That’s a lot of money, right? Or maybe it’s not that much. It’s too expensive for a t-shirt, but pretty reasonable for a wine-fueled lunch for four. $100 pays the babysitter when we’re out too late, or the airport garage when we’re too lazy to bus in from the remote lot. Those red envelopes always have a Benjamin or two inside. Sometimes I find them at the bottom of whatever purse was seasonal during Chinese New Year and it’s a fun little $100 surprise. And then I’ll just use those crisp bills to pay for play date pizzas, or Halloween candy, or another stockpile of phone chargers.

$100. Is it a lot of money? Sometimes. Could it change a day, a week, a life… a Church? Maybe. Maybe it could.

Recently I had a rare and delicious afternoon alone with Zealot Sister. We’re hardly ever together, and never alone. But we were visiting Aunt Billie for her 80th birthday bash weekend and the two of us stole away for a bit of shopping. Midwestern Law dictates that if a quorum of female cousins assembles, a trip to Kohl’s is mandatory. So we did that. But first, it was just Paige and me in the fancy shopping district of Columbus, Ohio buying unnecessary and unnecessarily expensive stuff.

As I fed the meter with stray, bottom-of-the-purse quarters, a young woman approached.

“Can I bother you for some change? I’m so hungry.”

Who has cash, though… am I right? I was already digging for meter money, so she could obviously see how currently cash-free I was. But then I remembered my secret stash—the bill I squirreled away after the $10 fiasco. So I gave it to her.


I didn’t know her or her story. And like most people, I’m leery of strangers in general and especially street-dwellers violating my personal space. I hardly have a habit of giving away money in such an unplanned, impulsive manner. And I’m sure even as I was handing over the money, I wanted the whole exchange to end quickly because I’m a horrible person and loathe any reminder of ugliness or pain in the world.

“I have no idea why I did that.” I said to Zealot Sister as she looked at me all beatifically and quoted Scripture from memory because Zealot Sister isn’t called Zealot Sister just because it’s fun to call her Zealot Sister.

“Britt, she said she was hungry.”


It wasn’t the last request we received on the mean streets of Columbus. And even though I truly had no cash left to give, I wouldn’t have anyway. First of all, I am a horrible person. Also, no one else was hungry.

Is $100 a lot of money? For some, it is always a lot of money. For fewer people, it might not be. For a lucky handful of us, maybe it would be easy to give $100 away all of the time. Not every single day–though wouldn’t that be super fun? But what about once a week, or at least those weeks when you’re in the pews praying for a safer world and protection of the hungry people who have no home or country or shoes or hope. How about sending $100 along with those thoughts and prayers. Not every day; some days there’s only change in the bottom of the purse. But maybe today is the day to give away the emergency bill—because someone else has a greater emergency.

Is $100 too much? For me, it’s not. For me, $100 is the happiest check I write each week. I put $100 in the Church plate to travel along with my prayers for a broken world, hurting friends, and to accompany one thousand thank yous for the life I have. $100 sounds cheap for that sort of thing. To me, anyway.

There are 175 of us who pledge regularly at Church. I assume most people who send in that yearly Stewardship check sit in the pews at least 20 of the 52 weeks of the liturgical year, even with summers off and unavoidable skiing. I wonder… what if all of us dropped $100 into the plate each week along with our prayers for hope and healing? Is it too much? Is it enough to be considered tithing? Is it too little and we’re already sending a yearly pledge so purse change is sufficient for any given Sunday?

The math tells us it could change everything. $100 from some of us, some of the weeks could add up to $350,000 a year, or just exactly the shortfall between what we collect and what we need to keep our Church growing, current, music-filled, and just the way we love it. Is that a coincidence? Not to me.

$100. Is that a lot of money? Is it too much to give a hungry girl on the street, a faraway stranger with no home, programs helping kids living in public housing or those with no homes at all, initiatives to make all of our public spaces inclusivefunds for cancer research, the local food pantry, or to drop into the offertory plate? That’s for you to decide. Giving Tuesday is December 1st. Where is your $100 (or $10 or $100,000) going to go?

Share your $100 stories… the ones that remind us we are One Community responsible for feeding all who ask.


