entirely separate countries.

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Oh, I forgot that I also ate an enormous chocolate Butterfinger brownie in New Orleans. YOLO.

6. Accept that the car will become a disgusting hovel of slovenliness and gluttony. My car needs a good detailing. Not only is it freckled with the carcasses of a trillion unlucky/stupid insects, its interior is dotted with potato chip crumbs, Triscuit fragments, trail mix pieces and all other matter of snackery.

In order to avoid stopping at fast food joints, which would have ruined our desire to see (and eat) the authentic soul of everywhere we traveled, we packed a styrofoam cooler full of semi-healthy items like string cheese, carrot sticks, apples, delicious chicken salad made by Katie Bo’s mom and plenty of water bottles to trot out whenever we got a bit peckish on the road. Sadly, the ice inside said cooler eventually melted and then somehow leaked all over the backseat of my car which now smells like a mildewy towel. Despite this, we preserved in refilling the cooler with ice whenever it got low and eating just about everything it without once stopping for chain restaurant food with the exception, mentioned above, of pulling through a Bojangles in Athens, Alabama to order nothing but two biscuits.

I am sort of weirdly proud to admit that I bought this car in mid-2011 and have never once washed it, but now I’m going to have to break that streak. It’s probably for the best.

7. Pack whatever you think you’ll want/need, then immediately unpack three-fourths of it. I pretty much wore 5 items of clothing on this entire road trip despite the fact that I packed the largest suitcase in the world full of every single garment I own that I like. (Which, don’t be fooled, is actually only like half of them.) In reality, all I needed were a few comfy, breezy tank tops, a light jacket (for the Grand Canyon, where it’s cold at night) and a pair of shorts. Done. You’ll sleep in underwear and the tank top, trust me. You will be too lazy to wear that cute pajama set. Just leave it at home.

8. Nerd out, you’ll learn cool stuff. Katie Bo and I whipped out Wikipedia at every opportunity and learned some truly amazing things about the cities we visited.

Even though we planned out an itinerary that included stops in some of the most amazing and unique cities in America, like Nashville and New Orleans and Las Vegas, some of the most incredible stuff we saw was in between the big destinations.

It was the zeppelin mooring – the last zeppelin mooring in the entire world – at the top of the decrepit and forgotten Leer Tower in Birmingham, Alabama, where stopped for (what else?) coffee. It was the St. Louis cemetery just outside of New Orleans, where brownish residue on the sides of above-ground mausoleums housing jazz legends, writers and voodoo priestesses marks the height flood waters rose to during Hurricane Katrina. It was the state building in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, visible as we crossed the mighty Mississippi, that Huey Long insisted on building before he was assassinated in it. It was the ghost town of Cerbat, located some three miles from highway 93 in western Arizona down a dirt road marked only with faded, bullet-riddled signage and “No Trespassing” signs that we ignored, where an old mine built in the 1800s still stands, weathered but defiant, under the fierce sun of the desert.

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9. There is still space. Leslie’s boyfriend Matt mentioned that he had road tripped across the country in the past, and that the thing he was most surprised to discover was that there was still space. “I thought there was no space left,” he said. I guess I kind of thought that too, but I was wrong. Most of what we drove through was space.

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We drove for miles through open fields in Alabama and Texas, where cattle and horses grazed and tall, yellow stalks swayed in the wind; high, flat buttes in New Mexico dotted with cacti through which endless trains weaved their mechanical entrails; dense forests full of flowering and fragrant magnolia trees in Mississippi; swampy, algae-covered bayous that lined the three-digit state highway we took in Louisiana. We drove past poverty, too – rusting trailers located a million miles from anything, sweltering in the summer heat.

The whole thing was a powerful reminder that America, developed as it is, is in many ways still a wilderness to be explored by anyone willing to sit in a car for 50 hours.

10. I am a tiny and insignificant speck of dust floating through the universe for what amounts to the blink of an Almighty Being’s eye.

Out of everything we saw and did on a trip, which was more (and more incredible) than I could ever accurately describe here, nothing was more moving than the Grand Canyon. Cliche as it is, this 227 mile long gash is as stunning as everyone says it is. First of all, who knew there was such amazing forest in Arizona? The kind of forest that elk roam through, where pine trees scent the air and you need a campfire at night?

The Grand Canyon is indeed grand. It’s breathtaking to behold. I got vertigo just walking up the edge of it. What amazed me most about it, perhaps, is that whether I die in 5 years or 50, I’ll never see the thing change. For millions of years, long before there was ever a human eye to look at it and feel dizzy at its sheer magnitude, the canyon has been forming – and it’ll keep forming long after I’m gone. My time here is so short as to be wholly insignificant to the Grand Canyon. All I can do is marvel at it and remember how amazingly spectacular and powerful and slow and deliberate nature is in its beauty.

