And What Followed...

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Richard Jeni - Rest in Peace

If you haven't already heard, Richard Jeni passed away this weekend from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. Most of us remember his warm heart and hilarious performance during my ComedyChemo Benefit at the Key Club. I was ten minutes from home and on the phone with Colleen, who was checking news online, when she suddenly told me to pull over. The news tore us both apart. I couldn't stop crying. I kept kicking the steering wheel. WHY?!

Four years, four months and four days before he was pronounced dead, Richard Jeni and I were backstage at the Key Club and shared a conversation about how fragile and fleeting life is. He asked about my prognosis and I revealed how scared I was because I had less than a 50% chance to be alive five years from that very night. He put his arm around me and didn't say a thing. Not one funny thing. It was exactly what I needed. Then I remember hearing the surreal thunder of people chanting my name, wanting me to come out on stage. I want to remember Richard smiling and saying, "Hear that? All those people out there love you and are praying for you." At that moment I just knew that only good could come out of my situation, no matter what the outcome. Ever since that night, I've wanted to send Richard a bouquet of flowers to show how much that moment meant to me. The thank you card I sent just didn't feel like enough. But life happens and you just don't get around to it.

The fact that such an accomplished and sought after comedian would give up an evening of his precious time to help a stranger in need, goes to show you what a wonderful human being Richard Jeni was. His observations on life, love and
relationships were not just funny, they were genuine. At this point, I am still in disbelief that someone so aware of life could take his own.

We are loved more than we know. Sometimes loved more than we can handle. Yet we've all felt that despair. That dark, excruciatingly lonely, insomniacal late-night quagmire when you wish your bed would just swallow you up and be done with it. But as Anne Lamott said "Hope begins in the dark". It's the only place that it can.

We're all just trying to make sense of it all. Trying to find the meaning behind the purpose. The only answer that makes sense to me is found in a fleeting moment. Not in philosophy, fate, science nor religion. Not in words. The answer is fiery and visceral. It is being touched by God.

The awe that swells the heart when you cradle a newborn.
The wonder that possesses as you fathom and peer into the Milky Way.
The gasp you utter as a hummingbird peruses your face.
The shout you can't control when a humpback whale leaps for the sky.
The glee of seeing winter's first snow.
That "YES!!" feeling when you hit your mark.
The peace within, watching campfire sparks waft into night
The rush of mad ravenous pulsations when you both finally kiss
The newness inside when someone says, "I love you"

In other words, the answer breathes in you in the moments when you feel most alive.

I'm finally going to send the flowers I've always meant to. You never think that there will ever be a day when it will be too late.

Richard Jeni. You will be missed.


Friday, March 2, 2007

Stupendous news!

SO much has happened, I don't know where to start!

At my last doctor appointment we found that my blood counts shot up! My white blood cells DOUBLED and everything else reached new high levels. I'm THIS CLOSE to the normal range (low normal but at least in the right ballpark). My doctor was astonished and ecstatic. All it took was for me to focus on rest, patience and health instead of pining to "get out there" and live too hard too soon. My doctor was so impressed that she lowered my medications, discontinued some pills and said I am allowed to take hot baths, get massages and go to spas again (YES!). Then she said that when I feel strong enough, I am allowed to drive myself (alone!) to City of Hope! She feels I have enough stamina and there is almost no chance that I would be in need of a transfusion or any medication that would prevent me from driving myself home. I am so glad to hear the news, but I may still ask for rides because even if it is nice to be independent, it sucks to go to the hospital alone.

Not only is my marrow 100% donor, but now my blood is also 100% donor. Remember how the results were chimeric just a little while ago? This Sunday is the 8-month anniversary of the transplant and here I am cured with no complications whatsoever and only getting better. Prayers DO work.

I'm now allowed light exercise too, which means I can go back to my Yoga classes! I went for my first class last week and woke up the next day feeling like I got run over by a truck. Ah, baby steps. The owners of Goda Yoga have welcomed me back with open arms, giving me free reign over the studio. It is going to be a tremendous help with my recovery.

SkyBar, Koi, Paradise Cove, La Scala, Magic Castle, Sasabune, Point Dume, the Viceroy, Casa Del Mar, in fast cars and at Mardis Gras. I've partied with Grammy people and had a blast during Oscar weekend. On a recent girl's night out, I wore high-heeled pumps for the first time, stepped out with my new Halle Berry-esque chopped haircut and spent the night shooing away men trying to cram their numbers in my purse. Not bad. Most of my time is spent peacefully recovering but a girl has to get out every once in awhile.

Mike and me in our "Vanity Fair"pose

Life is grand and in the last couple weeks I've found myself at many lovely places including for a girl who was practically terminal a year ago.

This week I had the pleasure of visiting the set of "Gilmore Girls" where I got pulled into the last scene. Watch out for the "Spring Fling" episode where you'll see yours truly running amok in a giant hay-bale maze. Between takes, I was having too much fun doing my impression of Teri Garr in "Young Frankenstein": "Roll! Roll! Roll in zee hay!" Jerome was there too and ran around the maze screaming like Macaulay Culkin ala "Home Alone". Plus, I finally fulfilled my dream of getting on the ER set and pretending to be a doctor.

But the BIG news is that my first book is going to be published!!! Along with other talented cancer survivors, I have the honor of being a contributing writer in "Writing for Wellness". It is slated to come out this summer. My story will also be featured in another upcoming book, which I can't talk about until a later date. Pop that champagne! :)

On a serious note, I'm still supporting and helping other friends and cancer patients. Life swings between the extremes of joy and sorrow these days. In the morning I may be laughing so hard, my stomach hurts. Then at night, I may get bad news and be crying so hard, my head hurts. Please pray for my friends, especially for Joel, Robin, Margie, Jerome and Elizabeth.
Remember how blessed we are and use that gratitude to help others.

Christine Pechera

p.s. Happy Purim!

"Beauty remains: the pain passes." -Renoir