Thursday, April 23, 2009

east coast sistahs.

this past weekend i visited two of my dear sisters in survivorship. we have known each other now for 7 years, since we were first diagnosed and were going thru chemo. we met online in a young women with breast cancer support group. when the group started there were only about 20 of us. the group has grown considerably over the years, but the small original group have stayed in contact. our friendships have deepened and we are in all respects, sisters. i have seen these girls flourish and get married and do incredible things. we are there for each other for the ups and downs. through scares, recurrences, surgeries and other setbacks. and to celebrate cancerversaries, clear scans, and B9 biopsies. i'd be lost without these women.

so, when my east coast sis lori was recently diagnosed with a stage 4 recurrence, i knew i had to find a way out there to visit. kristi invited me to stay at her home in NJ. from there we would drive up to sleepy hollow NY to stay with lori, to visit, to laugh or cry, to sing songs, to go to doctor visits, or whatever was in store.

it's really hard from me to be away from the farm right now. we've got baby chickens, lambs, seedlings etc... and i tend to worry when i'm away. but jason took great care of everything while i was away and that made my trip even more enjoyable.

i arrived in new jersey on saturday. kristi and i spent a fun afternoon driving around in her 1970 yellow volkswagen bug. we went to a little wine shop down the street and tasted some italian and chilean red wines. picked out the one we liked the best and headed back to her house. i played with her dogs (steve and nina). i love those kids. i feel like i'm their aunt rizza. i remember when they were puppies.


that eve we drove down to cape may for some live music and dinner. we didn't really find any music. but that's ok cause i got to walk by the ocean and eat some oysters! i couldn't have been happier. while walking in cape may, earle (who is in the fence business) pointed out an iron fence railing he installed. and i of course, had to take a pic.

earle's railing

kristi and i stayed up all night chatting and drinking wine. we can talk for hours. and the good thing is we both have a habit of telling the same stories over again, but neither of us ever remember and so it's perfect. i blame it on chemo-brain. kristi blames the wine.

next day we got up and drove to sleepy hollow, NY. i've only been to manhattan, so i had no idea what to expect. i fell in love with her neighborhood. it was so quaint. right on the river. little shops. corner markets. a lighthouse. parks. forests. just gorgeous. and her apartment building looked like it was right out of eastern europe. stone building, gargoyles, slate staircases.

sleepy hollow archway

sleepy hollow gargolye

sleepy hollow lighthouse

when we arrived lori wasn't feeling good. she was running a fever and was very upset because she was afraid she might end up in the ER. we chatted with her for a while. got to meet the incredibly cute but shy, mikey (her cat). and then let her take a nap while we walked down the street to get a bite to eat.


kristi and i had some adventures in sleepy hollow. no headless horsemen. but we did wander into a hispanic restaurant (which we mistook for mexican, but was in fact ecuadorian where no one spoke english and of course had no idea what margaritas were). and even though kristi has begun taking a spanish class, she was out of her league. but after some patient attempts to converse, the waitress ended up pointing to another customer's plate and we said "si" and an order was made. it was probably the best chicken i've ever had. i recommend it highly if you are ever in that neck of the woods.

when we were walking back we stopped in a little pub across the street from lori's apartment. and met some friendly local and not-so-local sleepy-hollowians. including an elfish irish plumber/musician and a young recent kidney transplant survivor. best of luck to them all.

when we returned to lori's, her temp was going down. and you could tell she felt better. she was up and about, making jokes and laughing. her husband fredi was home from work. he joined kristi and i in some italian wine, and we all talked and talked and talked. lori and kristi were still chatting away at 2am while i had drifted off into sleepy town on the futon.

the next morning, despite the fact that lori felt better, her doctor still wanted her to come in and have some tests run. fredi dropped her off at the doc's in the bronx on the way to work. and kristi and i picked her up when she was done. then we took her to the hospital to have a chest x-ray in white plains. kristi and i are pros when it comes to doctors offices and hospitals. we've had our share and it really didn't bother me one bit. except of course for the devastatingly unfair reason why we were there... lori's recurrence. but we made the most of it. we just kept right on chatting and cracking jokes and catching up on each others lives. afterward, we met fredi for lunch at one of lori's favorite haunts. i'm so glad we got to do this. lori was so cute in the restaurant and told us some great cooking stories of steamed chocolate pudding disasters.

lori & fredi

we headed back to lori's apartment. and unfortunately, it was almost time for us to head back to NJ. the trip flew by way too fast. i hate when things end. and there was the underlying fear that this might be the last time i got to say goodbye. lori makes no bones about it. she tells it like it is. and she is completely aware of her mortality. and is making plans for her death. it's hard to type. because, i myself, have not come to terms with it. and sometimes i feel that if i talk about it, it would seem disrespectful. but i am only briefly trying to explain what she has expressed herself. she is very outspoken, eloquent, and honest. she keeps an ongoing diary on the caring bridge site if you want to find out more about this incredible woman and her journey.

in addition to lori's caring bridge site, she has been doing video blogs and recording songs on youtube. sometimes she sings by herself. and sometimes she recruits family and visitors to join her. i was so honored to get to sing with her. we chose the hymnal, "what a friend we have in jesus". and i think it came out beautifully. i can't really express the joy i felt while doing this. it is a moment i will forever treasure.

the drive back to jersey was full of more kristi-larissa non-stop chatterboxery. the only thing that shut us up was the torrential rainstorm in the last 18 miles. a standing ovation goes out to kristi who got us home safe and sound and never once started to cry (aka the larissa driving/stress default).

the evening ended with... you guessed it, more wine and conversation. followed by a way-too-short night's sleep, an early drive to airport, and a flight delay. that's ok cause i got plenty of sleep on the plane.

i miss my sisters. but i know they are always with me. no matter what. we share a bond that cannot be broken.

1 comment:

kristi said...

larissa, i just read this for the first time did i miss it??
great recap of our trip! went by too fast though..