Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Forgetting ... Celebrating ... And FInding my Voice

Despite my best intentions and although I keep hoping my brain will function at 100 percent capacity, I still forget stuff. I call it "latent chemo brain" syndrome. (Simply another side effect of all the drugs I've had over the years plus my chemotherapy regimen back in 2002.) There are times I'm glad just to remember my own name. (Trust me, I probably don't know yours.)

Anyway, I was recently "reminded" that I forgot some vital things that were a part of our holiday celebration. For instance, I mentioned we had latkes. But, I forgot to note that these were not just any average latkes. They were vegan latkes -- created by Edward, so that all of us (including Brian) could enjoy the holiday favorite. He never asked his Dad to make them and would have never complained had he not. However, we were all able to enjoy these delicious and probably his best ever potato latkes. Ed is still "talking" about them and even said he should have brought some to the housewarming party held on Dec. 17 at Adrienne's and Jason's new home.

Speaking of housewarming parties and gifts -- Edward also gave the happy new homeowners (it's in Adrienne's room) a brand new iMac computer. Her former system was very, very old and hardly functioned -- thus, Adrienne really needed a new computer in order to stay in touch with the world. Needless to say, she is thrilled.  Jason is also enjoying a new device that allows him to wave his hands (almost like magic) and have things move across the screen. I'm not a techie person and Ed has told me about a dozen times the name of this device, but I keep forgetting. (Another moment.) Whatever it is called,  I know that Jason will enjoy being able to use it and hopefully, Adrienne will also master the "new device" as well.  Another surprise for the couple was when Jason's family gave them a new high definition, big screen television. It has a prominent spot in the great room.

The housewarming / holiday party was a huge success. The couple prepared their "deliciously famous" cheese fondue. (Yummy!) Plates of fresh French bread, carrots, apples and broccoli were set out to accompany the fondue. They also put out mini kosher "pigs in the blanket" along with chips and salsa. There were some cupcakes, cookies and a friend of hers brought along a chocolate cake made by another co-worker. The cake was "awesome." I wanted more but I knew my blood glucose levels were already off the charts. (Cheating during the holidays is okay, but I could tell that I would be paying the price for my indulgence.)

I know that they enjoyed showing off their adorable new home -- located in Davenport, Polk County. The housing development is surrounded by orange groves, so it's a fairly rural area. The good news is that "shopping" and plenty of it is located conveniently nearby. Within a short driving distance, they can find a Publix, Walmart, Target, Winn Dixie, ALDI, and a multitude of other stores including Lowes (where they have been known to spend a great deal of time) and several dollar stores. Although they have not really met any neighbors, I'm sure that they will soon be making new friends.   As a brand new development where construction is still underway, it is exciting to realize the potential.

The month of December always tends to be a bit crazy and this year is no exception.  I have already eaten way too much. Today, after doing my basic spin class (30 minutes) I attended a luncheon at Chili's for the Y's program committee members.  Tomorrow, I will be attending a volunteer recognition luncheon at the Y and on Friday, following Zumba, we are holding a class party. Seriously! I keep eating and eating, which can only mean I must keep exercising too.

On top of all this, I've lost my voice. (I'm trying to find it,) About a day and a half ago, I noticed my voice started sounding differently. It is now quite raspy and although I have attempted to keep from talking, it has been nearly impossible. Try attending a luncheon without speaking.  At least while writing this blog, I have remained silent. (Except for when Ed called me -- even though I had text him a message indicating my voice was nearly gone.) I have no idea why my voice has suddenly gone away, although my theory is "that it's weather related." We have had real ups and down with our temperatures here -- going from lows in the upper 40s to highs in the upper 60s or low 70s. The sudden chill in the air is not good for my body and this may be another "sign" that cold weather and I do not get along well. A couple of weeks ago, (during another cold front) I was in a lot of physical pain. I was reaching for extra pain medication because my body was  having a difficult time handling the cold. Now, it's my voice. Fortunately, I feel fine (no fever and no sore throat) -- but I have started taking a nasal decongestant just in case.

I told a friend during lunch "All I want for Christmas is my voice." I fully intend to "fully" recover.  I have had a healthy 2013 and the game plan is for 2014 to be an extremely healthy year. I will not accept anything less.

While my brain may not always be in tip-top form, I am keeping this "body" in the best shape possible. I have heard that "we" can ward off serious mental health challenges (including dementia) by staying in good physical shape. So, here it is -- my only resolution for the coming year... to stay healthy. If that is accomplished, I can certainly do everything else I have on my agenda .. and more.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Live is an Adventure -- Time with Brian & Much More

I love surprises! So you can imagine my overwhelming happiness when my son, Brian, surprised me (and his Dad) by showing up in town for the combination of Thanksgiving and Chanukah. My "dream" had come true.

Thus, instead of having to have him join us in a "virtual" sense" we were able to spend some real quality time together these past few days. It was incredible.

Keeping in mind that Brian is a vegan, he watched as I "molested" the turkey and began preparations for it to go into the oven. It was "quite bizarre" to have him watching over me as I did the work necessary to get "Mr Bird" ready for dinner. At one point, I pulled out a part of the turkey from its "inners" and both Brian and Edward questioned what the "part" was. They actually thought I was pulling out the "bird's penis" and in fact, it was the "neck" of the turkey. Already knowing Ed's frame of mind, I could only laugh when Brian made his comments. He really had no idea what was happening -- and of course, he would not be eating "my masterpiece" anyway. But, to his credit, he did help clean up the kitchen including many of the items used to "molest" the holiday bird. Our kitchen was always a source of fun anyway -- and now, having this opportunity to cook and to share this moment with Brian was very special.

