I slide under the covers at ten.
At midnight I open my eyes, look at the clock, uncover myself for thirty seconds – the time it takes for the hot flash to vanish – and I resume sleeping.
Repeat at two. Then at four. Between five and six I finally get up and slide out of this misery.
On a resplendent Saturday afternoon, driving along the coast in Orange County, a commercial came on the radio for a famed Los Angeles hospital and its cutting edge breast cancer treatments.
“How does it feel, now, when you hear stuff like this?” the friend sitting next to me asks.
“A bit more personal” I answer. And leave it at that.
As a lover of all things old and odd that can be found on Netflix, last night I started watching a 1976 mini-series based on the Irwin Shaw’s book, Rich Man Poor Man whichI vaguely remember reading as a teenager under a boyfriend’s recommendation. At one point, the father of the Jordache brothers accuses his wife of being an old-looking 40 year old. I gasped. 40? I thought she was meant to be 60. Without the benefits of filter lighting, fillers or cosmetic surgery, the actress looked all of her maybe 45 to 50 years but I assumed she was much older, conditioned as I am to see only wrinkle-free faces on the screen.
If you are visiting Los Angeles, a walk along the Venice boardwalk is a must. Pastel-hued houses, the sun dipping into the ocean, Muscle Beach and souvenir shops is how the world imagines the Venice boardwalk to be. Whether you are paying much attention or not, you will also notice a high concentration of marijuana dispensaries, pharmacy-looking storefronts that often advertise the services of a doctor in the back or on an upper floor.
In the last five days I achieved my goal of doing as little as possible. Sort of.
I came to a lovely resort outside Tucson, Arizona, to see the desert in bloom. And to read. A few margaritas might have been in the cards too, to celebrate the end of radiation therapy.
Dogs in tow, I alighted at the Loews – a very pet friendly chain – not sure what to expect. In my mission of trying not to do, I didn’t even have some research under my belt: no restaurants I wanted to visit; no museums; no tourist landmarks that had to be seen. I didn’t even know what, if anything, was a must see in Tucson.
On Oscar Sunday, I finished a culinary project I started a couple of days earlier: a pear and almond Danish braid. Laminated dough, the one used to make croissants with, is a humongous pain in the neck: it requires an equal balance of resting, proofing and six, yes six, turns, i.e. rolling and folding and rolling again. But if you ever have the patience (and the stamina) to make it yourself, the reward is croissants that have absolutely nothing in common with what we are used to, even those who come from fancy bakeries.
It starts innocuously enough.
“Can you come in on Friday for a CAT scan? We need it to map your radiation.”
And off I go, to don one more pale blue hospital gown, black marks painted on my skin to guide the alignment for the radiation machine, chatting with yet another pleasant technician while I would rather be home with my nose in a book.
I am a touch envious of my sister who, inexplicably to me, is able to spend entire days on high heels. She puts them on to go to work and doesn’t take them off until she gets home, whatever time that might be. In between, she will have negotiated with either driving or with the Rome subway system; getting up and down from her desk job; foraging for lunch in the center of Rome and, possibly, an aperitif with her friends before trekking back home. She says she is comfortable and used to it. I find it hard to believe.
“You look so vibrant and healthy. May I ask – are you here for radiation therapy?”
I plop myself and my giant bag, a bottle of water and a banana on one of the pastel couches and I look up at the voice that has been addressing me. Slightly sweaty from a walk on the beach, on an unseasonably warm winter day, I am wearing my running outfit, and maybe the woman thought I came from the gym (I figured out quickly it’s a lot easier to hop on and off the radiation bed in sweats than a pencil skirt).