Wow!! Washington, DC … Here I Come!

Lately, my life has taken some strange twists and turns. And, in the process, I have gained memories that will last a lifetime.

I am certain I should not say that I am happy I have Stage IV lung cancer. And, the reality is, that I would give up all of the experiences I am about to tell you about NOT to have lung cancer. But, as long as I do … what a ride it has been!!!!

The Beginning

About a year ago, I decided to participate in the Breathe Deep DFW 2014 walk in Arlington, TX. It was an event sponsored by LUNGevity … I had never heard of LUNGevity and I had never before participated in an event similar to this one. But, I made myself go, despite the fact that I didn’t know a soul who was going to be there and had no one to go with me.

 

 

 

I got there early. I walked around and took some pictures … and generally felt a little ill at ease. I am not a person that goes to events like this all by myself. Why I did on this November morning, I will never know. God was directing me. That’s the only possible explanation.

While I was at the event, I met some awesome people. One was Katie Brown, who was responsible for the entire event. She is also a VP with LUNGevity. It was through Katie that I learned about a Regional HOPE Summit that would soon be held in Irving and a National HOPE Summit that would be held in Washington, DC.

The summits bring together lung cancer survivors. They have food, speakers, food, and fun. As the names state – the summits are all about HOPE. Because, as deadly as lung cancer is, there are quite a few survivors out there. Some of us are making it! HOPE!!!

The Irving summit was free. Once again, I stepped outside of my comfort zone and attended. Robert went with me … at least for a little while. I had an enjoyable time, meeting other lung cancer survivors, hearing what the guest speakers had to say, eating some good food…!

I learned more about the National Summit that is held every year in Washington, DC. The Foundation pays for first time attendees to go – airfare and hotel room!! Last year, there was a small $50 fee to attend. I wanted to go!!!

I had so much fun at the National Summit. I met so many other survivors there. Some had been recently diagnosed; some have been surviving for many years. Some were young, some older. Some smokers, some not. A diverse group of people brought together by disease. So, we shared one thing in common – the burning desire to fight – and to fight HARD – to beat this formidable foe.

There was a lot of laughter and plenty of good times at both Summits. There were super people everywhere. And great food. And informative speakers. Very informative speakers. We have lung cancer, but we also have lots of reasons to have hope. That’s the message … and that’s the truth.

So. The journey begins! A walk in Arlington, TX. A HOPE Summit in Irving, Texas. An annual HOPE Summit in Washington, DC … a connection to LUNGevity.

Immunotherapy

As anyone who reads my blog knows, I have been getting immunotherapy for over two years. I asked the nurse yesterday how many treatments I have received. Yesterday was number 56. Which might actually only be number 55 in reality. I had to miss one treatment because I broke my arm and had to have surgery just weeks after beginning the clinical trial. Either way – a lot! I am nearly certain I am the only person in the trial in the Dallas area and that that has been the case for at least a year. Maybe longer.

You will never meet a bigger proponent for immunotherapy or clinical trials. I have gained my life back because I took that step and joined a clinical trial. I am so lucky because for some reason, I am that person that the immunotherapy really, REALLY works well for.

Well, the fact that I am in a clinical trial and doing well on immunotherapy has opened some big doors for me. BIG doors! Some of them, scary doors!

Katie Brown … of LUNGevity fame … asked on our LUNGevity Facebook group several months ago if anyone was receiving immunotherapy. I quickly raised my hand – again, I love immunotherapy!!

American Association for Cancer Research

The next thing I know, I got an email from the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR). They wanted my story. I said, “sure.” I thought they wanted me to sit down and write a blurb about my experiences with immunotherapy. I expected to spend a half day or so writing and perfecting. I thought I would send it away and that would be that.

Except, I was thinking wrong.

The AACR didn’t want me to write my story. They wanted me to TELL my story. To a video camera and still camera. To people. Uh. No. I don’t DO public speaking. I just don’t.

I grew far less interested. I am camera-shy and I do not … do not … do public speaking. Even when that public speaking is in my living room to only a few people.

So, I started just not answering emails from AACR. Because camera crews (still and video) were not my cup of tea. And not at my house … I HATE to clean house…

Well, responses to emails or not, the AACR was moving forward with plans to come to my house to video me telling my story. I got an email on a Monday that the film crew would arrive at my house the following Wednesday at 10 AM.

There really was no backing down at this point.

I should say that the AACR is an AWESOME organization. It has been around since 1907. It is the oldest foundation in American dedicated to cancer research. Some of the best minds in the US are involved with it. This is no rinky-dink organization I am dealing with!

Film Crew Arrives

So, on that Wednesday, I got up early to do a little cleaning. I finished early, so I fixed Robert and me some breakfast. I was washing dishes when the phone rang and I was informed the film crew was there. Over an hour before I expected them. I hadn’t even had my shower yet!

Thank goodness I am not a worrier! Much of a worrier, anyway. I just told them I would be out as soon as possible – I had to get a shower!

It was a ton of fun to do the photo shoot and video. I have never … and will probably never again … had such an experience.  I had a blast.

The interview, photos, and filming took about 5 hours. The editors managed to get a single page story and a 4:27 minute video! Amazing work because they managed to capture me well, especially in the video.

Here are the results:

http://cancerprogressreport.org/2015/Pages/fernandez.aspx?Page=0 (written story)


My story joins the stories of 49 other cancer survivors. Every year, for the past five years, the AACR has featured 10 survivors in their annual Cancer Progress Reports. I am featured in the 2015 report. It is an awesome report. If you are interested in facts about cancer, you’ll be interested in seeing the entire report: http://www.cancerprogressreport-digital.org/cancerprogressreport/2015?pg=1#pg1

Washington, DC – Capitol Hill

I was told I would get a subscription to a magazine produced by AACR for participating in the video project. So, imagine my surprise when I got an email inviting me to attend the release of the report on Capitol Hill as a guest of the AACR.

I quickly responded that I would love to come to DC to attend the release!
In a day or two, I got another email. I was asked if I would make myself available to the press … and … would I be interested in being a presenter during the release of the report on Capitol Hill?
Hello???? Remember??? This is Donna. She is NOT a public speaker. Not even close. And you want her to speak for FIVE MINUTES to top government officials on CAPITOL HILL???

Speak in WASHINGTON, DC??? ME??????????????

Well, I said I would be happy to make myself available to the press, but I was the wrong person to do the speech. I cannot emphasize enough – I am NOT a public speaker. If I was, I would have a lot more money than I do right now because I was given many opportunities to give workshops about grant writing. Because of my extreme fear of public speaking, those workshops didn’t go well … and I quit even trying. And now, you’re asking me to speak on CAPITOL HILL????

I was encouraged again to speak. I can’t understand why. And, I really can’t believe I agreed to do so. But I did. And, I was really glad that I did.

 

I was only given five minutes to speak. That sounded like a LOT of time when I was first told I had that long. But, trust me, getting a speech down to just five minutes is a challenge! Especially for someone as verbose as I am! But, I did it … at least within a few seconds.
I prayed. Lots of people prayed. I practiced. Thank God for good friends who were willing to help me – read the speech, comment on it, listen to it … When I went to Capitol Hill, I was prepared. And God did the rest – He kept me calm and allowed me to speak with little fear.

 

 

See the dog? That’s Tank. He belongs to my awesome agility instructor, Ed Scharringhausen. Despite being very busy getting ready for an inaugural agility trial on Luke’s Field, Ed took the time to help me edit my speech … and to listen to me read it. When I was reading it to Ed, my friend Linda, and their dogs, Tank sensed my fear. He doesn’t really know me, but he knew I was really nervous. So, he got up and came across the room to sit right in front of me. He sat tall and straight for the entire speech. I petted him and relaxed some.

I mentioned that I wished he could go with me to Washington. Well, he obviously couldn’t go, so I took the next best thing. His picture. And he sat right there on the table beside my speech the entire time.

Looking out into the room on Capitol Hill before my speech

 

 

The speech went so much better than I could have ever, ever anticipated. All of the prayers worked! I had many people seek me out later. They told me that my speech made them cry, that they connected with me, that they didn’t know WHY I said I wasn’t a public speaker (if they only knew…)…

The fact is, my speech made me cry too. I just barely was able to tell the audience about Kiersten Dickson, my young friend who died at only 20 from lung cancer. It is a good thing I saved her story for the end. I hope at least one heart was touched enough by what I had to say to fight for more funding for medical research, especially for research benefiting those of us with lung cancer.

 

Washington, DC – The White House!!!

It seemed like every time I opened my email, I was surprised by something else exciting! I just grinned from ear to ear when I opened the email that said the AACR and the survivors attending the release of the 2015 Cancer Progress Report were invited to a meeting at the White House!! You have just got to be kidding me!

We rushed … and I do mean rushed … from Capitol Hill to the White House. It isn’t good to be late to a meeting at the White House. But we were.

There were long lines waiting to get through security to get into the building. The building that wasn’t white, I might add. I was very confused.

 

 

I thought maybe we had to pass through this building to get into the White House?? I kept saying, “But this building is not White!!” Well … our meeting with Obama’s Domestic Policy staff was technically NOT in the White House, I was disappointed to learn. We actually met in this gorgeous building – the Executive Offices, which are right next door to, but are not, the White House!

As I said, the lines were long. Full of people – important and self-important. They were not all that happy when our group was whisked in front of them! At least one of those standing in the heat waiting his turn to go through security was a governor of some state. I forget which one. I am sure he couldn’t understand why we got preferential treatment. I’m not quite sure why either, but we did!

