CALL ME GI MOTHER EFFIN GAB (hope you get the movie reference)

12.5% done (thanks Dad for doing the math); I LOVE PERCENTAGES.  What can I say, I have been in Ad Sales for quite some time and thrive on knowing how far I am to 100%.

GAB = 1, Red Devil = 0; for those of you who don’t know, the A/C part of my chemo treatment is often referred to as the red devil.  Sounds fun, right? The name alone is terrifying and sounds like a bad horror film. Well Red Devil, you met your match; Gabby Stoller takes no prisoners, and while you definitely had an impact, I kicked you’re a**.  I will thank you for one thing—for easing my controlling Type A personality, and providing me with a template of how I can expect to feel each day after initial treatment.

8/28 was my first CT at the very fabulous Sloan Kettering, AKA, my new home and common GPS coordinates (lat/long is still the cream of the crop for location data).  At the crack of dawn, Marc and I took the last of my LIRR train rides in (germ city!); obvs, I am in my FUCK YOU CANCER attire from head to toe courtesy of Amazon and Etsy.  We arrive a tad early and went to our favorite UES breakfast spot, Gotham Café. GO THERE and have the Sinful Coffee (you are very welcome).  We had such an awesome morning just being us, and right before walking into Sloan, we vowed to maintain the positive vibes/energy and did an adult version of a chest bump.

First appointment was a finger prick at 8am which is so unenjoyable but it basically checks your levels to make sure you are golden for treatment; hey doctors/nurses out there, there has to be a better way to understand what your blood counts are than someone squeezing your finger insanely hard to fill a vile.  Next I met with Amy and Odessa, my two new best friends forever and ever and ever and ever; these are Dr. Robson’s right hand gals and will be holding my hand for the next 4 months.  I try to use my sales skills and negotiate myself out of chemo but of course that does not work;  a girl can try!  They both reassure me that this is an insurance policy and covers if anything microscopic is in my body this will KILL it.  I move on quickly and listen diligently as they LITERALLY walk me from head to toe on what the possible side effects are from my treatment—hair loss (can’t get out of that one), migraines, sinuses, mouth sores, metallic taste for food/water, sensitive skin, shoulder aches, my surgery area would hurt like hell, nerve damage, constipation, joint issues, and sensitive feet.  AREN’T YOU ALL JEALOUS AND HAVE FOMO?!?!?! I look over at Marc who officially let this all sink in, and say, LET’S DO THIS. After all, I need it to begin for it to end and to be in the clear and to be happily dancing on the finish line.

I swear Sloan is the Four Seasons of cancer centers; their chemo suites are private, very modern, and comfortable.  I got the corner suite (DUH!), squeezed the first of my squads in their seats (Marc, Dad, Mom, and Mals) and immediately befriended Thierry, the most amazing NURSE ever.  The A/C treatment in itself is about 1.5 hours, and I got to be honest, it flew by; it sure helps that Sloan has a massage therapist who comes around (I mean seriously!?!??!!!).  I am going to lock that in for my next 7 rounds; sign me up please!  Besides the massage, we just talked and laughed because that is what the Wasses, Stollers, and Goldsmiths do.  We “kibbitz” (spelling) as my mom would say.  NOW, there are SO many things that I would say are the greatest feeling in the world (earmuffs Mom, Dad, Riley, and P), BUT, that needle coming out of my arm is UP THERE.  It is my version of feeling like I won the MTV Challenge or Bingo (it is just such a fun game), and a sign of accomplishment.

My parents drive me back to Long Island and to Valley Stream (back in my childhood bed again) I retreat.  What I find most interesting after chemo is the anxiety over the anticipation of when the side effects will kick in.  Everyone is different and every reaction is unique for the individual so it is annoying to try and predict what yours will be. After the first day, I recentered and decided to have a DAY BY DAY approach; the unknown is scarier than what could actually occur.  Since I love a good list, I thought it would be best to provide a daily summary of week 1 post CT:

Tuesday (day of treatment):Still on steroids which masks a lot of the side effects, feel like I am in a fog/daze (yet manageable), tiny hunger, and am drinking so much water.  In and out of sleep until the night when I knock myself out with whatever antipsychotic sedation drug provided.  There was a full moon on 8/28 which was a sign; full moons in my opinion are for healing, and what better night for that to be.

Wednesday:  Same as above BUTAngel Nurse Nancy Jeuda gives me my Nulasta shot which is supposed to keep my blood counts stable (and also causes MAJOR aches across your entire body). I head back to Merrick to see the kids in the afternoon for an hour or two; it was so worth it but even that little of time made me SO beyond exhausted.  I immediately have to go back to sleep, eat a tiny dinner, and then back to sleep again (this sedative is quite powerful and haven’t slept that good since college).

Thursday:Same as Wednesday minus the shot (rinse and repeat).

Friday of LDW: Back to Merrick for real life (hello children!); my parents somehow have the most energy in the world and offer to have my kids sleep at their house (phew!). Marc and I relax, chill in, and around 5pm, a rush takes over my body and HOLY EFFIN SH*T do I feel achy/sore.  I promise you, every single vertebrae and every joint/bone from my waist up were on fire.  It was as if I did Barry’s Bootcamp, Orange Theory, and Fhitting Room all in one day. Did I think I was really invisible dodged that bullet?  OMFG…I go to sleep and just pray I feel better in the morning.

Saturday:  Well if I thought Friday (it will be awhile before I say FriYAY) was bad, this is the DAY.  This is the DAY they warn you about.  Now, I have had MANY MANY MANY MANY terrible hangovers in my life that I thought could prepare me for this; Saturday was UP there except I did not have the most EPIC night ever before.  I equate it to having 10 margaritas at Rio Grande (grain alcohol for non NYers) or 16 tequila shots and then throwing yourself in the middle of the street and having a bus run you over.  I needed it to end quick, and could not have rushed the day more until night when I passed out.

Sunday:I sleep super late (thank you Markeeeeee; thank you Debbie for having Riley sleepover), and wake up with a headache but I WILL TAKE IT (2 Advil later!).  I am just so grateful to have Friday and Saturday behind me and appreciative of feeling good enough to get out of my house.  We take the kids to our beach club, enjoy a late afternoon there, BBQ with our cabana, celebrated all the summer birthdays, listened to live music, and soaked up the last of summer.  It ended up being such a fun day and the kids loved having me back as “mom”.

Monday:  My first day feeling like G$ and its PIERCE’S BIRTHDAY!!!! So call it cancer mom guilt, but I was determined to make this the best birthday yet.  It was the first birthday that he actually understood what it meant, and when I asked what he wanted, he said to drive a fire truck.  Well, at 9:30am, Captain Jack arrives at Casa de Wass in his MASSIVE fire truck.  Pierce, Riley, and some of their friends got to get behind the wheel, spray the fire house, learn fire safety, and dress up. This was his version of being at a Day Party in Las Vegas (for those of you who know me real well, I LOVE DAY PARTIES in Vegas/Miami/you name it).  Our families came over later that day, opened up gifts, sang happy birthday, and we prepared for first day of school Tuesday (R).

This brings me to Tuesday of this week and well, this week is MASSIVE for a variety of personal reasons.

