Monday, March 31, 2008

“No, thank you.”

Was my response to a fellow walker on this rainy morning, who offered to share their umbrella with me.

I had my umbrella in my bag, but over these years I have found that it is usually more of a pain to hold it upright and overhead, while fighting the gusty winds associated with our Chicago rains and the commuter crowds.

So, outside of a torrential downpour – I walk in it – au naturale – yes that means showing up at the office a little wet around the edges – but also giving me (hopefully) the extra added benefit of moisturizing my aging, ever-drier complexion....unless, and I just thought of this - there is acid in the rain!


Friday, March 28, 2008

“That’s a bad start to your day!”

I said to the older man as we fell into step next to each other this morning. I had just witnessed him helping a woman, who upon exiting a cab, twisted her ankle and went down into a large, muddy puddle of road grunge.

“Yeah, she is just lucky she didn’t really hurt herself.” He replied before darting across the street trying to make the light.

That is one of the hazards of walking the sidewalks and streets of this city, especially this year. It seems that the cold, wet winter has wreaked havoc on the concrete and the sidewalks and streets are looking like patchwork quilts, with missing patches.

I am sure Mayor Daley will have his crews out soon doing repairs – one laborer to do the actual physical work and three others in charge of working over the women walking by...I mean “supervising” the concrete being laid.

city paid

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The symbolic heart

For some 18 years I have crossed the wooden planks of the Franklin Street bridge that span the Chicago River at the Merchandise Mart. Those planks are well worn and like any wood, each is unique.

One has a heart pressed into it - naturally occurring from a knot – that I have watched over time and it made me think about how symbolic that naturally-formed-once-was-a-knot heart is of our true hearts.....

I have seen it frozen - hard and filled with ice; crusty and white from the salt they use to make the bridge walkable in the winter; water-logged to the point that it is a deep dark brown and soggy; warmed from being kissed by the summer sun - showing a light airy tone; and finally this morning – misshapen – the bottom pointy part elongated – no longer perfectly formed after these many years of wear and tear.

It is as simple as that – a wooden representation of what happens to our own emotional hearts if not properly cared for.

I love that little naturally formed heart – it is so simple, yet speaks a lot.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

“You always ask questions.”

He said.

“I ALWAYS ask questions?” she replied.

“Yes. You ask a lot of questions.”

"I ALWAYS ask questions?” she said a little stronger.

“You are a good questioner.” he came back with, hearing the upset in her voice.

I am not sure where their conversation ended up – but it made me smile. For I have been known to ask a question.....or two.

Okay, I like to ask questions – no, I like to hear people’s stories – that is what I like.

I have found that questions posed in the right way – allow people to feel comfortable enough to tell you their story. Maybe it is a gift that I bring to the table – I just know that I get to hear a lot of stories about people’s lives and they fill me up – giving me insight that (hopefully) leads to knowledge.

life is my college

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

"I think we are damned....

to eternal winter this year!" the woman standing next to me at the light said this morning. Not quite sure why she spoke to me, although it could have been the grimace on my face as I zipped up my coat as far as it would go - she might have thought I was upset about the biting wind on this spring morning or the forecasted snow, but after all these years of working here - I keep Chicago’s weather in perspective - it will be cold and miserable until April/May and then it will be humid and in the upper 80's.

As far as the grimace on my face when I zipped up my zipper – that was my reaction to catching the skin of my neck in it....maybe instead of thinking it is Springtime – I should be thinking it is time for a little nip and tuck.


Monday, March 24, 2008

"Hold on."

I heard her say to her two friends that had walked a couple steps ahead of her and her dog, on my lunch walk today. They were alongside the post office at Wells and Grand and her dog was starting the circle dance on a postage-stamp-size patch of grass. As I approached and then passed them - all three were standing in silence, staring at the dog and the act that he was about to perform.

What makes us want to watch it?


Friday, March 21, 2008

"Excuse me."