Later that same day, he treated us to a hockey game at the new Amway Arena in Orlando. To keep things a secret, we told Adrienne to meet us nearby the stadium and we would all drive there together.   Needless to say, she was "thrilled" to see her big brother jump out of the car to hug her. Unfortunately, Jason had to work that evening.  But, the game was fun to watch (the Solar Bears did win) and we ate lots and lots of food.

The next morning, Brian treated the three of us to breakfast at Disney's Polynesian resort and its Kona Cafe. This has always been a big favorite of ours, and Brian had learned via a friend that the restaurant offered a vegan Tonga French toast. It is a first -- we all ordered the same dish, although Brian's would be prepared vegan style. The chef came out of "his kitchen" to talk to us about our needs. Brian said he was a vegan and I mentioned I had diabetes. Instead of getting the strawberry syrup with my dish, he offered me fresh strawberries. We all enjoyed our meals -- delicious doesn't even come close to describing the overall experience. Besides talking all through breakfast, each of us devoured our food. I, however, could not even finish my entire entree. The Tonga French toast serving size was enormous! I could have easily shared the dish. But, let me assure you that Ed, Brian and Adrienne all cleaned their plates. And, yes, we all left very satisfied.

After dropping Edward off to work, Brian and I were onto the next adventure.  The rest of our day was driving from place to place -- exploring a variety of locations.  We first visited the Seminole County site of the Senator tree, now just a stump of burned wood -- the victim of an arson fire.  Brian and I recalled how beautiful the tree was and what a tragedy had befallen this special tree.

Next, we stopped by a location in Orlando known as the "east end market." There were a variety of vendors -- mostly, vegetarian or vegan. Brian enjoyed a fruit and veggie smoothie. I also snapped photos of the vegetable garden outside the marketplace. Since I am now a part of the Oviedo Y's Community Garden, I wanted to show my fellow committee members how this garden was organized and what vegetables were being grown. It turned out to be an educational experience for me -- besides being a fun way to spend time with Brian. There was also lunch at Dandelion Cafe.

We eventually made our way to Whole Foods, where Brian picked up some items for his Thanksgiving meal. Then, after a visit with another friend, Brian joined me in lighting the candles on the menorah for the first night of Chanukah.

Thanksgiving Day, Brian had rented a car and met us at Adrienne's & Jason's new home in Davenport.  He had a special housewarming gift for his sister and brother-in-law ... an original movie poster of the Mel Brook's film "The Frisco Kid" which he had shipped to a friend's house here in Florida.  Brian presented this framed version as a gift and both Adrienne and Jason were ecstatic.

The holiday meal was perfect. Everyone had plenty to eat. Trust me, no left the table feeling like he or she did not have enough. As Adrienne put it -- "we had latkes and turkey." Since the two holidays coincided (such a rare phenomenon) many referred to it as Thanksgivukah. Thanksgiving eve was the second night of Chanukah -- thus we lite our menorahs as part of the festivities. The lights of the candles burned brightly as did the electric menorah in the kitchen window. We used two different table covers -- one with fall colors and the other a Chanukah theme. It worked perfectly.

One of the most beautiful and profound moments was when Brian shared with me the reason he joined us for the holidays. This was a last minute decision on his part; we had no idea he was coming down from Washington, D.C. to join us. I had really thought we would be talking by phone that night.

Turns out, Brian had visited Philadelphia recently and during his short trip, he went to the cemetery where my parents are buried. Brian knew his maternal grandmother -- Henrietta Wattman, or as he called her "Bubbie." He never knew his "Pop Pop Bernie." I named Brian in his beloved memory. I had never seen my Mom's grave marker.  I last visited Philadelphia in October 2006 when she passed away. He took photos and sent them to me via text. That meant so much to me. But, there was more. This experience left a greater mark on Brian. He told me that when he "looked at Bubbie's marker" he saw the dates. There was the date of her birth, January 10, 1928 and then, the date of her death, October 18, 2006. It was the "dash" between the dates that got to him. It was those memories that mean the most. So, he had to be with us -- with the two holidays coinciding in such a unique manner, it was "important" to Brian to be with us. Plus, he wanted to be with his sister within the first month she was in her new home.  All these "moments in life" -- the "dash" of our lives ... that's why he traveled by bus to be with us. I felt "tears" welling up in my eyes as I heard him share these thoughts.

If I ever doubted my parenting skills, I had no reason whatsoever to doubt I had done something right. I love holidays -- especially when I get to share them with my family and friends.  I love creating memories. I treasure the thoughts of those three precious days and nights. The laughter..all the food (lots of it) ... the stories ... the experiences.

Life is an adventure and I intend to live it fully in 2014. Are you willing to join me? If so, be prepared for just about anything. (Okay, I'm not a daredevil, so anything "stupid" or "scary" or "dangerous" is off the list.) I'm being real here. I'm all about enjoying life. I plan to keep exercising because I know it's helping my body and my mind. I hope to travel next year. There's a wedding I want to be at in Sheffield, England. It's next July. (I still need a passport. And I need money! But, I haven't given up the dream of being there.) And if I make it to England, I want to get to Paris, France and see Disneyland Paris with Adrienne and Jason. I would also like to visit Brussels -- where I could meet up with cousins who live there. And a cruise. Or a chance to visit Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia. Travel!! It's on my game plan. I also want to get a car -- that's freedom spelled -- CAR.

Plan your adventures or -- just ab lib. Either way, experience life and all it has to offer. And build those memories! (So many more stories -- guess I can share those later.)

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Hoilday Season Begins - Time to Build Memories

This is an extremely unique year. The holidays of Thanksgiving and Chanukah come together -- a phenomenon that happens so rarely that this "combo" will not occur again for another 70,000 years.

