Don’t let the door hit ya…

As we prepare to bid adieu to 2010, I took a stroll down memory lane in the months since I joined the club of which no one wants to be a member. There were some great moments in the first few months of 2010, or BC (before cancer), and I made it my mission to ensure that the months that followed had the same. Two weeks before I was diagnosed, life was grand, as evidenced by the happy girls in this photo of Yvonne’s birthday dinner at Stella Soli. So fun! Who knew that something wicked this way comes?

The day before my surgery, Macy and I had the great good fortune to meet Jeffrey, a baby mockingbird rescued and rehabilitated by our friends the Hoovers.  I’m sure I had a million things to do to get ready for the big day, but meeting Jeffrey was high on the list, and I wasn’t going to miss out on the chance to have this sweet little guy hang out with my favorite girl.

An awful lot of people did a whole lot of nice things for my family and me, following my surgery, including but certainly not limited to custom-made cupcakes,

an apropos coffee mug for my cup of Joe (the photo is small but the mug says “cancer” with the red circle & slash mark,

and home delivery of my all-time favorite coconut cream pie. You know you’re in the inner circle if you’re invited to share a slice of my cousin Tom’s homemade heaven. 

One of my first post-surgery outings was around the corner to dinner at the Cremers’ for Keith’s famous crab towers: lump crabmeat topped with a most delectable avocado-mango salsa atop a bed of greens with a citrus-y vinaigrette.

Dinner at their house is always good, because he and Jill are both fantastic cooks and there’s always plenty of bubbly on hand. 

Y’all know how much I love my bubbly.

Some may say I love it more than my kids, but that’s not fair.

We all know it would be a tie.

Two weeks after the surgery, but before the dreaded infection showed up, it was my birthday. Those who say it’s all downhill after 40 may not realize that to a cancer patient, each and every birthday is a gift, and I met birthday number 41 head-on with a welcome embrace: Mexican food, margaritas and the cutest cake ever with my girls. None better.      Who cares that I still couldn’t wash my own hair at this point? Not me! I was happy to be upright and out of the house.

A week after my birthday, the bottom fell out of the extraordinary recovery I was experiencing post-surgery. We were at a joint birthday party for 3 June girls (but there were no joints at the party; that’s how rumors get started!), and I didn’t feel good. After two weeks of slowly but surely making progress and feeling better, this was weird. What was really weird was waking up the next day to a huge red rash and blisters at the surgery site on my right side. You don’t have to be a doctor to know that is not good.

In the time that I was hospitalized the first time, Payton made the All-Star team 

and embarked on one of the most memorable summers ever, for baseball. Memorable because the team did so well (District champs, Sectional champs and on to the State championship in Tyler) and because the boys chose to show their support for me very publicly by wearing pink sweatbands all summer. These warriors in pink tore it up on the baseball field and made this mama so proud.

I only made it to a couple of games but got to follow along with all the action thanks to an iPhone app that allowed Trevor to “broadcast” the games to a website that I followed on my iPad from the hospital. I will never forget the look on the nurse’s face when she came into give me a shot of morphine and I told her I needed to wait (I never turn down the good drugs) because I wanted to keep my wits about me and follow the game. Also memorable was the wound-care specialist who had two sons go to State as All Stars who called me from home at 10:30 pm to see if Payton’s team won. They did.            

In between hospitalizations, I spent a couple of hours one day in my backyard in the sunshine, watching Harry frolic in the pool. After being cooped up in a dreary hospital room and feeling lousy, the fresh air, sunshine and unbridled canine joy were just what I needed.

One of the best days of all was in early July, in between hospital visits. I had been to see Dr Darcourt, my third oncologist, and learned that he agreed with all the research Trevor had done: no chemo! Celebration was in order, and when Amy & I ordered champagne at lunch, our sweet waiter at PF Chang’s asked if there was something special to celebrate. He had no idea but we filled him in! 

Another highlight was getting to spend the weekend in Galveston with Christy & Alexis, who were kind enough to teach Macy how to fish. And fish she did: that girl caught the biggest fish of the trip! Later that night, I caught a baby sting ray (not my intent, for sure). I still feel bad about that poor little guy happening by the tempting lure on my fishing pole. All’s well that ends well, though, and with some help from some more seasoned fishermen, the little guy was freed. More importantly, I had a fun weekend with great friends that approximated a return to what most people consider a normal life. 

