Thursday, March 27, 2014

A Journey With Mom

This was written a few weeks ago, but I delayed in posting.  After months of testing, doctors' visits, phone calls, voice mails, lost biopsy results, and pure exhaustion, the results are in.

Last week, my mom was diagnosed with Primary Peritoneal Caner.  The doctor referred to it as a Well Differentiated Carcinoma on her Omentum, most likely in stage 3A.

Not knowing what most of that meant, I did what all of us in this day and age do - I took to the internet.  I looked up every single thing I could possibly find on all of those foreign words and phrases, and ended up with a mish-mosh of all kinds of information I could not even begin to decipher.  I decided, instead to go straight to the source and speak directly to my mom's oncologist.

While previously I would have been afraid to ask questions and find out the information I did not want to know, I am now inclined to agree with what everyone has told me: knowledge is power.  I would advise asking the right people, and not the world wide web for this.  What I’ve learned so far?  There is no such thing as a silly or dumb question when faced with something like this.  

After speaking with my moms doctor (who is completely amazing, by the way), I began calling everyone I knew that worked in the medical field, or had experience with cancer.  I spoke with friends who have had parents with cancer - some of whom survived, and some of whom did not.  I spoke with friends who are survivors.  I spoke with friends who are nurses and doctors.  I asked the same questions over and over again, and I will continue to ask, question, and educate myself in this process.  

My mom’s cancer is microscopic, not gross - meaning the naked eye cannot see it, but rather a microscope is needed.  This is a good thing.  Her cells are well differentiated, as opposed to poorly differentiated.  Well differentiated means that the cancer cells and the normal cells look completely different, making them easily recognizable.  They tend to act more like normal cells, meaning they *hopefully* respond to treatment better.  Poorly differentiated cells mean that the cancer cells and the normal cells look the same.  It’s really difficult to determine which cells are good, and which are bad.  Thankfully, my moms cells are behaving themselves (to an extent).  This is also a good thing.  

As of now, we have the beginnings of a plan.  My mom’s surgery is set for April 3rd, 2014.  She will be having her uterus, fallopian tubes, omentum, and ovaries removed, along with lymph nodes.  Everything will be biopsied.  It is at that juncture that they will be able to pinpoint where the cancer originated from (as of now, they aren't sure), the exact stage it’s in, if it has spread anywhere, and what the next move is.  She will begin chemotherapy 2-3 weeks after the surgery takes place, and she will (as of now) receive 6 rounds every 3 weeks, totaling in about 4 1/2 months of chemo.  The doctor's hope is that the chemo will be preventative, and that the surgery will have removed all the cancer.  However, everyone’s cancer is different.  As a person who despises uncertainties and unknowns, this is a phrase I am already starting to completely detest.  

Where am I today, only a week later?  For starters, I have constant questions running through my mind - why wasn’t this testing rushed more from the beginning?  Didn’t you check for ovarian, cervical, and uterine cancer?  If so, why did nothing come back positive until now, at stage 3?  Is stage 3 bad?  Is it too late?  Can we beat this?  Can you save my mom?  Is my mom going to be okay?  Can you tell me my mom is going to be okay?  

"Everyone’s cancer is different."  

I have never been an extremely religious person, but I have always believed that things happen for a reason.  At this point, I am struggling to find a reason.  The only thing I can think of is that this is just a “shit happens” fork in the road.  Some things don’t have reasons.  I find myself filled with constant ups and downs.  I am walking the tightrope between being positive and hopeful, and breaking down and screaming “why” at the top of my lungs to some unknown source.  

I went back and forth,  debating whether or not I wanted to share this.  As of this morning, I wanted nothing more than to keep this between my family, my close friends, and no one else.  In the end, that seemed really selfish.  My mom needs all the love, support, and good thoughts she can get.  Not only that, but PPC is a relatively rare cancer.  Statistically, only 2,000-10,000 people (mostly woman) a year are diagnosed with this specific cancer.  While there is some information out there, there simply is not enough.  Knowledge is power.  While “everyones cancer is different”, everyones' struggle with it is real.  Sometimes, reading someone else's journey can ease just a smidgen of pain.  I know it helped me, reading other people's stories.  And who knows, it may help me process and cope with what is to come.  So that is what I am here to do.  I am going to share my moms journey (with her permission, of course).  

