You’ve got to Believe…

I just knew in my gut something wasn’t right. There was a lump that wasn’t supposed to be there, things just didn’t feel the same as they usually did. My intuition told me that this was something to have checked out, even though I just had a “clear” mammogram six months prior, so I called to make an appointment. The receptionist gave me a date for two weeks down the road, and I surely wasn’t going to wait that long, so I asked if there was anyone else I could see. She scheduled me with a Nurse Practitioner and assured me that she knew her stuff–she had been doing this job for 25 years. Sounded good to me.

As she examined me the next day, she said in a very calm, matter of fact voice, “I am almost positive this is just a cyst, by the way it feels. I will still need to send you for a diagnostic mammogram, but I’ve been doing this for a long time and I just don’t think it’s cancer, and I wouldn’t say that if I wasn’t pretty sure.”

Whew. What a scare that was. I felt such relief at that moment, all the fear that I had washed away and left me feeling good about the situation. I could deal with a cyst, even if surgery was needed to remove it. Piece of cake.

I left the doctor office, imaging orders in hand and rushed to my car. I called my husband to let him know there was nothing to worry about. “See, I knew that couldn’t be a tumor already when you just had a clear test.” My husband replied. He is not a worrier, never gets worked up over anything, so when I was freaking out the night before he assured me that it was probably nothing. I always hate it when he’s right, but this time I was happy he was. I then called the radiologist office and they had an immediate appointment available, so I could go right over. That worked perfectly, since I already had the afternoon off from work. “Thank God I can just do this today and be done with it,” I thought as I drove to their office.

They say hindsight is 20/20. Boy are they right. As the technician was taking the pictures, she had the most solemn face I’d ever seen. She was borderline frowning. I thought it was interesting, but I figured it was just her demeanor, I had no idea at the time that there was actually a reason behind it. She took picture after picture after picture. Turn this way, stand straight, hold your breath. A little more intense than the mammogram I had six months ago, but I just thought at this point it was all part of it being “diagnostic” and not “routine”. They just wanted to get different angles and views for my medical file. I still thought I was dealing with a pesky cyst.

I was told to get dressed and have a seat in the waiting area for a few minutes. I should have started to suspect something was up because they weren’t sending me home with the usual, “we will send the results to your doctor and they will contact you” but I was still in the dark. I had no worry, but was getting a bit irritated that this was taking so long. “The radiologist would like to speak with you now,” the technician said with a pained look on her face. I can see it all so clearly now, but in that moment I just thought they were trained to keep a neutral face when dealing with patients. “Hmm, meeting with the radiologist must be protocol when you have a diagnostic mammogram”, I thought as I walked down the hallway. When I entered the room I smiled to the radiologist and sat down, still CLUELESS. The room was very dark, only the light was coming from her computer monitor and the other screen displaying the images, casting an eerie blue glow in the room. She started talking and I zoned out for a bit, just wanting to get this over with so I could go pick up my kids. “See, this is your image from 6 months ago. And this one is from today. You see this shaded area is new, wasn’t there before. And looking at the shape and the edges, and by the way it looks, this is highly likely to be cancer and I know that is not what you were expecting to hear.” I was stunned, sure I didn’t hear her right. I replied, “What? What does that mean?” I was confused. I thought I had a cyst. She offered me a tissue, I guess because she expected me to start falling apart. “I am not 100% sure, the only way to tell is to have a biopsy. But I am pretty sure it is.” I just sat there in silence. I couldn’t process what I was hearing. “Would you like to see about having the biopsy today?” she asked, sensing I might need that confirmation sooner rather than later. My husband wasn’t even with me, I was alone. And I couldn’t even comprehend what she was saying, I was in shock. “No, I will come back with my husband.” I replied. At this point, I couldn’t wait to get the hell out of there. I didn’t know what was happening to me. She handed me a business card in case I needed anything and I left. I sat in my car for several minutes before calling my husband then my mom. I wasn’t bawling at this point, I was in too much shock and disbelief for that. My husband’s reply was filled with anger, “She shouldn’t have said that to you, you haven’t even had a biopsy yet. You don’t know for sure and she shouldn’t scare you like that.” Again, my husband is not a worrier and still didn’t think I should get upset until I had the biopsy. My mom, having worked in cancer almost her entire career first in records, then as a nurse, was calm but I could tell by her voice that she was worried about it because she knows too much about cancer.

