Saturday, November 22, 2014

Catching up with friends from Friends

My friends from the Friends Seminary class of 1972 try to see each other as often as we can. We talk and we text. When the larger group got together at reunion, we shared so much history that it seemed like we barely missed a beat. I got reacquainted with Dan Green and Sabrina Hamilton when we all ended up living in Western Mass., and he was kind enough to create my website, Ronnigordon.com that is invaluable for freelance writing. Same thing when we got together: Never missed a beat. I am so excited that in the next few days I will see two "old" friends who I haven't seen in ages. Tom Rosenfield is coming from Switzerland to visit relatives in New York, and I am going to meet up with him and some others tomorrow. Next week, Scott Miller will travel from West Virginia to Providence, R.I., also to see relatives, and since that is under two hours from me, I'm going to meet up with him there.

See if you can find me in our 11th grade class photo, top. In the bottom photo, it is easy to find me with my crazy hair. We are all holding our senior photos. I think Scott Miller is responsible for that one.

In any case, I'm heading down to New York today via my usual hop, skip and a jump, stopping in Fairfield, where Ben will take me to the Metro North.

Last time I wrote that I was heading to the Old Country – what some of us Jews call New York – my friends here with roots on the Emerald Isle thought I meant Ireland!

But it is actually my own old country, where I feel at home the moment I step into Grand Central Station.

My room looks like it has been hit by a hurricane because I tore it apart last night looking for something to wear out to dinner. Even though I know that the house you leave is the house to which you return and it is nice not to come back to a mess, I am going to shut the door and get on the road as soon as possible so I will have time to do my favorite run around the Central Park reservoir before having dinner with my cousins.

Tomorrow: Dim Sum in Chinatown, then a visit with my aunt Marge and Bill before coming back.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Never tidy up

Katie returned a call last night as I was lying in bed reading: 10:45 my time and an hour earlier in Minneapolis. This was fine because she knows I stay up that late and also because we cracked each other up, which was a good tonic for some (minor) things that are bothering me.

Basically I made her laugh which then made me laugh, and as we know laughter is a good kind of contagious.

The topic was my failure to find the big bag in which I put winter stuff last spring: mittens and gloves and hats and scarves. Usually these things stay in overflowing bins in the coat closet. I thought I was doing a good thing by bagging everything up for the summer. But I cannot find that bag anywhere. I had to break down in Northampton and buy a hat even though my favorite one is in that bag someplace. So is a beautiful chenille scarf of my mothers that I love to wear.

In telling Katie this, I said, "Never tidy up. You will never find anything again."

She thought it was hilarious advice from a mother who like most others always said, "Clean up your room!"

I said I meant tidy up as you go of course but never do something so major.

"Sorry," she said. "I already wrote it down."

It will now go in the book of "Momisms" along with my famous exhortation, while giving them the lecture about never getting in a car with a driver who is drunk, to "Never get in a car with anyone who drives!' which is not exactly what I meant.

Katie asked if I had looked in the Scary Closet. This is a closet in our dining room that runs deep under the stairs where it is too dark to see much. Things get tossed in there and then get lost and sometimes found. I bought my friend Margaret the perfect Life is Good T-shirt for her 60th birthday, then threw it in there but forgot so I had to buy her another one in a different color.

It was the little Jake character saying "I dig everything" with a picture of a trowel and flowers, perfect for Margaret because she likes to garden. Recently I benefited – or rather Margaret benefited – from a tidying up of that closet when I found the first one and gave it to her. There was so much stuff in there that as I sat on the floor tossing long-lost things onto the dining room floor, I was engulfed and not sure how to get out.

Another reason for it being the Scary Closet is that there is a crucifix hanging on the wall. Even though I am Jewish I am afraid to throw it out. I do not want to bring down any bad luck.

Speaking of superstition, I have just turned a glass upside down on the kitchen counter. A friend told me that this is the way to find lost objects. I am determined to have better results today.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Moving along

A funny thing happened on my way into the Holyoke YMCA's gym yesterday.

I was looking for the regular 45-minute exercise class but instead walked into a two-hour Fitness Marathon that was happening instead. Not knowing what was in store, I started to back out, but one of the friendly instructors told me to give it a try. She also said that of course I did not need to stay for the whole thing.