I said, with a big smile on my face. "Yes?" she timidly responded. It was the first time that I had seen her - up close. She definitely has had a hard life and exudes an overwhelming sadness that is slightly tempered by her engaging smile and once-upon-a-time-pretty eyes. "I wanted to thank you for being an inspiration to me." I replied. "An inspiration? Why?" she asked with a defensive tone.

I introduced myself and told her a condensed version of my story and how while trying to endure the mile long walk to and from the train each day, I would think of her and how she persevered in the midst of physical difficulties and that pushed me to keep on going until I was able to walk the full mile again - gaining back my strength that had been robbed during transplant. She told me her name was Mary and that she didn't feel very inspiring. Before I left her that day, I made sure she knew that she was an incredible inspiration in my eyes.

I periodically still see Mary during my brisk walk down Canal Street on the way back to the train and I, of course, stop and check in with her, walking at her pace, slowly, resting every half a block or so and being eternally grateful that she helped me back onto this road of life - let's go!

for you never know

Thursday, March 20, 2008

“Attention - we will be landing at .....

Charles de Gaulle International Airport in approximately 20 minutes” a flight attendant informed us.

It is still hard to believe that my children and I – Midwesterners in all of our travel naivety, actually went to France. My friend, Alex and her brother, Fredo were waiting for us and what followed were two fabulous weeks of being escorted around Paris and the French countryside. I used to say I was afraid of flying....but I had something much bigger to be afraid of and I didn’t let that minimal fear of flying detour me and my children from having a trip of a lifetime.

We got back to Chicago knowing that I had an appointment with my oncologist - to find out if the cancer was gone or not. They sent me first for a PET scan and the tech administering the test, in-an-unheard-of-breach-of-protocol, excitedly showed me the scan results – it had shrunk by a lot. I remember it vividly - looking at the tumor and knowing there was suppose to be nothing there.

So at my appointment, already knowing the results – I told the doctor – instead of waiting for him to tell me.

The next several months were a whirlwind of gearing up for a stem cell transplant (because the cancer had not invaded my bone marrow – I was able to give myself my own “saved” stem cells after being taken down to ground zero) – family and friends did most everything for me and my kids, including the cleaning of my Mom’s house in preparation for me staying there during transplant.

What was unheard of years ago – is now doable – a stem cell transplant as an outpatient – going into the hospital each morning and coming home each night – including, at-the-time-much-hated, exercising twice a day for 20 minutes and daily bathing. Dr. Patrick Stiff creates an environment where you just don’t lay in bed – he makes it very physically interactive and I am happy to report – it WORKED!!

30+ days in transplant and me reading aloud my handwritten-chemo-brain-laden-thought-up “Top Ten List of Reasons Dr. Stiff Should Let Me Go Home” – he finally released me.

After follow-up visits, scans, blood draws and a very-very-long-time of recuperating - a friend, whom I admire, nudged me to start back to work – part-time – so with hardly being able to walk 20 feet without resting – I got on the train and headed downtown.

my strength unfound

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

“I feel like I am losing my family again.”

he said while putting his work clothes and other assorted items that he had brought to my house, into his truck.

To think that a man, who couldn’t deal rationally with the small bumps in the road of a family life, could have dealt with being a family again while trying to hurdle the biggest bump ever, was sheer insanity.

I remember the exact moment that I knew I had to ask him to was before Christmas and he and I were in my garage getting down all the decorations from the attic when he asked “Did you talk to the chemo nurse about us having sex?”

“Yes, I did.” I replied.

“Well what did she say?”

“She said that as long as I felt good – it wasn’t a problem.”

He followed that with “Is that all she said?”

“Yeah, why – are you worried?”

Then the truth of the matter came out.....

“Can it get on me?” he asked.

“Can WHAT get on you?” I voice getting angrier as I realize who this was about!

“Can the chemo get on me?"

We limped thru Christmas and then I asked him – no, I told him that he had to leave.

He proclaimed to be sad - but it didn't matter to me - I had something much bigger to fight.

with all my might.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

“Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma”

he said.

Primary mediastinal b cell to be exact.

