Through all the effort, what kept Prescod going was the support of her co-workers Sharon Politano and Olga Mazanov—she calls them her training wheels. When patients brought in cookies or candy, the two women kept the contraband out of harm's way, and for lunch at their desks, they ordered salads, urging a taste of soy nuts or removing the yolks from Prescod's hard-boiled eggs. (The diminutive Politano couldn't understand why her cholesterol was going up, until she realized she was eating all the extra yolks.) One of Prescod's regular minefields were the elaborate lunch spreads provided by pharmaceutical reps; her friends helped her navigate the tables laden with pastas and potato salad. They also chronicled her weight loss with photographs and engineered a style makeover after she'd spent years hiding under black or brown camouflage. "I didn't know how to go shopping," Prescod says. "If it came in my size, I bought it. I didn't own a pair of jeans, didn't know what to buy. I had clothes with the tags still on because I was too embarrassed to try them on in a store and too embarrassed to return them." Mazanov brought in stacks of fashion magazines and said, "This is your homework," then suggested that Prescod hang a pair of size 10 pants in her closet as a goal. Politano took her to buy makeup, insisting on a consultation to achieve the most flattering effect, rather than a drugstore purchase, and instructing the saleswoman to emphasize Prescod's new cheekbones.
While shopping at Whole Foods one day, Prescod chatted with a man who said he'd like to introduce her to a friend. A couple of pleasant e-mails and phone calls with the friend followed, until he suggested that they meet for dinner and, ostensibly for purposes of recognition, asked for her age and weight. "I told him my dress size," she says, "but I teased him, 'Do you ask all the women you date that question?' I had no point of reference—I hadn't had a date in five years." Unnerved, Prescod asked the girls, "He wants to have dinner—what am I going to do?" and they assured her she was going on the date, then announced, almost in unison, "You do realize, we're going with you." They made a reservation at the same restaurant and enlisted the help of an empathetic hostess in securing a table that provided a discreet vantage point. Romance did not blossom for Prescod, but fortunately, the blind date was a nice guy, because there was only an inexact plan for handling the situation if he was rude or inappropriate—then again, Politano, all 5 feet of her, feels sure she could have taken him.