In October 2019 my Life was going along like normal. I had been to my Doctor for my yearly exam. She told me I needed to get a mammogram. I was always the kind of person who got a mammogram every single year because I had a cancer scare back when I was 37. I had a mammogram in 2016, and they told me everything’s fine, you don’t need to come back for two years. Although I didn’t really like that idea of waiting two years, I figured they knew what they were doing, so I did what they suggested. The unfortunate thing is I don’t remember getting a reminder in the mail to get my mammogram. So without realizing it, I had waited three years! You know how life is going so fast you just forget things in between? SO Ladies, a little bit of advice, Beware! Never listen to anyone when they tell you to wait two years! That is for the health insurance companies benefit, so they don’t have to pay for your visit. Always insist, it is your choice to go every single year, they cannot deny you that right. Never wait, always get checked, it can save your life!
As per usual after my mammo they asked for an ultrasound, which happens to me every time I go to get checked, because I have very dense breast. For the first time ever my radiologist who did my sonogram said “I see a couple places that I can’t be 100% about, so we need to do a biopsy.” Of course my heart stopped, but I thought this might be routine. A couple weeks later, I went in for my biopsy. The radiologist that did my procedure was wonderful and very precise, I knew at one point that something might be wrong because he took extra slides of the lump they found. So I asked “when do you think you’ll get the results?” It was a Monday, and he said “Possibly on Friday maybe even Monday, I don’t like to rush the lab people.” On WEDNESDAY, two days later, my phone rang and it was my gynecologist. I answered the phone and she said it was definitely CANCER!! No one ever wants to hear the big C word!
Of course my life flashed before my eyes and I just screamed out “What stage, What stage? My doctor said “You have to talk to your oncologist (who she recommended) to find that out. We can get you a appointment later this week.” I said “OH NO! you will get me an appointment today or tomorrow because I am not going to sit around crying in my bed wondering what stage my cancer is! If ever there was a time to call something an emergency THIS IS IT! So please get me an appointment!” Luckily because I stood up for myself, they got me an appointment the very next morning with the Oncologist. In the interim they needed me to go pick up my slides from the radiologist and deliver them to the hospital before my appointment the next day. Mind you I just found out I have cancer, I’m a crazy emotional mess, BUT I still have to go do the legwork to get everything started. So my journey began at Maimonides Breast Cancer Center!
So I do all the legwork to get my images, I show up at the hospital to drop off my CD of slides to make sure my doctor has everything she needs for my appointment the following day. So you can imagine me walking in, no make up, baseball hat on my head, emotional mess, trying to stay calm. I walk in there’s a kiosk where you have to put in your name, your birth date and your appointment time. Of course I didn’t have an appointment so I look around in total dismay and the tears started. Then this adorable 4 foot 11 woman, be- lines across the room to me. She says “What’s Wrong?” And of course I’m telling her as I’m crying, so you can’t even understand what I’m saying. So she says “Come with me”, she takes me behind a door, looks me in the eye, and says, “First of all, YOU need this! And she hugged me tight and let me cry. That was the moment I realized I was in the right place. God had sent me this beautiful angel named Iris.
Of course once I found out about my cancer I first called my mom, all my relatives, and my closest friends. I was really scared to go and get my results the next day and my very close friend Steven said “you need someone to go with you tomorrow!” and I said “I don’t have anyone, who could I ask?” He’s like “ME Silly!” Steven has a way of making everything seem like it’s going to be OK in the thick of total madness. That’s what I love about him most. He said “We’re going to make it fun, we’re going to go find out your results, and then I’m gonna take you out for breast cancer cupcakes!” And of course that made me laugh out loud! Low and behold he did show up, and took me to my appointment. My doctor said it was in the early stages which was a relief. So we did go and have lunch, they didn’t have cupcakes but he did surprise me with two beignets instead! That day, I knew I had a gig coming up at “The Bitter End” singing with my dear friend Adam DeLisi! I wasn’t gonna let this cancer stop me! And on Steven and I’s walk back to my apartment we dropped into my favorite consignment store. I found these amazing shoes for my gig, and they fit me perfectly. It was meant to be. We called these my KICK CANCERS ASS SHOES!
Steven, I love you! Thanks for making that day bearable.