Once we were through the three levels of security, we were finally on our way to our meeting.

The ceiling in the vestibule. All different. All gorgeous!

 

Long, shiny hallways. Notice the gold handrails on the stairs.  The young lady was one of those we met on the President’s Domestic Policy Staff.

The building was very quiet. Very uninhabited. I wasn’t sure how many pictures I could get by with taking so I didn’t take a lot. I didn’t want my camera confiscated! (As it turns out, I think it would have been fine to take as many as I wished. But, to say I was a little intimidated is an understatement!)

Our meeting was a good one. It was relatively small. AACR staff, Obama’s staffers, and cancer survivors – all beneficiaries of the latest and greatest cancer research.

 

Green “Appointment” tags for US citizens; pink for non-citizens. If your tag wasn’t green, you had to be escorted everywhere. Even with our green tags, we were escorted everywhere! I wore a pretty blue jacket, but it was warm in the Executive Offices! Conserving energy, I suppose.
The four women in the middle of the picture are members of Obama’s Domestic Policy Staff. They are young … smart and powerful. And as nice as could be.

 

AACR leaders.

Our meeting probably lasted 45 minutes or an hour. I honestly failed to look at my watch so couldn’t say for sure. I felt like the young women were willing to take as much time as needed for the meeting to be a success. I didn’t ask anyone from the AACR staff, but my guess is that they did feel it was a very successful meeting. Had I been one of them, I would have been very pleased. Obama’s staff was very interested in working with groups like the AACR to get medical research moving. That is good news for everyone, I think.

When we left, we were taken out a side door so that we could stand next to the White House. We were mostly all very excited by that!

The hallways go on and on … and they are beautiful. This is a very old building, but it is maintained perfectly.

 

 

The Presidential flag! Maybe I should have tried to peek into the office beside it!!

 

Here we are! Right beside the White House! (This picture was taken as we stepped out of the Executive Offices building)
Standing in the parking lot, we saw people coming and going to meetings at the actual White House! We had to keep moving out of the way because the visitors were dropped off at the canopied door.
I never saw soooooo many black Surburbans!! They were everywhere!!! Some other makes and models were represented, too, but they were all black!

 

 

Do you see it? The Presidential Seal? This is as close as I got to actually stepping into the White House!
The armored car.

I just cannot tell you how special this day was!! I would have never, ever, in my wildest dreams expected to speak on Capitol Hill, especially given my extreme fear of public speaking, or to go to the Executive Offices of the President.

Reception

There was still a reception and an awesome dinner. Both were just unbelievable. The reception was held in the Kennedy Caucus Room in one of the Senate buildings. The Senate buildings are much more beautiful than those for the House. There is lots of marble, gorgeous ceilings, the feeling of power. In the House buildings, I just felt like I was in old, but fairly well-maintained buildings. They were nothing special.

 

 

 

 

Many organizations took place in the Rally for Medical Research. Did it make a difference? I can only say, “I hope so.”

 

The AACR president, Dr. Marge Foti.

 

 

 

Many famous events took place in the Kennedy Caucus Room (before it was so-named!)

Let me tell you – the hors d’oeuvres served at this reception were delicious!!! I was speaking at lunchtime so failed to get any lunch. I was starving when we arrived at the reception. I was full when we left!! Coconut chicken, some kind of fresh salmon wrap, cheeses, chips and crackers, I can’t remember what all. There were a variety of wines and beers – all domestic, I heard – available as well as sparkling water and some soft drinks, I think.

I was getting tired at this point and didn’t get a bunch of pictures. Wish I had taken some of the food! So I could eat my heart out now! I wondered how people that attend many of these functions stay slim.

 

Dinner

We came back to the hotel at about 7:45 PM. I was dragging. We were given the opportunity to change clothes (and shoes … ahhhhhh! My feet were so happy to change into tennis shoes!!!) and rest just a moment before returning to dinner at 8:15.

I planned to stay at dinner no longer than absolutely necessary. But, that was before I ended up at the first table – the one with the heads of cancer clinics all over the US. I can’t remember all of their names and, unfortunately, never caught the last name of one who was so kind to me. Her name was Karen. She heads a cancer clinic in Philadelphia. Her specialty is prostate cancer. And, she is one of the kindest souls I have ever met. She made sure that I felt like a part of the group the entire dinner. When there was an “inside joke,” she made sure I understood it. She always explained who was talking and what their specialty was. I wish I knew her full name. I would love to send her a thank you card. For her compassion. For her humanity.

It was so very interesting sitting at that table and listening to top doctors discuss cancer and research. I was suddenly not tired at all. I didn’t get back to the room until after 11 PM.

The food was absolutely divine. The company and conversation even better. I was so on top of the world after this day that I couldn’t begin to fall asleep.

Which is probably a good thing, because I had to pack everything up so I could turn back the room the next morning!

Tribute to my Dad

It was in September of 1976 when my 48-year-old dad went for a routine physical, as required by his employer. No one thought anything of it. He was in great health, other than a painful knee that had arisen recently after a long drive from Washington, DC.

Life was great. He had a job that he thoroughly enjoyed and at which he excelled. Mom had recently gone to work at the same savings and loan where he worked. My brother was doing well in high school and I was married and had recently had a baby boy.

Imagine our surprise when he got a call from his doctor. The chest x-ray had some suspicious spots that needed further investigation. Dad had smoked cigarettes until I was a teen, but at Mom’s insistence, he had switched to a pipe many years previously. We didn’t think he was a prime lung cancer candidate, but the biopsy showed he not only had lung cancer, he had Stage IV lung cancer. He was given six months to live.

He had adenocarcinoma, like I do. It is a cancer that smokers get, but so do non-smokers. In fact, it is the most common type of lung cancer seen in non-smokers. Adenocarcinoma is found in the outer parts of the lung. According to Cancer.org, more women than men are diagnosed with this cancer. Furthermore, it is more likely to occur in young people than other cancers.

Cancer.org says that adenocarcinoma is a slow growing cancer and that it is more likely to be found before it spreads. Unfortunately, my experience refutes this statement. Just about everyone I know with adenocarcinoma of the lung was diagnosed with Stage 3 or 4.

Even though it has been nearly 40 years ago that we received the news that my dad was very sick, I still remember hearing the news. Needless to say, my mom and I were shocked and devastated. Dad was stoic. Then and for the rest of his life.

I hadn’t really thought all that much about my dad and his experience with lung cancer. I mean, the knowledge that he had the same kind of cancer I do comes to mind, but his actual fight against the beast hasn’t been something I have really dwelt upon. Until recently.

For some reason, I was thinking about my dad’s journey against lung cancer. His was much shorter than mine has been. Thankfully, I was able to get into the clinical trial for Opdivo when my cancer threatened to kill me. Dad wasn’t so lucky.

But, here’s what I remember about my dad’s fight. He was working in downtown Dallas. Because his leg hurt so badly, someone else was driving him to the office in the mornings. It turns out his leg hurt because his cancer had metastasized to the bone there. The doctor told us lung cancer commonly spreads to the bones – often to the knees or elbows. I always worried when I had a pain in one of my extremities after hearing that.

Because he was being driven to the office, Dad needed a ride to his treatments. Unlike in my case, he was able to get both radiation and chemotherapy. Also unlike in my case, no one went with him to his treatments. Never once did any of us accompany him to his chemo treatments or to his radiation sessions. Never once did it ever occur to us that we should (or not that I remember anyway). I would pick him up at his office and drop him by the hospital for his treatment. My mom would come pick him up when his treatment was over. We did that for months.

The radiation didn’t bother him much. But, that chemo sure did. It made him deathly ill. So much so that I called his doctor and asked him why in the world they continued to give him the drug when his prognosis was so awful. The doctor told me that Dad would hear of nothing else. If there was even the smallest chance he could recover, he wanted the treatments, no matter how sick they made him. Watching my dad suffer, I vowed that if I ever had cancer, I would do radiation, but I would not do chemotherapy. Amazing how we change our minds when we are actually faced with a life or death decision.

My dad went to work every day during the time he was in treatment. I do not know how he did it. I was talking to my mom about it tonight. She said, “Well, he didn’t do anything you didn’t do.” But, I think he did. I don’t know what drugs he was given, but I suspect they were harsher than the ones I got. Or, that the overall treatment plan was not as good. Surely oncologists have learned much in nearly 40 years.

Dad worked until 3 weeks before he died. I was lucky enough to get to retire on medical disability after I had fought my cancer for slightly over one year. That means I have had nearly 2 years of life without the obligation of going into the office.

I might be wrong since I was no longer living at home when Dad got sick, but I do not recall him ever missing a day of work. He got his treatments later in the day so he didn’t even miss those days. I didn’t know then what I know now. At least for me, I was deathly ill for several days after a chemo treatment. And, so exhausted that a simple walk was very, very difficult. Chemo brain is a real phenomenon as well. I often missed a day or so after a treatment. And, I generally left the office an hour or so early. And, the demands of my job were nowhere nearly as huge as his were. He was making multi-million dollar investment decisions.

I remember some of his coworkers being in awe over how he continued to work, despite his illness. I think he got a bit grouchier with them. I know he did at home. At least some of the time. I understand that now much better than I did then. He had to have been reaching into himself for reserves most people simply can’t access. It must have taken every single bit of his strength and willpower to go in to work every day and to actually be a productive employee. By the time he got home, it is no wonder that he could no longer restrain himself if something irritated him. He had to have been totally spent. Along with totally ill, much of the time.

