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.

 

 

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 Challenge Week 4: Portrait Headshot

The Story Of Sadie

When I found out this week’s challenge was a head shot, I struggled.  I’m can take pretty good portraits, but it’s not my all-time favorite type of picture. I don’t really like taking pictures of people.  I have a hard time going up to a stranger and asking them, “Hey, can I take your picture?”  I had to ask right away if a portrait meant human.  When I was told portraits are whoever, or whatever, I want them to be.  So I knew, who I wanted to take a picture of.  And she has quite a story…

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No this is not the picture I submitted, but it is her goofy personality.  From the time I was a little girl, I always wanted a Siberian Husky.  I grew up in Minnesota, and huskies are kind of a part of life there.  When I went to college, our college owned a team of them.  We used to feed them, play with them, and just being around them.  Huskies are a unique breed of dog.  They are unlike any dog I have ever owned.  You often hear about the negative attributes– they are stubborn, they run away (A LOT– just look at my Facebook feed, when I am begging my local friends to help me get my damn dog back), they are ferocious hunters, and they can be loud pain in the asses.

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Sadie is all that, and more.  We found Sadie, rather Sadie found us in 2010.  We lost our dog Scooter to cancer just one year after Zeus died from suicide by diaper genie.  We had moved to Ohio, and Ryan needed a dog.  I perused Pet Finder on mission from God.  I found Sadie. She was being kept at a double-wide in a 3′ by 3′ cage.  Her family had adopted her, but left her rearing to an 8-year-old boy.  She was wild.  Her hair was every where.  She cried, barked, and was just a brat.  After getting the OK from the landlord, I brought her home.  After about six weeks of intense behavior training, she became my dog.

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For the last six years this dog has been my constant companion.  She was there when my dad died.  She was there when my daughter was diagnosed with ADHD.  She was there when we fought the school district.  She has not left my side through cancer treatments.  She lays by my feet through the nausea, the tears, and the frustration.  In 40 years, I have never have had a dog that was my companion.  Sadie is my dog.  When we first got her, I asked Ryan what Sadie’s name should be.  Without missing a beat, he said, “Sadie Lady Dog-Dog…”  So here’s the picture I submitted to the Dogwood 52-week Photography Challenge Week 4:

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Happy 2017

Looking back on 2016, It was ROUGH.  My rough patch started on January 29th, with an unexpected journey to the ER, and ended with my continuing the fight of my life.  It would be easy for me to make a list of New Years Resolutions.  Something that may include– lose weight, eat better, drink less, be more patient with my kids, and all the usual trappings that I promise myself that I would like to accomplish in the upcoming year.  This next year is a little different, besides my “What The Hell, I Might As Well” list, here are my New Years Goals:

1. I want to live.  Yeah, my number 1 to 1000 goal is to be still alive in 2018.  This may be obvious to many readers, but I have learned that it is not a guarantee.

2.  I want to get my health back.  I would love to continue to hear my oncologist state that besides cancer, I am the healthiest individual he treats with cancer.

3. Finish that G-D Novel.  I need to finish it.  I’m so tired of telling my family that I am writing it, but it’s not done yet.  Well, I want it finished.  I have about 20,000 more words to add.  I’m also tired of trying to decide whether to send it to a publisher, or publish it myself.

4.  Continue working on my fan fiction.  See number 3, but more geeky.

5.  Do more of what I enjoy.  I got a gift card from my husband for Christmas, so I decided to spent it on what I enjoy.  I enjoy reading, so I bought some Carrie Fisher Books.  I enjoy painting, so I bought a few Paint By Number  kits.  I enjoy fitness, so I bought some low-impact cancer DVDs.  I enjoy writing, so I am going to start writing more on this blog, and finish number 3 and 4.  I enjoy photography, so I joined the 52-week picture challenge.  I enjoy packing all my shit up, and moving across the country (oh wait, I don’t enjoy doing that, but that is happening).

So that’s about it…  Five goals this year, instead of my normal 10, and they are pretty straight forward.  Happy New Year!  Hopefully, this year we won’t be staring up into the heavens, and saying WTF God!

What The Hell, I Might As Well

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I am making a list.  Kind of like Santa Claus, but kind of not like Santa Claus.  It’s called my  “What The Hell, I Might As Well…” list.  It’s not really a bucket list, as I have accomplished most of my bucket list items– I ran New York City Marathon, went scuba diving in Guam, climb Pike’s Peak, saw a few celebrities (including a celebrity crush– Hugh Jackman in New York), I saw a Broadway Play, watched the sun rise, swam with dolphins, been in the Empire State Building…  This list is arbitrary weird things I always wanted to do:

  1. Write a Star Wars Novel.  I know that it will never get published.  I’m going to publish it on a fan fiction site.
  2. Publish a chick lit novel.  I wrote it, but I got to pitch it to a publisher.  I don’t know quite how to do that.
  3. I would like to go to another foreign country.  I don’t which one yet, I was thinking Africa, but my oncologist said I can’t go to Africa.  I asked at an appointment if I could travel while on treatment.  He said, “I don’t see why not, it’s not like you’re going to Africa.”  DAMN…. SHOT DOWN.
  4. Drive a sports car as my primary mode of transportation.  I want a Mustang.
  5. Get paid to do something I love– like having someone buy a picture I took, maybe sell my novel.
  6. Own another puppy.  I want a red Siberian Husky with blue eyes.  Love my pups, but I want that darned red Sibe.
  7. Live in a big city again.  Tired of these quiet little rural cities.  This one is about to be checked off.
  8. Build a house from scratch.  I want to design my next house.  I want funky colors in my bedroom, I want a bathroom with a huge glass window made by Angela (Big Orange House).  I want my photographs framed and put up all over the house.
  9. I want go get soaking wet in a thunderstorm.
  10. I want to see Niagara Falls, or Carlsbad Caverns again.
  11. I want to go to the Academy Awards, or Emmy’s, or Golden Globes– something to dress up for, and meet people– I know it’s the strangest ass thing, but I want to go to it.  I love movies.  I have been in two, it might be cool to be in another, or a television show…

That’s about it.  What’s on your What The Hell, Might As Well list?

The Big Bad Wolf Has Returned

Or it never left, either way, I am back in treatment :(.

On Friday, I went to the doctor to find out the bad news.  Fortunately, it is not 100% bad, and not dire, as I have very few symptoms.  I will be going to Houston in the next couple weeks to see if I qualify for a clinical trial.  I started a GoFundMe, and my former classmates at Park Center have funded the first trip to Houston.  A charitable organization has offered more funding.

I have been asked a lot what were the symptoms, what should you do if you suspect you have ovarian cancer.  My doctor has called the disease a sneaky bastard and that’s what it is.  I’m going to go into some gory details, so if you are squeamish, or a man, you may want to turn around and run lol…

Symptoms:

  • A change in my period, PMS, and ovulation.  My period was irregular since I was a teen.  Instead of getting more irregular, my period actually regulated.  At ovulation time it was painful (which I joked for almost a year with my husband that I was finally ovulating, I had lots of trouble getting pregnant). PMS was a BEAR.  I was exhausted, nauseous, and had heavy cramping.  My period was also very heavy and I had increased cramping during it.
  • Lower back ache.  Closer to my diagnosis, I developed an intermittent lower back ache. I had been injured the year before– S-1 Joint hurt, so I thought it was my injury.  The cancer had cut off the uterer between my bladder and right kidney, and I was in stage one renal failure.
  • Malaise.  I was BONE tired.  I had the energy to run, but as soon as I got home from my runs, I was DONE.

Anything can cause these symptoms.  If you are concerned that you have these symptoms and bloating, constipation, difficulty breathing, painful sex, weight gain, and stomach upset, please see your gynecologist.  If you would like specific tests, request a CA-125 (which is a cancer antigen).  Many things can cause it to elevate, so be aware that it may not be accurate measure for disease.

 

The Word Of The Day– Anxiety

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I took this blue-tailed skink at the park on Sunday.  It’s been a LONG four weeks.  It started after my first post-cancer appointment.  The doctor said, “You look great, welcome to remission.”  Then a few hours later, I got a phone call, “Hold up, your CA-125 (cancer antigen) is abnormal, and you have to schedule a PET Scan.”

Then, anxiety hit, and hit HARD!  First, it was scheduling the exam, which was cancelled THREE times, because the machine was broke.  Finally, I got the exam scheduled, and I had anxiety about the scan itself.  It’s a three hour test, and you have to sit in a room by yourself for an hour after getting an IV.

Now, it’s waiting for the results. I didn’t realize that if the scan is clear they don’t call you and tell you its clear, instead they call you, and make an appointment.  Every thought goes through your mind.  I hear the doctor saying, “Your cancer never went away, your cancer is back, kiss your kids good-bye, your going back on chemo, or congratulations– you’re all done.”  The nurses, techs, and doctor gives you no hint at what’s coming on results day.  From what I know is if it’s bad– he tells you to come in immediately, or the radiologist calls the doctor quickly.

So now, here I sit, with scan anxiety.  What are the symptoms?  Every symptom of cancer– real and imagined.  I have not slept, I have barely been able to eat, I am irritable towards my kids, I rage, I swear, and I cry.  It takes every ounce of energy to go about my daily life.  I have been officially diagnosed with PTSD.  I feel utterly INSANE.  It is not a condition just for Army Troops returning from war.  Last night at 3:00 AM, I swore I smelled and tasted saline, which is a sensation you get when you have an IV inserted.

What can you do?  If you are the praying type– please pray, if you are an atheist, just send me positive thoughts…  I need them right now.