*It’s amazing how God can place people in the right place and time during your life. While this was happening one of my best friends Christina,(who lives in Miami) just happened to be in town on business the week of my biopsy and my results. We had made plans to meet on that Thursday, (the day I got my results) before we knew I had cancer. But I decided no way am I going to sit at home and miss out being with my friend. So we met in Hoboken New Jersey and had dinner, and getting a hug, and spending time with her was exactly what I needed to feel strong, and know I can beat this thing! Girl power!
Being a creative person, my entire life, whenever life gives me lemons,
I turn it into a “BIG ASS” pitcher of lemonade. LOL 🍋 That’s just how my creative mind gets me through the rough patches in life!
So I focused on learning the music for my amazing gig with Adam DeLisi and friends. The guys were so supportive, and it was such an amazing night! Many of my beautiful friends showed up! SO, I want to take this time to thank each and everyone of you for coming out that night, and also my friends and family who tuned in to FB live! It meant the world to me! Not everybody knew what was going on either.
And like I mentioned before, I believe that God puts people in your path in specific moments and times for a reason. That night was another example! Before going on stage, I saw a man at the bar wave at me, and I could not figure out who it was from a distance. Once I walked on stage the mysterious man walked forward past the lights so I could see his face, and it was one of my very first boyfriends from my teenage years, Tom. We met at music camp when we were in high school. We’ve been in touch over the years, and in recent years, thanks to Facebook. Its been nice to watch his life unfold with his lovely wife Dawn and two sons over the years. We always chatted online about him coming to one of my gigs at some point, but you know how life always gets in the way etc. That night he just happened to see my last blast on Facebook Live saying that I was playing at the Bitter End in a few moments, and he was only two blocks away! So he figured if not now, when? After my performance, I told him everything that was going on and he was SO supportive! It was just the right magical thing I needed to happen that night to put everything in perspective. Friends no matter how far apart or how many times you see them in your life, they always have the best intentions for you. Thanks Tom! And by the way “I DON”T Doubt You! LOL (sorry, inside joke)
When you first get diagnosed, you have to get many tests done to figure out the stage of your cancer. My first test was an MRI. They do this to determine if they see any cancer cells floating around in your body, and also to check your lymphnodes. You’re in a chamber, (lying face first) that’s super loud, and requires earplugs. Even though I was going through this test, I still was trying to be as positive as possible and even with earplugs it was super loud, but to me it sounded like Rave music at the club. LOL! So of course I was singing along in my head.🤩 One thing I can tell you ladies, it’s not a great time to do a selfie after an MRI! 🤣
So after my MRI, it was right around Thanksgiving, so I was fortunate enough to be able to travel to Orlando Florida, to share the holiday with my sister, mother, brother-in-law, my nephew Ian, my brother-in-law’s sister Barbara and her husband Craig. I also got to spend time with my amazing friends Christina, Jamie, Tim, Vicki, Richard, Alan, and Scott.
Alan Darcy has been one of my friends for over 27 years, he is a very talented professional musician who lives in Florida and gigs all over the place. I am the Grace to his Will! He was having a show at The Villages in Florida. I let my Florida friends know I would be in town and would perform a few songs with Alan, and also how they needed to see Alan, so they can go to his future gigs! (because he is awesome!)
My mom, sister, and brother-in-law Tom came to the show with me. My girlfriend Jamey and her boyfriend Tim drove out from Tampa to see me and hang out with their friends who lived there, and my friends Richard and Vicki, who I know from New York, just recently moved to Florida, and drove three hours and stayed overnight in the area just to say hello to me. Amazing! Shout out to Jamie, Tim,Vicki and Richard! So touched by you guys showing up and supporting me through this crazy time. Not to mention it was a blast! I love all of you so much! It was such a nice bonding moment for my family as well. We all danced together, laughed and had an amazing time! Alan thank you so much for everything and making this possible! You are the most amazing entertainer and musician, not to mention an amazing friend! I love you with all my heart.❤️
The next night Alan had another gig at one of my favorite places in Dade city called Kokopelli’s. I performed with Alan a couple years prior at Kokapelli’s and fell in love with the owners. They Rock! Also, my beautiful friend Christina, drove all the way from Miami to meet me in Orlando, so we could go to this gig together in Dade City and spend time with Alan and Scott. Alan was able to arrange us both to come to this private fundraiser gig with the owners as long as I sang for my supper. 😂 It was a wonderful night! I sang my usual Bobby McGee that night, but this time I was feeling it more than usual. I was thinking about my situation and feeling great being with MY people, so I was really channeling the energy, because I decided I was ready to go to war! Time to kick some cancer BUTT!!!!