My cancer is in both lungs and spread to lymph nodes near my collarbone. I have not ever had any pain associated with my cancer. Dad, on the other hand, had the bone metastases which were very, very painful. I can’t remember any longer whether he had radiation to those tumors on his knee and, if he did, whether or not the treatments worked to eradicate the pain.

When Dad was finally so weak that he could not go to the office any more, he was also so weak that he could barely leave their bedroom. My grandmother came to stay with him, while my mom, at his insistence, continued to work.

Soon before he died, he lamented to my mom how awful it was to be in the state he was in. He told her, “I can’t live and I can’t die.” It was frustrating to him. I can understand that. I don’t really want to be alive past the time that I can actually live. When I can’t go out and play with my dogs and go places with friends, etc., then, I hope God calls me on home.

Three days before he died, he received a visitor from the office. The president of the savings and loan where he worked dropped by with some investment questions. Amazingly, Dad was able to give good advice. I was over there later that night. I had tax questions. Dad, a CPA, had always completed our tax returns for us. Since he was so ill, I was preparing to do our return for the first time. Between bouts with him fading into unconsciousness, I asked him all of the questions I had for completing the return. We were audited that year. His advice all held up.

The night he died, nearly 6 months to do the day of being diagnosed, he was still lucid enough to know that touching my mom’s hair was taboo. He accidentally brushed against it that night. And apologized. Amazing. My mom also heard him answering questions that he was being asked by God. Scoff if you like. Or say he was hallucinating. This man believed strongly in God and in Jesus Christ as his Savior. I have no doubt but that he was standing in God’s presence when Mom heard him answering. That has always been somewhat comforting to us. That he was in God’s presence. Even though the answers my mom heard him give were along the lines of, “I don’t know.”

I wasn’t ever particularly close to my dad after I was about six. He was blessed with a son about that time and he sort of forgot he had a daughter. He was very, VERY partial to his son. And didn’t try to cover it up. Maybe that is the reason why I never really sat and thought about all that Dad went through and what a courageous man he was the last six months of his life. No matter what his and my relationship was, I have to say, I have not seen many who have lived and died with the dignity he did.

 

A Grateful Heart

It seems strange to be fighting Stage IV lung cancer and still talking about being grateful. But, grateful I am. For so very, very much.

Faith

First and foremost, I am grateful for my faith. Without the knowledge and belief that there was something more, something that comes after this life, I think I would be bereft. Instead, I believe this earth is temporary for us all (a belief all should hold since surely no one disputes that we all die at one point). Heaven is our reward. It is our final home. Imagine the moment in your life when you have felt the most loved and content … now imagine living like that forevermore.

I don’t want to die. I’m not ready to leave my family and my beloved dogs behind. But, when I go, I am going somewhere far superior to here!

 

Family

I am blessed. My family is small, but we all love one another. We don’t get to see our grandchildren any longer, so there are just my mom (who at 85.5 years still plays bridge several times every single week), my brother, my husband, and my son in my immediate family. I also am blessed to have some cousins that I am close to and whose company I enjoy immensely. I think my cancer has brought us closer. It has certainly encouraged us to make the effort to get together. We might not have otherwise actually followed through and done so.

I consider Cotton and Barney a very vital part of my family. They bring me great joy every single day.

 

 

 

Friends

I can be sad, sometimes, because I feel like people I considered friends before I was diagnosed have moved on and left me behind. They remember me on occasion, but mostly, I am in their past. That hurts. But, it makes sense. I would be guilty of doing the same. We can’t be expected to quit living our own lives because someone among us can no longer keep up. But, when you are the someone who can’t keep up, it causes pain. I try to distance myself from Facebook most of the time so that I am less aware of all that is going on that I am no longer included in.

On the plus side, I have made some of the most awesome friends ever since I was diagnosed. I would not have become friends with some of the people if not for the cancer. Some new friends are others who are in this club that no one wants to join. No one except someone else who is fighting cancer can fully understand what it is like. I’m not sure that even someone else with cancer truly understands what a colleague is going through. For instance, I don’t understand people that wallow in self-pity and that concentrate on the problems they face rather than looking at the positives. They are so miserable and unhappy. In my own opinion, they are letting cancer win the battle while they still have life.

It is highly, HIGHLY likely that I will ultimately die from my cancer. (Hopefully, it won’t be real soon.) But, right now, I am alive. I feel pretty darn good. I don’t have the stamina that I probably would if I wasn’t in this fight for my life, but I have a lot of willpower. Where my stamina lets me down, my willpower often takes over. Cancer teaches you, if you will let it, to enjoy every single moment. A flower takes on new beauty. A fragrance is breathed more deeply. The wonders of God (the sky, the mountains, trees, babies… the list is endless) are so very precious and magnificent and appreciated in ways that they never were before. The joy of being with friends (two and four legged) is that much greater because you appreciate that these times may be limited.

 

 

 

Life is different now than it was before I was diagnosed with cancer. There’s an innocence that is lost when you get that diagnosis. You learn you are a whole lot more vulnerable than you realized. It doesn’t just happen to others. Nope, it can and it did happen to you.

But, if I were asked to honestly respond with whether I would change anything about my existence, I think I would say “no.” I have learned so very much about myself and about others on this journey. I don’t think I would trade that.

I learned that I am strong. Much stronger than I ever imagined.
I learned that I am resilient. I can withstand a hard knock.
I learned that happiness comes from within. We spend way too much time looking for happiness in all of the wrong places.
I learned that there are some really fabulous people in this world. And I am blessed to have some of them in my life.
I learned that some people are acquaintances that I enjoy but that I can’t count on. This has been a really hard and painful lesson.
I learned that a kind word, a phone call, a card, any simple gesture can make a day. And, I hope I have learned to be more generous with those gestures myself.

 

HOPE

I just got back from New Mexico where my husband and I went to visit our son. I drove 2,158 miles from Friday to Thursday. I’m a little tired now … having trouble recouping from a busy, busy week!

But, I can do this!! And I am proud that I can!

It is so funny. While we were in New Mexico, I had a burning desire to write a blog. I had several in mind that I couldn’t wait to get onto paper.

Here I am now. Sitting at the computer. Trying my hardest to remember even one of the ideas I had. All I can remember right now is that they were really good ideas!

Ugh!!!

New Mexico

I love to go to New Mexico. Where our son lives, it is very majestic. It is also very dirty. Dirt is everywhere. There is barely any grass or anything. Just dirt. Everywhere!

Taken from the parking lot of our hotel in Las Cruces. Beautiful.

 

A park in or near Cruces.

 

At the Valley of Fire

Darn it all! The pictures make it appear that there IS grass. Maybe you just have to trust me … there is NOT! I didn’t think about taking pictures of the desert. I spent more time taking closeups of flowers that I found. Hopefully, next time, I will remember to take some pictures that show how desolate and how much dirt there is. Everywhere.

 

These were taken on a little dirt road off of I25 and beside Denny’s. My son asked me to never go here again. Apparently homeless gather nearby and there have been several murders. Oops.

I imagine by now anyone who has read my blog knows that I love to take pictures of flowers. I found some beautiful ones out in the desert. It meant a lot to me to find them. I am a big believer in HOPE. The flowers that manage to grow in these dire conditions – heat (it was over 100 every day we were there), drought, sand – give me hope. Because despite dreadful odds, they thrive!

 

Purple cactus. Isn’t it beautiful?? I’ve never seen anything like it! According to Wikipedia, the color results from stress due to  drought or cold. Trust me! It wasn’t cold!!!
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opuntia_macrocentra

 

 

Whatever this tree is, it is blooming. (See above for closeup of bloom)

 

Pecan trees are thriving here. There are orchards and orchards of them in New Mexico.

I took pictures of both native plants and those that were growing at our hotel in Las Cruces. Here are some of the pictures of the plants at the Staybridge Suites where we stayed one night (GREAT room for a really good price). We arrived there from Dallas at about 1 AM. I discovered how pretty it was the next morning (or, actually, later that same morning!) when I woke up! Majestic; looking out and seeing the mountains in the distance!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The flowers were flourishing, despite the intense heat. I was pretty surprised at how beautiful they were.
But, there were others that were thriving without any help from man. I took the pictures below in Elephant Butte/Truth or Consequences or Valley of Fire.
This is technically probably not a wild plant. It was planted in the parking lot of the Comfort Inn and Suites where we stayed in Truth or Consequences. I took LOTS of pictures of it because I love to capture bees.

 

Soon, there will be sunflowers here!!! I think sunflowers are happy flowers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A cone flower!!! Just growing out in the desert!

 

 

Birds liked this plant with its berries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are some from Valley of Fire. There weren’t many where we were. If we had gotten to go on the hike, we doubtless would have come across more, as well as lizards and other wildlife. As it was, the most I saw were some birds and butterflies … and grasshoppers. And a bee/wasp or two.

 

You can’t tell by the photo, but this was huge! It was really pretty!

 

The bees or wasps sure liked this little flower.

 

 

 

 

A butterfly on this prickly cactus! You would think it would get stuck by the needles!

 

New Mexico has some awesome scenery. As I drove through it, I had to wonder how someone can look at those majestic, mighty mountains and not believe in God. What a creator He is!
One geologic wonder is Valley of the Fires in Carrizozo, New Mexico. As you are driving through the desert on US Highway 380, you suddenly look around and notice a lot of black rock that looks like lava. At first, you think you must be seeing things. But, soon, you are in a huge field of what just has to be lava.
The trail is visible behind the rocks.