Jewish holidays follow the Hebrew calendar (It's 5774) and not the Gregorian calendar that we generally follow. Thus, for Jewish families it's an opportunity to combine these two holidays, both in a tradition sense and perhaps, even coming up with some "new" ideas.

Within my own family, Thanksgiving has always meant "lots of food" as well as "lots of people to eat that food." Growing up in Philadelphia, I recall smelling the food being prepared by my Mom who  cooked up a feast. Participants included my Dad, my two brothers and usually -- at least one or two aunts and uncles along with their kids -- my cousins.  Seated around the table were approximately 20 or more. That was typical. The dining room would be packed with "starving people" ready to devour the turkey and other goodies prepared. Let's just say it was a "non-stop eat-a-thon." Besides the "star of the dinner" -- the turkey, there were assorted side dishes. My Mom, at some point, started preparing a stuffing made from Rice-a-Roni. She always had green beans and mashed potatoes. We were "basic" eaters, nothing fancy at the table -- but all the food was delicious and plentiful.

When I began my own "family" and was ready to prepare a Thanksgiving feast of my own, I wanted to have "fun." I did not want this holiday to be "difficult" or "stressful" or anything negative. It was a time to be "thankful" -- thus, I wanted to enjoy the prep time.

I enjoy cooking. Being in the kitchen... reading recipes, deciding on a menu and preparing the food is something I like doing. It's not a chore. Thus, as I began my work of prepping the bird and doing all the other stuff associated with the holiday, I always tried to have a good time. After the turkey was ready for cooking and as I placed the "heavy" roaster dish into the oven, I would say something like "See you later Birdie." I'm not sure if the kids ever heard me, but it was fun. Then, I would start all the side dishes. I know that a favorite within my family was the "sweet noodle kugel." I cannot recall how or when this all began, but I know that Ed, Brian and Adrienne all liked this dish. I made my "kugel" with cottage cheese, sour cream, margarine, eggs, noodles (egg-free when they became available) and canned pineapple.  (For those who may be thinking that I had meat and dairy together -- I obviously do not keep a kosher home.) When Brian became a vegetarian, I could still offer up the kugel for all to enjoy. However, when he announced he was vegan, I still made the kugel but came up with other dishes for him to enjoy. I have also prepared many "vegan" style dishes for the holiday including those made from soy and the famous "Tofurkey." I'm flexible. Tradition is wonderful but I'm ready to move forward -- ready to try new things along the way.

Life has indeed moved forward. Adrienne and Jason have a brand new home. Ed and I will be spending Thanksgiving / Chanukah with them. Brian now resides in Washington, D.C. and will have his own holiday experience. I will, however, be making "big bird" along with "latkes." Yes! It's definitely Chanukah and that means "potato latkes (pancakes) topped off with applesauce or if it all works out, I hope to prepare a dish that combines apples and cranberries. (Bringing the two holidays together.) There will be plenty of food. We will also light the candles on our menorahs as we celebrate the second night of the holiday.

The Feldmah Dynamic (Ed, Marilyn, Brian and Adrienne) may not all be together this year for the holiday, however, I'm sure that thanks to "technology" we will be able to share a few moments together.  Holidays come and go and like I noted above, I believe it's wise to have traditions but it's also "smart" to go with the flow and be flexible. I want Adrienne and Jason to begin their own holiday traditions in their new home. I can't wait to see what they come up with and how I get to be a part of it all. Isn't like wonderful. We get to share these moments with the people we love and care about and in the process, we will build memories. It's those memories that allow us to keep traditions alive.

Wishing everyone a very Happy and Safe Thanksgiving. And to those celebrating Chanukah, may it be bright and happy as well. My best to everyone this holiday season. Good health always!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Another Annual "Schmooshing" -- A New Year Ahead

On Sept. 4, 2013 I will have another annual mammogram or as I prefer to call it "my annual schmooshing." It's where a tech takes my two breasts (one much larger than the other) and literally "flattens" them to the same size within this big, cold machine.  The "plates" of the mammo machine are cold -- and although technology has greatly changed over the years and the "pain" endured has also greatly lessened over those years -- this is not something I look forward to doing. However, this test did save my life!

Back in Nov. 2000 when I had my annual mammogram, little did I know that I would leave that test center "a very different woman" than when I entered. I entered happy and feeling just find. When I left after having numerous "extra" films plus a sonogram - as well as a complete check over by the radiologist that included a thorough exam of my breasts -- let's just say I was "confused." I still did not realize there was a potential problem. I was told my GYN would get the results and that, after she received the information, I would most likely need a follow up. Okay, that wasn't too scary. But why all the extra images? Why the sonogram? And, why the actual physical exam? That part really scared me more, especially when the doctor asked me, "When did you first feel this lump?" My reply, "What lump?" She took my fingers and placed them onto a "lump" she felt -- trust me, I consider myself a relatively intelligent individual. That night, even with my husband's help, neither of us could find "that lump." I never did find it. But the doctor's sure did!

On Dec. 4, 2000, I signed paperwork that allowed for a biopsy and if necessary, a lumpectomy. Well, when I woke up and was in recovery at the Ambulatory Care Center at Orlando Regional Medical Center in Orlando, I learned that of the two lumps they ultimately removed, one was benign - the larger of the two was malignant. I was now a breast cancer survivor. My life had changed in an instant.

I am a big supporter of the mammograms because like I stated above, I never felt the lump that was there. (The bigger of the two.) That is terrifying! Plus, I know that although self exams are very important, the mammogram did find a much smaller growth that was also removed. (That one was benign.)

