Monthly Archives: December 2015

Here Comes the New Year

As the darkest days turn back toward the light, all the possibilities and hopes for the new year begin to shine brightly, and then we crush them with guilt from resolutions we don’t keep. “I resolve to exercise at least 5 times a week, become a vegetarian, only have 5 drinks per week, lose that extra 10 pounds, etc and pointless etc.” As January turns to February, we’re already failing miserably, mentally beating ourselves up, and then letting it go altogether, which is exactly why I stopped making resolutions years ago and began setting intentions.

What, you may ask, do I know about setting intentions? Obviously not much, because last year on New Year’s Eve, I stood at an open window with one of my best friends and set my intention for 2015. Here is what I yelled with all the force of my being to the universe:

“I will make 2015 a year of health! I will sleep more, drink less, and focus entirely on my health!”


Barbara and I at midnight on New Year’s Eve 2014. All ready to set my intentions in a blue sequined tuxedo jacket with a few bottles of spectacular champagne swirling about in my brain. God, I love good champagne.

Please tell me you see the humor in this, because the universe answered my call. 2015 has been almost entirely about my health; I have slept more and drank less than I have since I was 16, but in my sincere commitment to this intention of a health focused year, I forgot to specify. As I yelled out that window I might have included that I hoped to accomplish this by devoting myself entirely to my Pilates apprenticeship and perhaps drinking more water, cooking at home, and pushing for 7 hours of sleep a night. I did not mean to achieve these goals by being diagnosed with cancer. Oi vey.

Intentions are an act of self kindness. Intentions differ from resolutions in that a resolution is defined as “a firm decision to do or not do something,” or “the act of finding an answer or solution to a conflict, problem, etc.” The first definition requires us to force something upon ourselves, and if you’re like me, I push back against force. If I resolve to never eat cookies again, I’ll end up eating 20 a day until you’re cutting a hole through a wall in my home to remove my gargantuan carcass. The second definition requires an action plan with consequences and rewards. I’ve never known anyone to set a new year’s resolution by creating an action plan. That is type A business of a magnitude we don’t often see around here.

Intentions, however, are defined as “a thing intended; an aim or plan.” This is gentle, focused, and allows room for our efforts to swing back and forth like a pendulum as we seek balance in achieving these goals. When you fall off the wagon you get back on without guilt all through the year, or as long as it takes, to achieve your aim and set it as the new normal.

My brilliant friend Carrie Contey and I discussed this the other night, and she told me that she has often had clients write what they see as an “achievable” intention and then the one they really want, the grand one, the over the top, living the dream one. She encourages them to be as specific as possible, and says that very often her clients achieve that over the top goal. Don’t be afraid to aim high, and be specific. Add the important details, and then paint a picture of them. Get creative. Seriously.


Look at this beautiful woman with her infectious smile! And her shoe collection is stunning. She’s a parenting guru and lifestyle expert, and speaking with her always sparks joy. (

I think about my intentions often throughout a day, and like exercising a muscle, each time I bring them back into focus and behave accordingly, I find myself closer to achieving my aim. Like I said before, I am motivated by anything I can treat as a practice, and to approach an intention as a practice engages my mind and holds my interest, necessary for success. This week I’m working on the wording of my intentions for 2016. The goals themselves are clear in my mind, and revolve around 3 words: liberation, ecstasy, now. Get your dirty minds out of the gutter! In 2016 I intend to become liberated and live ecstatically by living in the now. No big. Well, absolutely big, but 2015 taught me that I can do anything. I feel freer than I think I ever have, and oddly happier than I’ve maybe ever been, but that’s not enough. Liberation trumps freedom. Ecstasy trumps happy. As they say, go big or go home.


This is freedom and joy. Can you even begin to imagine what liberation and ecstasy will look like? I can. I love these ladies so much!

In the meantime, i.e. the next 2 days, I will work on that sentence, look for pitfalls, accept the fact that it might not be very specific (but I actually believe it is), realize I could never plan for all the curveballs the universe can throw, and at the stroke of midnight shout it out with all the mighty force of my being. Only time will tell what I set into motion.