I believe there is a reason for things happening the way they do, and my mom not only has a lot of knowledge about cancer, chemo, radiation, but she  actually worked in San Antonio for a while for a cancer center before moving back to Florida. So she was already in action mode by the end of the call, recommending doctors and planning who she would contact for some advice and information.

Contrary to my husband’s theory, I knew deep down the Radiologist was right, but in an attempt to make myself feel better I pulled the card from my purse and looked up her name to check her credibility. Maybe she went to some no-name school and wasn’t really the best at her job. Harvard. That was all I needed to see. The next day I got the biopsy and felt this was really not necessary. I had cancer, no additional testing was going to change that.

When I went back to the doctor to get the “official” biopsy results, I was prepared for the news, or so I thought. The Nurse Practitioner that told me it was a cyst called me and walked my husband and I back to the doctor’s office. Her face told me everything. I could tell she felt incredibly bad about giving me false hope and her eyes said she was sorry without her even saying a word. I could have been mad and screamed at her, but everyone makes mistakes.

When the words came out of the doctor’s mouth, I immediately thought of my 2 boys and that I was going to die. You don’t know anything when you are diagnosed, only that the word cancer is an ugly one and people die from it. I was advised to go see the nurse navigator for more information that she could help me sort things out. That meeting saved me from completely losing it. She took my hand and said in a soothing voice, “you are not going to die. You will have chemo, surgery and likely radiation to treat it.” Then she told me she would make some appointments for me with a surgeon and the oncologist, handed me a book to read and gave me some diet and vitamin suggestions. I heard what she was saying, but the only thing I could focus on was the word CHEMO. My mom had worked around chemo patients for a long time. I immediately thought of her stories of women puking, so sick they couldn’t even sit upright. And my hair. My thick, long hair. It would fall out.

I still thought I was going to die, despite what she said. Nights were the toughest. I was having nightmares in reverse. I would lie in bed in the dark crying and thinking of all that was to come and the what ifs–what if the intense treatment didn’t work and I would be left wasting away and then leaving the young boys that meant so much to me. I would fall asleep with these fears raging through my mind, but then would be in a happier peaceful place for a while, dreaming of normalcy and happy things, only to wake up and realize I was in the nightmare again. Nightmare was reality. I would cry out “I just want to be normal again. I just want life to be boring again.”

The first few days after you are diagnosed with cancer are the WORST. You haven’t really met with your medical team yet about the plan, so you have no idea what is going on, what your chances are to survive. And you are sent for test upon test to see if it already spread, to see if you are Stage 4. PET scans, MRIs, bone scans. It is the scariest thing you can go through and waiting for your results are unbearable. You think of all the movies you’ve seen where the lead character gets cancer (when you have cancer it seems EVERY movie ever made has a character with cancer) and dies and everyone is sad. You think that will be you.

I drove to work during those days in complete silence, which is not like me. I always listen to music to charge my batteries in the morning. But I just wanted silence so I could think. One morning I was in the shower and I was terrified. I started crying and I begged for some sort of sign to tell me it would be okay, that I would make it. I pulled myself together, got ready and drove to work, and half way to the office I decided to turn on the radio. I hadn’t listed to anything in about a week, so I had no idea what would come on, what was in queue. I pushed the on button and my favorite band came on, the song was fading out and ending. The next song, “What Happens Tomorrow”, started and at first I couldn’t remember it too well because it had been a long time since I’d heard it. It was a bit slower than what I was in the mood for, so I almost skipped over it to hear something really upbeat and cheery but something told me not to. As the song unfolded and I listened to the words, I got the chills. This was my sign. The words told me everything I needed. And from a band that brought me such comfort through my life. Amazing.

Duran Duran has always been there for me. And this time they proved they would be there again. My guardian angel was watching out for me that day, and it wouldn’t be the last time he or she sent me comfort through Duran Duran.

 

 

 

Daily Dose of Duran-In the Pleasure Groove

Hello My Fellow Duranies!!