Please add links in the comments to your favorite causes and tell us why you would happily part with your emergency Benjamin to further its mission.


Eye-rolling past the memes…

Some mornings, our social media sites are less “hey, look at my kid/cat/foliage/punk art show” and more a shout-y tangle of would be televangelists attempting to grow their ministries. The goal isn’t really for discussion and sharing, but for agreement and accolades. Another evening of Republicans on must-see-TV will cause another flurry of what Steve Safran called “shouting into the echo chamber.” If the end game of that anti-Obama rant, your Stand with Planned Parenthood celebrity re-posts, or your War on Christmas battle cry is conversion of readers, well, you’re going to need better memes. Alternatively, you could scrap those and just post a quickie recipe or puppy-scared-of the-Roomba. Those are always good.

Though I’m beholden and flattered that any of you read this drivel, I am embarrassed by my own contribution to a Look At Me/Think Like Me society. Admittedly, barring rants against the Pinking of October, these blurbs are really nothing more than navel-gazing. And I’ve written it before: I’m politically purple and cannot muster the level of disgust and indignation apparently necessary for launching opinions into the ether. My most controversial belief is that colored Christmas lights are an abomination. Really, quit it with those.

I am quite public about being Church-y, though, and this might be the most provocative thing about me. At a recent meeting with civic-minded volunteers for a fabulous program helping kids in public housing, I “joked” that we should open with prayer. This was received with good-natured, mock horror. And I loved that. Strong opinions shared without humility, humor, balance, or thoughtfulness sadden and worry me. And kindness is sorely lacking in those tweets and updates belittling Belief or angrily supporting a specific worldview. Is there room in your sphere for those who don’t always recycle, for those who love Church or wouldn’t darken its doors, or for someone who thinks meat is murder or that life begins at conception? Is it really so important to try to convert your social media followers? And when did we become so groupthink-y and sensitive?

When strong beliefs are assumed to be commonly held and are shouted angrily into the interspaces, I react like an eye-rolling and embarrassed-for-you teenager, “I’m so sure you, like, care enough to post that. Dork.”

Divisiveness is as unproductive as it is un-loving. None of us has a firm hold on absolute truths. No one is persuasive enough to convince you that Bernie Sanders is our savior or that Matt Walsh has a point. We have ridiculously strong opinions about the Christmassyness of our coffee cups. OUR COFFEE CUPS. So maybe let’s share more of the things that unite us and do our darndest to quiet the earnestly and easily irritated folk who would pit us against each other… by ignoring them. (Dorks.)

I love John Atkinson

I love John Atkinson…

Humiliation Hall of Fame

Does everyone spend a portion of the night awake in bed replaying all embarrassing moments? It can’t be just me. Anyone else have a Humiliation Hall of Fame that plays as a closed loop of highly edited memories when the room goes dark? Here are some gems from my highlight reel:

My crush and his ex-girlfriend rekindling their romance right after I delivered that flirty note.

Referring to my research project as “sexy” to the unamused Harvard interviewer.

Ignoring all signs that the elderly man was more randy than charming and awkwardly escaping his open-mouthed, grabby advances with backpedaling apologies for being married.

Debuting my spot on seagull imitation to partygoers who were more accustomed to girls with cherry stem tongue knot or leg-behind-ear talents. (Never was invited back to that frat house.)

These memories flood many a pre-REM moment. Sometimes the recollection of past blunders is so vivid that I actually recoil and conk Bernie in the head or loose a shiver of mortified regret that makes him fear there’s a spider in the bed. I hope we were all too drunk to remember me nicknaming that surgeon Asshole Khaki Pants. Maybe it wasn’t that awful when my charming repartee prompted, “I have a girlfriend.” Are all of you occasionally (if not as frequently) ridiculous as I am?

I hope so. Sharing the errant gaffe is the good stuff of late night cocktail parties. And those with consistently impeccable manners and good judgment are laudable, but rarely the ones to whisper with you in dark corners. And I’m a whisper in dark corners kind of girl.

