Sunday, September 30, 2007

Weekend Snapshot: Number 4

Below is a picture I took of the Paul Green cabin this week.

The Paul Green Cabin, was moved to the North Carolina Botanical Garden in 1991 and restored. In this cabin, playwright Paul Green did much of his research and writing on uses of native herbs. Green's plays often incorporated the botanical knowledge and herbal folk wisdom of North Carolina's native peoples and settlers.

If you click on the photograph for an enlargement, you may notice some art around and on the cabin. I will write about and post pictures I took of the Sculpture in the Garden show soon. I mention it here because I think some of the art which is visible in this photograph is temporary and is part of that show which runs from mid September to mid November each year. All of the art is by NC artists but it runs the gamut from folk art, classical style, modern and everything in between.

If you are interested in joining or visiting other participant sites please go to weekend snapshot . Some like me are early and then there are various time zones represented but Monday is the post day.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Photohunt: Original

The theme for this week's photohunt is original. I snapped the photo below in the NC Botanical Gardens on Thursday. The NCBG has an art show between September and November with original art by North Carolina artists scattered throughout the garden.
I decided to create an original work of art for the theme this week. I'm going to end with my original creation but first an original charcoal drawing my father did of me in 1973 when I was 16. I like the way the light caught my camera in the glass when I photographed the old charcoal of me.
For the original work of art which I created for the photohunt, I decided on mixed media. First I purchased some new art supplies for the occasion.
Then I gathered some dried plant materials from my fall garden and went at it.
There you have it. Art in the garden followed by two generations of artists. Don't you think my father would be proud of me?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Photography and oncology appointment (all well)

I had my routine surgical oncology follow up appointment today and all is well on the cancer front. I continue to be N.E.D. which stands for no evidence of disease. My scans which haven't had any issues to check out actually read, no evidence of metastatic or recurrent disease so I guess that's NEMRD but Ned is easier and that's what I learned to use on the MPIP. My first NEMRD scan was last March and Ned by any other name smells as sweet. I haven't had a recurrence since my lymph node dissection but I've had times where I've sweated out possible issues on scans. I'm so glad to be on an annual scan schedule now so at least I didn't need to deal with that this fall. I did discuss TA-90 with my doctor as a way to find out if it might be safe for me to try immune suppressant drugs to help with the chronic issues. He said that he doesn't want me to go the route of immune suppressants because as unfortunate as the chronic pain is, from the cancer angle I've done great and he doesn't want me to risk that. In terms of TA-90, it's not offered many places and even if I traveled to get that test, he said it only shows the likelihood of sub-clinical metastatic disease about 8 months faster than than a scan and it's not a one shot deal. The point being that testing negative wouldn't mean I don't have cells that under the right circumstances could mount a recurrence so he doesn't want to see me messing with my immune system. I'm paraphrasing as he expressed it better than that. Enough of that, on to the important stuff. Photography.
I learned an important lesson today, never leave the house without your camera. Fortunately, today I had my camera stuffed in my backpack because I was planning on going to the NC Botanical gardens which are across the highway from my docs, if I had time. As it turned out, I not only went to the botanical gardens for a quick walk (I'll post some photos from that walk on another post), I had a blast taking pictures of the sky, clouds, and crane, reflected in the nuclear science hospital windows. I left my appointment and decided since I had taken a half sick leave day, I might as well follow through with my tentative plan to visit the habitat gardens. I looked over at the hospital and had to take some pictures right there. Made me realize I should always have my camera with me because pictures show up in the most unexpected places.I'm not sure if you can tell but the picture above shows the crane, which is being used in a new parking lot construction, reflected in the glass.It occurred to me that I should always take my camera with me to my appointments at UNC. Even if I don't have time for the botanical garden, even a boring hospital can be photogenic at times. Also, another time I might try to take some pictures of the older part of the campus. There are some lovely old stone buildings which for some reason make me think of my parents. They both loved their college and since my surgical oncology clinic is at the college both of my parents attended, it makes me think of them in pleasant ways. For that matter my brother and oldest sister went to school there too. It's almost harder though to combine photographing the older part of the campus with an appointment than to zip across the highway to the botanical gardens. Parking is an issue within the campus and it's too far to walk from the hospital to the part I have in mind.
When I used to perform as a singer songwriter, I went to Chapel Hill fairly frequently for the first year or so I played out. I did the coffeehouse rounds and also played at a smallish bar there. It was OK. I had a few fun gigs in Chapel Hill and a few not so fun gigs. I used to go see shows from time to time at the Carborro Arts Center and I can't remember the last time I did that. For that matter there are so many new places in Raleigh I rarely make it to. The Art Museum has an outdoor ampitheatre and my daughter and I went to a show with some of the performers from the Buena Vista Social Club but that was probably 5 years ago. I think this is turning into an, I need to get out more post. I have a friend who calls periodically to see if I want to go to a play or concert but I think she's given up on me. I know I use my physical issues as an excuse which is dumb.
This is turning into a long, rambling post, even for me. Before I stop, here's a teaser from my North Carolina Botanical Garden walk. Isn't she lovely. It was a nice way to take the medical taste out of my mouth. I've been meaning to go there ever since I realized my melanoma clinic was so close to the botanical garden. I haven't been there in many years. Probably decades since I tend to go to gardens in Raleigh and Duke Gardens is near where I used to work (still work for the same people but instead of commuting to Durham, my computer does the commute for me). I like the botanical gardens in Chapel Hill because it has so many different sections and habitat gardens to represent various growing conditions across the state. They have a large carnivorous plant section too.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