I keep thinking I’m going to wake up, and this is going to be a joke.  Other people’s mom’s get cancer.  My mom doesn’t get cancer.  

Well, my mom has cancer.  And my mom is going to beat cancer.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Summer In Sometimes

After being scolded by a friend this past weekend for not updating my blog enough, I realized I have not been updating my blog enough.  If absence makes the heart grow fonder, there must be a mass of unread love letters piling up somewhere with my name on them.

This summer has flown by in a blur of heat waves and moving boxes, road trips and burning candles, friendships blossoming and decomposing, song lyrics and forgotten poems, and on the other side?  Well, quite frankly, I have no idea.

Therefore, I submit for the approval of the Midnight Society: my summer, in what I make best - a list.

Sometimes, you can be really, really brave.

Sometimes, you just aren't.

Sometimes, life hands you lemons, and you're allergic to citrus.  Or dairy.  Whatever.

Sometimes, an eight year old has the best advice.  And the best headbands.

Sometimes, you can still surprise yourself.

Sometimes, you spend an hour lying on the floor of the Whale Room in the Museum of Natural History, staring up at the moving ocean ceiling and swear you have found the meaning of life.

Sometimes, you need to ask for help.

Sometimes, you stumble upon people who will love you unconditionally.

Sometimes, you need to get lost in a park, a museum, on a bridge.

Sometimes, you need a little magic.

Other times, you just need a little Bowie.

Sometimes, you lose your job.

Sometimes, people will surprise you.

Other times, they will do exactly as you thought, for better or for worse.

Sometimes, you fall in love with a Ukulele player.

Sometimes, your cat knocks over a leftover-unopened bottle of Tab and it explodes all over your books and walls.

Sometimes, there are just not enough paper towels.

Sometimes, you cry your eyes out so hard that you think your brain is going to liquidate through your sockets.

Sometimes, you find closure.

Other times, you have to make peace with yourself.

Sometimes, you send a letter to your first love expressing forgiveness.  And you do not hear back.

Sometimes, you furniture breaks in a Budget rental truck.

Sometimes, you tackle the ferris wheel.

Sometimes, you get the privilege to dance.

Sometimes, you need to reconnect, rediscover, and redirect.

Sometimes, you learn how to open your heart again.

Always, you need to take a leap of faith, trust in your gut, and in yourself.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Open Heart

It was today, upon entering Manhattan on the R train that things begin to settle.

When we last spoke, my life was, for all intents and purposes and for the matter of simplicity, pretty great. Things were going exactly as I wanted, and I was right where I thought I needed to be. I had a steady job I didn't necessarily care for, complete with dental, biweekly direct deposit, and a crippling sense of my youth slipping away under the facade of adulthood – pretty standard, by all accounts.  I had an active social life, complete with random encounters with that guy I kept running in to, or the girl I swore I would stop drinking with. I had a calendar overflowing with commitments I could honor or dishonor if I wanted, and a slew of dating profiles floating out amongst the masses and interwebs. I had a bookshelf filled with future reads, a fridge packed with food that I never touched, updated resumes hiding on my work computer, and piles of papers in a “to be sorted” file that continually grew until it became a “to be sorted” box.  My room was too small for my bed and my tiny Brooklyn apartment was too cluttered. I had roommates I adored and would take impromptu drunken-stupor-like walks from the village to Brooklyn across the Williamsburg bridge, entering the land of Never Never Land once more.

And then, as the infamous line states, everything changed.  Only this time, I am the one who changed everything.  As a recap, last summer, I was unhappy.  I was not in a good place, physically or mentally.  After an approximately one and a half month period of a not-so-attenuating depression and unintentional ten-pound weight loss, I decided I was done feeling sorry for myself.  I looked at my life and I asked myself two very simple questions: Why am I doing the things I am doing?  What do I want my life to look like?  Blast some girl-power-self-inspiring playlists (and maybe some 90’s era angst-y Lillith Fair) through the speakers and follow along.

