Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Scanxiety and other ramblings

I only have to wait two more days until my annual full body PET/CT scan which is part of my routine follow up for stage III melanoma. The photograph above is from the CD images of a prior scan. That's as close to naked pictures as I'm likely to come on my blog unless I take photographs in a museum. Bright and early Friday morning I will be scanned from head to toe and after that I hope that I will be able to officially proclaim myself 3 years clear of cancer. I will probably leave the hospital with the CDs from the scan because I need them for my March appointment at another hospital. I started getting scans last year at a cancer center close to home which is much better than driving an hour in rush hour traffic to the cancer center where my melanoma specialist (surgical oncologist) is. After I started being followed by a medical oncologist in my home town, I was given the option of getting the scans done here.
I probably won't hear the results until next week and at that point I'll pick up the radiologist report to take with me to my appointment in early March. Let me just say that if they do give me the CDs when I leave on Friday, I will try not to look at them on my computer. They are less than meaningless to me. I see all sorts of thing because we have all sorts of organs. That's a good thing. I wouldn't know the difference between a prayer cap and a brain. I think the top of my head, in the image I began this post with, looks like the prayer caps children used to wear to chapel at the Episcopal elementary school I attended as a child. That prayer cap is my brain, I think.
There is much debate amongst melanoma clinics as to the best follow up and they all do it a little differently. Some centers don't have any asymptomatic scans thinking that the tension from scans and false positives, out weight the benefits of catching a recurrence before it becomes symptomatic. My main melanoma doctor has an annual scan as part of his protocol, although this is the first time I've gone a year before getting a scan. The issues I've had since my lymph node dissection make it hard for me to know if I'm symptomatic. I have a new name for my issues. I was looking at my last sheet from my pain doc and noticed the diagnosis was unspecified hereditary and idiopathic peripheral neuropathy and unspecified myalgia and myositis. Odd that hereditary would be used for something that started after my LND and for something that no one in my family has. I'm sure there is something I'm missing. It could be as simple as coding for insurance companies. Since some people have the problems I have after the surgery I had, I'm not sure why they can't just say the issues are following surgery. I've read that some doctors think the percentage of patients who have ongoing side effects following the groin LND are higher than previously reported. I wonder how many others, like me, with ongoing side effects aren't included in the stats for future reports. I signed the forms to be included in a data base of patients my surgical ONC is following but I have no way of knowing if my issues get chalked up to chance or to the surgery. My surgical ONC acknowledged that a percentage of patients do end up with chronic pain after that surgery. However, during appointments with NP in his group, she has been quick to say my problems aren't related to the surgery. Never have figured out what's up with that.Back to the scanning issue, I went through a cycle of three month repeats on scans because I had an imaged mass which eventually went away. The assumption is that mass was connected with my dissection and was a benign thingie, for want of a better word. The scan I had a year ago was the first one which was clear and therefore, I didn't need a repeat for a year. Because this is the longest I've gone without a scan, that may account for my increasing nervousness. The problem for me is that I have had to stop listening to my body. While a cancer patient should be alert to changes and let their doctor know of new symptoms, I have had too many symptoms and they change. I have to tune out pain and I have to have pain management. Much of the past year, I have been telling myself to get on with my life and ignore the issues I have to learn to live with. When something new happens I try to ignore it. I tell myself, you had a clear scan in March of 2007 and everything is fine. I did ask to go ahead and get my 2008 scan sooner rather than later which is why it's scheduled for February 1. Hopefully this scan will be clear and I can start trying to put this all behind me.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Weekend Snapshot: Number 21

I took the first photograph below yesterday afternoon (Saturday). I love clouds against a blue sky. Especially clouds that look like lamb's wool. I'd like to jump onto that sky and live to talk about it but I know about gravity so I won't try it.
The photograph below is of one of my favorite treats, honeybells. For those of you who have never heard of honeybells, they are a hybrid between an orange and a grapefruit and are only available for a couple of weeks each year. They are delicious. I get a box of them in late January, or early February, depending on when they are available. One of my sisters gives them to me as a gift each year. I enjoy them as part of my weekend brunch, as well as every other day until I eat them all. The honeybell slices were only a portion of my brunch last weekend, but I took a photograph before I added the rest of the food onto the center of the plate. I think they look pretty on my mother's wedding china.I love bridges of all different sizes and type. There are a number of different bridges on the paths I walk on near my house. I took the shot above, a week ago Friday.

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Friday, January 25, 2008

Photohunt: Old Fashioned

The photohunt theme this week is old fashioned. I have an old photograph album from my father's side of the family. The album is old fashioned, the people in the album look old fashioned by contemporary standards, and some of them were probably old fashioned even by their century's standards. I vaguely recall my father telling me who some of the people in the album were but unfortunately I don't remember much. He didn't know who everyone in the album was but he pointed out his grandmother and a few others to me. He got this album after his last Aunt on his mother's side of the family died and I kept it after my father died. If I were to venture a guess, I'm reasonably sure the old fashioned lady below was my father's grandmother. I can't even guess about who the children below were but they are certainly old fashioned looking.
The next two are not only old fashioned looking but they are also a bit frightening looking. I wouldn't want to be on their bad side.
I like the clasp on this old fashioned photograph album. It makes it look like a diary.I like the old fashioned lettering on the first page after you open the album.