It was wonderful to share Thanksgiving with my family and I got to spend a little more time with my nephew Ian and my Sister Kelly, who took me for a walk with the puppies in the beautiful park near their house called Lake Eola, before heading back to New York. Thanks for everything guys! What am amazing place!
Love all of you so much!!!❤️
As soon as I got back, I was invited to a fundraiser for Steven and Will’s church. Steven’s husband, Will is the pastor at Trinity Lower East Side Lutheran Parish. Their church does an amazing job of feeding the homeless every day from the church kitchen and pantry. So they were raising money for the parish to feed the homeless in the area. The event was held at a cute piano jazz bar in the neighborhood called Rue B’s. That event was called “Cocktails and Carols”. It was a lovely night to spend with friends, and a good time was had by all.
The next day, I had another follow-up with my doctor to decide my path of treatment. So my doctor informed that I was Stage One! I was SO relieved and thankful to hear that news! But then she said that I have a very aggressive cancer that is growing fast, so I would still have to have surgery (a lumpectomy) to remove the cancer, and I would still have to get chemotherapy and radiation afterwards. Also during surgery they would also add a port under my skin for the upcoming chemo, and perform a biopsy on my lymphnodes, all in one shot.
Of course I was severely confused because it was stage one, Right?
But, the doctor explained that all women have three genes or receptors in their bodies that can feed the cancer if they are negative. The three genes are Estrogen, Progesterone, and the HER2 protein.
If only one of the receptors is negative, they can usually treat you with a pill or a blocker.
But unfortunately, I am a TRIPLE negative, which means all three of my receptors are trying to feed the cancer. (Little brats)
Since all three receptors are rapidly trying to make the cancer grow I must have chemotherapy. And since it is stage one, once I complete my treatment the chance of it coming back is much less. This is a proactive approach to kill the cancer and tell it to never come back! Of course in my mind I keep thinking “Don’t let the door kick you in the Arse!!!”
After seeing my medical oncologist, she has explained to me that sometimes the MRI will show the growth larger than it actually is, So once they get into surgery they can determine whether it is .5mm in size or 1.1mm in size, which is what the MRI is showing now.
If by chance the cancer is smaller .5mm I will have less aggressive chemotherapy, (4 rounds every 3 weeks) instead of 8 rounds every 2 weeks. And less side effects.
So my doctor and I decided I would get my lumpectomy on December 20th. Of course the first person I called was my mother, and of course she was going to be here for the surgery and for the holiday. I am the luckiest person in the world. My mother is my rock and the sweetest most gentle person in the world. I thank God for her every day! But usually, whenever Mom comes to visit we always have a good time, and we decided why should this time be any different? My mom was flying in on the 19th and we decided to buy two tickets to see Tina Turner the musical on Broadway the night before my surgery! She was one of my musical idols as a kid, so we figured this would be a very encouraging show to watch! A strong woman’s survival story, before I continued mine. And what an amazing show! Please go see it if you get a chance!
So the next morning it was the day of surgery. We got up early went to the hospital, went through all the prep work prior to surgery. My mom was by my side the entire time. She waited for me to come out of surgery, but for me, it seemed like it almost never happened when I woke up. Everything had gone well and they sent us home. We got home around 2:00 PM. I was feeling amazing, but then two hours later all the sudden under my armpit seemed to be growing. I had developed a Hematoma, which is a very large pocket of blood that is considered a bruise and can take forever to heal. So I called my doctor, and her team said they would meet me in the emergency room. Of course we thought since they knew we were coming we wouldn’t be there very long, but boy were we wrong. A Friday night in the emergency room. I am sure you can do the math. 😜
So my mother and I did not get home until about 1 AM. Not fun to say the least, but we were troopers and made it through.