Every year, like clockwork, I do my annual "schmooshing." Now that my "boobs" are really different in size, shape and (whatever) -- I have a much stronger belief in this technology and its importance. And, since my annual test is on the eve of the Jewish New Year, it is taking on a much stronger meaning. (I'll be having it done early afternoon.)

I have been so fortunate that since 2005, my breast cancer has been in a "maintaining course." My oncology team at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center Orlando led by Dr. Nikita Shah, MD is the best! I am able to see -- from PET scan to PET scan and from visit to visit -- that maintenance treatment works. I was on Herceptin for nearly 10 years. I am still on Zometa plus I still take Aromasin on a nightly basis.

As I enter a New Year -- as Rosh Hashanah begins, I see a whole new year ahead. One I intend to fill with happiness as well as good health. I don't take my health for granted. Every aspect of my life is essential -- from breathing to simply waking up each day -- it's all a wonderful miracle that I greatly appreciate.

I want to wish all of my family and friends (and readers of Marilyn's Byline) a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year. May you all be written into the Book of Life in the coming year. L'Shana Tovah. (And I will let you know all about my "schmooshing" in a future blog.)

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Help Me Cross The Finish Line at ACS Making Strides

It's that time of year, again!

I will be attending this year's ACS Making Strides Against Breast Cancer on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013 at Lake Eola in beautiful downtown Orlando. It will be a lovely day -- no matter what. And, I expect to be up "bright and early" that morning all ready for the 5K walk around the streets of Orlando.

This year I registered as an individual. However, I still have an ACS MSABC website that you can visit and where online donations can be made. You can visit:

I greatly appreciate any contribution. If you can recall (if you're old enough to do so)  the March of Dimes only asked for donations of 10 cents per person to rid the world of polio. It worked! Now, with inflation, dollars make the difference. But seriously, even a gift of $5 or $10 can make a significant difference. By going online to this secure site, you can make a personal contribution that will go towards the ACS mission of providing patient services, education, advocacy and research. I am alive today thanks to drugs created by researchers funded through ACS dollars. For me, it is truly and matter of life and death.

I have personally lost too many dear friends and family to breast cancer. At this time, I want to recall Nancy and Ellen. Both were amazing women. Neither wanted to lose her battle. They fought courageously. Nancy was an elementary school teacher and she loved her kindergartens. Every summer she would shop for books and toys that she would use to stock her classroom. She also adored her family -- they meant the world to her. She would be so proud to know that one daughter became a CPA and the other, an attorney. Ellen was a leader when it came to advocacy. She spent countless hours in Tallahassee and in Washington, DC fighting for research dollars through the American Cancer Society's Cancer Action Network. When I met her, we were on the bus to Tallahassee and trust me, when Ellen spoke -- people listened. And, they opened up their checkbooks and at the congressional level -- they voted to give more dollars to ACS research. She was also loved by her family.

I miss these incredible friends and "sisters" -- they will always remain reasons for me to Make Strides Against Breast Cancer. Please, find your reason and then, make a generous donation. 

I thank you, in advance, for caring. I am sending out Pink Hugs to all of you. 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Day by day by day -- Say A Prayer for Me

That's how life feels. I wake up (thank goodness) and I do the same things over and over again. The routines are the same. Day in and day out. Very little changes although I wish there would be some major change. I simply don't know what that would be.

For instance. The past three days I've woken up about the same time, between 8:10 a.m. and 8:20 a.m. Twice I got up to answer the phone. But, even with that phone call, I was still on my way to getting up anyway. So, the caller didn't change much about my routine.

It's rare for me to set the alarm unless I have a doctor's appointment or a hospital visit. If so, I need to ensure that I am ready to either get to the location or I need to be ready for pick up. Those days, I may find myself getting up as early as 7 a.m. depending upon pick up time. I am not thrilled but, my body does do something interesting. I usually wake up about five to 10 minutes prior to the alarm, which I hate hearing. I actually jump out of bed before the alarm, in most cases, and since I'm already up -- I will begin my routine. There was a time when I would try to go back to sleep and wait until I heard that "blasted" alarm go off. Oh, I remember those days. I was working back then. Interesting?

Well, I get into the bathroom and begin my daily morning rituals. All the usual stuff, nothing out of the ordinary. If I have already planned my wardrobe for the day, I will quickly review what I selected and take what I need into the bathroom with me. If I haven't selected my clothes, I will go to the drawers and begin that "insane" process. Why insane? Because my wardrobe is so limited that I really have next to nothing to wear -- it's actually a good thing I no longer work. My entire wardrobe is "super casual." I have very little to wear. After losing so much weight, I still kept wearing clothes that were way too big. Then, I finally realized I needed something "smaller" and so I went shopping for a few things. With a limited budget that places clothing not only near the bottom of the list but on the "Is it really necessary or can I get away without it list?" ... Let's just say that I wear the same stuff over and over again. Each week it's basically the same outfits. I try to change it out a bit -- maybe a different top. Or maybe I'll wear a different pair of sneakers. Since I exercise most of the time, I don't have a need for a "frilly" wardrobe although it would be great to have "real workout" clothes. I had a few items but they are beginning to fall apart as well from "wear and tear." Fortunately, my friends at the Y don't really notice what I'm wearing -- we all look "sweaty" and "ready for a heavy duty workout" so the clothes are not really noticed. (Although I do take note of the members who are able to buy nice matching sets for Zumba or who can afford a nice pair of Capri's that fit right.) When I have a few extra dollars, I hit the markets -- Goodwill, Hope, or any of the thrift stores where for about $3 I can find a "new" pair of pants or a top for less.  Thank goodness for bargains!

