Month: January 2016

Nice to Meet You, I Have Cancer

It was the first time I’d been out to a restaurant since having a cyst removed, and only a few days after learning I had ovarian cancer. > Insert record scratch sound here < Yeah, I know, I know. That’s some big news right there. But hold on, let me finish my lede… I’d spent the last week and a half recovering from surgery and, up until that November night, had been pretty much down for the count. A Percocet-induced haze of Broad City binge-watching and crushing fatigue. So by the time my friend Shelly came to Brooklyn for a visit, I was ready to shake up my bed-couch-bed routine and feel somewhat normal again. What I wasn’t quite ready for was having to share my big news with the outside world. We decided to go to a red booth and burger joint right around the corner from our apartment — a place where my husband and I were semi-regulars and would often sit at the bar and order dinner. I’d gotten to know Tommy the bartender a bit, a …

The Devil You Know: Why I Chose to Remove Both Breasts

I had a double mastectomy with reconstructive surgery in December of 2009. I’m not a survivor, I did not have cancer. I am genetically inclined to get it, so I guess if anything, I am a pre-survivor — this was a proactive surgery. I never looked at my decision as brave. I just played the shitty card in the hand that I was dealt. A few years before my surgery, my mom was diagnosed with stage-3 breast cancer. Her mother passed away at age 44 of ovarian cancer. It was pretty obvious I was a vulnerable branch on the cancer family tree. The first decision I had to make was whether I should have the genetic testing done. For me, it was a no brainer; I believe the devil that you know is better than the devil that you don’t. [pullquote]No longer did I want to catch and beat cancer —     I wanted to deny it the chance to play at all.[/pullquote] I tested positive for the BRCA1 gene. In a nutshell, this …

Random Acts of Cancer

I went to a memorial service today for my friend, Jeanne, who died two days before Christmas from brain cancer at the age of 58. Her sister spoke, as did her closest friends and her children, but it was something her husband said that stayed with me: “I used to think things happen for a reason. Now, I believe things just happen.” To me, those words underscore the randomness of cancer. With the exception of people who practice risky behaviors that increase their chances of getting cancer, the rest of us can only hope that luck is on our side. Cancer strikes with ferocious democracy — it doesn’t care how young we are or whether we’re complete innocents or evil to the core. I’m not the only one who thinks so. Many scientists believe in the randomness of cancer, too. Last year, researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine used a statistical model to determine that random mutations may account for two-thirds of the risk for getting many types of cancer, leaving heredity and …

That Time I Was Radioactive

Right now I am radioactive and waiting for a PET scan. I’ve been anxious about this test since I’ve known I would be taking it. I found a thickening in my left breast on Labor Day. It wasn’t a lump, but it was clearly out of place. I didn’t really think it was anything, but I googled it and discovered that breast cancer doesn’t always present as a lump. My regularly scheduled mammogram was only six weeks away, but I am not great with uncertainly. Six weeks of waiting would be intolerable. I called the radiologist as soon as I knew the office would be open, and when I described what I had found, she squeezed me in first thing in the morning two days later. I arrived to an almost empty office. As other patients came and went over the next four hours, I shuttled back and forth between repeated mammograms, ultrasounds and the dreaded waiting room. I cooperated as they put my breasts and arms into increasingly uncomfortable positions. Finally, the doctor asked …

How My Husband’s Cancer Changed Me — For the Better

At the start of 2014, I celebrated my half-century birthday. My New England home was packed to the rafters with friends, both old and new, family, music and food. I was enveloped in love and felt buoyantly optimistic about the upcoming year(s). My husband of 25-plus years, Ken, was starting a new senior role at a growing startup. I had launched a fledgling consulting business with a bunch of amazing clients. I had committed — finally— to getting on the biking bandwagon and going on a 62-mile race with my biking obsessed hubby. It was promising to be quite a year. Less than a month later, we learned that the funky little squamous cell carcinoma that my husband had removed from his lip two years earlier, to little fanfare, had metastasized. Stage IV cancer. The cells had spread into at least four lymph nodes. As a world-class problem-solver and fixer, I shifted into high gear. I researched and ranked doctors and surgical centers as my hubby, alternatively numb and angry, struggled to make decisions about …