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Pulling up to my parents’ house at the end of a 3,500 mile journey, we were both relieved to have completed the whole trip without a single accident, speeding ticket or mental breakdown. But we were sad, too – sad that the trip was over, and that we can’t keep living it – we can only carry it in our hearts.

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In cancer news, MY FINAL CHEMOTHERAPY TREATMENT (hopefully ever) IS TOMORROW! Stay tuned to hear how it goes.

Graduation and New York City

What a whirlwind this week has been!

Despite saying for months that I didn’t really mind one way or the other if I got to go to my graduation, I decided to sack up on the Wednesday before the Saturday ceremony and buy a ticket to Richmond. I was already planning on a trip to New York City for some job interviews, so what’s a little stopover in RVA?

I honestly wasn’t expecting much out of graduation. These things tend to be 90% pomp and circumstance and only a small portion actual sentiment/appreciation, and besides, I’d already attended my high school graduation (throughout the duration of which I had to pee SO BADLY that I kind of blacked out and remember virtually nothing of the ceremony) and my college graduation (which was actually two ceremonies – one giant gathering for the whole 3,000 member graduating class, during which I cried inexplicably [hint: this is foreshadowing], and one smaller ceremony for the English grads), so I didn’t feel any burning desire to add another strut to my Walking Across A Stage in A Silly Outfit repertoire.

I completely mischaracterized this ceremony, however. Because my master’s program is (was!) so intimate, specialized and small, the graduation was not only interesting, it was downright moving.

First, the director of our program, who made it possible for me to graduate and to whom I will be forever indebted for her willingness to work around my INSANE medical journey, gave a talk. She actually gave a shout-out to this blog, so HOLLER, Y’ALL! Everyone cheered, and I got a little misty-eyed, to be honest.

Then came our graduation speaker, Fallon CCO Jeff Kling. If you have 20 minutes and even a passing interest in advertising, creativity, media, design or writing, please take the time to watch this video of his speech. You will not regret it.

After the ceremony, they called our names and we each walked across the stage to shake hands with our professors and receive our master’s degrees. I was completely calm and collected when my name was called, but then I looked out at the crowd and saw that they were giving me a standing ovation for some reason, and I burst into hysterical tears. I truly do not think I am deserving of any special recognition. I only did what anyone else in my position would do. Honestly, if anything, my desire to continue and complete my graduate studies in the midst of a cancer diagnosis was really kind of selfish. I was basically like, “WHATEVER, BODY, I’M THE BOSS OF THESE ORGANS AND NO MATTER HOW SICK THEY FEEL, I’M GOING TO MAKE THEM KEEP DOING WHAT I WANT TO DO.”

Anyway, I sobbed uncontrollably all the way across the stage. I hugged everyone. I hugged Jeff Kling, who has literally never met me or heard of me. I hugged my notoriously crusty, gruff professor who put out a hand for me to shake, which I ignored while embracing him fully and crying/snotting all over his button-up.

My friend Corey captured my emotional walk on camera:

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I was right about one thing, at least: We did have to wear silly outfits. But I’m not even going to lie to you, internet. I kind of like the beret and I think I look pretty fly in it. (I’m in the middle!)

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After graduation, my dad and I boarded a plane to New York City so that I could go to a bunch of job interviews. It was only my third or fourth trip to the Big Apple, and my second one since I turned 21. The last one was summer of 2012, when I visited my friend Hailee in Brooklyn and had a completely awesome adventure that involved touristy things like Times Sqaure, but also Viking halls, naked people passed out in cars, preventing a DUI by a total stranger and my favorite thing ever, late night sandwiches.

This time around, Hailee made me a walking map of some of NYC’s neighborhoods so that I could explore the Lower East Side, the East Village, the West Village, Chelsea and the High Line. In between interviews, I followed her route to check out the Chelsea Market, eat delicious Italian food and enjoy amazing views of the skyline. We met up for dinner and drinks and explored some more neighborhoods in Brooklyn. My dad and I also met up with my cousin, Danielle, who’s been living in Manhattan for more than a year now. I got a chance to chat with some alumni from my grad program, too.

At one point, I found myself downtown, standing in the shadow of One World Trade Center. An imposing structure stretching a symbolic 1776 feet high and seemingly made out of mirrors and magic because I don’t know how anything so majestic, shiny and moving can be constructed out of earthly materials, the building has been under construction for the better part of a decade. Most of New York is under construction, it seems. Despite being noisy and confusing to navigate, there’s something I like about the constant self-improvement happening in NYC. It seems hopeful. It feels indicative of progress, change, a willingness to adapt.