Recently I learned there’s an extra level to the heights of humiliation I can reach because my husband is a plastic surgeon. Just as interior designers have gorgeous furnishings and computer scientists wield the latest iThings, plastic surgeons have injectables. And plastic surgeons like Bernie have a prop patient for poisons and lasers. I promised to love, cherish, and submit to wrinkle-zapping and fat-freezing till death do us part. Apparently.

Having your own, personal (and lovely, talented, and generally awesome) aesthetic guru shouldn’t be anything short of delightful. But I can make even simple forehead smoothing ridiculous. Here’s some handy advice: don’t go swimming after Botox. At the very least, maybe don’t squeeze goggles around your toxin-filled eye sockets and expect fantastic results. Luckily, only one lid drooped… and only for a week or so… and I’m sure no one thought my travel mug was brimming with vodka or anything. I may have appeared concussive, but I looked young, dammit.

Recently, I killed at Garden Club, winning first prize for my dahlias for the third year running. And I don’t even lift my tubers. This should have been a totally not embarrassing day. I arrived early to help other garden clubbers match genera and species to their cuttings. I chatted up other flower fanatics over buttery baked goods and coffee. I wore the girliest of dresses and it was all lovely lovely lovely. Skipping around in my cashmere ruana oohing and ahhing over foliage and photos and fall arrangements, I had completely forgotten that Bernie had attacked my lower lids with the handheld laser the night before.

To be clear, Bernie doesn’t zap me because I’m not already stunning (duh), but because the new laser is a fun new gadget. And boys must test fun new gadgets! There’s something about being a Mom that makes one forget to look really closely in the mirror. With just a smidgen of attention and a bit of concealer, I could have avoided attending Garden Club looking like an Athletic Warrior for the Cure wearing pink-hued eye-black. Until Bernie suggested I don sunglasses, I had spent an entire morning twirling around town Ridiculously Unaware. (The garden clubbers were too polite to inquire about my crosshatched half moons of sunburn.) Friends who are as vain as I am swear they would love to have live-in staff willing to zap away the years. Maybe they’d be smart enough to forgo the goggles or attack crow’s feet on the weekends.

I’m not.

The best beauty treatment probably isn’t found in a syringe or de-wrinkling light saber, at all– but in a long and restful night of sleep. And I plan to implement this regimen. Real quick. Right after I relive decades of ill-timed waterfowl impressions and other embarrassments. Sleep well, my pretties.

The quality of my impression was entirely wasted on the brothers....

The quality of my squawking was entirely wasted on the brothers….

A Guide for Post-Cancer Patients and their Caregivers, by Steve Safran

First, a thank you. I am overwhelmed by the reception I received for my article “After the cure, the cry.” Britt tells me 1,000 people read it. Many people—friends and strangers– have contacted me and shared their personal stories with cancer, recounting their own illness or remembering a family member who went through it.

Grappling with my own, complicated emotions in the post-treatment period, I found a great many resources out there for people suffering through “Cancer-Related Post-traumatic Stress.” The important message in all of these is this: You are not alone. These words from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) ring true.

“Symptoms of post-traumatic stress usually begin within the first 3 months after the trauma, but sometimes they do not appear for months or even years afterwards.”

(Mine began about three days after learning I was in remission.)

I kept asking myself, “I’m in remission. So why do I feel so miserable?” The NCI list of key triggers for PTSD made me wonder how anyone escapes this. As a cancer patient, you’re hit with a series of terrifying events, any one of which would be stressful. Combine them, and they make a mighty cocktail of traumatic triggers:

– Being diagnosed with a life-threatening illness

– Receiving treatment

– Waiting for test results

– Learning the cancer has recurred

To that, I would add that only doctors on TV ever say, “You’re cured!” so we live with “Learning the cancer may recur.”

Side bar from Britt: Still reeling from these events, you can imagine how odd and occasionally irritating all of these Stay Strong Be Positive Awareness campaigns can be. With everyone gleefully praising the bravery and strength of cancer patients, while walking their own healthy bodies all over town for a happy cure, we might feel a bit of guilt or anger that we’re unable to pretend it’s all over. We might have (temporarily) beat cancer into some undetectable submission, but it is an albatross to our peace.

Cancer patients aren’t the only ones subject to PTSD. Caregivers are susceptible, too.