One last photograph. This old fashioned man is rather dapper looking. Dapper is a rather old fashioned word, now that I think of it.
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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Light at the end of the tunnel - Part Two

This is a continuation of the post directly below this one. I went back to the tunnel yesterday and I played around with shots in the tunnel. I got a better landscape shot facing in the opposite direction of the tunnel from the ones in part one. However, I had to be near the end to get close to the exposure I wanted. I liked the shots of the inside of the tunnel better facing the other direction. I'm still not there but what I tried was taking the shot above and putting it inside of the first shot in part one.
Then I played around with corel photo paint. I realize the light showing on the floor of the tunnel wouldn't be cast from the exposure I have of the landscape at the end. I still kind of like the effect and perhaps in time I can get the right blend and make it work. This has been a fun diversion for me.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Light at the end of the tunnel

I played around with shooting the light at the end of the tunnel, last week. I had in mind that I'd get shots along the lines of a past tunnel shot. The photograph below is one I used on my blog back in 2006 and the idea I had was that I'd take an even better one now that I'm more familiar with the camera.Photographers won't have trouble understanding how the recent shots I took can be so different from the one directly above, but I'm still having trouble understanding it. All of the shots in this post except for that one were taken at the same time. Same tunnel, but the 2006 one had such dramatically different natural light that it could be a completely different pace from the recent ones. I tried all different kinds of settings both while I was shooting and after I got the digital photographs on my computer.
I did finally manage to get one which showed at least a suggestion of the trees at the end of the tunnel.
I also got one which is more representative of what the inside of the tunnel actually looks like. If I was an artist, I have an image of how I would paint the light at the end of the tunnel. I don't even think being a better photographer would be enough. Knowing the time of year and lighting conditions to capture a certain image would help but I'm not sure the image I have in mind would ever be there. My problem is I tend to see what isn't there as well as what is. The images I see are often created as much in my head as they are in nature. If I was a poet I might try to write about it. I could play around with graphics programs but doubtful I would ever achieve the results I want.
I wish I was a visual artist. I think oils would be a good medium for what I have in mind. Ah well, at least I have the images in my head. Those are pleasant to think about. There's also a lot in the natural world that I enjoy. I'm rather fortunate in spite of not being a visual artist or poet. I'm certainly past the point where I spend too much time on the what ifs. I will try to keep photographing the tunnel and see what I come up with at various times. I might get closer to what I have in mind.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Weekend Snapshot: Number 20

Last night when the snow finally started sticking to the ground, I thought I'd try some night shots.
They didn't turn out particularly well but I'm going to post a couple anyway.
We didn't even get a good ground cover. By the time it was cold enough to stick it slowed down.
This morning I got a shot of two male cardinals. You may have to click inside the photo above to see them very well. I think they look like big red flowers from a distance, rather than birds.The shot above amuses me because the cherub looks like it is wearing a white hat and bib.
I think my messy back garden looks a wee bit prettier with a light white blanket of snow.

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Friday, January 18, 2008

Photohunt: Important

When I saw the photohunt theme this week was important the first thing that popped into my mind was important papers. I almost immediately realized that papers are not important at all except in a very limited sense. However, I decided for my first photograph to take a picture of very old deeds (some close to 100 years old) that were part of the important papers, at one time, in my father's family.
My next thought about what was truly important led me to the basics of what it takes to support life. The importance of water has been brought home to me by the drought we had this summer where I live. Hopefully we'll get enough water this winter to avoid a drought next summer. Water is very important to life.Warning - I'm going to jump up on my soap box here. Perhaps the most important concept that I can think of is for current generations to leave the planet to future generations of people, and to other species, in a form that will continue to support life. In spite of important papers transferring ownership of land from one person to the next, no deed can guarantee that land will remain hospitable to human life. The photograph above was taken by me of my daughter almost 20 years ago. My child who is now an adult is important to me. My family and friends are important to me. I selected the photograph above to represent the idea of the future. I hope that future generations of children will continue to have beaches to walk on, clean water and nutritional food to eat, and most of all a healthy planet that can support life for as long as possible. I accept that choices made by current generations, both collectively and individually, can have an important impact on the present and on the future. Well, I think my soap box is breaking under my weight so I'll stop there.

