Wednesday, July 25, 2012
People who know me well also know that I’m not a person who likes confrontations. I’m usually the peacekeeper, even going so far as to try to ease tensions between others at times. I prefer a peaceful home and working environment (and that’s not always easy working in a jail). However, this should not be mistaken for weakness. When pushed, I am prepared to fight for what is important to me, and that’s what I’m doing now. I’m in a fight to make everyone respect the wishes of my husband, and it’s a fight that I will win. I refuse to let others take control of whatever time he has left on this Earth.
As I’ve said before, since September 2009, Tommy has had a scan every three months for his pancreatic cancer. He’s been on very harsh Folfirinox treatments since June 2011 in an attempt to stop or slow the progression of the metastatic tumors in his lungs. He told me just before this scan that he really wanted a break from the chemo, something his oncologist had also said he might want to consider. He said he was “tired of being tired” and tired of the mouth sores, the neuropathy in his hands and feet, and sleeping all the time. He said he wanted to feel good enough to go do things again and actually enjoy himself. I’ve always supported Tommy’s decisions and this time could be no different. I told him if that’s what he wanted then he needed to talk to his doctor about it and he needed to make the final decision.
Unfortunately, his family doesn’t seem to feel the same way. There seems to be a push from other family members that he has to “fight, because you can beat this thing.” Yes, I’ve heard those very words from at least two of his family members. While I wish this was true, the fact is that he has stage IV pancreatic cancer and every expert we’ve talked to says they cannot cure it and that at some point it will stop responding to any treatments. I’ve spent many hours talking to my sister who used to be a hospice nurse. She told me that she faced this same situation many times and had many meetings with families to try to explain how these statements can have a negative effect on the patient. While it’s important for us all to be supportive and optimistic, she says family members, while well-intentioned, often place their loved one (at least in the patient's mind) in the impossible situation of either beating an incurable disease or failing and disappointing their family. I can't imagine the enormity of pressure this would put on someone when they should be enjoying every day.
When I told one of his family members that he wanted a chemo break, she actually looked at me and said “Well, that’s going to depend on his scan results.” I couldn’t believe she actually said this and immediately snapped back, “No, it’s going to depend on what HE wants.” While I love my in-laws very much and I know they are afraid and they mean well, I simply will not allow them to control his medical care. I told another family member later that everyone needs to understand that this is not about what anyone else wants; not his children, not his parents, not his sibling, and not me. This is his life and we all need to support him so he can feel good about his decisions.
We went last week to get the results of his latest scan and, while still there, the nodules in his lungs are a bit smaller. The response to the treatments over the last three months did not seem as remarkable as with his three previous scans. The concern is whether or not the treatments are beginning to lose their effectiveness against this disease (something we have been told would eventually happen). But at least there was some decrease in the size of the nodules, so for that we are grateful.
Tommy was pleased and I was so proud of him when he spoke up and told his doctor he wanted three months off. She agreed and even said it would probably be good for him to take the break. So we are planning to do some camping in September and October when the weather cools a little and we’re hoping he gets enough energy back to enjoy some bike riding again.
He told me he doesn’t know if he made the right decision, but it’s what he wants. I reassured him that if it’s what HE wants, then it’s the right decision for him. He’ll have another scan in late October and then meet with his doctor to decide how to proceed at that time.
None of us know what tomorrow holds, but right now we’re having fun. We just spent three night in the mountains and took a friend of mine and his cousin with us. We all had a great time and we're looking forward to going back again, soon!
Tommy and his cousin in Whitetop, Virginia.
Hope everyone is having a great week!
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
My oldest son, Cliff, and I have always wanted to go kayaking. I’ve been canoeing, tubing and rafting, but had never been on a kayak. When I say I wanted to go kayaking, I meant on a nice, calm, meandering river, not the wild white water stuff. But it’s always been something we just talked about, never actually acting on our desires. Until today.
Last week we decided we wanted to go ahead and just do it. We researched areas close by and decided on a place up in Virginia on the New River. This particular section of the river sounded perfect for two beginners who had no idea what they were doing. And so, we called last week and reserved our two kayaks and shuttle. I explained to the man we spoke with that we had never kayaked before, and he assured us they would put us on a safe section of the river. We spent the last several days watching youtube videos from REI about proper paddling, safety, etc. We were finally going to do something we’ve been talking about for a long time and we were excited.
