Mike Greenberg is the co-host of ESPN's "Mike and Mike in the Morning," author of the New York Times bestseller "Why My Wife Thinks I'm an Idiot: The Life and Times of a Sportscaster Dad," and a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.
Greenberg's latest book and his first novel, "All You Could Ask For," is being released April 2. It is a story of three remarkable women who are forced to make room in their extraordinary lives for cancer, and how the power of friendship sees them through.
In conjunction with the release of "All You Could Ask For," Greenberg and his wife, Stacy, have created a foundation called Heidi's Angels in honor of the late Heidi Armitage, a family friend who died of cancer in 2009 at the age of 43. All of the author's profits from the book will be donated to The V Foundation for Cancer Research to combat breast cancer.
Allow us to introduce you to three unforgettable characters in Greenberg's novel. These three women have not met, but they're about to discover that friendship can bring light to even the darkest diagnosis.
I think I should tell you who I am, because it's important to me that you know that I'm not just a cancer patient. I hope no one takes that the wrong way. I know you're all cancer patients, too, and I don't want to minimize that, I really don't, but that's not who I am, just as I assume it's not who you are. I assume you're all somebody just like me, somebody's daughter, somebody's sister, maybe somebody's wife. Maybe somebody's boss. I'm some of those, not all of them. I'm not anybody's boss, or anybody's wife, and I'm not sure if I'll ever be either one. I mean, I wasn't sure last week, before this bomb was dropped on me, and I'm even less sure now.
So who am I? I'm 28 years old. I was raised in Greenwich, Connecticut. I love sports, not so much watching them as playing them. I love to be outdoors, hiking, biking, running. I'm a good athlete. Just three weeks ago I finished the Ironman Triathlon in Kona, Hawaii. It was a 2.4-mile swim, 112 miles on the bike and then a full marathon; I completed the course in 10 hours, 23 minutes and 17 seconds. I have never felt healthier, stronger, better in my life. The idea that I might be sick could not have been further from my mind.
I came back to New York with my father two days after the race and began to get my life back together. (It's a really long story how it had come apart. I won't get into all the details today, maybe another time. I'll just say that I married the wrong man. But there's no need to feel sorry for me. I'll bet marriage is a wonderful thing if you choose the right person, and maybe I'll find out someday, but I'm all right with it if I don't, I really am. I felt that way before my diagnosis and I feel that way now.) ...
One of the things I needed to do was go up to Greenwich to see my gynecologist. I hadn't been in over a year, between travel and my ill-fated marriage and a variety of other reasons, too, among them being I had grown tired of the lecture the doctor is always giving me. You see, my mother died of ovarian cancer when I was just eleven years old, and my aunt Judith was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was thirty, so my doctor has been pounding into my head that I need to start having mammograms much younger than most women, and even advised I should see a genetic counselor, because my family history puts me in a high-risk category. And I appreciate her concern, I genuinely do, but when you're young and healthy you're just not thinking that way.
Except this time I listened.
Part of the reason, ironically, was that I'd been feeling so good. I'd been treating my body so well in every other way: nutrition, exercise, training; consultation with medical doctors just felt like it fit. Plus, as mentioned, I had a bunch of free time on my hands.
So I went.
I'm a woman who has two doctors in my life, a gynecologist and a pediatrician, and of the two I see the pediatrician, Dr. Marks, by far more often. He's young and handsome and funny and sweet; I've often thought he was the sort of man I would have an affair with if I ever had an affair. (Which I would not, by the way, not ever.) I happened to mention to Dr. Marks about a month ago, when we casually bumped into each other at the drugstore, that my husband had just turned forty and that I would be forty in a few weeks. And he, because he is this way, asked if I had scheduled my first mammogram. I said I'd thought of it, and he made me promise I'd call my gynecologist that same day. And perhaps because he was just so cute, I did as I was told. A week later I was in the office of Greenwich Radiology, with my shirt off.