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Photo ops to take the edge off

I decided some time back to try to turn my endless medical related appointments into photo ops as much as possible. Today I thought I might get some snow shots when I went to my oral surgeon consultation at the Duke out patient clinic. Instead it had changed to rain which was just as well since it started as sleet and then freezing rain. I'd love a pretty snow but I can do without the ice. It ended up being a rainy, foggy day. I took a picture of Baker House where the oral surgeon's office was. Not a great shot but a reasonably attractive building.
I'm going to loose a back tooth which makes me feel ancient but I was thrilled that the lesion is gone so no biopsy needed. The biopsy part of the referral was what I was most concerned about. I assumed that the issues in my mouth would be benign but there is always that little voice in the back of my head that I have to keep telling to shut up. Fortunately I didn't even have to go through waiting around to get back biopsy results since the tongue lesion was gone. I guess that's the advantage to having it take so long to get the consultation. One issue was resolved before I ever saw the doctor. The other issue will just involve getting a tooth yanked out next month. The doc said it should be easy because the abscess has made it loose.I am continuing to take the same shots of different birds as they sip water on my deck. I wish that I could get better at bird photography. The problem is if I don't take them fast, they sense me at the windows and disperse. These shots were of the birds getting water off the ice bath a few days ago. In spite of it being a solid block of ice, they lined up and kept at it.
I've learned to wait until they finish before I get the ice out and put in liquid water. When I interrupt the birds to give them fresh water in liquid form, I've noticed they don't come back for a while. You'd think they'd realize what I'm doing after a while, and return for water that's easy to sip. It doesn't work like that. They'll take their turn at the ice and sometimes there will be a half dozen different kind of birds on the deck. However, if I bother them to get the ice out, they scatter and don't return until later. I guess they don't mind ice for their morning drink. Still, I try to make sure to give them fresh water as soon as I can do so without interrupting them.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Last year in pictures, today's garden, scan

I thought it might be fun to pick out a photograph from each month last year and make a 2007 photo collage. If anyone wants to see them better you can click on the collage for an enlargement. I didn't spend very much time on it and I didn't try to pick a representative shot, I just quickly flipped through the photographs and picked one. The top row, left to right, is January 2007 through April 2007; middle row is May 2007 through August 2007, bottom row is September 2007 through December 2007. The bottom right photo in my 2007 collage showed the bird bath water dumped out because it was a solid block of ice. The good part is that while we had some cold nights in December, the salad boxes were doing fine because I covered them during the heat of the day. Looking at my 2007 collage this morning made me think about checking the weather. It was supposed to be above freezing so I didn't cover my boxes but instead it was 10 degrees below freezing this morning. When I checked my boxes today, I did have some losses but some of the lettuce was hanging in there. I wondered who dug up the radish above. I have an easter egg blend of radishes, so called because the colors vary from red, to pink, to purple, to white.
A few minutes ago I took some photographs of a likely candidate for digging in my boxes. The neighborhood cat above is one I've bonded with and mentioned in my blog before. He's on my un-planted boxes which are reserved for peas which don't get planted until later but I suspect he may be who was digging up the radishes. I was kind of glad to see him with his collar and lean body because earlier this month I spotted a cat that has similar coloring on my deck. However, the fat cat didn't have a collar and was about double the size of the lean one. I thought something was seriously wrong for a cat to gain that much weight so good to confirm they are two different cats.
The fat cat stared at me while I photographed him, daring me to open the door. He had a "make my day look" on his face. Or that's what he looks like to me in the photograph above. I mentioned in a post last week that I was having trouble pushing back some thoughts about my health and was pleased that I was able to schedule my annual scan early. I will get a PET/CT scan done in two weeks and hopefully lay my recurrence fears to rest. February 3 will mark 3 years from when my melanoma primary was removed and February 1 is when I'll get the scan. March will be 3 years from when I had the groin lymph node dissection following the sentinel node biopsy which found the node which was positive for melanoma. I'm glad I don't have to wait until March for the scan. I think a clean scan will go along ways towards helping me move onward and forward.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Weekend Snapshot: Number 19

Saturday, when Bill and I walked around my neighborhood's lake, I thought there must be a Gull Festival going on.It's not unusual to see a few gulls at the lake but usually the Canadian Geese and a variety of ducks are in the majority.
I didn't see any Canadian Geese Saturday and far fewer ducks than normal. I felt like I was at the beach when I looked out and saw so many seagulls.
The time of year is always a factor in terms of the wildlife at the lake. However, the most noticeable difference is usually how many different types of ducks I spot. Sometimes there are a few large turtles in the lake although I've never had a camera handy when I spot them. It's not unusual to see a blue heron although that may be seasonal as I didn't see any on this walk. Saturday it was all about the gulls.
The gulls were not the least bit shy. Several of them let me take their photographs as they perched on the bridge railing. I was standing quite close for many of the shots.
I should start taking notes about what kinds of birds I see at the lake and what time of year it is. I used to keep a journal about the birds that hang out in my garden and when they are up before the crack of dawn and when they seem to start sleeping in. Although I notice the bird population at the lake, I've never taken notes like I have done with the ones in my back yard.
Saturday, January 13, 2008 was the day of the Gull Convention. I wonder what bird group will be partying there next.

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