May 28, 2018

On Saturday afternoon in Paris, 22-year-old Mamoudou Gassama, a refugee from Mali, was on his way to watch a soccer game at a pub when he noticed a crowd pointing and yelling. He looked up to see a small child dangling from a balcony four stories up. What happened next has people from around the world calling Mamoudou a “real-life Spiderman.” He was able to climb onto a door, and then jump up to grasp the railing on a first-story… Read more

May 24, 2018

Last week I wrote about the one-word piece of medical advice my doctor gave me that was life-changing.  On my discharge instructions he wrote, “Smile.” (You can read the whole piece here.  But in short, I’m going through a process to figure out why I’ve had insomnia for more than a decade.  In the meantime, waking up in the middle of the night was giving me anxiety that I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep, or that sleep deprivation would… Read more

May 23, 2018

The weather in San Francisco abruptly changed two days ago.  It went from being sunny and in the 70’s to non-stop mist, wind and London-worthy fog.  Yesterday afternoon I walked to my favorite cafe to read a book, and instead of walking back home, I took the bus, because the wind gusts were so strong they almost blew me over. This morning, the mist was still falling.  The fog hung so low that the usual landmarks I can see from… Read more

May 21, 2018

On Saturday morning as I was putting on scrubs and clogs and pulling my hair up in a ponytail, preparing for another long shift at the urgent care where I practice medicine part-time,  I watched clips of the royal wedding.  The ceremony had already taken place, since the U.K. is nine hours ahead of California. I teared up at Prince Harry and Meghan’s irrepressible smiles and loving glances and palpable joy.  The carriage, the tiara, the hand-picked bouquet, the spring… Read more

May 16, 2018

Somehow my cancer treatments affected my ability to fall — and stay — asleep.  So I haven’t slept through the night in more than a decade. I’ve tried everything — Ambien, Valerian root tea, melatonin, meditation — but nothing has helped.   So I’ve just lived with it.  Lived with anxiety at bedtime, wondering how much sleep I’ll be able to get before it’s time to get up in the morning.  Lived with fatigue that caffeine barely lifts.  Lived with… Read more

May 15, 2018

I spent the weekend speaking at the Bent Not Broken conference, a gathering of cancer patients and their loved ones that was held at a Franciscan retreat center in Grand Rapids, Michigan. As I looked across the audience, I saw bald heads, scarred bodies, sallow shades of skin.  I saw lots of smiles, and lots of tears.  Throughout the weekend, I saw flashes of hope as well as fleeting glimpses of despair.  I heard voices quiver with fear and anger… Read more

May 13, 2018

When I was 28 years old, I received a call from my OB/GYN.  I’d gone through 7 months of chemotherapy for breast cancer, which had almost cost me my life. My periods stopped when I was on treatment, and my doctor was calling me with the news that my ovaries had completely shut down. “You might as well have a hysterectomy,” my doctor said.  “Because you’re never going to use those parts anyway.” When I hung up with my doctor,… Read more

May 11, 2018

One of the best pieces of writing advice I ever got was, “Write the book you needed to read but couldn’t find when you needed it.” And that’s how The Invisible Girls came to be. Because when I was going through cancer treatments, I read a lot of books written by women who’d had breast cancer, or had been through deep grief, but they didn’t quite resonate with me.  Some were sassy and sarcastic.  Others were hyper-spiritual and minimized how… Read more

May 10, 2018

Twelve years ago today I was lying in Yale-New Haven Hospital. It was the day after a bilateral mastectomy.  I was in more pain than I knew how to say. A resident attributed the pain to muscle spasms in my chest wall, and wrote an order for the nurse to give me a 10 mg tablet of Valium, which she did — on top of the IV morphine I was already getting. After I swallowed the tablet, I groggily asked… Read more

May 9, 2018

This week I’ve been thinking a lot about the word “for.” Because, while it’s important to take stands against things like lies and injustice and hypocrisy and abuse, it’s not enough to be against evil.  It’s crucial to go further, and be for good.  I like the word “for.”  It’s versatile word (conjunction, preposition and prefix) that appears in some of my favorite verses. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” “For God so loved the world…”… Read more

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