I walked into October as one person, and emerged in June as another. Yet along the way, I stumbled into an old version of myself I thought I had lost, and really missed very much. I find that now, I'm rediscovering my zest, my drive, my motivation, mojo, and essence. It's all very esoteric and bizarre and wonderful and, for the first time in maybe 2 years, I feel genuinely happy.  Happy with myself, happy with where I am, happy with where I’m headed.  I was too distracted for too long - too overwhelmed by what I thought I was supposed to be doing, and less focused on what I should have been doing: discovering myself, enjoying my life, exploring my 20s, smiling at strangers and the occasional metaphorical dancing in the rain, if you will.

At the risk of sounding conceited, I’m really quite proud of myself.  In the past year, I have done things I never thought I would do.  I’ve said yes more than I’ve said no; I’ve explored new places and new surroundings without fear; I’ve changed jobs, twice, and not looked back; I’ve re-inspired myself and re-engaged myself in living the life I always wanted to live; I’ve surrounded myself with the positive and removed all the negative; I found what I (thought I had) lost and reclaimed it; I thought about what I wanted my life to look like, and I made it happen.
But most importantly, I took back what I so foolishly let slip away from.  I reclaimed my life as my own.

After all the ups and the downs, the hills and the slides, I feel like, maybe now, things are settling down to a happy medium.  Life is just returning to a normal. A normal I'm not sure I remember. A normal at the opposite spectrum of what I ever believed to be possible.

It’s simply incredible what can happen when you open your heart.

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Art Of Algorithms

Alright, let's talk about this dating thing.

First and foremost, I completely and totally dislike the act of dating.  It's complicated, it's stressful, it's full of games and puzzles and misinterpreted texts and over-thought headaches, and I want it to die in a firey car crash.  Moving on.

I somehow see it necessary to date in order to try out a variety of different people and experiences.  How do you know what you want or what you like if you don't try a little bit of everything?  You don't just eat a piece of Swiss cheese without ever eating a piece of any other kind of cheese and think "Swiss cheese is my favorite cheese in the world" - because you couldn't possibly know that without trying all the other cheeses that are out there.  What a silly assumption, guy.  Also, while Swiss is delicious, it is not the best.  Keep that in mind next time you're at the cheese counter.

This all seems an odd conundrum to me, because I love meeting new people.  I love exploring new things, and finding new connections with people I maybe have everything in common with, and maybe have nothing in common with.  Perfect example: my roommate.  She and I could not be more different, and yet, I find her completely inspiring and intriguing (another topic all together, but you get the point).  She's incredible, and I may never have gotten to know her had I restricted myself to my little comfort bubble.  I pride myself on being able to be thrown into a situation or setting where I know no one, and walk out with at least one new acquaintance.  I grew up as a shy kid, but have since learned (and I think maybe even mastered) the art of socializing.  I have a big personality which can sometimes come off as intimidating, but I know who I am and am damn proud of it.  This confidence is supposed to come in handy, but seems to be slightly aggressive to those I end up on dates with.  What the hell, OK Cupid?  Get your computer statistical algorithms correct already and stop showing me the same 40 people.  I don't listen to top 40 radio stations, I don't want top 40 dating bros.

See, I thought that by moving to New York City (side bar: meeting a dude was in no way a motivational spark in that decision, as I moved here while dating someone), I would meet a million new, different, and exciting people.  I thought friends would just ooze out of the woodwork and I wouldn't know what to do with myself.  This?  Is a big, giant lie.  New York City is, by far, one of the toughest places to live - for a variety of reasons - one main factor being how insanely hard it is to meet people here, and I have a few theories as to why.  One, people move to the city to live this incredible life they dreamed of, and to focus on one thing: themselves.  People here can be really selfish into just themselves.  Now don't get me wrong, I get it - it's important to learn about yourself and "do you", as they say.  But at some point?  Let go of you, and move on to something else.  Like signing up for a social co-ed sport (best thing I've ever done, ps), go on a scavenger hunt, or try finding the best pizza joint in your hood.  Two, everyone here has some sort of guard up.  People are so worried about letting other people in that they tend to put up brick walls, only broken down by dynamite - and excuse me for not carrying around a match.  Three, there are over 8 million people in this city, and I always tend to run into the handful I already know.  The world is just not as big as it seems.  At this point, I'm rambling.