 

 

 

It is incredible!!! You drive for a few miles and the black molten rock is all around you. But, just as quickly as you entered it, it ends. It is really something! I’ve been there three times and I remain amazed!

According to the BLM:

Approximately 5,000 years ago, Little Black Peak erupted and flowed 44 miles into the Tularosa Basin, filling the basin with molten rock. The resulting lava flow is four to six miles wide, 160 feet thick and covers 125 square miles. The lava flow is considered to be one of the youngest lava flows in the continental United States. http://www.blm.gov/nm/st/en/prog/recreation/roswell/valley_of_fires.html

If you are interested in learning more, I think this link might be one of the better ones:
https://geoinfo.nmt.edu/tour/landmarks/carrizozo/home.html

If you have a chance to go, visit New Mexico! It is a beautiful land. It is a very impoverished land, as well. However, I saw evidence of HOPE throughout my visit. Whether it was from children growing up in an RV park, living in a tiny travel trailer, but smiling and having a blast or a flower growing out of rock, there was joy, there was hope. Cancer feels real small when you’re standing before a gigantic mountain.

June is Immunotherapy Month!

Who knew? LOL! It seems like there is something to celebrate every single month of the year! There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that!

Sad Facts About Lung Cancer

When I was first diagnosed with cancer back in October 2012, no one expected me to live very long. Stage IV lung cancer is pretty deadly. The following facts are from the American Cancer Society’s Web site about lung cancer in 2015:

  • About 221,200 new cases of lung cancer (115,610 in men and 105,590 in women)
  • An estimated 158,040 deaths from lung cancer (86,380 in men and 71,660 among women)

Lung cancer accounts for about 27% of all cancer deaths and is by far the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women. Each year, more people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined. 

The later the stage of the cancer, the more likely it is that you will not survive even a year. Only 4% of those diagnosed with late stage (aka distant or metastisized) cancer are expected to live five years after diagnosis. The following information is copied from the American Lung Association:

Survival Rates

  •  The lung cancer five-year survival rate (17.8%) is lower than many other leading cancer sites, such as the colon (65.4%), breast (90.5%) and prostate (99.6%).
  • The five-year survival rate for lung cancer is 54.0 percent for cases detected when the disease is still localized (within the lungs). However, only 15 percent of lung cancer cases are diagnosed at an early stage. For distant tumors (spread to other organs) the five-year survival rate is only 4.0 percent.
  • Over half of people with lung cancer die within one year of being diagnosed. 
Lung Cancer Diagnosis and Survival by Stage
http://www.lung.org/lung-disease/lung-cancer/resources/facts-figures/lung-cancer-fact-sheet.html 

If you let yourself think about it much, it will scare the living daylights out of you! According to Lung Cancer Alliance, 432 individuals die of lung cancer every single day.

Funding …. Or Lack Thereof

Before I step off of my soapbox, I need to address the sad lack of funding for lung cancer. It makes my blood boil. It should make everyone’s blood boil. Since lung cancer is the third most common (behind breast and prostate) and the most deadly cancer there is, it is bound to impact your life either directly (you get diagnosed yourself with it) or indirectly (someone you love gets diagnosed with it).

When someone hears a person has lung cancer, the first question is not, “Will they survive?” Nope, the question everyone asks is, “Oh, do they smoke?” Because we all know that (1) lung cancer only happens to smokers and (2) all smokers deserve to die of lung cancer because they brought it upon themselves. Right?

NO!!!!

Let’s look at some facts. These are for 2015; they are not old and outdated.

In 2015, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 157,499 men and women will die of lung and bronchus cancer. (I realize this number differs slightly from what the American Cancer Society estimates. I do not know why the numbers are different, but they are both estimates.) During the same time, 52,028 people are expected to die from colorectal cancer, 41,557 women from breast cancer, 38,797 from pancreas cancer, and 27,245 men from prostate cancer.

Despite common belief, lung cancer affects never-smokers, too. And, in 2015, 28,192 of them are expected to die from the disease.

The fact is that only 20.9% of those diagnosed with lung cancer are active smokers. Nearly 18% (17.9%) have never put a cigarette to their lips. And, 60% are former smokers. Some of those former smokers have not smoked for 40 or more years. (These stats come from the CDC report, “Cigarette Smoking Among Adults – United States, 2006″.) So much for the fact that only smokers get lung cancer.

The federal government devotes billions of dollars to health issues. Funding for cancer is estimated to be $5,414,000,000 in 2015. Of that, $255 million will be dedicated to lung cancer.  That amounts to a measly $1,153 allocated for each person expected to be diagnosed with lung cancer. Per death (158,040) from lung cancer, $1,619 is allocated.

By contrast, a total of $685 million is expected to be designated for breast cancer projects. According to the American Cancer Society, a whopping 231,841 individuals (mostly women, but men also get breast cancer) will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer during 2015.  An additional 60,290 will be diagnosed with carcinoma in situ (the very earliest stage of breast cancer). Of all of those diagnosed, a total of 40,290 are expected to succumb to their breast cancer. The federal government is spending $17,002 in 2015 for every death that will occur from breast cancer.

Prostate cancer is the second most prevalent cancer in the United States. In 2015, the American Cancer Society expects that 220,800 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. It is expected that 27,540 men will perish from their prostate cancer. The federal government is expected to spend $255 million on prostate cancer (the exact same amount as being spent on lung cancer) in 2015. For every death from prostate cancer in 2015, Uncle Sam is spending $9,259.

Let’s look at this again:

Breast Cancer                        40,290 deaths                          $17,002 allocated
Prostate Cancer                   27,540 deaths                         $   9,259 allocated
Lung Cancer                        158,040 deaths                         $   1,619 allocated

Does anyone else wonder why the disparity?

But, I digress. This post is about Immunotherapy.

Immunotherapy – A Life Giver

If one must be diagnosed with cancer, this is not a bad time. Scientists and researchers are on the brink of making astonishing discoveries. More strides are being made now than in previous decades. Exciting strides!

Immunotherapy is a treatment that allows a person’s own body to attack cancer cells. According to the Cancer Research Institute, immunotherapy “represents the most promising new cancer treatment approach since the development of the first chemotherapies in the late 1940s.”

Yes!! I agree!! Having been put through the horrors of chemotherapy, I can attest that immunotherapy is exciting. For anyone wishing to learn more about immunotherapy, a good place to start is the Cancer Research Institute.

When I was first diagnosed with lung cancer, I started a chemotherapy protocol of Carboplatin, Avastin, and Alimta. Avastin is not technically chemotherapy. It is a drug designed to starve tumors of blood supply (anti-angiogenic therapy). Alimta and Carboplatin are both chemotherapies that attack tumors, but also affect healthy cells. They are basically poisons. The hope is that they do more damage to cancer cells than healthy cells.

I can’t begin to describe what it is like to go through chemotherapy. I would get my infusions on a Thursday. By Saturday, I was in bed, except for when I had to be up throwing up. For two or three days, I would be so sick, I could just barely move. No anti-nausea medicine worked. On top of the extreme nausea, a fatigue that cannot be described set in. It was difficult to walk from the couch to the restroom or to the refrigerator without resting.

You gradually begin to feel better. By the end of the second week after the infusion, I could make myself, through sheer will power, go to agility practice. This is a testament to just how much I love agility! By the third week, I was feeling pretty good, considering.

Toward the end of the time that I received my chemo infusions, I was starting to get very depressed. It seemed so futile to finally feel better just to knowingly make myself sick again with yet another infusion. I am afraid that if the infusions had lasted much longer, I would have either quit them or would have had to take anti-depressants.

And, the fact is, I was healthier than most who were getting chemotherapy. My blood tests remained perfect throughout my treatments. Most people, at the least, have their white blood cell counts tank. No one really knows why mine didn’t. My blood pressure also stayed in the normal range.

Since you are being infused with poison when you are getting chemotherapy, you can only get it for so long before the benefits are outweighed by the drawbacks. Chemo itself can (and does) kill cancer patients. As noted by the World Journal of Clinical Oncology:

Over the past few decades, platinum based chemotherapy is the standard of care for advanced stages of NSCLC. These systemic therapies have significant toxicities and confer unacceptable morbidity.

My tumors responded well to the chemo treatments. They shrank by half or so. But, as soon as the chemo stopped, the tumors took off. They were back to their initial size in a matter of weeks.

My oncologist told me that I basically had two options. I could either (1) undergo a different kind of chemo, one that historically made people sicker and was less successful than the first treatment I received, or (2) I could get into a clinical trial and at least help researchers understand some of the new and coming treatments for lung cancer patients in the future.

I didn’t think for a second about the choice. I opted for participation in a clinical trial. I had no desire to be sicker than before! And, if I was going to die, I might as well be a guinea pig for those coming behind me. I really didn’t think much about the clinical trial affecting ME positively.

Nevertheless, the best thing that has happened to me during this cancer journey was the decision to participate in a clinical trial. Few choose this route. I’m astonished by that. I would more than likely be dead if I had chosen to just continue with the traditional treatments.

I started immunotherapy treatments in July 2013. Information about the trial I am participating in can be found at https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT01673867?term=BMS-936558+Docetaxel&rank=2 and http://news.bms.com/press-release/opdivo-nivolumab-first-pd-1-inhibitor-demonstrate-superior-overall-survival-versus-sta. Unlike chemo treatments, immunotherapy does not poison you, so the treatments never end (unless they quit working). Because immunotherapy isn’t poisonous, you don’t suffer the horrid side effects of chemotherapy. Or, I haven’t. Some people don’t have quite the same positive reaction that I have, but many do.