On a whim, I decided to head toward the building and found myself at the 9/11 Memorial, two pools emblazoned with the names of the people who perished in the attacks. The experience was considerably more emotional than I was expecting. Since my diagnosis, I’ve come to have a real and deep appreciation for how fragile and beautiful life is, and how terrible it is for anyone’s to end before its time. Prepare yourselves, cliché incoming: Life is awesome. I’m so glad to have mine, every bit of it, the good and bad.

In between all the socialization, walking ‘til I felt like collapsing and eating (YOU GUYS, THE EATING!!! There are restaurants serving the cuisine of nations I’ve never even heard of!), I started to gain a real appreciation for what it means to live in New York. Some people say New York is too much, but on the contrary, I think it’s not enough. Not enough space, not enough time, not enough money to do all the incredible things there are to do.

Until we meet again, New York. So long, and thanks for all the pastrami.

My trip to Richmond, measured in Important Moments in Hairlessness

It’s been about a month and a half since my hair fell out, and in that time I have really only left my house to do three things: 1) run, 2) get coffee, and 3) eat food. Recently I added 4) fly to Richmond, but I’ll get to that in a bit.

When partaking in activity #1, running, I generally just wear a beanie. I’m listening to music with earbuds in, the universal sign for “leave me alone,” and generally moving fast enough that no one will bother me, so I don’t care what I look like. Also, I usually look horrible when running, bald or not. I’m like a sweaty mess flinging her arms and legs all around all weirdly. So basically the beanie is probably the last thing someone would comment on when I’m out jogging, a distant third to “Are you normally this jiggly?” and “Is it healthy for someone’s face to be so red?”

When performing activties #2 and #3, getting and consuming coffee and/or food, I’ll put my wig on. Mostly I do this because I don’t want anyone to remark on my appearance in any way, but sometimes they do anyway. For example, I’ve recently become a frequent patron of a stupidly expensive and trendy but somehow really addictive coffee joint out here in LA, and the guy behind the counter is always super chatty with me and I can’t help but wonder if he is noticing the fact that my hair is not attached to my head.

Actually, one time, as I was leaving this coffee shop, one of those Greenpeace people with the clipboards stopped me and said, “You have the most beautiful hair I’ve ever seen!” In my head I was like, thanks, but I bought it in a store. No one can grow hair this nice. It was made in a factory, which accounts for its shine and straightness. My real hair was a rat’s nest compared to the perfection of my wig. Out loud I was like, “Ahhh I love whales and stuff but I’m really poor please don’t ask me for money!”

Recently, I took a huge step by boarding a plane and traveling to Richmond, Virginia, where I was a graduate student before the Boob Mutiny. (Muttitties? No, I’m reaching.) I flew first class because I had enough miles to do it for free and frankly, I really owe myself one, and it was CRAZY, y’all. I don’t know if it was just a super cheerful morning at LAX or if it was because I fly so damn often I got a free flight, but the TSA people were insanely nice to me. The guy drew a heart on my boarding pass! And lest you think he was flirting with me, let me assure you that I cannot possibly overstate how bad I looked. I barely dress myself when flying. Sweat pants? Check. Ripped, smelly stuffed animal I’ve had since I was 3 peeking creepily out of my bag? Absolutely. Zero makeup? Duh. Beanie? Yes.

I actually really debated about whether to sport my beanie or my wig on the plane. Sometimes you get those chatty seat partners who will ask you really invasive questions and there’s literally nowhere for you to go to get away from them, so throw one point up on the board for the wig, because it ensures no one will ask about my cancer. On the other hand, the wig can get itchy, and what if I fall asleep in one of those awkward positions planes force you to adopt and then it falls off or gets crooked and that’s even WEIRDER than just wearing a beanie in the first place? Also, if I commit to the wig and then it’s uncomfortable, it’s not like I can just take it off in front of everyone and switch to the beanie. That’d be the WEIRDEST.

In the end, I went with the beanie. Mostly because I’m normally a somewhat lazy person but when waking up at 5am for a cross-country plane ride I am extra lazy.

So now that you have a mental picture of my abject hideousness at the start of this plane ride, just imagine how ugly I was when it concluded, many hours and one long, boring layover later. It was while basking in this complete and utter lack of hygiene or fashion that I was surprised at the airport but some of my best friends and my very bestest friend’s mom, who is like my second mom. She came in the most breathtaking floor-length sequined gown to show her support for Glamoury Mammaries, while my friends held up whiteboard signs, balloons and flowers. I immediately burst into tears, all while my friend Tyler – a former professional photographer – snapped extremely high-definition pictures of me crying, snotting and drooling all over everyone. After we left the airport, we all stopped by a bar for a quick drink and a catch-up. (I still looked hideous but I didn’t care.) Thank you all so much; for a little while there, I felt like a normal 25-year-old, and that’s really the best gift I can ask for. I love you guys.