Despite the idyllic setting, that weekend was just an approximation, though, of normal life, and the infection would puzzle and vex not one but two set of infectious disease doctors. After two more hospitalizations and a new team of ID docs, we got a handle on it, and although the last thing I wanted was to go back to the hospital, and to the Medical Center at 10:30 on a Sunday night no less, I wasn’t alone in the joint. 

Macy loaned me her beloved Froggy to keep me company, and he took his job seriously. He didn’t left my side until I was allowed to go home, and then he went straight from the suitcase into the washing machine lest he brought home any nasty germs from the hospital. We’d had quite enough of those in our life.

Early August was bittersweet: I was on the mend, literally, but still on IV antibiotics at home and not well enough to travel to Boston for our annual vacation. After already having missed my Duke girls’ trip to Lake Tahoe in early June and all of the State championship in Tyler, I was beyond sad to miss this trip, which is always the highlight of our summers. Leave it to Macy, though, to bring me a fantastic souvenir: Continental Airlines had unveiled a new drinks menu on her flight home from Boston, and she got me a pomegranate martini mix and, once home, brought two glassed full of ice, two lime wedges, and one shot of vodka. My favorite girl and I had a welcome-home drink together. Of all the bevvies I’ve consumed, that one may be my all-time favorite.

A few days after school started, and a week or so out of the hospital, Macy & I had tickets to see Jack Johnson play at the Woodlands pavillion. After a string of disappointments all summer, I was determined to make it to the show. It poured rain on us and traffic was horrendous, but we made it and had a great time. What would be an already-sweet occasion was all the better because I was there, upright and out of the house!

I got through the rest of August and September without incident, and was starting to think maybe, just maybe I would be able to actually make and keep some plans that didn’t involve a hospital.

October marked my first foray into Breast Cancer Awareness Month as a survivor. While always aware of the fact that every October is earmarked and punctuated with lots of pink ribbons, it’s a different experience on this side of a cancer diagnosis. I was tickled pink (sorry, couldn’t resist), when Payton’s baseball team played in this tournament. 

Next up was an event that was huge for me: the Witches’ Open tennis tournament at our club. I went into my double mastectomy in the middle of our tennis season, not knowing how the surgery would affect my game. Of course it never crossed my mind that I wouldn’t get my game back, the question was how much and how soon. So playing in the Witches’ Open was a stellar event. Not only did I play with my longtime running buddy, Staci, but we won! I’m pretty proud of our little trophy.

That same night, still basking in the sweet glow of victory from the Witches’ Open, I made a return trip to the Woodlands pavillion for the Maroon 5 concert. Talk about a perfect day: tennis then a road trip & dinner with super fun girls, then the show. That great day slid into a great night, and again I was beyond happy to be upright and out of the house. 

As if this month hadn’t been great enough, the last Friday night in October was the icing on the cake. I gathered by BFFs for the first annual Pink Party. Prepare to be seeing photos of this event every year for the rest of my life. It was that good. Many a nights laying in the hospital bed, I thought about what I was going to do once I finally got well enough to do something for my friends to show my appreciation for all the love and support they’d so freely given during the worst time of my life. The Pink Party was all I had envisioned it would be, and the fact that I was able to put on the dog for my girls was monumental for me. 

Next on the calendar was Thanksgiving, and at the risk of sounding totally hokey, I had an awful lot to be thankful for this year. At first, as we approached the holiday, I tried not to think too much about it, for fear that reflecting back on all that had happened would overwhelm me. Then I realized that’s whacked, and instead of avoiding it, I should be relishing it–every bit of it. Another major triumph for me was making my mom’s famous crescent rolls. I’ve made them before with limited success, but this year, they rocked. 

After Thanksgiving of course was Christmas, and the first ornament to go on our tree was this one: the cocktail shaker that says “Shake It Up.” I intend to do just that in the New Year.

And for the record, it was Macy who picked that ornament to go on first, in my honor. That girls knows me so well. Like most families, we have lots of cute and meaningful ornaments in our collection, but it makes me smile that she chose this one to kick off our Christmas season.