I have been getting immunotherapy for nearly two years now. I get treatments every two weeks. I have CT scans every 6 weeks (so often, that I can now drink barium without gagging).

Like when I was getting chemotherapy, my blood tests have remained perfect throughout the treatments. Blood pressure and oxygen levels have stayed in the normal range. The only side effect from the immunotherapy that I have suffered is that my thyroid has quit working properly. No big deal. I just take Levothyroxin every morning to keep the thyroid functioning as it should.

The CT scans have shown that the tumors have not grown nor spread at all since I began immunotherapy. One radiologist who reads the scans calls the tumors “scars.” My oncologist does not necessarily agree that they are simply scars. Since we don’t know for sure, we continue the treatments. At the least, it is an insurance policy against the lung cancer.

Because of immunotherapy, I have totally reclaimed my life. I am back to running agility regularly. I keep testing my stamina levels and I keep passing those tests!! WhooHoo!!

As you have seen from my previous blog posts, I started a garden for the first time ever. I go to the movies and out to eat with friends. My calendar rarely has a day without something scheduled to do.

No one knows how long the immunotherapy will continue to work. But, from what researchers know now, patients do not build up a resistance to it like they do to targeted therapies. In addition, it appears that the immune system continues to work against tumors for an extended time even after treatments end.

Immunotherapies are being tested on all kinds of cancer. The Cancer Research Institute (CRI) shows how it is working on their site at http://www.cancerresearch.org/cancer-immunotherapy/impacting-all-cancers. The following quote is from the CRI:

From the preventive vaccine for cervical cancer to the first therapy ever proven to extend the lives of patients with metastatic melanoma, immunology has already led to major treatment breakthroughs for a number of cancers. Every cancer type is unique, though, and immunology and immunotherapy are impacting each cancer in different ways.

In the future, those diagnosed with cancer may never have to go through the horrors of chemotherapy. Perhaps even surgery and radiation can be avoided through the use of immunotherapy. And, the death rates from cancer may decline sharply.

Let us hope!

P. S. If you have cancer and you are interested in immunotherapy, you can find out what trials are available by visiting the Clinical Trial Finder.

What Does Lung Cancer Look Like?

What does lung cancer look like? Do you suppose that it looks like someone who is about 70 years old, very emaciated, with a cigarette in her hand? Someone who looks like they are about to die?

Or do you envision a 20 year old girl with her whole life ahead of her? Except that she’s currently bald from her chemo treatments and searching desperately for the drugs that will keep her alive? Or, maybe you see a beautiful, cheerful 24 year old young woman who has already lost part of her lung? Girls who were physically active; girls who never smoked; girls who weren’t around smoke?

In the picture below, three of the people are not lung cancer survivors. Can you guess which three? I bet not. Because lung cancer doesn’t have “a look.”

Photo credit: Randy Elles Photography LUNGevity Foundation — in Washington, District of Columbia.

Who gets cancer? Is it the 20-something college student? Is it the 30-something veterinarian? The 40-something TV reporter? The 50-something long-distance bicycle rider? Is it your 60-something vegetarian neighbor? Is it your postal worker? Your doctor’s office receptionist? The professional baseball player? The IT superstar down the hall? Your doctor? If you answer “yes” to all of these, then you are absolutely correct.

The fact is, no one is immune. Whether or not they smoked. Whether or not they exercised. Whether or not they ate only vegetarian foods. If they have lungs, they are susceptible to getting lung cancer.

The scary thing about lung cancer is that there are not often many symptoms until it has advanced so far that there are not a lot of treatment options. If you suddenly develop a smoker’s cough, but you didn’t smoke, or if you have extreme shortness of breath, wheezing, or asthma-like symptoms, or if you begin to drop weight for no reason, you might have lung cancer. A CT scan can be done in a matter of minutes to detect if there are tumors in your lungs. The earlier lung cancer is detected, the more likely that you will survive.

 

Photo credit: Randy Elles Photography LUNGevity Foundation — in Washington, District of Columbia.

Here’s a link that I hope will stay active for a long time. It has pictures that were contributed to WhatNext.com by cancer survivors. Now, these people do not all have lung cancer, but they are all surviving some kind of cancer. I hope you’ll follow the link. I think you will be encouraged.

What does cancer look like?

I don’t know about you, but what I notice most is how many of these individuals have large, happy smiles. Smiles that reach their eyes. These are cancer survivors (some who are “NED — No evidence of disease” and some who are newly diagnosed and in the throes of chemo). They have cancer. Cancer doesn’t have them.

 

In the middle of difficulty, lies Opportunity

 

You can cut all the flowers, but you cannot keep Spring from coming.”

Albert Einstein once said, “In the middle of difficulty, lies opportunity.” I believe that. Do you?

The fact is that while I would never choose to have cancer, it has presented many opportunities for which I am very grateful. Isn’t that something?

My motto has been and continues to be, “I have cancer, Cancer doesn’t have me.” What’s that mean?, you ask. Well, it means that I try hard not to be defined by cancer. I try to live my life to the fullest.

In fact, in my way of thinking, every moment I spend worrying or fretting over having cancer is a moment where cancer wins this battle. It robs me of my joy for that length of time. I don’t know how much time I have left here on this earth (none of us do). But, what I know is that I want to make the most of every moment that I’m here!

Cancer has allowed me the opportunity to finally concentrate on me, not on everyone else around me. I always worked a job or two and put 110% of myself into it. With family obligations taking up the remaining hours in the day, there was just never really any time left over for Donna.

But, having cancer allowed me to quit working. What a blessing that was, especially since my job had gone from good to very, very bad with changing regimes. Politics. Aren’t they great? (NO!!!) For the first time in my adult life, I have had the time to do things that make me happy. And I have enjoyed that to the max!!!

You probably have already figured out what those things are that make me happy.

I’ll just state right at the beginning, my joy comes from the Lord. He is the reason for my happiness. He is the reason I do not worry about dying or about having cancer. He is the reason I can enjoy all of the activities listed below. Without the peace I have from Him, none of the rest of this would be possible.

Agility

 

I love, love, love agility. I found this sport late in life. I had really only just gotten started in it when I found out I had cancer. Barney and I were trialing nearly every weekend and sometimes Cotton came along! (She got to come along more often then than now … the one bad thing about this retirement stuff is that my income decreased by two-thirds. I have to be much more frugal than I used to be … talk about a hard lesson!!)

Barney was then and is now a superb agility partner. That little dog has a huge heart. He will play with me, over and over and over again, until I can’t go any longer. He tries so hard to please. Always, his goal is to make me happy. Because if mama is happy, everyone is happy! Seriously, he loves agility, but mostly he loves me and he wants to do what pleases me.

I was initially taught that running agility meant running alongside your dog, directing him or her to do whatever the next obstacle in the sequence was. Many venues require that you stay fairly close by your dog in order to direct him over the obstacles correctly. My venue of choice, NADAC, is a little different. It allows you to work away from your dog.

Running your dog with distance between you and him is a completely different way of handling. My personal belief is that it is more difficult to teach your dog to run without you right beside him. It is especially challenging when the dog has first been taught to work right beside you.

Barney and I are in the process of learning to work at a distance from one another. I practiced my new skills some at the Run As One trial over the Memorial Day weekend. The video above shows our runs from Sunday of the three day trial.

Practicing our newly learned skills at distance (we are still very new in the learning process) is only part of what made me smile at the Memorial Day trial. The other is that I had the stamina to go help set-up for the trial on Friday, run four runs on Saturday, return Sunday morning for three more runs, finish with three runs on Monday … and stay to help tear down and load up all of the equipment. Previously, I had only tried to trial one day for fear of being too tired the following day. REmarkABLE!!! I am so blessed.

Gardening

I wish I had a dollar for every time Robert suggested I start a garden. I always refused. I was just not interested. Then, this spring, I changed my mind. I don’t even know why I decided this was the year I wanted to plant tomatoes and cucumbers and squash and zucchini. We have watermelon and cantaloupe and bell peppers. And okra. And something that I no longer remember what it is!!! I can’t wait for its fruit or vegetable to appear so I will know just what it is!!

I know nothing about gardening. Like a bull in a china cabinet, my typical way of doing things, I just started buying plants and putting them out in the ground. I STILL know nothing, but I am fortunate that my plants seem not to care all that much.

Here are some pictures I took this morning. I go out and look every single day. I take pictures at least a couple of times a week. Sometimes more often! The little fruits and vegetables are like my babies! I love watching them … except for an impatient person like myself, it is also a bit of a challenge!

Now that the sun has begun shining again, the ‘maters are ripening!

 

The herb garden. Yum!!!

 

Zucchini? Squash? Cucumbers? All of the above?

 

Squash … some will be ready for picking very soon!
More tomatoes that will soon be ripe enough to pick and eat!

 

Yellow zucchini. The plant thrived while it rained daily. Not looking so good now.

 

The bell pepper!!! It will ultimately be a red pepper. There’s only one on the bush!

 

Watermelon. This plant has not always looked as healthy.
My Meyer Lemon Tree. What fun!

 

Baby lemons!!

I am learning as I go. Next year, I hope I learn from some of my mistakes. I crowded things this year. They looked so small and so widely spaced when I first planted them. Do I hear you laughing???? If you have done much gardening, I am sure you are!

I have been reading that you should plant certain plants with one another … and shouldn’t combine others. Next year, I hope to have an organized plan! This year, I just walked down the rows at Lowe’s and chose plants that would produce vegetables or fruit that I thought I might want to eat.