We got up early this morning and to the sound of hard rain outside, we got ready, loaded up our water shoes, hats, dry clothes (for after the paddle), bottled water, and everything else we could think of that we could possibly need. I even brought a rain poncho for each of us! Not sure what I was thinking when I packed rain gear; we were going kayaking so we were going to be getting wet! Oh wait, I still thought we were going to be on a calm, meandering river. Anyway, it rained on us all the way to the outfitters, but we were determined to make this happen.
When we reached the outfitters we got our vests and they loaded our kayaks onto their trailer. We were the only two kayaking, and there was a family of three that had rented one large raft. We were driven to our launch location and given a map; a PAPER map showing the river and all of the obstacles we would encounter along the way. Did he say obstacles? Our driver began to carefully point out on the map where we would encounter various rapids and the best way through them, where to avoid the “big wave” and where we’d go over the “deceptive ledges.” I’m not sure what all he said after that because I was still stuck on the “big wave” and the “deceptive ledges” and wondering what I’d just gotten myself into. This wasn’t sounding like the calm, meandering river I’d envisioned. Still, I kept my mouth shut, and when he finished we grabbed our maps, secured our belongings on our kayaks and shoved off.
Cliff with our kayaks getting ready to launch.
Nice calm water. This was what I was hoping for the entire way.
Okay, this place looked good. The rain stopped right after we got on the river and the water looked calm. The paddling was easier then I expected. We were on our way, just the two of us, having left the family in the raft far behind. It was so calm I could even take pictures with my camera hanging around my neck. Then we rounded a bend and I suddenly heard water; lots of rushing water! I sat upright straining to see down river and, sure enough, I could see some white water ahead. I admit there were a few moments (okay, a lot of moments) of panic because I was heading for some rapids and had no idea what I was doing. I learned that you CAN paddle in reverse, but eventually you just have to go for it. I’m pleased to say that even though there was a few seconds in this section where I really thought I was coming out of that kayak, I managed to hang on.
Me following Cliff
It stayed cloudy all day, but at least it didn't rain on us. The scenery was beautiful.
There were a number of these areas along the way, and we learned what a “deceptive ledge” is; the name is appropriate. We got better as the day went on and began to recognize the best places to paddle straight into the rapids. It was a good thing because the paper maps he gave us were wet and in pieces after the first two sets of rapids. By the way, we were also soaked from head to toe and I had to laugh thinking about my little rain ponchos I had brought. By the third set of rapids, we were having a great time (still a little scary though). Also, as for the “big wave” we were told to avoid, because our maps were destroyed we had no idea where it was and guess who went right through it - both of us! Still, we managed to stay upright and in the kayaks. It took us 2 hours and 40 minutes to get to our take out location. We were so excited because we had just completed our first kayak trip and it was much more than we ever expected. And, we didn’t fall out of our kayaks. It was so much fun.
Tonight I am sore, but it was a great day. We’re planning on doing this again!
My kayak after we had finished.
Monday, May 28, 2012
Hidden away in the Mogollon Mountains in New Mexico is one of the state’s premier ghost towns. The “almost” ghost town of Mogollon was once a bustling little town where they mined for gold and silver. Today just a few residents and store owners remain to greet scores of tourists who flock there during the summer to get a taste of the rich history of the town. There is a mixture of old buildings having seen their better days alongside other buildings and old homes that some of the die hard residents have preserved.
Having stopped there last month on my trip to New Mexico, we walked through the old cemetery perched on top of the mountain. It was sad to see how young most of those buried there had been at their death. There were graves that were elaborately decorated while others were simply unmarked mounds of stones whose occupants have long since been forgotten.
The entrance gate to the Mogollon Cemetery
After leaving the cemetery, I had my sister drop me off at the end of town. I wanted to be able to walk down the street to be sure I saw everything that I could. Aside from the sound of some birds, it was eerily quiet; tourist season would be starting in May. As I stopped to take a picture of the old general store, I was startled by a deep voice calling out to me. It was a friendly “How you doin’ today” question from an older gentleman I hadn’t noticed before. He was sitting on the porch of his old house next to the general store. I stopped and we talked for a few minutes about the town. It was very obvious he was proud of his town, and why not? It was a fascinating place in a beautiful setting. After a few minutes we said our good-byes and he told me to be sure to come back sometime. I hope I can.
This one has definitely seen its better days.
Old mining cars
Old Mogollon Theatre
Main Street in Mogollon
Today, however, Mogollon, New Mexico is facing possible destruction. I’ve been watching and reading for days as the Whitewater-Baldy forest fire in New Mexico continues to grow and is inching ever closer to the tiny town of Mogollon. As of this morning, the fire had grown to 112,000 acres and was within 2 miles of Mogollon. The few residents that call the town home have been forced to leave. The remoteness of the area, dry conditions and low humidity only makes fighting the fire harder, and some vacation homes from a nearby community have already been lost.