Well, I stayed for an hour and a quarter and discovered a couple of things. I can do cardio kickboxing even though I had told friends it was not for me. I can actually do multiple jumping jacks (although not doubles), which is an accomplishment considering that a while back when my friend Jo (personal trainer and nurse!) gave me a workout program and said to do jumping jacks, I couldn't even get my feet off the ground.

Knowing the value of not falling down, I marched in place when there was too much jumping around.

Today I rejoined the Wednesday tennis round robin and was happy to see everyone. A few of us talked about our aches and pains and then one of the women said, "Look at us!" My contribution to the conversation is that my toe still hurts, and the podiatrist's conclusion is that it is arthritis.

This is hard to treat because I am not allowed to take anti-inflammatories. A physical therapist is working on it. Also I bought  Triflora arthritis gel at Whole Foods. I don't know if this homeopathic gel will work, but I liked the looks of it.

A friend pointed out to me at tennis that after what I've been through, a painful toe is nothing.

This of course is true, but it is also true that I complained more loudly about my other foot problem – plantar fasciitis – than I ever complained about leukemia.

In any case I had three fun matches, each one basically tied, and I don't feel any worse for wear.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Reality star's death strikes a nerve




From left: Alicia Quarles, Diem Brown, Kara DioGuardi
First thing yesterday morning, a tab slid onto my computer screen offering STORIES THAT MIGHT INTEREST YOU. The headline read, "Reality star Diem Brown dies after cancer battle."

These alerts are often annoying, but the genie in the computer guessed correctly that I would click on a story with the word cancer in it.

The story, from USA Today, was that Diem Brown, a star of MTV's Real World/Road Rules Challenge died Friday at 32 from ovarian cancer.

Brown had first been diagnosed with ovarian cancer at age 23, and it had returned twice, in 2006 and in 2012, and a third time earlier this year.

I had never heard of Diem Brown and had never watched any reality show let alone this one.  But I was still touched when I saw the photos of this beautiful woman and saw when she endured.

Brown had chronicled her fight in a blog for People.com, becoming an advocate for cancer patients and founding MedGift, a support registry for those suffering from any illness.

Diem Brown
The charity provides a way for patients to create a gift registry so that loved ones can contribute money and time to help a patient cope with treatment or ease a financial burden. It also provides tools to create and promote support pages for people with cancer or any health-related need and has a space where readers can ask questions that are answered by a panel of experts.

On her blog, Brown wrote about her cancer treatments, her desire for a family and children, her fertility treatments, and about her struggles, fears and hopes. She competed in one competition just after finishing a round of treatment, taking off her wig.

In looking at why this resonated with me, I thought back to our Districts championships in August 2003, when I competed (and won) with my tennis partner Donna in between rounds of chemotherapy just before my first stem cell transplant. I asked her if I should keep my scarf on or show my bald head as a way to throw our opponents off balance. I think it was a joke. In any case I wore the scarf. (I never could deal with that wig.) Also I had pneumonia at the time but it was a fungal ball on my lung that was contained by a pill I was taking. Also after that I had to go almost straight back to the hospital to have that thing removed.

But anyway, back to where I was:

Unlike leukemia, which is curable, ovarian cancer is often fatal because it is difficult to detect until it is too late.

A story like this, in addition to making you feel terrible about a life ended so early, can send shivers up and down your spine. It is a reminder that you can do the right things health-wise and still get hit. (Example: Me.)

Still, I’m taking a moment to appreciate what this woman did by putting her energy into helping others rather than just talking the talk, putting herself out there in a popular venue such as People

(Certain people like myself might not admit to liking the magazine, but watch us go right for it in check-out lines, doctors offices and airports, and see us welcome it to leaf through when we’re not feeling well.)

She had good messages, such as:

"No matter what it is, you're going to have the bad days, but if you have hope throughout, you won, no matter what the results.”

Friday, November 14, 2014

Pointing to another weird problem

Most times recently when I've seen my friend Jo – Nurse Jo – I have a medical question or request.

