Jodi’s Going To Africa 2020

What’s Africa 2020?

It started a few weeks ago actually.  I was watching the news, and there was a news story regarding a young lady climbing both the incline and Pike’s Peak with no legs.  You can read about her here.  In a news interview she stated her next goal was to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro.  It peaked my interest, because I can’t really run anymore, I wanted to find new goals to achieve.  So I started searching the internet, and I found this article on a cancer survivor, who climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro with his doctor.  And then I got really interested.  I googled a bunch on Mt. Kilimanjaro, and about what it would take to climb such a mountain.  My dream has always been to go to Africa with my camera, and take pictures of my favorite animals in the wild.  This put a new dimension to my dream of going on an African Photographic Safari (I would never go on a hunting safari, as I do not believe in shooting guns).  I am going to climb Kilimanjaro in 2020.

Why Africa Though? And Why 2020?

I share a lot on social media, but not really a lot.  I always have had some odd connection to Africa.  I don’t even know how to explain it.  The first book I read was, “Born Free.”  I have a vast collection of things made in Kenya, if I see jewelry made in Africa I buy it.  My favorite rides, parks, restaurants, and resorts at Disney World are at the Animal Kingdom.  I love the culture, the food, the people, and the animals in Africa.  And before the Animal Kingdom in Disney opened, I loved the African stores at Busch Gardens in Tampa.  I have wanted to visit the real thing since I was eight.

My favorite animal has always been a lion.  My favorite Disney movie is “The Lion King,” my favorite musical the same.  When I was 21, I had my first, and only, close-encounter with a lion, I got to pet and hold lion cubs in a Mexican Zoo that had not yet opened.  The lion was just like a cat, it snuggled in my arms, and purred.  I will never forget it.  I have always had a hunger to see the Lions in their natural habitat.  I see myself as a Lion has I battle cancer.

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I chose June-July 2020, because this will give me enough time to heal my body, mind, and spirit.  As of right now, my cancer is on the decline.  I am receiving an experimental treatment that has made me feel better than I have in a LONG time.  This will give me the time to train, to do other climbs.  There are 14 peaks in Colorado that are above 14,000 feet.  My intention is to do a few of those before attempting my big climb.

Besides healing my mind, I have a LOT of work to do on my body.  I have been given steroids for most of the last two years.  I gained weight, a lot of weight.  I am trying to get down to a reasonable weight.  I also have start eating healthier and I have to train.  The training alone will help me get down to a fit weight.  I plan on starting to run again, just not marathons.

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I look forward to showing everyone my progress, and pictures as I make my dream of going to Africa, seeing her people, cultures, and animals a reality.

 

The Road Ahead

Hello Friends,

The last six months, have been a full six months.  Full of awesome highs (nearly no evidence of disease, and starting a maintenance drug), and full of valley lows (losing one of my closest new friends to this awful disease).  After Christmas, my blood counts were so low, that I thought I was going to die (literally).  I never have felt so close to death as I did between Christmas and New Years.  I even started to write letters to my children regarding how I wanted to be remembered by them.  I had consistent bloody noses that would take hours to stop up.  I eventually went into the hospital, and got some blood.  I was counting down the infusions until the end of Gemzar and Cisplatin– the beginning of February.

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Mountains Near Breckenridge

In February, my sister-in-law and nephews came out for a visit.  Colorado was not kind to them.  My youngest nephew started throwing up before the trip, and my eldest nephew, who has Type I Diabetes got food poisoning towards the end.  The poor child couldn’t get out of bed.  I was running a fever, had a cough, and felt generally shitty.  I knew since my counts were low, it would take forever to recover from my cold, which ended up being Influenza A (found that out after my son caught it).  After we both got over the flu, we ended up going to Snow Mountain Ranch (YMCA of the Rockies), and rented a nice secluded cabin in the woods.  I still was not up to skiing, and hung out mostly in the lodge.

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YMCA of the Rockies

In March we found ourselves back at Disney World and visiting my mom for Spring Break and Easter.  I did not bring my camera then, but I have a ton of beautiful iPhone pictures of Disney.  When we returned to Colorado it was time to trek up to Denver and see Dr. Corr at UCH Aurora campus.  We found out that my CA-125 had increased to over 600!  Since my symptoms coincided with a possible aneurysm, I was given an emergency CT Scan.  I did end up getting my Avastin infusion (maintenance drug), and the next day found out that my two spots had turned into 5 spots with the largest on my rectum.  On April 7th, I signed the paperwork to start a clinical trial.

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Crestwood Falls at Crestwood State Park

I made several trips to and from Denver to participate in the clinical trial.  I had a CT scan, a brain MRI, a biopsy, and more vials of blood drawn than one could imagine.  By the time I began the trial my CA-125 was over 900.  The clinical trial is a immunotherapy drug called Durvalumab and a vaccine therapy (immune system booster) called IPH2202.  The Durvalumab is supposed to highlight a protein to the immune system in the cancer, and IPH2202 is supposed increase my bodies immune reaction.  So far the side effects are very minimal, and I feel great.