My Dad had just died from mantel cell NHL and as one of my doctors' told me “we haven’t learned how to hit that one out of the ball park yet, but yours is curable.”

So my journey began:




Bone marrow draws (not fun!);


Steroids (horrible!);

No hair;

Weakness; and


And in the midst of it all my ex-husband moves into my house to help me and our kids out.

He felt it was the right thing to do and at first I agreed.....

then I asked him to leave.

Monday, March 17, 2008

He's wrong...wrong, wrong, wrong!!

“No way – I just ran 4 miles yesterday morning!” I firmly stated while my family was crying and hugging and kissing me.

I learned that our bodies have an awesome ability to not deal with devastating news – your brain just denies, denies, denies.

“We are seeing some enlarged lymph nodes.” the doc had said just an hour earlier......enlarged lymph nodes?

How about a tumor the size of a small cantaloupe pressing on my heart and lungs in the upper left region of my chest....

I just needed rest.

Friday, March 14, 2008

“You better get that checked out!”

Were my running friend’s parting words to me that morning. We had attempted to do our usual 4 mile run – but I couldn’t. We tried to power walk it – I couldn’t do that either.

“I will take a shower and see how I feel.” I replied.

So I did.

By the time I finished showering and got dressed - the heavy feeling in my chest and difficulty breathing were still there. I made a couple of phone calls to family and to work; drove my daughter to daycare; and then casually drove myself to the local ER.

I checked in at the desk and told them that I thought I might be having an anxiety attack or possibly a heart attack – I wasn’t sure.

They ushered me into the usual curtained ER room – where they gowned, wired and oxygenated me and asked if I felt better?

“No. I still have that heavy feeling in my chest.” I replied touching the exact spot with my fingers where I felt it.

My EKG was normal – so they sent me for a chest x-ray.

While I was waiting for the results of the x-ray two of my sisters showed up – just stopping by for moral support. They started joking that “as long as you are here you should have them look at the blue vein under your left eye – maybe they can fix it!”

We were all laughing when the ER doctor came in. “We are seeing something on the chest x-ray.” he stated.

“What?” my sister Wendy asked.

“Some enlarged lymph nodes.”

Wendy followed with “Where and how large?”

She had just finished being our father’s patient advocate in his unsuccessful battle against non-hodgkin’s lymphoma – so she was well aware of what to ask.

That is when it starts to get a little blurry for me. I remember a CT being ordered immediately. I remember being wheeled back into my ER room after the test and the doctor coming in almost simultaneously with my mom, my brother and my third sister.

Wendy had called the other family members – she knew that things were going to go downhill from here.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

I use to see her when I walked down Canal Street…

during my return trip to the train at night.

I would get a glimpse of her familiar outline in the distance – often resting against a sign pole or a parking meter.

Upon getting closer I would see that her breathing was labored – like it took everything out of her just to make it to the spot that she was resting at.

She was a short woman with thinning hair, thick glasses, she usually wore a scarf of some sort wrapped around her head, and her one leg would drag behind her slightly; and there was a limp – a very pronounced limp - all the while a purse dangled off her left hand producing a rhythmic tick-tock.

Inevitably I would pass her up – no matter how far ahead she was when I first spotted her.

For years I saw her and I admired her fortitude. Always thinking I could never do that – carry on under way less than favorable conditions.

But I was wrong.....

my song

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

“What is the big deal?

All Spitzer was trying to do was bring prostitution to its knees - one high-paid-call girl at a time!”

No crime

“TNA trumps DNA every time!”

My guy friend says laughingly as we are walking to work this morning.

We were discussing the parking situation at our suburban train station. Currently the wait time for a coveted parking pass that allows you to just pull into a reserved spot every day is about 5 years – give or take a couple of months.

So those of us that happen to own one are looked upon with awe by the have-to-get-to-the-train-station-at-the-crack-of-dawn-and-purchase-a-daily-slip-from-the-dumb-machine-and-hope-there-is-still-a-spot-to-park people.

