What a WILD week; many UPS, but also some DOWNS. I keep reminding myself that all the downs are outweighed with the fact that I AM GOING TO BEAT THIS THING and will 100% be A-OKAY (how fortunate am I!).
After many doctor appointments, it is official that I am Stage 1 (insert whatever version of a happy GIPHY you got) and that it is smaller than they thought (a size of a quarter basically!). It is likely my cancer only started to develop in early 2018 which means that I took this bad girl on many adventures, and for quite the fun ride across the globe.
Who knew I needed to RSVP for a plus 1 in all my excursions; I am so grateful that I caught it early due to early detection/surveillance since I’m BRCA1 positive, but also blessed it did not stop me from living my life for the first half of 2018. It was a busy beginning of the year personally and professionally, and I had a lot of things I wanted to accomplish (and I DID- go GAB!). I know you can never plan properly for cancer, but I feel like the timing did work out.
2018 was AWESOME from January to early July. A few key moments are outlined below:
- April 2018: My company, Placed, is based in Seattle; I got to travel there with my two bosses Jason and Chad (who I LOVE & ADORE). I so enjoyed seeing Seattle for the first time, meeting lots of smart/inspiring coworkers, and experiencing the city from an architecture and culinary perspective. Thanks cancer for allowing me to to see a new city, visit my corporate HQ, to tap it back at a Seattle Soul Cycle, and to spend time with JB & Chad.
- Late April 2018: Off to Nashville to celebrate the bachelorette ofmy BFF/Sister/Childhood friend/Aunt TaTa (sure you are understanding how important she is); being a co-MOH is a BIG deal, and I am just so happy that was able to be my main focus. Tara is the MOST SELFLESS person I have ever met, and she deserves a weekend that is just about her; well girl, I would say mission accomplished. It was a reunion of my VS girls, my bestie Jamie from midwestie flew in, and the amount of laughter was priceless. We ate and drank our way through that entire city and I will always associate “The Middle” with that trip (also on the Positive Vibes playlist). It is actually hysterical that we decided to do a “getting wiggy with it” theme for the Drag Queen Brunch and bike tour (good practice!). Thanks cancer for allowing me to plan, travel, see that a purple/blue wig is not for me, and to party like I was 21 for a weekend with my best friends since birth.
- Memorial Day 2018: T-Rap and Jon’s MAGICAL wedding weekend. I got to see my best friend and kids walk down the aisle as a flower girl and ring bearer (of course cried) and slayed my MOH speech (edited by Markeeeeee). Lots of shaking our butts, lots of shots, and nothing like seeing your main girl SO freakin happy and glowing. Thanks cancer for not destroying that weekend, and for being exactly what she planned for and worked so hard on!
- June 2018: Since Pierce has hearing loss, it is absolutely critical that we stay on top of his services and ensure he is developmentally in line with his peers. Pierce has been in EI but by 3, he has to transfer to CPSE; this means LOTS of evaluations, lots of time with the district, and understanding all our options. We had our eyes set on Mill Neck (my mentor and angel of a friend, Dana, raved about this special hearing-impaired school). It was my MISSION to get him in, and it was a long month and lots of HOURS but P-man got accepted and will be going in September. WOOOOOOHOOOOOO (victory). Thanks cancer for allowing me to be a strong mama bear and be my sons advocate!!
- Montauk:A weekend getaway with my sister, Adam, and Markeeeee; what a way to kick off summer and to be KID FREE. To say we had a blast is an understatement; grateful for not getting bed bugs in our motel, for the lobster roll at Lunch (obsessed with the Affair; YOLO), for a SICK RIDE at MTK Soul Cycle, for shaking our asses at Memory Motel, and for pretending to be a hipster/cool mom at Surf Lodge. Thanks cancer for allowing me to spend time with family/BFFs without the kids (thanks mom and dad); OBSESSED WITH MONTAUK and will be back there next summer cancer FREE!!
- Cannes: OMGGGGGGGGGGG is all I can say; this was BY FAR the best career experience I have ever had. Going to Cannes and representing a company in the media landscape has been on my vision board for over 10 years, and I am forever appreciative to Placed for selecting me. It was the most gorgeous city, and the networking was PRICELESS; I got to see my clients, my agencies, socialize, meet new people in the industry, learn, and LIVED MY BEST LIFE professionally. From drinking rose with every meal (it is water there), from flying in a private helicopter from Nice to Cannes (JB, YOLOOOOOOOOOO; on our own dime!), from yacht party hopping, to reconnecting with old colleagues, this work trip was a 10 out of 10. Thanks cancer for allowing me to travel internationally, and you can thank me for your passport stamp and for teaching you the finer life of rose.