“PTSD can also affect caregivers. Learning that a loved one has cancer, seeing a loved one in pain, and experiencing a medical emergency are traumatic events that may contribute to the development of PTSD symptoms during treatment or years after the person has survived the cancer.”

So families and caregivers need support, too. For me, cancer was a full participation, family event. My parents, my sister, and of course, my kids weren’t shielded from the times I was in pain or scared. We’ll need to keep “checking in” to gauge the fallout of this on each one of us. I hadn’t put a lot of thought into how my disease would influence their feelings in the future. Now I will.

What should we do about this? Is there a way to proactively safeguard our loved ones in the aftermath? Actually, yes. There are a few recommended steps. The first is everyone should have an opportunity to talk to a psychiatrist. Having a trained professional define the trauma and help identify its effects on your worldview can be enormously helpful. Also a doctor can and will, if necessary, prescribe medication. It’s been my experience, so far, that making sense of things with a psychiatrist is as much a part of healing as growing new hair. Holding in feelings of any sort is not healthy. Exorcizing those thoughts with a trained professional– not just your friends– is the way to metabolize them. This is just as important for caregivers and loved ones to consider as well. While your best friend or loyal sister is a great listener, a third party relieves her of trying to comfort and be comforted: You can’t be the patient and the therapist.

Another way to heal? Mindfulness. I’ve only just started to learn about this, so forgive me for being new to the effectiveness of this practice. Mindfulness, to be reductive, is yoga and meditation without all the New Age, crystal-waving, stand-on-one-leg, astrology-reading bits. And there is scientific proof that it works:

“A controlled study published in 2000 looked at 90 cancer patients who did mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) meditation for 7 weeks. They found that people who meditated had 31% lower stress symptoms and 67% less mood disturbance than people who did not meditate.”

I love controlled studies. They beat the heck out of well-meaning friends who say, “I have a cousin who only eats pomegranates and he’s been in remission for 30 years.” I went so far as to switch to a specialist trained in mindfulness and meditation. Mindfulness isn’t faith-based, and doesn’t actually require that you post inspirational quotes over blurry skies on Facebook. A good friend observed: “So those cultures that have been doing this for thousands of years probably knew something after all?” Go figure.

If you are in cancer recovery or in caregiver remission, please pay attention to signs of PTSD, take advantage of the many resources available to you, and never forget that you are not alone. I’m overstating the point, but as I’ve said before: “You think the treatment is bad? Wait until you’re cured!”

Britt cannot resist science puns...

Britt cannot resist science puns…

After the Cure, the Cry… by Steve Safran

I broke down crying in Target today. Just started blubbering. People must have thought I was really upset they were out of the $9.99 sale sweatshirts.

This will be heavy. This is not the usual, lighthearted stuff I want to write. But this blog has always been weirdly honest, even when Britt and I have been at our jokiest. I like to think we’ve put stuff out there that’s tough to discuss, and more uncomfortable to admit. And right now, things are difficult for me.

I didn’t cry much during treatment for testicular cancer. Not when I was diagnosed. Not when I was in pain. Not when I spent endless hours in the hospital, frustrated at the lack of attention, information, or prompt pain management. Hardly a tear. Now that I’m in remission and feeling well enough to shop for sweatshirts at Target?

I can’t stop crying.

During the Battle of Britain in 1940, as Londoners were faced with being obliterated by the Luftwaffe, the incidence of mental illness dropped. Fewer people visited psychiatrists. Even as the Germans tried to kill them, Britons actually experienced less stress and need for psychiatric care. You can chalk that up to the famous British stiff upper lip, but it’s likely something more universal: when you’re under attack, you don’t have time to worry.

This is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Soldiers don’t get depressed in the field. But for years after– even for the rest of their lives— they can be haunted by the trauma they saw and endured. It’s only after the battle is done that your mind takes a beat: “Hey. Wait. What just happened?”

Thus, me, cancer… and the crying.

Right up to the moment they were rolling me into the operating room, I felt absolutely fearless. I was even indignant that the surgeon was running late. I was pretty drugged up, but I know, I absolutely know, I didn’t feel scared at that moment. I said, “Let’s do this” with all the bravado of a warrior. Let’s go in and smoke out the enemy. The camo was on, the war paint was smeared, and I had readied myself for battle, albeit wearing a backless nightie in a sterile room with polite nurses and soft rock.