September clouds, benign biopsy, etc.

I'm sure that I've mentioned a time or two hundred that I love September clouds. Late August through September are some of the best months for clouds where I live and I'm glad to have captured some of them with my camera. I was relieved to get the word that my recent skin biopsy was benign. I didn't expect it would be anything else at one level but I did allow myself to get a little worked up near the end of my waiting to hear the word. I know better than to waste energy on the what ifs but that doesn't help me turn off my imagination sometimes. Now I just have to get past my regular oncology check up tomorrow. That's routine and I'm not expecting anything. I've been pleased lately to realize that in terms of blog categories, melanoma and more is getting farther and farther behind secret garden. Secret garden is the label that shows up the most on my blog posts in terms of a single label that I use. I like post labels because it helps me realize that slowly but surely melanoma is being pushed farther into the background in terms of what I think about. I have come to care about a lot of people who are actively fighting melanoma so to that extent it's not in the background but I mean in terms of my own health. If it wasn't for lingering chronic issues which have hung on since my groin lymph node dissection, I could almost think the whole episode in my life which started in February of 2005 is a bad dream. If I didn't have the chronic crap, I'd be tempted to drop all the doctors and take my chances. The problem is I have issues which have to be managed and the way that management takes place is for me to get referred here and there and each new doc has regular follow up appointments with me. It could be a heck of a lot worse, that's for sure. If I take stock and look back over the past year, some things are much better. This is one of the few appointments which I've had with my surgical oncologist where I haven't had some concern or another in terms of a possible recurrence. I also don't have the tension of a PET scan and shouldn't have to deal with another one of them until March. Different melanoma clinics have different protocols for following stage III melanoma patients and mine is one that does annual full body PET/CT scans as long as the patient is asymptomatic. Until now, I've always had more frequent scans, than is the standard where I go, because of some new physical issue or because of an inconclusive scan which required a follow up scans. I am pretty tired of scans so am very pleased that I don't need one during this cycle. The down side is I don't feel any closer to major improvement physically and I think the main thing I have to do now is get over it. I also know if I get too defeatist it will get worse. At the very least I need to walk enough or water walk or whatever it takes to keep the lymphedema in check. At one level, it would be easy for me to pull the covers over my head right around now but that's counter productive.I always love the way the pain specialist and rheumatologist both end my appointment by telling me to keep walking as much as possible because patients who are physically active tend to do better. I know what they are talking about but the air is thick with irony. I've tried repeatedly to be as active as possible for myself because that's what I want to be. Each time I make any progress I try to push and do absolutely the most I can and it always backfires. Here's where lower expectations are needed for sanity. I can't keep expecting to be fixed in some way that isn't going to happen. I am, however, about ready to put the cancer in my rear view mirror and as it recedes farther and farther away, I do believe that is behind me. That in and of its self is huge and I'm grateful.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Hard to fathom

I never had the good fortune to meet SheilaNB in person but I knew what her husband meant many months ago when he posted on the MPIP that she still had that Sheila twinkle in spite of pain that is beyond what I can imagine. Sheila's pain ended last night. Melanoma has claimed another who was brave to the end (names given as they posted on the MPIP):