My point here?  I'm not sure anyone would classify "dating" as an extra curricular activity, or even an activity they enjoy spending time doing.  It's work.  It's like searching for a job while working a job.  It's time consuming, it's nauseating, it's filled with ups and downs, ins and outs, awkward goodbye hugs with the occasional fist bump (and in some instances, the "Hey, thanks for the great conversation...".  Really?), and at the end of a date (or a day filled with job searching)?  You sometimes want to kill yourself.  But you don't.  You go home, you go online, and you sift through the piles of online dating profiles that take up so much space on the internet, it would blow your mind grapes.  And you hope that one magical little profile will pop itself out of the millions (parallel: resumes) and be exactly what you want: tall, dark, handsome, and maybe even has a quality credit score and a decent one-bedroom somewhere in Manhattan.  Location is key.  Side bit of sound advice?  Date outside your zip code.

Do I wish we still lived in the world of hand written love letters, courtship, and long-distance-never-met-you-but-I-can't-live-my-life-without-you romances?  Who wouldn't.  Do I have the hopes for an organic meeting?  Absolutely.  Things tend to find you when you least expect them, and I fully intend on believing in that and the universe not screwing me over too badly.  So maybe it will magically happen.  And maybe it won't.  And maybe I'll grow a third arm.  It's a numbers game.  It's love in the time of algorithms, and it's a damn battlefield.  Somehow?  I'm still incredibly optimistic.  I'm still hoping for that magical little spark I really haven't felt since I was 19.  So as pessimistic and sardonic this post may seem?  I am oddly hopeful and not yet entirely jaded.  Somewhat jaded, but not completely.  

Coming up next: adventures in dating, the files of Hilary.  Stay tuned, loyal readers.  Every day is a new adventure here!

Sunday, January 20, 2013


My Grandpa was a great man.  Standing tall at 6'3", he always had a smile on his face and a joke in his pocket.  Filled with sarcasm and wit, bravery and love, my Grandpa was one of the sweetest and most genuine men I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.  This past Thursday, January 17th, he had a sudden stroke and passed away - without suffering, quickly and painlessly.  He was surround by friends and my Bubbe, his adoring wife of 68 years, ending a life-long companionship.
My Grandpa always lived far away from me, so we weren't as close as we may have been otherwise - though that never stunted the love and adoration I always had for him.  I distinctly remember him taking me to Sea World down in Florida when I was a kid, and making funny voices for the dolphins as they swam by - a perfect window into his humor and sweet personality.  He was loving and warm, always fun to be around, kind and giving, and for some reason, always seemed to have an endless supply of root beer and grape soda on his outside patio.  I was terrible at keeping up with calling him, and he always gave me well-deserved grief for it.  He simply wanted to be in touch, hear my voice, and know about me, and my life.  I will always regret that I didn't call enough; That I never got to hear his voice before he passed, or that he got to hear mine.  However, I can rest easy knowing that he never suffered, and I am thankful that I will always remember him as a strong, healthy, and smiling person - because that is how he would have liked to be remembered.  If nothing else, this can remind us all that we truly only get one life, and that every moment, and every person, is special - especially those who mean the most.
I will always carry my Grandpa with me.  I will find him popping up in my sarcasm and wit, my appreciation for music, my ability to keep any rhythm, and my slightly curved nose that is, no doubt, from him.  I will hold nothing but wonderful memories and a heart full of love.  Though I may not have gotten his height, I certainly got his heart.  Thank you, Grandpa.  I will always and forever love you just as you were.

Just this past weekend, I learned the story of how they had met - a story I had never heard before.  The amount of joy it has brought to my family is just so beautiful that I had to share it with whoever would listen.  