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California Poppies Growing Wild

As of today, I have had two infusions.  I have no increase of cancer symptoms (the symptoms have remained stable– no increase is a very good sign, as I have not had chemotherapy in over 4 months!), I have good energy, and I feel wonderful.  In two days I will be embarking on a photography adventure road trip, and I will be documenting it photographically and on my blog!

We are traveling to the Grand Canyon.  I will be witnessing the a sunrise over the Grand Canyon.  After that, we will be traveling to Las Vegas.  Where I will be photographing the strip, going to the fountain show at the Bellagio, and the pirate show.  I, of course, will play a few games of chance ;).  From there I will be heading on Rt 66 to California.  I have never been on the West Coast.  We will be in Malibu, at Disneyland, visiting an old friend from our time at Vilseck/Rose Barracks, and then trying to see a few stars :D.  Then from LA, we will be driving north along the Pacific Coast Highway to San Francisco (some of the highway is closed, but I’ll see enough of it.  From San Fran, we will travel northward to the Redwood National Forest, where the Ewoks live :).  Finally, we travel back east going through Oregon, Nevada, and Utah to the Arches National Park, and back home.  My goal is to master the manual setting on my camera.

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Purple Wildflowers

Cancer has given me a new appreciation for life.  It is hard to know that one day I will die from this disease and follow the path of my sisters before me.  Life is fleeting…

Rest In Peace:

Jessica Gladstone
Jann Lenhart
Tracey Young
Sue Alvarez
Lori Hamilton
Sarah McGerrtrick
Eileen Albert
Betty Burnell
Leigh Reel English (Liver Cancer)

Song of the Post:  “I’ll Stand By You” Rachel Platten

Losing My Religion

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“That’s me in the corner, That’s me in the spotlight, Losing my Religion…”

Move over Rover, Cancer has taken over…

I’m almost done with my fourth line of treatment (technically my third line of chemotherapy).  This one is doing what every other regimen has done, kept me stable, and kept the cancer at bay.  I should be satisfied, but I am not.  I want it gone.  Since camp I have lost four friends to this insidious disease.  I hate what it has done, not just to me, but to my family.  Things that are certain, are no longer certain.  I think the most disruptive thing it did was cause me to question my religion.

I have always heard that God never gives you more than you can handle.  Then the first uncertain thing happened.  My son was diagnosed with autism when he was two.  I read a blog post, or a poem, called “A Trip To Holland,” so instead of Italy, we are going to Holland, land of Tulips and wooden clogs.  Holland had many adventures– to include adverse affects from immunizations, seizures, child abuse at school, etc…  But there was always God and Jesus to take the burdens.

Then my dad died.  It was unexpected, but expected.  Dad was not very good at taking care of himself.  He believed in miracles.  He made his dreams come true.  He lived in the best place in the world, Disney.  He loved and lived.  He passed away from a heart attack. This put our family into a tailspin.  I stayed with my mom a few weeks, and my daughter stayed there for a little bit longer.  My mom was thrown into widowhood, and I was thrown into a slight depression.  At this time, I started to notice that my back pain from 2014 was returning.  I thought it was from switching from outdoor running to treadmill running in the humid summer.

In October, my daughter started stating that she was going to commit suicide.  She would have tantrums that turned violent.  I was kicked in the face at one point.  She started to put on weight.  It was unreal.  We eventually had to have her hospitalized at nine years old.  We discovered that she had ADHD.  Again, ADHD is something we can handle.

In November and December, I started to feel more and more symptoms.  I felt tired all the time, I would go running, and feel done.  I wrote it off as stress, depression, whatever you can call it.  I also felt a huge amount of guilt.  I was too tired to do my normal routine.  Looking back on the schedule– I got my daughter into counseling appointments, Occupational Therapy, sleep studies, and eating counseling; Ryan needed ABA therapy, OT, ST, and Neurology every three months, which was a drive to Pensacola Beach; and I was seeing a personal therapist and marital counseling.

In January, I went in again to complain about whatever was going on.  I was tired, I was having difficulty breathing, I had a backache.  Something was wrong.  I ended up leaving in tears, after the doctor forgot about my appointment.  I switched to Tricare Standard.  Saw a new doctor.  She ended up suspecting that I had a silent heart attack.  I had an odd heartbeat, and she could hear fluid in my lungs.  I got a lung x-ray.  I had a large pleural effusion in my right lung.  Within two days, I was diagnosed with cancer, stage IV.