My first few days back at grad school, I still opted for the beanie over the wig. I’m a student in a small, close-knit program, so everyone already knew about my cancer. I got so used to wearing the beanie that I actually forgot it was out of the ordinary until I was attending a guest lecture, raised my hand to ask a question and the lecturer was like (and this is verbatim), “Yes, young man with the weird hair. Wait, that’s a girl. And that’s a wig. Wait, it’s a hat. A weird hat.”

In his defense I was seated pretty far back in the auditorium. People around me started whispering, “Tell him you have cancer!”, but what’s the point? It’d just make him feel so bad/awkward. A few nights before this debacle Gordie and I went to see a stand-up comedian at a local open mic, and he was interacting with a young person in the crowd of rather ambiguous hairstyle and dress and asked, “Wait, are you a sir or a ma’am?” This totally badass androgynous person replied, “Whichever,” with the most genuinely casual shrug I’ve ever seen. S/he is my new role model when it comes to beanie snafus.

The reason I was back in Richmond in the first place was actually to attend a job fair, and for that I did bother to actually put on my wig. Since I was meeting with a lot of potential employers, I wanted the first point of conversation to be my work, not my illness. My cancer is a matter of public record, however, since this blog and other cancer-related projects are part of my portfolio, so some recruiters did ask me about it. Amazingly, I actually met three other women who are breast cancer survivors. It was one of those odd moments of cognitive dissonance when I find myself being sort of strangely thankful for my cancer – not that I got it, because screw that, but because I’m now part of this weird breast cancer sorority of amazing women who are constantly showing me it’s possible to beat this thing and come back better, stronger and more beautiful than ever. Delta Delta Titties. Phi Mammaries. Boob Alpha Theta.

Being back in Richmond was amazing. For ten days I returned to my forgotten life as a grad student – spending too much money on sushi, getting berated by my professors, drinking on Abbey’s porch, and perhaps most excitingly, looking forward to the future while interviewing with potential employers. Nothing lifts my mood like a reminder that soon this will be behind me, and my nascent career stretches out before me, a winding path of infinite possibilities.

Releasing

My oncologist called me the other day to check in and make sure I was feeling alright as we begin the countdown to my next chemotherapy treatment, which will be on Tuesday.

“I’m doing well,” I said, “except that my hair is rapidly falling out. I mean, like, rapidly.

“Yeah, it’s about that time,” she said. “Generally, about two weeks after the first treatment, the hair starts releasing.”

“Releasing” is the medical term for the way the poor, sad little strands come out when their little follicle homes are obliterated by the chemo drugs. It seems, to me, to be the most accurate term possible for the process. In many ways, this whole cancer experience has been about releasing. Releasing control. Releasing expectations. Releasing vanity. Releasing fear.

Due to the speed with which my hair began abandoning my scalp, I decided to come up with a measurement unit for it. So far, I’d say I’ve lost at least 2.5 cats of hair, a “cat” being defined as the amount of hair one can brush from a domestic feline in a one-hour period. If you have ever owned a cat, you know that this is an enormous amount of hair, yet my bald spots were still easily covered by my remaining tresses up until Friday night (more on that shortly). Nevertheless, I started wearing my caps anyway, in order to: a) prevent uncontrollable shedding all over everyone and everything I love, and b) get used to people staring at me as I meander around in 85 degree SoCal heat in a ski beanie.

Now, the shedding is moot: I am bald.

Or, more accurately, I am buzzed – shaved down with an electric clipper and a 3-guard like a fresh-faced army recruit.

For one thing, I got tired of waking up to a pillow so covered in hair it looked like I’d grabbed someone’s shedding collie in August and rubbed him on it. For another, watching yourself go bald is emotionally trying, even when you’re expecting it. Plus, the “releasing” process is actually sort of painful – my scalp was sore and sensitive, like I’d had my hair pulled back too tight or parted in an unnatural way and secured it that way with tons of hairspray and bobby pins for two to three weeks.

I’d heard enough horror stories about cancer patients weeping quietly as, resigned to their fates, they shaved their own heads, alone, in front of the bathroom mirror. That wasn’t going to be me. I wanted a party, because why shave your head if you’re going to be just as miserable doing it as you’d be sitting in front of the Oprah Winfrey Network pulling it out by the fistful? I called up my brother, who has sported varying degrees of buzz cuts over the years, and asked if he’d shave me down. “I’d be honored,” he said.

