On this day last year Ramleen and Emily came over for lunch. We chatted while we ate and Emily breastfed Charlotte who was about two and a half months old at the time. I looked at the slight hint of ginger peach fuzz on Charlotte’s head and thought thank god someone else is bald. The real reason they had come over was to shave my head because I couldn’t stand the clumps of hair that kept coming out in my hands. It had only taken three weeks for the chemo to begin to decimate my hair and I couldn’t take it anymore. I sat in a chair in the kitchen with a towel wrapped around my shoulders while Ramleen took her clippers to my head. Afterwards Emily made up my face with all this great make up she’d brought over. She did up my eyes with all kinds of eye shadow, eye liner, and mascara. I was afraid to look in the mirror but they kept telling me how much my eyes popped and that my head was the perfect shape for a buzz cut. I was so grateful they made the whole experience fun and for how they took the sting out of the situation. But when they left I looked in the mirror and sobbed and then didn’t go out of the house for four days.

Today I’m meeting Baksim for lunch at Harry’s Roadhouse. We’ve both been through breast cancer this past year. Both of us had clean mammograms that never picked up the nasty cancerous tumors that were lurking in our boobs. We both lost our hair and now our hair is growing back. Granny hair is in and we’re silver foxes. In four days I’m leaving to go back to Italy to be with Libby. I have my life back and Libby and I have our life back together.

I just had my birthday. The only thing I remember about my birthday last year is that I wondered if I’d ever see another one. On my birthday this year I was in Montpelier, VT, at the incredible VCFA Novel Retreat. Connie May Fowler surprised the hell out of me by bringing out a cake with fabulous curly neon candles and everyone sang “Happy Birthday.” I’ve never been so glad to be alive, to be a year older.

I bought this clock, made from a recycled Temptations Greatest Hits album, in Taos on a road trip earlier this month with Lisa who took a frantic call from me last February and sprang into action. I’d spent almost eight weeks and had gone to eight different doctors in Italy with no results or diagnosis. The only thing they could tell me was that there was epithelial cancer in a lymph node but they didn’t know where it was originating. Within two hours after calling Lisa she’d gotten me appointments with two of the best doctors at Cedars-Sinai who diagnosed me properly in three days. What a difference a year makes.

The Temptations were my favorite group when I was growing up. So many of the songs on this album, especially on the 1st side, songs I’ve sung since I was a teenager, have new meaning to me. This past year I wasn’t too proud to beg for my life. I begged every single day. Whenever I looked at my bald head in the mirror I told myself beauty’s only skin deep. Whenever I looked at Libby or thought about how amazing she was while I was sick, how well she took care of me, I sang “My Girl” in my head or “The Way You Do The Things You Do.”

And now, I’m not looking back. Get ready world, ’cause here I come!

Thanks so much for reading. It means so much to me. And, remember, do not trust those mammograms.