Lately it has been taking out the stitches that I got when having squamous cell cancers removed. Last night, as were leaving her house after book club, I said I couldn't go without asking her something medical.

So I showed her the fingernail on my left pointer finger. The skin around it is red, inflamed and painful. She said it is definitely infected and I should call my doctor. I did that today and he is phoning in a prescription for the antibiotic levaquin. I am also supposed to soak it.

I was trying to figure out how this might have happened and I think maybe it was when I was pulling dead annuals out of the garden and cutting back perennials. Maybe I caught it on something prickly.

Is the moral of that story
(a) wear gloves,
(b) let it wait until spring, or
(c) get somebody else to do it?

My whole left axis is out of whack; the left big toe still hurts even after I got a cortisone shot. My podiatrist suggested wearing the boot when possible. The physical therapist who I am seeing for something else also worked on it.

Putting faith in the saying that laughter is the best medicine, I'm looking forward to attending Jokes for Jimmy, a Jimmy Fund event, tonight at the Log Cabin, featuring Mike O’Brien, Sean McCarthy, Tumbling Jack Walsh and Lenny Clarke.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

After transplant, new relationships

Bubbe and baby
My donor is a new grandmother.

What does that make me?

Technically, of course, no relation, but it is interesting to contemplate the bonds generated after a bone marrow transplant.

It surprised me at first to learn that after transplant my blood type would change to Denise's, but then it did make sense. Out with the old, in with the new.

 It is a strange, and in this case, wonderful new world where two people previously unrelated now share something so vital as a common blood type.

We email from time to time and so I knew that she her son, Jordan, and daughter-in-law Kayla were expecting. But I didn't know the due date. On the the day last week that I wrote to ask for an update, baby Aviva Esther had arrived two days earlier.

Maybe we have a psychic connection as well.

Aviva Esther
I am happy for her like I would be for a friend.

But we are at the same time more than friends and less than friends.

It is a brain-twister.

Yet one thing's for sure: My mazel tov was heartfelt, and I loved looking at the pictures of that beautiful new life.


Sunday, November 9, 2014

No cell phone, no phone calls

My cell phone is dead, and although I have a land line, it hardly does me any good. Since I know very few numbers by heart, I won't be making many calls until I get it looked at tomorrow.

Tapping a name in your contacts list means never having to memorize a phone number.  Even if you tried, it would be hard to do since they are all just a meaningless string of numbers.

It makes me nostalgic for the days when phone numbers began with exchange names that made some sense.

The upper east side of Manhattan, where I lived, was ATwater 9, so we were AT9-8875. (Really 289, but we always used the letters.) After our parents finally gave in to our pestering over getting a "kids'" line, we added AT9-9089. My mother's jewelry store – Lynne's Speciality Shop at 1288 Lexington Ave. but just The Store to us – was AT9-6919.

I can still remember all or part of my high school friends' numbers.

Pam was (and is) Eldorado 5 -3182. Emily's began with ORegon 4 (OR4-6101). Nancy was SPring 7 (SP7-4961) and my old boyfriend was ALgonquin 4 something or other. (OK, I'll admit it, I still know the whole thing: AL4-2588.) The friends who lived in the Gramercy Park area had, of course, GR for Gramercy.

In a piece in The Huffington Post, Erica Jong wrote,  "When I first started making phone calls in the fifties, anyone could tell where a friend lived by the telephone exchange office in which actual telephone operators sat – like Lily Tomlin as her iconic comic character, Ernestine.


"My family was Endicott 2. We lived on the Upper West Side across from the Museum of Natural History... How mnemonic it was to have Audubon and Academy and Nightingale, Hunter 2 in Great Neck and Tremont 2 in the Bronx. There was Plaza 1, 2, 4 etc. and you could visualize your friend in Great Neck or the Bronx or the lower East Side – ORchard whatever for Orchard Street. Villagers were Spring 2. And my high school boyfriend was TRemont something. I am ashamed not to be able to remember the digit.

"Now New York City is full of people from ELsewhere who remember none of this because they were born in the Age of Numerals."

Almost to her dying day – even when she was sick in bed – my mother prided herself on being able to recite her whole address book.

I bet nobody could do that these days.