We invited some friends, bought a bottle of wine and some beer, and set out a chair in his living room. I felt strange – like Old Yeller being taken out back – yet strangely excited about my fate. I wasn’t scared, because Gordie surprise-shaved his head in support, and that made me: a) cry and b) get psyched up to join him. Could I have found a better man? I literally, honestly do not think I could have. I only wish he were here so that we could rub our buzz cuts together and give each other static shocks.

After we’d gotten my area set up, we poured some drinks, put on a great party playlist and my friend Pat, who has the most experience with the buzzer, had the honor of sending my tresses to hair heaven. The whole deal took 10 silly, adrenalin-pumping minutes. I honestly think my brother may have a calling in starting a business that throws big parties to shave cancer patients’ heads, because this is the way it should be. I’m so glad that I can look back on this memory as a fantastic night with friends instead of something sad, lonely and upsetting. I mean, if you’re going to shave your head, the only way to do it is with a glass of vino in hand, tons of friends surrounding you and 2Chainz on in the background.

Honestly, it’s a relief to have the whole thing over with. This is probably the most universally dreaded side effect of them all, and here I am, living through it. Kinda makes me feel a bit invincible. In fact, I’m so alright with my new look that we took it out for a test run by heading over to my brother’s friend’s apartment for more drinks, some Cards Against Humanity and a great night out.

You want to see a picture of me rockin’ the G.I. Jane? Well, I did say that this experience has been about releasing vanity…

Bald!

Interestingly, today was supposed to be the day of my first marathon. March 16, 2013 – the Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Marathon in Washington, DC. I couldn’t run it, obviously – I can barely run a 5K these days – but I ended up testing a different kind of endurance. The endurance of self-acceptance, of identity, of friendship. And I absolutely cannot stop rubbing my head.

It’s not ping-pong, but…

Yesterday, I did something I haven’t done in a while: I went running.

It was slow, painful going, and I looked like a mangy stray dog with my hair half-fallen out, but I loved every second of it. (And there were a lot of seconds – I’ve fallen far from my 5K PR. Very far.)

But the nice thing about running, of course, is that going slow is just fine. It’s not rugby – no one’s going to knock your teeth out if you can’t make to some arbitrary landmark in time. I love running because it has virtually no barrier to entry. No need to have any kind of hand-eye coordination or the ability to catch a ball coming rapidly at your face, both skills I lack. Got some feet and leg muscles that work, at least a little? You can be a runner!

That’s part of the reason I’m so honored that my amazing classmates at the Brandcenter decided to run the famous Monument Avenue 10K in my honor this April. A 10K is no joke, and for many of us advertising kids, the most exercise we get on a regular basis is riding our hipster bikes, crumpling up pieces of paper with terrible ideas on them and elbowing our way up to the bar to order another Hopslam. Although I wish I could run it myself, it means the world to know that my friends will be out there panting and pushing to get to the finish line for me.

But the Monument 10K has another awesome feature, and that is that it is part of the VCU Massey Cancer Center’s HDL Challenge. While I was sitting in the chemo chair, eating burritos and watching Law & Order, my insanely talented friends were putting together this incredible fundraising video:

Our goal was to raise $5,000, and we achieved it in a single day. But you can never raise too much money for cancer research, so if you’d still like to donate, you can do so here.

I’m unbelievably proud to call these writers, artists, filmmakers and creators my friends and colleagues. I love you guys, and good luck in the race! I’ll be cheering for you!

Are You There, God? It’s Me, the One You Made Get Fake Boobs

This weekend, one of my oldest and dearest friends said “I do” in St. Louis, Missouri, and I’m so glad and so thankful that I was able to be there for her! Jasmine, congratulations on a gorgeous wedding and an awesome party. Gordie and I were so thrilled to be included in the big day. It’s a memory we’ll cherish forever.

Happy Wedding Day, Jaz!

The wedding got me thinking about a lot of important things, like how blessed I am to be surrounded by so many old friends whose support, humor and intelligence never fail to leave me in awe. I’ve known Simone, Hayley, Sharon, Jaimie, Kate, Taylor and of course the bride herself since I was in middle school. And frankly, anybody who knew me at age 13, universally regarded as the absolute nadir of human emotional development, and still wants to hang out with me 12 years later must be pretty patient and pretty special. I love you guys.

Friends Forever

The bride was just a touch too busy for our awkward prom photoshoot, but trust me, she looked stunning.

