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Saturday, April 27, 2013

Frankie Goes to Bollywood

Hey Folks,

Today was a day like non-other. The sun was shining, the birds were chirpin' and Sandy and I went shopping for an apartment and a hairpiece. We didn't buy a home but we did get a bagel, coffee and had an eventful journey down Madison Avenue.

Our destination? Joseph Paris Naturally on the corner of Madison and E34th Street. Because there was so much traffic we hopped out of our cab a few blocks before arriving. Why the gridlock? Today was the Annual Sikh Day Parade. So while hundreds, if not thousands, of people marched downtown in turbans they voluntarily wear, I was on a hunt for a wig and probably at some point a drawerful of turbans I don't want to wear.

Sikh and you shall find...

Joseph Paris, home of the Frank Sinatra hairpiece collection.
Yes, those are just a few of the 100s of toupees Joseph made for Frankie for his movies and concerts.

A few other places I preferred to be. 
Today, the magic carpet ride.

The hands that measured Sinatra's head now grace mine. 

There are seven measurements to take to determine if you'll wear a S, M, or L wig. 

Joseph explains the difference of his patented hair system including the lightweight lace
foundation into which individual hairs are sewn.

Channeling one pouty Loretta Lynn.

Joseph draws over your hairline so your customized wig will be fit/sewn 
to look as natural as possible. 

My soon to be recreated hairline.

Where the magic happens.
In several rooms you will find selections of wigs,  the women patiently sewing them, and the myriads of wig tools like steamers, dyes and canvas block heads needed to facilitate a perfect fitting wig.
Joseph is a very nice, patient man. With 50 years experience in the business, he shows great compassion when explaining the wig making process to someone who is about to loose her hair. He himself started his business as a result of his own battle with alopecia. Originally from Bensonhurst, he's made his way around the world advising people on how to best deal with medically related hairloss and at no charge gives you as much time as you need to understand the process. While we were there, he actually received platters of food and a hand written thank you note from a woman so happy with her results and personal experience with Joseph.

Next step? At the first sign of my hair falling out, I'm to call the studio and make an appointment to come in, make sure the wig fits and it gets cut and styled. Contrary to what I thought I would do, I opted for a synthetic wig because they're a lot easier to style and care for. The wig does come with a warning that I should avoid leaning over hot barbecues and stoves but that doesn't pose too big a problem for me since my cooking repertoire consists of making tea and toast.

Another perk of working with Joseph is that he insists on your returning as often as you want to make sure the wig is fitting properly and you're happy with the fit.

The proof'll be in the pudding a week or two from now.

Until then, we wait...from Hair to Eternity...

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Greetings from My IV Tower

Hello Booble Fans,

Last I wrote I was terrified for what today would bring me and so far it's been just fine. It was explained to me that the smaller weekly doses of chemo would be more tolerable than a large dose every three weeks. If there are going to be any side effects, I will notice them within the next couple of days. Dr. B told me to expect some joint pain. 

My day started with my usual morning cuppa and tuning into the talk shows I hate but attempt to watch hoping maybe I'll find one segment of interest. I had no trouble figuring out what I'd wear to my first chemo treatment because yesterday I received an awesome Wonder Woman costume from my sis-in-law Susan; I was so excited that it fit and that I had the perfect red shoes and lipstick to match! What you can't see in the photo way below is that I am in fact wearing a red cape. On one return from the bathroom, I was so stoned on Benadryl, my shmoop was dragging my IV for me and while we walked by the doc's office I said, Look, Doc, I'm flyyyying!! Ah, I crack me up. I love my doctor but I think he needs a super hero lesson because he thought I was dressed as Rambo. What the...?

The chemo process went like this.... Before I left my apartment, I took a big green pill called Cimetidine. Essentially this drug is to protect my stomach from getting upset. Took an invisible cab to the office just like NYC Wonder Woman would do and first thing Nurse Cathy did was take my vitals and then brought Sandy and me to the IV room. I was seated in a pinkish vinyl Barcalounger type chair that Sandy was oddly very fond of. After little success in finding a cooperative vein, I had a heating pad applied to my opposite arm which apparently makes the veins pop out a little more and then we were rolling. The first IV I got was the steroid Dexamethasone which is to help prevent an allergic reaction and nausea. Well, there's really no polite way to convey what occurred next. As the nurse was preparing the next IV of Benadryl, I started squirming in my seat. I was really embarrassed by what I was feeling but after a minute I had to ask, Is it normal that it feels like someone is pricking my privates (I actually was a lot cruder than that) with pins and needles?! She started laughing and said it's "normal" (trust me, it ain't). Was this some sort of cruel joke? I swear it was like someone took a London Plane Tree aka ITCHY BALLS TREE and shoved it into each orifice and swooshed it around like a toilet bowl cleaner! The top of my head was getting hot and prickly, too. Whew. It was pretty short lived but really uncomfortable. Then the nurse said, Soon you're going to feel a swooshing going around in your head. Swooshing? No, that wasn't a swooshing. It felt like some one turned the nitrous oxide dial up to super fly high. I was floating down the bowling lane like The Dude in The Big Lebowski Gutterballs scene. 