  • Both my babies went to school—Riley in 1stGrade (crushed it!), and Pierce to his 3’s program at Mill Neck (ran off so quick there was dust behind him).Normally I am not emotional about these days; I truly celebrate that there is structure BUT I got teary with both. They are just such good kids, growing up so fast, and are so happy/proud to be going to school; obviously I also just feel so bad that I am going through this and they have to even witness it. While I hate that I have to be home from work because of this (trust me, I am meant to be working and miss it tremendously), I am happy that I get to be such a part of these experiences for them.
  • Today was a day I said FUCK YOU CANCER. Day 14-17 after first treatment is when hair is expected to fall out; instead of that being the deal, I cut my hair GI JANE style (with my BRCA sister, Angelina Jolie cut as inspiration).  As you can tell, I have been obsessing about my hair AND it was SO freakin liberating.  Lisa Amato, officially part of my inner circle forever, is a private hairdresser in Merrick and has a daughter Riley’s age. Prior to all this, I leaned on Lisa for lots of advice in regards to Mill Neck; fast forward to a few weeks ago, I asked her to be an active part of this journey and to style my hair through all the phases including the shaving/cutting super short one.  She is an angel and amazing hairdresser, and honestly we had SO much fun.  I would not have changed anything about today; I had my college bestie/sister Sam and Paulette there as my support team, and all of us just chatted and laughed (Dave Matthews in the background as well as my relaxation candles burning). I really thought it would be emotional and I just feel so free and so strong.  I LOVE THE HAIRCUT and Marc was right, I can rock whatever style because its all about the face.  I also got my wigs as back up, and am ready to have multi personalities (red or blonde; you will have to wait and see!).
  • I CAN WORK OUT AGAIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am normally a 4-5x week gal, so 6 weeks with NO real physical activity besides walking is just not cool. I cannot wait to do my Peloton bike, take a Soul (probably cry in the back row), and to get this BOD back

The odd part of all of this is that I have never felt more confident and strong.  Not to mention, I am the most connected to my body mentally and physically.  I literally can understand on a day to day basis how I am feeling, what is off, how I am responding, and detect what impact these chemicals are having on me. Next treatment is September 11th, and I am in a great headspace to take this to 25% and to conquer it head on.

Thank you so much to everyone for all the love and support; all the letters, emails, texts, calls, introductions to others are EVERYTHING and it keeps me in this positive mindset.

LET’S DO THIS.

XO

Gab (Rocking this cut like GI EFFIN JANE)

 

QUOTE OF THE DAY: IT HAS TO BEGIN BEFORE IT CAN END (BB, ALL YOU GIRL!)

Well, here we are, the night before effin treatment begins (insert every single emoji of emotion humanly possible).

Today was an important day all around.  I had an appointment at Sloan where I got ballooned again (injections to expand); no joke, the theme song in our house on these days are “DON’T YOU KNOW PUMP IT UP, YOU GOT TO PUMP IT UP (Danzel is the artist, and of course this is on my Positive Vibes playlist”)..”  We dance, shake it, and get ready for Gab to slowly get out of the Itty Bitty Titty Committee.  Tonight, Marc and I had our conversation with Riley, and after much back/forth, we opted to not use the word cancer. It went as well as it could for an almost 6 year old; we explained that treatment is necessary to heal, and that it means it is working if I am extra tired and lose my hair.  We walked through when I am going to cut my hair, and how wigs/scarves/hats will be a daily fun dress up party.   I showed her the wig pictures immediately and SHE LOVED the red one (best decision ever).

The last 6 weeks since diagnosis have flown by and I am PRAYING the next 4 months do too. Oddly enough this is always my favorite part of the year— school begins, Pierce’s birthday, Jewish holidays, my birthday, Riley’s birthday, our anniversary, Thanksgiving, and then it’s the holidays.  I LOVE BIRTHDAYS; everyone deserves one day that is theirs, and we make it a big deal in our house (mark my word kids, this year it will be 100x!).  By 2019, I will be Cancer FREE (knock on wood, poo poo, all those things you say to not jinx) and then the exchange occurs (watch out Gigi and Bella, I am going to have the nicest ones in the game).

I am breaking out my cancer journey into two BIG chapters—the DM and CT (chemotherapy sounds cooler when it’s an acronym).  While part one certainly had its challenges (those damn drains, and oh yeah, recovering from a massive, massive surgery), part two will be more emotionally and physically taxing.  I am as prepared as one can be for what is known, but of course I have anxiety about the unknown.  For me personally, the unknown mostly focuses on which days after chemo I will be the most drained and when will I feel most energized.  Last Friday I was with my Cousin Beth (my mom’s first cousin who had breast cancer a few years ago, no gene) and I asked her that exact question.  Funny enough/interestingly enough, she did not recall; while I wish she did for my own research, I was SO happy she did not remember.  That means this will all be a distant memory, and that gave such a rush of positive feelings (like Disney Land with the Quad Squad, and like skydiving in Interlocken with my girl Sam).  Just another reminder that life continues on, and this will be a blip in time that sucks a fat one BUT will make me a stronger, more unique individual with a real story of courage behind them.

Friday marked the 4th week since the surgery, and I am thrilled with how I am healing and feeling (maybe that is a future Hallmark card?).  The pain is so minimal that it is not even worth discussing/complaining about, and I swear, I don’t even remember what my old ones looked like (is that weird?).  I am content looking like my 13 year old awkward lip bumping self (yes, I wore a lip bumper and it was HOTTTTTT).

One of the best parts of this entire experience is realizing how awesome I am.  Let me explain before you think I am some self-loving, narcissistic a**hole.  I think it tells a lot about the type of person you are if you have close friends from childhood, camp (I get its more of a Jewish thing), high school, college, work, your neighborhood, kids schools, etc.  I know I am a lucky girl with how many close friends I have, but what I am beginning to understand more is that it is because of who I am.  The energy you put out in the world speaks volumes about who you are, and I am SO happy that my vibe is a good one.  That is SUCH a cool feeling to finally embrace; I am used to running a million miles a minute with zero time for myself and being able to spend time processing this has been such a blessing.

Outside of my closest nuclear circle which can’t be beat, the amount of outreach I have received is JUST beyond.  My Camp Echo bunk put together the most incredible, memory provoking gift basket of all time; it contained a Hermes headscarf to ensure I am the chicest cancer patient, and Mad Libs, Pick Up Sticks, Jacks (I taught Riley all of them, and she OWNED me in pick up sticks).   I have received so many cards in the mail from all over the US from friends, friends of friends, moms of friends, moms of old coworkers (Annie, your mom is the cutest!), kids of friends, you get it.  I am so lazy with stamps and am so impressed you went to a mailbox for me.  J.Nel, “you are my funshine” is JUST the best saying ever and is officially part of my mantra list.  That card brought me a HUGE smile—byou are right, I am FUN and I promise to keep up that part of me throughout this (even on my worst days).  Riley and Pierce, I vow to you to keep up our dance parties, to blast sonos with your favorite songs (even if I am sick of hearing KEKE do You LOVE ME and the Middle), as long as you promise to keep me a “cool mom”.  Officially dominated the floss, and look forward to the next dance move being introduced.