Of course, I had an initial cry of relief. The release. It felt good. Someone with CT scan results and authority said, “remission,” that no more treatment was needed, and boy was that cry-worthy. But within just a couple of days, I switched into a very different gear. And things got dark. And I started to think…

My body tried to kill me. Twice.

First it betrayed me with cancer, and then a week later it attacked me with a pulmonary embolism. I’m having a hard time forgiving my body for that. To be struck by an enemy soldier is one thing; to be attacked from within? My body tried to kill me and when it wasn’t successful the first time, it tried again.


Now my body has scars. They embarrass me and they will never go away. I have had far more difficult emotional days since being cured than I did while undergoing chemo. I have hospital flashbacks, picturing needles and bags full of chemicals and it’s all horrible like some sort of far-off, war-torn jungle. Also, now I get a lot of eye boogers. Apparently chemo messes with your tear ducts. Not enough to stop the crying, apparently, but another daily reminder that I needed tear duct-poisoning medicines to ensure my survival.

I’m getting help. I talk with a psychiatrist who says he’s a “big fan of crying.” I see what he means. It metabolizes the pain. Crying is the most human response to all of the loss: losing parts of my body and, at least for now, any sort of confidence that it won’t betray me again.

There is appreciative crying, too. These tears spring from a different place. I think back on all the people who helped me–  all of the people who volunteered their time or simply gave a thumbs up to a posting. Cancer can remind you that you’re actually very loved, and the overwhelming gratitude in the aftermath makes it occasionally hard to speak without choking up.

It has been about four weeks since I learned the chemo worked. And I’ve gone from crying all the time to maybe once a day. So maybe there’s something to this business after all. It’s not manly, at least not in the traditional “suck it up and be a man” sense. But I think I get a little leeway on the “manly” front after getting the kind of cancer that requires the removal of an intimate chunk of physical manliness. The chunk, by the way, that was trying to kill me.

How do I forgive my body for attempted suicide? How do I come to terms with forever being branded a “cancer survivor,” or letting go a carefree notion that serious illness is something that happens to old people that aren’t me? How the hell do I get over this?

I don’t know. For now, I cry.

Happy, grateful crying when Stevie got the good news.

Happy, grateful crying when Stevie got the good news. Also, another example of how nurses are awesome.

WTF, by Steve Safran

An oft-viewed post on this little site is What to Say to Someone with Cancer. That gets a lot of hits as October nears and everything from eggbeaters to sock garters is dipped dyed pink as otherwise good people Sympathize for Awareness. The best reaction to my crap news was similar to Steve’s. Matt phoned just to say, “FUCK. Should we go get drunk?” Stevie outlines the reasons why these expletives are the best.

Of all the reactions I received telling people I had cancer, the most empathetic came from my cousin, Gregg. He called right after he heard the news.

“WHAT THE FUCK?” said Gregg, getting right to the point.

It was absolutely the right thing to say. That’s not to discount the many sympathetic calls I got in those early days. People expressed their love, concern, prayers, and hope for my speedy recovery. And that was nice. It’s just, well, “What the fuck?” was on a closed, repeating loop in my head and it was a relief to hear it aired aloud. Gregg nailed it.

Hence, the difference between empathy and sympathy.

Sympathy says, “I’m sorry to hear it. But you’ll get better.”

Empathy says, “I’m coming over.”

Sympathy says, “Don’t cry. You’ll be fine.”

Empathy says, “Cry. This is something to cry about. I’m getting more Kleenex.”

Sympathy says, “I know you’ll be fine. I had a friend who had this, and he got better.”

Empathy says, “Scootch over. Let’s watch Netflix.”

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with sympathy. Sympathy comes from a good place. And oddly, a cancer diagnosis quickly reveals that there are people who actually struggle with sympathy. These are the ones who say stuff like “At least you don’t have double cancer” or other it-could-be-worse scenarios. They say, “You should stay positive” or “Get over it” when you’re sad. When was the last time you “got over” anything—much less cancer— on demand? “Let it go” is another doozy. Oh, I was going to hang on and stay scared and angry, but since you said “Let it go,” I’m just gonna let it go. Thanks. Who wants to go for sushi?

