Former Self Magazine editor Alexandra Penney invested with Bernard Madoff money she had been saving since she was sixteen. When Madoff was arrested in one of the world's largest ponzi schemes, Penney lost everything.
In her book "The Bag Lady Papers: The Priceless Experience of Losing It All," Penney recounts the horror she felt when her live savings slipped away and her struggle to pull out of the dive.
Tune in to "GMA" Monday to see Alexandra Penney talk about the ordeal live.
Read an excerpt of the book below, and then head to the "GMA" Library to find more good reads.
Also, check out ABC News' comprehensive coverage of the Bernie Madoff scandal by clicking here.
Something terrible has happened but I can't remember what it is. I stumble out of bed, turn on the TV, step into the shower and stay there for almost half an hour with hot water streaming over me, hoping the negative ions will help lessen the head to toe panic.
I am paralyzed by the early morning news bulletins. More terrifying thoughts assault me, horrid visions of state-run institutions for sick old people where sloe-eyed attendants drug you and strap you to wheelchairs.
Paul has left a note on my mirror that he had to leave for home and to call him right away if I need anything. He'll check in with me later. I open the front door and the New York Times, as usual, is right there. I can only bear to glance at the headlines. It's all there: the MF's [author's expletive term for Bernard Madoff] confession, the Ponzi scheme, his admission that everything was a lie.
I'm close to nauseous with anxiety but once again, I must do something. I can't sit here alone. Then an idea hits me: I will go to the MF's offices. They are just two blocks away.
I dress as I would for any other day of working in the studio – jeans, freshly ironed white shirt (more about my numerous white shirts later), Hermes Kelly bag (purchased when I was an editor at Conde Nast – how much can I get for it on Ebay, I wonder?), goosedown jacket with the fur collar and small gold earrings from my mother. Dressing carefully in my normal clothes puts a bit of consoling distance between me and my bag lady fears.
It's not even 8 a.m. when I get to Madoff's building, but already people are milling around in the lobby. I am not the only one who has dressed for the occasion; fur coats abound. One older woman who is perfectly groomed and swathed in golden sable is leaning on the arm of her husband whose face is the color of green-gray breadmold.
I approach the lobby guard and say, "We are Madoff clients and we need to go up to his office please." Part of me knows this will never happen, but part of me thinks that as of yesterday, anything can happen.
When people hear me politely but firmly asking to be let upstairs, they all chime in. The blonde sable-woman says to me, "You've got the right attitude. Let's get up there! I've lost everything, everything."
I wonder how much "everything" means. Does she still have a huge Park Avenue apartment, a silvery Maybach, a casa in Tuscany?