After waiting a half hour for this all to kick in, the Paclitexal was injected into my new cocktail.
Itchy Balls
The Dude
Speaking of kicking, another side effect of the Benadryl is wanting to kick your legs off. You get overwhelmed by a restlessness and start kicking hoping your legs'll snap out of it. And then I had to pee really bad. So I'm stoned, I'm kicking, I don't know how I'm going to make it to the loo, but somehow I did twice with the help of the Nurse Cathy and Sandy (forming a bond I never anticipated until I was like 85 years old). In between all of this I slept a lot in the Barcalounger. 

Next thing I knew it was time to leave and although I was told I could go back to work if I wanted to, I thought a new born kitten would be more useful than me so I went home and passed out for three hours, woke up in a big sweat and thought two days has passed. 

The good news is that a) I feel fine now and b) I only need to take the steroids and anti-histamine one more time assuming I have no allergic reaction. If I do ok the first two times, it means I'm safe for the following treatments. As far as how many treatments I will need,  no one knows. The idea once again is to see some of those tumors shrink. If it's successful, then MAYBE I go on some sort of hormone treatment but it's a complicated call because my body may or may not go into menopause and if it appears to but is really not, I would be taking aromatase inhibitors that won't actually be doing anything. It's a lot to digest and we'll just cross that bridge when we get to it. The other reason I might stop is if the neuropathy (tingling in hands and feet) gets bad. So there are a lot of unknowns. Tons of drugs out there, but it's a matter of finding out which one is the right one for me. The proof'll be in the scans to follow.

Next step? I go wig shopping this weekend. I'll be visiting two places, Joseph Paris and Bits and Pieces. I have a few great, compassionate hair dressers in my circle who are more than willing to help and I'm just going to try and have fun with this. 

Thank you so so so so much for the presents, cards, emails, texts, support, encouragement and love you send my way. When I get a little scared I realize so many people have gone through this and as my friend Katia said, it's just a season. At night I watch some funny TV before going to bed, then turn on some mellow tunes and look to Infinity because she makes me feel at peace. 

Love you all,

F U Cancer!

My lunatic Wonder Man who made me laugh all morning. I love you.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013


I keep thinking of Thursday's chemo treatment and a few things repeatedly come to mind:

  • I imagine I'm going to feel as sick as I did when I took too high a dose of Xeloda and the thought terrifies me.
  • That being said I keep trying to convince myself to not think about the unknown because maybe it'll be fine. 
  • But then I read all of the nasty side effects and I go back to number 1. 
  • I keep hearing the dialog from Seinfeld whenGeorge gets set up with a woman who's bald (sorry for quality of video):

GEORGE: "You fixed me up with a bald woman."
KRAMER: "Bald?"
GEORGE: "Yeah, that's right."
ELAINE: "Do you see the irony here? You're rejecting somebody because they're bald."
ELAINE: "You're bald!"

I love when Elaine throws out the toupee. Ask me, those things should be banned before high-caloric soft drinks.

In preparation for the Taxol.....
  1. I've sent away for a free head wrap;
  2. I sent away for a free bar of Bethesa SPF soap; 
  3. I've gotten pre-auth for chemo;
  4. Found local lab to get blood drawn day before treatment;
  5. I found out insurance will pay for one wig at 100% (I haven't confirmed this in writing.) I hope this is really true b/c as uncomfortable as it makes me, I want to get a real hair wig, and they're quite costly;
  6. I lined up three places to look at wigs;
  7. I made a list of ten questions for the oncologist;
  8. I can't stop noticing that the tips of my fingers are still numb from the Xeloda and wonder how bad the neuropathy will get from the new treatment;
  9. A friend recommended I avoid sushi, one of my favorite meals, because of the potential decrease in white blood cell count. Same friend told me to avoid fresh flowers too. Not sure if the latter was related to the blood cell count or the fragrance;
  10. I want to be armed with drugs for nausea, pain, constipation as result of pain, sleep, Biotin for mouth sores, ginger for tea;
  11. I went to Ricky's looking for a Wonder Woman t-shirt (they no longer sell those cool vintage shirts) to wear to my first day of IV. No tee but I decided I'll wear Wonder Woman red lipstick instead;
  12. I'm wondering why I'm still pulling out my stray grays; AND
  13. Like when I daydream about winning the lottery and then I suddenly snap out of it and return to reality, I get convinced for a brief moment that this is really all a big mistake.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Tax Season

So, there's good news and bad news.

Results from Thursday's CT scan came in. The most notable finding is the increase in size of (innumerable metastatic) nodules, that is, tumors. To give you an idea of size, the largest nodule measures 3.1 x 2.2 cm, previously 2.7 x 1.9 cm. What does this mean? Findings are consistent with progression of disease.