It was also wonderful to spend a little time being an independent adult like I used to be, before all these cancer shenanigans got started. Gordie and I took a chance on a small bed and breakfast just outside of a beautiful park, and we found it to be incredibly romantic and unique. We loved the character and intimacy of staying in a home, and I’m also not complaining about the complimentary fresh-cooked breakfasts each morning. It was our second bed and breakfast stay together, and I hope it’s a tradition we’ll continue well into the future. On Saturday day, being certified nerds, we explored the St. Louis Zoo (OMFG ZEBRAS, HIPPOS, JAGUARS), put our AP History classes to use at the Missouri History Museum (OMFG JEFFERSON, THE LOUISIANA PURCHASE, MARK TWAIN) and took a stroll through Forest Park (OMFG SUN, BLUE SKY, WARM GRASS AND MY SEXY BOYFRIEND BY MY SIDE, what more could a girl ask for?).

At 3PM, we headed back to the bed and breakfast to get ready for the ceremony at 5. I forgot that I have boy hair now, so I accidentally allowed the hour it would have taken me to get ready for a wedding back when I had curls cascading down my back. I didn’t need it; I was ready in ten minutes. Silver linings, eh? Honestly, I’m just thrilled that my locks held on long enough to make it to the ceremony. My little Justin Bieber meets Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face meets my brother’s second grade school picture pixie cut is actually really working for me.

Jasmine’s ceremony took place in the same beautiful church where she met her now-husband, and being surrounded by all that spirituality had me reflecting a bit on my relationship with God, which hasn’t always been roses and sunshine. In fact, if God and I were in a Facebook relationship, we’d label it, “It’s complicated.”

Since my diagnosis, I’ve struggled a lot with understanding why a loving God would choose to test me and the millions of other young adult cancer survivors with such a difficult and miserable disease right in the middle of what’s supposed to be the prime of our lives. Paradoxically, since I became ill, I’ve also felt myself becoming closer to God and coming to cherish my spirituality in a more intimate way. I’m not a church-goer and I don’t want to define myself with labels like “Christian,” but I see the beauty of creation everywhere I go now. I know that there is beauty and power and order in the universe, because in the darkest days since my diagnosis, I have found myself enveloped in love, comfort and peace that cannot be explained by anything other than the caring arms of a universe, a God, a Creator, whatever you want to call it, that knows I am made of the same atoms and elements as its stars and planets, and loves me completely and wholly.

Sitting in the church, my boyfriend’s arm around my shoulder and my high school friends laughing and chatting beside me, listening to Canon in D as one of my favorite people in the world made her way down in the aisle in a gorgeous white gown, I once again felt surrounded by the care and love of the universe, in awe of the beauty of life. Eating wedding cake, doing the Electric Slide, enjoying a glass of wine or five, letting all my friends touch the edge of my weird tissue expanders (don’t be too scandalized, the edges come virtually up to my clavicles) and dancing cheek to cheek with my love made for an evening so perfect, I forgot for a moment I’m supposed to be sick. I don’t think it gets much better than that.

Congratulations, Jasmine and Pat! May your marriage be full of nothing but joy, and may you always have a super comfy couch somewhere that I can come crash on when I need my fix of your awesomeness.

Merry chemo eve!

Want to see a picture of my future family?

Future Mes

The fertility doc handed me this little keepsake at my follow-up visit today, and I’m tempted to ask if he has any wallet-sized prints. I mean, these are my kids, after all.

There they are, all 15 of my little frozen eggs. It’s so strange to see how perfectly round and plump they are (except for that adorably dented one in the corner), so weird to think that each and every one of us started out with one of those single cells. Looking at them, I’m reminded yet again of what a strange miracle the body is – and I can’t help but be so grateful for mine, even though it went a little haywire for a second there.

I had the best weekend. A couple of my amazingly wonderful high school friends were back in town for the weekend, so we ate tacos (not burritos – are you surprised?), gossiped, walked around Old Town and enjoyed some espresso while petting my friend Harry’s tiny golden dachshund, Mr. Bates. I wish that I could shave Mr. Bates and make a wig out of his perfect fur to replace my soon-to-be-erstwhile hair, but alas. Synthetic wigs it is. Shaving dachshunds is probably some kind of animal cruelty, and Mr. Bates has been through enough, as I think I put him down for about 25 seconds all day on Saturday.

Yesterday my bestest best friend in the whole entire world, Katie Bo, came down to LA to visit me. We had a stunningly normal Sunday strolling along Third Street Promenade and relaxing in the sand by the Santa Monica Pier, drinking a couple of beers and eating popcorn shrimp and loaded fries and, obviously, Mexican food. (I have to get it all in now because tomorrow, my taste buds will be obliterated by chemotherapy.) We looked like lesbian lovers taking a romantic walk on the beach thanks to our matching pixie cuts, but it’s honestly difficult to overstate how little vanity I have left after all that I’ve been through, so I don’t care.