So as 2010 draws to a close, I can’t say that I’ll miss it. Unequivocally, it has been the hardest year ever. But amid the chaos and confusion and abject misery, there were a whole lot of bright spots. Those moments and memories outshine the yucky stuff.


There’s a lot to be thankful for this year. I’ll skip over the obvious (that I’m kicking cancer’s @$*) and the flippant (that Dr S still takes my calls, after all the grief I’ve given him), and skip right to the heart of the matter: that this year the rolls were a success.

Y’all may have heard that my mom was a fantastic cook. Everything was homemade, even the hamburger buns & English muffins, when I was a kid. The holiday meals of course presented her with her moment to shine. And shine she did. That woman made the entire Thanksgiving meal — turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes & gravy, cranberry stuff, sweet potatoes, crescent rolls, and at least 2 kinds of pie (with from-scratch crust, of course). And she made every bit of that homemade food the day of the meal. She didn’t believe it tasted quite as good made in advance. She repeated this feast for Christmas, too.

Needless to say, she was a serious over-achiever.

The problem with over-achievers is that they cause normal people to think they may be inadequate. If you know someone like this, I’m not sure if it’s best to spend as much time as possible with them, hoping & praying their wonderfulness rubs off in some kind of cosmic osmosis; or if it’s best to surround yourself with idiots instead so that you always feel good about yourself.

We’ve suffered through 5 years of holiday meals without my mom, and I’ve attempted to make her crescent rolls since, but it hasn’t gone well. Yeast bread & I don’t get along. I wasn’t going to try it this year, of all years, but both of my kids asked, independently of each other, if we were having YaYa’s crescent rolls for Thanksgiving. Ain’t no way I’m saying no to that.

My mom’s recipes are funny. As in ha ha, the joke’s on you because she often left things out completely (the chicken crepes recipe that contains no chicken comes to mind), or she gave instructions that left a little to be desired, as in: continue mixing until it seems right. How the hell do I know when it’s right?? That’s the most vexing part, is that she did know. Me, not so much, at least when it comes to yeast breads.

Now I’m a pretty decent cook, and even I’ve been stumped by her recipes before. Thankfully, the crescent roll recipe is pretty straightforward (at least by her standards). She’s not real specific about what temperature the water needs to be when mixing with yeast. Nor is she overly fussy about exactly how much extra flour you may need to add to keep the dough from being “too sticky,” and of course that descriptor opens up a whole ‘nother can of worms. She often included little editorial comments in her recipes, too. My favorite is the butter cake recipe that calls for a pound of sifted powdered sugar. She made a note in the recipe that she was heading to Williams Sonoma to get a new sifter right now!

I made the bold move this year of not having a back-up plan if the rolls didn’t work out. Every other time I’ve attempted them, it’s been with a package of Sister Schubert’s rolls in the freezer. But one thing I’ve learned post-cancer is to dream big, so I was gonna make those rolls without a safety net.

Did I mention we were dining with friends and their family? 18 of us in all, I think. My contribution to the shared meal was rolls. Homemade rolls. And green beans. So woosheegaga, I really needed those rolls to work out.

I have to cheat a bit when I attempt to make my mom’s rolls or pie crust; I roll them out on my cheater’s mat. Over-achievers don’t need the mat. My mom had a huge marble slab (way before the ice cream store) that she used to roll out all her dough. No measurements on her slab like there are on my mat.

The idea is that once the dough is mixed up and given a chance to rise, you say a lot of prayers and make appropriate sacrifices then roll the dough into a big circle, and cut it into halves and halves again until you end up with a dozen triangles.

Then you carefully roll them up, starting at the wide end, to form a crescent roll. Gotta be gentle, though, because if you handle them too much, they bake up tough. In which case, you might as well pop open a can of Pillsbury crescents and consider yourself a major loser.

The yeast dough gods were smiling on me, though, this year, and Pillsbury wasn’t part of the peaceable domestic scene.

These rolls certainly weren’t as pretty as they were under my mom’s reign as kitchen queen. Some were fatter than others, and some had a much more definitive crescent shape. A few didn’t want to stay tucked together, and needed a little extra attention.

But they turned out ok, and I don’t think I cussed one time while making them–a new kitchen record for me. They don’t taste quite as delicious as they did when my mom made them. But they’re pretty close. And for that, I am thankful.