July Camping

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In July we went camping.  It was our first Colorado camping trip and we had a great time.  We went to Eleven Mile State Park.  I don’t even know how to describe where it is, but it’s on the other side of Pike’s Peak.  The reservoir runs along a river fed by snow melt.  The lake has Northern Pike, Salmon, Trout, Bass, and Crawdaddies.

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Yes, that’s right Crawdaddies, Mudbugs, or crawfish, the little red delights that are often found in the French Quarter on Mardi Gras.  They were in season when we got there.  Some of the park rangers were having a weekend seafood boil.    We were surprised to say the least.  Unfortunately, our boat is broken, and Shane had to take it to the shop after we got home.

While the kids and Shane went fishing, I walked around camp, and took some pictures of camp. I found one of the Colorado Springs Rocks.  The staff from a beauty salon in town had hidden rocks throughout the park.  There were a lot of song birds too.  The top two pictures posed for me on the picnic table.  The other bird and rabbit were regular visitors to our campsite.

 

And flowers galore!  We took hikes on the third day through the pine and birch trails.  I have traded tropical flowers for wild flowers.  Succulents, red poisonous berries, and other fragrant flowers.

 

And of course a new toy.  I sucked it up and bought a super wide angel lens.  It took perfect pictures of the landscapes around our camp.  I could get full mountains without turning my camera all sorts of different directions.  I still haven’t figured out astrophotography.   But hopefully I will be able to take pics when I get out of the hospital.

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And we had our security system.  She LOVED sleeping outside, and getting in touch with her wild side (chasing ground squirrels and birds).  Thor didn’t pose for me.  He would walk up to me every time I put up my camera.  The only time I can get a good picture of him is if I am at the end of the yard, and he’s running towards me.

 

I’m Still Here…

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Hello friends, it’s been awhile.  A lot has happened, and I have been busy, but I have not forgotten you.  Where to begin…  I finished up Doxil chemotherapy in May.  I was stable, some of the tumors were even starting to shrink.  But the doctor wanted to save my last eight infusions for another time.  Desperate times call for desperate measures, and we are not quite at desperate measures.

In June, we moved.  We left Florida forever (I will visit, but I will never live there again).  I was regaining my health, and I found my new sanctuary in Colorado.  Florida was beautiful in a tropical way.  There were tropical smelling flowers, calming beaches, and thick forests.  Colorado is beautiful in a mountainous, rugged way.  There is wild life walking through our yard, song birds of every variety, and hummingbirds galore.

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We got settled and used to our new surroundings.  I sat out in the cool evenings and watched the sunsets.  In the mornings, I drank coffee and watched the sunrises.  Then things started to brew.  A few months into moving, I had my first bout of illness.  Easily explained– it was the coffee.  I was not used to drinking coffee, and coffee used to make me sick.  I had a biopsy, too.

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In July and August the storms started.  The illness struck again, but this time it was Kale.  I was trying to change my diet, and it had to be kale.  It was too rough on my digestive track.  The numbers on the scale were starting to creep up, despite me being a little more active.  I decided I was going to hike the Bar Trail next year (13 miles walk, 7000 foot elevation gain).  I had started to even run.  I was accepted into Camp Mak-A-Dream.

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Then in August, the poo hit the fan.  The first week, I was sick, then I had a week where I felt a little better, then the next week I was sick.  I had an appointment with my doctor on the 21st.  The evening of the 20th, I got really, really bad.  I had lost control of my bowels, I lost control of my bladder.  My hands and feet contorted, and I could not move them.  I had soaked a shirt in sweat.  I stripped naked, and sat on the toilet for nearly three hours.  I alternated between vomiting and having diarrhea.  I didn’t know if I should go to the ER, or wait.  Finally, the Zofran, Imodium, and Tylenol took affect, and I was able to put on a Depends, and go to sleep.

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The next day it was confirmed.  My cancer was no longer stable.  It was growing, and producing fluid in my abdomen.  I had gained 20+ pounds over the summer.  I went from a size 10 to a size 14 by the time I saw the doctor.  The fluid is called Ascites (pronounced- A-CEE-TEES).  I was going back on chemo stat.  The new regimen– Gemzar, Cisplatin, and Avastin.  Three days after my first infusion, I checked my weight.  I was down over 15 pounds!

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The side effects weren’t bad.  They were there.  I got my second infusion on Labor Day.  Yes, the nurses in Colorado work on Labor Day.  Nurses are my heroes.  A few days after my second infusion, I left for Montana!  I was a little bit nervous.  There’s forest fires in the area, but I had fun.  I tried a lot of new things– horseback riding (I hadn’t been in over 20 years), archery, photography (next time I’m bringing my “nice” camera), writing, painting, and I could go on and on.  The biggest thing for me is I made life-long friends that I would never imagine I could make.  You see I have difficulty making friends.  But the women I met there “got it.”  The complaints I had about family and friends, who didn’t “get it” were the same.  They understood that since my surgery I tend to fart loudly, that there are certain things I don’t enjoy anymore, and understood the time I wrote ten checks, because I could NOT remember how to write a check (chemo brain is no joke).