This last week has been EVERYTHING.  As I promised myself earlier, I wanted to enjoy every SINGLE day during the one week with zero doctor appointments, no prescription meds, and no toxic chemicals in this body of mine.  Can’t thank my family and friends enough for trying to keep me busy, entertained, and distracted.  You MASTERED it.  A few highlights below of the “One Gab Week of Fun before CT after the DM”:

  • Monday: Mani/Pedi with Meredith (the sweetest and best vibe girl out there); don’t worry Mom, no one is cutting my cuticles; trust me, I get it, I get it (love you!). Our friends Cliff and Jamie came out from NYC to have dinner with Marc and I (how NICE!!!) at Anchor Down.  Love you guys so much, and so touched you schlepped out on a Monday after work to stuff our faces on lobster.   YUM in the TUM (thanks P for the coin phrase).
  • Tuesday: OKAY OKAY OKAY, I know, I keep talking about this and how great my friends are BUT get ready….Debbie and Dana, my Merrick sistasssss, kidnapped me at 9am and told me to pack a day bag with any essentials. I need to set the stage a bit more—they both took a day off just for ME, and Dana is almost 9 months pregnant (rockstar status).  The surprise was a day at Gurney’s in Montauk—lunch overlooking the beach, a spa treatment, walking around the most magical place ever, and dinner at LUNCH (yes, the Affair restaurant).  With them, the conversations are endless, and of course we had to get matching necklaces for us and the girls (our daughters are all besties).  Ladies, I cannot thank you enough; you made me feel SO special and a beach is my happy place.
  • Wednesday: Being home is so interesting and is taking some getting used to; as I mentioned earlier, I am a total workaholic. I love my kids, but I love what I do too and balance is something I strive for, but will never have.  It is nearly impossible.  Normally I would have to miss this, but I got to take Riley to a Lakeside Playdate at a local park.  I love seeing her interact with other children, and every time I see it, it just validates that moving to Merrick was the best decision.  She is so confident, so settled, and really owns who she is.  After the playdate, I took a nap (yes, I know I am still healing and sleep is critical), and got ready for a date night with my man piece.  Rare 650 in Syosset is AMAZING, and we had the best time/best meal; we spent a lot of it laughing, eating our faces off (not feeling guilty about it was quite liberating), and having a very serious conversation about what lies ahead the next 4 months.  Being with Marc is my mental medicine; I always said he is the ying to the my yang but there is something just so soothing about him.  He is so strong, supportive, and has my back.
  • Thursday: Beach Day with my Beiner; boy oh boy, have we come a long way Elana. From finding the highest point at any bar or club to dance on a table to both becoming mamas of two nuggets.  We just sat (it is an activity), chatted, listened to positive vibe songs, and got bit my 1000 bugs.  Thank you for coming out during your maternity leave to see me and for spending the day; love you so much and so proud of us.
  • Friday: Family day at my cousin Jill’s boat club; I am sure you are getting the theme but CANCER is a big part of all our lives given our history and that afternoon was a coming together of my aunt Eileen, kids, and cousins. It was so therapeutic (like writing is to me!); I have been talking about it so much but there is something about the conversation with my genetic support system that is different.  Friday night I had my last sushi dinner (going to miss you so much) with my girlfriend Stacey (Party at Palmers) and Mals.  Stac, I am officially covered in pink head to toe (sporting that tote tomorrow!).
  • Saturday: My visitation rate (like that Placed?) to birthday parties will be exceptionally low in the coming months; kids = germs, and germs are no Bueno for this chick. I was so happy to take my kids dressed up to Riley’s friend Sloane’s superhero birthday (Marc even wore a superman shirt; how fitting considering he is “superdad” for quite some time).  After the birthday party, we ventured out for a family day (just the 4 of us!) to Fire Island; the kids were obsessed with the ferry ride, and we relaxed at the beach.  Watching them play on the beach with each other made my heart explode (they are seriously the cutest siblings ever, and actual BFF); so many tears behind my sunglasses (happy and sad).  All I wanted before chemo was to make sure we did something super fun with just us; a memory that we will all be able to talk about with a smile.  MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!  After the ferry home, my amazing parents took the kids for a sleepover and Marc and I had our ideal date night (bottle of red, La Piazza Whole Wheat Bar Pies, a Greek Cove Greek Salad, and our reality TV shows).  BEST DAY EVER.
  • Sunday: Woke up our version of late (8am), went for foot massages at Orchid (holy sh*t), out for lunch at La Bottega with Rob/Hayley (best man!) and food shopping (got to prep for the week). Marc had his fantasy football draft with the guys, and I hosted Jen, Ali, Vanessa and their amazing kids.  I was so happy to host; I know it is going to be a bit before I can do it again and I am someone that LOVES to entertain.  It felt SO good, and I was SO happy to do it (thank you guys!!!!).  XO

Outside of all the above, I binge watched the entire Younger series; it is SO damn good.  22 minutes of pure bliss with each episode getting more and more awesome.  I was obsessed with it and HIGHLY recommend it. DO IT and let’s chat Charles vs Josh; BOTH SO HOT I can’t stand it (sorry Marc!).  Next on my own list is Friday Night Lights, and Marc/I plan on watching is Dexter; keep those suggestions coming!

Before I go to sleep (thank you Xanax), I want to thank everyone again for their support.  Tomorrow marks a new part of this journey, and while I know I will make it through it with my bald head held high, it is going to be a rollercoaster.  In advance, thank you for being there for me, my kids, my husband, and for being there during the highs and lows.  I know mental is a big part of this, and that is why I know I am going to kick this effin things a**.  Day by day, and more to come post week 1 of CT.  YOU GOT THIS GAB!!!

XO,

Gab (almost an A cup with freshly ironed hair!).

P.S.  DryBar I will be your #1 customer again once my hair is even slightly back and can be done; don’t think I forgot about you.  You have a piece of my heart!

I AM NOT SUPERWOMAN, BUT ALWAYS DOWN TO WEAR A CAPE WITH A CAPITAL G

Since my diagnosis I have been asked by SO many people, “HOW ARE YOU REALLY DOING GAB”. Trust me, I realize what I have, and while it may seem weird/unique/odd to have an outlook like mine, this is just ME.  I have and always will be a half glass full kind of gal; it is part of my DNA (just like this damn BRCA gene).  My perspective is beyond different because of how proactive and on top of it my family is; I have been prepared for the possibility of this since I was 20 years old, and feel fortunate enough to not live in denial and to have acceptance.  Do not get me wrong, I have had many moments over the last month where I cried (Sam, my mom/dad, Mals, and Marc experienced them recently), but I truly feel great mentally (and for the most part physically).  That is something to celebrate!  

This week in particular was a light one in terms of medical appointments; I used it as mental preparation (retail therapy always helps) for my upcoming chemo treatment.  I spent a lot of time speaking with others who went through a similar plan, and to my cousin Amanda who has experience as a nurse for chemo patients.  THANK YOU for all the details and for your guidance; knowledge is power, and I officially feel like I am prepared enough with the good, the bad, the ugly.  Bring it on 8/28!

In my head, I picture chemo being like the worst hangover you ever had.  Luckily, I have had experience nursing these before, and spent some time this week thinking about my top ones (it was SO hard!).  I would have to say my 21stbirthday (that poor cloud bedspread), my 30th birthday (day party at Hotel Yotel), any morning after Sammy’s Romanian (I mean seriously a frozen bottle of vodka is a recipe for disaster), after Paige Friedman’s wedding (a VERY rough Mother’s Day; sorry R&P), and after a Merrick girls night at Anchor Down (those gimlets are STRONG/DECEIVING).  I think my body is trained and hopefully this “defending tumor” really is that SPECIAL.