I think about the nice man I met in town and all the other residents and hope that their homes are spared. The destruction of this town would not only be devastating to the residents, but to all of us. The area is so rich in history that I can’t even imagine it being wiped away. I’m just praying that God will spare Mogollon and the surrounding area from the ravages of this monster fire. My thoughts and prayers are with the residents of Mogollon and everyone else in the path of this fire.
Saturday, May 19, 2012
About once a year I spend a few days cleaning out our large shed that sits a couple hundred feet behind our house. It always amazes me how quickly so much junk can accumulate in this shed that sees so little use. Of course this year was no different. I walked down there a few weeks ago and saw a number of items that I did not recognize, apparently deposited there by unknown family, friends or critters and then forgotten. There was also the usual six to twelve inches of dead leaves that the winter winds always push straight into this open front building partially hiding the contents that have been so carefully placed there for safekeeping, only to be found later wet and ruined. I looked at the mess in dismay and decided that since this was my long weekend off work and they were calling for nice weather, this would be the weekend to tackle the task of cleaning and reorganizing. Not only would it again look better (at least for a while), but I would also get in some serious exercise.
I spent the last two days cleaning out our shed, sweeping out leaves, moving items around, sweeping out leaves, throwing away garbage, and sweeping out leaves (yes, there was a little breeze that was determined to keep pushing the leaves back into the shed). All the while, I was watching carefully all around me as two years ago I had come across a copperhead snake and was hoping to avoid a repeat of that scene. All seemed to be going well.
Around lunch time my son’s girlfriend came by, heard Thor inside the house and decided to bring him down to the shed to us. She was walking around talking to me and watching Thor when she spotted a wooden bird house that Tommy had nailed to a post down there many years ago. Now for whatever reason, I had never seen any birds use that little house, instead preferring the hanging baskets on my front porch. She walked over for a closer look, stopped in her tracks, and then asked me, “What’s wrong with this picture?” I went over for a look and to my amazement saw the head of a black snake poking out the round hole in the front. After seeing us, he popped back down inside the wooden box.
I ran to the house to retrieve my camera and then this snake and I spent the rest of the afternoon playing a game of cat and mouse (or should I say human and snake) with me determined to get some pictures of him/her. I had to wait quietly and patiently nearby for the head to appear in the little hole, but I was finally able to get a shot of it peeking out at me.
As the afternoon wore on, I was able to get a lot more pictures of the snake looking out and then retreating back into the bird house.
It appears that he/she has claimed this little house as its own. This certainly explains the absence of birds in my shed!
While I’m not a huge fan of snakes, I’m just happy that my resident snake is this one and no longer a copperhead. All in all it was actually a fun afternoon. Watching the black snake and trying to get the occasional picture almost made me forget that I was working at getting my shed cleaned out and exercising also. I’m happy to report that my work is done and tomorrow will truly be a day of rest!
I hope everyone is having a great weekend!
Thursday, May 03, 2012
While the trees are all budding out and the flowers are blooming, the birds are also busy building their nests and bringing their little broods into the world. This is true at my house also, and for some reason the birds seem to love one of my begonia baskets in particular, the one that hangs the closest to my front door.
Every fall I put my hanging baskets in my basement and work to keep them alive through the winter. I've kept my begonia baskets alive for the last three years, hanging them back out front each spring. And each spring I can count on the little wrens immediately heading for the one closest to my front door. They work hard building their little nest while I try to stand on my step ladder and carefully add water around the nest to keep the plants alive during the heat without getting water on the nests. The truth is, it's almost harder to keep them alive in the summer when they have nests in them then it is to keep them alive through the winter in the basement.
Anyway, while I was away on vacation the wrens were busy at work on their first nest of the year (there are usually two to three nests in my basket each year). I looked in the basket two days ago and saw three tiny babies, their little eyes not yet even open.
This picture was taken two days ago (5/1). They were just little puff balls and their eyes were still closed. Momma bird flies to the nearby tree and fusses each time I get up on the stepladder to take pics or to water the plant, so I try to make it quick so as not to upset her too much.
This picture was taken this evening. You can now clearly see there are five babies and, although you can't see it in this picture, their eyes are now open.
I'll take another picture in a couple days and share it. I'm trying to find a way to mount my tiny camcorder near the basket and see if I can record Momma taking care of them, but not yet sure how I'm going to do this.
Anyway, update on my baby bird watch in a couple of days.
Hope everyone has a great weekend!
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