I am seriously going through duranwithdrawals. What a cool year right? Duran Duran released their AWESOME album Paper Gods a year ago, and fans across the US got to see this amazing band perform shows that were so full of energy and life that even I was dancing for the entire show–right after my 4th surgery! I was lucky enough to go to 2 shows on the tour–Vegas and San Antonio. And in between the concerts, watching the Facebook roll calls from all of the cities was so much fun, it really made me feel I was on the road with them.

I, like many fans out there, am feeling depressed now that this North American tour has come to a close. I still have their Facebook page, but that is simply not enough. So I decided I want to share my stories of Duran Duran–how they’ve gotten me through my younger years, bad breakups, how my guardian angel has used Duran Duran over and over to give me signs, how they saved me from the dark hell of cancer.

I tried blogging before, but it never took off. I couldn’t think of things to post every day, so I gave up. So I wanted to start this new site by posting something I wrote a few years ago. Before the shit hit my fan and rocked my world (I’ll talk more about my cancer in future posts) I had one of the best nights of my life. But thankfully it wouldn’t be the last!

This was written after I met JT in 2012, at his book signing for “In The Pleasure Groove”.

 

Duran Duran has been my favorite band since I was an awkward teenager in braces at 14. I fell in love with them when I first heard “Is There Something I Should Know”. The music caught my ear, but one band member in particular, John Taylor, caught my eye among other things (come on girls, you know what I’m talking about!)  While my love for this band and JT has evolved into more of an appreciation for their actual talent vs. hormonal teenage lust, it is still love nonetheless. And I was able to meet him.

The first D2 album I actually bought was “Seven and the Ragged Tiger”. I bought the cassette and practically wore it out within a couple weeks. It really sucked back then when you had to rewind a tape to play a song again! That tape was all I listened to. When I realized that I couldn’t get enough of their songs and was hungry for more,  I bought the album “Duran Duran”, this time on vinyl because I knew there might be more pictures of the band and maybe lyrics inside (God I miss that). From this point forward it was all Duran all the time. Sure I liked Tears for Fears, A-ha, Simple Minds, but no one even came close to Duran.

My obsession started with me simply tearing a Duran Duran picture out of a Teen Beat magazine one day thinking “hey, I really like these guys” as I taped it to my wall, to me buying every last poster that was sold and covering every inch of my bedroom walls with their faces. I was spending my hard-earned babysitting cash buying everything I could with their picture or logo on it, from key chains and tee shirts, to painters caps and puffy stickers. I, like many teen girls at the time, even started trying to dress like them, buying a grey fedora and white Capezio shoes.

I owned every Duran video so my fellow Duranies and I could pause them on John and watch him in slow motion. The one video that never failed to make my friends and I scream with hormonal fervor was Save a Prayer, especially the scene where John was seated on an elephant–shirtless mind you–and the elephant was spraying water on him making him laugh. We died and went to heaven every time we watched that clip. I also wore out my copy of the  Sing Blue Silver documentary, where they filmed their ’84 tour. As I watched all the other girls screaming and going crazy at the shows, I dreamed of the day I would get to see them in person. I never thought it would come.

The first time I saw John play live was with The Power Station, the band John and Andy formed with Tony Thompson and Robert Palmer. We had nosebleed seats way up in the balcony and couldn’t see the stage without binoculars, but the fact that we were in the same place HE was, listening to him play that bass LIVE, well, it was just too much to take. I can’t believe I didn’t pass out. I actually wore the fedora and those shoes to that concert, what a nightmare look for a girl. power-stationI actually thought if he saw me, he would be impressed with my wardrobe choice and think I was simply adorable. Braces, baggy clothes and all.

 

Then Duran Duran got back together, well almost. It was only three of them this time–John, Nick and Simon–to do the Notorious album and Strange Behaviour tour. It was 1987. They announced that they were going to be in Saratoga, NY and I died. I couldn’t believe they would be near enough for me to see them! I mean, I had Power Station memories, but this was Simon and Nick too! It was all I could think about! Not only was I going, but my dad, knowing how crazy I was for Duran Duran, arranged for a big, shiny, Wedding Singer-ish limo to take me and four other crazed friends to the show for a birthday gift. We were 17 and not only going to see them, but going in style. With a Chauffeur. We also got seats that were in the 10th row, a far cry from the Power Station show. I couldn’t take it–it totally consumed me. We crafted a banner from an old white sheet and adorned it with their traditional DD logo, a few other Duran drawings and a huge red heart, and we swore that Simon pointed to it and said something to us during the show (of course now I really don’t think that happened-we were delusional). We were absolutely delirious and high on Duran. All night after that concert, my friends and I relived it, playing the songs in the order that they played them, reminiscing about what Simon said and how John looked. We were living examples of what Strange Behaviour looked like! I have to say that even to this day, it was one of the best, most memorable nights of my life. I recently happened upon a You Tube video of the concert. Sigh.