I made the executive decision to shave my head proactively (round of applause!); I already lost control of doing the DM on my timeline, and I refuse to let this effin cancer take my hair from me on their terms.  I emailed a local mom from Riley’s school who is a private hairdresser (and rocks the best hairstyles always), and she agreed to hold my hand throughout this entire process. I know I am in good hands, and just so happy to take the bull by the horns (that’s the expression, right?) and to do it in the comfort of my own home.  9/5 is the big day, and prior to that we will be explaining everything in more detail to the kids.  Thanks to my therapist and Sloan family specialists, I got the script ready.  4 sentences to a 6 year old (and 3 year old) should be plenty, and it will be enough information for them to be empowered.

Going through chemo is like half of pregnancy, and I know the following are what I am going to miss the most:

  • SUSHI (insert, How Will I Live Without You by Leanne Rimes); had my last Tanoshi this week, and every bite was better than the next. SO FREAKIN GOOD!!!!
  • Alcohol (wine & I are BFFAEAEAEAE)
  • Work (I can’t help it; I am a seller by nature and love the hustle)
  • My hair (DUH)
  • Freedom
  • My 35th Birthday Extravaganza- I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE house parties, and Marc/I were going to have the BEST ONE ever for my 35th (DJ, Sushi, Costumes, Decorations; you name it!).  Instead, I am hosting a birthday/breast cancer awareness ride in Merrick at iSpin.  I would rather give back and donate for a good cause, and save my party for 36 (double chai; thanks Nicole for the idea!).

Unfortunately, a little bit of a setback happened over the weekend, and I felt fluid on my left side (this non big C side is really starting to piss me off).  I was already scheduled Monday to head into the city for “GETTING WIGGY PARTAYYYY”, and popped by the doctor to make sure I was still on track/a-okay.  LUCKILY, it was totally normal and they removed the fluid, and they PUMPED ME UP!!!!!!!!!!!  I am no longer a triple A, and officially a double A (back to 8th-10thgrade Gab); really starting to look like a teenager and LOVE the progress.

I had the BEST experience at Bitz N Pieces.  If anyone is ever in the market (hope you never have to), I highly recommend this place. 6 of us squeezed into this tiny suite of a room where Fernando assisted in “finding my look”.  Thank god for my best friends/sister who acted as my hair consultants, made it a fun experience, and helped make firm decisions with me.   I swear it actually looks real, and some of the pieces even have scalps in them (WTF!!!! So cool!).  I opted for blonde and auburn (no more mail men jokes Markeeeee).  Riley & Pierce will get to help me choose which wig I wear when we go out together; I got a FUNNY feeling it will be the red Ariel the Mermaid one.  I officially can say I feel armed and ready for it, and look forward to showing them off.  

I have spent many hours researching safe beauty products, and just had the most incredible experience at Sephora on 60th and 3rd (by Bloomies).  If you ever need a consultation, please work with Julia there; she spent over an hour with me on safe skin care and beauty products for chemo patients.  I was so touched by her patience, eagerness to help, and how confident she made me when applying the natural look I am going for.

I basically live on Amazon, Etsy, and every site possible looking for cute/cool/trendy AF headscarves.  Thank G-D for my amazing Placed coworkers who surprised me with the Hermes one (seriously, I cried tears of happiness opening that box).  I am in the market for SKULL, CAMO, FUNKY ones; feel free to email me/send me any that you find.  Just because I will not 100% look myself does not mean I don’t care about fashion; if anything it is more important to me NOW.   Thanks in advance for your help!

Today was a BIG DAY. It is the 3 week mark since the DM surgery (creating some cool abbreviations here), and it was my first day back behind the wheel.  Watch out South Shore, you got Gabby Stoller (Wasserman) back on the streets; I swear I have gotten better at driving since high school (Maos, Heather, Jamie, Stacey, and Tara, please keep your thoughts to yourself).  Sorry Mom, I could not wait any longer; after all, the doctor did say it was OKAY (watching Dr. Phil does not make you licensed).

Spending the weekend as a family (Mals/Adam coming out) and soaking up EVERY MINUTE; we never move on Friday’s to begin with but cannot wait for this one.  Just the kids, my Marc Man, and our trashy reality TV (big decision of the night is Bachelor in Paradise, the Challenge, or Are You the One?).

Next week is my last week of freedom, and I just want to appreciate life and how lucky I am every single day before 8/28.  Nothing is making me happier than the plans I have with my family and friends (can’t thank you all enough for scheduling my days!).  I am SO grateful to have the best people in my life (and the best husband!) and it is because of all of you that I am ABLE to mentally be this strong!!

XOXO

Gab (the best smelling/driving version of herself!)

P.S.  BIG SHOUT OUT TO ALL FRIENDS/FAMILY who have already arranged helping with the kids; your offers for car pools, sleep unders, and days with my kids MEAN EVERYTHING.  Marc and I could not do this without you.  THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!!!!!

 

THIS DAMN TUMOR HAS A PASSPORT STAMP (WHAT A LUCKY BIATCH)

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.

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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.

XO

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!!

ROOMMATES & GRENADES (AND NOT THE JERSEY SHORE “SITUATION” TYPE)

Well, it has been one week since the double M, I know everyone is surprised I am not constantly complaining about being in a lot of pain, but truthfully I am just so relieved that this 1.6cm toxic shiat is out of my body.  The relief is overtaking the actual physical pain, and has given me the strength to continue having the most positive and optimistic outlook about the diagnosis.  Truth be told, after having two kids, one C section (thanks Pierce), one umbilical hernia surgery (thanks Pierce), and my fallopian tubes out, this was much more of a breeze to recover from.  I guess all the other health situations prepared me for this type of surgery.  Don’t get me wrong, I have my moments but what is the good in focusing on the negative; the one thing I will share is that these effin drains hanging from my body SUCK.  I purposely got my tubes out to be proactive about ovarian cancer but also because I was done having children (love you R & P but we complete as a fam of 4).  Carrying these 4 drains around is like having all this excess body weight and being pregnant again, and they just need so much maintenance (emptying/milking 2x a day).

Over the last week, I have had a lot of time to recover, reflect, and look back on the fabulous life of Gabby Stoller (Wasserman).  After all, when you are back to living with your parents and staying in the room you grew up in, memories surround you 24/7.  It is kind of hysterical when your parents become your roommates again; we have come quite a long way in our relationship.  Nothing makes my mom happier than tucking me every night this week.  Living with anyone is a huge adjustment and thought it would be fun to highlight all my roommate experiences:

  • Through high school:lived with typical overbearing Jewish parents (this mostly applies to my mom; my dad is pretty laid back).They wanted what was best for me and obsessed over me doing well in school. When I was in high school, my mom had ovarian cancer for the first time right while I was in my peak and in my “rebellious stage” (11thgrade; you all get it).  I was not a pleasure to live with; I was your average hyper emotional kid (did well in school always) who was trying to figure out her life and keep up socially/academically/with boys.  They could NOT wait to ship me off to college and at least not be exposed to my behavior.
  • Summers between College:I lived in NYC at NYU dorms while interning at NYT; my parents legit could not handle my lifestyle and turned a blind eye. While I interned 5 days a week and always showed up, they did not want to wait up and worry (I know payback with Riley will come my way; scared!).
  • College: What can I say about my best friend/soul sister/friend who completes me, Sam Gimbel. This was the most fun living experience ever (sorry Markeeeee) and we had NO worries in the world; we lived it up and YOLO was our anthem (after all every night was a different special at Beckett’s).  ODE TO TRASH 4 LIFE!
  • Post College: I lived home for 2 whole months and was broke. While I had an inside sales job and was making minimum salary, it was not enough to move out.  My parents did not care and offered to upfront pay 3 months of rent just to get me out of my house.  I am sure you are catching the theme, but I am quite a free spirit whose motto was work hard/play hard.  Luckily, Sam followed suit and we took our Boston ways straight to NYC at the Coop. NYC is the city that never sleeps and neither did we.  We experienced so much in that apartment- birthdays, engagements, co-living with Hunt & Marc, and of course eventually we had to move on (we are common law married after 7 years).  I truly am blessed and the luckiest girl to have you in my life, and the bond we share is beyond words.  Thanks for visiting me this week, for bringing your gorgeous newborn Alex, and for giving me the “STRONG” bracelet.  It is not LEAVING my body this entire experience and I will be staring at it during chemo.  You girl give me strength and always have.
  • Markeeeeeee: Our UES life was just amazing! We got engaged in our apartment on 77th, were always surrounded by our besties, lived a life full of zero worries besides work, and truly soaked up every moment possible pre-kids.  Date nights were a regular, and you really just always had me laughing until my stomach hurt.
  • Markeeeeeee + Riley + Pierce: As the captain of the house, you guys keep me on my toes! There is nothing better than the sound of laughter, the connection we all share, the fun we have, the dance parties, and PJ fiestas (yes we have matching ones).  I am coming home roomies, and can’t wait to be reunited with my nuggets and you Marc. You are my life and I need to be surrounded by you all to continue giving me the courage and strength for the next few months.  Mama bear is BACK tomorrow!!!
  • Now(past week): Mom & Dad, what would I do without you.  It is so remarkable the shape and condition you are in, and how you took me back into your cocoon this week.  Thank YOU! I would never have recovered this way mentally and physically without your unlimited love and support.  I know you are sad to see me leave (such a change from many years ago where you couldn’t wait for me to go) but I promise you are with me on this entire journey.  I NEED YOU!

This week has been a good one (yay!!!), and I am getting stronger every day.  I am healing nicely, and not going to lie, I am excited for what the end result will be.  They LOOK fab and I am pretty sure the bod will be rocking before I know it.  Get ready Wass; I may even start whipping out low cut shirts again!

Today, I saw my plastic surgeon at Sloan, Dr. McCarthy (an artist!).  Two of the four drains were removed (aka 50% of these damn grenades) and it was the best feeling (well second to some others!).  For those of you who don’t know what drains are—they legit hang out of your body, are sewn in, and capture all excess blood/fluid after a massive surgery.  Having two removed is a MAJOR VICTORY; I feel lighter, and like I am pregnant 3 months vs 6 months.  On Tuesday my others come out, and I swear I will be listening to “Freedom” by George Michael and “Break Free” by Ariana Grande that entire day.  It is already saved on my Positive Vibes Spotify playlist.

Each week I am learning more and more about myself, and thought I would share:

  • Men need educating: Marc has been my absolute rock, support system, and best friend, but doubt he or any other dude will ever ask “If I feel better” again. To be clear, no dude, I just had major surgery, lost my boobs, was diagnosed with cancer, have to go through chemo, can’t hold my kids, can’t shower, can’t shave my armpits, wash my hair, and I have a pimple that makes me feel 13 all over again.  Questions should be as follows:  how did you sleep last night, is today better than yesterday, etc.  Love you baby and happy we can now laugh that one off! J
  • Kids are going to be my medicine:I visited home every night this week and I swear my kids grew up overnight. Riley is officially swimming (you go girl; that red bracelet will be yours soon!) and Pierce is speaking in full sentences/asking proper questions/and trying the potty more and more.  They were delicate with me and beyond kind; Riley would not let go of my hand, kept kissing it, and kept telling Pierce to be careful.  They asked how my “booboo” was healing and when I will be home (soon babies, soon!), and Pierce asked multiple times “where you get it”.  I am working on answers with therapists and while I may not handle it perfect, Marc and my goal is to make sure they know I am going to be okay (because I GOT THIS!) and they will have their mom back soon.  It breaks my heart but they are simply the two best kids and I am so proud of how we are raising them.
  • Over 10 women made appointments because of me:I have met so many people in the one week since I started writing who are touched by my story and inspired to go see their doctors. This shiat is real, and the age at which we are getting affected is younger and younger.  PLEASE DO EXAMS, PLEASE SEE YOUR DOCTOR, PLEASE GET TESTED FOR THE GENE, AND PLEASE BE PROACTIVE.  If you have a possibility of having the gene, GO GET TESTED.  It is everything and you are in control!
  • You may have a plan, but there may be another agenda: I was on top of this; this was not supposed to happen to me. My whole plan prior to being diagnosed was to get these bad boys out preventatively and to never hear the words “you have cancer”; we were discussing the age of 40 at Sloan.  I am hopeful that Sloan and others in the cancer space will start pushing their BRCA positive patients to do more proactive surgeries right after having kids.  I can’t help but think what if I did the reverse and instead of doing my tubes in December, what if I did my breasts.  What I do know is that I have no regrets, and I swear this diagnosis had a purpose.  That is WHY I GOT THIS; I am meant to spread the love, educate females about the BRCA gene, spread the goodness of my soul, and be that support system for others.
  • A good blow out can change your whole vibe/persona: Thanks De La Mar for an amazing job yesterday and for washing my disgusting hair and making me feel GORG.  You will forever be my salon—after all, we went through cutting 11 inches together and donating to Locks of Love, to now you knowing my full story.  Thanks for being a part of my journey!
  • Friendships and a support system are priceless: Boy oh boy, do I have the best friends and family in the whole world. My heart has never felt so full, and I am SO FREAKIN LUCKY.  Special shout out to Jamie Bowman—thank you for every day sending me pics as a piece of our childhood; you are my bestie from the midwestie and it makes me feel like you are here and not so far away (so thank you).  Nancy and Arlene, thanks for being my nurses; I cannot thank you enough for the sponge baths, the therapy, and the drains (these annoying AF grenades). Last but not least, thanks everyone for sharing my story, for holding my hand through this journey, for being there for my entire family, for all the food/gifts/flowers/cookies/massages/blow outs/robes/pjs/comfy clothes/care packages, but most importantly for still treating me like ME and for making me laugh (my favorite thing to do).  You sure know how to make a girl feel special!!

I will be back next week after all my doctor appointments and updates to my treatment plan (full pathology back).  In the meantime, ENJOY YOUR WEEKEND and EVERY MOMENT!  YOLO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

XO

Hakuna MaTATAs

Gab (now able to wear T shirts that aren’t button up—wooohoooo!!!!!)

ITTY BITTY TITTY COMMITTEE

BACK TO BEING THE QUEEN BEE OF THE ITTY BITTY TITTY COMMITTEE

It is funny to look back on the history and timeline of my breasts (boobs, tits, whichever word you prefer).  You see I was LITERALLY the last person to develop amongst all my friends/peers and all I ever wanted was to have boobs. I remember praying to god from the time I was 12 to about 16 to start blossoming; all my friends from school and camp started getting their period, underarm/leg hair, and had to wear bras to contain their tata’s.  I’ll never forget going to a doctor appointment and asking when it would be my time; my doctor said it would be awhile and that I was not even close to entering puberty (WTF; can’t I just fit in with everyone else?).  I was SO skinny, emaciated, a total late bloomer, and had to drink Ensure to remotely catch up to my friends.  I fake shaved my armpits to just fit in with the girls on my kickline team (praying that if I fake shaved it, it would just grow in.  Side note, THAT DOES NOT WORK). 