*side note. As 2015 comes to a close, it would be insane not to bow before the people who have lit my way through this year with love on a scale I could never have imagined. If I started to name them all (which would take hours) I would forget someone, and that would be absolutely unacceptable, because there have been huge gestures and small kindnesses alike that have affected me in ways I’m currently unable to express with words. All I can say is that my life will move on with an intention of paying these beautiful acts forward in honor of you all. To quote Mark Helprin from “Winter’s Tale”:

“The sicker I become, the more clearly I can see that everything is connected by light.”

With all my experiences over the last year I am now able to confirm that this is true, we are all connected by light. Happy New Year, and welcome 2016!


Chemo’s Like This…


This is my port when it’s all hooked up. Good times.

Chemo. Chemo chemo chemo. What to say about chemo? In some ways, what I want to say about chemo is f*#k you people for not being able to do better. This is awful. It makes me feel crummy and I think there has to be a less cruel way. However, if wishes were horses, beggars would ride (to quote the old proverb). So chemo, specifically intravenous chemo. Thank you intravenous chemo for knocking out whatever little microscopic cells might have migrated to my liver and lungs thereby wreaking havoc in the future. Thank you and f*#k you.

As far as I’m concerned, intravenous (IV) chemotherapy goes something like this: they stick a port in your chest with a line leading into your jugular vein. A port is a small disc of plastic or metal that sits under your skin and has the shape of a tiny eclair. Kind of. My friend Gail called it her alien. Maybe it looks like a large mass. Whatever. It’s there and when you come into infusion clinic they can draw blood through it OR administer meds, on infusion days they do both.

I do a 3 day infusion every other week. On Monday, the clinic administers the bonus fluids and first drug in clinic, then I leave connected to a portable pump that will administer a second chemo drug for 48 hours. I go back on Wednesday and they disconnect me. When I go in to clinic on Monday, they connect the IV to the port first, which is the picture above, and take blood. Then the nurse starts the drips. Plural. I get dextrose, then a big bag of fluids, a steroid, 2 anti-nausea meds, saline, and oxaliplatin (the chemo). All of this, plus a quick doctor visit, last about 6 hours. Midway through I start to feel a little nauseated with a metallic taste in my mouth that is always kind of there making wine taste like vinegar (sob). The 3 days of active chemotherapy affect my tastebuds the most. Before the end of the infusion I have developed a cold sensitivity that will last for 5 days following my disconnect on Wednesday. I cannot drink, touch, or feel cold. Take that back, I am able to touch cold things, but it’s incredibly unpleasant. Swallowing cold things is akin to swallowing crushed glass, and if I wash my hands in cold water, touch a chilled metallic surface/handle, or grab a cold anything out of the refrigerator, it feels like what I imagine frostbite feels like, sharp, burning, and wrong. If a cold blast hits me in the face, it’s like being pierced by a million tiny needles. I wear gloves and socks most of the time, even inside.


Ralphie’s brother, Randy, from “A Christmas Story,” modeling Oxaliplatin/5-fu chemo week fashions for Winter 2015/2016. I look like this when I leave the house, and turn the heat up when inside my home to tropical temps. Everything’s nice and irie up in here.

By the time I’m leaving the clinic, I’ve developed a severe sensitivity to releasing saliva during the first 3-5 “chews” of anything. It hurts and I make faces, then it goes away. I know some real vain kings and queens who would pay for a weight loss regimen this effective. No joke. Next up comes the paralysis that comes and goes to the left side of my mouth. It’s bizarre and is probably reminiscent of the way people feel when they have a stroke. Occasionally, I experience dysphagia. What’s dysphagia, you ask?  It’s difficulty swallowing due to nerve endings in my throat being affected by the chemo. Dysphagia is alarming because it feels like you’re choking and can’t get food out of your throat, up or down. As a brilliant home health PT, I know a trick. Lower your chin, chew a ton, then slightly lift your chin to help the food go down. Best. Diet. Ever.


First day. I look a little shell-shocked. Haha! Was it the getting up early or having my port tapped the first time? Mystery.