I gave away some of the first fruits of my labor. Carol got a bag with squash, zucchini, and a couple of tomatoes. I plucked a little tomato off of the vine yesterday morning as I was walking out of the backyard to the car. I gave that to Linda. I THINK I am going to have plenty to share. I hope so.

Photography

I guess it is pretty obvious from my blog that I enjoy photography! Having cancer has opened my eyes to all of the beauty that surrounds us. I love to take my camera and just explore the backyard. I NEED to take my camera and explore a little further away than my backyard!! But, for now, I have been content to wander through the yard and take pictures of dogs, flies, bees, flowers, fruits, and veggies … and an occasional lizard. Hopefully, there will be no opportunities to snap a photo of a snake.

The pictures below were taken this morning. I originally grabbed the camera because I saw the bees inside the flowers of the squash plant. I thought they were certainly worth a few pictures!! As long as I was out there with the camera, I explored a bit more!

I love these delicate little flowers. No clue what they are.

 

Another little flower that I think is pretty. It is some wildflower that I planted.

 

This plant and the one below speak to me. This little weed is growing out of the brick wall!

 

This petunia came from I don’t know where. Like the little flower above, it is growing in a crack in the brick wall. Perseverance. At its best

 

That frog is lucky it is in the water. Cotton was VERY interested in it!

 

We have so many of these bugs. I don’t know what they are, but they sure like my new garden.

 

Flies like the garden too.

 

I love quotes. I love photography. On occasion, I try to combine the two. These are the bees that initially sent me running for the camera.

 

Other Interests

My calendar is usually very full. I don’t like to have very many days when I don’t have something to do. Currently, I have agility class twice on Tuesday and once on Friday. I may have to quit going to the Tuesday night class – it is more traditional agility (where you run right beside your dog) and I don’t want to mess up what Barney and I are learning with our distance. We are going to be taking a break from our Friday class as well. It has just gotten too hot. So, for the summer, we will rely on practicing at the park at 7 AM rather than going to class at 10:30.

On days that I don’t have agility, I love to meet my friends for lunch and/or the movies. I rarely ever saw a movie before I retired. But, since I have been retired, I have been lucky enough to go to quite a few.

Walks. Linda and I complain nearly every single morning when we meet about how we didn’t want to come! We meet at 6:30 AM now that it has gotten so hot. We never want to get up. But, once we are at the park and walking, we’re glad we made the effort. The dogs love their walks as well. And, it is so good for us! On days that I don’t walk, I usually just waste the time that I would be spending getting some exercise. And, boy oh boy, do I need exercise!!

You should see my Kindle app. I have so many books on there just waiting on me to read them. I keep buying them for those times when I might not feel like doing the things I am doing now. I hope that day doesn’t come for a long time. But, when it comes, I’m prepared!!!

Opportunity

So back to the title of this post. “In the middle of difficulty, lies opportunity.” Cancer is my difficulty. But, oh the opportunities it has brought with it! If I hadn’t been diagnosed with cancer, I would still be plugging along at a job that I had grown to hate instead of enjoying every waking moment! There’s just never enough time to get everything done that I want to do! Even now! But, now all of the moments are full of things that I love to do.

Hedonistic? I feel like maybe so. But, I also think that I deserve the bliss I am experiencing now. Not because I have cancer, but because I have worked so very hard all of my life. It is wonderful to have the OPPORTUNITY to work hard at having fun instead of at a job.

A Day at the Hospital

I decided to do something a little different today when I went for my blood draw, doctor visit, and immunotherapy infusion. I thought it might be interesting to somebody if I documented my visit, from start to finish.

I didn’t get every picture I hoped to get. My oncologist didn’t see me today so I didn’t get a picture of him or his precious nurse (who will be leaving any day to have her baby). My favorite oncology nurses had other patients today so I also didn’t get any pictures of nurses in the infusion area. Next time, I hope!

We arrived at the hospital at 12:15. We were supposed to be at the hospital by 12:30. You check in at the main desk and wait to be called.

I didn’t look at my watch, but I am certain we didn’t wait more than 10 to 15 minutes before I was called back to have my blood drawn. At UTSW, the wait is rarely very long.

 

Accessing the Port

Right after I began treatments at UTSW, I got a port installed in my chest. You can read all about it at http://mybattlewithlungcancer.blogspot.com/2013/08/got-port.html. Unfortunately for me, I received all of my chemotherapy prior to going to UTSW through an IV in my arm instead of getting a port from the get-go. My veins are shot now. You can’t have poison infused into your body through those vessels and expect them to stay supple and healthy.

At any rate, with a port, getting blood is easy-peasy. It takes a special oncology nurse to access the port. Some are better at it than others! But, overall, there is very little pain involved and there is NO searching for a vein or sticking you again and again and again trying to get blood to flow.

At every visit, which in my case is every two weeks, a very comprehensive blood test is done. From three to five tube of blood are drawn and tested prior to visiting with the doctor. If your blood levels are not good, the oncologist may decide to put off chemo or might change the amount of chemo. In my case, there has never been a problem. I am often heard saying that if I didn’t have cancer, I would be as healthy as a horse.

There are several nurses who draw blood through a patient’s port, but I usually get Grace. We hit it off from the get-go. I love to see her every two weeks and I think the feeling is mutual.

 

We both have to wear masks while she accesses my port in order to reduce the chance of infection. I hate wearing the mask. My glasses always fog up while I’m trying to talk!

Below, you can see the needle that Grace is going to use to access my port. It is rather large!

It only takes a few minutes to get my port accessed and the blood drawn. Because I really like Grace, we often visit for a few more minutes before I return to the waiting room. You can see all of the tubing attached to the port. When I go for my infusion, it will be administered using this access point. Notice the pink circle on my sweater. Any guess what that is for?

Believe it or not, people were leaving the hospital with their ports still accessed. The pink dot is supposed to alert hospital personnel that my port is still accessed. I personally can’t imagine someone leaving the hospital with all of that tubing sticking out of their chest, but that’s just me. Chemo brain, perhaps, makes some people forget.

Back in the Lobby

I don’t know why, but this man felt special to me from the beginning. You see all kinds (including crazy kinds like me) at the hospital. This precious man seemed to lack confidence and had something wrong that caused him to shake violently. Another patient offered to open his lunch after he fumbled with it for a few minutes.

As it turns out, I ended up feeling so sorry for the man. It seems his wife is the one with cancer. I don’t know if she turned mean after she was diagnosed, if she was having a really awful day, or if she’s always been mean. She yelled at the man (loud enough that we could all hear it) for not sitting up straight and then for shaking while eating. Hello?! He obviously had a physical problem that caused the shaking. Now, it is possible that his shaking is worse when she is around. If she was MY wife, her being near would make me shake. Violently.

When they came to get her to take her back to see the doctor, the man still wanted to be supportive. He asked if she wanted him to come along. She rudely told him she didn’t care one way or the other. So, he went with them, trailing behind a bit. But, long before they would have reached the doctor’s office, he was back in the waiting room. I guess she decided she cared if he came after all and sent him back to us. I didn’t, but I just wanted to hug him.

On a happier note, we have had rain here in Dallas day after day after day. I’m not complaining because we needed the rain desperately. Last year, by the end of April, we had received only 3.93″ of rain. This year, we had been blessed with 14.67″ and so far, it has rained nearly every day during the month of May. It was exciting to see a break in the clouds while we were in the waiting room. We could see bluish skies and even a hint of sunshine!!

 

I am a people watcher and I tend to make up stories about the people I’m watching…. Well, this guy looked like a thug to me with his shorts down far below his butt. He also had jailhouse-appearing tattoos all over his arms and neck. I HATE seeing men with their pants worn far below their waists. I really think it is out of place at a cancer-treating facility.

I hate the way the guy dressed … and if I was a betting woman, I would guess he hasn’t been out of prison for all that long. I’ll give credit where credit is due, though. His children were very well behaved and he seemed to take an active part in their lives. So, I guess pants worn with the waistband closer to the knees than the hips is not a clear indicator of how a person acts.

I did get a kick out of watching him try to walk when they left. His shorts were so low that he couldn’t get a decent stride going. Sheesh. Who thinks that look is cute or macho or whatever? Not old fogie me.

People watching makes the time fly by! Soon, an aide comes to get us to take us to the doctor’s office.

Doctor’s Office

Things at UTSW move along like clockwork. I hear about others who go elsewhere that have to wait and wait and wait. Not so here. It is very, very rare that we don’t get in to see the doctor within an hour after the blood is drawn. The reason for the hour wait is that it takes an hour or so for the blood testing to be completed.

I was hoping I would see the doctor today so I could get a picture with him, but I guess he was too busy. I need to quit referring so many people to him! Maybe he’d have more time to see me!! (I am not honestly complaining. I am delighted that more and more of my friends are seeing him because I hope they have the same luck as I have with him treating them.)

On the other hand, I love Sharon. She is very thorough and we have a GREAT time laughing with one another. My visit usually lasts longer than it probably should because we enjoy the time together.

Sharon wasn’t quite sure what was going on until after our selfie was taken! You can tell by her beautiful smile that she’s a lot of fun. She’s also very smart and very dedicated. She’ll take as long as you need her to answering questions and addressing concerns.

My blood tests were fine. My CT scan that was done last week showed that my organs are “unremarkable” – a good thing!!! I have no swelling or lumps. The exam doesn’t take too long. Since all is well, the immunotherapy I receive can be ordered from the pharmacy. We return to the waiting room one last time.

Waiting Room Again!

