Sunday, July 24, 2011


I've had some friends and family respond to the diagnosis with remarks of "unbelievable," "weird," "out-of-the-blue," etc. When they ask me, I tell them one thing, "It's just stupid." I mean, truly, it's just stupid. But what's even stupider is the week that I've had.

As if a ridiculously stupid diagnosis of cancer wasn't enough, I'd decided to audition for NBC's "The Voice." Now, before you start rolling your eyes and think, "What, now she's going to whine 'sour grapes?'" not to worry, that's not where I'm going. But I'd been preparing for this audition hard for a month, and some might say I've been preparing it for my whole life. This whole cancer thing, however, completely threw me off my schedule. I didn't forget about the audition, but on Friday, while I was battling the stupid camp board president (aka Queen High of Attitude), and trying to negotiate another wave of appointments, I forgot the audition was the next day until my friend, Lynne Ann, asked me about the auditions. And then I panicked - I'd just confirmed that the kids and I would be cleaning & packing on Saturday to get ready for camp and cancelled my parents' Saturday with them! I hadn't figured out what I'd wear, I had
I was planning to wear a denim jacket
once we made it inside,
but it ended up too darned hot.
Note the LIVESTRONG yellow scarf...
ignore the terrible tan lines. OY!
meant to run by my songs with a friend who's also auditioning in L.A., and I was still at the office at almost 10pm trying to get work done after more time out of the office! Fortunately, I had a brainstorm about what to wear (though I hadn't realized how obvious my cycling tans were), lined it all up and found out that, in fact, I didn't have to camp out that night, but arrive as close to 5:00 am as possible when the parking garage opened.

I set my alarm for 3:00 am so I could leave by 4:00 am. Of course, I somehow slept through the 3:00 am alarm and woke up at 4:00. Thank goodness I'm fast when the adrenaline rushes, and, like before my MTB races, I had everything laid out and had my plan, and I was out the door before 4:30 - I was a bit behind, but not terminally. Traffic was absolutely perfect. Unfortunately, there was a whole other hitch on the George Washington Bridge.

My brake pad one what I thought was one side had started to squeal a bit earlier in the week. I'd asked a friend if he could change the pad, and he kept putting it off, saying it wasn't the end of the world and I could drive on it for another couple of days until he was available. (FYI, this is a pattern - he has no concept at all of deadlines, appointments, etc.) I turned a sharp corner on the ramp approaching the bridge and I hear the squeal, a grind, and a "PING!" from the rear, driver's side. I'd also noticed, though it was more obvious now, that it felt like the car was dragging - like when I'm riding the bike and the rear brake is on and won't release fully. I didn't really have any options but to continue forward, so that's what I do.

This is "The Voice."
I get to the auditions early enough that I secure a spot 2-building sides away from the entrance (sounds like a lot, but not too far), and fortunately, I make "camp" with 3 other lovely ladies, including a red-headed singer named Kaitlyn and a 17-year old phenom named Rachel. We laughed it up all the way into the building itself, and we were then sorted into lines. Kaitlyn and I made it into the same group. The process was pretty interesting - they kept sorting us into lines and "sifting us" through until we were left with groups of ten. Then, we were seated in the arena itself, and row by row, producers and assistants would ask that you stand and ship you off to private rooms for the auditions. Contestants and assistants made the wait quite entertaining - We sent waves across the arena, there was a spontaneous performance by all of us of Cee Lo's "Forget You," and a full-choral version of "Don't Stop Believin'" with 4-part, improvised harmonies that put "Glee" to shame. (Maybe we should all audition for "The Sing Off"?) Kaitlyn and I got to sit next to each other, and she was privy to a call by my daughter who wanted to sing with me to warm me up. Finally, our row was called.

For years, whenever I auditioned, I had terrible nerves. I don't think it showed, but my heart would pound, my stomach would churn, I felt the need to go to the bathroom, and I had this feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach. But as I got up, aside from my usual clumsiness, I felt invigorated. I realized that the last time I had those sensations was when Michele Speer gave me the biopsy results - and that sensation was 10x worse that day. I was calm, collected, and confident. I mean, what's the worst that can happen? They say, "No?" Compared to, "You have cancer," that would be good news.

I locked down my song choice, which in my gut I knew I'd do, on the walk to the green rooms where our auditions were being held. I would sing Duran Duran's "Ordinary World." The song became a favorite of mine back in 1993 when I was in Israel when it first came out. Then, it became the ring tone of a friend from that time in my life when we reconnected and the song then has an association with him. He and I stopped speaking 17 months ago (but who's counting?), and I still reel from the loss of that friendship.

