FLORENCE HOWE

activist, writer, and founder of the Feminist Press




Florence in Words

An Apology: Sandy, Surgery, and the Cancelled Feminist Press Gala

December 3, 2012

Tags: Hurricane Sandy, surgery, Feminist Press

To you who read my blog, I apologize for the long silence. I cannot really explain why I never wrote even to say that my apartment was untouched by the storm, since so many friends elsewhere in the U.S. and from Europe, Asia, and Africa wrote to ask whether I, too, was homeless. No, that was not my problem. Yes, the large shrubs on the deck were damaged, some pots shattered, but they were mostly still alive. And then my dear friends, Don and Jorge, and their Maltese, Yoya, came to visit for three days until their electricity was restored, and so I had the wonderful company of beloved people who shopped and cooked and who repotted my damaged shrubs and even my house plants.

What I have left out is my own body, for I was scheduled for surgery on Tuesday, October 30, the day Sandy hit, and of course the surgery was cancelled.

For months I had been complaining to medical people about a strange pain, and ultimately assumed that I had done something silly in the gym, or in the swimming pool, where I had used large flippers one day. But the pain worsened, and a week before Sandy, when I could not reach my GP, I decided to call my gynecologist, Lissa Hirsch, just to talk with her. She was in and suggested I come over so that she could have a look at me. I was surprised, since it had never occurred to me that the pain could be gynecological, but I went to see her, and the rest is history.

She sent me off to NYU’s Emergency Clinic for a Cat-scan which made clear that I had two cysts on my ovaries whose potential for twisting could be giving me that pain. And the next day,
Lissa sent me to have still another test, met me there, and took me back to her office for a blood test and to discuss surgery and the naming of a surgeon. She chose someone she knew whose work she had seen and respected, and who was both a gynecological surgeon and an oncologist, since there was always the possibility of cancer. And so I had an appointment to meet Herbert Gretz and then a date for the surgery at Mt. Sinai, Tuesday, October 30. On Friday before the surgery, I had a series of pre-op tests by Allen Hauptman, my GP, who was, like Lissa, connected to NYU, where I had a chest x-ray.

I must note at once that I spent the weekend thinking about whether I would attend the Feminist Press Gala, scheduled at Bridgewater’s (on the East River), on Monday, October 29th, since the surgery was scheduled for Tuesday, October 30, probably in the afternoon. But Sandy’s landfall cancelled all plans.

Though I had to wait another week for the surgery to be rescheduled, I was among the fortunate, and suffered more anxiety than pain. On Monday, November 5, at 6 a.m., I was at Mt. Sinai for pre-op procedures. But at 8 a.m., when none of the pre-op tests I had had the week before could be found in my file at Mt. Sinai, Dr. Gretz said he would have to cancel the surgery. Since NYU had been closed down by the storm, I suggested that perhaps my GP had copies of the pre-op reports. And indeed though the fax seemed at first to be broken, within 15 minutes, the surgery could proceed.

I awoke to hear my smiling grand-daughter, Dr. Florence, say there was no cancer, and that I was going to be fine. And so I am, though the early days were uncomfortable, especially since the pain-killers made me feel worse than the pain. Eventually even half a pill was too much for me and I retreated to Tylenol.

It is now three weeks and four days since the surgery. And yes, I’m feeling better every day. I go out for walks, and for two weeks I had Yoya for company, while Don and Jorge were traveling. Her sense of play, her spunkiness, and her insistence on cuddling kept my depression to a minimum. It was also good for me that I got to walk her twice a day, even if only for 15 minutes. I am still walking, though now it’s about invented errands. Intensely, I miss the swimming pool and the movement through water. But I’m going to be back to normal by the end of the year.

Still, there is another nagging worry. I am worried about Sandy’s effect on The Feminist Press, which has suffered the loss of its year’s work on the Gala at Bridgewater’s as well as the 800 books and materials, including expensive banners, all sent over in preparation along with items for the silent auction. You can help in one of several ways. If you are a donor, you can increase your donation and send it right now. If you have never been a donor, but you might like to become one, then go to our website: www.feministpress.org and make a donation right on line. Or if you’d rather send a check, the address is The Feminist Press at CUNY, 365 Fifth Avenue, Suite 5406, New York, New York 10016. And if you’d also like to buy books as gifts this year, on the website you will find a great Holiday Sale.

Select Works

"Everyone concerned about global feminism, women’s contributions, and humanity’s future will be enhanced and enchanted by A Life in Motion.”—Blanche Wiesen Cook, author of Eleanor Roosevelt: Volume I and Volume II
Lecture delivered by Florence Howe on January 8, 2011, at the Modern Language Association Annual Convention
“It is impossible to imagine women’s studies without Florence Howe. Myths of Coeducation shows her vision and courage, insight and dauntlessness.”–Catharine R. Stimpson, Rutgers University
A revised and expanded edition of the classic groundbreaking anthology of 20th-century American women's poetry, representing more than 100 poets from Amy Lowell to Anne Sexton to Rita Dove.

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