a happy ending

March 19, 2007 § 28 Comments

On the occasion of my last chemo treatment, all set to break out the champagne, my oncologist casually announced that surgery might not be necessary. In most instances this is terrific news. It could mean the tumor vanished, or that I was magically cured. But it was neither. He suspected the cancer had migrated to my bones and offered that there’d be no benefit to surgery. In essence it was too late.

I’m no expert, but I do know that breast cancer is lethal once it abandons the palpable breast for un-chartered territories like the brain, liver, or bones. In these instances, there’s a 3% cure rate and for the other 97%, a life expectancy of 2-3 years.

My Oncologist went to Switzerland. My primary care physician called in a script for Ativan. My surgeon called me at home. It was after 9pm, her son was on her computer, so she asked if I could call up my reports and read them to her.

Vague sclerosis was the fiendish phrase that had my entire medical team convinced my cancer was aggressive and had spread.

How could vague be so definitive?

Dr MJ was compassionate. I was speechless. She wanted to make sure someone was with me. Deanne was, and has been from the beginning. Time to update the definition of friend on Wikipedia.

What was I doing in this Telenova? Single mom, young child, in-operable breast cancer, too many tears and sick to my stomach.

I was scheduled for a bone scan the following day. I would demand every test possible, another MRI, another biopsy. I wanted to look under the microscope and see the cancer cells for myself.

Something about bone scans. First, you get injected with a radioactive substance. Then, you drink as much fluid as possible to flush it out of your system. No matter what you drink, your bones absorb the glow in the dark juice and three hours later you’re back in for pictures by a camera that resembles a sci-fi docking station. The final images look like Halloween decorations.

11:00 – check in with Nuclear medicine 3rd floor West campus BIDMC.
11:15 – injection of green stuff. It doesn’t hurt, but it’s stored in a lead container and that’s alarming.
11:30 – I start drinking; carrot juice, water, more water, I water down the carrot juice.
12:00 – I meet with my attorney. I try to remain dry eyed. I fail. We make sure my will is in order, signed notarized, guardians and executors assigned.

All I can think about is Frannie. Orphaned, not once but twice. How can I do this to her? Can my guilt keep me alive?

I think back to my trip to China 7 years ago when I vowed to take care of my daughter forever. I promised the Chinese officials I would never abandon her. I promised Frannie I would always be there for her. I’m on target for a train wreck and my daughter certain debris.

I tried to make myself feel better. I had an OK life insurance policy. Her guardian was wonderful, my executor, sharp. Suffering could make her stronger. I was desperate. My attorney came in with more paper work and two associates masquerading as witnesses. I signed a health care proxy and moved on.

2:00 – back to nuclear medicine and my boney photo shoot. I lie on the table and think positive thoughts. No hot spots, no hot spots. Healthy healthy healthy. I listen to my ipod, I relax, I breathe, I pray for perfect pictures, flawless films and I fall asleep. I take solace in the fact that I have always been photogenic.

Marty was scheduled to deliver the keynote at a conference in Puerto Rico two days later. Months ago accompanying him to the Caribbean seemed like a splendid idea. We’d celebrate my last chemo and enjoy the sun.

Now, nothing was a splendid idea.

Did I want to leave Frannie for a weekend? For even an hour? Would it be good for her to get use to my not being around? I could take the weekend and make a plan. I’d make a list of all things I wanted to do and all things I would not bother with. I’d make the most of whatever I had left.

As a Nor’easter was zeroing in on the city I flew off to San Juan.

Marty picked me up at the airport and brought me back to the resort. It was lovely, but I was numb.


We were in the room for 5 minutes when my cell phone rang. One bit of good news that week; my Cingular service was perfect in San Juan. Even better than it was in Coolidge Corner. It was Dr MJ on the phone. She had a few minutes between surgeries and wanted to share the results of the bone scan. I didn’t anticipate hearing back from her so soon. I wasn’t prepared for the call.

She had good news. As a surgical Oncologist, she never passes up an opportunity to call someone with good news. I love that. The scans were virtually identical to the set taken last November. There was nothing new to report. No new hot spots. No new cancer. While we’re not sure what was going on with the cat scan, for the time being, we can rule out metastatic disease. I love everyone.

I had regular stay in the breast cancer and it was the best news of my life.

This news anywhere, and it would have been paradise. But we were in paradise, complete with palm trees, and freshly pummeled mohitos, tepid seas, and swimming pools with bartenders. Everything was perfect including the flood in the bathroom, the room swap at midnight and the juicy pineapple.


We’re just giddy around here. OK, we could have lived without the scare, but on the flip side I have a great plan for the next couple of years.

A death sentence lifted offers an incredible relief. But it’s not for everyone. A cold martini at the end of the day is a decent option as well.

Xoxo Momo


§ 28 Responses to a happy ending

  • ozonetv says:

    I’m fixin me up a pina colada too!


  • Kathy Dann says:

    This is the best news ever! I am so happy for you right now and I can’t wait to come see you and give you a huge hug. I will go to sleep tonight smiling!

  • Judy Korin says:

    This is such great news Marilyn! I’m sending gratitude into the universe now for answered prayers, and also for scary teachers that give us a not-so-necessary, but always provocative, kick in the butt. If your life was full and deep already, imagine how much more so it is becoming. Brava to you, Marilyn, for keeping your incredible attitude and humor and for seeing the beauty and blessings in everything. And also for taking the leap of faith to get away for a much needed change of scenery and weather! Sending you lots of love and light, Judy.