 

After four glorious days of forgetting I had cancer, enjoying the company of my new sisters, and just an amazing time.  I came home.  On Tuesday (the 12th), I started to have cold symptoms.  It was just a cough.  On Wednesday, the cough turned into a deeper cough, fever, and dizziness.  I drove myself to University of Colorado Memorial North Hospital late Wednesday.  I was admitted into the cancer-ICU ward (it’s combined).  Several blood tests, infusions, oxygen, and fevers as high 103.6 later, I was diagnosed with influenza a.  I posted on the group Facebook page, and we discovered over 20 women had similar symptoms, six of us with the full blown flu.  I’m the only one still in the hospital.  My platelets are recovering, my white blood cell count just went up.  My bone marrow is non-existent.  I’m on anti-viral medication, anti-biotics (even though I don’t have a bacterial infection, they are keeping me on it because I have no immune system), and some other medications.  I am hoping to go home on Tuesday, but who knows.  My chemo on Monday is cancelled.

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The silver lining, because there is always a bright side, I get to catch up on my blog.  I have edited some photographs, read a novel, done word puzzles, watched football, binge watched USA Networks Movies, and decided that I am going to play with plastic pumpkins and glitter, paint a few of my sunset pictures, do a mountain mosaic, and brainstorm on how to open an online gallery called “Teal Expressions”.  There isn’t much sleep to be had in the hospital though.  But anyway, you’ll be seeing more of me later.

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Teal Expressions is an idea I have been playing with for a long time.  I would like to have an online storefront gallery with women, who are battling (or have battled) ovarian cancer.  It would be an opportunity for artists to earn money, raise money, and express their art.  You can submit anything from visual art (prints, wall art, postcards, greeting cards), wearable art (jewelry, scarves, blankets, shirts), or media art (self published, poetry, self-published prose, produced music).  If anyone is interested in assisting me on creating Teal Expressions, please comment below.  I am in the planning stages right now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Am Groot

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Photo courtesy of Disney and Marvel copyright 2014

I Am Groot

When I watch television, movies, and even the news in April, I see lots of stories and information about autism.  I am aware that April is Autism Awareness month, for my family autism isn’t relegated to one month, rather it is every day, every month, every year.  We are more aware of autism than the average family.  My son, Ryan has autism.

When I have asked people, who are not as aware as I am about autism, what they think autism is?  They point to characters on television shows, movies, and children and adults in the media, who have autism.  Nearly every single person, or character, with autism is high functioning.  Prime examples are Forrest Gump, Max from Parenthood, Dr. Latham from “Chicago Med,” even the kid who shot all the baskets, the kid who was voted homecoming king.  The media turns a blind eye towards people with autism, who are not high functioning.  My son is one of those people.  Until very recently, there are no mention of lower functioning adults and children in the movies, television, or even in the news.  In 2014, Marvel Comics finally produced a movie that showed a character with limited speech in a very positive light.

You may ask who?  My answer is “I am Groot.”  We first saw the first “Guardians of The Galaxy” movie a few years ago, and my daughter was the first to notice that Groot was my son.  She said that our family was Rocket.  For those that do not know comic book, Marvel, or the movies, I’ll explain.  Groot and Rocket are a pair of bounty hunters that are looking for Star Lord.  Groot is played by Vin Diesel.  Rocket is voiced by Bradley Cooper.  Groot is a large tree creature.  The only thing he says throughout the entire movie is— “I am Groot.”  His partner Rocket, a walking, talking raccoon, translates based on context, body language, and intonation what every “I am Groot” means.  That’s what we do with my son.  Our family has become master interpreters for our son.  We know the meaning behind every phrase.

My son on the other hand is just like Groot, from his mannerisms to his monotonous speech, but he is also like Groot in other aspects.  Groot defends his friends with ferocity.  He has a really wicked sense of humor, and pretty good dance moves.  At the end of the movie, Groot sacrifices himself for his friends.  He grows into a dome that protects the rest of the Guardians from dying while their ship crashes.  While he grows, he transforms the environment to a beautiful starlit dome.  And he says one phrase while sacrificing himself, “We are Groot.”  This statement makes Rocket realizes Groot’s intention, and he begs him not to sacrifice himself.  In the epilogue we see a new baby Groot, who dances and sings to “I Want You Back” by the Jackson 5.  Like Groot, my son is brave, strong, caring, with a wicked sense of humor, he is smart, and when he says something, often it is so profound and meaningful.

In the waning days of the month of April, I changed my profile picture to Baby Groot.  I have posted “I am Groot” (sometimes I include emojis to show my mood) at random times throughout the day.  I have responded to other people’s posts with “I am Groot.”  Most people haven’t asked me why, some think that I’m being facetious, sarcastic, or I’m just a moron.  To the few that have asked why, I messaged them my reasoning (I have also posted it on my wall), and I encourage other parents to do the same to bring awareness of children (and adults) with autism and other developmental disabilities with limited language skills.  So in honor of my son, Ryan, “We are Groot.”

