When my sister Kelly and I were both diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001, Aileen sent wonderful care packages and encouragements to us.She kept us laughing and full of hope. Kelly and I have been cancer free for thirteen years. Her husband, our brother Alex was also diagnosed with cancer in 2001. Aileen and Alex together fought the good fight until his death in August 2002.
Two years ago, Aileen was diagnosed with Stage IV Melanoma. During her many protocols, she continues running Dunn Robbins and living life with courage and laughter. This is the hilarious piece Aileen wrote after the Prednisone protocol.
The Prednisone Princess Diaries
Friday, August 3rd: I take my first megadose of Prednisone (120 mg).
Friday, August 4th: Wake up at 4:00 AM after having slept for two hours, with the heartbeat of a hummingbird. Although I am usually the polar opposite of Heloise with her helpful hints, from the minute I wake up, I have this mad urge to purge, so I spend the next three early morning hours emptying out closets and bureaus and even the rats’ nest of cosmetics and expired drugs crammed into the cabinet under the bathroom sink. After this culling frenzy, I realize the sun has risen, so I can take Henry the English Spaniel out for a 2-mile sprint around Central Park. As usual, he spends most of the time chasing squirrels, but I am so wired that I spot them before he does, and have to restrain myself from running up tree trunks with him.
Drop the exhausted spaniel back home at around 8:30 AM and then jog the 20 blocks up to my daughter Ariel’s apartment. Have breakfast with her, and read 5 books at nano speed to my grand-daughter. Then, executing my version of “The Red Shoes”, race the 40 blocks from Ariel’s down to Saks, which is having a great end-of-season-sale. I call ahead to warn Carmela, my salesperson/friend there, that the Energizer Bunny is coming to rifle through the racks. Meet her on the 9th floor, and drag armloads of outfits into a fitting room. Hop in and out of dozens of items. Best find: Stella McCartney’s blue polka dot size 27 peg leg jeans. Put them on as soon as I get home, but within an hour they have cut off most of the circulation in my legs. Note to self: only wear them to accomplish brief tasks, e.g. riding the elevator down to the lobby to pick up the mail.
At 1:00 PM, meet two best friends, Rebecca and Claudia, at the Whitney Museum on 74th Street & Madison for lunch at their restaurant “Untitled” and a special exhibit. Can’t restrain myself from cross-examining the waiter about the Cedar Roasted Salmon: is it actually cooked on a cedar plank? Is the fennel raw or braised? Are the pecans halved or chopped? Hope he doesn’t have to look for another job by the end of lunch. It is very hard to sit still and since I am driving my friends crazy with my rapid-fire patter, we eat quickly and then go up to the Yayoi Masuko exhibit. I am going at 100 mph, so have trouble standing still long enough to focus on the art, although my attention is momentarily captured by the life-size silver rowboat covered with matching silver flaccid phalluses.
Run home to give Henry another brisk walk. Since he still seems to be recovering from the first one, I give him a break—only 10 blocks this time. Feed him dinner, and pull out a stack of CDs, then proceed to sing & dance my way from Mozart to Moss Hart, returning to my roots as an opera-turned-cabaret singer. Warble and whoop and execute several original jazz routines around the entire apartment for a few hours. Which makes me extremely hungry. Rummage through the overstuffed kitchen drawer, find the menu from my favorite Vietnamese restaurant and order 5 different dishes.
Food arrives after what seems like an eternity. Set out the Vietnamese dishes in a line running the length of the kitchen counters and eat my way around the room, standing up like a horse. The satiety mechanism is kaput; have no idea when I have eaten enough or too much.
Take Henry out for the last walk of the day, ignoring his efforts to hide his leash. Trim the outing down to a mere 6 blocks, but am gone for almost an hour, since I have to stop and chat with everyone I know in the neighborhood, plus a few strangers who are also walking their dogs.
Around 11:00 PM, after 18 hours of perpetual motion, I take two Xanax and jump into bed. Turn on the TV and find Truffault’s “Jules et Jim” in the original French. Decide to challenge myself by translating the dialog before reading the subtitles. By the time it’s over, I’m wide awake from all the translation stress. Start reading a 15-page article in my stack of bedside periodicals on the “History of Croatian Viticulture.” Finally make a To-Do list for Sunday: return half of yesterday’s purchases to Saks; shop for groceries and cosmetics, and clean all major kitchen appliances as well as every inch of the counter tops and floors with Comet and an electric toothbrush.
Everyone to whom I report these compulsive cleaning outbursts begs me to come over to their house, but honestly, it’s not me, it’s just the Prednisone.
Aileen Robbins, August 20, 2014
Aileen's prognosis is good. And I am so happy because she is my hero and I want to laugh with her for a long time to come.