Once I am dressed and I've taken my morning medications,  then it's time for breakfast. No matter what, I do eat breakfast everyday. I may not eat immediately, but I know the importance of this meal. It was "pounded" into me during diabetes education classes. Breakfast, we were told, was an essential meal and never to be forgotten. If possible, I create a menu that includes a protein, a carb, a fruit, dairy and a fat. That's how I was taught. So, maybe I will have an egg, slice of toast, a glass of skim milk, some margarine on my toast and either a piece of fruit or a small glass of juice. Or, I may reach for the oatmeal adding some fresh or dried fruits and nuts. I may also add Greek yogurt to that meal, bringing in a great source of protein.

I know how to eat healthy -- but then again, it's a matter of what I have in the pantry or refrigerator. Like clothing -- food is on a special list -- it's a "luxury" item. Please don't misunderstand what I mean here. I'm eating -- and I am by no means starving. What I do want to explain is that being on a "limited budget" has its challenges. Since the guidelines for food benefits seem to indicate that I "earn too much money" to receive any extra help, I need to be creative. Like with my clothing where I seek out bargains or thrifty options, I have found some help in this area as well. Thank goodness for local churches and area food pantries. While I never thought I would be standing in line for any of these places, I do have plenty of company each time I visit a location for help. There are many wonderful men and women out there who never thought they would need this extra help -- but here we are. All together at the local food bank, getting our weekly allotment. If lucky, maybe this week they will have eggs. Or perhaps extra fresh fruit or veggies?

My day in and day out routine is rather simple. I am a survivor. I do whatever I have to do to make things happen. If I need something -- eventually, I will get it. Medications. I get those. They are on my priority list. Vitamins and supplements. I try not to run out, but if I do, it's only for a short time. Food. Trust me, I eat -- breakfast, lunch and dinner, even a snack or two. While I may not always eat the foods I would prefer (since I have to work my menu and diet around what I can get or find) I am doing quite well. Per all my medical testing, apparently I am doing all the right things. While I may want to eat a very healthy diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, healthier proteins, etc., I may need to make modifications based on what I can get and what's in the pantry and refrigerator/freezer. But, I can assure you that when I can get my hands on the "best" I enjoy it. When I have to settle for "second best" I am also extremely grateful. Considering that there are individuals not eating everyday or starving because food is not available -- believe me, I am happy living day by day by day.

Surviving cancer has been a major life changing experience. I have learned to appreciate "little things" and I have come to realize that even "out of date" items are still okay. Bottom line for this survivor -- I don't "sweat the small stuff" any longer. Living day by day by day is A - OK with me. I can make a meal out of anything and I can make it healthy, too. I can make an outfit out of whatever I find in my closet or drawers. I can still walk with pride and hold my head up high. Why? Very simple. I am able to get up each and everyday. I don't take that for granted. I don't even take breathing or walking for granted. I am so forever grateful to the people who have helped me reach this "day..." "this point in my life"... that I can find the beauty and happiness in every moment that I am awake. I love my simple daily routine. If this is living -- I am truly blessed.

(By the way, if you're listening to my prayers, I would not be the least bit upset if you "blessed" me with a bit of financial well being. Even in "Fiddler on the Roof" he sang the song "If I Were a Rich Man." Personally, I don't think it would spoil any "plan" if I came into a few extra dollars and was able to help my family and friends. Whenever you can make this happen, I would be most appreciative. Meanwhile, I'll  keep doing what I'm doing. Thanks. Amen.)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A Whole New Chapter Begins

I realize that when I started writing this blog, Marilyn's Byline, I had a "hidden agenda." I wanted to promote my book, which at the time was a work in progress. It was suggested to me by a wonderfully talented young woman by the name of Sultana Ali that I start this blog. First, she had to tell what a "blog" was. I had no idea. Then, I had to find someone to help me get stated. That artistically talented individual was Thomas Thorspecken, better known as Thor. He helped me get into and the rest, as they say, is history. Oh, and I did get some additional help (artistically) from a well-known graphic designer, Edward Feldman. He took my original concept and made it look -- well, much more exciting as well as professional. I wanted to thank all three of these incredible people for their help, especially at a time when I was still coming out of my "fog."

Marilyn's Byline started out as a way to let people know I was writing -- something I had stopped doing for way too many years. The years between 2002 - 2007 were downright horrible, physically and mentally. I could barely function on a daily basis let alone attempt anything remotely resembling a piece of writing. (Or anything that made sense.) I was a mess. My brain was overcome by chemo brain, a real dysfunction from which I still continue to suffer -- although I am better able to handle those moments.

In late 2007, Brian Feldman (aka: my son) helped me apply for a literature grant from United Arts of Central Florida. I wrote on my application that I would write a play about cancer survivors and take that piece to a public play reading, all within a year's time. Talk about impossible! Even the judging panel who were there to determine if I would get the grant noted that this project was "impossible" even for professionals like themselves. But I was in la-la land and told them: "I'm a cancer survivor. I can do anything." I said that line three times. I knew I wasn't going to get the grant -- but, I did! Of course, as you may already know, I finished the project in March 2010 -- two years after I started. Chemonologues became a reality when it was read by a group of professional actors on the stage at Theatre Downtown in Orlando. I was "mentored" by Julia Gagne, formerly with Valencia Community College. She also directed the play reading.

Now, I have completed my book "High Maintenance." I am still deciding how to publish my memoir. The exciting thing is -- I completed the book. I did it. I spent three years writing -- but it's done. For me, that's a "giant" accomplishment. There was a time (between 2002 and 2007) where my brain could not have done this work. I could not even write two words in a sentence that made any sense. I was a totally dysfunctional person -- I could barely do anything physical. I had to learn how to "walk," again, twice. (2005 and 2008 after breaking my femurs) I spent plenty of time in hospitals and rehab centers. I endured surgeries, including the loss of the upper lobe of my left lung. (My breast cancer journey began to resemble a lung cancer survivor's journey.) Mentally, emotionally -- I was a wreck! I needed to get off the "roller-coaster, merry-go-round" I was on.

