September 23, 2001
San Francisco, CA

Dear Friends,

First of all, my heartfelt condolences go out to everyone who is dealing directly with the horrible tragedy on the East Coast. I believe that everyone is realizing how important our friends and families are at this point. And I know that we all have friends and relatives who may have been in any of the buildings that collapsed, or have been a witness to it. Let us all take care of each other during this time when we are all healing.

We all need good news right now. And I happen to have some good personal news to share. I just got the results of my latest MRI/MRS, which was on Monday. The news is nothing but good. It seems that the spectroscopy showed an incredible improvement and that the MRI films showed an improvement as well! So I am doing much better.

Love, Danielle

P.S. Below is a letter I wrote on September 3rd.

September 3, 2001
San Francisco, CA

Happy Labor Day, Everyone!

Here I am, Sunday night of Labor Day weekend, thinking of how I can summarize everything that's been happening in my life these past few months. I almost don't know where to start. I guess that's one of the greatest things about living in a place like San Francisco. You never realize how much time has passed because the weather is great year round. I guess I'll stick with my formula of stating the good news first and the bad news last. A special thank you to my sister, Mila, for keeping my website up to date. If you haven't checked the site in a while, there are tons of new pictures .

Here's the Good News:

In the beginning of June I took a trip to the East Coast. I flew to JFK, but needed to catch a train to Boston as soon as the plane landed. We were told there would be delays due to rain in New York, but the rain stopped just long enough for us to land (my karma at work), and started again as I got in line for a cab. There was this great limo driver who offered some women a ride into the city because his customer didn't show up. I offered to go with them, but they turned him down, so I got back in the cab line. But the limo driver offered to take me to the city for less than a cab. How could I say no? We had a great conversation about why I love the Cubs and he loves the Yankees. He asked me why I hated the Yankees and I said, "It's like when the Bulls used to win all the time and everyone hated us." He simply replied by saying, "good point." He drove me to Manhattan, then got me a cab to Penn Station with plenty of time to spare to get on the train. So I was really happy when Jill and Sarah picked me up in Boston.

I had a wonderful time in Boston with all of the great friends I was able to hook up with. What a great city to hang out in. Of course, I wouldn't want to live in the snow again, so I'm very happy where I am. I was able to go on a whale watch,to the gym and the Children's Museum, and I slept. I spent time with Niki, Holly, Sarah, Julie, Steph, Amy, Sarah, Megan, Dabney, Francesca, Maddy, Sarah, and Jill. Sarah even gave me a tour of the WGBH studios.

From Boston, I went to Northampton for Didem's wedding (see the photo album for pictures). Delia drove roundtrip from Noho to pick me up, and we spent some quality time in the car. What's better than Noho in the summertime? I stayed with Megan, Dana and Rory. Didem's wedding was a blast. I blessed everyone with my wonderful drum playing and dancing (I have to say, I'm pretty good at the dancing part). I saw a ton of folks at the wedding, which was great. Then Dana gave me a ride down to New York City, where I stayed with my sister, Mila, and her husband, Joey. I was able to see Karen, Nita, Grace, Josie, Jessica, Kirsten, Jen, Jennie, Melissa and Winter, too. I also spent time with my brother David and his new wife, Kara, who came to New York for a vacation at the same time. David and Kara took me to see "Kiss Me, Kate," and Mila and I saw "Cabaret." I ate some good food, too. I flew back to San Francisco a few days before my 28th birthday on June 21st.

Being back home for my birthday was really nice. I had an MRI/MRS on Monday the 18th, and met with my oncologist, Dr. Chang, on the 20th. The news was wonderful! It seemed that the Gamma Knife radiation and BCNU was working. My tumor was disappearing. This all made my birthday on even better. I feel that I have two milestone dates to celebrate in my life now: my birthday and October 1st, the day this whole journey began.

In late July, I took another trip. This time I went to Chicago to visit and to attend a brain-tumor conference that was being held by the American Brain Tumor Association. I'm into alternative healing,which was validated at the meeting. One of the speakers was talking about possible causes for brain tumors: cell phones, high-voltage power lines, cured meats. I asked the speaker if he could tell us more about these things. He said no, they were just ideas. I then asked about how diet figured in to treatment for brain tumors. One of the other speakers said, "good nutrition is never a bad idea." And then they moved on to another question. But afterward, several people came up to me and asked me what I was eating how it was affecting me, because they had all been working on their diets as well. It made me realize what great care I've had in San Francisco--the pretesting before surgery and being awake during it, and seeing Ardys for acupressure and Rebecca Katz for cooking lessons. There are so many people who are trying to get this same kind of treatment and can't find it. My surgeon, Dr. Berger, spoke on the second day of the conference. My father said hello to him first, and Dr. Berger didn't even bother to ask him his name. He just asked, "How's Danielle doing?" When I went up to say hello, I didn't have to introduce myself either. He knew exactly who I was. I love that guy!