In 1943, Al (my grandfather) was stationed at an air force base in Nebraska.  His cousin, Mary, was in New Jersey at the time, and asked her friend, Selma (my grandmother), if she would write him a simple note to keep his spirits up during the war.  A letter was written, as she felt it was the least she could do to support the war effort, and sent out to Nebraska.  Al responded, and soon after, letters were flying between them across the country - a romance had begun.  Sentiments, emotions, and pictures were exchanged, but Al could no longer contain his feelings in simple correspondence.  On a small scrap of paper, a song was composed - lyrics and notes, music and love, all from the deepest part of his heart were placed on this tiny piece of paper, forever dictating the rest of their relationship.  In July, 1944, with a fortunate two-week furlough, he is in New Jersey - with Selma there, waiting for him.  Four months later, Al and Selma were married.

When the war ended in 1946, Al was handed his discharge papers and packed up his belongings.  His uniforms and papers were packed up in a box and sent back to his family in Chicago, but the little scrap containing his song was no where to be found.  He paid it little mind, as the lyrics and melody were forever with him.  He moved to New Jersey to be with Selma, and his box of belongings soon followed.  When the two moved down to Florida, the dusty box of papers made it's way along with them, and again when they moved back to Chicago.  In December, Al decided to begin cleaning out excess clutter, and stumbled upon the box that traveled along side him for so long.  When looking through it, he discovered a small scrap of paper at the bottom - the music and lyrics to the song he wrote for Selma 68 years prior.  Shortly after, at a holiday concert where they lived, Al sang the song to Selma one last time.  You can watch the video here.  In the meantime, the lyrics are below.

"You are my dream, 
A vision out of the blue
A lovely song coming true,
A morning flower, in spring.
You are my dream
A picture here by my side,
No cloak of darkness can hide,
You're heaven sent to me.
A silhouette, 
An angel drifting down from above,
I reach to you, my guiding light, to love,
Someday we'll meet.
I'll hold you close to my heart,
Because I've known from the start
How lovely you seem,
You are my dream."
-Albert Goldman, 

Friday, January 11, 2013

What Do You See?

If you said two whales kissing, we're best buds forever.

Friday, January 4, 2013

They All Sort Of Start The Same

I was extremely fortunate to spend New Years Eve with some of my favorite people, in one of my favorite places, with one of my favorite families (aside from my own), even though the fact remains:
I very much dislike New Years.

I can't  put an exact reason to why New Years and I have a rocky relationship, but we've never really gotten along.  I believe it started when I was two (so this goes way back).  My parents threw a New Years Eve party, and had small glasses of sweet champagne on various tables.  Supposedly, I was able to get my tiny hands on one and drank it.  There is actual video of me walking down the hallway later that evening, swaying back and forth and falling down.  Two years old and drunk?  Not a good start, New Years.

In middle school and high school, I remember my mom would let me have friends come sleep over.  She would buy french onion dip and chips, ice cream and toppings for sundaes, sparkling cider, and those little popper-things that smell like burning when you shoot them off.  Those nights were always fun, but I always ended up staying up too late and ending up sick for when we went back to school.  NYE: 2, Hilary: 0.

College always proved interesting, as I would generally want to spend New Years with my boyfriend of the time.  We sort of ended up alternating which friends we would spent it with - one year mine,  the next years his - and they were always so anti-climactic.  I think that's where it all comes from - we have this build up and picturesque idea of what New Years should be like; These crazy expectations of some insane party, booze flying through the air, hot dudes serving drinks and making out with you on the bar, when in reality?  New Years is, statistically, one of the most depressing and over-hyped holidays of the year.

I swear I'm not a Debbie Downer come New Years time.  I go into it every year with an upbeat, positive disposition and attitude.  I always try to make some sort of fun plans that aren't too insane, but involve me doing something great with great people.  Yet, every year, without fail, I end up waking up the next morning totally bummed out.  Not refreshed or recharged, but exhausted and hung over, and sometimes a little sad - none of which is, to me, the right way to start a fresh, new year.

Next year, I think I'll try and get some friends together and do the midnight 5k run in Central Park.  Now that's a way to start a year - who's with me?

Since that was sort of a bummer post, I will leave you with a picture of my cat smoking a cigarette: