Table of Contents
For Brad, my love.
For Sophie, my compass.
For Chloe, my future coconspirator.
Throughout the telling of this story, Laura RoppÃ© references several of her self-penned songs, either as a plot point or as a lyrical window into her thoughts in a particular situation. To find out how to download some of Laura's music for free, go towww.rockingthepink.com
On a sunny morning in mid-October 2008, a whiplash-inducing phone call from my surgeon hijacked my life to the hinterlands of hell. It was a startling reversal of fortune: That very day, the
Los Angeles Daily Journal
had featured a two-page article about me entitled “In the Long Run, San Diego Lawyer Decides to Face the Music,” and I was squealing with delight as I devoured every complimentary word. The article detailed how I'd been inspired to follow my midlife musical dreams after running my first full marathon.
I'd had an implausible stretch of good luck since I'd released my album two months earlierâmy new record label was about to fly me to England to shoot a music video!âand now here was my elated face, smack on the front page of a respected newspaper. The photo was flattering, thankfullyâmy Jay Leno chin was barely noticeable as my body leaned over the impressive control panel in the recording studio.
I reached for the phone, bursting at the seams to share this triumph with my husband, Brad.
Just as I was about to dial, my surgeon called.
Oh, yeah, that whole thing.
Three days earlier, mostly to placate Brad, I'd gone in for a biopsy of an “almost certainly” benign lump in my left breast. I wasn't alarmed. I knew I didn't have
Even uttering the C-word sounded melodramatic, like an attention-seeking stunt. I was only thirty-seven, and there was no history of the disease in my family. Plus, I'd just run a marathon, for Pete's sake.
“Oh, hi, Doc,” I greeted him. “How are you?” I paused, expecting to hear his relieved chuckle.
“Laura,” the doctor began. He wasn't chuckling. My stomach lurched unexpectedly as he cleared his throat. “I've got some bad news . . . ”
I didn't recognize my own voice as I let out a rasping wail. My legs gave way, and I collapsed onto the couch.
The doctor was still talking. His words came to me in fragments, as if he had bad cell phone reception: “ . . . down to my office right away . . . treatment plan . . . so sorry . . . ”
My brain was melting down. Had he just used the word “cancer”? About
That was all I could think, over and over again. I struggled to remember his phone number at work, a number I'd called a million times. I finally got through and heard his familiar, unsuspecting voice.
“Brad,” I gasped. My voice sounded garbled and foreign to me.
“Babe, can I call you right back? I've got toâ”
Come home!” I was bawling. “Come home.
I was shrieking.
“I'm on my way,” he said, panic raging underneath his controlled voice.
I couldn't remember who I'd been before I loved Brad. I had to go way backâto memories of losing a tooth or hanging Duran Duran posters on my bedroom wallsâto conjure a firm recollection of my pre-Brad self. I'd met him twenty-three years earlier, at a summer party when I was fourteen years old, though I'd lied and said I was fifteen. Not the best way to start off one's relationship with a future spouse, but who knew I was meeting my future husband at fourteen years old? And, in my defense, I was just two months shy of my birthday, so I was
Brad was sixteen years old, and in the prime of health and fitness, when I first laid eyes on him. He had just competed in a triathlon, and he had the eight-pack abs to prove it. He stood six feet, four inches tall and had blond hair and blue eyesâa classic California surfer boy. He would have caught any girl's eye. Except mine. No, I didn't notice Brad at first, because I had my eye on an age-inappropriate lifeguard at the party (who, to his credit, wasn't the least bit interested in a fourteen-year-old child). While my boy-crazy eye was trained on that curly-haired lifeguard, Brad approached and invited me to walk on the beach. I figured, why not?
As we ambled along the waterline, I noticed his wildly patterned, electric blue, baggy pants.
“I like your pants,” I said in earnest.
“Thanks. My grandma made 'em for me.”
Well, that was adorable. And sort of . . . rogue, in a perverse way. And, coincidentally, that very night, I was sporting bright yellow shorts dotted with pineapples, paired with a mismatched Hawaiian shirtâmy own way of railing against the ubiquitous preppy look of the day. We looked good together, in a Jackson Pollock sort of way.
Brad was a year ahead of me in school. He'd been class president. And he loved to surf and spearfish.