I knew that Simon had dedicated the song to Andy's dad at a concert we were at right after Andy's father died. I'd never paid attention to the lyrics, save for the chorus, so I just assumed it was about having to get through the "Ordinary World" after a friend or loved one had died. When I was narrowing down my list of audition songs, I, obviously, had to focus on lyrics and learn them. And when I read them, I wept:
Came in from a rainy Thursday on the avenue
Thought I heard you talking softly
I turned on the lights, the TV, and the radio
Still I can't escape the ghost of you
What has happened to it all?
"Crazy," some will say
Where is the life that I recognize?
Gone away
But I won't cry for yesterday
There's an ordinary world
Somehow I have to find
And as I try to make my way
To the ordinary world
I will learn to survive
Passion or coincidence once prompted you to say,
"Pride will tear us both apart"
Well now pride's gone out the window, cross the rooftops, run away
Left me in the vacuum of my heart
What is happening to me?
"Crazy," some'd say
Where is my friend when I need you most?
Gone away
I was originally moved to sing the song because of the second verse, "Passion or coincident once prompted you to say, 'Pride will tear us both apart.'" My friend and I are both very, very stubborn people, often accused of cutting our noses off to spite our faces in order to prove that we are right. In our relationship, we'd often butt heads trying to out-stubborn the other one. More often than not, I'd cave into him for fear of losing him in my life. And, ultimately, it was his pride that has driven us apart and it is his pride that is keeping him from being able to let the rift close when I need him most. To be very frank, the only thing that has me terrified about this fight is that I am doing it without his counsel and with this horrible silence. It's been difficult to bear for over a year, but now, it's devastating.

Add in what I'm going through with cancer, and it's a whole new level of heartbreak. Again, the second verse continues with, "What is happening to me? 'Crazy," some'd say. Where is my friend when I need you most? Gone away... " Truly. Every word of that verse applies on every level, now. And, now, the chorus has a new meaning - that I have to find a way to make it through this world and survive. And he's gone away.

So, I decided when they told us to sing just a verse and a chorus and I'd start do the second verse because, one of the best pieces of advice I've ever gotten is the best impression you can make as a performer it so perform from the heart.

The ten of us were called into the room, and we were brought into a grey room with a large table and a young, blonde woman with a laptop, a stack of those coveted red tickets, the pink "maybe" tickets, a list and our audition passes. We filed in and sat just as we stood in line, which I guess is an aberration, because the later producer laughed as she called our names and we stood up in perfect order for our turns to perform. I was the last in the room, so I was the closest to the producer on the left side of the room, sitting next to Kaytlin. We sat in silence, until a large, flamboyant African American man with a joyous smile stood and said, "Thank you, I'd like to welcome you all to our first AA meeting, my name is Ralph and I'm an alcoholic. Let's start with a prayer." The producer then explained the process, and as she spoke, you could tell she seemed very tired. I don't blame her, mind you - she'd endured hours of auditions the day before, and it was still very early, and we'd overheard she had been running late and we were only her first or second group of the day. And I didn't see coffee anywhere - bad sign. Plus, one thing I've learned is that you do NOT want to be first to audition - you want to come in later - that way, the person you're auditioning for isn't so conservative with approvals, and hopefully they are a bit bored, so if you can wow them and make an impression when they are drowsy, they will be grateful. It's harder to wow them when they aren't numb to all auditions.

One by one, in perfect order, we take our turns. I'm not going to lie - there were some lovely voices. I'm a very harsh critic - and I look for genuineness is the performances that I love and want to hear again. Too many were good, or ok, but overly rehearsed. People were trying too hard. They were good, but with only a few exceptions, there was no soul or heart. One song made me tear up - the man who called the AA meeting sang, "I Hope You Dance," and he worked the room a bit. He looked me dead in the eyes when he sang the line, "May you never take one single breath for granted, God forbid love ever leave you empty handed."

