January 24, 2007 § 12 Comments

Halfway around the chemo racetrack I crashed and burned. A NASCAR wipeout without the roaring fans. So much for being brazen about tolerating rounds one through three. My fourth treatment was a slap in the face. I stayed in bed, under the covers, and in a cold sweat for close to four days. I was hideously achy to the touch and fearful that my DNA had mutated beyond repair.

As I faded in and out of a half-dozen movies, 3pm was no different from 3am. I imagined my health irreparably damaged. Wrestling with a decimated life, Sunday arrived on schedule. I was sure I had pushed my luck too far, and that this last pass of poison would undo me. I was wrong. A sweat-induced coma was averted and the ER would remain a TV program not my destination. My body repaired itself, again.

I thanked a vague god, and remain in awe of our relentless and resilient physical bodies.

Like my very best friends, my appetite came calling. At four in the afternoon, during act two of Cinderella as performed flawlessly by the State Ballet Theatre of Russia. While lithe ballerinas and their sculpted male counterparts soared across the stage in cotton candy costumes, I imagined seared tenderloin with cracked black pepper. I settled for some m&m’s. Post show we made a b-line to Whole Foods where I snatched ticket 68 and took my place in line at the meat counter behind still hopeful and rib hungry play-off fans.

One of these and one of those and an extra slab of that please.

My inner carnivore was on the loose. The goods from the butcher were all well and good, but I needed instant gratification. I sought sanctuary in prepared foods. Frannie ordered her usual, teriyaki wings. For the first time ever, roast beef called to me.

It wasn’t pretty, but this isn’t a fashion site so I will tell you just what we did in the grocery store parking lot a half-mile from home. We ate dinner, in the car, with plastic utensils, heater on, and a view of two choice handicapped parking spots.

That roast beef was a cure. Devouring iron infused juices I settled into the car, I took another bite of beef. Frannie offered up chicken wings. They did nothing for me. I had eyes only for the meat, a chewy dose of iron and protein.

For every bout of nausea or near-nausea there are the days after when cravings for food possess me. Forget the food pyramid old or new, I care nothing for balanced meals, I am eating foods based on cravings and apparently color.

This is my Color Me Diet.

My green days are made with broccoli and mesculun greens or mache with cucumbers.

Orange days are filled with yams and clementines, winter squash and carrots, possibly cheese.

Pink days are salmon filled washed down with glasses of pink grapefruit juice.

White days, cauliflower and potatoes, creamy soups and banana shakes.

Eggs straddle both orange and white. And, like the first bite of roast beef a runny egg or better, three of them can satiate me instantly days after treatment.

There are occasions when my diet is more Jackson Pollock than Ellsworth Kelly. Still, my food groups long to stay together. There are Fruit Days or Vegetable Afternoons. Last week I was overcome by a calcium craze; yogurts and cheeses and a glass of milk.

A 5 year old, at the sight of my bald and barren scalp said gleefully “you look like a baby”.

All this sleeping and eating and cell renewal, I think she nailed it on the head.

Xoxo Momo


§ 12 Responses to colorful

  • Karen Waer says:

    You are such an amazing writer Marilyn. I never realized how good you are (or don’t remember which is actually more possible since I’ve found that yes, parimenapause does screw with my mind). All I can say is thank you. Love, Karen

  • Gordon says:

    While all of us are wondering if you are going to compile your colorful adventures in hardbound book format, there is a piece of me that thinks you’re better in real time. Ever thought about syndicating?


  • paula says:

    If someone gets the prize for making suffering sound both foul and bittersweet, it must be you.

    Better times, kinder toxins and honey-sweet dreams.

  • Kathy Dann says:

    Why did I not know what a good writer you were? Is it because you are also so good with numbers- you aren’t supposed to be this good at both writing and math- didn’t anyone ever tell you that???
    This is unbelievabely good– uplifting, sad, and funny at the same time.
    Thank you for sharing.
    Love, Kathy

  • Lisa Hoffman says:


    I work with Rick Beyer’s sister Peggy and she told me about your blog. I am a 6 year survivor, diagnosed at 38 years of age. Your writings are wonderful! You have put words to the chemo experience that I could never explain to anyone. It was a sad, heartbreaking, scary and lonesome time and yet there was always something to find humor in. If I didn’t laugh, I would have cried (all the time). Thank you so much!

    -Lisa Hoffman

  • Ricki says:

    You’re incredible! I love you so much. I,m cheering for your heroine and I can’t wait to read the happy ending.

  • Karen says:

    Wow. Best entry yet. (I got caught up) Love the color diet part. Karen

  • Liz Hill says:

    As you possess an art heart, I believe it makes perfect sense that the colors and textures of food are being organized and injested systematically and categorically while you swim through this chaos. This is much more than sustenence, feeding a craving, and nutrition now.

    This is about sucking in, and making the most of, all the sensations you inhabit/inhabit you. Go for it.

    Then again, maybe you’re just a god-damned dingo gone mad…

    XO Lizzy

  • Laura says:

    Your words are so powerful. I tear up with every entry yet, somehow by the end, I am smiling. I have a feeling your treatment will leave you feeling the same.

  • Paul Levy says:


    Thanks for putting my link on your site.

    For those who don’t know, our hospital published a wonderful (and funny) book about breast cancer by Monique Doyle Spencer called, “The Courage Muscle, A chicken’s guide to living with breast cancer.” It is available on Amazon.

  • Monique Doyle Spencer says:

    Paul Levy told me there was something I just had to read and gave me the link to your piece. I’m so glad I did. It’s really wonderful and made me want to keep reading, which I did — this is a great blog. I wish you good health, much love and laughter on this bumpy road.

  • Karen Cote says:

    My sister, Susan Crain met you @ Wellspring. I am 50 yrs. old & at the beginning of my breast cancer journey. I had a lumpectomy in Jan which left me with “dirty” margins so I’m now awaiting a mastectomy Feb 21st to be followed by chemo & radiation. Thank you for having the courage and grace to put your story into words. I look forward to you completing your journey and living your life as a survivor!
    Karen Cote

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