- Malibu Beach Club: Summers in Long Island are quite awesome, and mine in particular was off to the best start; Dana and Debbie, you and your families are LIKE FAMILY to the Wasses, and I am just so happy we got to spend our weekends together on the beach. Love you both so much and thanks for being the best of friends to me; seriously don’t understand how I only met you a year ago. Thanks cancer for allowing me to enjoy our cabana and to have the best memories of my kids soaking up the sun/waves/pool, and our walks on the beach collecting shells.
This week was a BIG ONE; I had several appointments at Sloan and have all the knowledge I need for moving further along this journey. I swear being at Sloan is like listening to the lineup of a Jewish baseball team; Feinberg, Bloomstein, Rosenberg, Rubin (you name it, every single Jewish last name is called from the waiting room). It is like one big Ashkenazi party every time you are there. Little do they know my married last name is Wasserman (not Stoller) and that I fit in with them in more ways than the BIG C. Markeeeeee, I promise you at 10 years I will officially change my last name; it is time and I will Heather Debrow it and THROW A MAJOR FIESTA (you all know I love having an excuse for a party; after all who throws their kid a 5 ½ birthday party. But hey, it was Cinco de MAYO and we needed a piñata).
I know this sounds pretty crazy BUT I feel like I am flying first class with my cancer (lots of travel reference this week). I see SO much in the waiting room at Sloan, and my attitude and smile are just so different than so many others. On Tuesday, I met with my surgeon, who checked out the work (healing nicely; they cannot believe how good I look after less than 2 weeks). She read my full pathology report and let me know that my nodes came back negative (YAY!), and this a-hole is STAGE 1. I mean, the smile on Dr. Gemignani’s face, said it all; this was GOOD NEWS. Chemo was still necessary to be 100% clean but these are all things to celebrate. AND OH YEAH, MY DRAINS ARE OUT; I AM FREEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
After the surgeon, I met with the breast cancer therapist who helped me prepare a script for my kids; after all, honestly is the best policy and they need to have a clear idea of what’s going on (using banana and removing the brown spots as the reference). I would never want them to hear about it from friends at school/camp, and it should come from Marc and me. I feel ready to deliver soon! STAY STRONG NUGGETS; Mommy’s GOT THIS and can’t wait until you are old enough to read this blog and see how attitude conquers all (you will be proud of me, I promise!).
I mentioned earlier the downs, and yesterday was the HARDEST DAY I had had yet. It was D-DAY and the first meeting with my oncologist. The fellow tells me that I am healing nicely (DUH, knew that) and that apparently my tumor is “special” and is surrounded by all these little cells that act as defenders. I’ve always considered myself special but now you are telling me that my globe-trotting tumor is special too; what the eff does this mean? It means that I should respond nicely to the treatment, and that my body is ready to react. Of course, this gives me a sense hope; WILL I KEEP MY HAIR?!??!?!? PLEASEEEEEE….
In walks my new oncologist, Dr. Robson, the kindest/most even keeled/calm doctor I ever met (reminds me of my dad a lot). We discuss the treatment plan, and he outlines what my 8 chemos will look like. Every other week starting 8/28, I will be back there sitting in the waiting room surrounded by my Jewish baseball team. Apparently, the chemo rooms are “suites” and have TV’s so I can have company; for all my girls and family that offered to sit with me, I am creating a G sheet (still got the anal retentive, organized, obsessive worker in me!). Pick a slot, give me your shirt size, we are turning this into one big PARTAAAAY with matching T’s/socks/swag (of course).
Of course, I have a list of questions in my phone about the chemo and the side effects; most pressing is my hair. You see, I remember when my mom had cancer and I was there when her first clump fell out; I was 15 and it is one of my most vivid memories. I was 15 and terrified. Dr. Robson reveals that mine is guaranteed hair loss and that the cooling caps (my glimmer of hope) have a very low success rate with it. Bubble bursts (and so do I into tears). I knew I was getting chemo and wrapped my head around it, but I had some form of hope that my hair would be preserved. I already thank g-d daily for my amazing husband, but what he said to me in that moment, is what gave me the strength to say F*CK IT. Marc turned to me and said “Gab, you are you; your personality is what makes you special. Look at your support system; not everyone has that. You touch people in a certain way that is unexplainable. Your face is the most beautiful of anyone I know, and if anyone can rock chemo, it is you. You bald will be more beautiful than any girl I know.” I mean, not Mila Kunis, but still, SWOON, right? What a guy!!!!!
I digested the news, sat with it for a bit, cried my eyes out before getting back to my house/my kids, and passed out at 8:30 last night after putting Riley and Pierce to bed. I woke up fresh and READY TO TAKE ON THE WORLD. I know it is okay to have those days, those moments, and to be not a superhero all day every day. Being surrounded by kids, their big personalities, and having the overarching theme that I am going to be perfectly okay took me out of the fog. After all it is temporary, and LONG TERM IS SO MUCH MORE IMPORTANT.