Spearfish? Like Christopher Atkins in
The Blue Lagoon? He told me my brown eyes were hypnotizing him. I blushed.
“Are your parents married?” I asked, changing the subject.
“Divorced. When I was nine. I live with my dad and brother.”
“Mine, too. When I was seven. I live with my mom and sister.” Our symmetry was obvious. We just
Out of sheer glee, I spontaneously rolled down a sand dune on the beach, just for the fun of it. He thought that was funny, and he let out a silly, high-pitched laugh that cracked me up. And then he kissed me, and the resulting tingles shot all the way down to my toes. An hour of talking and kissing later, Brad asked, “Can I give you a lift home in my 'Vette?”
When we had reached Brad's car, a short distance away, I was surprised to find a worn-out, steel gray Chevy Chevette sitting in front of me. “Nice 'Vette,” I giggled. This was not the sparkling Corvette I had envisioned. And that suited me just fine. Considerably charmed, I got into the car.
After Brad had dropped me off at home, I crawled into bed, exhausted but floating on cloud nine. Five minutes later, before I could even drift off to sleep, my phone rang. It was Brad, calling to say good night, a romantic gesture in the age before cell phones.
“Can I see you tomorrow?” Brad wanted to know.
“Of course.” I smiled into the phone. “Good night.”
Who on earth has her actual, handwritten diary from the day she met her future husband, at age fourteen? Well, I do. I must be one of, like, seven people in the history of the world. At any rate, my diary entry from August 20, 1985, states:
I have met someone who
I really like . . . . Brad is the most wonderful, thoughtful, sincere, loveable, sensitive, cute person I've ever met. . . . He's so wonderful, I'm positive you' ll be hearing about him for a long time to come.
Supernatural psychic? Probably not. Despite my apparent gift for prophesy at age fourteen, I had no idea what “a long time to come” meant. One week was an
for me. I could not have predicted that eight years later, Brad and I would vow to love, honor, and cherish each other, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part. I had no idea that ten years after that first night, Brad and I would toss our law school graduation caps into the airâor that I would later ditch my successful but unfulfilling legal career in a late-blooming effort to become a rock star. And, especially inconceivable to me on that first, magical night in 1985, at the tender age of fourteen, was the fact that,
twenty-three years and two months later, I would clutch Brad for dear life, sobbing into his arms, having heard the doctor say “breast cancer” and “aggressive” and “chemotherapy.” No, I didn't know any of those things on that first night. All I knew then, deep in my bones, was that I loved that boy.
I sat trembling on the couch as I waited for Brad's arrival. His voice had flipped into commando mode when he'd said he was on his way. Why wasn't he here yet? I was starting to feel numb.
I need to call Dad.
I dialed Dad's cell phone.
“Dad,” I began. I sounded pretty calm, actually. “Dad, it's . . .
câcâcan . . .”
I couldn't finish the word. I howled into the phone.
But Dad knew exactly what I was saying. “Oh, honey,” he soothed. “I'm coming right now.”
I told Dad not to come, that Brad would be home soon enough. But Dad knew his office was ten minutes closer than Brad's to my house, and he ignored me. Fifteen minutes later, I opened my front door and gratefully melted into his open arms. Later, he told me
he'd had a horrible premonition a few nights earlier when I'd casually mentioned the biopsy; he'd had a feeling this was coming.
Fifteen minutes later, when Brad finally lurched through the front door and loped across the family room, scooping me up into his arms like a rag doll, I melted into his embrace.
How the hell did I get here?
Only two weeks before, a mere week before the biopsy, I'd signed a contract with a London-based record label for release of my music. At the ripe old age of thirty-seven! It was a dream come true, particularly since I'd spent the better part of the prior decade kicking someone's ass or having my ass kicked in courtrooms on a daily basis.
I hadn't mentioned The Lump or the biopsy to my new record label because I hadn't thought there was any chance I'd have a problem. Like Scarlett O'Haraâ“fiddle dee dee!”âI didn't want to think about it. I had bigger fish to fryâlike my imminent trip overseas to shoot a music video.
The record label had lined up a top-notch director with impressive credits: Paul McCartney! Lenny Kravitz! Annie Lennox! When John from the record label in London had talked about the “storyboard” for the video and “securing locations,” I'd covered the telephone receiver with my hand to muffle my amateurish squeals of excitement.