Monday, April 16, 2007

A Message from The Talent

I am home from San Francisco, and I sincerely wish that I had several hours to write a blog entry because there are so many things I'd like to update on the blog. Many, many stories grew from my trip to film an internet commercial for Genentech, and I hope to have a chance to share some of them down the road.

A few updates:
- I had a MUGA last Tuesday, and believe it or not my heart function actually INCREASED from the MUGA two months earlier, despite my concerns. The tech ran the old scan and the new scan twice (she went back to the old films to rework the data), and she was amazed to find the same data each time. I'll take it! My heart is functioning well; no worries, and I continue to take Herceptin.

- I've reduced my thyroid meds and I'm hoping for a bump in energy as a result. I think maybe I feel a bit more rested now....?

- While in San Fran, I swam several gentle lengths of the pool, breast-stroke style. It didn't hurt! This is the best sign of all of my improved range of motion and strength. I also ran 30 minutes on the treadmill, plus warmup and cooldown, and my running break seems to have helped - my back didn't hurt at all. So, I'm back in the running game!

- My 3-Day team stands at 25 people and $25,000. I am immensely proud of this fact. We have only just begun!

- Shep's injury is healing, but not without bumps in the road. He has been to the vet every day - including Sunday - for the past six days because his wound is weeping and, frankly, disgusting. (Sigh.) I am going to have to take him in again tomorrow and we are now considering boarding him at the vet where his bandages can be changed more regularly. This will break his sweet little heart and I hate the idea but something must be done!

And then there's San Fran. Five days away from Tessa is the most I've taken since she was born, and it was a little lonely to be apart from her, but still, freeing and wonderful. I am eternally grateful to my mom & dad for watching her on Thursday and Friday, for Ryan for being his usual great dad self on the weekend without me, and to Jenny for watching Tessa extra today while Ryan worked and before I got home.

Highlights of San Fran:
- Nancy. Nancy is another Herceptin Patient Ambassador like myself, and she and I got a chance to spend a good deal of time together while we were in the city. Nancy is an amazingly articulate, beautiful, vibrant, intelligent woman with a twinkle in her eye. Like me, she is a breast cancer survivor. She has children my age, but this generational gap meant nothing - I wanted to soak up Nancy's wisdom and share in her friendship and humor. We ate (VERY well - we had several course dinners at wonderful resturants each night), laughed, and talked together, and the time just flew by. (The other ambassador, Ginny, is a lovely woman as well, but we didn't have as much time to get to know each other as we were on different filming schedules most of the time and she flew in later and left earlier.)

- Learning about the film industry. Though I was referred to - often to my face, but more often as if I wasn't even in the room - as "the talent" (as in "we need to get the talent over there" or "we'll need to round up the talent at 4:30" or "what do we want the talent to do next" or "get the talent into makeup and wardrobe as fast as possible") I was certainly not talented in this arena - it was purely amateur hour. I needed to learn to look away from the camera, to walk unnaturally close to things, to run slowly as if I was flying (not sure I ever got that one figured out), to look dreamy, etc. I was not the diva on the set, despite my starring role: the diva is the camera itself. The camera demands "More light!", "Too close!", "Faster!" in quick succession: the camera has a flurry of subjects bowing to it and appeasing it by catering to its every whim. I sometimes found it comical, but it was always interesting to me.

- I spent two hours in hair and makeup one day - plus touchups. It was exactly like what Tessa does when she plays dress-up, only Nick, the stylist, was paid to play. (I jest; what he did was hard work, and his work was excellent. To me, though, it was like playing!) Nick has done some famous work and showed me, using the hotel magazines as his example, some pictures of his work/clients - his name printed in the small type alongside their modeled faces on the glossy pages. He plucked my eyebrows - even though I had them waxed last week - and I'm here to tell you that I looked fabulous with his paint on my face. He is hysterical, and made me laugh more times than I could count.