Today, we MARCH ON (thanks Nancy for the reference); I am enjoying every moment with my kids, my family, my friends, and my support system. Putting R&P on and off the camp bus is a big highlight of my day, and the fact that I am home for dinner every night and get to talk about their day with them is EVERYTHING. I have never had this time; I am a complete workaholic and pour my heart and soul into my job (and home of course, but sometimes they fall second unfortunately. Balance is always something I am working on).
I already started exploring my wig options and scarves; got my eyes on a Hermes head scarf, lots of fun earrings, and ordered a few fun ones from Dear Martha (fedora/baseball cap). I was alone for the first time today after Marc left for work and kids were off to camp/beach, and tried on the two Dear Martha wigs. I must say, I LOOK FABULOUS (got verification after texting Debbie/Dana) and they are so cute/cool/fun. I felt the inner strength and courage to out loud in the mirror say I GOT THIS and WILL OWN IT (all with Biggie and 2Pac playing in the background).
On Monday, I am going to Bitz and Pieces in Columbus Circle to shop for 3-4 wigs; WHY NOT HAVE A LITTLE FUN WITH IT. I have always been the Samantha (Sex and City) of the group and will channel her when shopping. I got a whole crew coming with me and am turning it into quite the event. Thinking an everyday, a fun Saturday night one (because I am still going to power through and give my man date nights/nights out with friends), and a WILD one that is so different than me (perhaps Red hair so Riley can say she got it from someone).
Other positive highlights from this week:
- I GOT THIS!I am more determined now than ever to keep a positive attitude and to have a smile on my face. I will have moments (already have), but you have to appreciate life and take advantage of every day.
- Once I heal from surgery (2 more weeks), I can work out again; this has always been a passion of mine BUT I cannot wait to get back on that Soul bike, do all my classes, and dedicate my days of energy to exercising. There is research that working out during chemo helps a lot, and I plan on being part of that case study.
- My family/support system/friends are the BEST. One of my BFF’s from 7thgrade came over this week; Heather, thank YOU for making me laugh all day since we are 12. I know you cried the whole way over before seeing me, but hope seeing me made you all that much better. Our bond is one that is unbreakable and we have been through EVEYRTHING together. You were there for me when my mom was sick, and now you are here for me; I do not know what I would do without you. The evil eye bracelet is on my wrist forever during this process, and I was rubbing it the whole time during my appointment yesterday.
- Mallory, my sister, is my life line. You are above and beyond in all aspects, and I cannot thank you enough for every text, every phone call, for visiting all the time, for laughing with me, for crying with me, and for being such a big part of this. I know it is not easy to see your big sister go through this, but I could not do it without you. I am so happy that you have Adam and the best friends ever to be there for you. I know this is hard and I LOVE YOU more than Motherkelly’s balsamic chicken, Marinara’s bar pie, and Mitchells “house dressing”.
- My Merrick squad; Jeff and Ali, thanks for hosting my family (and everyone else) Friday night. It was so nice “to be normal” and to see my kids in that setting. Thank you to all of you for the hugs, the laughs, distracting me, changing my kids into PJs, and for being the best. Seriously, can’t imagine going through this in any other town or if I still lived in the city.
- My mom is my idol. Her strength and courage and ENERGY (seriously don’t get it) is everything, and I hope to be half the mom and woman that you are. Thank you for not leaving my side and for being here for me/Marc/the kids.
- I found an organization that I am passionate about—Fighting Pretty. They put together beauty boxes for cancer patients during treatment. Check them out: https://www.fightingpretty.org/ They asked me be a brand ambassador when I am feeling up to it. SO HAPPY TO DO GOOD WITH MY STORY and TO HELP OTHERS!!
- To those who have texted me or emailed about the appointments you made because of my story, THANK YOU. I can only encourage you to be on top of your body; go get checked, if you are at risk of having the BRCA gene, PLEASE GET TESTED. It saved my life!!!
- Last but not least, I plan on having fun the last two weeks of my summer before chemo.I am ENJOYING each day (even if I am still sore/sensitive/healing) and doing something that makes me happy daily. After all, YOLO!!!!!!!!!!
Thanks for being such an amazing support system and for sharing my story with your friends and other outlets. Please continue doing so as my main goal is to be an inspirational voice and raise awareness of the BRCA mutation/early detection/surveillance.
Gab (1 more day away from a FULL SHOWER! It is the small things but happy to look like myself for a few more weeks!).
PS- keep sending songs and shows. GOT LOTS OF TIME in THAT CHEMO SUITE!!