Empathy doesn’t require solutions. It doesn’t even want them. “What the fuck?” says a whole lot. It says, “I’m mad, too,” “This sucks,” “I hear you,” and it respects a shitty moment with appropriately angry humor. Sympathizers are sorry, and you’ll feel that; but empathizers are already pouring you three fingers of scotch or queuing up Breaking Bad episodes.

People will try to come up with solutions when there aren’t any. This is human and forgivable– it comes from a feeling of helplessness. But there’s a better way to help: don’t make any suggestions at all. A cancer patient (or someone who’s depressed or stressed or addicted or mourning or any number of afflictions) is already losing sleep over possible solutions. What helps is having someone just to be there and share those uncomfortable feelings.

“Why the fuck is this happening to me?”

“I have no idea. Sucks, though. And I hate that it is.”


Breast-feeding request brings out the worst in people… by Steve Safran

All Kara Sassone wants is a place for women to breastfeed or pump at Gillette Stadium. As any lactating mom will tell you, even if you don’t bring your tiny child to the game, you’ll probably need to pump by halftime. So, Kara started a petition online. WBZ (the CBS affiliate in Boston) picked up the story and ran it on the news, which I expected would garner lots of support. Maybe some knuckle-dragging men would balk, but surely the women would support this, right? Even a “portable pod” accommodation without need for any substatial stadium real estate could be an easy, affordable solution. Providing a safe, clean spot for a breast-feeding mom hardly distracts from the entertainment at hand. Other stadiums have made this accommodation, after all. It’s not a major request, right? RIGHT?

Except that it is.

At this point, I should disclose that Kara is my friend, and I’m surprised and saddened that her pro-family, pro-Patriots, pro-breast-feeding request would inspire hate mail and nastygram posts. Kara is a kind person. She is also a mother of twins, a great mom, and a huge sports fan. She is fun, funny, and not the sort of person who demands stuff just because she’s the only mom who ever existed. There’s my bias. But if you met her, it would be yours as well.

The obvious, less vitriolic counterpoint to Kara’s request is that football games at Gillette are no place for babes at the breast. There’s some truth to that– I won’t even bring my young teens. It’s become a nasty place with some chance of witnessing drunken brawls, vomiting, and filthy language. But first of all, our sporting venues aren’t really in the business of policing parenting styles. Second, even moms who left babies at home with a sitter might need to pump during the game. Third, there are plenty of “family friendly” events at Gillette besides football games. Fourth, there are likely Gillette employees who might benefit from a private place to feed or pump. Fifth, OH MY GOD, THERE ARE TOO MANY REASONS WHY IT’S A GREAT IDEA THAT HARMS NO ONE.

Many of the responses to Kara’s request are, at worst, so awful they will make you hate mankind. Womankind, too. And there is the surprising part for me, a guy. I might expect the sports radio call-in types to be jackasses. But women are being pretty vicious, too. To what end?

Take a look at the Facebook post.

Here’s a sampling of comments from both genders:

Marybeth Michaelson: Stay home selfish mother and care for your infant, the infant deserves a calm, peaceful, comfortable home environment. Bringing an infant to Gillette for any reason, DCF should be investigating (you)…

Steve Link: What’s next tranny bathrooms?

Cindy Burns: I nursed both of my kids and never pumped, never had any of these issues, didn’t try to bring them places they didn’t belong.

Patrick Moore: Maybe if you decide to have kids you should be able to deal with the fact that you won’t be able to do all of the things you used to do and just stay home

Sally Donaldson Taylor: The world does not need to bow to you as if you were the first and only woman to give birth…. Suck it up Buttercup

And so on. Yes, there are messages of support…

Wendi Ankney: Such misogynistic hate in this comment section. We were all born from a woman… The baby doesn’t have to be AT THE GAME. Women who breastfeed have to pump on a schedule. It’s illegal to force the use of a restroom to do so.

Stephen Tuck Jr.: YES!!! Every stadium in the country should have one.

Matthew Baughn: Why wouldn’t you cater to the ones who use your facilities? If you (host) events that encourage mothers with young children to attend, you’d better make their experience safe and healthy.