1 in 8: Why You Should Still Get That Mammogram

One of the most fascinating/confounding phenomena I’ve observed over the last decade is the absolute explosion of health information on the web and the profound impact it can have, both positive and negative, on people’s behavior, attitudes and healthcare choices. While there’s definitely a lot of good information out there, there’s also a lot of bunk. Sifting through the clutter, picking out the important nuggets and turning them into choices about our health has become a huge challenge, much more so in a time when medical and scientific innovation is being communicated directly to consumers through so many different channels. In this monthly column, I’ll be cutting through the health-web BS and translating internet-speak about bodies, fitness and nutrition into real talk that matters for your health. Join me as I try to make sense of it all — I’ll do my best to tell it to you straight. Everywhere you look on the internet these days, someone is telling women what to do with their boobs. A lot of time and energy seems to …

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Margit’s Note: The C Word

Hey you, it’s been a while. I’m back and back with a bang. You can see why here. Spoiler alert, though, this week is all about the C Word. That word we hate to hear, to utter: Cancer. It’s a big, spreading, ugly black mass of a concept, and something we know very little about — until we have to know something about it. And then we Google. A lot. As we get older, we know more and more people who have it — our friends and loved ones, our freaking musical heroes. We harangue our doctors to check out every inch of our bodies (justifiably, I might add), we have elective surgery to prevent any possible sightings. Something I’ve learned in the last month: Cancer is a big thing, but it’s also just a thing. I used to look at people who’d experienced cancer from a distance. If I’d met them at the same time that I learned they had cancer, it was the cancer that overshadowed them, walked into the room first. But …

What It Really Feels Like To Be 25 in 2016

Before you get swept up in the nostalgia of your own quarter-life crisis (crap bosses, three roommates, teeny tiny apartment, bottle service clubs, falafel at 4 a.m., hot dates), there are some women I want you to meet. These girls are living the 2016 version, where hookups are negotiated on Tinder, the boss is just as likely to be a girl who graduated a year ahead and likes using her newfound power to make you feel small and there’s not a single boozy brunch that isn’t documented on Instagram to elicit FOMO among all your followers. So while you’ve been there, there are a few things that 25(ish)-year-olds want to clear up for the older generation about what their lives are really like. It’s Sorta Lonely “On a recent, teary phone call with my mom about feeling stuck at work, I said, ‘I need to let myself cry about this, and when I’m done crying, I need someone to pick me up and help me figure out what to do. But I don’t know who …

A “Young American” Remembers David Bowie

Bowie was my everything music – the alpha and omega. He was the artist who singlehandedly turned me on to sound. So when he passed yesterday, I was demolished. In his last album Blackstar, Bowie continued to tweak musical boundaries, creating a bleaker version of himself — a Major Tom still in outer space.  In hindsight, his customarily freaky and brilliant videos clearly hint at his coming demise. I wrote a little something a few years ago for my friend Nancy Davis Kho’s Midlife Mixtape site about one of my favorite Bowie albums that was still in heavy rotation — Young Americans. On the occasion of his passing, I thought I’d share that here. I’ll miss you David. Gone but never, ever forgotten — your legacy lives on in every musician and fan. ** As an 8-year-old in mid ‘70s Philadelphia, I’d rise most school days to the snap and crackle of WFIL-AM, and the Bay City Rollers, Starland Vocal Band or Hot Chocolate imploring me to get up, “you sexy thing.” Whatever that meant. (I also used to sing, “Voulez vous couchez avec …

Aaliyah, J-Love and Britney: My 20s Pop Culture Education

“When you grow up, your heart dies.” When I first heard mop-topped goth girl Alison Reynolds utter this dismal pronouncement in John Hughes’ 1985 now-classic The Breakfast Club, it sent shivers down my spine. Like her, I was a teenager at the time and imagining myself in college — forget about later on, as part of the work force — was enough to make me break out in zits. But the idea of spending the subsequent 75 years or so wandering the earth as a bored, numb, jaded adult? That was downright terrifying. Today, at 44 (an age my teen self couldn’t fathom; back then, I thought 30 was ancient), I can honestly say I’m almost as unjaded, wide-eyed and goofy — not to mention, passionate about my obsessions — as I was as a teen, and I have my 25-year-old self to thank for it. That’s how old I was when I hit my stride as a teen magazine editor. I knew I’d wanted to be a journalist since age 11, but “teen magazine …

