Oh Deer!

Deer (42 of 32)

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.

Deer (42 of 2)

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.

Deer (45 of 32)

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.

Deer (49 of 32)

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.

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.

 

 

How Do You Thank Someone For Saving Your Life?

I finished chemo yesterday.  I looked back on the last six months since this entire adventure started, and the only thing I thought of is, how the hell do I think the people involved with saving my life.  Catching this cancer in the earlier stages (though I was stage iv, it was caught very early as in retrospect my symptoms were minor), and I am still here today because of the doctors, nurses, and my friends and family, who were a constant support.  I guess the best way to do it is to write an open letter to those who were involved in my treatment.

Dear Staff at Sacred Heart,

I don’t know if you realize this, but you saved my life.  You do it every day, and I wanted to acknowledge some of you individually.  There is really nothing I can do, give, or say that will express how much I appreciate and truly love you for what you did for me.  So where do I start:

I would like to thank the ER resident OB, who had absolutely no experience in a 40-year-old woman, with no symptoms dumped in your lap that night.  Who through tears told you that another radiologist you never met that I had a mass, but you couldn’t feel the mass, so you sent me up to a hospital room.

Tommy, the nurse, who appreciated my jokes about drinking that frozen concoction with tequila.  I don’t know if you like it on the rocks.  I really want to bring you a bottle, but I don’t want to get you in trouble…  You have no idea how much your humor, your honesty, and how much fun you were during this incredibly rough time.

To Dr. Parra– I am so proud of you for finishing the half marathon.  Thank-you for your solid advice and talks about autism, the Air Force, and for praying for my family.  I really, really appreciate your expertise and how much we had in common.  I’m so glad to have met you.  Thanks for taking the stint out so I can run :).

Unfortunately, I do not remember the name of the other night nurse in oncology, who finally relieved me from the pain of 12 hours of dry heaving, by giving me something to finally puke.  You held my hand while vomited and sobbed.  You broke my Seinfeld-esque vomit free streak.  You’ll be happy to know that I never vomited during chemo :).  I came close.

Onto Oncology, and Gynecological Oncology…  There are no words, no prayers, no nothing I can say to Dr Stephen DeCeasare.  I cannot thank-you, or give you credit, or scream it from the rooftop on how wonderful you have been.  You will always be the one who saved my life.  I know having served in the military, we hold those that save lives in the highest regard.  You are a hero to me, and to my family.  We will not forget your bedside manner, your kindness, and your tireless work for your patients.  Thank-you so very much.

To Becky, Dr. DeCeasare’s nurse.  Thank-you for being his support and mine, and for answering every question.  Nurses are the backbone to care, and you are truly appreciated.I really cannot thank-you enough for your helping me with my crazy schedule.

To Karla, Jeanette, and everyone else in the oncology infusion room.  You women are the heart and soul of treatment.I truly love everyone in the infusion.  Especially Karla, who I got to know in the last 16 weeks.  Thanks for being there and being a constant support.  I appreciate your advice, and followed it to the letter (most of the time).  Thank-you for reminding me to complain when I feel yucky and not to suffer in too much silence :).  Thanks for holding my hand the first infusion when I was so terrified I could barely move.

I can’t thank anyone involved in my cancer treatment enough.  You have touched me, and changed me forever.  I love you all, and will keep you in my prayers forever.  You have saved my life…  As far as I am concerned, there are not enough military medals, accolades, recognition I can give you!

I Wear Athletic Wear To Chemo And Other Crazy Things I Do…

I have done some pretty crazy things the last several weeks since I was diagnosed with cancer.  Here are a few of them:

I wear running clothes to chemotherapy.  And when I am not wearing the same clothes I would wear running a marathon, I go out and buy “chemotherapy” outfits.  So far I have bought three new outfits that I have only worn to chemo.  And I have purchased scarves and headgear to match.

I let my daughter shave my head.  That’s right, I handed a razor over to a 10-year-old and said, “Have fun…”

I bring my laptop and a puzzle book to chemo with every intention to work on my novel.  I have not done one puzzle, nor have I written one word on the novel since December.  I sit there for 5 hours, talk to other cancer patients, talk to whoever has rode with me, or I binge watch “Law And Order Special Victims Unit” on USA Network.

I have started running again.  I announced on my Caring Bridge Site that I was running, and got a slew of texts, and calls telling me that I was insane for running, and running outside at that.  In my defense, my doctor is fully supportive, and he said that he wants me running.  I would never do anything to jeopardize my health or recovery.

I plan on getting a tattoo and piercings after I am done with chemo.  I actually plan on getting a teal butterfly tattoo somewhere on my body.  I want to commemorate what I have survived, and I also am thinking about getting my nose pierced.  I don’t really care that I’m 40, and it may seem hipster-ish.

I have contemplated doing crazy clean eating diet, but opted for chocolate, jellybeans, and Fritos.  I was going to do a green smoothie diet, with fresh organic vegetables, and lots of fruits.  Unfortunately, I am allergic to bananas.  (Sorry TMI) Pineapples give me the runs.  And the only thing that really stays down are bagels, cream cheese, chocolate, jellybeans, and Fritos.

 

What Does Cancer And Treatment Really Feel Like?