I’ve got about 14 hours left before the doctors start pumping my body full of toxic chemicals, but I’m oddly relaxed. Maybe it’s because I have 40+ Ativan pills in a nice little orange cylinder ready for consumption whenever the anxiety gets to be too much, or maybe it’s because I’m going to have a burrito for dinner (again), or maybe it’s because I just believe that everything is going to be alright and that my doctors are going to take care of me and make me healthy and whole again when all of this is over. I don’t know. And really, isn’t that the genesis of fear? I just don’t know.

Will I coast by with just minor aches and pains? Or will I fall victim to the bone marrow flares many patients have described as worse than childbirth – a metric I can’t even understand since the only thing I’ve given birth to is 15 eggs plucked from my overstimulated ovaries, but a metric that terrifies me nonetheless? Will I be fine, with barely any nausea to speak of, as many people on my regimen seem to be? Or will I be sick to my stomach for days, clutching a metal bowl to vomit into in between episodes of Law & Order: SVU? Also, how is even possible that there are SVU episodes I haven’t seen yet? They’re like starfish limbs; every time I watch one, a new one regenerates in its place. And most importantly, of course, is the real question on everyone’s mind: Will this cure me?

Here’s another question that’s bugging me – why is no one at USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center bald? I swear, I go to that hospital at least 4 times a week, and I never see anyone who has lost their hair. It’s a cancer center. Everyone there has cancer, but they all look ready to shoot a Pantene commercial! I’ve decided that this is an encouraging sign that my wigs will look extremely realistic and other new cancer patients will be jealous of my photoshoot-ready locks.

Anyway, I’ve found one way of looking at the situation that never fails to cheer me up, and that’s this. By this time tomorrow, I’ll have one chemo session under my belt, and only five more to go ’til healthy, happy freedom.

In sickness and in health

That’s what they ask you to promise, in marriage – to stand by one another, in sickness and in health. I’ve heard those vows over and over again, in movies and TV, and in life, especially now that so many of my friends are starting to say their “I do”s. Even so, I don’t think the enormity of that promise hit me until suddenly, I was in sickness.

I’m not married, but I am happily in love with my boyfriend, Gordie, who gets mentioned on this blog from time to time.

Gordie is a private man, and he’s asked me to largely keep our relationship off this blog. I’ve done my best to abide by his wishes, but on Valentine’s Day, I just can’t help myself. He has been my rock through all of this, never wavering for one second in his desire to stand by my side no matter what. When he came to visit after my surgery, he helped me get in and out of the shower, shampooing my hair with that rough, I-have-no-idea-what-I’m-doing rhythm that guys sometimes have when they’re trying to be gentle but get the damn job done. He politely avoided remarking that I had more armpit hair than him, and wasn’t even mad when I woke him up at 3am to scratch my back somewhere I couldn’t reach…every single night. He didn’t flinch at the sight of my post-surgery body, and assured me over and over again that while he had found my original configuration beautiful, he was sure the new parts would look just as nice. He let me cry, made me laugh, told me to snap out of it when I started to swirl into The Dark Place and kept me busy enough that I didn’t have time to watch even one episode of Law & Order: SVU.

He didn’t even run straight for the fire escape when I asked him to come with me to the fertility doctor. He sat calmly in the doctor’s office with me and took in a bunch of diagrams of vaginas and sperm like an adult. Which, really, is more than I can say for myself. I still laugh at the absurdity of it every time I pinch up a section of thigh fat and inject it with follicle stimulating hormone purified from human urine. By the way, my ovaries feel like two pineapples that took a wrong turn at the Dole factory and ended up lost in my abdominal cavity, but more on that tomorrow.

Sitting across the table from Gordie the other week at a local restaurant, drinking my first beer since surgery and discussing which oncologist would be least likely to let me die on their watch, I looked into his calm, brown eyes and thought about how lucky I am to have someone I love with me through this ordeal.

I have a lot of people to thank for that, if I’m being honest. Yes, I want to thank myself for spotting him across the office all that time ago and letting him call me Melissa for a while because I just thought he was cute and wanted him to like me. I’d also like to thank Jaeger and Red Bull for coming together and creating the concoction that facilitated our first kiss, standing in the rain outside of McFadden’s at 2 in the morning at the Haymarket T stop after a fantastic first date and drinks. I’d like to thank him for putting up with me every single day, still taking me out on dates and always calling when he says he will. I want to thank American Airlines and JetBlue and US Airways, who have shuttled us to one another’s apartments over and over and over again after I left for graduate school and who now, while I’m stuck 3,000 miles away in treatment, continue to milk us out of every penny we’ve got.