Every day since then, I prayed and begged God for my life.  I prayed that He would cure me.  That He would take this burden from me.  I prayed that my children would not be left motherless.  I have seen, and experienced what happens to children when a parent dies.  Even at 40, it is difficult, but kids are 12 and soon-to-be 14.  I can’t take the thoughts what it’s going to be like without me– I know it sounds selfish, but that’s the thought that depresses me the most.  I don’t want to die early.  I want to see the milestones– I want to see my son walk the graduation walk, I want to see my daughter get into her dream college (which right now is “the best college ever” for math and engineering), I want to see my daughter married, I want to meet my grandkids.  I don’t want to be the picture in the corner, or the person that people will tell my kids to get over already (I have heard someone say that to a child of a cancer patient).  I don’t want them to tailspin out of control.  And God is not listening.  He has stolen four friends on this Earth.  And now none of the treatments are working completely, but it is not gone.  I hop from one treatment to another.  I have been abandoned and my children are being abandoned.  How can I believe in someone who is not supposed to give me more than I can handle, when I cannot handle this?  How can I feel that He has this, and the burden is not mine, when it is hurting my family?  So here I am sitting in my corner, in my spotlight, slowly losing my religion…

I Have A Confession…

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I’m going through a really dark period right now.  I have lost my mojo.  I have lost my desire to write anymore, my desire to take photographs, and a lot of happiness.  I am doing fine physically.  My CA-125 (the cancer marker) has been slowly decreasing every three weeks.  I am going to be taken a much needed break, and see if the mojo comes back.

Just an FYI– if you are a caretaker, or family member of a cancer patient, do not do an emotional intervention with said cancer patient in the middle of a harsh chemotherapy, particularly when said thing you are intervening about is five years old…  The longterm effects are incredibly negative.  Thanks…

 

Oh Deer!

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When we first bought our new home in Colorado, I was so excited about all the wild life that our neighbors talked about.  Of course they were a little less than excited about some of the animals that visit our home.  Particularly, the Mule Deer (a little larger than white tail), that often rub their antlers on the budding trees.  But supposedly, we have a moose cow, a bear, and the deer.

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Last week, I got my 30-something-th chemotherapy infusion, and I was dragging after getting a wonderful injection of neulesta.  I laid down to take a nap, but Thor, my Golden Retriever, decided to bark and bark and bark.  I was irritated, so I yelled at him to STFU.  Yeah, I know my language isn’t the best when I feel like I do post-chemo.

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My daughter said, “Mom, get your camera, there are deer looking in the window.”  Deer looking in the window?!  Why would deer want to look in the window. Sure enough, I looked out my window, and saw the two doe above eating grass in our neighbor’s yard.  I snuck outside, and captured these photos of the beautiful buck that accompanied three doe.

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I’m 90% sure this is lovely 10-point buck that ruined one of our brand new pine trees that we planted earlier this year.  But who knows.  He sure liked to pose.  I got about 2-3 yards away from the herd before he pushed the doe away, and took off across the street.  I did manage to get a few more pictures.

I took a total of 30 pictures…

Some prints are available for sale, and I am making a new 2018 calendar.  My photographs are available for sale at Jodi Vetter Photography, the calendar, and other products will be soon available on a new Etsy Storefront.  A percentage of all sales goes towards Camp Mak-A-Dream outside of Missoula, MT.

New York State of Mind

About two weeks ago, we just returned from our second trip to New York City.  The last time I had been in New York, I was the running the marathon.  I had a blast.  There was no cancer, no steroid weight gain, and it was me, my husband, my camera, and Les Miserables.  This time, I had some new lens, and got to see some new sites!

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A few days before we left, we had a snow storm.  The weather was completely different in NYC than it was in Colorado.  While it was cold and snowy in Colorado, it was warm and humid in NYC.

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We stayed in the Fabric District, closer to Macy’s and the Shopping District near Time’s Square.  The buildings were very interesting here.  The first night we hit the theater, went to Bryant Park, and went to The Palm West Side, where I saw my only celebrity– The Dude From Dateline NBC (Keith Morrison).

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My favorite addition to Bryant Park was the new “light balls” amongst the mums in the park.  I wanted to go ice skating either there, or in Rockafeller Center, but due to my blood counts, I had to forgo any kind of things that could cause internal bleeding, and me on skates can definitely cause me bleeding.

The next day we walked to the race expo at the convention center (near Marvin Gardens). NYC does have a LOT of green space, and there were still a ton of flowers growing in the green spaces.  Mums, Latinas, and a few wild flowers here, and there.  I have to say that the Expo was really hard for me.  I spent most of it mourning my “old” life and feeling sorry for myself.

 

On the way back to the hotel, we took a detour through Central Park.  We visited the finish line, and I took some pictures of the local fauna.  Lots of rats with wings and little songbirds.

More leaves, more squirrels.  We hopped onto a subway, went to our restaurant for the pasta feed.  I had the most wonderful Tiramisu, and grilled chicken with a mushroom sauce.  Needless to say, we ate our way through New York City.

After the race we went to St. Patrick’s Cathedral and One World Trade Center.  Its was truly amazing to see both buildings.  I got to play with my panoramic lens.  Going back to the Trade Center was really cool.  The first time we had gone to NYC, the building was not done yet, and now you can travel to the top.  It was state of the art trip, and the new shopping mall underneath is a real wonder.  St. Patrick’s was absolutely gorgeous.