Today, I am writing this new post with a whole different attitude. I feel great! I exercise on a regular basis. I enjoy exercising because I can see and feel the difference it has made. I do "crazy things" such as Zumba, water fitness, basic spinning and Tai Chi. I have tried many other classes along the way. I also enjoy working my muscles -- working at each session to gain better muscle tone and strength. It has become a passion for me.

Thus, my new "blog" is about how my life has improved since I became whole again. What a feeling it is to know that each day I am truly "getting better and stronger." I just celebrated another year on August 9. I love it! I have a whole year to expand my horizons. To learn new things and accomplish goals. (Such as publishing my book) It doesn't get much better than that. So, join me on this incredible journey -- my adventure into year 61. You are invited to encourage me, join me, (which means you need to get off the sofa and start moving) and most importantly, support me. I cannot do this myself. I realized my limitations in 2002 and since then, I have depended upon family and friends for physical, emotional and spiritual support. I will have an awesome year. I cannot wait to see all the amazing things that will happen as each week and each month over the coming 61st year of my life as Marilyn Susan Wattman-Feldman unfolds.

Here's to the next chapter in my life!

Monday, July 22, 2013

My Magic Wand is Broken -- My Publishing Search Continues

During the time I was writing "High Maintenance" I did not allow myself to think about anything other than the actual process of writing. I did not want to "confuse" myself or "attempt to multi-task" at any point during that three-year period. I knew it was "impossible" for me to do more than simply write. Trying to do more -- even attempting a multi-tasking process -- I knew it was wrong for me. 

Now, I have discovered that the publishing process can be challenging. Since I still get "confused easily" especially by anything legal, I have had to depend upon others to read information I get from various sources. That obvious adds more time to getting things done, but I can assure you that I don't intend to take three years to publish my book. While I was hoping this whole process would be easier, I realize that nothing in life is simple. Just getting to where I am today, both physically and mentally, has taken time. Doing it all in baby steps has never  been easy. I have had my moments of frustration. There have been those times where I have had my own personal "breakdowns" or "temper-tantrums" that may make me feel good for the moment but certainly don't get me very far. Yes! I am frustrated that things are not moving faster. I wish I could find that "magic button" that would make this whole process go quickly. I get the rep or publisher and within a reasonable amount of time, I have a published book. Easy! Sure, I wish it were that simple. I need to get a "new magic wand" -- the warranty for my older model has expired!

If you know of anyone who is a publishing rep or can help open the door to a major publisher, that's my real goal. Why? I did not write "High Maintenance" as a family memento. This book was not written on a whim. I was not writing a memoir to be read by a few close friends. I have individuals throughout the country ready to read this book. Some of these people are not necessarily known to me except perhaps via Face book or Linked In. Or through another person. (Third party?) Total strangers? Perhaps? But seriously, I know there are individuals ready to read "High Maintenance" once it is published. And, published as a real book. (Although, of course, it would be available online.)

I am checking every option. I read and re-read every email or notice I have received. Ideas provided to me are being examined. Over and over. I am looking into self-publishing, etc. But, it would be so much easier (Again, I can't stop thinking about the easy way - since everything else in my journey has been difficult.) if I could simply find that publisher (I know you're out there.) who will take my manuscript and publish it --- and help me get it out there, to the world. To my readers. To my potential readers. To readers who don't even know I have a book for them to read. 

"High Maintenance" will get published. As to when and how -- stay tuned for that next chapter in my life. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Something to Celebrate!

I get the call. It's usually a nurse by the name of Frenchie and she's almost always assigned to contact me after a scan. In this case, it was pertaining to the PET scan I had on Monday morning. It was Tuesday morning and I was at the Oviedo Y. I needed to make up for lost time. Since I could not exercise on Sunday due to test prep and Monday was a total washout (being exhausted from an early morning trip to the hospital) I wanted a real workout. I had missed most of Zumba but did the last 15 minutes of class with Sharon. Then, I stayed for RIPPED with Francine. I already knew before even starting that I would be pushing -- but, I also figured I needed to jump start my weekly workouts.

Once home, I kept trying to reach Frenchie with whom I was playing phone tag. Finally, I heard her familiar voice. The word "negative" came through loud and clear. For the past eight years, I have remained in a cancer-free status. The maintenance program established by Dr. Nikita Shah, MD has been working. And, for this, I am extremely thankful.

Hearing words like "cancer-free" or "no signs of cancer" are true music to my ears. My entire body goes into a mode where I wish I were capable of "jumping really high!" In my mind, I am jumping to the ceiling and beyond. I could reach the moon with my jump! I could reach the stars and world's beyond -- all because I am so happy! While I may not be able to physically jump or move fast these days, fortunately, my mind can more than make up for what my body lacks. I was doing somersaults when I heard the word "negative." I was ready to climb to the top of the highest mountain peak! Prepared to swim across the ocean! Yes, in my mind (within my dreams) I can do anything. And, believe or not, I actually know that a great deal of my physical good health has come from my mental happiness and well being. There is a direct tie-in between the physical and mental or emotional. Being happy and feeling good mentally always helps when it comes to also feeling good physically. Exercising on a regular / consistent basis has tremendously helped me over the years to accomplish my goal of "getting better and stronger everyday in every way." 

I have so much to celebrate today! I have a lot to celebrate tomorrow! While I remain a metastatic breast cancer survivor, I continue to enjoy this cancer-free status. I am NOT cured. I will not be considered "cured" until the actual "cure" for my particular type of breast cancer is found. (I believe this will happen within my lifetime.) However, every time I have a scan and the results are "negative" for cancer or any sign of cancer -- I celebrate another victory in my journey.

