Archive | September 2013

Weekly Photo Challenge: From Lines to Patterns — Prelude to Toplessness

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As I was assembling photos for this week’s photo challenge, I stumbled across a file filled with photos from September 2010.  It was three years ago this month.

It’s safe to say that the dusty manila icon on my computer screen stopped me in my tracks.

It was filled with good memories from our trip to Florida with jme and my mom.  It was an important trip for many reasons.

I learned that I had cancer that April and had been having a horrible time with chemo ever since.  So when I finally had a break from the Adriamycin, Cytoxan, Taxol and Herceptin, we found some supercheap last minute plane tickets and I threw our clothes in a suitcase.  We were off with just a day or two’s notice.  This was my attempt at finding the spontaneity I’d been told The Big C endows you with.

I remember being supersick but grateful to be there.

Especially because of what was looming over my head.  Other than the cancer thing, of course.  What loomed, large as life, was the fact that I would be returning home the day before the surgery I had been anticipating since April.  It was time for my bilateral mastectomy and complete axillary node dissection.  My tumors had finally shrunk enough to make my formerly “inoperable” cancer “operable.”

I’m explaining all of this because I looked at the shots of superbald me smiling next to my family in Treasure Island, Florida, and I was filled with the same sense of dread that plagued me on that trip each time I stopped to consider my reality.

And then I skipped ahead one image too far and saw myself in the hospital bed.  Days after my surgery.  Showing my bruised body and bandages and blood-filled drains to the camera with a vacant look in my blue eyes.

For all the time I’ve spent in hospitals, there aren’t that many photos of me within their walls.  But I recall thinking that it would be important for me to have some photos from my weeklong post-surgical stay — in case I ever wanted to document my experience in some way.  There are only a handful of photos, but there are enough to make me swallow hard.  Pictures of me with bandages, and some without, as I look at my incisions for the first time.

Fast forward three years and here we are.  I have this blog, this platform, and I think I am ready to share.

But not just yet…

I still need a day or so to wrap my head around what I am about to show you before I post the images.  And, who knows, maybe I won’t be able to post all of them?  Maybe it will be too much for typically modest me?  I truly hope not, because I think this is an important part of my story.  An important reality that needs to be shared to blow a hole in all that pink frilly nonsense that makes breast cancer seem less serious, less deadly, less disfiguring.

So please bear with me as I summon the courage to post this pivotal piece of my story.

In the meantime I will lighten the mood with this week’s challenge photos.  Titled “From Lines to Patterns,” this challenge tasks us with interpreting lines and patterns through the camera lens:

“We see lines and patterns in the world around us, in nature and things man-made. Sometimes we don’t realize they’re there: on the street, across the walls, up in the sky, and along the ground on which we walk.  So…grab your camera, get outside, and snap a great shot of shapes or lines that you stumble upon, or a cool texture or pattern that catches your eye.”

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My little W

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“Under Construction” — Spring 2007 — I’m wearing the same clothes I was wearing in this photo right now! (But the pants are tighter!)

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The beginning of Autumn at the Christmas tree farm

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M climbing the giant web

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Stripes and patterns: Max, our Leopard gecko, was a gift for my 20th birthday. In her younger years she was a vibrantly-colored patterned beauty (for a reptile, anyway!). This was her last picture — she died of old (15 years!) age later than night.

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My Mam’s “Fancy Jell-O”

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NYC

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Thank you for visiting, for looking at this hodgepodge of photos, and for standing by me as I share my story.  I am a grateful girl.

See you soon…

P.S. To participate in The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge, just click here or here.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside — A Word From the Dogs

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Let’s Make a Break for It!

I failed miserably with my plan to write a complete non-Weekly Photo Challenge post this week.  And now it’s Thursday at 12:47 a.m.

ImageI’d love to blame a brief stint in the hospital, too many doctor’s appointments, a lengthy to-do list, nightly struggles with 4th grade homework x 2, tear-filled boys who do not want to go to bed, crippling fatigue, high-maintenance canines, a husband who was logged enough hours to equal days worth of playing time since our local video store opened on Tuesday (10 a.m.) with the newly-released Grand Theft Auto Five (if you’re not sure what that is, please see photo to the left), and blah, blah, blah… but I won’t bother.  Instead, I will just present you with another photo challenge and I’ll hope you keep returning while I’m on my downswing!