I never had to wear a bra until I was 16.  You could put a piece of ice down my chest, and it would fall immediately down.  I was part of the “itty bitty titty committee” and hated every second of it.  I waited SO long for them to come in and was so excited when they arrived.  As my dad always said, Patience is a Virtue.  Well I was fuckin patient, and Freshmen year at Boston University (go Terriers!) is really when I grew into myself.  I remember returning home to Valley Stream after December break and I was like a science experiment.  I finally had a small B, was taller, and my body was an A+.  A few people asked if I got implants at college- HA!  I guess the unlimited meal card & binge drinking really set my body into go mode. 

I have been cracking up over the last few days with my best college girlfriends, Elana and Sam; we have a long standing joke that my nipples always made an appearance during our nights out (in school and post school). I always thought it was my righty, but they both confirmed it was lefty that made a show.  Sam joked that it was our third roommate and the night wasn’t complete unless it popped out of my halter or tube top.  Righty was a jealous biatch and I guess needed attention finally; well righty you got all the attention now and it is your time for the red carpet, let’s get this CANCER SHIAT OUT of there. 

On 7/27 (day of the surgery), my rockstar of a husband drove me into NYC at 4am for a 5:15 check in. We listened to my positive vibes playlist and sang the whole ride in (a little Kanye West, Natasha Bedingfield, Coldplay, Hootie, Rolling Stones, Britney Spears).  I was READY GO TO and was excited to get this surgery done.  My parents came into the city and sat with Marc and I during the prep process.  I had the same nurse who did my fallopian tube prep; what are the ODDS. She remembered me, my voice (so distinct it kills me), and my positive attitude which felt so nice to hear.

After 4 hours in surgery, I arrive to the recovery room and am SO out of it.  You feel like you have been roofied after a college party (thanks frat houses for all those memories or lack of memories).  I remember asking immediately if my sensonal nodes came back positive or negative, and they said they were PERFECT and no need for additional biopsy (WIN WIN WIN WIN WIN- insert victory dance; I picture the Steve Urkel one). After being in and out of sleep, I finally wake up out of the fog.  I am so happy to see Markeeeeee, my parents, Mals, and my dear friend TATA (ironic!).  We laughed, caught up, and I could burst from how much love, how many texts (111 alone out of surgery),  the comments I had on my blog, the outreach from people I have not spoken to in years, and the support of others who went through a similar situation and stepped forward.  I AM TRULY SO LUCKY!!!!!

The team at MSKCC is by far the BEST; to my nurses Colleen and Will, THANK YOU.  You so got me, my attitude and positivity towards this, and were able to manage my full suite of visitors.  Sorry Will for being skeptical, but a male nurse who would be staring at my breasts and changing my bed pan (yes, I had to pee in a bed pan like a 90 year old), just seemed odd.  BUT YOU FAR SURPASSED my expectations and had the exact vibe I needed at that moment.

It was all too good to be true, and I guess I needed some sort of drama to add to my story (they must know I’m writing a blog). Around 8pm, I start noticing that my left breast (non Cancer boob) looks like a giant balloon; I thought well that was quick (and kind of a Kim Kardashian moment) but something is off.  Sure enough, I get the whole MSKCC squad into my room to examine, and after a lot of monitoring, draining my tubes, it was decided I had a hematoma.  Hematomas have a 1 in 100 chance; COME ON!!!!!!!!!!  Life only hands you what you can handle (my motto). That damn non cancer boob was a jealous a**hole and needed some attention; seriously WTF.  I was transferred from one Sloan hospital to another in a stretcher and an AMBULANCE (beyond comical; pics below); the sirens on the ambulance went for the full 4 blocks to just make it more ridiculous and I immediately underwent my second surgery of the day (as my dad says 1.25 total).

My whole childhood my sister and I had sleepovers like every night; we would rotate rooms and sleep on each others floors.  We did this from as young as I can remember until I went to college; what we share is unique and it is a sense of dependence, comfort, and true sisterhood.  That night when I transferred hospitals, all I wanted was my sister.  I kept asking for her after the second operation, and needed her to fall asleep in my now second room/suite at Sloan.  That was the last thing I remember before passing out for the night! I can only hope that P& R share this type of bond!

7/28:  Ativan is my BFFAE; this muscle relaxer is equivalent to my favorite glass of rose/red wine and is making the pain somewhat manageable.  I am released from Sloan after learning my PT exercises and go home with my mom and dad who are officially my caretakers/bosses for the next week.  It was nice to be released and feels strange and cool to be back at my childhood house and bedroom to recover.  Marc , Riley, and Pierce came over at night, and while I was so nervous to see them, they are like animals and truly sensed that I was not myself.  Riley asked a lot of questions and you can tell was scared to give me a hug/kiss which broke my heart.  I know that she gets it and understands it is different for a little, but she truly was nervous to hurt me and as a mama bear, there is nothing worse.  I pass out for the night, tossed and turned, watched Gossip Girl, popped some more pills, tossed/turned, and finally got a few hours of sleep.

7/29: I woke up feeling confident, optimistic, and ready to take on the day.  I felt inspired to start writing again and to spend time with Marc, the kids, Adam, and Mals.  The kids this time were so excited to see me and gave me a big hug (as big as they could) and made me laugh (I needed it).  Riley did her 1000th dance to Party in the USA, and I was able to shake my hips and sing along with her.  Everyone left but my Mallory, and we decided to go for a LONG walk around our childhood neighborhood.  It felt nice to be NORMAL (despite these drains hanging from me like an orangutan) and to just walk and walk and walk and celebrate that I can walk this early on (not bad after a day of surgery).  Thank you Mals for being attached to my side; you just know what to say, what not to say, and are the human medicine I need.

This week will be a good one; each day I am feeling stronger, seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, making plans to see friends (Sam, can’t wait to meet Alex!!!), to get my hair washed (girl can use it REAL BAD), get my first mani (don’t worry no cuticles being cut), going to see the kids each day after camp, getting one set of drains removed Thursday (big victory), and trying to maintain a normal balanced life while recovering from this massive 2 part surgery.

The road is not easy BUT I GOT THIS!!  Love to all my friends who keep sending me the sweetest messages, flowers, and gifts. Keep sending me the positive vibes songs and your favorite movies/TV shows.  Can’t thank you all for the insane amount of outreach and for the offers on how to help—I promise I will take each and every one of you up on it.

I’ll be back at the end of the week writing up my small victories and moments that make me smile (and cry!).  I know it is okay to feel all moments and that I don’t have to be super woman all day (thanks Elana for that reminder, I needed it! Love you Beiner).

XOXO

Hakuna MaTATAs

G (with her sexy button-down PJ style)

 

YOLO (You Only Live Once!)

YOLO (You only live ONCE!): my motto, my anthem, my mantra

First with the name of the blog, super clever, right?  Has so many meanings to me personally.  Lion King is my favorite childhood movie, is now my kids favorite movies, and Hakuna Matata is the best phrase of ALL TIME.  Not to mention, the song is just so catchy and a staple in my house.

While most would make their journey less public, I have decided that my story is meant to be shared and even if it impacts one person, I made a difference.  I truly believe that things are only thrown at you if you can handle, and I know I got the strength to conquer this.  If somehow this becomes viral and decides to be made into a movie or perhaps a book, please have Christina Applegate play the part of Gabby; she is my spirit animal (funny, an extrovert, the life of the party, and has the BRCA gene too).  Angelina Jolie, my other BRCA idol, can direct.  Hey, a girl can dream….