"Can you tell they're real?" I ask the technician, looking for a laugh as he maneuvered my chest in the least sexual way I could ever imagine.
"Yes, I can."
"I've been thinking about getting implants," I said. "Would that make this more difficult?"
"Not really, no."
"I guess I just tend to talk a lot when I'm nervous," I said.
"Nothing to be nervous about," he said, as he squashed my breast into the machine, which was shiny and cold and smelled of the spray I used to use to clean the dust off record albums. "Nothing at all."
Turned out he was wrong about that. ...
I don't even remember going back to the table, or what I said, or how I explained my tears to the children. The next thing I know they are fast asleep in their beds, and I am in the small hallway that separates their rooms. I can see them both resting peacefully in the shadows. There is no sight on earth more beautiful than my sleeping children. They are perfect and they are mine.
"What more could a woman want?" I ask aloud.
Then the phone rings. I am ready for the call. It will be Scott and I know what he'll want. And I will give it to him. It doesn't sound like such a bad idea, actually, quite the opposite. It sounds like something very normal, and right now normal sounds really good.
"Hey big fella," I say as seductively as I can manage, sinking between the sheets of the bed we share. "What can I do for you?"
The conversation doesn't last long, it almost never does. Then I am alone in my room in the dark, staring at the ceiling, waiting for my eyes to adjust to the darkness. And I am thinking of a book I love, with a heroine I love. The book is called "The Hotel New Hampshire," and the girl is named Franny. And one time when Franny is sad and someone asks if they can do anything for her, she says: "Just bring me yesterday, and most of today." And I realize now that is exactly what I want. Yesterday, and most of today.
I live in Manhattan and quite nicely, though I was -- and am -- ready to chuck all of it and dash to the mountains. I was about to do it. I was so excited.
Then I went for the MRI.
The first thing I discovered is that I am a tad claustrophobic. I don't know how better to discover that than lying still in a tube like a sausage with the walls closing in while a horrific clanging deafens you. So that was pretty terrible. I just kept telling myself it was temporary, that I just needed to breathe and keep my eyes closed.
I went home after forty minutes of cylindrical torture and treated myself to a really fine bottle of wine, and waited to hear why my back was hurting me so. I was prepared for nerve damage, disc trouble, stress-related muscle fatigue, arthritis, even a tiny broken bone in a place I couldn't find with my fingers. In fact, now that I think of it, I believe that is what I was expecting, a broken bone. An arduous rehabilitation. An admonishment to back off significantly from all my exercise. I drank a toast to my treadmill and how little I was going to miss it. So long as I could climb the occasional mountain, I was sure I would be fine.
Then the phone rang, and a voice on the other end said, "Katherine, I need to see you tomorrow."
What's funny now is that I didn't recognize the voice at first. I thought it was Phil, my CEO, to whom I had resigned earlier in the day. I cackled into the phone at the very thought. I thought he was calling to say he needed me back, the firm could not survive without me, to remind me of the tens of millions of dollars in stock options I was leaving on the table, and oh by the way his wife just left him (which she did) and he realized it was, in fact, me he'd loved all these years and he was begging me to marry him.
Then the voice continued, "There are some things on your MRI that concern me and we're going to need to get you to see an oncologist."
That was when I realized it wasn't Phil on the phone. ...
So, what I'm saying is that I just don't know that I am ready to go back to the doctor and hear all of it and ask the questions and get the answers and begin the treatment all by myself. I'm sure I will change my mind tomorrow or the next day. I'll go back because I have to. But it would be a lot easier if there was someone with me. To take notes. And to ask questions I don't think of. And maybe hold my hand. No one has held my hand in a long time. I know we have never met, and so I am a little embarrassed to say this, but right now I think you may be the best chance I have. Probably because you're the only chance I have. So if you want to meet in the city tomorrow, maybe I could buy you lunch and we could talk, and who knows what might happen next.
You just might save my life.