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Well, much to my chagrin, it seems I’m having trouble keeping my eyes open for long enough to post this one, so I’m going to turn it over to the dogs — literally!

For this week’s challenge, titled “Inside,” Kevin and Ginger (or Big and Little as I often call them) are sharing the view from inside our kitchen out to our empty, unfenced backyard.  To me it looks like an empty not-quite-green palette that I long to paint.  To the dogs (my favorite Houdinis) it looks like the open road to FREEDOM!

Kevin & Ginger:  “Yep, all we need to do is pull the front door handle or slide the back screen open — and we DO know how to do this! — and we are free!  There’s no fence to stop us!  It drives our Mom crazy because she has to keep the doors closed ALL the time (even in the summer) and hold onto our collars whenever anyone goes in or out of the house — and that’s A LOT because the twins are always going in and out!  But she knows we’ll take any chance we can get to run away.  And then she has to run through the neighborhood for hours to catch us.  It scares the hell out of her!  It’s SO much fun!!”

Me:  “Yes, it’s a real hoot!”

Kevin & Ginger:  “So these photos are of us trapped INSIDE.  I remember when Mom took these.  She unlocked the glass door for a few minutes while the boys carried the compost out to the compost bin.  She was watching us like a hawk ’cause she knew what we were thinking.  We were working hard to figure out how to unlock the door again.  See the smoke coming out of our ears?”

Kevin:  “Ooh, look, you can see where I scratched big holes in the screen.  See the tape she put on them?  I have no trouble pulling that right off.  Silly Mom!”

Ginger:  “Anyway, I just uploaded the photo — it’s at the top of the post.  I’m the little one.  Kevin’s the big one.  Thanks for reading Mom’s blog!”

Kevin:  “Ooh, I just found a picture of our butts.  I’m going to put that one in for fun.  Don’t tell my Mom.”

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Our Cheeky Bums!

Weekly Photo Challenge: An Unusual POV

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Hello Dear Readers,

Thank you for the comments and notes you’ve left and emailed in the weeks since my last post.  The boys and I are doing okay.  I have much to tell you and hope I will soon have the opportunity to do this…

While longer and more meaty posts are difficult at the moment, I thought I could at least visit you with a Weekly Photo Challenge post.  The latest challenge, An Unusual Point of View, brought to mind a special opportunity the boys and I had to visit a camp for children who have been touched by cancer.

Camp Good Days and Special Times is an amazing organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for children, adults and families whose lives have been touched by cancer and other life challenges through summer camping experiences and year-round events and activities.  Founded over three decades ago by a father whose 8-year-old daughter, Teddi Mervis, was suffering from a malignant brain tumor, the camp was meant to give children who are dealing with cancer — either their own or a parent’s or sibling’s — with a chance to just be kids and forget about this life-threatening disease.

We were fortunate enough to go through a special weekly support program during one phase of my treatment, and then to attend a retreat weekend at the Camp two years ago.

The boys were treated to crafts, an egg hunt, tasty meals, fishing, and other special experiences with me and the four other families who attended.  Like my boys, the other children each had a parent with cancer.  I was one of three moms and a dad with cancer.  My boys were the youngest of the kids, but all of the children seemed grateful to have a weekend with children and families who understood.

It was a wonderful weekend and one I will always be grateful for.  So when I was invited to serve as the speaker for a fancy fundraising event held that summer, I happily accepted and sang the organization’s praises.

I am filled with warm memories as I think back to each of these opportunities and to the amazing people who volunteer their time and talent to make Camp Good Days and Special Times the organization it is.

These photos, taken during the retreat, are of a memory garden in a wooded meditation space at the Camp.  It is a peaceful little place where campers are taken to reflect and to remember those who have been affected by cancer, both living and dead.  We were asked to write our names on a stone and then place it in the garden.  You will see close-ups of a turtle painted on a stone, my stone and one of the boys’ stones, and wider shots of the memory garden.

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Thank you for continuing to hang in there with me.  I hope to return with more than a photo challenge post soon.

Until then… xo