Continuing on, somewhere in this 5 day period, I begin developing muscle spasms in my diaphragm and intercostal muscles. Mostly they are slow waves that lightly ripple through my left rib cage, but, the big BUT, there will be one or two that will bring me to my knees. Spasms of a magnificent intensity that halt me in my tracks for 20-30 long, tense seconds. I breathe in and out until they go away. Then I go on doing whatever, because they go away and I’m really happy about that. I’m also developing neuropathy in my fingers and toes. Neuropathy is when nerve endings are damaged, causing numbness, tingling, and pain, and is another side effect  exasperated by cold temps. I also have memory loss and a horrible time with word finding. For those of you who know me, zip it! This is definitely because of the chemo.


The chairs are comfy and the blankets are warm. Trying to look productive. Pfffft.

By Wednesday and Thursday, I will feel as though someone drained my battery to a little less than 50%. Everything becomes an effort. Getting up to walk to the bathroom, climbing the stairs up or down to my second story, leaving the house, making the bed, brushing my teeth. EFFORT. However, I will do Pilates twice this week and walk everyday. Friends will come over, I will clean a couple of drawers and continue to slowly organize my life. I will read, I will write, and I will be present. When I feel especially poorly, I will watch television with a dedication that will horrify most and impress a few.


Me, doing Pilates, the day after infusion clinic while still connected to my pump. What’s your excuse? Thank you, Pizzanista! ( and Pi Movement ( for the workout gear.

I might binge watch television because the entire time, along with all these other side effects of chemotherapy, I will be fending off debilitating nausea. Nausea is prohibitive. If I’m nauseated I’m not moving or talking, returning text, opening the door, or getting off the couch. Life slows to a crawl, and the numbing waves of woe begin to set in. I have ways around nausea that don’t involve my anti-nausea meds. Anti-nausea meds suck. So, when the nausea is controlled, I can easily deal with all these other side effects.

My advice from Brokenrecordville? Control your nausea, whatever you do, figure it out. Drink lots and lots and lots of water! Flush your system, help the meds, be proactive in the process! Walk. Even if it’s just around the block, around your house, or around the kitchen island 10 times. I am begging you to move your body. This is counterintuitive but astoundingly helpful. Pump those meds through your system by stimulating the lymphatic system, and maintain some endurance and strength while you’re at it. Why not? It can’t hurt anything, although per usual, please consult with your medical oncologist before beginning an exercise program.


Santa came to visit. He really was a jolly man with candy and a real beard. Kids, don’t take candy from strangers, adults with cancer, why not? You’re already ingesting shocking amounts of poisonous substances. Live it up!

Being around people I love and enjoy is huge for me, and that is generally the case in all aspects of my life. Do whatever sparks joy in you. If it’s reading a good book, painting, going to movies, sitting in parks, please partake. Make sure you do those things. Maintain the beauty in life, because this is a tricky road to navigate. These good people also understand when I don’t leave the house for days on end and stare somewhat blankly at them through conversations. Muy importante. The mass majority of my symptoms will resolve. The neuropathy will go away, the fatigue will dissipate, and my memory remains a mystery, but in the meantime, this is the way I roll every other Monday through Wednesday, with 5 amazing days out of every 14 when I feel mostly spectacular. Woot woot!


Reading an article on hipster chocolate fraud in Brooklyn. Apparently even their beards were false! Whaaaaaattttt? And that’s the only article I ready in the NYT today, but they nailed it!

My companions so far:


The lovely Julianna who has taken me to chemo twice and is cheery and dedicated and so loving! She is often mistaken for my daughter (wish you could see my hair flip, nod and once again, pat pat on the back), and is happy to loan me her fiancee when she’s unavailable. I love her.


Sweet Amanda brought me and we had tacos Favored to the clinic. Laughter seems to be the common thread of my infusion days. AND she taught me to knit to help with the neuropathy. My scarf might not be beautiful, but it’s awfully pretty with all the love.