I was asked one day by one of my family members what does cancer feel like?  Do I feel like I am dying?  Does it hurt?  What does chemotherapy feel like?  Will you know if you have cancer?  Here are 10 things I feel during treatment, just to enlighten everyone on what this journey actually feels like:

  1. The only pain I have experienced so far as a direct result of cancer is from my pleural effusion, which is fluid in my lung cavity (it’s not directly on my lung).  It’s not really “pain” per say.  It’s kind of discomfort.  I can feel something on the inside pushing against my rib cage.  Other than that, there were NO other symptoms, and this “pain” only just showed up after my second effusion, after surgery before chemo.
  2. Chemotherapy infusions themselves, doesn’t really hurt either.  It’s not without some discomfort though.  I find I get a little nauseated during the treatment, and I can taste the drugs that are infused, so I try to eat during my pre-drugs, because there isn’t nearly the bad taste or bad smell.  And normally after chemotherapy, I feel an internal burning sensation.  I liken it to heartburn only it’s in my abdomen.
  3. Chemotherapy is not like it is on television or the movies.  I do not spend days puking.  Basically, I take anti-nausea medications the day of, and three days after chemo.  I am able to eat somewhat normally– I just eat smaller meals.  I sleep a LOT, and I feel like I have the flu on day 2 and 3 after infusions.  This just means I have lots of body aches, am lethargic, and don’t really feel like being around people.
  4. Even though, I could have lost my hair, I am not completely bald.  I shaved it as a precaution.  My hair is thinner, but it is growing.  Same with my body hair.  I cannot get waxed, I cannot shave with a razor, but I can use Nair.  I avoid using it, because it burns me.
  5. Before I was diagnosed, deep down I knew that there was something amiss, but I could not put a finger on it.  The only symptoms I had before diagnosis were easily explained by something else.  I was tired, absolutely exhausted for no reason.  I figured it was stress.  I was hormonal.  I figured I was turning 40, because I had some hormone issues, I was pre-menopausal, or I was depressed from the recent death of my father.
  6. The sickest I felt so far was after I had the hysterectomy.  I was in a LOT of pain, I was suddenly rendered into menopause, and I was scared that the cancer was only going to get worse.  I did recover from the surgery.  If you take the side effects from treatment away, I feel more, or less, like I did prior to cancer with one minor exception.  The cancer grew into the uterer (the tube between the kidney and bladder), and I am in Stage One Renal failure.  I have stent placed, and that makes urination painful if I don’t drink enough water, or move around too much.  That will be removed in early April, and I can resume my normal activity.
  7. I did experience the grief cycle, sometimes I experience every step in the grief cycle in one day (LOL).  Right now, I am in the acceptance stage, but I find myself a lot of time in the angry stage.  I am angry at myself, angry that it had to be me, and a little resentful when I see people making bad choices and not suffering for them.  Then I feel guilty about the anger.
  8. Even though cancer is a bad thing, I see it as a good thing, too.  I have learned A LOT about myself, and how much I can endure.  It has really heightened my faith.  For a time I was agnostic Catholic, but I find myself believing more and more.  I have seen and experienced things that would make some of the most ardent questioners say, “OK, God, I get it, you are here.”  One of the things that was beyond my comprehension is while I was getting my surgery, I saw my dad.  He told me that everything was going to be OK.  Nurses and doctors have told me that people do NOT dream in surgery, and this is highly uncommon.  My doctor even said, “if your dad said it, then I believe you will be OK.”
  9. Also prayer works…  I am on all kinds of prayer lists for just about every Christian denomination, and on a prayer list in a Mosque and Jewish Temple.  You would be amazed that you feel those prayers.
  10. There have been some positive symptoms of cancer/chemotherapy/menopause.  Since the organs that I have caused PCOS were removed, I am now down to my goal weight.  My blood sugar is for the most part regulated (though after treatment I will be on a low-dose insulin the rest of my life).  Symptoms of ADD/Aspergers have been lessened as well.  I don’t have the compulsion to move like I did prior (and this could be the exhaustion/malaise from chemo).  I am also more focused, and can complete tasks that require some concentration.  I was going to go on ritalin, but right now the doctor says no.  I sleep better, and some of the depressive symptoms associated with ADD are gone.  Hopefully the good symptoms stick around a little bit longer.

This is what my cancer feels like.  The cancer experience is different for everyone, and just because I had no symptoms doesn’t mean someone else will feel the same way.  It is still can be a little bit terrifying, but for the most part it has been surreal.  I look forward to being done with treatment and moving on with my life.

Two Treatments Down, Sixteen More To Go

Well, I am still alive and kicking.  The last two months have been a whirlwind.  The beginning of the New Year, I was preparing to train for Grandma’s marathon.  Starting to get ready for the half marathon I had in the middle of February, and was just going to multiple appointments getting my daughter diagnosed with ADD.  Fast forward to the first week of February, I now have cancer.  I had a 7-hour major surgery were cancer was removed from just about every organ in my abdomen, and I was starting chemotherapy.  Never in a million years, did I imagine that I would have been diagnosed with cancer, and never during the recovery of the surgery did I realize how quickly I would recover and how quickly chemotherapy would knock me out.

Now, I am two weeks into an 18-week treatment protocol.  The first week of chemo, the doctor delivered the surprisingly good news that I had survived the worst of it, and that I was probably going to be OK.  I didn’t feel OK.  I was achy, tired, and bordering between nauseous and starving.  Two weeks later, more side effects are starting to come out.  Last night I noticed that I have NO taste.  I cannot taste anything unless it is strong.  My tongue is completely numb.  Yesterday, a clump of hair fell out while I was in the shower.  I realize that this journey is going to be a fun one…  However, each day I wake up, and feel strong enough to write, go for a walk, or watch endless episodes of my favorite shows is a good day.  I hope to be back blogging soon, or working on my novel, or doing something other than thinking about cancer.  Please keep me in your thoughts and prayers!