A Small Change

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If you’re a regular reader of this blog (thank you!), you may have noticed I changed the name. When I started this thing, it was a diary of sorts for my journey through a breast cancer diagnosis, treatment and all that goes with that.

But I sort of felt like the name focused too much on my breasts, when this experience is about so much more than those body parts. So, I decided a name change was in order. “Strange Trip” seems apt, as this is probably the most bizarre ride I’ve ever been on. Looking back at everything that’s happened in this past year is truly surreal.

Thanks for coming along with me–it’s been a smoother ride knowing so many are cruising along with me.

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I Heart New York

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View from the roof of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Many years ago, I fell madly in love with New York City.

I love everything about it. The architecture. The culture. The pace. The noise. The seemingly endless choices–you can go, see, do, eat almost anything there. It’s truly magical to me.

The first time I ever visited, my younger sister Wendy came along with me. This year, we decided to make the trip together again for a weekend. We hopped a plane this past Friday and spent a couple days exploring.

And as I traversed streets I knew well, and discovered new things along those I’d never visited before, I realized something: In New York, I’m just another person. I’m not a person who had cancer. I’m not someone to be pitied. I’m just a woman with some wild, short curly hair.

At home, everyone knows what happened to me. My family, friends, coworkers, neighbors–they all see cancer when they look at me now. But surrounded by strangers who were too busy hustling through their own lives to pay much attention to me, I was just myself. Just another woman combing the racks at Century 21. Just another art lover marveling at a Jackson Pollock at the Met. Just another tired person hailing a cab at the end of a long day.

It felt nice to be anonymous. To not raise concern. To just move through the day like anyone else.

Aside from that, I got to do some really fun things while visiting. First and foremost, I got to visit Rue La Rue–the Golden Girls/Rue McClanahan-themed cafe. I am probably one of the biggest Golden Girls fans on the planet, so it was damn-near a religious experience for me.

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The actual phone from The Golden Girls!!!

I feel a special connection to Rue. I actually got to meet her almost 10 years ago (one of the most incredible nights of my life!), and knowing she, too, survived breast cancer makes me feel like she was truly a kindred spirit.

In honor of the visit, I donned my Miami-best, and the owner of the restaurant (who was friends with Rue) told me that if Rue were alive, she’d probably snatch the shirt right off me, she’d love it so much. Best. Compliment. Ever.

And speaking of fashion, I got to see the amazing Rei Kawakubo Comme des Garcons exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. I love weird, artsy fashion, and this delivered that in spades. Kawakubo is known for her outlandish, sometimes unwearable designs. These pieces are meant to challenge the conventions of fashion design and show how thought-provoking and artistic clothing can be.

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Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons

But best of all, I got to spend lots of quality time with my sister. We talked and laughed and had a really great time. She and I are of one mind when it comes to NYC–we love all the same things about the city and always have a blast exploring it together.

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Sisters selfie on a rooftop bar

It’s been almost 15 years since the two of us first came to this amazing city. So many things have happened in those years. We’re both practically different people now. But, in so many ways, we’re still the same girls. And I hope that never changes.

Fear of Flying

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I hate flying.

This is a rather unfortunate affliction,  as I’m required to fly at least half a dozen times a year for work. And even though one would think becoming a fairly frequent flyer would make me more comfortable, it really doesn’t. I loathe the rigmarole of the airport–the buggy machines at the check-in kiosks, the shoeless chaos of the TSA lines, the rush to make it to the gate on a layover. And the flight itself invokes all sorts of anxiety–I’m that freak on the plane with the white-knuckled death grip on her seat arms during any little bump of turbulence–all linked to the fact that my life is in someone else’s hands, at 30,000 feet above the ground.

But last week, a funny thing happened.

I flew to Las Vegas for work. This was my first trip since the one I made last summer to Chicago–the trip I received my cancer diagnosis during.

After six months off the road for treatment, it actually felt good to travel again. I’m not a huge Vegas fan, but my boss and coworkers decided to make this work trip fun, booking tickets to shows and making sure we had a good time after our long days at the furniture market. It has been a long time since I’ve gone out for fun in Vegas, and while I felt much older and dorkier than I did the last time (a good 10 years ago), it was still a good time.

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I saw my first Cirque du Soleil show–Zumanity. So fun!

But what was truly remarkable for me during the trip was the flight. Nothing special happened airline-wise, but rather, a change came within me. I still felt the same rush of adrenaline trying to get through the airport, but once I was on the plane, an odd sense of calm settled over me. I fastened my seat belt and rested my head against the window’s edge, taking in the scene of workers scrambling on the tarmac to load luggage and prepare the plane for takeoff. And as we taxied down the runway, instead of sweaty-palmed panic, I felt serene, watching the plane tilt skyward as we descended from the ground. The world below got smaller and smaller, and I was totally fine.

I couldn’t help thinking back to the last time I was on a plane, staring out the window with tears flooding from my eyes. I’d just received that awful news, and my mind was full of the dark fears the word “cancer”conjures. I’ve come a long way since then, and I have changed more in the last six months–both physically and emotionally–than I probably have in the last 20 years. I can unquestionably say that I am probably a thousand percent stronger than I was that day.

A colleague of mine who battled breast cancer more than a decade ago told me something very wise not long after my diagnosis–“You gain perspective.” And she couldn’t have been more right. Not only did I gain perspective as far as life goes–sweating the small stuff is not something I do anymore–I also gained a new sense of courage. I have faced one of the most terrifying things that can happen to a person. I have literally battled with something that could kill me. And I lived. I survived. If I can handle that, a little turbulence isn’t going to rattle me anymore.

Missed Opportunities

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Isn’t Cologne beautiful?

Today my husband and I were supposed to leave for Germany. He was accompanying me on a work trip to Cologne to cover the annual Spoga + Gafa outdoor furniture show. This would have been both our first times in Europe. Obviously, we were beyond excited about this trip.

Then cancer happened.

Instead of last-minute packing and heading to the airport, I’m on the couch, recovering from my third chemo treatment. My boss is sending me texts from Germany since she went in my place.

We also missed a concert last month, and I’ll miss another work trip to Chicago (I love that city) later this month. I know I can do all of these things next year, but still, it makes me so damn mad. Cancer is such a disruption. It robs you of the ability to do the things you want to do. And I know I’ve really got it lucky–there are so many people so much sicker than me, people who know they are going to be robbed of their life soon.

So, I feel kind of silly complaining about my first-world problems. But still, they’re my problems, and today they make me mad.