Back in September 2006, I was anemic, with a belly full of cancer and uncomfortable, taking aspirins. I didn’t know I had cancer at that time. I thought I had fast growing uterine fibroids. I lied down on the couch and turned on the TV and there was a program on Gustav Klimt, my favorite artist. They were discussing how his painting, the Adele Bloch-Bauer I, just sold for $135,000,000. It was on display at the Neue Gallery in Manhattan. It was not one of my preferred pieces but I felt an obsession to see it. I was going on a 2 week trip to India and didn’t have much time. I ran to the gallery the day I was flying. I had about 15 minutes inside. I saw the painting and it brought me to profound tears. I could not explain it. The painting is incredible but I could not understand my feelings.
That night I flew to India. One of the films on the flight was Ocean’s 12. I had seen it and was barely watching it. Toward the end, Andy Garcia was sitting at his desk in the casino and you could see the bottom portion of the Adele Bloch-Bauer hanging behind him. I couldn’t believe it. Why was I drawn to this painting?
When I got back from India I had my surgery and discovered I had ovarian cancer. I was traumatized and was trying to remember if I had had any dreams or visions that had given me clues of the disease in the past. I thought of the painting but couldn’t figure anything out. I was talking to John Robbins, my friend and founder of EarthSave, the organization I had worked for. He asked me if I had been dreaming. I told him I hadn’t been because I had not been sleeping well for a long time. Several nights later I had a dream with John in it. There were lots of aspects to the dream but the important part for this story is that I saw a very tall, slim woman holding my 1 year old niece. She was so tall we couldn’t see the baby.
On October 24, 2006, three days after the dream, I went to Memorial Sloan-Kettering for a consultation with one of their top GYN/Oncologist. I was in the waiting room with my mother and saw a woman who looked like the tall one in my dream. I told my mom about her and got up to take a closer look. She had a purse with the Adele Bloch-Bauer pattern on it! It blew my mind but I didn’t know what it meant.
And I forgot about it for some time. John Robbins led me to the Block Center in Evanston, IL for chemo. It’s a wonderful place and almost makes having chemotherapy pleasurable. I call it the Club Med of chemotherapy. Unfortunately I had a small residual mass that was not removed by the chemo. The doctor who did the first surgery performed the second in March 2007 but he couldn’t find anything. He said it was possible to have a false positive from a Pet Scan. I wanted to believe I was cancer free but for the next three months I did not feel well. I had another scan in June 2007 and the mass was still there and larger. I went searching for a surgeon that I felt I could trust with my life. My friend Nancy Pines recommended Dr. Joel Bauer because her friend, Michelle Rapkin had had cancer in a similar location and liked him very much. When I met with him I knew he was the one for the job. I had met with other surgeons who did not think I could be cured and that they could only buy me time. Dr. Bauer on the other hand was confident that he and his team could make me well. He was the doctor I was looking for. I had my third surgery at Mt. Sinai on Friday, July 13, 2007 and it was a success. The surgery lasted about two hours and the tumor mass was removed. My sister flew in from Florida to be with me during the surgery and stayed at my parents’ home. Sunday morning she woke up at 5am and had an epiphany. She knew the meaning of the painting.
As I mentioned above, I went for chemo at the Block Center, founded by Dr. Keith Block. The surgeon, who found the mass that the original surgeon missed was Dr. Joel Bauer. Dr. Block and Dr. Bauer: Block-Bauer. The painting was telling me the doctors I needed to use. It confirmed that I made the right choice. I think seeing the dream woman while at Sloan-Kettering was also telling me that Sloan-Kettering was NOT the place to go for treatment. I did not like the doctor there and the feeling of that place.
I told the story to both doctors and they liked it. Dr. Block added that his name originally was “Bloch” with an “h” like in the painting and not as it is now with a “k”.
John Robbins and Nancy Pines sent me framed prints so I now have two Adele Bloch-Bauers hanging in my home.
I went through another round of chemo from September 2007 until December 26, 2007. I am enjoying getting back to all the things I love to do, which includes travel. I flew to Florida in January 2008 to visit with family and then to continue on to Costa Rica where I have some property. On the flight from Fort Lauderdale to Costa Rica I was intently reading a book. All of a sudden I wondered what film might be playing and chuckled to myself that it might be Ocean’s 12. I knew it couldn’t be because the movie was too old. I looked up and it was Ocean’s 13! Just a few seconds later I saw the scene with Andy Garcia in his office at the casino. Only this time there was another Klimt painting there, the Fritza Riedler. Gary, my life partner, had said at one point that the patterns of the Egyptian eyes in the dress of the Adele Bloch-Bauer I resembled the patterns and colors of my PET scan. Fritza Riedler is wearing a pure white dress in her portrait, symbolic for me as being well again.