Sheila NB

Melanoma, Life and other Crazy Stuff (Shannon aka Butterflymom)

Que Sarah, Sarah

Two Lucky (Rusty and Yen archive from melanoma category)

Charlie Wemkea Blue

Living with Melanoma (Heather)

Kim from Iowa

Randy Evans

Monika From Germany


I have listed only a few of the many brave people whose lives were claimed by melanoma. Bright lights all. There are so many others and it's hard for me to fathom the losses brought on by melanoma. Today, I felt the need to repeat this memorial list, and to add SheilaNB's name.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Weekend Snapshot number 3

The guidelines for weekend snapshot said that the snapshots can be ones you've taken during the week so I decided to go on a walk Wednesday, with my camera. I snapped pictures of places while they were pretty empty but would be filled with activity over the weekend.First a picture of me walking. Boy my sneakers are clean. That's worth a picture due to how unusual it is.I walked over a bridge that leads to a tennis court. The court looks pretty uneven to me but people do play there, especially over the weekend.
Then I walked past the pool. They put an inflatable dome over the pool in the winter so it's a year round pool. Normally the dome goes up after labor day and comes off after memorial day. I'm not sure what the delay is. Maybe since it's been a warm September they think it will be too hot with the dome. Once the dome goes up, there is heat but no air conditioning.
My last recreational shot is where they have high school and community baseball games. Looks like there will be a game soon. Maybe I'll catch it. Sometimes when I walk past the baseball diamond there is a game going on and I stop to watch for awhile.I decided to shoot the score board because the parks and recreation workers were doing some work on the baseball diamond. They didn't look like they would appreciate me taking their picture so I turned my camera away from them.

Here's the Weekend Snapshot link to find other participants and/or to join in the fun. The WS post day is Monday. However, people post from different time zones so it's already Monday some places and I tend to post on Sunday since Monday is a busier day for me.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Photo Hunt: Paper

I LOVE PAPER. If it weren't for computers and digital storage, I would probably be climbing out from under mounds of paper because it's very hard for me to get rid of it.
The paper post card above is a matte photo finish style paper. My middle sister sent it to me in the late 1990s. I liked it so much that I still have it.The second paper card opens up and was mailed in a paper envelope. The paper this card was made from is similar to construction paper. The second card had different materials attached to the paper. My oldest sister sent me the card above in the early 1990s. I liked it so much I still have it.
The photograph above is out of the pages of an old art book (older than me). If you click inside the photograph you can read about the work of art which is printed on a piece of paper and that paper is glued on another piece of paper. That's how all the plates in this book were done. The pages of paper with the art are actually two pieces of paper per page. The artwork is called the letter which is what made me select it since I've written many letters on many pages of paper. The photograph above is of the cover of my most favorite diary. The pages inside are similar to old newsprint. The cover is thick paper that is painted blue. The bottom tag isn't paper but the picture in the little frame is. The inscription on the tag says: She had a conference with her angels before breakfast. Decided how to spend her day. Climb trees. Run fast. Sing at the top of her lungs. Do the dishes tomorrow. My dear friend since we were teenagers gave me the diary for Christmas one year and I love it.

My first photohunter post explains how to join the photohunt. You can also go below to find other photohunters. The official day for posting is Saturday.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Garden, rain, through the door

I am so excited about my new seedlings. They keep popping up and the weather has been perfect ever since the time I planted them ten days ago. It was quite hot when I planted the fall/winter garden which was optimal for germination and then as soon as they germinated it cooled down. I have had enough rain water in the various containers I use to collect it, for all the watering thus far.
I only planted three of my four square boxes because I thought I'd save one for when I thin the plants in the other boxes. I usually don't thin lettuce until it's big enough for baby greens in salads. I can get a number of salads from the baby greens I lift out and I keep doing that until I am down to the plants which have adequate space to grow through to maturity. I am mostly thinning the spinach and radishes. I have some volunteer fennel, kale, carrots and cilantro to confuse matters. That's one thing about my haphazard style of gardening, I let plants go to seed and then it's decision time when unexpected volunteers start peeking up where something else is planted. That's OK. I still have my rectangular boxes which also have lids for the winter. I can transplant the volunteers I want to keep into those boxes. I may end up with a bigger winter garden than I planned on but there's nothing wrong with that.
When I was checking on my garden I glanced over to my deck and noticed that my bedroom isn't quite as private as I think of it as being. The french door which looks out on my deck is great because I can watch the birds. This time of year with all the leaves on the vines, it seems very private to me as I can barely see my garden. I do have a curtain I can close for privacy which I do at night but I have thought about how it's not really necessary. Looking down from my garden and seeing my bedroom lamp shining out through the french door made me realize I probably should keep shutting the curtain. Wouldn't want to scare the animals that run around in my garden.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Photo walk various places and one of my songs