 

In the lobby, there is a giant Chihuly sculpture. When I first saw it, I hated it. I have grown to love it over time. It is very intricate. What do you think? Love or hate or indifferent? Can anyone be indifferent to such a piece?

We now have to wait for a chemo room to become available. And, for the pharmacy to get the drugs ready.

Robert always comes with me to chemo. It is a long boring day, but he never complains. He doesn’t have to come, but it sure makes the day go more smoothly having him with me. I have read of so many couples that break up when one is diagnosed with cancer.  I am so happy that our marriage is probably stronger now than ever before. Which says a lot. In August, we celebrate 41 years of wedded bliss!

Infusion Room

It isn’t long before we’re escorted back one last time. This time, we are going to the infusion room. Where I received chemo, the infusion room was one giant room where everyone getting a treatment sat in chairs side-by-side. As much as I enjoy people watching, I always hated that room. It was such a big, cold, depressing room, just full of cancer patients receiving poison into their veins. Some people got sick, some slept, some visited … but it just seemed it should have been done in private.

When I switched to UTSW, I was DELIGHTED to find that we would have individual chemo rooms. Each room is a little different. The one we had today was relatively small … but certainly big enough to be comfortable. There is a television on the wall across from the infusion chair. The infusion chair itself is very comfortable and I usually request a heated blanket when we get to the room. I love those heated blankets!

 

The chairs for the visitors are not nearly as comfortable as the ones provided for the patient!

An aide always brings us to the infusion room, retrieves the warm blanket and any requested snacks. I am not sure what this aide’s name is, but he is my favorite in the chemo area. He is always so cheerful and he’s a hard worker. He wasn’t the person who brought me to the infusion room today, but he walked by and saw me in the chair. “Hello, Mrs. Fernandez,” he said. I asked him if he’d come take a selfie with me and he obliged!

This is the best picture I could get of how the port looks when it has been accessed and readied for an infusion. In the second picture, you can see how all of the tubing is attached. I think I have already said it, but the port makes getting a treatment much, much easier.

 

My infusion takes one hour. When I was getting chemo, an infusion could take from two to six hours. I like the one hour treatment much more!! So, my treatment began at just minutes after   3  PM. And I become a clock watcher!

YES!!! It is 4:00 … the treatment should be over! Most of the drug has dripped into my blood stream. Where is the nurse to disconnect me??

 

 

What’s going on? Where’s the nurse? It is now 4:15 and here we still sit! Typically, the nurse appears immediately when the hour of infusion ends. Something must have taken my nurse’s attention today because she was late getting to our room.

It isn’t too long, though, before she comes in and prepares me for departure. She has to flush the port with herapin, disconnect the port access, give us a parking pass, and send us on our way. We are soon outside and waiting on the valet to bring our car.

You can’t really tell from the photos, but the campus at UTSW is amazingly beautiful and serene. One of these days, I am going to take my good camera and spend an afternoon exploring the grounds.

 

Rewards

Because chemo day is a long day, we nearly always eat a leisurely breakfast before we go and then treat ourselves to a nice dinner afterwards.
Tonight’s treat: Dunston’s Steak House.
As we drove into the parking lot at the restaurant, we passed this gorgeous cactus. I wonder if it is because of all of the rain we’ve had that it is blooming like it is? It was so beautiful that I had to stop and take a few pictures before going in to eat.

 

 

It smells divine sitting near the wood-burning grills!

Steaks were cooked to perfection and the baked potato was delicious. A perfect ending to the day!

Pictures from the Backyard

When I was diagnosed with lung cancer, I had to quit doing my most favorite thing in the world – playing agility with my dogs. I simply didn’t have the strength or the stamina for it. It broke my heart because when I quit doing agility, I also quit hearing much from the people I thought were my friends. Unfortunately, there are lots of things about cancer than cause pain besides tumors. Losing your friends, or those you considered friends but who turned out to be acquaintances, is one of the hardest. I’ve been fighting this battle for over 2-1/2 years and it still hurts.

But, that’s not what this post is about. I quit doing agility, but I was determined to have something to do to occupy my thoughts. I refuse to dwell on the fact that I have lung cancer. I spent quite a lot of time in my backyard. It is a peaceful, happy place. I love it back there. I bought lots of pretty flowers and hung bird feeders.

The flowers brought color to my world and the birds that visited my feeders brought joy. I didn’t have any energy, but it didn’t take any to sit in the backyard and enjoy what God has created. In fact, spending time relaxing in all of the beauty rejuvenated me.

Pretty soon, I decided I wanted to capture the memories so I brought the camera out. With the help of an excellent photographer friend of mine from Midland, I practiced using the various settings on the camera. What I haven’t learned – then or now – is how to use any of the software that allows you to REALLY enhance your work. I know I need to learn, but I always put it off. Chemo brain dissuades me from doing many things that require a great deal of learning and concentration.

I seem to be getting distracted a lot tonight. Tonight’s post is titled “Pictures from the Backyard” and that’s what I want to talk about!

Throughout my journey, I have snapped a lot of shots in my backyard. I am a prolific picture taker and I am not usually inclined to get rid of any of them! I have thousands and thousands of pictures. Don’t start groaning! I don’t intend to post them all here!

But, I took some today that I want to share because I enjoyed taking them and I enjoyed seeing them when I loaded them onto the computer. I hope you might enjoy them as well.

Abstract! I did this by spinning the lens while the shutter was open. I like it!

 

This is the flower that is in the center of the spin art above. It is a Dahlia.
This bud will ultimately open into a bloom like the one above. Beautiful!

 

 

Canna and Asiatic lilies — bring joy to my life!
Close-up of the canna.
Asiatic lilies. They are gorgeous, but they really don’t last very long. I enjoy them while they are blooming!

 

I take lots of pictures of the little lemons. They fascinate me!

 

 

A butterfly weed

 

Another butterfly weed
A close-up of the bud above. I love all of the teeny flowers!

 

A third butterfly weed. The three butterfly weed plants are supposed to attract monarch butterflies and give them a place to lay their eggs. Unfortunately, I have seen not one butterfly on the plants. Lots of flies and bees though. You’ll see those later 🙂

 

 

A beautiful  dianthus bloom. Right after a rainstorm.

 

More dianthus. I love these little flowers that just keep on keeping on.

 

 

This picture and the one above are lemon tree blooms. You have missed a true blessing if you have never gotten to smell lemon tree blooms. They smell so good! And, they’re beautiful, I think.
Close-up of a marigold. My marigolds have not enjoyed the torrential rains we have had lately.

 

 

 

Cool Shots

 

I love playing with the camera. The following shots are me playing. Just practicing and playing!

 

 

A raindrop about to fall)

 

Flies and bees love this flower.

 

Flies? Bees? Very lovely green color, whatever they are!

 

This flower is supposed to attract butterflies and bees. Instead, there are flies, flies, and more flies!

 

 

 

Same for these flowers. They are supposed to attract butterflies/hummers. Instead, I get flies and whatever the green bug is!

 

 

 

 

 

This butterfly just happened to fly up when I was outside taking pictures. Think he is pretty (in a dull sort of way) so I followed him from plant to plant taking his picture!

 

 

 

 

 

Farmer Donna

For years, Robert has asked me to have a vegetable garden. Every time he suggested it, I refused to even consider it. I was totally opposed to such an idea. Until this year.

Perhaps it has to do with life. I am living and it is fun to see other things live? Too philosophical? Well, I don’t know why I suddenly decided this year that it would be a great idea to grow some fruits and vegetables, but that’s what I decided.

Meyer Lemon Tree

First, I bought a lemon tree! Yep, a lemon tree. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade and all of that 🙂  Seriously, I love lemons – lemon in water, lemon in shrimp scampi, lemon in cake!!! And, I was jealous when I would see friends with their homegrown lemons in years past, so I just had to buy myself a lemon tree.

This picture is from when I first got the tree when it was full of blooms instead of fruit … I’ll have to get another one day soon. At any rate, the tree is now just full of little fruit and it also has started flowering again. And, if you have never smelled lemon tree blossoms,  you are missing something really special. They smell heavenly. I am excited to see more blossoms! Who knew a tree would try to fruit more than once in a season?

Aren’t the little fruits just as cute as can be? As they get larger and larger, I wonder if the thin little branch will be able to support the weight? Lemons I buy at the store are pretty heavy! That branch is really thin!

The blooms are not only fragrant, they are gorgeous! I could look at these blooms forever. Butterflies like them, too. So far, I can think of lots of reasons why everyone should have a lemon tree (even if you don’t like them, putting them in your disposal will make your house smell good!) and none for why you shouldn’t. Possibly the fact that they are very cold sensitive and will have to be brought into the house in the winter is a negative. Not for me, but maybe for others…

Here in Dallas, we don’t usually get a lot of rain, but let me tell you, this year we have had rain after rain after rain! And some fairly violent weather nearby with hail and tornadoes. I like rain. I do not like hail or tornadoes. Tornadoes scare me and hail just makes me mad. Anyway, I loved the water dripping off of my little lemon here. Isn’t it fascinating that the lemon already has a rough texture like store-bought lemons do? Am I too easily entertained?

I took this picture just to show how the tree has fruit on it and new blooms too. I think that is so cool!

Well, from the lemon tree came the herb garden!

Herb Garden

I don’t really like to cook, but since I took a BIG pay cut when I quit working, I have been trying to do more of it. So, I got the brilliant idea that fresh herbs would be a wonderful idea. I went to a herb garden class at our local nursery where I bought this really neat three-level pot. I fell in love with it!