This is meant to inspire, and push all females out there to do breast exams, to not cancel your doctor appointments, to do mammos/MRI’s/sonos, and if you are at a remote risk of having BRCA, go get the damn test done and start preventative care ASAP.  You are the driver in this game of life and should own it.

WHO AM I AND WHY SHOULD YOU CARE?

My name is Gabrielle Elyse Stoller, and I am 34 years old, live in Long Island (insert Jewish raspy voice accent), am happily married (9 years in November!), have two amazing children, and was just diagnosed with breast cancer on 7/18.  Oh yeah, and I am a determined bad ass biatch who lets nothing get in her way.

Before I share my story and the beginning of my journey with breast cancer, I want to thank a few key people within my support system:

-My amazing parents, Stu and Leslie Stoller; I am seriously the luckiest to be your daughter and to have been raised by you.  Mom, you are my idol, my inspiration, and the reason why I know I will beat this; you did it twice, and not a day goes by that I don’t think about your strength and courage.  You both are so diligent about healthcare and are the I caught this SO early and have been at Sloan Kettering since 20 years old.

-My sister, Mallory; you are the best gift besides therapy Mom and Dad ever gave me.  We have been through everything together, and I truly do not have the words to express how I would get through this without you.  You were with me at that appointment, and we just knew; BRCA is a nasty gene and I am sorry you have it too, but I hope my story is one that inspires you to take action quick.  Thanks for always organizing our annual Cycle for Survival team; mark my words, 2019 is our YEAR.  I will be standing on that podium and sharing my story (on the vision board!).

-My husband, Marc; MARKEEEEEEE, I struck gold with you.  My mom has good taste (insert Jewish matchmaking humor here).  You are my rock, my main confidant, my best friend, my lover, my personal comedian, and an amazing dad to our two nuggets.  I want to thank you in advance for your support, your love, for making me always feel like the most beautiful girl in the world, and for kicking this things ass with me. LETS DO THIS WASS.

-My babies, Riley and Pierce.  I am fighting this and will beat this damn thing for you two.  I thought I knew what love was before having you; you have made me selfless, the best version of myself, and make me laugh like Larry David.  I love you more than anything and am so proud of you and cannot wait to see what life has in store for you two.  YOU ARE MY EVERYTHING and I promise this is just a phase!

-AH-DUM: the most amazing brother in law in the world.  Best addition to the fam, and it is SO NICE to have someone to finally talk media/business with (in a family of all accountants).  You are the best uncle, have me significantly cooler/trendier, and I love our conversations (that last one on my front steps was so special to me).

-My extended family: My cousins, my aunts, my moms friends who are like family, my coworkers (old and new), my mentor Jason Brenner (12 years dude!).

-PaulPaul: I know we talk about this but that moment I interviewed you, I knew you were meant to be a part of my life.  You are forever a part of our life, and I am so thankful to have you.  My kids are who they are because of the love you gave them while I was at work, and I am so happy you live with us and will be here for me during this.  I need you!

-My in-laws, Ronnie and Cliff.  Thank you for having Marc, raising him to the kindest, sweetest, most loving husband and father.  I am forever indebted to you for giving me my rock and best friend.  Thank you for the support throughout all of this and for being there for our family.

-My girl squad (longevity order)- T-Rap, Jamie W (sorry you know that’s forever your name), Craze (Heather), Stacey, Sam (Balls, Samala), Elana (Beiner), Hayley, Jen, Hillery, and my Merrick girls Jen, Debbie, Dana, Ali, and Nicole.  The countless hours of calls, texts already and the amount of love/support/offers are enough to make a girl feel full; THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!!!!!

JULY 2018

It is so funny 3 weeks ago on the LIRR I turned to my dear friend Ali and said my life is at a 10.  I went on about how I was in such a groove at work and all my hard work was paying off, how my kids were kicking butt at camp, how Pierce was crushing speech and speaking so beautifully, how much fun my summer was, how I hit my one year at Merrick, and how strong my marriage is to Marc.  Sorry God, I will never say I am a 10 again because I see what happens.

Let’s start at the very beginning.  This is my family tree:

Maternal Grandmother- Breast Cancer

Maternal Grandfather- No Cancer but BRCA Carrier

Paternal Grandmother- Breast Cancer

Paternal Grandfather- No Cancer (lucky duck)

Mom (my hero, my everything): Ovarian Cancer, 2x, BRCA Carrier

Mom Sister, Anita: Ovarian Cancer, 2x, BRCA Carrier; her daughter does not have the gene

Mom Sister, Eileen- No Cancer, No BRCA Gene

Mom First Cousin, Beth: Breast Cancer, No Gene

So, now that you have a full understanding of my genetic composition, you can imagine the history and how much my family and I have been talking about cancer.  I will never forget when I was 20 and my mom sat me down to tell me I am going to Sloan and starting my care under a surveillance program.  At this point, I was 20 (did not take the gene test), focused on graduating college and let’s keep it real partying my ass off, worrying about what halter or mini skirt I was wearing, boys, and if I was drinking tequila, 99 bananas, or having a jello shot that night.  I remember giving my mom a hard time and telling her I will deal when I want to deal, and she said, not your choice you are going and you will thank me one day.  Well Mom, THANK YOU for introducing me to Sloan and for making me so proactive.

By 21, I was at Sloan at least 2x a year seeing my breast doctor (Dr. Mangino, AKA, my angel) and my gyno (Dr Goldfrank; my heart).  The waiting room was always torture; always surrounded by those who received bad news, were under chemo, and I could still not understand WHY I WAS THERE.  I was 21, did not have cancer, did not know if I had the gene yet, and thought it was a waste of time.  I did mammos, MRI’s, bi-annual visits and could have paid rent for how much time I spent at Sloan.  The only breaks I had were when I was pregnant with my nuggets and had to see an OBGYN who could deliver; Sloan focuses on saving lives (not bringing them into the world!).  So grateful for that!

In 2012, I had my baby girl Riley, also known as Riley Face.  She was the CHUBBIEST, most delicious, gorgeous, RED HEAD (WTF! When you are casting her in this book/movie, we need a good character or just her, she’s a natural).  During my maternity leave one day, I turned to my mom who was visiting and said let’s go get my gene tested at Sloan.  It hit me that I needed to know if I had it and it was a possibility that I could possibly give to my nuggetface who taught me how much I could love.  A few weeks later, I got the news….I was BRCA1 positive, and my chances of breast/ovarian were higher than the average female.  Action mode hit, and it was time to make a plan; have a second kid and start my surgeries in a timely fashion (before 40 for ovaries, before 50 for breasts). On it—telling me to have more sex, I am in…

We waited a year or so after the news to feel ready for a second one, and in 2015, I had my baby boy, Pierce Marley (yes, after Bob Marley).  I so wanted a girl, yes that is awful to say, but it is true.  My sister is my best friend and I wanted Riley to have the same.  I thank my lucky stars every day that I had a boy, because my heart was never fuller than when Pierce was born.  He is just the most cuddly, sweet, obsessed with me (mama’s boy), fighter/warrior/hero.  You see, Pierce was born with Microtia Artesia, a very rare condition where one ear does not develop in the womb and conductive hearing loss occurs.  I thought my world ended; I was not prepared for this and nothing at any point indicated this would be the case.