Some of the highlights of my trip to Chicago: seeing some great people, going to a Cubs game, having Claire come and meet my family and see Evanston, and spending some time up in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin at the Tisdahl's most excellent house. It was really great to go back to Lake Geneva, a place where I spent so much of my childhood, and spend a few days there with some of my oldest friends. I got thrown around on an innertube and did some water skiing. Yes, I did it! I got up on one ski. It's good to know that I still have some strength and skill left. I even played SPUD on the lawn with Mark, Molly, Karen, Jon, Tami and Claire. It was a great week. While I was in Chicago, I also got to sing some karaoke with a number of rugby players (what kind of shorts was I wearing that night?).

When I returned to San Francisco, I had another MRI/MRS and met with Dr. Chang once again. The news was that the tumor is holding steady, which is great.

More big news: I have finally started playing the drums again! I am playing with a fantastic group called the Amazon Mollies (the band is named after a fish, in case you were wondering). Our first gig was in Monterey. We were participating in a contest and, unfortunately, played really poorly (there's a reason why bands have things like MONITORS on stage). But it was fun because Jennie and Hillary drove down for the show and the last band had Cathy Valentine in it (she was in the Go-Go's). Our second gig was great. We played at the Voodoo Lounge, which was awesome. Kate, Claire, Aimee, Bryan and Cindy all came to cheer me on. One of the funniest parts of the show was that the bass-drum pedal Bryan lent me was loose and the mallet kept coming off the pedal. There was also a cymbal stand that didn't have a screw on the end, so the splash cymbal came right off and landed on the drum in front of me. And yet, it was by far the best show the Amazon Mollies has ever put on.

Now for the Bad News:

While I was in Chicago I had my first grand mal seizure. Prior to the full-blown seizure, I think I had a minor one while sitting through the brain tumor conference. I felt my brain go through a sudden change. I don't really know how to describe what happened, but something changed in my brain for a while. I had a hard time listening and paying attention (more so than usual). It seemed to have stopped, so I didn't think too much about it. Two days later I stopped by my friend Kelly's house to see her and her new son, Josh. We were having a great conversation when I lost my train of thought again. I remember saying, "I'm sorry, just give me a minute," again and again. The next thing I knew I was in an ambulance. I had never been in one before, and I didn't know what was going on. Apparently, I was talking to Kelly when I blacked out, fell out of my chair, and started rolling onto my back. Kelly, being the superstar that she is, knew to call an ambulance right away. She then came to the hospital with her partner, Alex, and Josh. Alex even ran out to get me some food at Whole Foods, which was wonderful. My brother Mike showed up as well and stayed the rest of the night. Because of my seizure, I'm not allowed to drive a car in Illinois for three months or in California for six months.

I have also spent some quality time with my doctors lately, attempting to deal with some serious bacterial infections and other ailments. I have found that the squeaky wheel really does get the grease: My doctors are much more receptive to my health needs, which is great.

Another bit of bad news is that my job has been cut back to 15 hours a week, and I will not be hired back full-time. Squaretrade, where I have been employed since last September, is a great place, and they've done a lot to help me through this process. Since I was diagnosed in October, they have paid for my health-insurance policy and have allowed me to work as many hours as possible. I am incredibly grateful for all of their help and support.

I want to believe that I'm capable of going out and interviewing for a new job, but I don't think there is a real possibility of me competing in the job market while I am still in treatment. So, I am in the process of applying for federal social security disability insurance. The process is long and difficult, so I really appreciate having the help of John Rosensweig, an old friend of my cousin Steven Berlin. John specializes in SSDI for people with AIDS. My goals at the moment are to have some form of health insurance at all times and to deal with my various health issues.

So there's the update. I hope it's not too long. I promise to write again soon about this challenge I'm dealing with. It's funny, but I like to forget that I have a brain tumor. Most of the time, I feel like I don't have one at all. And then I remember all the pills, doctors, insurance companies, etc. that I have to deal with, and it's back in my face. But my positive attitude is still with me. I haven't let it go at all. So I just keep on fighting one day at a time.

Lots of Love,

Danielle

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