And today, I finally decided on how I would publish my book "High Maintenance." I will get with a trainer at Apple (where I have a One to One training program) and begin learning a program that can take my manuscript and create an actual book. Once I complete this process, I can publish online -- those who have iBooks or other such devices will be able to purchase my book. Then, once I demonstrate the ability to generate readers who are buying my book, then I can decide on the publishing future of "High Maintenance." Ultimately, I want to see a real book on the shelves of local bookstores. Based on today's great news, I know this will happen. "High Maintenance... Surviving Cancer at All Costs," is merely the beginning of my newest adventure -- becoming a bestselling author! For me, this will be the culmination of a lifetime of dreams coming true. (Right now, my prayers of remaining "cancer free" have been answered and for this, I am eternity grateful.) 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Yes, Another PET Scan -- Anther Test of Patience

Are you interested in good news? Great! Then I have some to share.

I will have my routine PET Scan tomorrow, June 24. The good news is that I have not had a scan since the end of last year. Apparently, my oncologist is beginning to feel that I am doing well enough that the time between scans can be increased, even if by a month or so. For me, it's another right of passage. 

I continue to experience these "baby step" moments -- just another part of my reality as a cancer survivor. It seems almost like yesterday when she announced the end of my Herceptin treatments. I was totally overwhelmed. Then, I realized I would only go to MD Anderson Cancer Center Orlando every 12 weeks for my Zometa treatments. I was "buying" back more time to live. (The good news just keeps getting better.) Even my trips every 4 - 6 weeks for port flushes and labs (I visit South Seminole Hospital for these quick fixes.) have become so routine that I need to check my calendar to make sure I don't miss an appointment. Actually, appointment is not really accurate since I do not have a "real" date or time set for these trips. I merely show up when it is convenient for me and the staff at South Seminole's Infusion Department are very accommodating. My life as a breast cancer survivor has definitely changed for the better.

My overall health is good. I feel great most days, except for those times when my "chronic pain" begins to settle in. I could complain about the hip / lower back pain (the left side is still the worst) but truth is, I am so happy to not be living at pain levels of 10 or higher that right now, I am living the good life. I still reach for breakthrough pain medications, but much less.  (My femur breaks reached 100 on the standard scale of 1 -10. And after my lung surgery, I lived 24/7 with level 10 pain all the time.) I personally find that exercise is a wonderful pain reliever. My basic cycling class has become a favorite especially since my hip pain disappears for the 30 minutes I am on the bike plus an additional time period afterwards. I still do a 60 minute aqua fitness class -- although there are times I stop at 30 or 40 minutes depending upon how I am feeling. This class is later in the day (5:45 p.m. on Monday) so there are times when I am already tired but still attend the class. I simply do what I can. Then I do Zumba. Yes, for those of you who cannot even imagine this -- I love Zumba! It's fun! It's all about having fun and no matter what you may think, it can be done at a low impact level. Trust me. I am usually standing next to an 80 + year old woman (a wonderful Y friend) and the two of us are enjoying class. We move slower than others -- our jumps (we don't jump at all) and our quick turns (we don't do those either) -- we have our own unique styles. However, here's the great news. Despite the fact that I may not be jumping high or moving fast, I am still getting great benefits from these Zumba classes. Cardio pulmonary wise I am definitely doing something right. My cardiologist tells me to keep "doing that Zumba thing." And my pulmonary doctor was amazed by my latest test results. My lungs are doing well -- I have very mild asthma which is basically exertion oriented. (I use my emergency inhaler before classes to keep my airways open.) I have been able to see test results go from severe to mild. When I say I feel good,  I know that exercise can and does make a HUGE difference. 

As usual, I am doing the PET prep diet. I call it the extreme Atkins diet -- all protein. No carbs. And no exercise or exertion since as a diabetic, my glucose levels may be lower than usual today. Oh and by the way, I never take these tests for granted. Like any "normal" person or as a "normal" cancer survivor, I am still having a slight anxiety attack. Since I cannot exercise, I have been walking (slowly) around the house today both going crazy from boredom as well as feeling a tinge of anxiousness. I would be totally "insane" if I did not exhibit some degree of concern. These PET scans are scary. They are designed to see all the way down to the cellular level within the body. Usually, if I get any written comments from the reviewing physician, it is a note that there is more arthritis. (It is not written that way, since doctors "love" using medical lingo.) But, as Dr. Shah (my medical oncologist) told me back in the very beginning, "arthritis does not kill." The pain from it may seem that way, but after years of reports indicating more locations of this condition - - quite honestly, I have come to embrace it. I even developed a "chant" where the techs and I would actually say things like "Let's hear it for A for arthritis." 

Tomorrow, I will be in a very cold room (they will wrap me in warm blankets) and I will be spending about an hour waiting for the nuclear drug to go throughout my body. I will be hanging out waiting. Just waiting. (Cancer patients do that a lot.) Then, I will walk over to one of two rooms where they have the PET scan. This part of the entire process does not take very long. It is shorter every time as technology improves. After I am done, I will find my way to a place where I can get a bite to eat. My usual post PET diet is a large amount of carbs. (Pancakes, lots of bread, fruits of all kinds.) I will eat my way through "carb-ville" and enjoy every moment of it. 

Then, the true test of patience begins. I wait .. again. This time. for the test results. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Ready for Publication

"High Maintenance" is ready for publication. The editing and proofing has been completed. Now, the search for a publisher begins.