However, you really need to cherry pick the comments to find the supportive mentions. The comments I selected from naysayers were the least offensive, to be honest. And, mind you, these are people posting under their real names.

I have to believe this nonsense falls under the greater category of “breasts make people crazy.”  Note how bananas people get about breastfeeding in public. Note how social media will censor pictures of breastfeeding women. Note how even a quick flash of a breast (or, gasp, a baby feeding there) will bump up a movie’s rating.

Kara Sassone wants a place to feed and pump while she’s at the stadium. Football has been vicious to women this year. Robert Kraft, on the other hand, is a generous and thoughtful person. Get this done.

Even teeny Pats fans get hungry at the game...

Even teeny Pats fans get hungry at the game…


At the beginning of the summer, new research revealed what all of us in the Shitty Sorority already knew: Cancer makes you fat. It was a relief to read it in peer-reviewed writing instead of hearing my oncologist tell me that I’m just “menopausal” or “can never, ever eat bread again” or I should “exercise more.” Doctors and CrossFitters and SoulCyclers will also go on and on and on about this “exercise” fad, but I’ve found most everything that elevates my resting heart rate is unpleasant and sweaty. And I’m a lady. Sadly, my go-to weight management plan that included an evening bottle of Prosecco and magical thinking wasn’t working. But I maintained great faith that persistent fatness could certainly be fixed by doing something from the couch.

All of us have at least one Facebook friend posting before-and-after midriff miracle work, and attributing it to the probiotics they are peddling. These earnest salespeople promise the shedding of pounds as their power pills button up leaky intestines and soothe fat-inspiring inflammation. During graduate school, I spent four years dissecting Peyer’s Patches from mouse guts and have a fundamental understanding of microbiology. So, I stopped mocking the pseudo-medical speak long enough to wonder if maybe all of those poisons and steroids I took during treatment repopulated my innards with an eviler blend of bacteria that never want me to wear skinny jeans. I went to the Organic Market to ask Chad which probiotic would allow me to squeeze back into my size 2s the quickest.

Chad was very helpful and steered me to the packets of pills that don’t require refrigeration or put a significant dent in my fancy shoe budget. There are as many probiotic formulations as there are vague symptoms to thwart. I decided on a daily dose to promote “digestive balance,” but it was nice of Chad to steer me away from the geriatric blends and to inquire about my vaginal health. Right there. Next to the frozen edamame and organic EVOO. I washed my first capsule down with a cold-pressed kale juice and Chinese character tattoos appeared at all of my pulse points. I’m your life coach now. Namaste.

With a profound sense of self worth and calm gratitude, I twirled out of the Organic Market and embarked on an entire month of poo improvement. I was sure I already felt amazing, and immediately began shopping for a toe ring. With a swig of cold water each morning, I came closer and closer to complete insufferability and the real chance of posting an ab selfie.

But it must be cold water, friends.

Attempting to swallow the vegan capsule with hot coffee leaves you with a mouth full of sticky pus and a sudden awareness of how sad and deluded one is to voluntarily purchase and ingest shit’s main ingredient in the pursuit of Chloe’s Revenge Body. And after my 30-day trial, I can tell you this: I’ve gained 5 pounds. I’ve also endured some rather alarming moments that a lady would never put in writing. Respectable cancer research reports an extra 11 pounds is my reward for three months of chemotherapy, but no suggestions about how to get rid of them. An extra 50 billion bacteria a day doesn’t seem to work for this girl, so it’s time for a different approach that can be initiated from the couch.

Sober September. Results to follow.

Prosecco with berries might be the source of my 11 pounds, and also might be worth it.

Prosecco with berries might be the source of my 11 pounds… and also might be worth it.

Making Memories

My iPod is kaput. It’s (supposed to be) waterproof. I need it while swimming laps, so instead of being BORED OUT OF MY MIND, I can just tell myself I am freestyling for seven songs. I could endure any number of unpleasant activities for seven songs. Probably. If three of them were Rhianna. Oh na na… what’s my name. Or if even one was Justin Timberlake. Mirror starin’ back at me… whoa. But today I pushed off from the wall in the lap lane without a single top 40 accompaniment to lessen the obvious torture of exercise. And 30 minutes of nothing but your own thoughts and breathing is an eternity, so I stop a bit short of that. And dammit if Barb and Arnie, my elderly swim noodle bobbing exercise pals don’t notice.