But most of all, I want to thank my parents, who have provided a shining example of love, kindness and devotion for all 25 years of my life.

Was this post totally cheesy? Maybe. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that it’s Valentine’s Day, or that I have 10 times the normal concentration of estrogen floating around in my system so I spent half of my day crying at dog food commercials. Who knows? So happy Valentine’s Day to all of you!

Except for you, cancer. F–k you.

We must, we must, we must increase our bust

My blog appeared on Freshly Pressed yesterday!

I was so honored to be selected by the WordPress editors and to be featured on the homepage. Since then, I’ve been flooded with new followers and comments, and I’m so excited to welcome you all to my blog! When I started writing about my breast cancer experience, I figured this blog would just be a place for me to complain, whine, make inappropriate jokes and occasionally be a big brat about my situation. I never expected it would touch so many people. I’m floored and humbled by all of you who have decided to join me on this wild ‘n’ crazy cancer rollercoaster (note to self: cancer amusement park. Money idea, get on it. One of my medications is called cyclobenzaprine, that totally sounds like something you’d ride at the county fair. Step right up, ladies and gentlemen, for your turn on the amazing Hydrocodone waterslide!). I promise to be honest, open and frank about everything that happens to me.

So: artificial puberty, round three, went off without a hitch yesterday. I’m up to 210ccs in each breast, which now makes my new boobies officially twice as large as my original set. My foobs are now almost entirely pain-free, but I am experiencing something very unpleasant whenever the doctor presses on them. It feels like a combination between hitting your elbow on the edge of a wooden chair and having an elephant sit on your chest. The doctor said it’s “deferred sensation” – I can’t feel her hand or alcohol swab on my skin, but I can feel the movement of the tissue expander against my ribs, and the combination plus the visual input from me watching her touch me without actually receiving any sensory information about said touching causes the disoriented feeling of having your funny bone located in your breasts.

That’s the bad, now on to the good. Not to brag, but just to brag for a second: My foobs look fantastic. I don’t even mind the scars. They’re like free tattoos with way better backstories.

The fill was event-free – no pain this time! – but I do think my mom and I are about to get blacklisted for life at every oncologist’s and surgeon’s office in the greater Los Angeles area. My mom has the double curse of completely irrational paranoia coupled with an incredibly active imagination – traits that she passed onto me. Here’s a small sampling of the questions we’ve asked.

Q. “Am I allowed to fly on an airplane?”

A. “Yes, I’ll give you something to get you through the TSA screeners.”

Q. “Oh, no, I was actually going to ask if pressure changes in the airplane cabin could cause my tissue expanders to explode and shower everyone with saline and human debris.”

A. “Um…no one has ever asked that before. I promise your tissue expanders won’t explode.”

Q. “Why won’t they explode?”

A. “Trust me. I promise they won’t.”

Q. “I feel like the skin on my sternum is gonna rip off and lift up as the expanders keep getting larger.”

A. “What? That…isn’t going to happen. That has never happened.”

Q. “Is chemotherapy going to make me die?”

A. “No, it’s going to make you live.”

Q. “So it’s not going to accidentally kill all of my cells instead of just the cancer ones and then I’m gonna just be a pile of goo in a recliner in an infusion suite?”

A. “No. We give it to 80 year olds. You’re going to do fine.”

Q. “I have a metal bar in my mouth, so I don’t think I can get an MRI.”

A. “That’s not a problem. You can still have an MRI.”

Q. “So my teeth aren’t gonna rip out of my face and fly into the MRI machine and leave me with an empty, bleeding jaw?”

A. “…No.”

Gordie left on Sunday morning, and I was sad to see him go. (Obviously.) His logical, measured approach to life was immensely refreshing, because most of the time my family and I are running around in a panic like cancerous chickens with our heads (and boobs) cut off. I’m an emotional mess vacillating between manic optimism and soul-crushing depression/anger (depranger?), but he’s so analytical and such a problem-solver – it was like having a free therapist around for a week to calm everybody down when fear and craziness started to spiral out of control in a big cancernado of terror. Also, he gives the best backrubs. Guys, it’s not possible to be depressed (deprangry?) and/or afraid of your own mortality while getting a backrub. I tried.

Luckily, my friend Jenny came down to visit from San Luis Obispo on Monday, so I wasn’t alone to wallow in self-pity for long. It was wonderful to see her, and we spent some time exploring Los Angeles and eating at delicious trendy pancake places on Sunset Boulevard and driving around in her brand-new Mini Cooper. Her request? “Make sure you update your blog to let everyone know how awesome and normal I made you feel!”

Thank you, Jenny, for making me feel both awesome and normal. And also for bringing me cupcakes. I love you.