Being the energetic person that I usually am, and thinking I am super woman, I had planned to go to Christmas Eve service at Steven and Wills church with mom. We also planned to go to our annual Christmas day dinner with them at their house the following day. The service was beautiful on Christmas Eve, but for the first time in my life, my body was being defiant. When we were up singing it was telling me to sit down and relax. I’ve never had my body tell me NO before, so this came as a surprise to me. A lesson learned. I guess we all have our limitations, and need to listen to our inner being. So afterwards we headed home, but it was so lovely to see Steven and Will and spend some time with both their parents. Needless to say the next day when I woke up on Christmas, I decided that mom and I should just stay in and have a very low-key relaxing Christmas. I tried to do things too soon after surgery, so I had to cancel our plans with Steven and Will and their family. But of course they were awesome about it, Steven said to me “You do not have to make any excuses or apologize, you need to rest and if I had a car I would bring you dinner tonight.” I told him, I believed him, that’s the kind of guy he is. Thanks Steven and Will!❤️
So mom and I did our traditional Christmas. We made our country breakfast, put up the yule log on the TV that plays Christmas music, opened presents from our amazing family and friends all over, and later watched “It’s a Wonderful Life”.
And like a good New Yorker we ordered Chinese for dinner. It was a lovely day. I received the most thoughtful gifts from friends and family. My sister Kelly and Michelle came up with some really clever gifts that made me laugh, which you will see below. I appreciate everything, and all the thought that was put into every single gift. I am the luckiest girl in the world, I have the most amazing family and friends on the planet. No exaggerating!
As most of you know, I have been singing in Times Square at my restaurant Tony DiNapoli’s for the past 14 years on New Years Eve. For the first time ever I could not be there in Times Square to Ring in the new year, watch the ball drop with my work buddies, because I was still recovering from surgery. But luckily my friends are amazing, and Kathy France and the rest of the gang from work decided to FaceTime me while the ball dropped, so I wouldn’t miss it. I have to say that my managers at work have been amazing! They have been nothing but helpful, accommodating, empathetic and loving! Thanks guys for being awesome! I love you all! Happy New Year 2020!!!
Sometimes you wonder why things happen to you in life. And since I have chosen to go on this journey with the most positive attitude, believing in Gods love, and living life to the fullest, even when I am experiencing the most vulnerable time in my life. I have to say that the thing that I have learned so far, is that despite how you feel in your life sometimes, like when you’re feeling down or low or depressed, life and God have a way of telling you that you are blessed. As soon as my friends and family found out about my news, I have never seen so much love, compassion and support in my life. I received so many gifts (tangible and non-tangible) in the mail prior to the holidays that were just beautiful and overwhelming in the best way possible. I received a beautiful letter from my friend Gary, my Aunt Trina and Uncle David sent me an amazing care package to arm me with the tools I needed to start my fight. One of my coworkers Trisha, gave me a bracelet that wards off evil spirits, and she and another one of my coworkers Danielle are wearing them as well, to signify my journey. People sent cards, texts, phone calls etc. Old friends I haven’t spoken to in a long time I’ve gotten back in touch with me, and keep checking on me constantly. Strangers doing random acts of kindness for me at the hospital. My heart is FULL! You all know who you are, and I LOVE YOU all so much, there’s no other words I can use to describe how I feel. But thank you and I hope you’ll keep checking in, and I will try to keep posting on this blog so I can share my journey with everyone. I am hoping that this blog will help someone else who has just begun their journey! I want them to know that they are not alone. I am fortunate to be surrounded by love, but I also know there are people that have no one, that are going through the same thing as me, so I am grateful.
My recent update about my diagnosis is that the lump they found was actually smaller than anticipated and now I am going to undergo less invasive chemotherapy and radiation. It is the best outcome for my situation that I could have hoped for! Although I know it will not be easy, I am going to fight for my life and also my hair! I am opting to do the Cold Cap Therapy. It is a therapy that is recently been FDA approved, but is not covered by insurance. A high percentage of women who receive less invasive chemo and do Cold Cap Therapy end up keeping their hair. It is not cheap, but most of you know that my hair is a big part of my identity. So I think it’s worth fighting for! My two beautiful friends Jamie Calcutt and Michelle Walker Nault set up a go fund me page on my behalf. I am the luckiest lady in the whole world! I am floored by their efforts to help me during my fight!!
I would like to keep my Leo mane.LOL 😁🦁
Thanks everybody for reading this blog, the first edition is very long because I needed to wait until I knew what my final diagnosis before I posted, and also so all questions would be answered, and I felt confidant enough to share. 😍
To all of YOU!! I think Clarence said it best!