My mother died on April 2nd, 1966. She had a very strange and rare-not-too-well-known-form of Breast Cancer. It was cancer of the nipple otherwise known as Paget's Disease that went undiagnosed for over a year and a half...all that time lost by medical incompetence. (And by the time it was diagnosed, she had to have a radical mastectomy.) The doctor who finally finally recognized what this was, was a dermatologist. A dermatologist who called in all of his women nurses to look at my mothers nipple...and he said to all of them..."I want you to take a good look at this because if you ever see it, this is cancer. It is not a dermatolgical problem...so if you should see this...RUN....do-not-walk, to your doctor." Even to this day, 40 years later, one rarely hears about this form of cancer.
I was 34 years old when my nother died...I turned 35 that June of 1966. But from early 1962 till the day she died, her life was defined by Paget's disease. And so, therefor our lives were defined by this disease, too. "Spoon River" was still playing on Broadway when Jen The Hen had her Mastectomy and then the radiation that was to eradicate any and all remaining cancer cells...And, indeed, she did have a good year and a half of 'freedom from cancer'...but then, the cancer cropped up again in the same general area though not in her breast because of course that was gone.
Thus began a year of traveling back and forth from Los Angeles to New York...Ma having one hospital stay after another in one hospital after another. The Salisbury Hotel became my home, once again, as it had been during the run of "Spoon River". Then, she came home and I spent Thanksgiving of 1965 in Great Neck planning to stay only 5 days and ended up staying more than 6 weeks through Christmas and New Years and a bit after that, too...I was in a state of acute anxiety from a 'break-up' with the man I had been going with...I was a mess. Deeply depressed. Feeling suicidal. Staying with my mother was a comfort even though she was dying. Somewhere I have one picture of Ma, during this terrible period, but I cannot find it. I am very grateful that I got to tell her that I didn't want her to die and she cried too, and said she didn't want to die....So often these things were never talked about and then there would be regrets later...I didn't have that, Thank God.
I returned to Los Angeles at the end of January and within the shortest week ever, the cancer went to her Liver. Back to New York again I went. This time it was the last hospital stay for her, and I stayed there in New York and both Gene and I did not leave her side for those last six or eight weeks of her life.
Years later...around 13 years later, I wrote about my mothers death. It was kind of an Essay. I called it "Jen The Hen". Then in 1980 I turned it into a play....a very complex play that took place in the present and in the past. It was different from the essay because it dealt with all the conflict inside me from my conception through my mother's death and then to the 'present'. The play was done at Theatre West in 1981. Here is a photograph of the cast. Ann Morgan Guilbert, a brilliant and somewhat underated actress was Jen The Hen. Betty G. played me in 'the present', and Elizabeth Berger (on the right of Betty) played 'Naomi' back during the period of my mother's death. Alan Jordon played 'Gordon', Pamela Dunlap---behind Alan, played 'Gene', and Seemah Wilder sitting over on the right side of the Hospital bed, played 'Robin'.
Here is another photograph of this production. The way this play was staged...we never left the hospital room. A scene that took place in the restaurant of the hospital was played right at the foot of the bed, as if it was a table in the restaurant...There was a lot of eating of chocolate sundees in an attempt to asuage the pain and anxiety that Gene and I were in, during this 'vigal'... This scene depicts that and always in the background was 'Naomi' in the present as well....This play was part of an entire evening of three one acts that I had written.."Jen The Hen" was the third piece. We got amazing reviews and I was deeply gratified that the writing was given really high marks...here was the center-piece in the program... This was another fantastic experience in the theatre. It was magical in almost every way...everything went right, which is so rare as to be almost non-existant. It was the first project that I was involved with after "Spoon River" that was deeply deeply satisfying and exhilerating in it's acceptance by our audiences..."Nobody Safe Here" was extended beyond it's original eight week run and it actually made money for Theatre West. Amazing and rare. Another miracle. The painting hanging on the set was painted by me with the blessing of the set designer...in fact he insisted that I paint this painting. I also wrote music for the production...so, three of my so called talents all came together in one project. Lovely, beyond words. I won the 'New Play Award' from L.A. Weekly that year...