It is in fact THE golden ticket.

So when rumors started about a golden-ticket-holding member of our posse possibly working from the 'burbs – the jockeying began.

The City’s official rule is when you don’t need your parking pass any more – you are to turn it at City Hall.

Our unofficial rule is that you “loan” it to a friend.

My feeling is what happens if the newly city-to-suburban worker ends up hating the 'burbs and wants to work downtown again – should they have to wait 5+ years for another parking pass – when they already waited their turn in line?

By loaning it to a friend – you can always call it back in.

So today’s title snippet was in response to just whom should the mutual friend loan his parking pass to – his good guy friend or a hottie female friend?

I already know the answer to this one, Jack.

nice rack

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

“Wasn’t it supposed to be warm today?”

I am not sure if the guy was asking his friend a question?

Or stating a fact – with an exclamation point!

During my usual 42 chores last night – I overheard one of our local weather bunnies reporting that "tomorrow we are going to have a warm up and the temperature is finally going to be nice."

I dressed accordingly – right down to no socks.

So the bitterly cold, strong wind this morning was a little bit of a shocker.

It turns out that not only can you not believe the Renegade Governor of New York to be trustworthy and actually live what he preaches.....

You also can’t trust the local weather bunny.

not funny.

Monday, March 10, 2008

“Don’t you just love their bread?”

Ironically, Cindy and I were just talking about how hungry we were this morning, when the two women came up behind us on Wacker Drive.

“I had a pretzel roll at dinner on Saturday – I know I shouldn’t have.” the other one said.

That made me even hungrier. It also made me think about growing up and how integral bread was in our lives.

Being from a family of 10 – bread was cheap and we ate a lot of it.

Such as:

Toasted bread with butter dipped into a piping hot cup of homemade cocoa during the winter months;

Sugar on white bread sandwiches;

Fried eggs and toast for dinner;

Tuna ala king over toast;

Toasted cheese sandwiches;

Cinnamon toast;

French toast;

White bread and bologna sandwiches;

Hot dogs with a piece of bread wrapped around it (there were no hot dog buns bought);

And at every dinner there were two constants –

Poppa starting off the saying of grace was one;

And our Momma sitting at one end of the table – being the butterer of the bread and passing it around;

You needed more bread and butter – you asked and Momma obliged and she still does.

I am the butterer in my family now – as a small group or with many guests – I butter and they pass.

Although in the watching of the weight program I am on – bread has a bad rap - a no-no, unless you assign points to it and at only 5 points a day – you can’t have much bread and still lose the weight.

But being one of my favorite comfort foods – I take the points and just power walk an extra mile.

cause it makes me smile

Friday, March 7, 2008

“We interrupt your regularly scheduled broadcast…

for a RANT from your author!” “Susan – take it away.....”

Yesterday afternoon my son and his girlfriend were hit by a Mexican driving an old beat up Green GMC Jimmy, who pulled out of a side street and attempted to make an illegal left hand turn. He then backed up and SPED AWAY!!

First and foremost I am thankful my son and his girlfriend weren’t seriously injured.

Now that I have that out of the way……

I have had it! Oh, did I mention that my son was driving MY car? My car that I bought in 2000 brand new and worked very hard to pay it off so that I would not have car payments!

Did I mention that I have been paying CAR INSURANCE since I have been 16 years old?

Did I mention that this is the SECOND time a MEXICAN has hit a family member of mine and then DROVE OFF?

Yes, I know that it isn’t just Mexicans who drive without insurance or for some other reason decide to FLEE the scene of an accident they caused. But I can only talk about what has happened to me and my family and in BOTH cases it was a Mexican.

Something....something has got to be done!!

Why is that my insurance company now has to pay for the repairs (hopefully they don’t total the Red Rocket!) and I have to pay a deductible of FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS -all because some loser can’t drive properly, causes an accident and then flees the scene?

He left a part of his Green GMC Jimmy imbedded in the front of my car. It is now in the possession of the local police department as evidence. I am sure, with all that is going on these days – that the capture of this asshole Mexican driver is at the top of their list.