Hey, Millennials: A Tunic Is Not a Dress (and Other Important Career Advice)

In the 20 years since I’ve entered the workforce (the past 10 of them at J. Walter Thompson), I have traveled the world, hung with Hollywood’s elite (and not so elite), had cocktails with the Marahana of Udaipur, sold major bling and counted stacks of moldy cash (literally, stacks) in the kitchen of an Aspen mansion on red mountain, met “The Donald” and all of his wives (yep, Ivana, Marla and Melania – at separate times for different reasons), been accompanied by one major Las Vegas CEO’s Belgian attack dogs (long story) and handled many major corporate crisis communications campaigns, brand launches, executive visibility campaigns and so on. Because of the nature of my job, some of my biggest accomplishments were keeping things OUT of the media, to protect either a brand or an executive. So when the fabulous Ann Shoket asked me to write about advice I would give to my 25-year-old self (or those starting in the work force), it was pretty simple. Today’s 25-year-olds don’t understand that Generation X “paid our dues” …

Ann’s Note: Honor Your Inner 25-Year-Old

Once a month for the last year, I’ve hosted a series of dinners at my place with young women in their 20s. Dinner is overselling it; it’s fancy frozen pizza and many bottles of rosé. We talk about the itchy emotions you feel around being young, hungry and ambitious — it’s a continuation of the conversation I had with young women for more than a decade as editor-in-chief of Seventeen and, before that, as one of the founding editors of CosmoGIRL. The young women are from different parts of the country and work in different industries (but they all have the most amazing hair I’ve ever seen — truth!). Some are paying the bills with crappy by-the-hour jobs, hoping that their side-hustle start-ups will pay off. Some are forging new territory in digital jobs that didn’t exist five years ago. Some have finally found the gig that allows them to marry their passion with getting paid, and now they want to know when the relationship part of their lives will get sorted. The details of …

10 Healthy Hacks for the New Year

This post brought to you by Healthy Choice. It’s cold, you and your family want to cozy up by a fire — or at least some binge-able tv — and life should be easy. But can it be healthy, too? Please? Here at TueNight we’ve come up with a few of our favorite wellness, nutritional and fitness hacks to keep 2016 focused on a healthy lifestyle. You’re welcome. 1. Bag Carrots for You! When you pack your kids’ lunch, make an extra little baggie of baby carrots for yourself. Put them immediately in your purse. Eat them when you’re standing in line at the post office and stave off your afternoon candy craving. 2. Make it Easy to Eat Together. You’re more likely to make better foods for your family than you would for yourself. If everyone doesn’t like the same food, keep it easy by using a variety of tasty Healthy Choice Café Steamers which come in a variety of flavors. The adults might dig the spicy Southwestern Style Chicken, and little Ruby always goes …

The “Vision Thing”: How to Un-See Yourself

I’m a starter. A person who starts things, makes things. I’m a little bit addicted to the blank page, the open field, the undefined future. In my career as a magazine editor, I was a part of four start-ups and led the rebirths of two magazines. I’ve written one book and am at work on another, lining up words and ideas and moving them around the page until they eventually add up to a focused emotional experience. Seeing what isn’t yet there and building it? That’s my specialty. But I want to share a secret about how to have “vision” — a talent that is generally attributed to a person’s having unusual creativity; the ability to pull, seemingly from thin air, an idea that is so relevant and alive we can’t resist it. It seems like vision is magic — yanking the rabbit out of a hat — but for me, my vision has always come from a very simple and readily available resource: seeing people in the world around me very, very clearly. Remember …