Change of pace...and on a lighter note...I thought I would post a picture of one of my 'children'....Miss Moon...who's official name was 'Mooney'...a darling darling person that was as funny as she was dear... If I had tried to get her to do this, I would not have succeeded! And one more picture of her...one that I just love and that makes me laugh! She was a bit overweight here...but who among us isn't? Right? Again, I couldn't possibly have put her in this position if I had wanted to...she got here all by herself...the I-need-to-lean-against-the-wall-to-wash-my-tummy-position....She was a delightful cat...
That really is a great picture! I look forward to coming to your birthday party!!
Stopping by via Michele this evening to say Hello!! (or should I say morning, since it is REALLy early :))
I don't know where to start on all the things I want to say after reading this post! I'll just touch on a few. Well, how did the siblings feel about the play? Any of them aware of it/see it? I wish we had a way to see it. I'm going to have to check into what Theatre West's doing these days and head on over....
My mom passed away after illness almost 2 years ago and I related to this post.
I love the hummingbird pic. I need one just like that for my wall at work!
And your kitty was adorable. My pets have been family (better than some of the people). :)
Have a wonderful Friday!
I'm so impressed with the play you wrote about your mother! What a wonderful tribute to her and such talent on your part.
LOVE Mooney....too cute! And the photo of the hummingbird...wow! You really captured the juxtaposition in that one. You need to enlarge and frame that.
Counting down to your special day.
The kitty is adorable. Nicky, one of the ragdolls, sits like this often; as if to prop up the wall. And the hummingbird, so hard to capture.
So much talent wrapped up in one lovely lady. Amazing.
I've heard of that disease, but never known of anyone diagnosed with it. It's hard to fight an illness when no one knows what it is. I'm sorry it affected your family.
That hummer! Oh my! That is an awesome photo. Happy weekend!
Strangely enough, though the story about your mom has come sadness... the part where the doctor showed the women that it was cancer...
Priceless. Who knows how many people they told or found... How many women caught it early thanks to your mom?
That's actually such a great story!
I'm glad that you were able to find a way to deal with the loss of your mother in the play and that it was such a rewarding experience both professionally and I would assume personally as well.
Lovely photos as well. :-)
That is a great photo of your mom.
Here via Michele.
Cancer is a very hard thing, and even moreso when it affects someone you're very close to. My father contracted a form of stomach cancer that only 3rd world countries are supposed to get...he had two years of varying goodness, but eventually we lost him. So, my sympathies to you.
Also, re: the play - that was a lovely thing to do. I wish there were some photos in color. :)
Hey Naomi. Michele sent me this time around. A play about your mom...wow. That must have been as difficult to be a part of as it was fufulling. You amaze me. Love the kitty pics and I just saw a humming bird in my backyard kick a squirrel's ass. I thought I was imagining it at first! LOL
hi from michele
So lovely and tender your Mom’s photo! I am so sorry about her disease.
I am very impressed with your play you wrote about your mother! What a marvelous homage to her and what a great talent and courage, Naomi, to wrote this play! Just amazing! Really you are a very creative and gifted artist!
Love the kitty pictures. And the hummingbird’s photo at the background of the big city is just stunning! Gorgeous!
I am really enjoying your memories and photos. This is truly a gift that you are giving us - your readers. Thank you!
Your life has been so full and so rich. I'm so pleased that your are sharing it with us.
Hugs to you this day.
Thanks for sharing such and intimate and moving story. Love the photograph - black & white is so timeles...
Here via Michelle's. Back to visit soon.
Wow - look at your name all over that playbill!! :-)
I'm so proud, even though I didn't know you then....(is that even LOGICAL??)