Dogwood Photography Challenge Week 10 and 11: Portrait Environmental and Reflection

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I’m not really that great at portraits, and I’m still kind of behind on my photography challenge, so I’m double stacking my pictures today.  I took this bird a few weeks ago at the Maxwell-Gunther Reserve on the Chocktawatchee Bay in Niceville.  It’s a group of cabins reserved for military personnel and retirees.  Really close to Destin.

If you ever wonder where songbirds go when they fly south for the winter, this is it!  The birds come here.  Often in January and February our area is over-run by birds of all shapes, sizes, and colors.  We don’t have the parrot population that California gets, but we do get a lot of songbirds, loons, ducks, geese, eagle, falcon, and owls.  Anything that migrates from Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the East Coast comes here.

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For week 11, the challenge was reflection.  Last week I went to EPCOT for the Flower and Garden show.  I love taking pictures of anything natural.  It’s my favorite thing to do is walk through gardens and take lots of pictures.  I have a really great submission for week 13, because I got some great macro shots of butterflies.

I have done a LOT of reflection the last few weeks.  Sadly, I lost another friend to cancer.  When you have cancer, you become a survivor, but you also realize that life is not something that you take advantage of.  With losing my father, then making and losing cancer friends, you realize every sing day is a gift from God.  So I have been doing a lot of reflecting, and I think one thing I would like to start is some kind of Art Foundation for cancer patients.  Painting, photography, and mosaics have gotten me through this tough time.  I think it would be great if we (survivors and friends) did things like the 52 week challenge, and then have an on-line store, where the proceeds go to help families dealing with cancer it would be great.  It’s something I’m tossing around in my brain right now.  I would sure like to do something like that.

Well, it’s a beautiful day, the sun is shining, and I plan on taking my camera to the baseball game tonight to get some shots of my kids with their friends.

Dogwood Photography Weekly Challenge Week 8: Panorama

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I skipped week 8.  It has been a hectic week this week.  My husband has been in China, my kids and I had a lot of appointments, and I had chemo today.  Week eight was a panoramic picture.  I went to a local military beach and snapped this picture and merged it in Light Room.

My infusion went well today, though I’m considerably tired.  I did get some really positive news.  My CA-125 reading went down 40 points!  The doctor is going to continue me on Doxil.  I’m still planning on going to next base to talk to the doctors about clinical trials.

Here are some more pictures from the shoreline along the Chochtawatchee Bay in Florida…

 

Dogwood Weekly Photography Challenge Week 9: Shadows

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This week’s challenge is artistic shadows.  I tried taking several shadow pictures, with very little luck, but at last week’s Mardi Gras, I was able to capture these beads laying on the boardwalk in the shadows of a building.  That’s all I have to say about that.

It has been a crazy few weeks, and that’s why I am behind in just about everything.  I gave up Facebook for Lent.  I haven’t given it up 100% though.  I still go on and read statuses, sometimes I post a little bit.  I mostly post my photography, updates on cancer, and updates about my friends.  Recently, I posted regarding my friend, Becky, who passed away.  It’s the fifth death in our little local cancer group.  It’s the first person I have known quite well.  So her death caused me to go into a tailspin.  I have had to talk myself down a few times this last week.

I’m still stable.  As in my cancer is not growing, it is not shrinking, it is remaining the same.  It feels like the last two weeks of each chemo cycle it grows, but once I get chemo it shrinks it.  It’s frustrating, and annoying.  I find myself on my downtime doing a lot of research.  It’s hard to explain to people that I have cancer, but I feel great (for the most part), and I don’t look like I have cancer.  It’s definitely one of those invisible diseases, and it’s really hard to explain that you aren’t terminal, but you aren’t entirely well.  I feel like I have a ticking time bomb inside me.  One day it’s going to explode, and I’ll be like Becky, slowly fading away.

 

 

Dogwood Weekly Photography Challenge Week 7: Faceless

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Laissez les bons temps rouler!  Happy Mardi Gras.  This is my last Mardi Gras in the deep south, so I decided to save my week 7 inputs for today.  I’m a few weeks behind, but I do have most the photographs done.  The real reason for not posting though was week 7 was a chemotherapy week, and I didn’t feel up to going to shoot, and week 8 I was busy getting our house ready to sell (it’s on the market).  Mardi Gras was a perfect excuse to get my faceless picture.

I never realized the Mardi Gras tradition, and how it relates to my religion.  Mardi Gras is a traditionally Catholic celebration.  It started in the early church monarchies in Europe, specifically in Rome!  It is 40 days and 40 nights BEFORE the Lenten season, and takes place between Christmas and Lent.  The King Cake that is traditionally served during Mardi Gras represents the Halo of Jesus.  The baby inside of the cake is, well duh Baby Jesus.  The colors represent the three gifts the kings gave to Mary and Joseph.  It’s a time of revelry before a time of reflection.

While our house was being shown I got out to take some pictures faceless pictures, and this was the one I decided on.  The man stilt walking a feat to behold.  God knows I couldn’t get my fat arse up there.  He was dancing and posing for pictures.  We got beads, candy, and Moon Pies for all!

So enjoy the pictures and laissez les bons temps rouler!

 

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Traditional Mardi Gras Brass Band

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Jazz Sax

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Eglin Color Guard

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Crazy Stilt Walker!

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Senior Dance Troop