“Cut it a little short today!”

Yeah yeah yeah. I know, cancer-surviving Barb and Arnie, with your plastic visors, million grandchildren, lovely personalities, and sweet inquiries about my boys. BUT I CANNOT SWIM WITHOUT BEYONCE! So it’s only twenty minutes of back and forth and back and forth until I quit the pool to sit on the decking and swap Chinese restaurant recommendations with Barb and Arnie. Octagenarian Jews who snowbird in Florida know every dumpling dive like there is some Old Testament footnote that thou wilst be cashew chicken connoisseurs.

And this is how mornings go here in the summer… and the occasional evening, too. I find myself chatting up the oldest person in the pool, bar, or grocery aisle. The cancer-ed part of me is charmed by longevity and experiences, because I occasionally and morbidly wonder if I might not get to see that later version in the mirror starin’ back at me… whoa. But mostly it’s because we can trade gardening tips and cluck disapprovingly at the maxi dress espadrille moms ignoring their bratty kids who encroach on the lap lane. Cluck cluck.

I do have some lovely summer mommy friends, though. I might have written that I like children about as much as exercise, so it’s rare for me to share a Chardonnay with someone whose spawn I can stomach. Also, I might be a terrible person. But my boys play tennis with a gaggle of tweens that off the courts are like a pile of ever-hungry puppies that remember to say please and thank you. Our house looks like this. Every day.

Ours is the house with the yummy snacks.

Ours is the house with the yummy snacks.

We are in the sweet spot of parenting here and know it. In a few years, these boys will never choose to spend an entire night playing board games and video games and those made up games with the complicated scoring and occasional broken window… certainly not with moms upstairs. They’ll want to troll for cuties at the movie theater. In five years time, they’ll all be driving and dating and sneaky and smelly. The very idea that these kiddos once let us Twist and Shout with them during an impromptu dance party will be a remotely fond memory. We’ll miss them begging for brownies, sleepovers, and just five more minutes after spending untold hours together. But if we have Barb and Arnie luck, we’ll share these memories over our swim noodle bobbing routines in the lap lane.

Happy summer, friends. May all the bikes stop at your door.

5%… by Steve Safran

I still have cancer.

I expected to have a different lede to this story. This was going to be the “I’m cured” post. 95% of all men who undergo the treatment I’ve had for testicular cancer are cured at this point. I’m in the five percent– just not the five percent everyone yells about at Wall Street.

Things are going in the right direction. I started with three tumors, and they were The Three Bears of cancerous lumps. Baby Bear and Mama Bear are just about gone, and Papa Bear is half the bear he used to be. I will be cured. Just not today.

This was going to be The Month. I had my mindfulness-filled mind set on a cancer-cured week on Cape Cod, grilling grillables and drinking drinkables. My meditation space had me on the beach, looking back on the one-two punch of cancer and a pulmonary embolism that tried to make me into a mawkish-if-easy Facebook entry for all of you. (“If you remember Steve, please repost.”)

Instead, the best news I got this week is that the mall I live above is getting a Wegman’s. Now, they have a cheese selection that, while I don’t want to say is “to die for” given the topic at hand, is damn good. I’m not complaining. It’s just that, during chemo and my Special Vomit Time, I wasn’t focused on what would replace JC Penny.

What’s next? A four-week wait. The doc wants to give the Papa Bear lump a whole month before they run another test. I am the most impatient person I know. I hate waiting. Did you travel this summer? Did you get stuck on a plane? This is just like that only, instead of not being sure when your flight will leave, you don’t know if they’ll give you surgery when you land.

I still made it to Cape Cod, but Dad worked the grill. My drink of choice wasn’t a G&T, it was Gatorade. I’m not cured but, to quote Sondheim, my dears– I’m still here. Even if I am a five percenter.

Convalescing on the Cape with a 5 percenter view

Convalescing on the Cape with a 5 percenter view