- The highlight of the filming, for me, was also the most frustrating part. In addition to reading from a script (teleprompter), doing still photos, and scenes with no speaking parts (walking through a garden, drinking a coffee, etc.), I was required to do an "athletic" sequence. I had mentioned that I was into running and that I planned to run a marathon, and so they wanted to film me running. At the end of a twelve hour day, doing all kinds of strange things, running in slow motion, running quickly, leaping over 4 foot long mud-puddles, running into the sun, running away from the sun, running on the path, running through the trees, running fast, running slow, it was decided that I should run along the edge of the road and that the camera crew would go in the van alongside me to film me. We practiced a couple of times at a slow speed (a gentle jog) and I could see that the cameraman was getting frustrated with the shoot; it just wasn't going how he'd envisioned it. He decided we needed to speed it up. Twelve hours into filming I was a bit tired, but up for anything. We tried it a couple more times, sprinting through a park, and it wasn't quite right. One more time, one more time, one more time.... Well, on the last time, he wanted me to go hard. I put everything I could into it, I looked straight ahead, and I went as fast as I could go. It wasn't, apparently, fast enough, and the cameraman was yelling, "FASTER! GO FASTER!" in a voice that sounded more annoyed than encouraging. Since I was on film I couldn't yell back, but I was thinking ,"Hey, I AM going faster....gimme a break!" At that point, he growled out, "DIG DEEP!" and something in me snapped. It's a good thing that nobody could see the thought bubble above my head at that moment (rated R for profanity) but I dug as deep as I could go and, what-do-you-know, I finished with a burst of speed and a fierce (a combination of determination, frustration, resentment...) look on my face. The cameraman practically applauded, yelling, "YES! That's it! That's FIERCE!" Though still annoyed at him for asking me to go way above and beyond my abilities (I actually played out a scene in my head where I would rip off my shirt to show him all of my scars and yell, "Do you see this body? Do you see the hell I've been through? GIVE ME A BREAK!!!" - thankfully, good manners and common sense prevented me from doing such things, but it was quite the fantasy I had going!), I am actually grateful. He reminded me, unintentionally and for the camera's benefit, not my own, that when I think that my reserves are depleted, there are more. No matter how tough it gets, I can get a little tougher. "Dig deep" has all new meaning for me. I'm proud of that moment, and I hope it looks as spectacular on film as he promised me it would.

- The commercial will probably air in June on the Genentech website. Trust me, when it's available, I'll let you know! I've only seen a moment of myself running, and I'm not sure how it's all going to go together, or how long the finished result will be. I'm told that the stills will be made available to me online, and I'll share those too if they're not too embarassing.

And then...saving the best for last....Carolyn. Carolyn and I have been friends since I was 16; we met at Woodinville High School. I adore Carolyn; she is truly one of the finest people I have ever met, and I know how lucky I am to have her in my life. Time and distance mean nothing to us, and when we meet, everything falls away and it's like we've never been apart. Our friendship is one of my life's greatest gifts, and I'm so fortunate that she has stuck with me through all of these years.

Carolyn, who lives in the Bay area, came to meet me on Sunday and share in my free night at the Ritz. (I wish that I could report that the Ritz lost my luggage again this trip, but, sadly, that is not the case, and I do not forsee getting another free night there as a result.) We went to a drag show for brunch at the Starlight Lounge, and we went to America's longest running play, called Beach Blanket Babylon, in the evening. And the rest of the time? We talked and talkedandtalkedandtalkedandtalked. And then talked some more. We actually talked until 2am this morning - something I haven't done in AGES. (I can still hear my mom's voice when we were in high school, "Look, girls, it's getting late and you're keeping us up. Turn out the light and go to sleep! You can talk in the morning!")

We also ate. Oh my! We had the amazing fortune of having our room upgraded - we got to stay on the Club level at the Ritz. Now, the Ritz itself is an amazing hotel....lovely. I don't get to stay in 5 star hotels, so any room would have been great....but we got upgraded substantially. Our room was particularly lovely, with incredible views out to the water. Our floor had a special lobby with our own receptionists and a salon with all the free food and drink we could imagine. When we arrived, it was high tea; for dinner we ate their seafood appetizer buffet; then there was a dessert buffet. Wine flowed like water. In the morning, there was a breakfast buffet; before we left there was a lunch buffet. CRAZY! Every bit was delicious, and every bit was free with our room. We didn't need to go out to eat - we lived like queens (let's say princesses instead...sounds less dour or less drag-y!).

This morning we worked out -a fter all that food it felt REALLY good to do so. I ran on the treadmill, swam a bit, and we soaked in the hot tub.

I'm too tired to write more, and there is much more to say, anecdotes to tell, ruminations to share....but it is past time for sleeping. I hope more will follow in the days to come.