When My Perfect Dinner Caused a Nervous Breakdown

I believe I have suffered two nervous breakdowns in my life. The first was the day my mom dropped me off at college. You mean I’m staying here?!? The thought of that much freedom, that far from home, made me woozy. My more recent breakdown came in the weeks after my second child was born. You mean we have to keep them BOTH alive? Somehow the responsibility didn’t feel like it had doubled — it had exploded into millions of tiny needs, each of which was wriggling away from me no matter how hard I tried to contain them, like the magic green seeds in James and the Giant Peach. I know we actually had it very good. I had an involved husband who wanted to help out. We had money to hire a sitter. Both kids were healthy. It’s just that it felt like there was so very much to do, all of it essential. Breastfeeding. And naps. And vaccinations that I wanted to space out so as not to expose either of my …

I Had a Pet Psychic on Speed Dial

I don’t use the term “fur baby mama” non-ironically or own a collection of seasonal holiday dog sweaters. My pup doesn’t have an Instagram account or eat small-batch, home-prepared foods. But, true confessions: I’ve had my animal communicator on speed dial for the better part of ten years now. They tell you when you rescue a dog that it can take up to six months for their true personalities to come out, and boy was that true with our basset hound, Oliver. My husband Greg and I brought this little dude home to our overpriced Manhattan apartment 13 years ago feeling excited and determined. The first few months were pure bliss. Cue the gauzy slow-mo video in my head: walks to the local dog park, fun conversations with strangers on the street, trips to Petco. Oliver was quiet, loving and shockingly obedient. His sole purpose in life seemed to be pleasing us in any way he possibly could. I guess the changes started happening slowly: an unexpected pull on the leash, a barking session that …

I’m Incredibly Nearsighted but My Hindsight is 20/20

I did it again last week. We reach the moment in my son’s annual physical where the pediatrician checks his vision, and I instinctively held my breath. He’s turning nine, and his brother is now 12, and neither one needs glasses yet. But odds are it’s only a matter of time. My husband was just nine when a pair of glasses first was perched on his nose by a cheerful optometrist. We’re both ridiculously nearsighted. I was turning 10 when I got my glasses, just weeks into the fall semester at a new school where I had no friends yet. I can still picture the school nurse checking my eyes and ears, then handing me a folded slip of paper. “Take this note to your mother,” she said. “Tell her you needed glasses.” “What??” I wanted to scream. “I’m the new kid! I don’t know anybody yet! Now I’m going to be the new kid with glasses!” But I said nothing. She’d already moved on to the next kid in line, and my fate was …

Top Flirting Ideas When You Have Glasses & Other Book-Inspired Lists

Making lists had always had a calming effect on me during my chaotic teenage years, whether it was recounting the “Top 5 Moments Taylor Looked at Me Today” or “Sexy Books to Hide from Mum.” Back then, there was an unbridled intensity when I chanced upon an amazing book that moved me — it had to be dissected in list form for its best and worst qualities in my diaries. It has been rather hilarious to look back at my old notebooks, filled with scented pen doodles and handwritten lists of books that struck a chord in that boy-crazy teenager. At the back of every notebook, there was an ongoing and redrafted list of what made up my dream boyfriend. He was a composite of all the right traits: the bluntness of Mr. Darcy, the luscious hair of Robert from The Princess Diaries, the musical talents of Robbie from the Georgia Nicholson series and the broodiness of a Mr. Rochester. In short, your average entitled rock god. As I saw my friends experiencing first crushes …

Adrianna’s Note: I’ll Be Seeing You

Why are we competitive over our bad eyesight? People who are slightly nearsighted swap glasses, laughing, “Oh my god, I’m so blind!” Those of us with more serious numbers turn a gimlet eye toward the amateurs. We’re a different club, and our humor is grim. “Nice coke bottles, Johnson. Seven? Eight?” We recognize the natural selection implications behind the plastic frames: teasing, problems playing group sports (anything with a ball is potentially traumatic) and a likely dose of self-hatred. Our lack of visual acuity is our cross to bear. (Mine is -8.50 in both eyes, if you think you’ve got me beat.) And let’s not even start with bifocals, or progressives as they’re called now for us vain Gen-Xers. Going out to dinner post-40 means grabbing a candle from the next table just to read the menu. Did you increase the font on your phone? For nearly two decades, I read newspapers, books, magazines, prescriptions and mail (everything) to James, a partially sighted man. I learned a lot about the complicated world of the visually impaired. There are levels of blindness, and those …