  • Dd says:

    A big Fckin relief!!!!
    Hooray for Life!
    A very much un-needed experience, but I am are soo happy for you and Frannie and everyone else that loves you!!

  • Paul Levy says:

    Love the beach pictures! Love the update even more! (And it no surprise about MJ. She is a star MD and deeply feeling person.)

  • Rick Beyer says:

    great news! the roller coaster ride continues…

  • caryl says:

    THAT’S THE BEST!!!!!

  • Rebecca says:

    Now I can exhale. Great news.


  • paula says:

    Dd said it best,
    A big Fckin relief!!!!
    Hooray for Life!

  • LB says:


  • Ricki says:

    I’m crying with joy and I can’t wait to see you soon.
    Much Love,

  • Kelly says:

    That is FANTASTIC!!! I am so Happy for you, and for me..got to admit, your last entry really put a dent in my positive thinking..NOW..just in time for my first treatment (today @3pm)..you have lifted my spirits once again! 🙂 Keep celebrating, you deserve it.


  • Jamie says:

    Woo Woo! U could not have shared better news with us!
    The diva has been triumphant…Feel good girl…and when I am in Boston I am going to personally make u the best grey goose cosmo you ever tasted…

  • Karen Waer says:

    Yes. Thank you God. Love, Karen

  • Liz Hill says:

    Maybe it’s Frannie’s angels smilin’ down on you. A BIG hug to you both.

    Watch out when you open your front door. The bottles of bubbly will be piling up!

    XO and kudos on your strength and spirit…


  • David & Claire says:

    We are so relieved and happy. As someone said, we can finally exhale. There’s no pool with bartenders here in Minnesota, and not nearly enough sun, but we’re going to break out the libations and sit by our (struggling) indoor palm tree, thinking of you and giving thanks for the good news.

  • Edie Read says:

    great news – here’s to drinking in the gooooooooooooodnessssssssssss

    xo edie

  • Gail says:

    Good news needs only short retorts. No need to ramble on…

    Rebecca said it best…


    and man do I need to exhale.
    Holding my breath ’til good news appears is
    tantamount to black outs with circling stars.
    Cute but pointless.

    Thank god our prayers are answered.
    May you be blessed with health and happiness all the days of your life.

    Love, Gail

  • Mary Ann says:

    Whew! holding my breath waiting for this one!What’s next?
    Mary Ann

  • Lynda Brown says:

    Love that beautiful ending picture in the black bathing suit. I’ll just stay with that right now. Your smile in front of the blue sea. Lyndabeth

  • Joyce says:

    What terrific news! Sunshine, pineapples and fabulous news sounds like an amazing vacation 🙂

    Thank goodness I read this entry first…


  • Lisa Sharkey says:

    Dear Marilyn,

    I have been following your postings and talking with Tina– our whole family has been rooting for you.
    I cannot imagine the roller coaster you have been on and thank god for that phone call in Puerto Rico. Life is good.
    Much love to all of you.
    Lisa, Paul and the kids (Greg Doug and Casey)

  • jette says:

    Buzzkill-I had forgotten all about that word-now so apt.

    OMG…and now such fantastic news!!!! Marilyn, shortly after reading Buzzkill I got on a plane and absurdly headed off to spring break with my girls… and I thought of you so often this past week as I sat on the beach and froliced with them in the warm healing waters(in PR – how weird is that?!?!) but I wanted you to know that I was comforted for you by the knowledge of how many times in my recent past I have been struck by the wisdom the chinese have shown with each “match” they have made between girls and families. They really know more than most about, I now think, almost everything – past, present, and future. I am certian that they would not have chosen you for Frannie if there were any chance you would leave so soon….dance, plan your party, and fight like hell on this @#+*%!^ rollercoaster!

  • Mark says:

    Momo, regarding Living Proof…I’m doing the share thing so your readers have this, too. As we discovered firsthand, Bob Vandegrift is living proof that doctors aren’t always right. His story is on the American Cancer Society website. That link along with Bob’s conclusions and technique are available at cancerstrategies.info (yes, info) and he’s reachable as follows: Robert L. Vandegrift: 797 South 350 West, Bountiful, UT 84010 Tel: 801-295-8172; Fax: 801-299-8658 search@xmission.com. I spoke with him; he’s a gem. — Mark

  • Cathy Hurst says:

    I”m still p*ss*d at the doctor for being so cavalier about this whole thing….But so glad there’s good news!!!!

  • Glenn Gray says:

    First. Glad for your good news. I have been exposed to cancer as a husband of a wife diagnosed and treated for breast cancer and have a question for those that read this post. Has anyone hear of or taken a product called VEMMA for Chemo fatigue? My wife went thru breast cancer surgery, chemo and radition within the last 2 years. A friend of mine recommended the product during chemo but the oncologist didn’t want her taking any herbal supplements. My wife is in the routine check up phaze now and my friend hit me up again about this product. I thought it wouldn’t hurt to try so I signed up and my wife has been taking it for a couple of weeks now. I am not endorsing the product but she seems to have more energy and says she feels better. Has anyone else tried this? It’s like a network marketing business but the product seems good. If you have any feedback please let me know at sixof12@juno.com You can access the VEMMA web site through my membership at http://www.myvemma.com/glenngray Thanks in advance for your feedback.

  • julie says:

    SO happy to read your great news!

  • Jamie says:

    Dear Momo-
    ‘In the east
    and in the west
    every bird will seek its nest
    everyone will seek his own
    home is where the heart grows’

    What’s up girl!
    Welcome home!
    Your courage and strength are a true inspiration.

    much love and positive vibes to you…

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