Then, as always, the exception to the rule - she called me up before Kaitlyn. I stood up, introduced myself and sang. Some of you reading this blog know that I can be objective to a fault when evaluating my performances. I'll tell you where I screwed up, that it was not "on," etc. But, I can tell you, I nailed it. If anything, I may have rushed it a bit, but I was on key. I know I emoted - how could I not? My tone was great. And when I stopped, and I turned to sit back down, the others in the room kind of gave me that look like, "Wasn't expecting that!" and "Uh, oh... " I smiled, graciously, and sat back down. Kaitlyn rocked her song, too - surprising depth for a girl so small! And then the producer sat back and told us, mechanically, that none of us were getting any colored tickets, we were all getting the boot. (She said it nicer than that, but it was the rehearsed speech.)

On the way out, however, every individual in that room took a moment to tell me that I killed it and she was nuts. That they were expecting her to give me a ticket. So, did I make it onto "The Voice?" No. But did I accomplish what I wanted to? Yes. I pleased 10/11 people in the room. Just not the one with the passes.

Before last week, I'd have broken down in tears once I got into my car. I'd be devastated, as I was years ago when I quit my dream. I can't tell you how many auditions I went to, hoping to make a life in the business, crushed and in a pile somewhere crying until I heaved. But I walked away, smiled, and in my mind, checked off another item from my bucket list. I was disappointed, and I know the show made a big mistake, but what can you do?

Instead of going straight home, however, since I wasn't that far from my friend, Lisa, who has been trying to coordinate a "play date" with me and my kids, I gave her a call to see if I could stop by and say, "hi," before I went home. I called and her husband said they had no plans and I'd be more than welcome to stop by. So I drove down, but that pesky squeal was still there. When I arrived, I asked Lisa if there was a car repair shop nearby so that, on the way home, I could stop by quickly so they could tell me what's going on with the car. Since her husband, Scott, was going to barbecue for lunch, she suggested we go to the repair shop so they could look at the car while we eat, and I could pick up the car after we were done. While I backed up to turn around on her street, a horrible metallic shriek screeched, there was a loud snap, and an awful grinding sound. We got around the corner, pulled into the lot, and I left the car with the mechanics there.

Fast forward a couple of hours of fun with her 3 kids, who are so different in personality and looks from one another and their parents, I get a call from the shop.

My driver-side rear brake pad had snapped in half, and literally fell into the mechanic's hands when he checked it. The passenger-side rear brake caliper was frozen, and I'd been driving with the brake on the whole time. And the front brakes were toast. Since he knew I was a good 2 hours away from where I lived, not expecting this at all, and caught off guard, he took quiet a bit off the repairs, but the estimate came in at over $1,400.


I asked if I could drive it home, and he returned the question with my own blank stare in disbelief I'd be so blonde as to ask that. So, now, I have to leave my car in New Jersey until Monday afternoon, because he didn't have the parts in stock, rent a car (which, after noon on a Saturday in New Jersey, is apparently an impossibility except for Rent-A-Wreck, which is very true to it's name) costing an additional $150+, and I have to drive back down to return the rental car by 4:30 pm or else I get charged another full day (even though end of day on Monday is much later). What makes that a real challenge?

Monday morning, I'm getting an injection, then I go in for a full-body CT Scan, then my Bone Scan, and then my genetics testing in Stamford, CT. If everything happens on perfect schedule, I can't leave Stamford before 2:30 pm. And it takes at least 2 hours to get to Dover, NJ. I'm going to call the manager on Monday and as for an extra hour or something, because I cannot afford to get charged another $50 because I missed the return time by 30 minutes when they will be open for another couple of hours.

Anyway, there it is.

So, within 5 days, I was diagnosed with cancer, I've been told something has been found on both breasts, now, under both nipples, I've learned that we have even more family history of breast cancer, I didn't make the next round of "The Voice" auditions, and I have $1,500 in repairs to be done to my car in another state.



  1. I/m not even sure what an appropriate response to all this would be. Everything I can think of to say sounds too blithe. So just know you are being heard (so to speak, anyway) and I'm wishing you well. Hope it only gets better for you (WAAY better!) (and quick!)from here.

  2. Car is home, running in good shape, though now I think I actually HAVE sold my first born to my parents and cannot redeem him thanks to what I now owe them. (And, no, their deadbeat son-of-a-bitch father is of no help, no assistance, and the County gives him a free lawyer and a magistrate who can't seem to figure out what the word "justice" means, so I have no emergency funds.) Sorry - did I mention this "Seriously" leaked into this morning's Family Court hearing asking the judge to finally enforce an order she gave last March, my ex was found willful in his violate of said order, and she doesn't seem to have any records that he has, or hasn't, fulfilled the order, therefore it was dismissed?

    Anyhoo, what was that about it getting better? *rolls eyes*


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