I’m pissed.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

“Stop being so negative!”

Her two friends said almost in unison.

This was in response to the third friend’s statement that “I am sure I flunked the exam!”

I continued walking past them this morning with a smirk on my face.

I am very familiar with that type of person - you know the type…

I work with someone that epitomizes Debbie Downer. This past Monday she walked back to my desk and shared her negative self-talk with me. I listened, gave my usual "that's ridiculous to think like that - don't do that to yourself - you deserve better!" speech and then she was gone.

Less than 15 minutes later, here she comes again - shoulders slumped forward, head down, apologizing for taking up my time earlier with her troubles – “I shouldn’t do that – I was bothering you!"


I always try to be compassionate – but at this point in the game – I have just about reached my limit’s top.

ready to pop

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

“What would you be doing right now if you had all the money you needed?”

Was my commuter buddy’s question to me this morning.

Out of the blue – not sure why he asked it – but he did.

I thought about it for a moment and then said “Well I guess I would be helping out somebody – I think children – and my family and friends. I am not sure how, but I would want to help people.”

In hindsight I should have asked him “How long would I have had the money?” If I had just acquired it - I would probably need to spend the first year or so buying a new house, going out socially with family and friends; and, of course, working out with a personal trainer everyday to combat the newfound social eating frenzy. Then once I got buff from working out, I would have to buy new clothes and with new clothes comes new baubles to accessorize them with and the list goes on and on.

So my initial answer to him was unselfish – but my further-thought-out-answer is insanely selfish (at least for the first year or so.)

Not to worry though - I don’t see totally selfish in my future at all.

unless a windfall

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

“I work just for our health insurance…”

One woman was saying to her friend as I passed. That was all I heard due to the hood of my winter coat being up and walking in overdrive just trying to stay warm this morning.

But it was enough to get me thinking - with this upcoming election and all the ideas being tossed around about health there any one good plan?

I have had first hand experience with the power of health insurance companies and how it can affect your life……literally.

In February of 2003 I was two months out of a life-saving stem cell transplant and my oncologist suggested that I apply for a new experimental treatment – blind study, not sure if I could get in, but he said “What I know about your disease and being you are relatively young – I am advising you to do it – just for some ‘extra’ insurance it doesn’t return.”

Hard to argue with one of the most knowledgeable doctors in his field. So I applied and I was accepted for the study.

My doctor’s team took care of all the insurance paperwork and the scheduling of my inpatient stay, etc.

The day finally arrived and I entered the hospital. That was the same day my insurance company denied my treatment.

They weren’t going to pay because it was “experimental.”

I was fortunate enough to have a doctor that said “I don’t care – she is in and we will work it out.”

That treatment cost $25,000 and some change – the entire cost was picked up by the hospital, under the direction of my doctor.

It helped save my life.

We all know there are many other people who aren’t as fortunate and have lost everything they have worked their whole lives for in order to pay for their or a loved one’s treatment. Sometimes because they were unable to afford the proper treatment, they paid the ultimate price with their life.

So what is the right plan?

I don't know....but I do know that there has got to be a better way to manage health care – where what is best for the patient comes before power and greed.

must succeed

Monday, March 3, 2008

“You aren’t going to drown!”

Is the to-my-brain-directly-out-my-mouth snippet for this morning.

No less than four trains let commuters off at the same time today in Union Station - turning a normally congested train station into a cattle drive.

With the same proportions and mentality.

So when we finally got into the outside world, I found it frustrating that people were stopped right before the Adam’s Street bridge because water pools there. I am talking maybe an inch deep in the middle and people come to a halt to contemplate how best to forge the great body of water so as to not drown – all the while the cattle are backing up.

So the snippet just came out of my mouth – tourette’s style and loud.

It is a rainy, windy and gray Chicago morning. Although warmer than it has been – the joy of that is being tempered by the forecast of several upcoming days of snow and a high of 22 degrees by Friday.

Let’s just get this done.

not fun.