I saw Duran Duran live again in 2005. I was 6 months pregnant, and headed down to Florida to visit my also pregnant best friend who had been there with me in the ’80s through the videos, both concerts, the limo, the screaming (she’s the one in the middle of the Power Station pic with the sweet NECKTIE). We had plans to see the original five back together–it was going to be a special night for us. But her dad passed away the morning I was flying in, so she couldn’t make the concert, which put a damper on what was supposed to be a perfect night. Still, I was on my swollen feet singing every song (knowing all the words mind you) and dancing with my pregnant belly, maternity pants and all, wishing the whole night that she could be there.

Years went by, my babies were born, and I kept up with Duran Duran, buying the albums as they were released just like I did when I was a teenager. I loved all of the songs, despite some of the negative reviews that were out there. I know even the best get slammed every now and then, but I don’t like it when people trash talk my guys! I always wished that John or Simon would write a memoir, so when I heard that John finally wrote one, I was ecstatic. I counted down the days until it came out. I kept reading on Facebook that he was doing book signings, and wondered what it would be like to actually meet him. I felt the same twinges of jealousy toward the lucky people in those cities that I did when I watched “Sing Blue Silver”. I kept checking for San Antonio Texas–of course, nothing. I gave up, but still eagerly anticipated the book release.

When browsing Facebook one day, I just happened to stumble across a comment on a Dallas friend’s post about the book tour. One of her friends mentioned that he was going to Austin, and it sucked that it wasn’t closer to her. I couldn’t believe it.

“John is coming to Austin. Austin is 90 minutes away from me.” I repeated over and over in my head. Then I started making excuses as to why I couldn’t go.

It was scheduled for a Friday night, so that meant I would have to make arrangements at work to get there on time. Then I would have to find someone to come with me–we wouldn’t have a sitter that night, so my husband couldn’t make the journey, and frankly I knew he really didn’t want to see his wife acting irrationally. I couldn’t think of anyone else that liked them like I did, so I wasn’t sure who to invite. Plus I absolutely hate driving, especially in rush hour to a place I am not familiar, it’s completely out of my comfort zone. But excuses and all, I just couldn’t get the thought of meeting him out of my head and the regret I would feel if I missed it. So on a whim, I asked my much younger friend who was only a baby when Duran Duran was at their peak to join me on this adventure. She agreed to come. This was actually going to happen! I went online to purchase my tickets–they weren’t sold out as I feared they may be at this point. And only 10 bucks! How could meeting JT only be 10 bucks???? Fate was on my side because the very next day the tickets were gone.

The day of the signing, I had the nervous stomach that you have when you are about to go on a first date–the butterflies, the near puking feeling. I could barely eat that day, and focusing on work was another issue. The day crawled along until it was 3:00. Time to go!

Nervously navigating my black Honda Odyssey minivan through heavy Austin rush hour traffic while listening to old Duran tunes and quizzing my young friend if she knew this one and that one, I was brought back to 1987–sitting with my fellow Duranies in that black stretch limo headed for the concert, giddy with delight about seeing our guys screaming and signing Duran Duran songs. I felt the same feelings I did as the 17 year old me.

As we stood in line waiting to get in, the stories started to fly. Here I was with fellow Duran fans, sharing our ‘careless memories’. I suddenly realized that I was not even close to being the biggest fan I believed I was for all those years (surely I spent the most time and money, sweat and tears on this band, right?). We all were the biggest fans. We all did the exact same things–pausing videos to scream, buying anything and everything Duran. We even started to try and one-up each other with our tales, and I found at times I couldn’t win! Some of the girls still had old souvenirs and mementos, mine were long gone. The one thing I had that most of them didn’t though, was that I was still a huge fan, it wasn’t just nostalgia. I actually owned all the newer albums that most of them didn’t. I couldn’t stop singing Duran Duran’s praises. At one point, someone in line said I should do PR for them. (I’m working on that😉.)

