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

An Open Letter…

Apparently I have a hater, who has gone from a few blogs I have guest-wrote, my own personal blog, comments on another article, my Caring Bridge, and a few other personal sites.  This person, for whatever reason, has decided I’m “faking cancer, am a troll, and have committed Stolen Valor.”  I spent my day e-mailing administrators at Caring Bridge, Go Fund Me, and various other sites to straighten out the accusations.  Instead of running away, and hiding, I would like to address these accusations head on.

This is not the first time someone has accused me of faking this illness.  The first accusation came a year ago, when I first started this lovely adventure.  It was from a running group I belonged to, so I’m not surprised that the accusations have come to light again.  And I think it’s common to accuse writers of making stuff up to gain hits, sell stuff, or even make money from something so heinous.

I can assure you that, despite my deepest wishes, I do have cancer.  Specifically, I have Stage IV Serous Carcinoma of the Ovary.  Currently, my cancer is in 4-5 spots in my abdomen– four lymph nodes and one small tumor located on my pleural cavity, sticking out of my rib.  I have done 26 chemotherapy infusions, two surgeries, and spent countless hours laying in bed so tired that I can’t even think straight.

My purpose for writing about it, sharing it, talking about is two fold (and believe me I am not being paid for any of it).  First, if I can save one person from the pain I went through it would be worth it for me.  Ovarian cancer is insidious.  I had very few symptoms, and the symptoms I did have are so subtle that they were easily explained by something else.  Secondly, it is very therapeutic for me to write about my illness.  It helps dealing with it.  Whether it be an open letter rant like this, or comedic naming my of my tumors– the one on my rib is Quatto, and the one in my rectum was Felicia.

So to the hater, I’m not going to provide overwhelming evidence that I have cancer to make you feel better.  Not going to post a picture of my pathology report, or my surgery.  I am not going to name drop my oncologist (he’s a really cool guy though, and I recommend him).  I’m not going to post my DD-214 to prove I was a veteran, or my VA award letter to prove I’m a disabled veteran.  I’m not going to post a picture of my husband to prove I’m a military spouse.  I am well aware that any you wouldn’t believe any of it any way.  I will tell you that your reports got to the right people, I was informed, and provided adequate proof of illness, and my various blog postings, Go Fund Me, and comments I made on other blog posts were not removed.

I understand your reasoning for questioning anyone who goes online and says, I have cancer.  There are sick people out there who DO fake cancer.  I actually with the help of the NY State Police, and the VA did out a faker.  She was arrested and currently facing charges for fraud.  Fakers happen.  A little piece of advice, though, once you report a faker, and appropriate action is taken and proof is provided– please do not continue to malign and harass the individual you reported.  Stalking only delegitimizes your claims of fraud.  I was contacted, and I provided enough evidence that any investigation into the matter was dropped…

That being said, for those who want to know how to spot a faker, I’ll give you a few guidelines:

  1.  If it sounds too good to be true, than it probably isn’t true.  Same goes with negative news.  If it doesn’t make sense it’s probably not true.  For example the faker I outed, said she was on oral chemotherapy for ovarian cancer.  Usually front line chemotherapy for gynecological cancers is IV carboplatin and taxol.
  2. Strangers asking for money.  I did end up needing to fundraise.  I didn’t ask for money from strangers, I posted on my Facebook.  A few of my classmates saw my fundraising effort to get on a clinical trial and it was shared on my alma mater’s website.  Most patients needing fundraising will not ask you for money unless they know you.
  3. Ask for verification.  If you have questions about whether someone has an illness, or is getting ill-gotten gains.  Ask questions.  Ask for doctors, ask for references.  Ask.  If anyone had any questions about my cancer, I would gladly have answered any questions.
  4. If you are still in doubt, report it.  But don’t let the anger consume you.  Be like Elsa, and Let It Go :)!

 

Dogwood Photography Challenge Week 6: Artistic Candy

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This week’s challenge is Artistic Candy.  It’s almost Valentine’s Day, and it’s also my husband’s 42nd birthday.  Last year at this time I was throwing up in a plastic bin at a hospital after my hysterectomy.  Our birthday celebrations on his birthday has been spotty.  Of the 25+ years we have been dating and/or married, we have been together on my husband’s birthday a handful of times.  I think I can count on one hand when we were under the same roof.

Anyway, we met in 1991.  I had started running track at the insistence of my Life Studies teacher (I think that’s what it was called, I don’t remember for sure).  I decided to go to an indoor meet, because being the social butterfly that I am, I had nothing better to do.  It turns out my husband didn’t have anything better to do either– he missed his race.  We talked all night.  He drove me home.  We flirted a ton.  He even dated another girl.  But we always came back to each other.

We started to date on August 29th, 1992.  Every month, he would send me a rose for every month we were dating.  He even managed to send 24 roses on our 2 year anniversary in the middle of August while he was at basic training at the Air Force Academy.  We dated long distance, before the internet, before cell phones, and before technology.  Most communication was done via letters.

In March of 1995, he proposed, and I accepted.  We were engaged just over a year, and were married June 13th, 1997.  As many military couples do, we spent most of our first several years of marriage living in different homes, different zip codes.  I remember being told by my flight commander that we were better off divorced, but we stuck through that.  We have stuck together through 13 PCS moves, 4 deployments (2 combat deployments), a child with autism, the death of his step-father, the death of my father, a grand total of 4 years of separation (not related to deployments), a child with significant developmental delays, and now cancer.

We are separated yet again…  But we are always and forever together.