I have been actively looking for options. I really want to go "big time" with my book. I know my readers include not only cancer survivors and their caregivers (families) but anyone with a chronic medical condition, anyone living with chronic pain (both physical and mental), those dealing with side effects from drugs and treatments, individuals with diabetes, asthma, osteoarthritis, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, pulmonary hypertension, sleep apnea; individuals who have dealt with the loss of a loved one; men and women dealing with relationship issues; and much more.

"High Maintenance" is more than a look into 12 years of my journey through life after a cancer diagnosis. It is a roller coaster / merry-go-round ride through my life and those around me who had to deal with the issues I also dealt with. I never stopped believing I would make it through those darkest hours, although there were those moments where I had doubts and fears. I faced those horrific experiences -- sometimes with laughter and jokes, other times with tears and genuine nightmares. Yes! I even thought the unthinkable for a brief time. When the pain (both physical and mental) became so much I could barely make it through an hour, I thought those deep, scary thoughts. It took much more than my supportive family and friends to get me through. I had a (and still do have) wonderful team of medical professionals standing by my side. After surgeries, radiation treatments, hormonal drugs, chemotherapy and much more... "Everyday in every way I am getting better and stronger."

If you know a publishing rep or a publisher, please contact me with that information. I have tried to find a rep, but apparently many of them are not accepting unsolicited manuscripts. With over 36 years of professional writing experience, I want to bring "High Maintenance" to the masses. I have readers nationwide (even worldwide) ready to read the book. I simply need help with the next step.

"High Maintenance" will make it to the top!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Reality Check: Copy for Book is Being Proofed / Edited

I need to keep reminding myself that it's really happening. My book "High Maintenance" is now in the proof reading stages. I have someone busy editing the copy for me and at this point, my mind is slowly beginning to ponder -- publication.

I haven't allowed myself this luxury before since I knew I needed to do the actual writing. If I thought about the "publishing" aspects before completing the manuscript, my mind would have begun wondering and not concentrating on the project itself. Thus, now I can begin thinking about publishing -- finding what route is right for me. Is there a publisher that will be interested? (I like to think so.) Can I find a rep? What about copyright law? (I do not understand legal stuff at all.) So many questions and yet, I am excited to finally be at this point. This has been a three-year long process. I feel like I'm giving "birth" and it's amazing!

If you do know a publisher, contact me. If you know anyone in the publishing business, let me know. I realize I can go the "self-publishing" route and that is certainly a possibility. However, I am very open to finding a publisher that would be interested in "High Maintenance." The individual editing my copy began reading it - and as she explained, became so "engrossed" in reading that she never "stopped" until she was finished. It was 4 a.m. when she completed the manuscript. Obviously, I was elated.

This journey began a few months after completing my play, Chemonologues. Needless to say, I am ready for the next step!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Fantastic News!

"High Maintenance .. Surviving Cancer at All Costs" is even closer to becoming a published book. I have completed the copy and I will be forwarding it onto a proofreader. After three long years, I have completed the manuscript.

At this point, I am still not sure how I will publish. There is certainly the "self-publishing" concept that I can investigate. My obvious choice would be a "big-time" publisher. So, if you know anyone (who knows anyone) at a publishing company let me know.

When I was at Temple University earning my BA degree in communications (Journalism) I barely made it through Law & Ethics of Mass Communication. My big concern is copyright laws. I had read (and re-read) information about this but I remain confused. Thus, again, if there is anyone out there who understands legal stuff (I consider it a foreign language) I would appreciate your help in this area. I would like to do everything right.

This is a huge undertaking for me. I have spent nearly three years working on this book. It began shortly after the completion of my play "Chemonologues." Once the play reading was done, my brain settled down a bit and I took about three months off from writing. But when I returned to the keyboard, I started writing copy under the heading of "getting better and stronger." The actual title came about a year later after talking with my son, Brian, and getting his approval.

I like "High Maintenance" because it is so true. I am on maintenance treatments for my cancer. I still go every 12 weeks for Zometa. I also still take an anti-estrogen every night. Thus, the maintenance aspect of the title. "High" -- well, the cost of these treatments is beyond anything I ever imagined. I have seen some "insane" invoices go past me. Maintaining a cancer-free status is not only difficult but it's expensive. So, "High Maintenance" sums it all up.

I can see the finish line. That alone is incredible. I do believe in "miracles."

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Book Nearing Completion

"High Maintenance... Surviving Cancer at All Costs" is in the final stages of development and is close to the point where I am now "talking about" and "planning" for its publication. It has been nearly three years since I sat down at the computer screen and began writing about my journey. I know that many of you have been anxious to see it published. Thus, I wanted to provide this update.

I am hard at work doing intense editing and re-writing of text. I have written the end, however, I still need to re-read and decide if I am happy with the entire piece as it is, or if I still need to do some additional writing. To publish "High Maintenance" will be the culmination of a lifelong dream. Although I have spent my entire adult life as a writer and have written lengthy pieces before (including guidebooks, etc.) this particular piece is, of course, a very personal look into me and my life over the past 12 years. There are things that even I have had to sit back and say "Wait. Did this really happen?" "Did I go through this pain?" "Did I really survive this?" As I read the text, I find that I am actually learning about my journey --- having tried to forget some of the things that occurred and yet, those very things have had a profound impact upon my life and how I am now. The person I have become as a result of all that has happened. Wow! If I can bring that story to life -- then "High Maintenance" will be a bestseller.

I do apologize for not writing more often. I began this blog to communicate with all of you - to share bits and pieces of my story. I must admit I got caught up in the book over the past six months. I am now working even harder each day to bring this book to life.

Thanks for your patience and understanding. If you know of a publishing company -- if you know a publisher -- if you know a publishing rep? I have considered self-publishing but of course, I would prefer a company published book and e-book. Ultimately that is my real goal.