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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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.

Dogwood Challenge Week 5: Black and White Landscape

Tres-pass (verb): 

  1. To enter a owner’s land without permission
  2. To commit an offense against a person or set of rules

This week’s challenge was a black and white landscape photograph.  It was a rough week, around day 16-18 after chemotherapy, I start feeling sick.  The illness lasts about 24-48 hours, then magically it lifts, and I feel better.  This time it was more stomach flu-ish than the typical cramping, and for whatever reason I could not trudge through it, as I have been trudging through chemotherapy.  I often think of chemo like running a marathon.  Sometimes I hate running, so I close my eyes, and stomp it out.

Today I trudged through the neighborhood looking for inspiration.  I was told a long time ago that as a photographer, I have a good eye, but not the best technical skills.  I forgot that my ISO was set low when I made my way to a dilapidated barn…  I got good shots, could not fix them in Lightroom to make them look decent as a black and white shot…

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And this one too…

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Still other pictures I took made great black and white landscaping.

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But nothing hit me as far as my mood this last week.  You see I have been thinking about our world, and the recent climate.  I was raised Catholic.  Last week in mass the priest spoke of the Beatitudes.  The pictures circulating around the internet have made me sad and contemplative.  Pictures of babies separated from their mothers for extended periods of time out of fear.  Pictures of babies denied surgeries, because of fear.  Pictures of fences that we are putting up around ourselves.  I found a sign that says “No Trespassing.”  The meaning behind the sign is simple– don’t go on this person’s land.  Laying on the ground near the trespassing sign is the sign above, “No Hunting.”  Again pretty straight forward, you don’t go hunting on his land either.  It’s by a game trail, so that’s a good thing with all the children in the area.

But the word trespassing has a different meaning– in old English it means “sinning.”  Trespass shows up in the Lord’s Prayer (just like the Beatitudes are in the Bible), “Forgive me my trespasses, and those that trespass against me.”  Many Americans are afraid, especially Christians.  They are afraid of terrorism, afraid of not making enough money to make it week-to-week, they are afraid of war, and they are afraid of progress.  They have bought into fear, and therefore have elected someone to lead us that is not worthy of that sacred duty.  The fear is making us forget.  Forget what we are, what we fought for, and forget our past.  We are repeating the sins of our fathers.  We are trespassing upon others.

That’s my opinion, for what it’s worth…

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