Mary Anne Chylinski – This is for you!!!!!

I could never have known on this day what I know today.    This image was taken on May 30, 2014.  Mary Anne, Christa and I were headed to Long Island.  We had raised money for the Leukemia/Lymphoma Society and Team in Training.   I had finished my Leukemia treatment in February and was stubborn enough to believe I could ride my bicycle the 74 miles from beginning to end.  There was also a big contingency of peeps from the Albany area that was pushing with the “Yes, You Can” undertone.   Mary Anne and Christa had been huge supporters through all my random adventures and continued to tell me that I could do things that I wasn’t totally sure I could.

What we didn’t know was that within months Mary Anne would be diagnosed with ovarian cancer.  What we didn’t know was that she would spend a year and half on different types of chemo trying to fight this disease.  We didn’t know that she would be part of a clinical trial at Sloane Kettering.  Mary Anne’s stamina and determination and persistence were unwavering.   The first trial didn’t work.   There were conversations about tumors growing.

In November we all went to the local Holiday Tractor Parade.  We watched sixty five tractors full of thousands of lights pass down the quaint Main Street of Greenwich.  The smell of fried dough filled the air.  Mary Anne waited in the long, long line for her fill of fried food with sugar on top.  Christmas music played in the air as a light dusting of snow fell on the village.  It was just another day and another parade and another holiday season but being in the presence of Mary Anne and Christa reminded me of the fragility of it all.

A few days later I popped in at Mary Anne’s house.  We sat and chatted and ate celery with peanut butter covered in raisins.  She was losing weight and looked tired.

“I need to tell you something,” Mary Anne said.

“Sure. Go for it,” was my reaction.

“I’ve been having un-kind thoughts and want to talk to you about them.”

“OK.  What’s going on?”  My stomach dropped a little bit.

“When we were at the tractor parade and we were walking back to your house, I was thinking about some things.  I wondered why it was that you had cancer twice and now you are okay and why I’ve been going through this for a year and a half and it’s still going on.”

Tears welled up in my eyes.  She was saying exactly what I had been thinking over and over again.  Her honesty and courage to have this conversation gave me permission to do the same.

“I don’t know Mary Anne.  I just don’t know.”  I sobbed and heaved and cried and blabbered “I’m SO ANGRY.”

We sat at the table together and cried.

We didn’t say anything .

She handed me the tissues.

We allowed each other space to regroup.

“I don’t believe that God picks who lives and who doesn’t,” I sniffled.  “I just don’t believe it.  I don’t know why I am okay and you are still going through this.  I’m so sad.”

“I’m sad too.”

The conversation could not have lasted more than four minutes but it was profound and moving and one of the most honest interactions I have ever had.  We ate more celery and peanut butter and raisins.

Not long after this interaction Mary Anne was offered a second clinical trial at Sloane Kettering.  Her doctor’s dedication was unwavering.  She wanted to try another drug to help with the weight loss and change the direction of the disease.  And that’s exactly what it did.

Mary Anne tried the new drug.

The tumors stopped spreading.

She stopped losing weight.

During our last conversation I learned that the tumors have shrunk.  She was headed to the gym for a little work out.

THIS is why I agreed to be part of Cycle for Survival.  I believe that Mary Anne is still alive because of the research and the clinical trials that happen at Sloane.   Any donation you make goes towards this research.   We never know who will need this next.

CLICK HERE TO DONATE

 

 

 

Resisting 5-0 isn’t so easy

It started around Thanksgiving.  It started to hit me that OMG – THIS was going to be my last holiday season in my 40s.  The big 5-0 was just around the corner.   So I started to make all the right decisions regarding resisting the aging process.

 

Let me tell you what that looks like.

 

  • Tattoed eyebrows and eyeliner. That phrase – needles in my eyes?  Yeah- did it.

 

  • Having Botchilism injected into my forehead to get rid of the canyons in my forehead. It was a bit painful as a bunch of needles poked and prodded and immediately created bee sting like bumps on my forehead but I think I look 45 instead of 49 now.

 

  • That same day, my friend Nicole and I decided to go for a walk in the beautiful snowstorm. We tracked around the little village of Greenwich – up through the school field and into the cemetery.   We stopped to talk to a friend who was out walking her dog and commented on the gorgeous, magnificent beauty around us.   As we left the brief encounter I snapped pictures of the evergreens and bright blue sky and felt at peace with the universe.   The next steps were through soft, fluffy snow that was covering a sheet of ice. My feet lost their balance and I quickly found myself horizontal on the ground after hearing a loud, LOUD SNAP from when I tried to stop the fall with my right hand.   My heart stopped.  My breathing stopped.  I couldn’t see.   It took a bit for Nicole to get me up, schlep me home and convince me that Urgent Care would be a good place to go.  Needless to say, within a few days I had a metal plate and some pins installed in my forearm.   This transaction was complete with some good pain meds, a black cast and a new subscription to Showtime and HBO.  I always thought that if I broke a bone it would be during some dramatic adventure – not just walking around the block.  It’s SO OLD LADY.

 

  • In an effort to multi-task during my convalescence, I decided to schedule Lasik surgery to get rid of the umpteen pairs of cheaters and contacts and Warby Parker glasses laying around the house.  Yesterday I had my eyes cut open and lasered back together and today I have 20/20 vision.  There were tons of middle aged people sitting in the waiting room this morning and it is becoming clearly evident that I belong to a new group.

 

As this whole age thing kicked in this fall, a friend asked me to be part of a spin class/bike ride fund raiser.  It would be a great excuse for some “OLD” friends to get together.  I wanted to resist because time is often limited these days but my friend had recently lost her brother to cancer and she was dedicated to make a difference and help find a cure.

The Charity is Sloan Kettering and I’ve been resisting writing this letter.  I’m resisting asking for money because there are SO many organizations in need.  I’m resisting because it hits close to home.  I’m resisting because I don’t want to cry when I think about my friend who is going through her second clinical trial at Sloane and I am scared for her.  I’m resisting because I don’t want to let people know that I am angry cancer still exists.   I’m resisting because I feel guilty.  I feel guilty  about resisting 5-0 when I should be screaming out loud with gratitude that I actually made it through my Forties.

I resist writing this letter because the truth is challenging. 

I don’t know why some of us make it and others don’t.

But I do know that since I am still here, I need to help others when I can.

 

Just for today, that request comes in the form of asking you to donate a few dollars to Cycle for Survival, a fundraising arm of Sloan Kettering.  In exchange for your donation, I’ll stop telling you all my tales of woe as I get older….

PLEASE CLICK HERE TO DONATE!!!!!