My friend got us seats a few rows back from the stage, then went out to grab some drinks for us so I wouldn’t miss anything. While sitting there alone waiting for him to come out, I was anxious. The story sharing continued with some other women in the audience, but I was zoned out–too busy planning what I would say in my head to really focus on any more trips down memory lane. I admired this person so much and wanted him to know what he meant to me. My friend returned and I downed the cheap house red wine she brought to calm my nerves, spilling some on my precious book. Luckily, it wiped off easily with my sweater sleeve. Whew. I wanted to tell him something witty and funny, because that is what I do best–make people laugh with my stories. I thought maybe I could make a joke, then mention something only a true fan would know, like his solo song “I Do What I Do To Have You” which would indeed impress him. We would have a nice chat, a laugh or two, and he would think to himself, “wow, that girl is cool”. I was snapped back to reality when I noticed a tall dark figure pass the doorway through the lobby area. “It’s him”, I shrieked to my friend who was now laughing at me. When he finally came out on stage, I was bubbling with excitement, fighting the urge to get on my feet and scream JOHN while throwing my bra or some piece of clothing on stage. What the hell was happening to me? I wish I could say it was the wine, but it was something else.

I calmed down and really enjoyed the presentation. The reading was incredible– John was funny, witty, smart and still looking good. Way to go JT! I was very impressed by him, by the road he traveled and where he is today. I forgot for a minute that there was still more to this night–meeting him. Again, I was a mess.

My friend was a trooper the whole night, taking care of me like she was my mother. While in line waiting for the signing, I was progressively growing more nervous and shaky. Whatever cool I thought I had in me was slipping away fast. I tried to pull myself together and kept telling myself that he is just a person, that this is a cool experience and nothing to get worked up about. I then got the idea that I would ask him if he could say a quick hello to the friend that could not be at the concert in 2005 and another friend that couldn’t be at the signing. It was all going to be fine.

I neared the stage and knew that this may not go well at all. When I caught the first close-up glimpse of him sitting behind the desk signing books, I could feel my heart practically jump out of my chest. I was feeling vertigo and would definitely trip up the stairs if I didn’t get a grip. Wouldn’t that be a scene! My hands were really shaking at this point. I was getting the phone ready to take my video but worried that I wouldn’t be able to do it right with my frayed nerves. All I could hear is my friend saying she would get pictures, not to worry. I couldn’t feel my legs, but I was walking, each step closer to ‘the moment’. I was a freaking basket case. As I climbed the stairs all I could hope for is that I wouldn’t fall flat on my face. I reached the top and there HE was, right in front of me.

If a psychic would have told me in 1987 that I would be here in this moment standing right in front of JOHN TAYLOR, I would have just died right there after screaming for about 30 minutes.

I managed to mumble, “would you say hi to my friends Paula and Amy please” and he looked up at me and said “hi Paula and Amy please” flashing that same smile that I remember from all those years ago. Age may have put a few lines on his face, but didn’t take that smile.  It was right then that I completely and utterly lost it. “THANK YOU OH MY GOD I LOVE YOU SO MUCH I WASN’T SURE WHAT I WOULD SAY TO YOU UP HERE” the words just flew from my mouth in the most high pitched squealing tone you’ve ever heard. I was not talking, someone else was. It was the 17 year old me. I had officially lost my mind. I blew it!!!

“I think you found the words” he said back with another smile.

I tried to get my iPhone to go back to camera mode so I could capture this smile forever, but I couldn’t work the phone at this point. I wasn’t even sure if I got the video. I was quite simply an utter mess. I was even asked very firmly by one of the assistants to leave the stage, you know, to let others get their books signed–this wasn’t all about me. I should have felt like crawling into a hole, but I was too elated for that. I MET JOHN TAYLOR. The embarrassment would come later as I watched the video back on my phone and could hear my squeals of delight.

image1-7

That's me, on cloud nine with my signed book!!

Is it bad when you’re feeling this good?
Are we all misunderstood?
It’s fine, going out of my mind
Going out of my mind, going out of my mind

Pressure Off, Paper Gods

Note: Little did I know then that it wouldn’t be the first time I would meet a member of Duran Duran, but more on that in another post…