My mother's mother died when she was a young woman and I think it affected her very deeply. It's never easy when there is illness in the family.
still dusting off my bling, getting it all nice and shiny for Tuesday!
Hi -- just found your site -- but don't remember from whom! Anyway, I've thoroughly enjoyed reading about your past. You have had a varied and wonderful life.
Not to mention - I LOVE your view from the hills. (I wanna drive to wherever you are and take a peek!)
HI Naomi!.. wow what a story about your mom and then the play!
love the "chubby cat" picture lol I have one like that somewhere of a cat we use to have. He's lean on the wall to clean his belly (every bit as big as your cats!) and then he'd let his back slide down the wall and lay on his back! dern cats! haha
Love the hummer!! I do miss them. There were lots and lots of them in san fernando valley when I lived there..and i loved them!
I never know how to comment. Your posts are so rich, so full of tantilizing bits of emotion and information---I don't know where to start.
I'll just say "Keep it up!" We'll never get tired of listening. You're a very wise old lady and I send you much love and wishes for a week of peace.
I have always enjoyed reading your posts and this one of your mom brought tears to my eyes. You must have been a very devoted daughter. Am sure your mom is smiling big up there now.
Btw, just in case I will be late for your virtual party, can you reserve a delicious chocolate for me? LOL
Very nice photos. I would say it could be a tear jerker as it really brought tears in my eyes. My mom is 78 but is alive and still kicking but looking at your pictures gave me a strange picture on my mind how my mom would be in that state and if ever I could see her in this state.
You're party is 3 days away from where I am and I'm very much excited. Are those chocolates? Amazing!
What a touching tribute to your mom, and how COOL that you wrote a play about it and it PLAYED! I just love your life. So awesome!
The cat pictures are just great. I loved having cats (my first husband and I had four between us) but I am horribly allergic to them. That's what triggered my first go-round with asthma.
Looking forward to the party! :D
How sad that your Mom had to get that awful disease. You did the right thing by talking with her and staying by her side! What a wonderful and precious thing to do.
There is your talent shining through again with your play writing and music, and .....so many things!!
(Oh my hubby goes to the dentist on Tuesday! Thanks for asking!!).
You are a sweet person Naomi. It sure would be nice to visit you in person!
Oh, the cat Miss Moon - she is so pretty!! What a doll baby!! Give Sweetie a pat and a kiss for me!
Great blog Naomi, just GGRREEAATTT (like Tony the Tiger says it)!
What a wonderful tribute to your Mom.
That was incredibly touching. I lost my mom to an ilness I'd never heard of - C.R.E.S.T. syndrome... and was there when she passed. One of the worst things I've ever had to deal with... but that's life, I guess.
Nice to see you.
Here via Michele.
A touching story, Naomi. I suppose the writing of that play was cathartic for you. Has it ever been staged again? I sure would like to see it and hear your music and see your painting!
Once again I am touched and amazed by your life's story. The play that your wrote about your mom-It really struck me how you had them eating at a restaurant, but with the hospital room in the background-how true that is when someone you love is in that situation everything you do is feels like the hospital room is right there. I have to ask-did your siblings and such like the play and were they supportive of it?
That hummingbird picture is incredible!!
Here via Michele tonight.....counting down to the party!
This was a very touching story, Naomi. Although it was a bit close to home with what I've been going through. I only hope that I eventually write a fitting tribute to my mother as you did to yours. You are a very special lady.
LAST GIRL ON EARTH
My mom died when I was 33 - of renal disease. Losing your mom is hard no matter what your age, though.
you are quite a talent. I am impressed! and I am here from michele
Thank you for sharing your Mom's story with us. I'm sure your play about her touched many people.
The picture of the humming bird is awesome!
I'm sure that play was like therapy for you.
It's great that you used triple talents of yours in it!!
Writing the play, the music and using your artwork.
Name: OldOldLady Of The Hills
Location: Los Angeles, California