I bought quite a variety of herbs: parsley (did you know that parsley is really, really good for you?), oregano, chives (garlic and onion), chocolate mint, peppermint, lemon balm (supposed to keep mosquitoes away, but it is not working for me!), rosemary, sage, thyme, lavender and I can’t remember what else. I have the tags and I look at them on occasion to remind myself what herbs I have growing!! It is obvious from the ones I remember I have that I like Italian food! 🙂

If one three-level pot is good, two will be better, right? That’s what I decided. It was buying the second pot that started me on fruit and vegetables. I decided that a tomato plant in the top pot was a great idea. And it was!

I chose a compact patio tomato to plant in the top pot of the planter. The fruit is supposed to be dwarf, between the size of a cherry tomato and a regular tomato. I think you can see that the plant is growing nicely. That is a 12 inch wooden stake next to it, trying to offer it a bit of support.

Here is what that little tomato plant has on it now:

It has had this fruit for a month or two. It isn’t ripening. I don’t know why. If anyone reads this and knows how long it takes for tomatoes to ripen on the vine, please let me know in the comments!!! I am the world’s least patient person so this “farming” is a real test for me!!! I go outside every single day and look at every plant, every single plant! And boy! Do I get excited when I find a surprise!

Fruits and Veggies

Well, it was so much fun to have one tomato plant, that I decided I needed more. I thought we would enjoy the dwarf tomatoes in salad, but I also wanted fruit that could be sliced for hamburgers and sandwiches.

And, yeah, I decided I would also like to have strawberries, even though I am not a big strawberry lover. Don’t ask me why I made some of the decisions I made. I can’t explain it to myself, much less to you!

Robert is good about indulging my “needs,” so off we went to Lowe’s, where we purchased not one, but three new tomato plants and a lovely strawberry plant. (I previously planted strawberry roots … 30 of them. Not a single one ever made into a plant. Again, if anyone has hints on that, I would love to hear them. The roots were guaranteed to grow, but not one did! I obviously did something very, very wrong!)

I also bought a Patio Picker container. I put all four plants (3 tomatoes, one strawberry) in the same 24X20″ container. Yeah, I know, that was a mistake! Those tiny little tomato plants have EXPLODED in size!!!

Well, it probably comes as no surprise that one Patio Picker container and tomatoes would not enough. If we are going to be “farmers,” we need to grow some veggies. Right? Right!

Let’s see. What would be good this summer? Well, I don’t much like watermelon, but I have read it is really, REALLY good for you. Better have some watermelon. And some cantaloupe. Another fruit I don’t like, but everyone else I know does, especially my mom and Robert. Maybe I’ll learn to like it better. Or not.

I like okra and so does Robert. So, let’s get some okra. Zucchini and squash are awesome on the grill or in salads. Better have some of those. And cucumber. Yum! It is another vegetable that is just packed with goodness for you.

Sigh!!! I wish I had a bigger place for stuff because I wouldn’t mind trying some beans, too. But, for now we have all our space can handle. Except that I talked myself into a red bell pepper while I was buying the other plants.

Here are my two Patio Pickers side by side right after they were planted on April 28. As an aside, I am not using the pots the way you are instructed. You are supposed to cover the tops with plastic to keep the plants from being over-watered and to keep water from evaporating so quickly. That seemed like a hassle to me so I just put mulch on top. So far, even with the torrential rains we have had day after day after day, the plants are doing AWESOME.

The picture above show what a couple of weeks can mean!!! Wow! Even I forgot that it had only been a few weeks since I planted my Patio Pickers!!!  Look at the size of the tomato plants now!! One of them is coming out of its wire frame already and another will be in another few days. The third one, a more compact variety, surprised me yesterday. It already has some decent-sized fruit on it!!!

The tomatoes are not the only thing that is exploding in size!!! I was gone last weekend because I was attending the fabulous LUNGevity National HOPE Summit in Washington, DC. I was only gone from Friday afternoon until Sunday night, but I was astonished at how big my vegetables in the Patio Pickers had grown. After another week of growth, they’re even bigger now!

In the Patio Picker above are some yellow zucchini, cantaloupe (I think), red bell pepper, okra, and two plants that don’t have tags on them so I won’t know what they are until they produce!! It’s a mystery until then! Don’t you love it? (And yes! These plants are going to be WAY too crowded. But, I think it might be too late to repot them. Does anyone know?)

Well, until today, I didn’t think any of the vegetable plants were actually producing. But, I was wrong!

Do you see it? My teeny tiny yellow zucchini!!! There are actually three that I can see on the plant so far. They’re small, but they’re there!!! I was as excited as could be when I found them. I have taken pictures of them with my tablet and then again with my better camera! I will probably take pictures of them now every single day until I pick them. Anybody’s guess when that will be! I have no clue!

Some of the other plants in the Patio Picker look like they’ll be producing soon, too. Just for fun, here are a few more pictures I took of the plants in the Patio Picker (should I just call it a PP? … much easier … though some children might laugh if you were reading this out loud).

No clue what this is going to be, but I’m going to have something soon! Hopefully, I will be able to identify it fairly quickly once I can see a vegetable. Or maybe someone reading this knows?

I believe this is the cantaloupe. And, I’m not actually sure if a fruit will appear where I have pictured or not. Time will tell. I am expecting SOMETHING to appear pretty soon, somewhere on the plant!

My baby zucchini again. I can’t wait to watch it grow!

These are going to be red bell peppers. I am really anxious to see they grow too! Well, let’s just be honest! There isn’t a single vegetable or fruit here that I’m not anxious to see grow!

The Planted Garden

Well, when I do something, I usually don’t do it in a small fashion. Whatever hobby I have, I do it with full engagement. That’s not a good thing most of the time. But, it is what it is.

So, I was thinking that I wanted to put some vegetables into the ground. But, our yard is really not set up for a garden. It is three levels. The first level, near the house, is small and very sloped. There is an old pond that has a leaking liner where I could probably toss some dirt … and probably will next year! But otherwise, there really aren’t many places for flowers or gardens, except in containers … and I have the fence lined with those!

The second level is the most plausible level to become home to a garden. We rarely go down there. The dogs run the fence line, barking at people who walk on the nature trail, and Cotton digs lots of landmines there. On rare occasions, I set up some jumps and practice a little agility. But, for the most part, it is underused, even unused. It is currently home to some grass and some weeds. No flowers, except the ones on the weeds. Digging out a garden plot on the second level was a little too industrious for me this year.

The third level of our yard is not fenced and is next to the nature trail. Unless I want to share my vegetables with everybody who walks by, I think the third level is out. Unless we put up some sort of fence with a locking gate… The second level still seems most plausible. Next year.

For this year, the only space I could think of was a weed-ridden little plot next to the swimming pool. It had a tree in it when we moved here, but Robert cut it down right away. Who plants a tree right next to a swimming pool? Hello? Roots under the pool? We didn’t know much about swimming pools when we moved here, but we knew you don’t want tree roots pushing against it or growing up under it.

The little plot has been home to weeds for the entire time we’ve lived here. You can’t see them because the land is two or three feet below where the pool deck is. In other words, in order to get to it, you have to climb down to get to it … and yeah, climb back up when you want to get out of there.

Well, it isn’t the most convenient spot on earth, to be sure, but it is a place where I can have my veggies. There is plenty of sun. Nothing should bother the plants (except maybe bugs).

I spent a couple of hard days digging out the weeds, adding soil conditioners, and sprinkling in fertilizer. I patted myself on the back more than once while I was out there sweating and hurting. I’m a Stage IV lung cancer survivor and I can dig this garden with the best of them! Yeah! And even though I am no spring chicken any more, I can also climb in and out of this space! I have to crawl and then stand up when I get out of it, but that’s beside the point entirely!

Below are pictures of the little garden right after I got it planted and mulched. I’m hoping the mulch will limit the amount of weeding I have to do. And, also, it should help keep the ground moist when it is no longer raining every single solitary day like it is now.

The pipes are either just hanging around down there or are taking the overflow from the pool out to the area between our houses. The pool is saltwater so I hope the water from it doesn’t end up in my garden plot. I don’t think any of the plants will be fans of saltwater. And, as an aside, neither is the metal fence.

When I planted the little garden space, I actually tried to give the vegetables a reasonable amount of space. I think I knew, even as I was planting them, that I was going to be crowding the ones in the Patio Pickers.

Because it is a pain to get up and down out of the space, the plants in the ground do not get nearly as much scrutiny or attention as the ones in the Patio Pickers. Today was the first day in awhile that I have been down in the garden to really take a look at them.

They are not growing as quickly as the ones in the Patio Pickers. But, they ARE growing. Some of the plants were really tiny when I planted them. Below are some pictures I took today:

Well, I guess I didn’t get a picture of the whole garden. I’ll have to go do that. Because it is fun to see how it grows! So far, there is no fruit or vegetables on any of the plants that are in the ground. The fact that the container plants are doing so much better is a great advertisement for Patio Pickers!!!! I should set it up an affiliate link so I can make a commission for bragging on them like I am!! 🙂

I got industrious. I went outside with the tablet to try to get a picture of the garden. I can’t get it all in one photo, so I decided to take a video! So, you get pictures and commentary!

I am really having a lot of fun with this right now! I should have fruits and vegetables to share soon unless something awful happens and kills them all. Since I have no idea what I am doing, anything is possible, but I’m going to hope that all goes well with it and that my biggest problem is going to be getting rid of the produce!

Do any of you garden? Anyone have tips or favorite web sites for me?