Sophia: "Neilochka, you certainly love writing about my breasts on your blog, don’t you?"
Neil: "Of course. They’re the most exciting things I’ve had to play with since my Etch-A-Sketch."
Note to God: Are you crazy? Why did you create the most beautiful things in the world, a brilliant piece of female anatomy that comes in so many tasty shapes and sizes — and then come up with this breast cancer shit?
Sophia: "You know, it’s National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Why don’t you say something about breast cancer?"
Neil: "Like what?"
Sophia: "You can talk about me."
Neil: "I can?"
Sophia: "It’s been a year."
It’s been a year.
It’s been a year since they found cancer in Sophia’s left breast.
Last year was pretty shitty. This is why I was so glad that the Jewish New Year finally came a couple of weeks ago. Maybe this year will be better. The year had ended with my father passing away. It began with Sophia learning she had breast cancer.
There was no history of cancer in Sophia’s family, so it came as a total shock. It was a time of stress, fear and uncertainty. National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a great idea — except when your life was just turned upside down and you suddenly became a "patient" dealing with breast cancer. Everywhere you go, you are reminded of the disease. At the supermarket, there are banners hanging. You try to escape to the mall, and everyone is selling pink bunnies, slippers, bracelets. Neither of us knew much about cancer, but we sat down for a quick education. We read every medical site and every book possible. We got the best doctors at Cedars-Sinai. Sophia had a lumpectomy and through her own research, found out about a radical experimental radiation treatment.
Sophia was so brave throughout.
It was a new experience for me, as well. I was supposed to be the caregiver, the "rock," but I was probably more of a "big stone." Although I was always at Sophia’s side, I had this slight little problem of always being more nervous than Sophia herself. I wish I could have been more like Sophia was when my father was in the hospital. She can be a "rock." I never had the strength to demand the best of everyone in the hospital, the way Sophia did for my father.
In fact, I found the experience so stressful, that two days before Sophia was to have her surgery, I got so tense that I ended up at Cedars-Sinai’s Emergency Room myself! I don’t think the ER nurses ever really understood why my wife was calling me on the phone cursing at me for being in the hospital.
Many of you have emailed me through the last couple of months, asking why Sophia and I are separated. The most common comment is "You write about her with so much love and admiration."
There’s no one I love or admire more than Sophia. Today, despite everything she went through, she is more beautiful than ever. But, she is still on medication and dealing with continuous treatment and the side effects. Sometimes, she gets down on herself or fears for her future health. But she’s a brave and strong woman. And boy, is she funny too. I think a good sense of humor is really important in keeping yourself healthy. On Saturday night, we actually worked together on that recent post on my blog — the one about the flowers and the "sticker." When we finished it, we must have laughed for a half hour. There’s nothing more exciting to me than seeing Sophia laugh and smile.
Sophia’s sense of humor helped her maintain a great relationship with her doctors. She was especially friendly with her great surgeon, Scott Karlan and his caring staff. After her surgery, Sophia thanked him by ordering him a marzipan cake shaped as two huge breasts, with one a little bit lopsided, like hers was after the surgery.
I hope Sophia knows how much she means to me — whatever she is right now — my wife, my separated wife, my friend, my blog editor-in-chief, my dance partner, or the straight man in most of my blog posts.
I think I learned to be a better "rock" during times of hardship, even if I didn’t always say the right thing. I still try to "fix things" when I should just listen. Once a week Sophia goes to a group at the Wellness Community, a great place, where people with cancer, their friends and loved ones can talk about different issues. One of the biggest complaints heard very often is that people just don’t know how to talk to someone with cancer, either out of insecurity, fear or stupidity.
In honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Sophia’s group did something special for "Citizen of the Month" :they made a list of stupid things people have said to them. Let’s hope that reading some of these will help us avoid making the same mistakes.
15 things you should never say to someone with breast cancer:
But you’re so young!
How long do you have?
And you have such beautiful breasts!
Oh no, what are your kids going to do?
You shouldn’t be depressed because if you get down, you’ll waste what little time you have left.
God only gives you what you can handle.
But you look so good!
Two people just died in our office from cancer — these things always come in threes.
Oh, no. That’s so weird. I just saw Melissa Etheridge in concert last week.
I’m wracking my brain. What could have you done to cause it?
Do you use paper or plastic? — because I read plastic can cause it.
At least with a double mastectomy, you’ll be even.
Don’t say the word. Just say "C."
Now you’ll see if he really loves you for you.
I know how you feel.
Here’s something you can say:
Sophia, you’re amazing. Congratulations on being a one-year breast cancer survivor — and getting healthier every day!