The measurements above may seem unimpressive however it tells us that the Xeloda isn't doing what we hoped it would--keep the tumors stable or ideally, shrink them. Things are heading in the wrong direction so we must go with plan B. The Xeloda's been tossed in a drawer and next week I'll have my first IV infusion of Paclitaxel, a form of TAXOL®.  Prior to doing this I must first get two Rx's (Tuesday) for antihistamines which will be administered right before I get the IV (Thursday) with the hope of preventing an allergic reaction (e.g. rash, itching, swelling, wheezing, chest pain). The IV is given in my oncologist's office and takes about an hour; supposedly I can return to work afterwards assuming I haven't passed out from the Benadryl. The day before each weekly IV (# of weeks, months, unknown), I must get my blood drawn at a local lab. Patients have to be watched carefully because there's risk of getting a blood disorder, becoming anemic and sigh, so on and so forth. Side effects? Fatigue, nail discoloration, "plumbing issues", neuropathy, vomiting, chemo brain, bone pain, and well, I'll be sporting the GI Jane look pretty soon--hair loss usually occurs within two-four weeks, perfect timing for summer! Gag. Yes, it will grow back, but I already have visions of wig sweats and my penciled in eye brows melting and dripping down my face. This does not bode well for my Wonder Woman image. 

The good news? I got my tax refund this week, which has already been applied to the retail therapy bill I've racked up over the past couple of months. 

I'm trying to find the silver lining in all of this. The way I see it, after having seen Artie Lange at Caroline's last night, I think I can get through this. Artie's been in and out of drug rehabs and mental institutions countless times and yet he's got his own radio show, he's in a relationship, and he's still cracking side splitting jokes to sold out audiences.  If Artie can do that, I think I can laugh my way though this year's tax season.

Stay beautiful,

PS Click here to watch a great link Sandy shared with me...Note to self, revisit this when I start looking like a cue ball. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Can Sure Use Some Super Powers Right About Now....

Hi All,

I'm going to TRY and keep this brief as the last thing I want is to draw attention to me (ME!) on the eve of such a horrible tragedy. I've yet to collect my thoughts about what happened in Boston today and there's certainly no way I can express them at this time.

The purpose of my writing was to share good news about others...I'd like to think we can always use some good news.

I shared a wonderful two hours with my friend Michael this weekend. He was in from LA for three short days and I'm so grateful he made time to see me. For those who don't know my fellow Capricorn, he and I met at Estee Lauder back in 2000. Michael was working as a permanent temp (yes, such a thing exists) and was the assistant to our boss, but more importantly, was one of the few things (people) I liked about what I call the best worst job I ever had. (I hated the job, but I love what I took away from the experience.) Michael and I have remained friends ever since I was nearly carried out of that place in a straight jacket (my lipstick applied perfectly, of course) and I lovingly refer to him as one of my favorite people in the world. Michael is one of the most honest, sincere, funny, intelligent, evolved, persevering people I know; when he puts his mind to something, he gets it. Which brings me to why he came to NY...Michael's pregnant! Michael is a single, gay man (quite handsome, too for those who wish to apply) who is adopting a newborn baby scheduled (c-section) to be delivered in May. He came to meet the birth mother who is unable to take on the responsibility of a fourth child. The adoption process is not an easy one but Michael knew if he didn't do it now, it wouldn't happen, so he took every measure necessary to have his dream realized and I just know he will be an unbelievable parent (he fortunately has a lot of family near by to assist him and his soon to be traumatized ShihTzu, Todd). This isn't the reason I'm writing about Michael, buuuuuttt, since I have your attention.........when Michael leaves with the baby, he will need to spend two weeks in NY before he can return to LA. If ANYONE knows of an apartment in which he and baby can crash during this time, would you let me know? I've no room in the Barbie Dreamhouse but if I did, I'd welcome him with open arms...... Michael, I love you and I cannot wait to  see you with a diaper bag and spit on your clothes. 

My second announcement is that Pauletta Brooks, the amazingly thoughtful and talented jeweler I referred to in my last blog entry, is having a trunk show May 1-3 in her Chelsea studio. For those of you who are interested, drop me a line and I'll give you the details. I cannot wait to find the perfect amethyst piece; I plan to attend May 2nd. 

Next, I want to mention that I've opened my blog up to Google advertisers and I hope you don't think I'm selling out! The idea is that I'll have more of a presence on the web and hopefully be able to share my story with those in need of support. In the two weeks I've been doing this, I've earned, get this,  $1.72! Woo hoo! Whatever money I make, I plan to donate to The Gilda Club in memory of my dear friend Joan who passed away two years ago after years of struggling with breast cancer. I miss Joan terribly, everyone who knew her does, and I cannot bring myself to write any more about her than what you're reading now.

Last, I'm going to recommend a great distraction from today's sad news. At 10pm EST on PBS (check your local listing), my friend Kelcey's Wonder Women! documentary is going to air. Back in January, Twin Peeks had the honor and privilege of being featured on the film's website (go back a few entries). I've yet to see the film although it's been screening like crazy (worldwide!) and has been receiving the most positive feedback. If there ever was a time we could use the help of Wonder Woman, it is definitely today. So let's everybody channel those super positive healing powers and send our prayers and positive thoughts to Boston. 

Sorry I couldn't help but talk about myself just a teensy weensy bit. I truly hope you do get to tune in to the movie tonight. 

Meanwhile, thanks for tuning in here.

Wishing everyone a peaceful evening...