I am enjoying Animoto. This is an online program where you upload your photographs and music (or use online ones that don't have copyright issues), and a video is mixed. If you don't like the first mix, you get to mix it again. I found out about this on Fleur de lisa's site and this is my second one in 24 hours, woah baby, get some "real" work done. In point of fact this is easy as pie to do and fast. I thought it might be fun for this one to use a recording of one of my original songs sung by me in 1998 combined with some of my 2006 and 2007 photographs. Click inside video to start and to stop.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Autumn and doctor stuff

There are so many things that I love about autumn, I barely know where to start. Although October and November are when autumn is in full swing, where I live, the beginnings are almost more fun. The first trees whose leaves change colors are especially beautiful to me. I spied the splash of color above in the woods near where I live and it was such a treat. Surrounded by a sea of green, as well as the brown which was a reminder of the summer's drought, the vibrant colors held the promise of what is to come. It was as if those leaves were saying, yes, autumn is on the way.
It has been an unusually hot and dry summer and I was thrilled when we had a nice soaking rain on Friday. Then the temperatures dropped and it has been chilly at night and in the morning. Perfect weather for me. I am so happy to be retiring my shorts and to be digging through my closets for long pants and long sleeved shirts.
There is a little bit of everything. While a few trees are changing colors ahead of schedule, others are hanging on to a few of their summer blossoms. Even the sky has it all. I took the cloudy sky picture and the blue sky picture at the same time. The only difference was which direction I pointed my camera in.The rain was in time to save a few of the fall flowering plants. It also was a hard enough downpour for me to collect a lot of rain water to use when watering my newly planted boxes; which incidentally are burgeoning with spinach, lettuce, and radish seedlings. I went to my dermatologist today and I was relieved that he was amenable to doing a biopsy on a little spot that's near my scar from where my melanoma primary was. I'm not overly nervous but it's hard for me to follow that spot, freckle, whatever you want to call it. The location made me feel like I needed to keep an eye on it. The dermatologists agreed with me that it might as well come off and that the location was the issue although he also agreed that it was unlikely to be anything of concern. It's gone now and the pathology will be back before my regular oncology follow up next week which is also good. The dermatologist said that I should get them to take the stitches out when I go to the oncologist next week and save myself a trip back to his office. I love it when things are easy.

Monday, September 17, 2007

My flower garden video

I am trying out a video program click on video to play and click on video to stop. If you want to try out this nifty program which mixes your photographs into a video, you can go to Animoto.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Weekend Snapshot: Number 2

I went to my neighborhood lake Friday morning to go on a photo walk before the storm moved in and delivered some much needed rain. I had a pleasant walk, snapped some pictures, and then we got some rain which rejuvenated everything.
There were quite a few parents with children who were feeding the ducks and geese at the lake and the competition was fierce. There were food fights and it amused me to hear small children saying, bad ducks, fighting is bad. Their mothers were agreeing with the children that fighting was bad and I guess the lesson about the pros and cons to feeding wild animals could wait for another day.
I was fascinated with how the geese and ducks would sense a new group of children at a different area in the lake and make a beeline for the new source of food.The take off, flight plans, and landings are particularly impressive given how congested the lake is this time of year.Although this post is focused on the canadian geese, there are numerous different types of ducks which are part of this feeding frenzy and I posted photographs of some of them below in the blogger award and thank you post I did earlier today.

To find other participants in weekend snapshot you can go here. There are instructions at the WS site on how to join in the fun. Since the official post day is Monday, please check back at WS for other participants, if you are interested. I'm looking forward to seeing what the others have done this weekend.