I would not change a thing about Pierce and the experience with Pierce; you see, it taught me that I am a fighter, up for any challenge, and everything thrown my way was another opportunity to just be empowered and grow.  Pierce is doing amazing, is so proud of his hearing device, and is speaking so articulately.  He would not be like that if we hid, did not publicly speak about his diagnosis, and did not instill confidence at such a young age.  He is my spirit animal, and anytime I need motivation, I just need to look at him and see how much he has accomplished at such a young age.

In 2017, Marc and I moved to Merrick, Long Island.  We were new to the burbs, had a lot of transitions to make with the kids, of course I had to start a new job at the same time (I thrive on chaos), and knew ZERO people here.  I felt super fulfilled with my friendships and figured if I met people and expanded the nuclear circle, it would be cool, if not, it would be okay.  Sure enough, we made friends through our kids, and it is safe to say we have a second family in Merrick.  Wild that it has only been a year but we built an entire world out here and I cannot imagine my life without my girls, their kids, and their husbands.

After setting up life in LI and Pierce up for success (speech, schooling, private speech, etc.), the real conversations with Sloan started about removing parts to avoid the words “you have cancer”.  The conversation always started with ovaries since that is what my mom had and my aunt passed away from, and there was new research that fallopian tube removal would reduce risk drastically until I was ready for a full hysterectomy.  In December 2017, I underwent the surgery and felt very good about the decision; the recovery was tough but I felt strong and protected.  Needless to say, could not have done this without the support of friends and family.

Fast forward to July 11th; my check up with Dr Mangino who leads the breast surveillance program at Sloan.  In between catching up, showing pics of P & R, and how life on LI is, she finds a lump; she truly felt it was nothing and told me it was likely fibric but being the history, we should be paranoid and pursue (thank god!).  She marked it with an X and left me branded for the next step.  I already had a pre-scheduled mammogram for July 13th (as I do these pretty routinely) and they put me in for a sono right after; I really thought it was nothing so insisted no one with me.  My mom and sister refused, and my sister took work off early and sat with me (she must have known).  Needless to say, the mammo is done and the sono appears, and I see them measuring something; the pathologist walks in for a second opinion and tells me she could normally make a call but this was too “suspicious”.  We demand a biopsy right away, and before I know it, this “suspicious tumor” is being extracted and sent off; for 5 days, I am in a panic but I knew…. I was one or two classes shy of being a stat minor at BU, but the numbers were against me.  I kept busy all weekend but I was consumed.

7/18 is the day that changed my life forever; I stalk all my doctors to see if the results are in and I finally get the call at 3pm before heading into my clients to present.  “It is not the news we were hoping to see; it is 1.6cm, and you have breast cancer.  You will have a bilateral mastectomy and to meet the surgeon, the plastic surgeon, and discuss treatment but likely only need the removal of your breasts (already a big pill to swallow).  You are set up for an appointment on Friday, 7/20”.  JUST LIKE THAT my whole world changed, and guess what, I had to cry for 15 minutes (call Marc, my sister, and my mom) and put on my big girl pants and go present like a champ to clients.

7/20 was the day I was waiting for.  I met with Dr. Gemignani, and my full pathology report was revealed.  I had breast cancer, Triple X was the type (not common but more common in BRCA patients), and GET THIS, I need 8 rounds of chemo (WTFFFFFFFF).  As you can imagine, my head spun, I cried and cried and cried and cried.  Not to be cocky, but my boobs and my hair are MY THING.  After two kids, they were still great and small enough/perky enough, and my hair is magical (you will learn that I love that word).  After crying my eyes out, I got it together and learned next steps; surgery would be soon and recovery is a few weeks and 4-6 weeks post I start chemo.  Being the natural pushy sales person I am, I pushed my hair to a surgery within the week and secured 7/27 (they wanted 8/6 originally).  I was NOT WAITING.

After the appointment, I took a Xanax (my new BFF), and it was time to start moving.  We needed to share the news with friends/family/co-workers and of course in return manage their feelings/tears/and their generous offers.

For those of you who know me, a few words that would be used to describe me are as follows: positive, optimistic, fun, a do-er (can’t stand people who are not do-ers), an extrovert, and the life of the party.  I decided from that moment until the surgery to just live it up; after all YOLO (you only live once- my coin phrase!).

Weekend of 7/20:  Friday night, my parents took Pierce and Riley had her first big girl sleepover with Jordyn (her bestie; mom and dad are Jen/Seth, two friends from Merrick who are like family now).  Marc and I had our bottle of sake and walked to our fave local sushi restaurant.  So many laughs, in between the sad/supportive/most kind texts from friends/family and continued positive spirit.

Saturday was a day I will never FORGET.  I did hot pilates (cried half the time) and in the class, I had a sudden urge to cut my hair and bite the bullet just in case chemo had that reaction. I read that short hair holds up better and figured YOLO, let’s do this.  I called up De La Mer and made an appointment and figured at the very minimum it would grow back, who gives a shiat :). I called Mal to tell her and she suggested I donate to Locks of Love (DUHHHHHHH; how could I not think of that).  We binge watched Safe (DO IT; so GOOD!), got massages, continued Safe, I got my haircut (looks so GOOD btw), enjoyed some “alone time” (gotta enjoy these bad boys while we can), and went to dinner in Roslyn at Kyma (SO YUM; great vodka/pineapple infused drinks- DO IT).  Sunday, my kids came home, and we went to the beach; I spent one on one time with each of them, did long walks, picked up sea shells, and spoiled them with a million kisses on my fave spots (side of cheek by neck).  I remember looking at Marc with the two of them by the ocean while I sat in a chair thinking I am so blessed and that I will fight this effin thing for them.  They are EVERYTHING and need me; I am the matriarch, the glue, and we are a unit.

Week of 7/23: Last week of work and my final week of surgery.  Monday is HR time, getting thigns in order and revealing the news to coworkers (Thanks Placed Sales team- love you!).  Monday night, dinner with my girls Dana and Debbie; how I met these two a year ago is MINDBLOWING.  I legit do not think how I functioned without them in my lives.  Thank you for all the laughs, the conversation, and for keeping my mind off the BIG C.  Tuesday my friend Ali asked if I wanted to see Britney Spears; YOLO.  I did Soul Cycle before (just to cry in the dark) and joined her for the BEST SHOW EVER; I am a huge fan and just seeing the come back she made, made me feel stronger and empowered.  Just added “Stronger” to my “positive vibes” playlist.  Wednesday, I do my last meeting at Pepsi HQ and head back to LI; I took a new hot yoga class at Merrick Yoga (SO GOOD!) and went out on a date night with Marc.  What a date night filled with lots of laughter, love, and of course chatting through the next few weeks.  I can always count on Marc for building me up, making me feel sexy always, and for making me laugh.  Thank you my love- I truly don’t know what I would do without you.

That brings up to today, 7/26, my pre-surg appointments.  Got to meet my surgeon, Dr McCarthy, and LOVED HER; walked through my reconstruction options and feel good.  She had the best bedside manner, and is super thorough, conservative, and just lovely.  I know she will make me LOOK HOT!

7/27 at 7:30 is my surgery…. until then, signing off, and will be thinking positive thoughts and keeping the best mindset.  Thank you to my family and friends for everything; I will not be shy about sharing my story and accepting all your offers.  GIVE ME ALL YOUR POSITIVITY AND GOOD VIBES (and all show/movie/fun upbeat song recommendations). MORE TO COME! XOXO.