Beautiful Barbara brought me for Christmas Chemo! We had pain au chocolat and coffee for breakfast, Indian for lunch and laughed our way through an extra long day of chemo. We set intentions for the Winter Solstice and celebrated B’s birthday at Justine’s later that evening. Such a good day!


Of course my parents have taken me for all disconnects and for 1 chemo. They are incredibly patient with how loopy I am by Wednesday and don’t make too much fun of me. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you for a million kindnesses and a lot of understanding.

About My Attitude…



People love to compliment my good attitude. In light of the absolutely rotten year I’ve had, it seems to shock people that I’m not completely pissy. Somedays it shocks me, too, and I try to look deep to make sure I’m not delusional. Then I realize who cares if I’m delusional because the delusion of happiness is way better than it’s forlorn, depressed, dark pit of despair cousin misery. Given the choice, crazy good spirits it is, and for me, luckily, it is a choice.

Don’t get me wrong. I love being praised, always have. Tell me I “have a great attitude,” I’m “so positive!”; please tell me all these things. I shine my brightest in the rays of an adoring sun, but to set the record straight, I don’t “have” a good attitude. I’m not simply immune to feelings of woe or anguish. This isn’t my natural disposition. In my life there have been moments of self loathing, despair, frantic feelings that the sky is falling, and the lovely pity party of “poor me, why me, woe is me, etc.” It’s easy to believe the world is out to get you, or that your feelings of sadness are due to someone else’s cruelty or lack of affection. How simple it would be to shake my fist at the heaven’s and scream at the injustice, but why? It would cure nothing, and it would waste my time.

I wake up everyday and choose to cultivate a good attitude. I practice positivity. It’s work until it’s not, and then it flows. I didn’t start doing this because I got cancer. This is a practice I’ve been refining for years, and this practice begins with the simple act of deciding to look at the abundance of good in my life. Another technique I’ve often used is to choose action. Change what I can, be proactive where it matters, stop moping or raging and do something. Anything. There is always something to be done.


Sometimes that something is wearing an Allison Walsh original. Hard to be in a bad mood when my friends make me candy cane crowns. This is my regal reigning look, not a bad mood.

A little over a year ago, a company that had very comfortably employed me for 6 years shut down it’s Texas offices. With my severance, I went to Brazil for 3 months, then came home to find it impossible to command the same salary I had previously. Apparently, I had been in a rare, fortunate position and never really knew it. I was low on funds, my landlord was constantly threatening to increase rent, I was playing too hard and feeling as though I didn’t have the willpower to reign it in. I moved into a newly constructed home with multiple problems and my name on the deed, and then I began having stomach pain and rectal bleeding. I bitched, I moaned, I lashed out at my family, and began to drown in the crushing waves of “why me?” Then one day, following an absolute melt down and severe stomach pain (I learned the note on my car was 6 months longer than I thought), I came to, pulled my head out of my tush, and decided to hustle. Hustle work, hustle change, hustle myself. Change came, and prior to finding out I had cancer, I was back to killing it. There is always something to be done, and what I knew for sure was that I wasn’t born to be miserable.

But sometimes I want to feel the pain, and in those moments I am broken and tired and heartbreakingly vulnerable. When sufficiently bored with feeling that way (usually way less than an hour), I let it go. Such a dull and unimaginative way to spend time. This isn’t to discount peoples trauma’s, tragedies, misery or suffering, but those things aren’t a life raft or woobie. If you can be so attached to them, doesn’t it make sense that you could also find an attachment to bliss, or at the very least, happiness?


To quote the ghost of Christmas present from the musical “Scrooge:” “I like life, life likes me, I make life a perpetual spree.” Good advice. And I have polar bear toe socks and my sister has a massive television. Life is good.

I recently had a very wise shaman tell me that I had spent a majority of my life looking toward my future, then staring at my past, and all too often missing the moments of “now” that were passing me by. He called rectal cancer a disease of sitting on old hurts. The work of letting go is deeper than I had imagined, and my new, current, so far past positive attitude practice is living in the “now,” making each decision in the vein of “does this serve me now.” 5 seconds ago is gone, and the future doesn’t exist. Think about that. A lot.