Blogging Award and a thank you

I am flattered that Vic Grace at Cariboo Ponderer has passed on the Blogging Star Award to me. After she received the award she wanted to pass it on to all the new friends she made through the Warm the Globe thru Friendship initiative, which she started, but since you are supposed to name 5 people, she did. I'm flattered that she named me as one of those five. I think her Warm the Globe thru Frienship initiative is a wonderful way to find blogs and her original post where she started this initiative is here. The Blogging Star Award originated from Skittles' Place and is for the following:

This award is for bloggers who shine their light throughout the Blogosphere. Some do it with humour, others with creativity, and others with their kind and thoughtful natures. We all know more than a few of them so why not give them some recognition?

It's hard for me to pick individual bloggers to pass the award on to because I'm amazed at what a fun, kind, group of people are out there blogging, but I'll give it a try.JMB at Nobody Important - I found JMB's blog through a fun blog called Addicted to Medblogs. I stumbled on medblogs through a friend I made through a melanoma support group. It is amazing how we find these interesting blogs. JMB's blog, Nobody Important, drew me in through her excellent accounts of where she lives and places she visits. She accompanies her posts with photographs which set the scene. She has a series of temptations, which show various spots in Vancouver which is where she is from, and I'm very tempted to go visit some of the beautiful places she photographs and describes. I found out about Photohunter through JMB's blog and in turn have discovered other blogs through that fun activity.

Since this is getting long, as is usual with me, I'm going to break up the post with pictures because that's what I do in all of my posts. The pictures are from my neighborhood park when I went on a photo walk. The next person I want to name is a small town RN who blogs at A Place I call Home and whose blog I found through one of the medblogger links and later rediscovered through the Photohunters. It was through her blog that I found out about Warm the Globe thru Friendship and discovered Vic Grace and her blog Cariboo Ponderer. I am glad to have rediscovered a small town RN's blog because she has very thoughtful and interesting posts. She also has beautiful photographs.The next person I want to name is Sabine at Days of my Life in Gozo. I found Sabine's blog through Photohunters and was quickly drawn in by her writing style and photographs. Sabine is originally from Berlin and moved to Gozo in the 1980s. I will confess that I didn't know about Gozo until I found Sabine's blog and it has been interesting to discover this island in the Maltese archipelago in the Mediterranean sea. One of the great things to me about blogs is how we can meet people in parts of the world we've never been and thus learn something about these places.The next person I'm going to name is Lori, who is also known as Miss Melanoma and who maintains the Official Site for the Fun Side of Cancer as well as her Miss Melanoma blog where she discusses whatever is on her mind. I have been inspired by her sense of humor, compassion and by the way she has tried to spread the word about melanoma. Lori has one of the first blogs I visited, long before I had a blog. She's in her early 30s and has maintained her sense of fun but is also wise. She returned back to teaching last year after taking a year off for the grueling interferon treatment, and is back to teaching this year, after having another surgery over the summer (thankfully that enlarged node was benign and not a recurrence as feared).
Many of the bloggers with melanoma have blogs on myspace and you have to be on their friend's list to read their blog. One of those myspace bloggers is Jane at Operation Sunshield who has battled back from stage IV melanoma (spread to lungs, liver, femur, multiple nodes) and after doing the rough interleukine-2 treatment is currently N.E.D. - no evidence of disease. In addition to her myspace blog she also has started a non profit organization called Operation Sunshield and anyone can visit the OSS site and read her story. I am naming Jane for this award and if you can't get on her myspace blog, you can still read her story on the main OSS site. Although I have named the 5 people I am passing on the award to there are so many others. I have a partial list of people with melanoma who blog and then there are all those people I've gotten to know through the MPIP who don't blog, but participate on that bulletin board and encourage each other. In terms of my blogging community, I think about so many who leave thoughtful comments but don't have blogs themselves which I can point you to. Their names come up in the comment section and to me the comments are often so much more insightful than my original post.I want to extend a big thank you to everyone I have gotten to know through this amazingly supportive internet community. I never would have believed such a community existed if I hadn't stumbled on the MPIP and then discovered this wide world of interesting and kind bloggers. The scary side of the internet receives a lot of publicity, as well it should. It's important to protect children and as adults we also have to use a certain amount of caution. That said, I think the positive side of the internet could use a little more publicity. There are all these communities springing up of people that encourage, support, entertain, amuse, enlighten, and inform each other. These are people that in the ordinary course of events you would never meet. Through the blogs and internet support groups, there are an amazing amount of positive connections that can be made. I want to extend a big thank you to all of my friends who I've met through the internet.