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Chemo Files Episode 3: Zen Student

Introducing Noah, the microphone-toting amanuensis

galant wigs
Wig shopping for chemo is much more fun if you take along an entourage.

While we're on winter hiatus we'll be regularly posting episodes from this compelling podcast on breast cancer, as well as those from our October conference NJ Spotlight on Cities.

Chemo starts today. We’re just a little more than two months past my initial cancer diagnosis, and I’ve been through the early stages: 1) terror, 2) getting flooded with love, 3) starting meditation, 4) mastectomy, 5) friends dropping off food, and 6) unexpected staycation.

chemo pull quote 3

Oh yes, and something else: savoring every possible moment of life.

In Episode 3 of The Chemo Files, my son Noah  -- who dreamed up the idea for a podcast in the first place  -- comes back from a year of Americorps to become my microphone-toting amanuensis. (Look it up).

But as an EMT, former pre-med student and college graduate with a degree in neuroscience, he’s doing something even more important. He’s adding some intellectual rigor to my interaction with doctors.

In this episode, Noah comes along on my second trip to the oncologist. And when we listen back to the tape afterwards, we study it like Talmud students. My doctor has recommended the most rigorous  -- and toxic  -- course of chemo, and we learn about an unpleasant side effect: possible heart failure.

So there’s some heavy stuff. But there’s also a field trip to a wig shop, an unexpectedly wonderful staycation, and the realization that I am indeed beginning to understand and follow the advice Larry Blasko gave me back in July:

“You now have a gold-plated, signed, sworn, and sealed ‘Oh What The Hell, Why Not?’ license to enjoy everything enjoyable. Use it!”

Debbie Galant is the publisher of Midcentury Modern Magazine, a magazine about age, identity, and generational politics that lives on She is also the co-producer (with her 23-year-old son Noah Levinson) of a podcast called The Chemo Files, about having breast cancer. By day, she explores the future of news as Associate Director of the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University. Galant is also a former New York Times columnist, the author of three novels, and the founder of Baristanet, one of the first hyperlocal news sites in the country.

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